The outlook in the U.S. stands in stark contrast to the deteriorating situation in places like Brazil, which reported more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day for the first time Tuesday, and across Europe, where another wave of infections is leading to new lockdowns and where the vaccine roll-out on the continent has been slowed by production delays and questions about the safety and effectiveness of AstraZeneca's shot.
Tam says there's "merit" in provinces taking regional approaches with their restrictions, but notes that "up-and-down measures" may not be the best way to combat spread.
According to a vaccine tracker maintained by CBC News, Canada is behind 34 countries in terms of the percentage of the population that has received at least one dose of vaccine.
It comes as the latest federal modelling shows concerning trends arising from the spread of variants throughout the country. She said the delayed shipment has been approved already for export and will arrive "a few days later".
At a press conference Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford criticized Ottawa for not supplying enough vaccines to the provinces and territories.
"It may not be stay at home for every area..."
Meanwhile, Quebec's government-mandated public health institute says more transmissible variants will represent the majority of new infections in the province by the first week of April.
"In parts of Canada where variants of concern represent an increasingly high proportion of cases and are associated with a greater number of outbreaks, we need to maintain high degree of vigilance to keep COVID-19 infections rates down as vaccine programs scale up", Tam said Friday, noting Canada is now in a "tight race" against the variants. "If there are detections that this activity is ramping up, then definitely don't relax".
Following the modelling presentation, Health Minister Patty Hajdu pointed to the $53 million being spent on a national "variants of concern strategy" that includes funding for research into the variants, surveillance of their spread, and sequencing of the virus.
Jennifer Lira, left, a childcare specialist in the Spring Branch Independent School District, receives a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination shot from nurse Carolyn Roy during a vaccination drive for education workers Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Houston.
But the concern is now shifting to younger Canadians between the ages of 20 and 39 who currently account for the highest rate of spread.
Tam cited data from Ontario that she says shows the B.1.1.7 variant has led to a 60 per cent increase in hospitalizations, 100 per cent increase in ICU admissions and a 60 per cent increase in the risk of death. Close to 2,200 people were being treated for COVID-19 in Canada's hospitals each day, including more than 600 in ICU.
And the White House said 27 million doses of both the one-shot and two-shot vaccines will be distributed next week, more than three times the number when President Joe Biden took office two months ago.
Revisions to the league's COVID-19 protocols are one of the most high-profile stories of the offseason.