Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer, May 6, 2022
May 6, 2022 | 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. PocketWell, a free companion app to the WTC online portal, provides another way to help Canadians access online mental health and substance use resources, and measure and monitor aspects of their mental well-being.
While COVID-19 is still circulating across the country, current disease activity indicators, from daily reported cases to laboratory test positivity indicate decreasing transmission in many areas. Wastewater data are likewise showing signs of a potential plateau or post-peak decline in several areas. As our wastewater network and data continue to expand, the Public Health Agency of Canada together with partners, has just launched an online dashboard to display wastewater trends in select cities across the country. Going forward, these data will be increasingly helpful for communicating signals, such as new or increasing presence of the virus.
Currently, lagging severity trends such as hospitalisations are still elevated, but beginning to decline in some jurisdictions. Nevertheless, weeks of COVID-19 resurgence including widespread illness and healthcare worker absenteeism has contributed to prolonged impacts on the health system.
With the BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron predominating and the SARS-CoV-2 virus continuing to evolve, the path ahead may not be smooth. But, with the warmer weather beginning, it is hoped that with continued caution we can enjoy a period of lower activity and some time for recovery.
That’s why the theme of this year’s Mental Health Week is so fitting, as it focusses on how we can learn and hone our empathy skills to help each other. Through this week’s communications, information and resources, the Canadian Mental health Association encourages us to develop and practice these skills, starting with listening to one another without judgment. That is to say, empathy helps us put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and seek to understand their point of view. This not only helps us to connect with and support others, it can also help us regulate our own emotions and reduce feelings of isolation.
The pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways, with some research suggesting that up to 50% of us in Canada have experienced declines in our mental health during the pandemic. We know that these impacts have affected certain groups more than others and that as the pandemic has evolved we have faced different challenges, including now. While many are happy to have measures easing, this can also bring about anxiety and stress as communities adapt to the changes.
At this time, as throughout the pandemic, Wellness Together Canada continues to offer confidential virtual mental health and substance use resources and supports to people of all ages in Canada. To date, almost 2.3 million people across Canada have used these supports, which are offered at no cost, 24 hours a days, 7 days a week.
When it comes to mental health, every action counts. I urge all people in Canada to do what they can to support their own mental health and wellbeing, and that of their family and friends. Practicing empathy through an act of kindness for someone can go a long way. And, together we can all help to create positive change in our schools, workplaces and communities.
Although we may experience further ups and downs in the COVID-19 trajectory going forward, maintaining a VaccinesPlus approach can keep us prepared and better protected. This means remaining aware of COVID-19 activity in your local area and continuing to take personal precautions – like staying home if you’re symptomatic or test positive, improving ventilation, and continuing to wear a mask in shared indoor or crowded spaces when with people you don’t live with.
Always at the core of VaccinesPlus is staying up-to-date with all the vaccine doses recommended for you. That means a primary series of COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 5 years of age or older and booster doses as recommended for those aged 12 years or older.
As we resume more activities and connections in Canada and globally, other serious infectious diseases, such as influenza and measles, are making a comeback. Canada is reporting increased influenza activity in recent weeks and the World Health Organization have reported a 79% increase in worldwide measles cases in the first two months of this year compared to the same time last year. As these are vaccine preventable diseases, delayed or missed vaccinations during the pandemic in particular, is a key factor in these rising disease trends. No matter what our age, we need to keep vaccinations up-to-date throughout our lives. Make prevention part of your health plan by checking in with your health provider or local health care resources.
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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