As most provinces and territories lift COVID-19 public health measures, Canadians are allowed to assess their own risk amid signs of a sixth wave.
Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s director of public health, said last month it’s important to consider the amount of COVID-19 in your community and the activity you’re doing.
“Outside? Is it crowded inside? Who should I go with?”
Tam says it’s important to take your personal health situation into account and whether you’re around people who are at higher risk, such as elderly parents or unvaccinated children.
Here are five ways to reduce your risk:
Quebec and Prince Edward Island are the only two provinces to extend the shelf life of masks until the end of the month.
“Masks are important,” PEI public health officer Dr Heather Morrison said on Tuesday. “Masks will be one of the last measures to be lifted.”
Other provinces have opposed calls to reintroduce public health restrictions, including regulations on face masks.
Tam notes that this is a personal choice in most provinces.
“Think about the people you’re with and maybe they’re at higher risk – so have that consideration for other people.”
Vaccination rates vary across the country, but research has shown that vaccination can help reduce serious outcomes.
Several experts said this week they were worried the government’s message about the current state of the pandemic might affect the absorption of additional doses.
Eligibility for a fourth dose is being expanded in some provinces after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended that people age 70 and older get a second booster.
Dr Kelly Grindrod, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo College of Pharmacy, said: “It’s hard to push people to use boosters when they want to believe it’s already been done.
“And the question is, do we have to continue living through levels of disaster for people to stay engaged enough that they want to protect themselves?”
More than a million people have used an online calculator created to help Canadians manage their COVID-19 risk.
My Go-to COVID-19 Risk Decision Support, free online, was first created during the second wave of COVID-19 in the fall of 2020.
“People are starting to ask these questions,” said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of health policy research at the National Institute on Aging. “Is it safe to visit with others? Are there safer ways to visit with other people?”
Sinha said the institute turned it into a three-minute risk calculator in the spring of 2021.
The tool can be a valuable resource as people navigate what appears to be a sixth wave with few limitations, he said.
“We do not guarantee anyone a safe, in-person visit,” says Sinha. “We’re just giving people an opportunity to understand how they can safely visit other places.
“It’s about giving people education and tools.”
WASTE WATER DATA
Many cities have been collecting and distributing information about COVID-19 in wastewater.
Kevin Frankowski, executive director of Advance Canadian Water Assets at the University of Calgary, says it’s news for everyone to consider.
“There are significant advantages to wastewater monitoring,” he said. “It’s all-inclusive. Every bathroom user contributes to that signal, it doesn’t require a consistent screening policy or willingness to go for a test.
“Nor is it objective. Wastewater doesn’t lie.”
But he says it’s important to be careful with the data. For example, he notes that wastewater volumes are increasing as hospitalizations decrease in Alberta.
“Both of those statements are true,” he explained. “One possible explanation is that the severity of the illness continues to decrease. The infection is still there, but it doesn’t lead to the symptoms that would send you to the hospital.”
Frankowski says data should be used as a source for people to incorporate into their decision making.
“One of our project co-leaders, Dr. Casey Hubert… makes a similarity between a COVID (wastewater) tracker and a weather app,” he said, explaining that you can check both before going out.
“Do I need an umbrella? Do I need a mask?”
STAY HOME WHEN SICK
Most jurisdictions recommend that you stay home when sick.
In Alberta, for example, officials note that someone with COVID-19 can spread the virus to others for up to 10 days.
“The risk of transmission in fully vaccinated individuals is lower after five days, but it persists,” the province’s website said.
The site adds that quarantine helps prevent spread by reducing the number of people you can infect while staying at home and avoiding others.
This report by the Canadian Press was first published on April 7, 2022
– with files by Mia Rabson in Ottawa and Nicole Thompson in Toronto