Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on September 24, 2021
September 24, 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 a summary of the latest national numbers and trends.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,594,200 cases of COVID-19 and 27,581 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 44,974, and 7-day moving averages indicate current disease activity and severity trends.
COVID-19 disease activity is showing significant regional variation across the country. The latest national 7-day average of 4,303 new cases reported daily (Sep 17-23) is a decrease of 1.6% over the previous week. We are cautiously optimistic that recent tightening of public health measures in areas where the virus has been surging is beginning to slow the spread. Unfortunately, lagging severity trends are still rising nationally, with recent hospitalisation and critical care admissions primarily involving unvaccinated people. This continued trend together with prolonged hospital stays is putting a heavy strain on local healthcare resources, particularly where infection rates are high and vaccination rates are low. It is hoped that maintaining strengthened control measures in heavily impacted areas will begin to reduce severe illness trends and ease the strain on the health system in the weeks to come. The latest provincial and territorial data show that an average of 2,267 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Sep 17-23), which is 12% higher than last week. This includes, on average, 729 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), 7% more than last week and an average of 36 deaths were reported daily (Sep 17-23).
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 the latest data from 12 provinces and territories for the eligible population, 12 years or older:
- From December 14, 2020 to September 4, 2021, 0.10% of fully vaccinated people became infected, with the majority of recent cases and hospitalizations occurring in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.
- In recent weeks (August 8 - September 4, 2021):
- the average weekly rate of new COVID-19 cases in unvaccinated people was 11 times higher than in the fully vaccinated.
- the average weekly rate of hospitalized cases in unvaccinated people was 38 times higher compared to fully vaccinated people.
As of September 23, 2021, provinces and territories have administered over 55.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the latest provincial and territorial data indicating that over 87% of people aged 12 years or older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and over 80% are now fully vaccinated. Age-specific vaccine coverage data, as of September 18, show that from 78% to 97% of people in the eligible age groupings have received at least one dose and from 68% to 95% are fully vaccinated. We must strive to have as many eligible people as possible fully vaccinated as quickly as possible to protect ourselves and others, including those who may not mount a strong immune response or who cannot get vaccinated. This fall, implementing timed and targeted public health measures and maintaining individual protective practices will be crucial for slowing infection rates and reducing the impact on healthcare capacity, as we cover this last stretch to reach very high vaccine coverage across all eligible age groups, especially those aged 18-39 years.
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 Canada.ca and Immunize.ca. Canada.ca 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. In particular, physical distancing and properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask provide additional layers of protection that further reduce your risk in all settings. 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.
Public Health Agency of Canada
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