Rub it in, Canada, why don’t you?

A few hundred miles north makes all the difference.

How did this happen?

The Canadian people have been less divided and more disciplined. Some provinces and territories could have locked down sooner, analysts say, but once measures were announced, they were strict, broadly uniform and widely followed.

“It was completely unexpected,” said Gary Kobinger, director of the Research Center on Infectious Diseases at Quebec’s Laval University. “I thought that people would not accept to stay home. … This also helped.”

Michael Gardam, chief of staff at Toronto’s Humber River Hospital, said provinces have mostly been “appropriately cautious” when easing restrictions, in contrast to those states that never imposed closures or stay-at-home orders or loosened controls prematurely.

Researchers at the University of Toronto studying reopenings found that restrictions in Yukon, a northern territory that had 11 ooronavirus cases and no deaths, are more stringent than those in Texas, where hospitalizations are surging.

Gerald Evans, a professor of medicine at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, said Canada’s single-payer national health-care system also confers “distinct” advantages, allowing people to seek care for covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, without fear of out-of-pocket costs.

Analysts also point to differences in political leadership.

That last line? That’s the big one. Having a functional health care system is also important.


  1. says

    “Differences in political leadership”, indeed.

    When it comes to Trump, the GOP and the Evangelicals, I’m genuinely wondering who is playing who in that setup. And, leaving out Black Swans, tin foil hats and other apocalyptica, what is their end-game with any of this? I refuse to believe that conservatism is pulling an Inspector Clouseau and just lucking into one win after another with no clear goals in mind.

  2. xdrta says

    According to Robert Redfield, CDC director, “If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really think in the next four, six, eight weeks, we could bring this epidemic under control.” Too bad that’s too much trouble for Americans. Oh, and freedom.

  3. says

    I think another important factor has been the largely non-partisan interaction between the federal government (liberal) and the provincial goverments (mostly conservative); prior to COVID-19, I would not have believed this level of cooperation to be possible. For example, Ontario’s Conservative premier, Doug Ford, has impressed a lot of people (like myself) who would never have voted for him. He has been giving televised press briefings almost daily since the crisis began and, as far as I can tell, has tried to be truthful to his constituents.

    Meanwhile we see Republicans and Democrats in the States rail against each other, trying to lay the blame to the other guys/gals! (Although, let’s face it, Trump and his conservative cronies deserve all the blame they get.)

  4. fernando says

    Maybe the less spread belief in a “life after death” is helping Canada in keeping the Covid-19 numbers relatively low?

  5. larrylyons says

    Personally I attribute it to part of the far more cooperative nature of Canada. You’re in a perfect position to compare Professor Myers, just look at what Manitoba is like. Now compare that to North or South Dakota, or for that matter Northern Minnesota around Warroad, through Baudette and onto Tammy Faye Baker’s birthplace – International Falls.

  6. doubter says

    The level of cooperation between traditional political opponents had particularly impressed me, as have their displays of restraint and common sense. I think Doug Ford is a right-wing loon, but I give him all check marks for his handling of the pandemic in Ontario. Who is this sensible man and what did he do with the real Doug Ford?

  7. says

    I’m assuming it was a joke but a “less spread belief in a ‘life after death'” is probably not a significant factor. According to Wikipedia, 23.9% of Canadians are “non-religious” compared to 18.2% of Americans; this contrasts with figures of 35% in some European countries. (Frankly, I would have thought the difference to be greater, but we Canadians tend not to wear our beliefs on our sleeves, so it’s hard to tell who’s religious or not.)

  8. davidc1 says

    From the 24th of this month ,face masks are going to be mandatory in shops over here in good old GB ,some gammons have reacted by cutting up their tory party membership cards .

  9. robertmatthews says

    A crucial aspect of Canada’s response to the pandemic is that the federal government almost immediately offered people who had temporarily lost their jobs due to the lockdown $2000 a month (taxable, but otherwise no strings attached) for up to four months, later extended to six, so there was no risk of anyone losing their housing or going hungry. A lot of us were shocked when the American government waited months before giving people a one-time $1200 payment (just over $1600 CAD): of course people were going to go back to work, regardless of the danger, when it was a choice between that and starving, because the huge majority of Americans have no savings.

