Canada reported over 7,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in a single day for the first time Thursday, marking a new daily milestone as infections continue to rise at a dizzying rate.
The 7,002 new infections nationwide came as Ontario hit a new record of daily cases, while Alberta saw its highest number of deaths in a single day since the pandemic began.
Nearly 3,500 people are receiving care for COVID-19 in hospital, a new record that is putting a strain on many provinces’ health-care systems. Doctors in Ontario are calling for shutdowns, warning of bed shortages and increased deaths from any further surge in patients.
Another 117 people died across the country over the past 24 hours, health officials said, bringing the national death toll to 13,916. The past week has seen an average of 115 people dying daily.
The bleak trends of the pandemic have coupled with the arrival of one vaccine, made by Pfizer-BioNTech, and the promise of more to come. A second vaccine from Moderna is anticipated to be approved by Health Canada by the end of the year.
On Thursday, Pfizer confirmed that vials of its vaccine may yield more doses than previously estimated, raising hopes that even more people could be vaccinated in the initial shipments received by provinces this week.
Yet health officials — wary that the start of vaccinations will lead to less compliance with public health measures — are urging people to wear face coverings and limit their contacts throughout the holidays.
Recent modelling has shown the country could see the rate of infection grow as high as 14,000 cases per day by January unless behaviour drastically changes.
“It is important to remember that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19,” Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement Thursday.
“This is why it is important for everyone to continue with individual precautions to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.”
Ontario posted its highest daily case count to date with 2,432 new infections, along with 23 deaths.
The numbers came on the same day that the Ontario Hospital Association pushed for a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with an infection rate of 40 or higher per 100,000 people.
Premier Doug Ford said his Progressive Conservative government would continue to consult with hospital leadership, adding “everything is on the table” to combat the virus.
In Quebec, over 1,000 people are now in hospital with COVID-19 for the first time since June. Doctors there are also growing concerned that a lockdown already in place until mid-January did not come soon enough to prevent the surge in patients.
The province reported 1,855 new cases and 22 more deaths Thursday.
Saskatchewan residents awoke to new public health orders that include no longer having guests in their homes, with a few exceptions. It’s one of several new rules in place until at least Jan. 15.
Seven more people in the province died of COVID-19, pushing total fatalities to more than 100. Another 238 new cases were also reported.
Manitoba continues to post double-digit deaths per day, announcing 14 more people had died on Thursday, while another 221 tests came back positive.
Alberta saw 30 additional deaths — a new daily record — and 1,571 more infections. The province continues to boast the most active cases of any jurisdiction in Canada, which have now surpassed 20,000.
British Columbia is also seeing a surge in deaths, reporting 21 over the past 24 hours. Another 667 new cases were also confirmed, along with six “epidemiologically-linked” cases that have not been confirmed through laboratory testing.
Every province in Atlantic Canada reported new cases Thursday, although no more people have died from the disease.
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia each saw six more infections, while Prince Edward Island saw one and three more were confirmed in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In the north, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut each reported one new case — leaving Yukon as the only jurisdiction not to see any more infections Thursday.
The pandemic has now infected 74.8 million people around the world to date, 1.66 million of whom have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The United States leads the world in both cases, at over 17 million, and deaths, with more than 310,000.
— With files from the Canadian Press