Like many things coronavirus-related, the chance Canada will need to tighten restrictions again is hard to predict, according to disease experts.
Ontario, B.C. and Alberta are all seeing cases climb, although the numbers are a far cry from the daily counts in March and April.
Experts aren’t convinced we’re on track for a second lockdown. In fact, some are cautiously optimistic.
“It’s less likely to occur this time around because preparations have been made this time,” said Dr. Alon Vaisman, an infectious disease and infection control physician at the University Health Network in Toronto.
“But that doesn’t mean it’s off the table.”
Recent modelling data from the Public Health Agency of Canada lays out the best- and worst-case scenarios over fall and winter.
The best case: Canada sees multiple small spikes in cases — fluctuating numbers — over the next few months. The worst case: Canada falls into a second wave that overwhelms the health system, followed by smaller spikes over the following months.
Young people making up majority of new coronavirus cases in Ontario
The data makes it clear “there’s always the possibility” that things could get worse again, Vaisman said, “but it’s hard to know how likely that will be.”
“This is a back-and-forth thing. Ultimately, people should expect a dynamic situation.”
How could we know?
A second wave of the virus would be the first sign of tightening up again.
Although there’s no set number of cases that would define a second wave — simply the slope of the curve rising rapidly — there’s “no question” Canada will see some form of one, said Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto.
But for things to shut down, he said the rise in cases would need to be substantial enough that it “overwhelms” the ability to rapidly test and trace contacts.
“That’s the line in the sand,” Furness said. “As soon as we lose that, we’re in trouble. We have uncontrolled spread.”
Summertime has so far provided a buffer for the virus’s spread, said Furness. As colder conditions force more people inside, cases will likely “bloom,” he said, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Canada will revert to March-level lockdown orders.
Since the pandemic’s onset in the spring, Canada has ramped up testing and contract tracing, secured more personal protective equipment (PPE), enhanced public health measures, increased compliance to those measures and “transformed” its health-care system to handle this type of emergency, Furness said.
There will inevitably be outbreaks, he acknowledged, but that won’t force everyone to shut themselves in.
“We will be smarter in how we respond and how we defend ourselves against COVID in a way that we just weren’t in March.”
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What could happen?
Canada will likely take cues from other countries that have endured somewhat of a second wave, the experts agree.
Places like Spain and France have recently seen large increases in cases, but not in deaths and hospitalizations. It has prompted some tightened restrictions, but nowhere near the curfews and shuttered economies of March and April.
“A lockdown would only be considered if health system capacity gets overwhelmed, which does not seem to be the scenario in European countries, which opened earlier than us,” said Dr. Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto and director of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
There are a number of factors contributing to this, Jha said, which are being reflected in Canada.
For one, he said more young people are getting tested and showing up in testing data. There’s also a better understanding of triaging and protecting hospitals and nursing homes.
“Elder folks are exposed less to younger folks now. They’re more isolated,” he said.
Vaisman believes Canada would see a “reverse of phases” if cases spike again, with higher-risk activities being shut down while lower-risk ones are maintained.
It would cascade from there. Should lower-risk things become higher risk as cases continue to climb, more closures could be imposed.
“There’s low-hanging fruit that we can cut out first,” Vaisman said.
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Schools a ‘big test’
Schools are a “major variable” in what could worsen the COVID-19 situation in Canada, lending way to more tightened restrictions, said Vaisman.
“It will be a major test of our system because it essentially introduces a breakage in a lot of people’s bubbles and opens up potential chains of transmission with lots and lots of people,” he said.
“And then we’ll be waiting two or more weeks after the date of opening to really understand the effect of that.”
Some countries have had to close schools a second time when outbreaks swept through classrooms. Israel closed schools two weeks after fully reopening them, as did South Korea and some in Germany.
“Every time you open something up, you’re throwing coins on the risk pile. You’re making that bigger,” Furness said. “If you want a balance, every time you throw something on the risk pile, you need to throw something on the same pile. Opening schools is throwing a lot in the risk pile.”
Can we avoid it?
The tried-and-true protocols — hand hygiene, mask-wearing, physical distancing — are and will continue to be crucial as Canada heads into fall and winter.
“Mask-wearing is an enormous tool that we have and we’re seeing high compliance,” Furness said. “Compliance tends to go up when things get scary, not down.”
Bolstering testing is another way to ramp up protections, said Vaisman. He pointed to pressure to expedite Health Canada approval for at-home testing kits and saliva testing as ways to simplify testing and make it more accessible.
Coronavirus: Canada’s top doctor suggests younger people give COVID Alert app a try
A push to get more Canadians on the country’s coronavirus exposure notification app, Covid Alert, is also an important tactic, said Jha.
