Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on November 12, 2021
November 12, 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.
It looks like we may be experiencing a bit of turbulence this week. As we said during last week's modelling update, there may be bumps in our trajectory over the coming weeks, with further easing of public health measures and as we spend more time indoors during the cooler weather. Over the last seven days, an average of close to 2,500 new cases were reported daily across Canada, which is 11% higher than last week. Currently, severe illness trends are stable but we need to keep infection rates down to prevent increases. Over the past week, on average over 1,800 people with COVID-19 were being treated in our hospitals each day, with 528 in intensive care units and 22 deaths were reported daily.
Over 28 million people, or 85% of the eligible population aged 12 years or older in Canada, are fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines; however, we still have sizeable gaps in vaccine coverage. This includes over 5 million eligible people and over 4.3 million children under the age of 12 years. That means, total population coverage is about 10% lower, with over 74% of the Canadian population fully vaccinated. Most notably, coverage is not the same everywhere and where there are pockets of very low coverage, there is a higher risk for local surges in virus activity.
In the weeks ahead as the weather cools, we are once again pulling out our winter layers to keep warm and comfortable while we enjoy the fresh outdoor air. At the same time, we'll need layers of protection against respiratory infections that can spread more easily indoors, where the air can be less than fresh.
Since the outset of the pandemic, we've learned a lot about the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Most importantly, we've learned how the virus can linger in fine aerosols and remain suspended in the air we breathe, much as expelled smoke lingers in poorly ventilated spaces. And similar to second hand smoke, those in close proximity to the infected person inhale more aerosols. This is why opening a window helps reduce the risk and why wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed mask is so important when you're spending time in indoor public spaces, particularly if ventilation is not optimal.
The same as vaccination provides us with an essential base layer of immune readiness and protection, masks are an essential top layer against virus inhalation and spread between people. Heading into the winter, there are many reasons to ensure that our top or outer barrier layer of protection is of the best quality and fit possible. With the highly contagious Delta variant continuing to predominate, the risk for surges in disease activity is likely to increase with more time spent indoors, particularly where there are pockets of low vaccine coverage. As well, given evidence of waning vaccine protection in some situations, there may be an increased risk of severe illness as well, which reinforces the need to layer protections. In particular, of the many types of face masks, those that fit to provide a good snug seal on your face and are constructed with layers of materials that can filter fine virus particles are best for preventing or reducing the amount of infectious respiratory particles you may inhale.
Being well kitted out to stay as healthy as we can this fall and winter, means getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the annual flu too, while layering with other protections from maintaining hand hygiene to improving indoor ventilation, avoiding crowding and wearing a good quality mask when in public or private spaces with others outside of your household. When it comes to the health of you and your family, the more layers of protection the better! Read more on Canada.ca, including updated information and tools to help you choose a well-constructed and well-fitted face mask for optimal protection.
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.
Public Health Agency of Canada
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