Amongst Positive Vaccine News, Case Counts Are Rebounding

Avoiding a third wave. Reopening without enhanced prevention strategies as well as pandemic fatigue could lead to the erosion of the gains made during Winter lockdown.

The past week’s news headlines have brought hope to Canadians who have suffered through months of COVID-19 restrictions, thanks to the recent approvals of the Johnston & Johnston and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines and improved delivery schedules from Pfizer and Moderna. While these announcements are a positive step forward in terms of overall pandemic outlook, most Canadians are still months away from receiving a vaccine. It is the next several months that have medical experts concerned as the potential of a third-wave looms over us. Recent data from John Hopkins University shows new infections are back on the rise. In fact, the rolling seven-day average of new cases is up in every major region of the world.

Raising cases counts from the end of 2020, were sent downward in early 2021 as most Canadians faced lockdowns and strict public health measures. In February, provincial governments began looking at relaxing those measures, while alarms regarding new, more transmissible COVID-19 variants of concern were being sounded. Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa spoke on February 17 and stated, “I have never been more concerned about the threat of COVID-19 in Toronto.” As we enter the first full week of March, Ontario reported the highest count of cases since February 5, with the majority of the cases coming from hotspots of Toronto, Peel and York. Additionally, on March 5 Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, issued a warning on Twitter saying, “COVID levels in our community are rising at alarming rates & we CAN’T vaccinate our way out of this.”

So how can we avoid a third wave?

In order to prevent a third wave in Canada we need to consider the following three strategies. First off, we need to prioritize short-term satisfaction for long-term gains. This means holding off on inviting your friends over for a dinner party and limiting your trips to the store to essentials visits only. Secondly, we need to double-down on our protection measures given the high viral load found in the variants of concern. Ditch your cloth or paper mask in favour of a medical-grade mask such as a KF94, especially in indoor public settings. Finally, we need to vaccinate smart. This means using our past experiences to guide the vaccination strategy. We need to take a community approach to who gets vaccinated first by studying where the highest burden of disease has occurred.