The app has been downloaded roughly 2.2 million times in the first month it launched, but just 90 people have logged a COVID-19 diagnosis so far. Experts are worried it’s not enough.
“It’s been poorly promoted,” said Jha. “Where’s the advertising? Why aren’t bars and restaurants trying a ‘no app, no entry’ approach? Without high coverage of the app, it won’t be effective.”
Ultimately, Canadians looking for “light at the end of the tunnel” might have to look past winter when flu season passes and a vaccine draws closer, said Vaisman.
“There’s no reason why a lockdown can’t happen, but you just have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
— with files from the Associated Press and Global News’ Leslie Young
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada adds 1,454 COVID-19 cases as diagnoses soar in Ontario, Quebec – Global News
Speed limits will once again be on Calgary city hall’s agenda on Wednesday when city administration presents a report on the topic to the Transportation and Transit Committee.
The report recommends that city council make changes to the speed limit bylaw by lowering the unposted speed limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h within the city limits.
It also recommends that 50 km/h speed limit signs be posted on existing collector roadways if they aren’t already in place.
The final recommendation is for the city to work towards a long-term goal of lowering collector roads to 40km/h and residential roads to 30 km/h.
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The report says that these changes won’t happen quickly, and that buy-in from drivers will be necessary.
“In order to continue to make progress towards the desired long-term state, administration will work with industry partners to revise road standards to ensure that the construction of future roadways and retrofits of existing roadways result in environments where the recommended long-term speed limits would be credible to most drivers,” the report says.
Ward 6 Coun. Jeff Davison said that making Calgary streets safer should be a priority but that he doesn’t expect any citywide changes to be made quickly.
“There’s going to be a cost associated with this but there’s going to be long-term savings,” said Davison. “What I think is probably going to happen in committee is that we will accept the administration’s recommendations, but then forwarded to our budget talks in November.”
In the report, administration laid out the costs and benefits of several scenarios, balancing the cost of signage and traffic calming measures with the reduction in serious collisions.
The city estimates that changing the signage on residential roads would result in a one-time cost of $2.3 million. It estimates with that change, 90 to 450 crashes could be avoided every year, which includes six to 29 serious or fatal crashes.
It also adds that the reduction in crashes and injuries would save the city $8.1 million a year in “societal” savings.
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Pricier options such as putting permanent traffic calming measures in place across the city drive the cost up to $477 million, but as many as 900 crashes could be avoided.
Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas said none of the options make financial sense for the city right now.
“Even by city hall standards, making the entire city a playground zone has to be the silliest idea I’ve ever heard,” said Farkas. “Not to mention that implementing this would cost millions of dollars. We just don’t have the money or the time for this right now.”
The recommendations will be presented to the Transportation and Traffic Committee on Wednesday.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Ontario and Quebec – CBC.ca
The Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) expires on Sunday, ending the income support program the federal government rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic to help people with payouts of up to $2,000 a month.
The government says about 8.8 million Canadians have received the benefit since April. Roughly half of the four million Canadians still getting the payments through Service Canada and who are eligible for employment insurance are expected to be transitioned to a modified EI program.
The changes will be in place for one year, with three additional programs proposed for those who do not qualify for EI.
On Monday, Parliament is set to debate a bill to implement those new recovery benefits.
The New Democrats and the governing Liberals reached a deal on Saturday that delivers two weeks of paid sick leave for people affected by the pandemic under the Canada recovery sickness benefit.
In return, the NDP is promising to vote in favour of the throne speech, giving the Liberals the backing they need to survive a confidence vote and avoid an election.
What’s happening in the rest of Canada
As of 2:45 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 153,110 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 131,066 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,307.
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Quebec reported 896 new cases on Sunday — up from 698 the previous day — and its highest jump in intensive care-unit patients since late April with an increase of 12 patients. A total of 18 new hospitalizations were reported Saturday.
In Dorval, in Montreal’s West Island, a long-term care home that was hit hard by the first wave of the pandemic, with 38 dead in less than a month, has put residents in isolation after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
The regional health authority said staff at CHSLD Herron learned of the positive case Saturday morning and quickly isolated and tested all patients and employees who had been in contact with them.
Ontario added 491 more cases on Sunday, up from 435 on Saturday. The Ontario Health Ministry also reported that a total of 112 people are hospitalized, a number that is on the rise. On Saturday, the province reported that there were 100 people in hospital.
The majority of newly confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus are concentrated in three public health units: Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.
