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Two parts of a pandemic: How the coronavirus spread in Canada

A new surge in coronavirus cases has seen year-end gatherings prohibited for the majority of Canadians. See how this surge in cases compares to the spread earlier this year. Scroll to the end to get numbers for your area and compare where you live to the rest of the country.

By Naël Shiab

Dec. 16, 2020

We have divided the pandemic into two 140-day periods:
  • The first, from March 11 to July 28;
  • The second, from July 29 to Dec. 15.
The situation is fluid, however, and these comparisons are therefore preliminary.
A picture showing a health region with a spike. The legend says the higher the spikes, the higher the number of cases per 100,000 people.
During the first half of the pandemic, the coronavirus swept through central Canada. In Quebec, spring break in early March marked the arrival of the virus and its spread. In seniors’ homes in Quebec and Ontario, COVID-19 was spreading like wildfire.
The impact on the large number of infected seniors was deadly, especially in Montreal and Laval, Que., where the movement of staff between long-term care homes exacerbated the situation. It’s worth noting, Quebec counts deaths by screening as well as deaths which are linked to COVID-19 exposure, inflating its figures compared to other provinces.
West of Ontario, the worst of the pandemic was avoided in the spring. Social gatherings and movements were restricted. Cases and deaths remained limited.
But here are the case numbers for the second half of the pandemic, from August to December. Three times as many Canadians tested positive for COVID-19 compared to the period from March to July. Keep in mind, however, that a lot more testing was done in the second half of the pandemic.

Tests per day in Canada

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which had avoided a wave in the spring, saw their case numbers explode during the fall with patients flocking to hospitals.
In the east of the country, the virus is no longer confined to large cities. By the end of the summer, the number of cases was rising almost everywhere. The increasing transmission of the virus was undeniable, but the increase in the number of tests also helped detect more cases.
One exception: the “Atlantic bubble” which had largely resisted spikes in cases at the start of the pandemic. These provinces had agreed to control entry into their territory and require travelers from the rest of Canada to self-isolate. However, the bubble burst in November when cases in parts of the region began rising.
Between March and July, one in three coronavirus patients was over 60 years of age. But from August to September, that ratio dropped to one in six. Also, knowledge about the virus and patient care has improved. The result: even though three times as many Canadians were tested positive for COVID-19, only half as many died from it in the second half of the pandemic.
But the crisis is far from over. On average, 102 Canadians have died from COVID-19 every day since Dec. 1 (including 34 daily in Quebec and 22 in Ontario). More and more patients are being hospitalized. If the trend continues, a record number of more than 3,400 Canadians will spend Christmas in hospital because of the virus. And some of them will not survive, despite the arrival of a vaccine.

People hospitalized in Canada

The rest of this analysis is customizable. Type the first three characters of your postal code, if you wish to see the numbers for your area.

We do not keep this information.

The spikes here represent the number of cases per 100,000 people since the start of the pandemic for each health region.
Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba were the provinces with the most cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020.

Cases per 100,000 people

For your health region ({Region}), {Cas} cases per 100,000 inhabitants have been detected since the start of the pandemic. This is {DessusDessousCas} your province ({Province}) which had {MoyenneCas} cases. Your region is in {PositionCasProv} position of the {totalPositionProv} in your province.
Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario were the three provinces with the most deaths per 100,000 people in 2020 from COVID-19.

Deaths per 100,000 people

For your health region ({Region}), {Morts} deaths per 100,000 inhabitants have been detected since the start of the pandemic. This is {DessusDessousMorts} your province ({Province}) which had {MoyenneMorts} deaths. Your region is in {PositionMortsProv} position of the {totalPositionProv} in your province.
If we compare the number of cases per 100,000 population since the start of the pandemic for all health regions in Canada, your region comes in {positionTousCas} out of 92.
And when it comes to fatalities, your region is in {positionTousMorts} position out of 92.
Thanks for reading this analysis to the end! Below, you will find our data sources and our methodology.

Methodology

We took March 11, 2020 as our starting point for the data -- the date when the World Health Organization declared a pandemic.

We then divided the pandemic into two periods of exactly 140 days, from March 11 to July 28 and from July 29 to Dec. 15, the day before the publication of this analysis. Both periods start on a Wednesday and end on a Tuesday. This allowed us to include weekend statistics from some provinces that do not report them until the following Monday.

Case and death statistics by health region come from the COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group. Saskatchewan changed its public health zones in September. To ensure historical data continuity, the health zones shown here are the old ones and the data is adjusted accordingly.

The population data used to calculate the rates per 100,000 inhabitants comes either from the provinces themselves for 2020 or 2019, or from Statistics Canada for 2018. We took the most recent data available.

The number of tests and hospitalizations in Canada, as well as the provincial data for cases and deaths, come from own compilation.

Several experts were consulted during the making of this analysis. Isha Berry and Jean-Paul R. Soucy, founding members of the COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group and doctoral students in epidemiology at the University of Toronto; Benoît Barbeau, professor of biological sciences at UQAM and an expert in virology; Eduardo Franco, professor in the Departments of Oncology and of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McGill University; and Benoît Mâsse, professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal.

Naël Shiab data reporter, Francis Lamontagne designer, Melanie Julien desk-editor, Martine Roy coordinator.