‘Without a doubt,’ Canada is now in the fourth wave of COVID-19, with instances increasing across the country.

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Vaccines and limitations may help to prevent the worst results as the delta spreads, but hospital pressure remains a possibility.

With COVID-19 cases growing in numerous provinces following a summer pause, further evidence point to Canada entering an expected fourth wave of the pandemic – one that, thanks to rising vaccination rates, might be drastically different from previous surges, but not altogether pain-free.

The country’s seven-day average for new daily cases is now close to 1,300, up roughly 60% from the previous week, with cases increasing mostly in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec.

“We are unquestionably in the fourth wave,” said Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. “There’s no question about that.”

However, unlike earlier waves that swamped hospital systems and resulted in catastrophic death in long-term care facilities, there is hope that this rise will be less severe.

Vaccinations are now widely used, which has changed the game: Approximately 60% of Canadians are now fully immunized, and research continues to show that leading vaccinations provide high amounts of protection against serious illness, especially the rapidly developing delta variant.

“We can effectively have more instances in our population without having as severe an impact on our healthcare system,” noted Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

“However, that doesn’t imply we’re out of the woods.” Multiple experts emphasized the importance of maintaining safeguards like mask-wearing in place to avoid the worst of what this wave could bring, while also working to ensure that as many Canadians as possible receive their immunizations.

“The point is, we can’t go back to normal,” Juni explained. “Because we continue to face a challenge with the huge proportion of unvaccinated persons.”