Local healthcare experts are preparing for another wave of COVID-19 cases in Kenora this fall.

In a recent conference with regional media members on June 13, President and CEO of the Lake of the Woods District Hospital, Ray Racette, warned that healthcare staff have been advised to prepare for the seventh wave of COVID-19 this fall after the lifting of restrictions and mask mandates this spring.

Medical Officer of Health with the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, says she agrees that a seventh wave is likely for the region, but is unsure when exactly it could hit the area.

“We are preparing for a potential surge in the fall. There is of course uncertainty. It’s uncertain if, when and how large a potential surge could be. It is important for us to be prepared for it. It is a good possibility in the future.”

Canada’s Chief Officer of Health, Dr. Theresa Tam, has also warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and it’s ‘very likely’ we’ll experience a seventh wave this fall with a possible new variant or subvariant of the virus.

“We think that it is very likely that we will get some more viral activity in the future, and we can’t predict exactly how big the next wave is, but I think we need to prepare,” said Tam to MPs at the House of Commons on June 8.

Young Hoon notes that many infection control and prevention practices for COVID-19 will help to reduce the spread of influenza in the area, which as usual, also sees case rates rise over the winter months.

“I think COVID is definitely established in the region and in Canada,” adds Young Hoon. “It’s not going to disappear. But it is going to go up and down. We’ve seen over the last couple of summers that case rates have decreased over the summer and increases occur after the summer period.”

The former head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, Dr. Peter Juni, says the wave is expected as the weather starts to cool and immunity against infection starts to decrease, and says further booster doses may be required for older adults.

Young Hoon reminds the public that the best defence against COVID-19 is getting vaccinated, and doses continue to be available for everyone who needs them. Dr. Tam has noted two doses of the vaccine only give 20 per cent effectiveness against Omicron, whereas three doses get you to 60 per cent.