Red Cross volunteer Stephane Corbeil is shown at a mobile hospital at the Jacques Lemaire arena in the Montreal suburb of LaSalle, Sunday, April 26, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Canada predicts 3,800 total deaths by early May, as COVID-19 spreads in vulnerable groups

Total cases could be between 53,196 and 66,385 by May 5

Canadian health officials are forecasting up to 3,883 COVID-19 deaths by May 5 due to outbreaks among vulnerable populations.

In modelling released Tuesday (April 28), Dr. Theresa Tam said total COVID-19 deaths are expected to reach between 3,277 and 3,883 by May 5. By that point, the number of cases is forecasted to reach between 53,196 and 66,385. There are at least 49,025 total confirmed cases in Canada as of Tuesday and more than 2,700 deaths.

Tam said the key to keeping infections and deaths down was to reduce the transmission of the virus. In March, each infected person spread the virus to 2.19 others, while currently that spread is at just over one person. Tam said that to grind epidemic growth to a halt, transmission rates must slow to under one.

“By achieving epidemic control we expect only a small percentage of the population will be immune,” Tam said.

“Some public health measures will need to remain in place to prevent the sparking and growth of further epidemic waves.”

Canadians will need to get used to “living with the virus” for a while to come. Tam said it was a “delicate balance” to keep COVID-19 under control in Canada while not leading to an uptick in mental health issues and domestic violence.

Currently, Tam said 95 per cent of deaths are in people 60 or older, while 79 per cent of deaths are linked to longterm care or seniors’ homes. The mortality rate, calculated using known COVID-19 cases and deaths, has risen from 2.2 per cent as of April to 5.5 per cent as of Monday (April 27.)

The data is affected, Tam said, by outbreaks among vulnerable population, who have a higher risk of dying due to the virus, even as Canada begins to flatten the curve.

Tam said 74 per cent of hospitalized cases have at least one pre-existing condition.

Men make up 45 per cent of cases but are more likely to be hospitalized than women. Six per cent of male cases versus three per cent of female cases end up in the ICU.

Tam said Quebec and Ontario make up 80 per cent of Canada’s cases and, along with Alberta, are driving the national epidemic growth. Alberta and B.C. have 14 per cent of the nation’s cases.

In B.C., correctional facilities and worker housing are leading to a growth in cases.

How Canada’s pandemic could evolve

However, that growth is slowing. Earlier this month, Canada was doubling its cases every three days and now the case count doubles every 16 days.

Some predictions from health officials have not changed since the first set of scenarios was released in early April. Longterm modelling shows, both then and now, that stronger epidemic controls – physical distancing, isolation and contact tracing – could keep the infection rate at five per cent or under and deaths at under 22,000.

If 10 per cent of the population is infected in the worst “stronger epidemic controls” model, then deaths are expected to double to 44,000.

If controls are weakened, between 25 and 50 per cent of Canada’s 37.6 million population could be infected and between 111,000 and 222,000 people could die. No controls could lead to 70 to 80 per cent of the population being infected with between 311,000 and 355,000 deaths.

READ MORE: Trudeau says COVID-19 curve is beginning to flatten; more PPE on the way for provinces

READ MORE: Controls can keep Canadian COVID-19 deaths under 22,000, health agency says


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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