Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on August 20, 2021


August 20, 2021  | Ottawa, ON  | Public Health Agency of Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) continues to monitor COVID-19 epidemiological indicators to quickly detect, understand and communicate emerging issues of concern. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends. With reduced reporting over the weekends and national indicator data being collated over the week, I will release my statements each Friday over the coming weeks.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,462,906 cases of COVID-19 and 26,783 deaths reported in Canada. These cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date, while the number of active cases, now at 21,857, and moving 7-day averages indicate current disease activity and severity trends.

The latest national 7-day average of 2,216 new cases reported daily (Aug 13-19) is an increase of 38% over the previous week. After several weeks of rising case counts in some of Canada's most populous jurisdictions, national severity trends have begun to increase, primarily involving unvaccinated people. The latest provincial and territorial data show that an average of 648 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Aug 13-19), which is 22% higher than last week. This includes, on average 262 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), 24% more than last week and an average of 5 deaths were reported daily (Aug 13-19).

During this fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, infections and severe outcomes have several key features:

  • Nationally, the highly contagious Delta Variant of Concern (VOC), accounts for the majority of recently reported cases, is associated with increased severity, and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines
  • Most reported cases, hospitalisations and deaths are occurring among unvaccinated people
  • Virus spread in areas with low vaccination coverage presents an ongoing risk for emergence of and replacement by new VOCs, including a risk of VOCs with the ability to evade vaccine protection.

Regardless of which SARS-CoV-2 variant is predominating in an area, we know that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual measures, continue to work to reduce disease spread and severe outcomes. In particular, evidence continues to demonstrate that a complete two-dose series of Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccines provides substantial protection. Based on data as of July 31, 0.03% of fully vaccinated people became infected, with the majority of recent cases and hospitalizations occurring in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.

As of August 19, provinces and territories have administered over 52 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the latest data indicating that 83% of people aged 12 years or older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 74% are now fully vaccinated. Age-specific data as of August 14, show that 72% to 96% of eligible age groups have received at least one dose and 58% to 92% are fully vaccinated. This is a crucial moment to increase vaccination coverage. With the highly transmissible Delta VOC predominating in this wave, we must strive to have as many eligible people as possible fully vaccinated to protect ourselves and others, including those who may not mount a strong immune response or who cannot get vaccinated.

For additional information regarding vaccination in your area, reach out to your local public health authorities, healthcare provider, or other trusted and credible sources, such as and provides a broad range of COVID-19 information and resources to help Canadians understand the benefits of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and find guidance on life after vaccination.

While COVID-19 is still circulating in Canada and internationally, core public health practices remain crucial: stay home/self-isolate if you have symptoms; be aware of risks associated with different settings; follow local public health advice and maintain individual protective practices such as physical distancing and properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask, as appropriate. Canadians are advised to continue avoiding non-essential travel outside of Canada; if you must travel, be aware of the requirements for visiting other countries and for returning to Canada.

Canadians can also go the extra mile by sharing credible information on COVID-19 risks and prevention practices and measures to reduce COVID-19 in communities. Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others, including information on COVID-19 vaccination.


Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

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