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‘A bit of a nightmare:’ Health expert calls for stricter rules as COVID cases surge – Kelowna Capital News

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Surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across several provinces prompted warnings on Monday from public health experts, who said stricter measures and adherence to guidelines are needed in the days and weeks ahead.

Ontario reported 3,270 new cases of COVID-19 and 29 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Monday, while officials in Quebec reported 2,546 new infections and 32 more deaths.

One expert in Quebec said the province should impose a curfew to ensure people are in their homes at a certain hour — a move that was recently imposed in France. “The government bet on a partial lockdown to reduce the number of cases. It didn’t work,” Roxane Borges Da Silva, a professor at Universite de Montreal’s school of public health, said in an interview Monday.

She said the stricter measures could also include the closure of the manufacturing sector, which accounts for many COVID-19 outbreaks. “We don’t have room to manoeuvre. We have no choice but to put in place strict measures that will really work. We can’t afford to do more trial and error,” Borges Da Silva said.

Quebec and Ontario imposed partial lockdown rules over the holiday period in an effort to get the pandemic under control and ease pressure on their strained health-care networks. But health-care workers and public health experts continue to raise concerns over rates of infections and hospitalizations in both provinces.

Quebec reported 1,294 hospitalizations on Monday, including 188 patients in intensive care, while Ontario said 1,190 people were currently hospitalized, including 333 in intensive care.

Dr. Nadia Alam, a family doctor in Georgetown, Ont., northwest of Toronto, and past president of the Ontario Medical Association, said many people are feeling “pandemic fatigue.”

Alam said many Ontarians are following public health directives, but some, she said, do not have the social support they need to adhere to the regulations. Others, she said, are bucking the rules because they do not take the pandemic seriously.

The result is “a crisis in health care” and the exhaustion of health-care workers, particularly in long-term care homes and hospitals in Ontario, Alam said in an interview. “We’re stretched so thin. It’s a bit of a nightmare. The vaccine gave us all hope — and it is giving us hope — but right now are very difficult times.”

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported 17 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the highest number of single-day infections in the province since Nov. 21.

Nova Scotia reported six new cases — two from Sunday and four on Monday — while Newfoundland and Labrador reported its first new COVID-19 infection of 2021.

Health authorities in Saskatchewan reported 286 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and two more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. The province said 180 people were in hospital, including 35 receiving intensive care.

Meanwhile, Canadian politicians at the federal and provincial levels are facing criticism for taking trips abroad despite advice to avoid non-essential travel. Frustrations have been especially high in Alberta, where at least six members of the province’s United Conservative government travelled outside the country during the holiday period.

On Monday afternoon, Premier Jason Kenney said he had accepted the resignation of the province’s municipal affairs minister and asked his chief of staff to step down. Four other party members also lost their committee and other parliamentary responsibilities.

“By travelling abroad over the holidays, these individuals demonstrated extremely poor judgment,” Kenney said in a Facebook post.

Dr. Alika Lafontaine, an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alta., and past president of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada, said it was “disheartening” to see politicians ignore travel advice. “I’m actually quite concerned that Albertans will take that as a signal that maybe the pandemic isn’t … as bad as it really is,” Lafontaine said in an interview Monday.

READ MORE: 7 Alberta cabinet ministers, MLAs, staff resign after holiday travels: Kenney

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Sunday an estimated 400 new COVID-19 cases had been identified in the province on Jan. 2. Hospitalizations and intensive care admissions were stable, she said in a tweet.

Lafontaine said, however, that ICU admissions are not decreasing fast enough, adding that he feared the health-care system as a whole — and regional hospitals like where he works, in particular — could be overwhelmed. “At the stage that we’re at right now with hospitalizations, I think our system is on the verge of being overwhelmed if it does get worse,” he said.

That’s why public health guidelines need to be followed closely, Lafontaine said, adding that politicians should be setting an example. “We all have to treat this pandemic as the health crisis that it actually is, and that starts at the top.”

That was echoed by Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, who said COVID-19 infections will only decrease if everyone follows public health measures.

“Collectively, we need to bend this curve down and we need to do it through intense adherence to public health measures, consistently, everywhere, by everyone,” Vinh said.

— With files from Sarah Smellie in St. John’s and Stephanie Taylor in Regina.

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Canadian Press


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COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while BC cases decrease – Nanaimo News Bulletin – Nanaimo News Bulletin

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Dr. Bonnie Henry is calling it a precipice, a plateau from which the novel coronavirus could spring upwards, or decline.

New cases in B.C. have hovered around 500 per day, but on Vancouver Island, numbers have anything but plateaued.

While B.C. is showing a gradual decline in new cases, Island Health is smashing through new highs weekly. The Island took 10 months to reach 1,000 cumulative cases. Three weeks later, that total has already reached 1,458.

What’s behind the exponential increase? Vancouver Island’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick isn’t sure.

But whatever the cause, the Island is seeing double digit case counts every day in January. The region has registered 25 or more new cases 11 times. Ten of those totals came in the past three weeks.

Contact tracing teams have gone all out — as of Jan. 26, the region had 753 people isolating after being identified as close contacts, and 217 people confirmed as positive. Total cases are still manageable, hospitals are not at capacity.

In fact, Vancouver Island has been able to offer support to Northern B.C., an area that is bursting at capacity for beds.

