NATIONAL

Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer

Last Friday, we presented an update on epidemiology and modelling in Canada, showing that efforts to increase vaccine coverage and re-introduce public health measures in heavily impacted areas have been effective in slowing spread at the national level. Encouragingly, the updated modelling forecast suggested that we could observe a decline in daily cases in the coming weeks so long as we continue to increase vaccine uptake as well as maintain existing public health measures. While we are cautiously optimistic about the trajectory, the latest modelling also underscored the need to remain vigilant to protect our progress and reduce the risk of overwhelming healthcare capacity, especially as we head into the respiratory infections season.

The latest surveillance data from this week indicates that although the virus continues to surge and present ongoing challenges in several areas of the country, overall, we are observing a decline in COVID-19 disease activity nationally. Over the past week, there were an average of over 3,160 new cases being reported daily across Canada, a decrease of 15% compared to the week prior. However, severe outcome trends remain elevated, with an average of more than 2,450 people with COVID-19 being treated in our hospitals each day, including over 740 in intensive care units, and an average of 40 deaths were reported daily. COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations are predominantly occurring among unvaccinated people; from the end of August to late September, the average weekly rate of new COVID-19 cases was 8 times higher, while the average weekly rate of hospitalisations was 26 times higher in unvaccinated people than in fully vaccinated people.

With Thanksgiving behind us, this means we are also entering influenza, or flu, season. The flu was virtually non-existent last year, thanks in large part to the public health measures in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but it has not disappeared. This year, we are anticipating a possible flu resurgence due to lower levels of immunity in the population as a result of less circulation last flu season, and easing of some restrictive, community-based public health measures made possible thanks to high COVID-19 vaccination coverage.

The behaviours we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic can help keep us and our communities healthier this fall and winter. This includes getting the flu shot when it is available to you and consistently maintaining individual protective public health measures, like wearing a mask, improving indoor ventilation, washing your hands often, and staying home when you are sick. Individual public health measures are the foundation of good public health practice, and help prevent the spread of the flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses.

Getting a flu shot is more important now than ever. It helps prevent the flu and related complications, such as pneumonia, and can also help reduce the severity of symptoms. If a continuing fourth wave of COVID-19 were combined with a resurgence of the flu, this could place additional pressures on the healthcare system.

By following public health practices to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and making sure all our important vaccinations are up to date, we are doing our best to protect ourselves and others.

Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus to others.

The calculation of the national 7-day moving averages of people in hospital (2,509) and in intensive care units (757) daily (October 8-14) above, erroneously included cumulative numbers rather than daily numbers for the Northwest Territories (NWT). The corrected national averages (excluding NWT numbers) for October 8-14th was on average 2,460 people with COVID-19 in hospital and 741 people in intensive care daily.

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