Election in Conditions of the
Pandemic’s Fourth Wave
On August 23, Ontario reported 639 new cases of COVID-19. Of those, 124 people (21 per cent) were fully vaccinated, 65 were partially vaccinated and the remainder were unvaccinated. Of people in hospital in Ontario on the same day, 23 were fully vaccinated, nine were partially vaccinated and 103 were unvaccinated.
Stories circulating from across Canada report similar statistics with hotspots reported in Windsor, Ontario, Parkside Extendicare senior’s home in Regina, Saskatchewan, and other places. The Parkside Extendicare outbreak is particularly worrisome given that the same thing happened during the first round of the pandemic during which 39 people died in this facilility.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, on August 12 reported that the fourth wave of COVID-19 was underway. This was before Justin Trudeau called the election. This makes the election call a very irresponsible unjustifiable act indeed. Since then, the number of cases and hospitalizations has continued to increase, putting increased pressure on the health care system and health care workers and leading to local health authorities introducing stricter public health guidelines in certain regions.
In her statement of August 20 in which she provided the most up-to-date information, Dr. Tam said: “The latest national seven-day average of 2,216 new cases reported daily (August 13-19) is an increase of 38 per cent 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 seven-day period (August 13-19), which is 22 per cent higher than last week. This includes, on average 262 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), 24 per cent more than last week and an average of 5 deaths were reported daily (August 13-19).”
She pointed out that there are several key features of the fourth wave in terms of infections and severe outcomes. The majority of recently reported cases are in unvaccinated people and are of the “highly contagious Delta Variant of Concern (VOC)” which is associated with increased severity and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines. She also warned that “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.”
She emphasized the importance of everyone who is eligible getting fully vaccinated.
She added that since COVID-19 is still circulating in Canada and internationally, core public health care measures remain important to reduce its spread, including “stay home/self-isolate if you have symptoms; be aware of risks associated with different settings; avoid non-essential travel outside Canada; and maintain individual protective practices such as physical distancing and wearing a well-fitted and properly worn face mask, as appropriate.”
Besides the necessity of taking all the public health recommended precautions to protect against COVID-19, another conclusion Canadians can draw is that calling an election in the middle of a pandemic is irresponsible, to say the least.