  10. says

    Some people have complained that Canada’s COVID death rate is higher the US despite that they give no citation as to where they get these numbers from.

  11. Ed Seedhouse says

    Here in British Columbia we’ve had two new cases since July 9 for a population of about 875,000 so that would be 0.22 per hundred thousand. B.C. is currently at 6.12 per million or 0.6 per hundred thousand.

    B.C. is governed by evil godless socialists, at least if you believe the opposition party…

    Rub, rub, rub, rub …

  12. ardipithecus says

    A clear message: Here in BC, the Chief Medial Officer and the Minister of Health appeared together in the daily updates and presented a clear, science-based message, and were supportive of each other. The opposition parties stepped back and let the government do what it needed to do, with all parties supporting what the science was saying, and without panicking whenever new data changed the picture a bit.

  13. Ed Seedhouse says

    woops! I should have said “CANADA. is currently at 6.12 per million or 0.6 per hundred thousand.”

  14. says

    @#3, HidariMak:

    Canada also decided to pay unemployed people a living wage to stay home, as most first-world countries in the world did, which here in the US is seen as the most radical of radical leftist, socialist ideas. (Admittedly, Canada’s leadership immediately decided to throw in really awful “you may or may not have to pay this money back after this is over” and “if we think you didn’t try to find work anyway, in the middle of an epidemic, then maybe we’ll take it back, but we’re not going to be clear on how, precisely, we’re going to determine this” ideas — Trudeau and the Liberal Party are honestly pretty terrible, and if it wasn’t for the NDP constantly pointing out awkward truths they’d be approximately as far right as Richard Nixon — but at least the measures got through.)

  15. anthrosciguy says

    Important to remember that Canada didn’t even do all that great a job. They were slowish off the mark; returning Québécois and Quebec in particular were being pretty irresponsible (various incidents reported). But they did okay, and compared to the idiot next door they look like super happy golden lucky fortune cats.

    Also, to fortify what other commenters have said about Doug Ford, it shows the most basic difference between the countries on this issue. Doug Ford is a much worse person than even the comments here have already said, but turns out he’s not so stupid as to think presiding over mass murder of the citizens he’s premier of would be a good thing. He’s done a perfectly good job, which you might expect from someone like Horgan in BC (NDP) but not a conservative and not someone from the Ford family. Yet he did, and good on him.

  16. DaveH says

    For the non-Canadians in the audience, Ford and Legault, the leaders of the two largest provinces, are both right wing populists (of different flavours). The apparently legitimate friendship that has sprung up between them and Freeland (the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, i.e. dealing with the provinces) is baffling by the standards of 8 months ago. Her and Ford have apparently talked for hours at a stretch, and call it “therapy time”. She is also one of those journalists/writers that was banned from Russia a few years back and wears that with pride. She is viewed as the likely successor to Trudeau as well. Oh, and was a Rhodes scholar when she was younger.

  17. jenorafeuer says

    Yeah, I think a lot of it boils down to Doug Ford being smart enough to realize that lots of people dying on his watch will not look good. (And a number of the deaths probably can be laid at his feet anyway because of the way he was rearranging and cutting budgets for the health care system before all of this happened, but people have largely forgotten that in the amazement as to how well he is doing now.) Granted, he probably also figures that he has Jason Kenny in Alberta to play the yahoo which lets him be the ‘sane conservative’ in response.

    Doug Ford always was the smarter of him and his brother Rob.

    These days, to I’m sure nobody’s surprise, the biggest hot spot in Ontario is Windsor… which is right across from Detroit. And there are a lot of people in Windsor who actively work in Detroit as anything from nurses to infrastructure plumbers, because a lot of the professional support in Detroit left with the auto industry money.

  18. Pierce R. Butler says

    The Canadian people have been less divided and more disciplined.

    Aha! Buncha pervo BDSM freaks, on top of everything else!

  19. tacitus says

    Yeah, even Boris Johnson’s Conservative government created a furlough program that paying up to 80% of an employee’s salary up to a maximum around $3,200 a month, including pension and national health contributions, until the end of August, reducing to 60% by October.

