On the eve of Ottawa moving into a four-week shutdown, Ottawa Public Health is reporting a ninth straight day with a triple-digit COVID-19 case increase.
There are 175 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Good Friday. No new deaths linked to the virus were reported.
Since the first case of COVID-19 on March 11, 2020, there have been 17,585 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including 466 deaths.
The 175 new cases on Friday follow 116 new cases on Thursday, 117 new cases on Wednesday, 112 new cases on Tuesday and 184 new cases on Monday.
Ottawa’s COVID-19 positivity rate increased to 6.5 per cent for the previous seven days. The COVID-19 incidence rate jumped to 97.2 cases per 100,000, up from 92.3 cases.
Ontario is imposing a four-week, province-wide shutdown at 12:01 a.m. Monday in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Under the guidelines, indoor and outdoor dining at bars and restaurants is prohibited, and personal care settings and gyms must close. Essential retail stores will be able to operate with a 50 per cent capacity limit, while other retail businesses, including big box stores and stores in malls, can operate at 25 per cent capacity.
Public Health Ontario did not release COVID-19 statistics for Ontario on Friday due to the holiday.
OTTAWA’S KEY COVID-19 STATISTICS
Ottawa is in “Red-Control” status under Ontario’s COVID-19 framework. Ottawa will move into a shutdown at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
Ottawa Public Health data:
- COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (March 25-31): 97.2
- Positivity rate in Ottawa: 6.5 per cent (March 26-April 1)
- Reproduction number: 1.11 (seven day average)
Reproduction values greater than 1 indicate the virus is spreading and each case infects more than one contact. If it is less than 1, it means spread is slowing.
VACCINES IN OTTAWA
As of April 2:
- First vaccine doses administered: 124,462
- Second vaccine doses administered: 26,824
- Total doses received: 176,410
OPH says the city received a shipment of 36,270 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on March 29.
VARIANTS OF CONCERN
Ottawa Public Health data*:
- Total B.1.1.7 (UK variant) cases: 23
- Total B.1.351 (South Africa variant) cases: 6
- Total P.1 (Brazil variant) cases: 0
- Total variants of concern/mutation cases: 596
- Deaths linked to variants/mutations: 4
*OPH notes that that VOC and mutation trends must be treated with caution due to the varying time required to complete VOC testing and/or genomic analysis following the initial positive test for SARS-CoV-2. Test results may be completed in batches and data corrections or updates can result in changes to case counts that may differ from past reports.
HOSPITALIZATIONS IN OTTAWA
There are 43 people in Ottawa-area hospitals with COVID-19 related illnesses on Friday, up from 40 on Thursday.
Fourteen people people are in the intensive care unit.
Of the people in hospital, one person is in their 20s, two are in their 30s, one is in their 40s, ten are in their 50s (five are in the ICU), 10 are in their 60s (four are in the ICU), seven are in their 70s (four are in the ICU), 10 are in their 80s (one is in the ICU) and two are 90 or older.
ACTIVE CASES OF COVID-19 IN OTTAWA
Ottawa Public Health is reporting 1,358 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday, up from 1,263 active cases on Thursday.
Eighty more Ottawa residents have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19. Ottawa Public Health reports 15,761 resolved cases of COVID-19 in the capital.
The number of active cases is the number of total cases of COVID-19 minus the numbers of resolved cases and deaths. A case is considered resolved 14 days after known symptom onset or positive test result.
COVID-19 CASES IN OTTAWA BY AGE CATEGORY
- 0-9 years old: 11 new cases (1,349 total cases)
- 10-19 years-old: 26 new cases (2,239 total cases)
- 20-29 years-old: 37 new cases (3,859 total cases)
- 30-39 years-old: 33 new cases (2,534 total cases)
- 40-49 years-old: 26 new cases (2,265 total cases)
- 50-59 years-old: 27 new cases (2,109 total cases)
- 60-69-years-old: Six new cases (1,252 total cases)
- 70-79 years-old: 4 new cases (734 total cases)
- 80-89 years-old: 2 new case (737 total cases)
- 90+ years old: Three new cases (473 total cases)
- Unknown: 0 new cases (3 cases total)
COVID-19 TESTING IN OTTAWA
The Ottawa COVID-19 Testing Taskforce reported 2,664 swabs were processed at assessment centres in Ottawa on March 31.
A total of 6,782 lab tests were performed in Ottawa on Wednesday.
The average turnaround from the time the swab is taken at a testing site to the result is 35 hours.
Ottawa Public Health is reporting COVID-19 outbreaks at 34 institutions in Ottawa, including long-term care homes, retirement homes, daycares, hospitals and schools.
The COVID-19 outbreaks are over at Extendicare West End Villa and at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus.
There are eight active community outbreaks: two are in restaurants, two are in services workplaces, one is linked to a private event, one is linked to sports and recreation, one is linked to construction and one is linked to a recreational workplace.
