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Canada's top doctor can't say when we can ditch the mask

Last Updated Jun 29, 2021 at 12:20 pm PDT

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam looks on at the start of a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada's top doctor says the COVID-19 variants still remain a serious concern

Dr. Theresa Tam urging caution as many prepare to ditch their mask

Many Canadians are not able to get the vaccine, such as young children

Despite Canada’s soaring COVID-19 vaccination numbers, it appears you won’t be tossing your mask out any time soon.

There’s been less than 640 new cases each day across the nation. More than 30 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated, and we are closing in on 80 per cent for at least a first dose.

But our chief medical health officer said the Delta variant still poses a risk for a fourth wave, and can’t give an estimate of when masks can be ditched.

“It’s a combination of things,” Dr. Theresa Tam said, “I think we do have to be quite cautious because the provinces are just beginning to open up and we will then see what happens.”

Tam notes not every adult is vaccinated and children under the age of 12 are not eligible to receive a shot yet, so mask wearing in some public settings may continue for a while.

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“We could prevent the fourth wave if we can get the vaccine coverage even higher, and including 80 per cent vaccine coverage in the younger adult population,” Tam said.

Tam said, “even though we have a good first dose coverage, we still need to, I think, go a bit higher. And quite a number of people haven’t had the full vaccination, so this is a period, I think, that we should be more cautious.”

Some countries, such as Israel, have been forced to bring back their mask mandates after prematurely getting rid of them.

Last week, the federal government released new guidance for fully vaccinated Canadians, explaining they can meet indoors without masks if they are meeting with other fully vaccinated people — but should still practice precautions like wearing a mask, if there are non-vaccinated people, because the virus can still be transmitted.