    Austin, Texas, where I live, now has more daily new infections on its own than the entire UK does, and when my British parents visited their optician today, he was still dressed in full PPE, including a face shield as well as a mask. They’re getting their revised wills signed and witnessed tomorrow, and it’s all going to be very well socially distanced.

    Meanwhile, when driving around the streets of Austin last week, you’d be hard pressed to notice anything that didn’t look completely normal. Busy roads, full parking lots, etc.

    Someone local posted that 10 people died in one hospital alone last night, but we won’t get to see those certified and reported for another three weeks. We’re already at 100 deaths per day in Texas, but those were from infections that happened in mid June, if not earlier, before they shut the bars down again and started mandating face masks. It’s going to get a lot worse, not to mention the fact that perhaps as many as half the excess death toll in Texas is not being reported as caused by Covid-19.

    Texas is fucked.

  20. tacitus says

    Oh, and I forgot to mention. Austin’s very own field hospital opens its doors next week in the convention center downtown, and the refrigerated trucks to hold the bodies are in the process of being procured. Several counties in South Texas are already using them.

  21. Ed Seedhouse says


    I pretty much agree with you on all points although I think we did slightly better in B.C.

    Most of our bad outbreaks were in food packing plants and old people warehouses. Here on Vancouver Island the current government took over all the old folks warehouses awhile before corona virus made it’s appearance and we have few food packing plants. We have had no outbreaks in the warehouses for we ancients, unlike on the mainland where they remain in private hands and are associated with the most disease and the most deaths. The NDP government did step in with strict new rules and seem to be pretty much on too of that situation now.

    Still we’ve had a slight tick up in the last little while with new cases in the 20’s per day. Now is not the time to drop the ball! But plague central is just 18 miles away over the saltchuck. Finally the Canadian Navy might have an actual mission!

    Still I am glad that I continue to live in my own home and have not yet been warehoused.

  22. canadiansteve says

    @coreyschlueter #11
    I suspect they are dividing this week’s new cases by this week’s deaths to get the rate. Since the deaths reflect cases that have been active for some time and not current new infections this will give a lower death rate when cases are rising (USA), and higher rate when cases are falling (Canada).
    Repeating a common refrain here but despite my dislike of our current government here in Manitoba I give them credit for something that I think is one of two big reasons for Canada’s success more generally – they listened to the advice of public health experts and implemented plans that reflected that advice.
    I think that the USA also has a terrible cultural problem where greed, shafting others to get ahead, and individual recklessness have been culturally promoted as good qualities. It’s amazing it took this long for a true disaster to catch up to he USA. (A testament perhaps to the 65% or so of Americans that haven’t yet fallen into this cultural trap)

  23. says

    it is scary if you think about it here in Texas. I had an emergency hospitalization a couple of weeks ago for sudden intestinal bleeding. They gave me three units of blood over two and a half days. What happens if the hospitals become full?

  24. says

    @#25, robertbaden:

    Same thing that happened in New York, and Italy, and Wuhan when it happened there: emergency triage, people without coronavirus are sent away (to other hospitals if practical, home to suffer and/or die if not), and if it gets bad enough the pretty-certainly-not-going-to-survive are quietly permitted to die through neglect so that those who might possibly be saved get attention. Meanwhile the corpses have to be disposed of ASAP and without ceremony. That’s really the only way it can play out — and there’s been plenty of warning for the last decade that the US hospital system didn’t have enough beds to respond to an epidemic, but for various reasons (for which you may, without loss of accuracy, read “because of capitalism”) the problem was not only not addressed but has been permitted to get worse instead.

  25. Dunc says

    davidc1, @9:

    From the 24th of this month ,face masks are going to be mandatory in shops over here in good old GB

    In England. They’ve been mandatory in Scotland since the 10th, and they’re not (yet) being made mandatory in Wales or Northern Ireland. (Except on public transport, where they’re already mandatory in NI and are going to be mandatory in Wales from the 27th.)

  26. specialffrog says

    While I agree Ford has done a better job than I would have expected it is likely he will use the crisis as an excuse for massive austerity measures as soon as he can. He was trying to pretend Ontario had an economic crisis before this all started.

