The Delta-driven fourth wave of the pandemic appears to be levelling off nationally, although people who are unvaccinated continue to experience severe outcomes from COVID-19 infections at “elevated rates,” according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.
While daily case counts have slowed, new national modelling released Friday shows that in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories COVID-19 infections are continuing to put “significant strain on the health system.” Similar challenges are being seen in smaller health regions with low vaccine uptake as well.
“Over the past month, lessons have been hard learned where measures were relaxed too much or too soon—and especially where vaccination coverage remains low—providing further cautionary tales on the relentless behaviour and severe impacts of this virus,” Tam said.
Though, as vaccination rates increase across the country, the epidemic has dropped out of a growth pattern nationally, the documents issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada indicate.
“This update reaffirms that by achieving a strong foundation of protection… and applying public health measures, epidemic growth can be managed,” Tam said.
Vaccines continue to be highly protective, even in the face of the Delta variant, as the federal data indicates that new cases were 10 times higher among the unvaccinated than those who are fully vaccinated. Moreover, those who are unvaccinated are 36 times more likely to end up in hospital if they contract COVID-19.
Tam said that there are still nearly six million eligible Canadians who are not yet fully vaccinated, with the rates of coverage lowest in the 18-29 age group. Just 72 per cent of Canadians in that demographic have received both doses. In contrast, 91 per cent of those aged 70 and older are fully immunized.
The forecast provides a more optimistic outlook than the agency issued last month, warning then that without reduced levels of virus transmission, Canada’s daily COVID-19 caseload could reach unprecedented highs.
Tam cites enhanced restrictions brought in between late August and September — such as the reinstating of a public health emergency in Alberta — for helping to slow the pace of spread.
Tam said that with more folks gathering indoors as the fall weather sets in, maintaining public health precautions like masking and physical distancing will continue to help reduce the likelihood of another resurgence of the virus.
Speaking directly to those with dinner parties planned for those celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend, Tam suggested limiting indoor gatherings to fully vaccinated guests.
While Tam said she has “no specific plans” for in-person meals this long weekend, if she does it’ll be with her fully-vaccinated immediate family. Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo told reporters he has plans for a meal with his fully-vaccinated family, though noted some Canadians may be having a “tougher time” having that conversation with loved ones.
Federal officials are forecasting that, by Oct. 17, there could be between approximately 19,900 and 60,600 new COVID-19 infections. On average across Canada over the last seven days there were an average of more than 3,700 new cases confirmed daily, and approximately 2,500 COVID-19 patients in being treated in hospital, 770 of which were in the ICU.
As of Friday morning, according to CTV News’ vaccine tracker, 81.6 per cent of those eligible are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and there are currently more than 41,000 active infections nationwide.
“It is important to stress that even as the fourth wave recedes, COVID-19 is unlikely to disappear entirely, and there could continue to be bumps along the way,” Tam said.
Source: Public Health Agency of Canada. Data as of Oct. 2, 2021.