The schools and childcare spaces currently experiencing outbreaks are:
- École élémentaire publique Séraphin-Marion (March 14)
- St. Luke’s Childcare Centre (March 15)
- École secondaire catholique Franco-Cité (March 21)
- Fallingbrook Community Elementary School (March 23)
- École secondaire publique Louis-Riel (March 25)
- St. Peter High School (March 26)
- St. Gabriel Elementary School (March 29)
- St. Leonard Elementary School (March 30)
- Longfields Davidson Heights School (March 31) [NEW]
- St. Isidore Elementary School (March 31) [NEW]
The long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospitals, and other spaces currently experiencing outbreaks are:
- Shelter (Jan. 26)
- The Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus (Feb. 19)
- St. Vincent Hospital (March 6)
- Extendicare Medex (March 9)
- Peter D. Clark LTCH (March 10)
- Group Home (March 11)
- University of Ottawa Heart Institute (March 12)
- Chapel Hill RH (March 13)
- St. Patrick’s Home (March 14)
- St. Vincent Hospital (March 15)
- University of Ottawa Heart Institute (March 16)
- Elisabeth Bruyere Hospital (March 18)
- Portobello Retirement Residence (March 18)
- Shelter (March 21)
- University of Ottawa Heart Institute (March 21)
- Supported Independent Living (March 23)
- Timberwalk Retirement Home (March 24)
- Longfields Manor (March 24)
- University of Ottawa Heart Institute (March 26)
- Jardin Royal Garden (March 27)
- Sisters of Charity (March 28)
- Landmark Court Retirement Home (March 29)
- Hillel Lodge (March 30)
- Group Home A-11533) (March 31)
A single laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 in a resident or staff member of a long-term care home, retirement home or shelter triggers an outbreak response, according to Ottawa Public Health. In childcare settings, two children or staff or household member cases of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 within a 14-day period where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection in the childcare establishment is considered an outbreak in a childcare establishment.
Under provincial guidelines, a COVID-19 outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before or after school care).
Two staff or patient cases of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 within a specified hospital unit within a 14-day period where both cases could have reasonably acquired their infection in hospital is considered an outbreak in a public hospital.
Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs
By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny
TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.
Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.
The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.
Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.
Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.
“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.
“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”
In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.
Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.
“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”
In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers
By Anna Mehler Paperny
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is shifting its vaccination campaign to target frontline workers, moving away from a largely age-based rollout as the country tries to get a handle on the raging third wave of the pandemic.
Canada‘s approach thus far has left unvaccinated many so-called “essential workers,” like daycare providers, bus drivers and meatpackers, all of whom are among those at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provinces are now trying to adjust their strategy to tackle the surge driven by new variants.
Targeting frontline workers and addressing occupation risk is vital if Canada wants to get its third wave under control, says Simon Fraser University mathematician and epidemiologist Caroline Colijn, who has modelled Canadian immunization strategies and found “the sooner you put essential workers [in the vaccine rollout plan], the better.”
Initially, Canada prioritized long-term care residents and staff for the vaccines, as well as the very elderly, health workers, residents of remote communities and Indigenous people.
Targeting vaccinations by age made sense early on in a pandemic that ravaged Canada‘s long-term care homes, Colijn said. But now, immunizing those at highest risk of transmission brings the greatest benefit.
“If you protect these individuals you also protect someone in their 60s whose only risk is when they go to the store. … The variants are here now. So if we pivot now, but it takes us two months to do it, then we will lose that race.”
Data released on Tuesday from the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences showed that Toronto’s neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the lowest vaccination rates, underscoring the disparities in vaccination.
‘IT’S A JUGGERNAUT’
On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to have mobile vaccine clinics target COVID-19 “hotspots” and high-risk worksites, although he stopped short of giving people paid time off to get the shot.
Karim Kurji, medical officer of health in York Region north of Toronto, characterizes the shift in vaccination priority from age to transmission risk as moving from defence to offence.
“It’s a juggernaut in terms of the immunization machinery, and turning it around takes a lot of effort,” Kurji said.
Meanwhile, officials in the western province of Alberta say they are offering vaccines to more than 2,000 workers at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in High River, site of one of Canada‘s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. Provincial officials said in a statement they are looking to expand the pilot to other plants.
Quebec will start vaccinating essential workers such as those in education, childcare and public safety in Montreal, where neighbourhoods with the highest vaccination rates have been among those with the lowest recorded infection rates.
The people doing the highest-risk jobs, from an infectious disease perspective, are more likely to be poor, non-white and new Canadians, health experts say. They are less likely to have paid leave to get tested or vaccinated or stay home when sick and are more likely to live in crowded or multi-unit housing. They need to be prioritized for vaccination and their vaccination barriers addressed, experts say.
Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist, said making vaccines available to high-risk communities is not enough without addressing barriers to access.
“The face of COVID-19 and who was being impacted changed dramatically. The variants seemed to take hold in communities where essential workers live. … This [pivot] is a step in the right direction and will hopefully save lives.”
(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)
Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare
OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.
Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.
“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.
The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.
Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.
Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.
“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”
Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.
($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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