CPHO Sunday Edition – May 30, 2021
Looking Forward to Summer 2021
As nature springs to life and warmer weather sets in across Canada, it is hard not to feel the excitement that the summer season typically brings. At the same time, many of you are curious to know what summer 2021 will look like for you and your loved ones and some of you may also be wondering what to expect into the fall and beyond. These are valid questions. We are understandably very eager to get back to a life that is more similar to the one we knew before the pandemic.
Easing public health measures depends on local epidemiological data and vaccine coverage
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recently issued a roadmap on what is expected to happen over the coming months as vaccination rates increase and COVID-19 rates decline. It includes indicators that help to give Canadians a sense of when restrictions could be loosened and also describes what Canadians might expect to do this summer and fall with potentially reduced pandemic restrictions.
Some of you may have heard me say that it is “data, not dates” that should drive the easing of public health measures at the local level. In general, jurisdictions look for several indicators before relaxing public health measures, including that:
- COVID-19 transmission is controlled to a manageable level;
- there is sufficient public health capacity to test, trace, isolate and quarantine a high proportion of cases and contacts;
- sufficient health care capacity exists (including substantial clinical care capacity) to respond to surges; and
- risk-reduction measures are in place for high-risk populations and settings.
Along with epidemiological trends, vaccination coverage plays an important role in determining when pandemic restrictions may be lifted. The more people who get vaccinated, the fewer people who are likely to get infected, and the better control we have on the pandemic. Provinces and territories are at various stages of easing restrictions, including the resumption of certain economic and social activities. Many of them have plans for opening that based on a phased approach, guided by epidemiology and vaccine coverage.
The experiences of other countries emphasize the need to maintain strong public health measures as vaccines roll out to a majority of the population and that easing measures must be done in a controlled and gradual way as COVID-19 infection rates decline. Therefore, as restrictions start to be lifted based on conditions in your area, it is still important that everyone continue to follow local public health advice and keep up with individual protective practices like physical distancing and wearing a mask regardless of whether you have been vaccinated or not. This helps to keep you, your family and your community safe as the number of people who are fully vaccinated grows.
What we can expect to do this summer and fall
If COVID-19 cases continue to decrease and vaccination coverage rates continue to rise, we can look forward to measures relaxing throughout the summer. PHAC modelling shows us that if 75 percent of people eligible for vaccines have their first dose, and 20 percent have their second dose, sticking to outdoor activities as much as possible is the safest approach until most of the population is fully vaccinated. As long as we continue to follow public health advice, we’ll be able to enjoy these activities with family and friends outside of our immediate households. This means we could have more options for gathering outdoors like socially-distanced outdoor live performances with proper safety protocols, backyard barbeques, cottages and beach time with a few more people!
Moving towards the fall, we can look forward to doing more safely indoors, if the positive trends in our epidemiology and vaccine coverage continue. If 75 percent of the eligible population are fully vaccinated, modelling indicates that jurisdictions will be able to lift additional measures that allow for indoor activities with wider groups of people without overwhelming our hospitals. This includes things like attending school, college, and university in person, participating in indoor sports, and holding larger family gatherings.
It’s a great time to be excited and hopeful about the coming months – our epi curves are moving in the right direction and vaccine coverage continues to grow across Canada. But we must not forget that by the fall, COVID-19 will not be eliminated and the virus is continuing to evolve so it may throw us a few curve balls. So, it may take longer before we will be able to relax all of our personal preventative practices in every setting (e.g. physical distancing and wearing masks) or participate in higher-risk activities, such as large, crowded indoor concerts or large spectator sporting events.
Most importantly, we need to keep in mind that how quickly we are able to return to our normal activities really depends on our continued combined efforts to protect one another. We will get there faster together if we continue to follow public health measures to help stop the spread of the virus and by getting vaccinated.
Motivation to get us through
While we continue to observe measures in place to bring down the curve and give vaccines time to increase our collective immunity, it is encouraging to know that we are still able to do many of the things that we associate with this special season! From taking in the sights, smells and sounds of summer to getting active through a range of outside activities, there is so much to enjoy and do across our country this time of year!
And as we eagerly anticipate the return to more of our regular activities, we can draw inspiration and motivation from the progress we’ve made (23.1 million doses of vaccine administered as of this week and over a 50 percent reduction in the number of active cases from the peak of the third wave!), as well as how fortunate we are to be on the cusp of one of Canada’s finest seasons and all the additional possibilities that warmer weather brings.
Step by step we are gaining ground and are on track for a better summer and a safer fall. With more of us getting vaccinated each day, we’ll get there faster together.
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