Coronavirus in Canada: These charts show how our fight to ‘flatten the curve’ is going

“We don’t need to flatten the curve, we need to plank it.” That call to arms was issued by Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. She doesn’t want to slow the curve, she doesn’t want it to become kinda flat. She wants it to be horizontal, like a perfect gym plank position.

Right now, the curve of cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases is going up, and quickly. The newest national numbers, released at 11:30 a.m., show an increase of 167 cases to a total of 736. As a sign of how quickly things are changing, Tam announced there were 772 confirmed cases at her midday briefing, less than an hour later. What concerns her and other experts is not only the sharp increases but the fact that they aren’t all traced back to travel-related infections.

If that weren’t enough, the backlog of pending results is growing rapidly. On Wednesday, Ontario officials revealed that more than 3,400 tests were waiting to be screened, double the backlog from the day before.

(Patricia Treble and Lauren Cattermole)

(Patricia Treble and Lauren Cattermole)

Only as provinces increase their testing capabilities will those numbers diminish. Indeed, Tam announced that more than 10,000 tests were taken on Wednesday, for a national total of more than 55,000. The bottleneck means that public health officials don’t have the very latest data on where COVID-19 is and how it is spreading.

Tam cautions that it may take time to see the results of the self-isolation and social-distancing efforts taken by this country. “I will see how Canadians do in the next couple of weeks,” she said, noting that in other countries it took quite a few weeks to get bigger outbreaks under control.

(Patricia Treble and Lauren Cattermole)

(Patricia Treble and Lauren Cattermole)

What the current data shows is that a large number of confirmed cases involve working adults. Yet many of the severe cases involve patients more than 70 years of age. That’s why so many provinces have closed access to seniors facilities. Six people have died at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, where a major outbreak has occurred.

That’s why Tam and other officials believe such strict measures are necessary. As she says, “The price of not doing so is too high.”

A note on the charts: Some illustrate the growth of confirmed cases since the first one was announced on Jan. 25, which means they have a long tail, reaching back to when there were few coronavirus cases in Canada; in turn, that means the recent increase in the number of cases is represented by a sharp upward curve on those charts. Indeed, Canada didn’t pass the 50-case mark until March 6. So, to provide a better idea of the current state of the situation—and avoid that long tail—many organizations are starting their curves on the day of the 100th confirmed case in a jurisdictionMaclean’s has provided that as well.

(Patricia Treble and Lauren Cattermole)

(Patricia Treble and Lauren Cattermole)

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