Canada is outpacing U.S. for new COVID-19 cases per capita

Daily new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada have skyrocketed amid the third wave of the pandemic and have now outpaced the United States per capita.

As of Saturday, the rolling seven-day average number of new cases in Canada was 207.27 cases per million people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Oxford's Our World in Data explorer. In the U.S., it's 206.66 cases per million people.

The pandemic response in the U.S. was previous widely criticized by experts. But as vaccinations ramped up, cases plummeted.

"It is incredible to look south at the United States," said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist who sits on Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, told CTV News Channel on Friday. "It doesn't come to anyone's shock or surprise that they didn't really handle a lot of their pandemic all that well. However, they have handled vaccination pretty well, and they're vaccinating upwards of three million people per day."

Meanwhile, many Canadian provinces have seen an explosion in new cases. On Sunday, Ontario saw a record-high 4,456 new COVID-19 cases, outpacing the previous peak in cases seen during the second wave last fall. Intensive care unit capacity is at a breaking point in the province and hospitals are being forced to stop non-essential surgeries.

"We've lost all of the gains that we made from controlling the second peak. And we're back now, where we were. It's a sad situation," said Dr. Ronald St. John, the former federal manager of Canada's SARS response, in an interview with CTV News Channel on Sunday.

The U.S. has also significantly outpaced Canada in terms of vaccinations. As of Sunday, around 18.8 per cent of Canada's population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Sunday that 35.3 per cent of the U.S population has received at least one dose.

"The supplies have been really problematic. We haven't been getting the doses that we had ordered in on time," said Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan , in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Sunday.

Toronto-area physician Dr. Jennifer Kwan also notes that the vaccines could have reduced effectiveness against variants of concerns, such as the P1 variant, which has been particularly prevalent in B.C.

"This is why other public health measures must be used concurrently to reduce the risk of transmission and development of variants, in addition to ramping up vaccination programs. Everyone should get vaccinated as soon as they are offered the opportunity," said Kwan in an email on Sunday.

The U.S. isn't out of the woods yet, either. Muhajarine says that the prevalence of COVID-19 variants in the U.S. is a big unknown, given that the U.S. has done less testing for variants of concern compared to Canada. Additionally, certain states such as Michigan and Florida have seen a recent uptick in cases similar to Canada.

"Some states have relaxed their public health measures significantly. Mask mandates have been taken off. People are gathering, people are travelling. I really would expect to see their case rates on the whole going up in the States, some states more so than others," said Muhajarine in a phone interview on Sunday.

When comparing provinces to the U.S., using data collected by Johns Hopkins University and CTV News, Michigan has 736.9 cases on average per million people, followed by New Jersey with 439.5 and Rhode Island with 383.2, respectively. Provinces don’t start appearing in the comparison until the 12th slot, with Alberta and its 270.6 cases on average per million people. The next province is Ontario at 16th with 242.8.