Most of the current Island cases are within the Central Island region, between the Nanaimo hospital outbreak, some school exposures, and Cowichan Tribes which has had more than 150 cases. The First Nation’s membership is sheltering in place until at least Feb. 5.

Indigenous people are four times more likely to experience the worst effects of COVID-19, Stanwick said.

“This is open to speculation as to why, whether they are under-housed, or a is there a propensity to it? The simple fact is unfortunately they are more vulnerable to the effects,” Stanwick said.

It’s one of the reasons First Nations communities are included in priority vaccinations along with long-term care and assisted living residents and workers.

RELATED: Cowichan Tribes confirms first death from COVID-19

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

“The good news is that we have finished immunizing all long-term care clients who have wished to be immunized as of [Jan. 24], and are working hard to complete all of our assisted living by mid-week,” Stanwick said.

But we’re far from out of the woods, even with positive first steps.

“It’s only the first dose they’ve gotten, and this is where I cross my fingers and my toes. It takes 14 days to get a good immune response mounted by the body. So we’re still vulnerable for two more weeks. There is a possibility we could still see outbreaks in our long-term care and assisted living facilities.”

The First Nations Health Authority has set a goal of delivering vaccinations to all First Nations on the Island by the end of March. That process is well underway.

What really worries Stanwick is the rising number of people who have no clue where they contracted the virus. It makes contact tracing nearly impossible, and makes it a lot harder to control the spread.

Take the U.K. variant for example; one Central Island resident caught it while travelling. They passed it to two others, but all three people followed quarantine rules and the strain died there.

The South African variant — which has not yet been found on the Island — is of unknown origin at this time.

“It’s when it surprises us that’s where we worry the most,” Stanwick said.

Vancouver Island’s positivity rate is another concern. Dr. Henry regularly says the goal is to keep it at 1 per cent or below, but the Island is almost at 4 per cent right now.

“We’re still looking at a few months out for wide vaccinations. We are so close, I’d hate to see us backslide into the same situation as the U.K., going into full lock down,” he said.

“The orders [Dr. Henry] puts in place have worked. They’ve gotten us where we are, we’ve just got to hang in a little longer.”

In the meantime, Stanwick said Vancouver Island Health Authority is assigning environmental health officers to identify places where standards are not being met. It’s not a hunt to issue fines, he said, but an effort to help people understand what Work Safe requirements are. However, they are issuing fines to people unwilling to comply.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


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Central Island continues dominating COVID-19 case counts, active cases dip across B.C.

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There is a data discrepancy between Island Health and the province, based on the timing of COVID-19 results. NanaimoNewsNOW reports local verified data from Island Health.

A joint statement released by the provincial health officer and health minister revealed 407 new COVID-19 cases across B.C.

There number of active COVID-19 cases dropped by more than 130 to 4,260 cases are considered active in the province, a drop of 132 from the day prior.

Hospitalization rates dipped slightly, while people receiving intensive care rose by three to 71.

An additional 14 people passed away due to COVID-19 for a total of 1,168 since the pandemic began.

“Our greatest source of transmission comes from when we spend time with those outside of our household, work or school bubble. That is why staying small and equally important, avoiding all unnecessary travel, is what we need to do right now,” the joint statement read.

It announced 122,359 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., of which 4,105 are second doses.

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How other provinces are rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG —
Manitoba public health officials are expected to release a long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan Wednesday, which could include a timeline for when the general population can expect a jab.

“If you know there is a plan and you know how it’s going to roll out, it gives you a lot more confidence,” said Health Sciences ICU physician Dr. Dan Roberts.

The rollout in other provinces may provide some clues as to what Manitobans can expect.

British Columbia released its four-phase plan last week. Like Manitoba, health-care workers, long-term care residents and Indigenous people in remote and isolated communities are first priority.

Phase 2 includes people who are over 80 and weren’t immunized in the first phase, Indigenous people over 65, and vulnerable populations who lives in group settings.

Phases 3 and 4, which are expected to begin in April, include mass immunizations and is based largely on age.

Ontario has released a three-phase plan. 

Phase 2 is expected to begin in March and opens the eligibility to essential workers and people with chronic health conditions. The Ontario government plans to begin vaccinating the general public in August.

The Manitoba government said it would have released a schedule soon if it wasn’t for the pause in vaccine shipments affecting the entire country.

“The delay (in the rollout) was so we had time to review and make sure nothing in our plan would be disrupted,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, Manitoba’s COVID-19 Task Force Medical Lead on Monday.

CALLS FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY

Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, said despite the delay, the province could have provided more details.

“(Determining) what week and which month we can expect, under the conditions is very difficult. But what stands out with Manitoba is that is has defined (Phase) one and nothing beyond that,” said Bowman.

Roberts also would have liked to see more information out sooner

The Winnipeg physician has been pushing the province for more transparency on the rollout and said he had a meeting with the new minister of health and seniors care Heather Stefanson last week.

This past weekend Roberts toured the vaccine super site at the RBC Convention Centre. 

“I was very relieved to hear the actual details of the plan they’re putting together and they actions they were taking.” 

“At the end of the meeting they asked me for advice, I said, ‘provide some transparency.’ The medical community and the public need to hear what you’re doing to doing. They’re anxious to see this government get on a solid footing, to start over again and roll out the vaccine in a timely fashion,” he said. 

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