In Wasaga Beach, Ontario Provincial Police say enforcing physical distancing at a large car meet on Saturday was an impossible task after more than 1,000 car enthusiasts flocked to the beach town for an evening of street racing and stunts. Social media posts from the scene captured footage of the gathering:
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Sunday, the first in the province since Sept. 18. The province says the case is travel-related, as the man had returned home to the province from Manitoba, and he has been self-isolating since his arrival and following public health guidelines.
Manitoba reported 51 new cases on Sunday, including 36 in the Winnipeg health region. Starting Monday, people in Winnipeg and 17 surrounding communities will have to wear masks in all public indoor spaces and cap gatherings at 10 as the region moves to the orange — or “restricted” — level under the province’s pandemic response system.
What’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 32.9 million. More than 995,000 people have died, while over 22.7 million have recovered.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, has further eased lockdown restrictions imposed after a surge in coronavirus cases, allowing most children to return to school from next month and sending more than 125,000 people back to work. A further easing could take place on Oct. 19 if the average falls below five new cases per day. Masks remain mandatory.
India has registered 88,600 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours in a declining trend, with recoveries exceeding daily infections. Sunday’s surge has raised the country’s virus tally to over 5.9 million.
In Europe, hospitals in the Paris and Marseille regions are delaying some scheduled operations to free up space for COVID-19 patients as the French government tries to stem a rising tide of infections.
Italy reported another 1,766 coronavirus cases on Sunday, in line with its recent daily increases. Another 17 people died, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 35,835, the highest in Europe after Britain.
In the Americas, coronavirus cases in Colombia, which is nearly a month into a national reopening after a long quarantine, surpassed 800,000 on Saturday, a day after deaths from COVID-19 climbed above 25,000.
The U.S. state of Florida now has more than 700,000 confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus, according to statistics released by the state Department of Health on Sunday.
Africa has more than 1.4 million confirmed cases across the continent, a majority of them — more than 668,000 — in South Africa.
Health experts point to Africa’s youthful population as a factor in why COVID-19 has not taken a larger toll, along with swift lockdowns and the later arrival of the virus.
Canada issues last-minute visas allowing pregnant mom to return home from Haiti with her children – CBC.ca
A Canadian woman who is entering the last month of her pregnancy was finally able to return home to Canada, after the federal government granted last-minute Temporary Resident Visas to her soon-to-be adopted Haitian children.
Sarah Wallace, her husband Jean Pierre Valteau, and their three children Jean Moise Kessa, Jean-Jacques Valteau and Eva-Maria Doris flew in to Vancouver Saturday afternoon.
Immigration Canada issued the visas late Friday night as the family was en route to Seattle, and after spending the night in the U.S., they was able to rebook a connecting flight back to Canada, a spokesperson for the Rural Refugee Rights Network, which has been assisting the family, confirmed.
The family had booked the flight to Vancouver, through Seattle, without certainty that the visas would come through.
Wallace, a midwife originally from Devon, a town west of Edmonton in central Alberta, has lived in Haiti for the better part of 12 years.
She had hoped to return to Canada earlier in her pregnancy due to concerns that she might not be able to access emergency medical care.
But she had been told by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that her two Haitian children couldn’t return to Canada with her because their adoptions aren’t finalized.
While that normally wouldn’t prevent them from travelling to the country, under Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, the children — four-year-old Jean Moise and two-year old Eva-Maria — don’t qualify as immediate family members. In pre-pandemic circumstances, Wallace would have been able to obtain travel visas for the children as their legal guardian.
The IRCC had told CBC News earlier in September that for international adoptions, the adoption must be completed in the child’s home country before the immigration process to Canada can proceed.
“In this case, the officer reviewing [the] request for exemption from the COVID-19 travel restrictions was not satisfied that the definition of a family member was met,” a spokesperson had said.
“My whole life is about trying to keep babies with their families, and yet here the Canadian government is forcing me to make an impossible choice between my own health and that of my soon-to-be born baby and that of my two dependent children,” Wallace had said earlier in the week, prior to her return flight to North America.
Wallace and her family will be self-isolating for 14 days in Edmonton.
While Wallace was able to obtain visas, at least one other Alberta family who travelled abroad to adopt is still waiting to come home.
Derek and Emilie Muth finalized their adoption of two-and-a-half-year-old Zoe in Nigeria last year. But despite her adoption being complete, her citizenship is not yet finalized. Canadian immigration staff have been repatriated from the only government office in West Africa that can finish processing their paperwork.
Zoe has sickle cell anemia, and doctors in both Nigeria and Canada have written letters advocating for the family’s return to Canada, where she’ll have more reliable access to the medication and care she needs.
The immigration minister’s office told the family that the IRCC is unable to provide a timeline for when they’ll be able to return.
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