My COVID-19 Diary – Week 5

April 12 to 17, 2020

We are now about six weeks into a period of significant growth in COVID-19 cases here in Canada. Our first confirmed cases were in late January, when Ontario and BC reported that two recent returnees from China had tested positive for the virus. By mid-February, we had over 10 recorded cases across Canada. Until early March, all cases were related to persons who had recently returned from overseas countries. On March 5, the first confirmed case of community transmission of COVID-19 was announced in BC.

It feels like this was such a long time ago, but that was only six weeks ago.

At the present time, Canada has over 27,500 presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and has recorded more than 950 deaths. This has affected a lot of individuals and families, and we all mourn the loss of each life to a new and mysterious disease.

Significant as the impact has been on Canadians, this still pales in comparison to the experience of our nearest neighbours in the US. The State of New York has been the hardest hit, and it is one of Canada’s immediate neighbours, located just across the Great Lakes from Ontario.

The numbers of cases and deaths in NY State have been staggering and mind-numbing. Over 200,000 people infected by the virus and 11,500 deaths to date. The daily death rate in New York during this past Easter weekend averaged over 700 – Canada had just reached a national total of 700 deaths at the same time.

The graph below illustrates the comparative data on cases and deaths. Here are a few other comparisons. The population of New York State is about 19.5 million. Canada is close to double that, at 37.5 million. On a per capita basis, that halves the Canadian rates in comparison to New York. The NY caseload has doubled 8 times over a 27 day period – that is an average of doubling every 3.375 days. The Canadian caseload has doubled 7 times over 35 days, for an average of 5 days. From three to five days does not sound like a big difference, but as you can see by the relative slope of the two case rates in the graph, the difference is very significant.

I have no expertise in any of these matters, and no doubt there are numerous reasons why the NY and Canadian rates are so different. At a macro level, the relative density of population must help explain at least some of the difference. Much of the US impact has centered on New York City – Canada has several large cities, but none with the population of New York. Social distancing has been one of our common responses to this pandemic, but I am sure that social distancing has been more difficult to achieve in New York.

Based on these comparative growth rates, I can foresee that New York State will reach their infection rate plateau much faster than Canada, assuming that we all continue our self-isolation and social distancing. As a result, Canadians may need to self-isolate for a longer period before loosening any restrictions, although this could vary for different parts of the country. Many lives should be saved as a result. Time will tell.

Next week I plan to look at comparative statistics for California, which appears to have more similarities with Canada.

Our thoughts and best wishes to all of those who have been impacted by this pandemic.

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