It’s déjà vu all over again. As has been the situation for some months, what’s left of the Atlantic bubble did its job in December while the country’s overall rate of increase in COVID cases was once again higher than the United States. Confirmed cases in Canada increased by 53.8 per cent in December, compared with an increase of 46.4 per cent in the U.S.

On a positive note, the rate of increase in both countries in December was down from November. And as the table shows, Canada’s rate of increase in December was 7.4 percentage points less than November while in the U.S. the rate barely moved down.

Table 1: Increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths by month

Nov. cases Dec. cases Nov. deaths Dec. deaths
Canada 61.2% 53.8% 19.7% 28.7%
U.S. 47.5% 46.4% 16.0% 29.1%

Source: Worldometer ( Jan.1)

As column four of Table 1 shows, there was nothing positive about the death count, as both countries recorded significantly higher rates of increase in December. Since the second wave began in earnest in October the number of reported deaths from COVID has increased by almost identical percentages – 67.9 per cent for Canada, 67.5 for the U.S.

Table 2:COVID-19 deaths October-December

Oct. 1 Dec. 31 Increase
Canada 9,295 15,606 67.9%
U.S. 211,499 354,215 67.5%

Source: Worldometer (Jan.1)


Canada’s 6,311 increase in COVID-19 deaths from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 equates to an average of 67 a day, a daily rate that continued to grow during December, from 87 per day in the week from Nov. 23 to Dec. 3 to an average of 125 per day from Dec. 23 to Dec. 29.

Provincial picture

As was the case in November, the virus hit Canada’s western provinces hardest last month. However, the rate of increase was significantly lower than it was in November. And as the year was coming to a close new case numbers began to drop slightly in the west while rising in Ontario and Quebec. The Atlantic Provinces had only 16 per cent increase, with Nova Scotia reporting the lowest increase among the four, at 13.6 per cent.

Table 3: Increase in cases by month and region

Nov. increase Dec. increase
West and Terr. 129% 64%
Central 42% 46%
Atlantic 23% 16%
Nova Scotia 17.7% 13.6%

Source: (Dec. 30)

Although the rate of increase in cases slowed down in the western provinces, there was a sharp monthly increase in deaths – up 102.5 per cent in December compared with an increase of only 17.5 per cent for provinces east of Manitoba.


Last month’s Update discussed projected deaths and infections to the first of January  for Canada and the U.S. from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. As the table below shows, the Institute’s projections for deaths came close, but daily infections missed the mark. Canada’s infection rate, fortunately, came in much lower, while the U.S. was significantly higher.

 Table 4: Projected deaths and infections to Jan. 1, 2021

Projected deaths Actual Projected Infections Projection Jan.1
Canada 15,614 15,606 44,000 33,944
U.S. 348,000 354,215 520,772 639,115

Source: Worldometer and IHME


IHME’s daily infections include both confirmed and suspected cases based on positivity rates and are thus higher than confirmed cases as reported by health authorities. However, the Institute’s improved picture for infections in Canada is reflected in successive projections issued by Dr. Teresa Tam of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Those projections were based on modelling from Simon Fraser University.

In late November Dr. Tam warned that Canada could have 20,000 cases a day by the end of December. A couple of weeks later, on Dec.12, she dropped the potential to 12,000 cases a day and on Dec. 19 the projection to the end of December was lowered again to 8,000 cases a day. And even that number appears high.

Daily cases averaged about 6,555 for the month of December and on a weekly basis the daily average in the last week of the month (Dec. 24-30) of 6,375 was lower than the daily average of 6,543 reported by public health for the week of Dec. 4-10. A rare bit of good news to consider alongside daily media reports of record increases in some provinces

PHAC  has not released any recent projections for the hard winter months ahead. But for what it’s worth, the IHME is projecting 33,240 deaths in Canada, with the daily death toll peaking at 256 around Feb. 12. Infections are projected to peak at around 43,000 on January 25, before dropping off – can that be the light at the end of the tunnel they keep talking about? Another 18,000 deaths?

Let’s hope not, but IMHE did call the December death toll accurately. And the Seattle-based Institute seems to have twigged to the scene in Nova Scotia, backing off from some wild projections last month about deaths and infections to settle for a more credible increase of two in COVID deaths in this province – from 65 to 67. As Rachel Maddow would say, watch this space for further updates.