ABSTRACTBackgroundThe goal of this study was to project the number of COVID-19 cases and demand for acute hospital resources for Fall of 2021 in a representative mid-sized community in southwestern Ontario. We sought to evaluate whether current levels of vaccine coverage and contact reduction could mitigate a potential 4th wave fueled by the Delta variant, or whether the reinstitution of more intense public health measures will be required.MethodsWe developed an age-stratified dynamic transmission model of COVID-19 in a mid-sized city (population 500,000) currently experiencing a relatively low, but increasing, infection rate in Step 3 of Ontario’s Wave 3 recovery. We parameterized the model using the medical literature, grey literature, and government reports. We estimated the current level of contact reduction by model calibration to cases and hospitalizations. We projected the number of infections, number of hospitalizations, and the time to re-instate high intensity public health measures over the fall of 2021 under different levels of vaccine coverage and contact reduction.ResultsMaintaining contact reductions at the current level, estimated to be a 17% reduction compared to pre-pandemic contact levels, results in COVID-related admissions exceeding 20% of pre-pandemic critical care capacity by late October, leading to cancellation of elective surgeries and other non-COVID health services. At high levels of vaccination and relatively high levels of mask wearing, a moderate additional effort to reduce contacts (30% reduction compared to pre-pandemic contact levels), is necessary to avoid re-instating intensive public health measures. Compared to prior waves, the age distribution of both cases and hospitalizations shifts younger and the estimated number of pediatric critical care hospitalizations may substantially exceed 20% of capacity.DiscussionHigh rates of vaccination coverage in people over the age of 12 and mask wearing in public settings will not be sufficient to prevent an overwhelming resurgence of COVID-19 in the Fall of 2021. Our analysis indicates that immediate moderate public health measures can prevent the necessity for more intense and disruptive measures later.