New modelling data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows that with the current levels of transmission, the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic "could decline in the coming weeks," but Canada's top doctors still stress that there is "need for continued caution in the months ahead."
The long-range forecast looks relatively optimistic for the coming weeks, showing that if the current levels of transmission are maintained there will be a decline of the Delta-driven wave, with under 3,000 new cases expected to be reported across Canada each day in November.
"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," Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer said at a press conference on Friday.
So Canadians, whether fully vaccinated or not, are urged to continue heeding local public health advice and be vigilant with well-practiced precautions that keep us safer indoors, including masking, avoiding crowding and improving ventilation.Dr. Teresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer
Dr. Tam added that with the level of vaccine coverage achieved in Canada to date, with over 82 per cent of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, Canadians are "much better protected" heading into respiratory infections season.
That being said, if Canadians "let go" of public health measures in the fall and winter, Canada’s chief public health officer warned that Canada could see a "serious Delta-driven resurgence, with a risk of overwhelming healthcare capacity."
"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," Dr. Tam said.
For the first time since mid-July, Canada's COVID-19 situation has "dropped out of a growth pattern nationally," with the effective reproduction number (Rt) below one for the first time in several weeks.
That being said, there is still significant regional variation in COVID-19 spread. Previously hard-hit provinces that maintained restrictions and achieved higher vaccination coverage are seeing a smaller wave, compared to provinces that relaxed measures before a high enough vaccine coverage was achieved.
Advice for Thanksgiving
With Canadians wanting to celebrate Thanksgiving over the weekend Dr. Tam advised that to keep indoor gatherings safer, individuals who ask their guests if they are fully vaccinated and should try to improve ventilation indoors, as much as possible.
"Even when it’s cooler you can open your windows a little bit for short periods of time, and the door, to help improve indoor ventilation," she said. "Use precautions, including spacing or physical distancing, if you can, and masking where appropriate."
"Previously, we have seen surges in cases after these holiday events so this year with the vaccine on board, I think we should be on a better, more solid footing, but we can’t be too careful when it comes to this formidable foe,...the Delta variant."
In terms of personal plans, Dr. Tam shared that she does not have specific plans for in-person interactions this weekend, but if she does, it will be with her immediate family, her parents for example, who are fully vaccinated.
Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, shared that he does have plans for an in-person gathering with immediate family members who are fully vaccinated.