With all of the dire reporting on COVID-19 variants and vaccine interruptions it’s hard to find anything positive in the pandemic chronicles. But here’s something. In the month of January, Canada registered the smallest percentage increase in cumulative cases since September.

These are the latest numbers to the end of January, which may vary slightly from earlier updates.

 Table 1. Monthly increases in COVID-19 cases

Month Increase % increase
Sept. 31,110 24.0%
Oct. 76,306 47.5%
Nov. 146,627 61.9%
Dec. 199,229 51.9%
Jan. 200,892 34.4%

Source: Worldometer

As the table shows, while the number of cases in January was slightly higher than the previous month, the cumulative increase in cases from 582,697 to 783,589 represented the lowest percentage jump since September and was just over half the rate of increase two months ago. On another positive note, the number of active cases across the country fell by 30 per cent between January 15th and 31st.

On the down side, and to be expected given the larger monthly increase from October through December, deaths from COVID-19 were sharply higher in January. Indeed, in numerical terms, it was the worst month yet, with 4,426 deaths. Combined with 3,478 deaths reported in December, the two-month toll was greater than the 7,326 deaths during the first three months of the pandemic. Someone needs to explain how we let that happen.

The majority of deaths last month – almost 73 per cent – were in Ontario and Quebec, but as Table 2 shows, the highest percentage increases were in smaller provinces.

Table 2. Increase in deaths by province January, 2021

Province Increase %Increase
New Brunswick 9 100.0%
Saskatchewan 149 96.1%
Alberta 593 56.7%
Ontario 1658 36.6%
British Columbia 288 31.9%
Manitoba 162 24.3%
Quebec 1568 19.1%

Source: health-infobase.canada.ca

Nova Scotia, along with Newfoundland and Labrador and the Territories reported no COVID deaths in January.

Although news reports frequently focus on outbreaks and deaths in long term care homes, there is no consistent reporting by provincial governments of deaths in such facilities. About 80 per cent of deaths during the first wave last spring were in long term care, but we don’t know how many of the record monthly high 4,426 deaths in January were in nursing homes and supported living facilities.

Comparison with U.S.

In previous Updates I’ve addressed the fact that, surprisingly, Canada’s total cases and deaths from COVID-19 have been going up faster in recent months than the U.S. That was the case again in January, although by a much narrower margin than during the fall. And as Table 3 shows, both countries had rates of increase in January exceeding the global average.

Table 3: Increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths January 2021

Increase cases % Increase Increase deaths % Increase
Canada 200,892 34.6%  4,426 28.4%
U.S. 6,265,093 30.6% 97,888 27.6%
Global 19,559,264 23.3% 404,468 22.2%

Source: Worldometer

Despite the four-month trend, Canada is still far from matching the disastrous overall numbers recorded by the U.S. The American case rate (81,943 per million) is four times ours and the U.S. death rate (1,396 per million) is 160 per cent higher. That’s partly the fact the pandemic arrived there first, hitting densely populated states in the east. It is also because Canada nearly had the virus under control this summer while it ran wild in the States. From June 1 to August 30 U.S. cases increased by over 230 per cent, while Canada’s cases went up less than 40 percent. Too bad Canada outside the Atlantic Bubble couldn’t keep that going.


The most recent projections from the Public Health Agency of Canada are almost three weeks old. The January 15th forecast presented a dire picture, warning that we could have 10,000 cases daily by the end of January. Fortunately that didn’t happen. Daily cases were around 8,000 in mid-January but dropped to a daily average of 4,370 during the week of Jan. 24-31. Yesterday (Wednesday) there were only 3,234 new cases reported.

Projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) are also looking better. Last month, the Institute was projecting 33,240 deaths in Canada by April. It’s now projecting 28,441 by April 1 and 24,627 by the beginning of next month. Let’s hope they’ve overestimated again.