  27. says

    Doug Ford has also just put through a bill that will allow the fast tracking of evictions by landlords of all the people who lost jobs during Covid. The mass homelessness might even spark a new surge in Covid cases. I wish my housing was more secure myself but at least in Hamilton we have a bit more progressive city with stronger bylaws. It is important to remember Doug Ford is still a big turd.

  28. says

    Whether or not COVID 19 got into your long term care homes seems to be a major factor in how many deaths you end up Canada. In Saskatchewan we’ve only had 15 deaths out of 881 confirmed cases.

  29. VolcanoMan says

    It’s kind of strange, the role that LUCK played in determining which provinces got hit hard, and which didn’t. Obviously, it’s not ONLY luck, but it’s a massive factor. For proof of this, look no further than the differences between Manitoba (where I live) and Saskatchewan. Both provinces have a little over a million people in them (1.174 million in Saskatchewan, 1.369 million in Manitoba), and both are not exactly major travel hubs (though Winnipeg is absolutely a bigger hub than either Regina or Saskatoon). And yet, now that the first wave appears to be basically over (HERE – not everywhere obviously), Saskatchewan has ended up with 881 cumulative known cases and 15 deaths, compared to 331 and 7 in Manitoba (we were at 325 and 7 for almost 2 weeks, starting on June 30, and had just a single active known case for about 4-5 days, but then the clean sweep got wrecked…at least partially by some people who travelled here from Calgary).

    This isn’t an artifact of greater testing either – while Saskatchewan has tested a greater number of people per capita (6.6% vs 5.3%), that translates to just ~3,000 more tests in total, but with more than 2.5X the number of detected cases. Also, the difference in test positivity ratio, which has been used as a proxy for determining roughly how likely it is that testing is catching most or all of the actual cases, is striking. In Saskatchewan 1 of every 86 tests has come back positive on average (which is amazing actually…the WHO was saying 1 in 20 was a good number, and more than 20 US states don’t even meet this requirement). But in Manitoba, we’re at 1 in 221, and it was about 1 in 180 at the end of May when testing switched from ONLY being provided to people who had possible symptoms, to being available to anyone who wanted a test. Thus, actual testing of seemingly healthy people with no reason to suspect exposure only began about ~7 weeks ago. Obviously, the legitimacy of this metric AS a way to draw conclusions about the population from the people who got tested gets better the greater the number of people who’ve gotten tested, so both provinces can do better at testing their citizens (the Canadian average is around 9% of people having received a test). Nonetheless, it is unlikely that either place is missing a massive cohort of people who have the virus and are spreading it around without anyone realizing it. If this was the case, then Manitoba could NEVER have had a nearly 2-week period with no detected cases – there likely would’ve been many positives, considering that ~10,000 people were tested during that time. Saskatchewan hasn’t had such a long period with no positive tests – during the same period, they were averaging about 3 known new cases/day – but ~9,000 tests were conducted in that time period, so the 40-ish cases they detected is still impressively low. AND it should be noted that DEMAND for testing isn’t outstripping SUPPLY right now in either province (Saskatchewan has a demand for ~600 tests/day and an ability to do 1,800/day; Manitoba is currently seeing ~900 tests/day being conducted, with a capacity of at least 2,000), though as Saskatchewan has announced that they intend to have UNIVERSAL testing, this will only be possible if they vastly increase their capacity. So currently, both provinces can deal with a surge in demand for tests (when the second wave hits) and both are working on increasing capacity further.

    So why the difference? It likely boils down to the fact that Saskatchewan borders Alberta, where community spread was detected in mid-March; travel between the two provinces is common and easy, and thus Albertans seeded Saskatchewan with coronavirus before the province had taken measures like shutting down eat-in restaurants and limiting the number of people who can be in a certain building at a time, and before they had the ability to do contact tracing or high-capacity testing, ensuring that community-spread started at least 3 weeks earlier in Saskatchewan than Manitoba. Of course, Manitoba hadn’t taken those measures EITHER at that time…but Manitoba borders Saskatchewan (which acts as a buffer for Alberta with its 9,000 cumulative known cases, and a peak of ~3,000 active known cases at the end of April) and northwestern Ontario*, which is rural and extremely isolated (truckers are really the only ones who drive from the super-populated regions of southern Ontario to Manitoba). So our exposure to the virus was limited by our geographical luck, and not the actions of our Conservative government. And if you look at the known case discrepancy, it has been there, and of a similar magnitude, since March (it has actually contracted slightly as sample sizes increased…back in March, Saskatchewan had 3.4X the known cases of Manitoba…now they only have 2.66X more known cases).

