September 3, 2021 – Update from Dr. Theresa Tam on COVID-19 Situation in Canada

Dr. Theresa Tam
Dr. Theresa Tam

OTTAWA – COVID-19 Update –  The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) continues to monitor COVID-19 epidemiological indicators to quickly detect, understand and communicate emerging issues of concern. Today, I presented an update on the latest epidemiology and modelling analysis. The following is a brief summary of the modelling results and the latest on national numbers and trends.

Since the previous longer-range modelling forecast on July 30th, 2021, the Delta-driven wave has continued to accelerate along the strong resurgence trajectory. The updated longer-range modelling forecast shows that cases could continue to increase quickly in the coming weeks, but strengthening measures to reduce spread, including for example reducing our contacts by 25%, could slow acceleration. Although Canada has made significant progress in increasing vaccine coverage, the latest modelling  highlights an urgent need for more 18-39 years olds to get vaccinated and to speed up the overall rate of vaccination across the eligible population groups. Getting more people vaccinated faster could have a significant impact to slow the more contagious and severe Delta-driven resurgence to protect healthcare capacity and minimize societal disruption. As we head into the Labour Day weekend and return to more indoor activities this fall, this forecast reaffirms the importance of remaining vigilant and responsive as cases continue to rise, and underscores the need to take steps to reduce spread.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,507,051 cases of COVID-19 and 26,991 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 33,493, and 7-day moving averages indicate current disease activity and severity trends.

The latest national 7-day average of 3,486 new cases reported daily (Aug 27-Sep 2) is an increase of 22% over the previous week. After several weeks of rising case counts, national severity trends have begun to increase, primarily involving unvaccinated people. The latest provincial and territorial data show that an average of 1,230 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Aug 27-Sep 2), which is 34% higher than last week. This includes, on average 442 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), 29% more than last week and an average of 13 deaths were reported daily (Aug 27-Sep 2).

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 11 provinces and territories for the eligible population 12 years or older:

  • from December 14, 2020 to August 14, 2021, 0.04% of fully vaccinated people became infected, with the majority of recent cases and hospitalizations occurring in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.
  • In recent weeks (July 18August 14, 2021):
    • the average weekly rate of new COVID-19 cases in unvaccinated people was 12 times higher than in the fully vaccinated.
    • the average weekly rate of hospitalized cases in unvaccinated people was 36 times higher compared to fully vaccinated people.

As of September 2, 2021, provinces and territories have administered over 53.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the latest provincial and territorial data indicating that over 84% of people aged 12 years or older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 77% are now fully vaccinated. Age-specific vaccine coverage data, as of August 28, show that from 63% to 94% of people in the eligible age groupings have received at least one dose and from 74% to 96% are fully vaccinated. As we head into the fall, covering this last stretch to reach very high vaccine coverage across all eligible age groups could prove crucial to reducing the impact of the Delta-driven wave. 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.

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. 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.

SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

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