COVID-19 in Canada: Here's how our battle against the second wave is going

The second wave of COVID-19 is unfolding across the country with provinces setting new case records as the virus takes hold once again in long-term care homes

Note: Data in the charts last updated on Oct. 22 at 9 a.m. EDT. (Some provinces include their weekend numbers in Monday’s data announcement.)

On Wednesday, Manitoba reported the death of a man in his 80s. The cause was COVID-19. He had been a resident of Parkview Place, a long-term care home in Winnipeg, which is now the epicentre of the province’s deadliest long-term care (LTC) outbreak. His was the 11th death of a resident at Parkview Place since the outbreak began in mid-September. At least 106 residents and staff have contracted COVID-19 and an inspection on the weekend found that the facility needed more medical staff as well as cleaning workers, CBC reports. It was the residence’s first inspection since March, when regional authority inspectors reported serious concerns with cleanliness—including issues with cockroaches—and infection control.

Manitoba has the second worst rate of new COVID-19 cases in Canada. On Wednesday, as it reported 135 new cases and the death of that resident from Parkview Place, its rate of new cases jumped to 72.7 per million population, on a seven-day rolling average. While behind the hardest-hit province, Quebec, which has a rate of 122, it is ahead of other provinces with serious COVID-19 problems, including Alberta (71.3) and Ontario (51), and double that of neighbouring Saskatchewan (36).

The second wave in Canada is largely driven by younger age groups. But it was inevitable that COVID-19 wouldn’t stay confined to the young but would spread to older Canadians. That’s already happened in parts of the United States experiencing large outbreaks. When college students returned to La Crosse, Wis., they brought with them a surge of COVID-19; soon, the coronavirus had spread to the city’s seniors residences. Though La Crosse had reported no LTC deaths due to COVID-19 for much of 2020, at least 19 residents have died recently, most in long-term care homes, the Washington Post reported.

In the first wave of the pandemic, most of Canada’s deaths were seniors, and most of those were residents of long-term care homes. Now, in the second wave as the number of deaths rise, long-term care homes are again becoming loci for COVID-19 outbreaks.

In Quebec, the Sainte-Croix LTC home in Marieville, which had largely escaped the effects of the first wave, is in the midst of a deadly outbreak: 13 residents have died while another 82 staff and residents have COVID-19, CTV News reports. It is one of at least five LTC homes where more than 25 per cent of residents have COVID-19, according to government data, though there could be more; not all outbreaks appear to be on that official tally, explains Aaron Derfel of the Montreal Gazette.

Iacovos Michael, a scientist who tracks COVID-19 data in LTC homes as well as private residential and group homes in Ontario, reports there have been 283 outbreaks in those residences since Sept. 1. Since that time, more than 1,400 residents and staff have tested positive and at least 76 residents have died as of Oct. 21. The numbers are increasing quickly: 62 more homes reported outbreaks in the past week, while the death toll increased 35 per cent.

On Wednesday, the Quebec government announced that more regions would be moving to its “maximum alert” Level 4, which prohibits visitors from other households, closes bars and distilleries as well as theatres and museums and also stops dine-in eating. By Monday, Oct. 26, most of southern Quebec, including the areas around Montreal and Quebec City will be in Level 4.

The restrictions were announced as Quebec reported 1,072 new cases, its 13th day of 1,000-plus new cases in October. For the first three weeks of the month, Quebec has roughly stabilized its daily number of new cases, though at a rate so high—a daily average of 121 cases per million population—it hasn’t been seen since early May, at the peak of the spring wave.

Quebec isn’t the only province setting new records in the pandemic’s second wave:

  • New Brunswick has added 119 new cases to its cumulative tally in October, surpassing its previous record monthly tally of 70 in March.
  • Ontario’s rate of new cases has been above 50 per million population since Oct. 13; it is a level well above the province’s spring peak of 40.5, set on April 23.
  • Manitoba recorded 23 deaths in October, its highest monthly death toll since six residents died in September.  (Another six died in August.)
  • Saskatchewan has its highest number of active cases, 469 on Oct. 21, well above its previous record of 322 in late July.
  • For the past three weeks, Alberta has posted record numbers of new cases, including 1,627 cases recorded in just the first five days in the current week, which is already ahead of the previous record of 1,620 set in late April.
  • On Oct. 21, British Columbia added 203 new cases, its highest one-day count since mid-September.