    So I count myself lucky to live here…and I hope that the Canadian government ensures that the border with the US stays closed (to normal people, not trade) until at least the new year (and potentially even longer, depending on how the US takes to actually succeed at marginalizing this virus). Obviously, I don’t think we did nearly enough to prevent the spread of CoViD here…but it’s important to note that we still did, and are doing, far more than most American states. And FAR more people are on board with the restrictions we endured, recognizing that no matter what the response was, we’d end up with an economic contraction and greatly expanded deficit on our hands (and actually, the faster and more decisive the action, the smaller the economic impact will be, something that unfortunately didn’t penetrate Trump’s puny brain). Moreover, the response to the virus hasn’t been politicized here. Indeed, there really hasn’t been a big difference between provinces with left-wing or right-wing governments in terms of the measures they took, when those measures were taken, and when they were relaxed (there has been a small difference, but it has far more to do with actual infection rates than politics). People say that Trump didn’t CREATE these problems – he just exacerbated them – but I don’t think that’s always true. The divide in American society has been growing for a couple decades now, but Trump did create problems that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. His ridiculously insufficient response to this crisis, complete with his willingness to let thousands of people die in order to (hopefully) have a more stable economy with less unemployment (which correlates to his chances at winning in November) has made EVERY scientifically-recommended measure to restrict the spread of CoViD into a political battleground. Hopefully, the virus doesn’t disrupt the American election in November, because I can see Trump trying to steal said election, despite the fact that he is losing badly in the polls – 4 more years of Trump in the age of CoViD means orders of magnitude more deaths than 4 years of Biden would result in.

    *To be fair, both provinces border territories as well, however, there is no way to drive between either and their respective northern neighbour, so I don’t think this is relevant.

  30. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    Reporting from the Texas of Canada, we have gotten complacent and are trending in the wrong direction. Calgary and Edmonton have spikes, and people are travelling way too much. I’m on a major federal construction project in Jasper, we can’t stop working. The site has strict mask, health check and distancing rules, but the Town of Jasper is back to pre-pandemic visitor rates (or close) and there are not enough masks in sight. I waiting for reports on cases here that people carry back to all corners of the province and to BC.

  31. captainblack says

    “… Most of our bad outbreaks were in food packing plants and old people warehouses …” Soylent Green factory?

  32. says

    @#29, anna:

    Well, that’s kind of par for the course in North America. Cuomo was supposed to be some kind of coronavirus hero, but he absolutely refused to do anything about cancelling rent, and as a result New York is expected to have 80000 evictions started by the end of July. Way to go.

    The root problem is capitalism; coronavirus is merely a complication of the disease..

  33. davidc1 says

    @27 Sorry about that ,at least Scotland’s first minister knows what she is doing ,care to swap ?
    Talking of Countries with female leaders ,anyone seen the meme about the Countries with female leaders
    who have handled the Covid pandemic far better than male leaders .

  34. says

    To follow up on VolcanoMan’s comment one of the Saskatchewan oddities is that Saskatoon has had more than twice the cases as Regina has, 204 versus 85 respectively. Regina’s population is in the 230 thousand range, versus Saskatoon being in the 270 thousand range, so the difference can’t be explained merely by population size.

  35. Steve Hansen Smythe says

    I wonder how much of the difference is caused by deep-seated cultural differences between the U.S. and Canada. Think of this as a giant Prisoners’ Dilemma problem, where if everyone cooperates, everyone benefits, and if everyone defects, everyone suffers. American society tends to pride itself on doing things in isolation or independently, and Canadian society tends to value cooperation. There is of course broad overlap – there are loads of American cooperators and loads of Canadian defectors – but I think the graph illustrates the “defector tax” that Americans have to pay.