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‘Alarming’ new national COVID-19 projections due Friday as questions swirl about vaccine delivery – Toronto Star



OTTAWA—Federal public health officials are expected to release “alarming” new COVID-19 projections Friday — modelling numbers that were presented to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Opposition party leaders in a rare joint briefing Thursday.

“Given the numbers” it was important for the other party leaders to hear the projections first-hand, to “seize the situation” and to have a chance to ask questions directly of federal public health advisers, Drs. Theresa Tam and Howard Njoo, said a senior government official speaking on background.

“All parties should be aware of the latest developments and what’s coming clearly in the next few weeks,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting, which combined in-person and virtual participants.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Leader Annamie Paul attended the briefing, while Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet dispatched his House leader Alain Therrien.

One source later said that the modelling showed Canada could hit 60,000 new daily cases in December if Canadians increase their contacts, 20,000 cases if people maintain current rates of social interaction, and 10,000 only if they move quickly to reduce contacts. The source said that grimmest projection did not include key variables, including an effective reproductive number.

Tam last week had warned that the country could hit 10,000 new daily cases in December.

In a statement released after the meeting, O’Toole said later that what struck him was that 11 months in, “after thousands of lives and millions of jobs have been lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars has been added to the national debt, we as a country are worse off than we were at the start of the pandemic.”

He placed the blame for that squarely on Trudeau’s government for failing to deliver rapid tests, to give Canadians clear information to make decisions and to provide a clear vaccine plan.

The government official said they discussed modelling numbers, vaccines, long-term-care homes, schools, rapid tests, international factors in Canada’s pandemic, and interprovincial travel. The official denied the goal was to get other party leaders on board with the government’s public health message.

It comes in a week when the Opposition has pushed Trudeau hard on the Liberals’ COVID-19 response, especially on Ottawa’s vaccine distribution plans.

But much of that road map is still being worked out.

At Queen’s Park, Health Minister Christine Elliott reiterated that Ontario is expecting to receive 40 per cent of Canada’s initial allotment of four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and two million doses of the Moderna vaccine — numbers she said were given by the federal government but which Trudeau declined to confirm Thursday “until we have much more certainty around them.”

“We do expect on that to be receiving 1.6 million doses of the Pfizer product and 800,000 of the Moderna product,” Elliott told reporters Thursday.

The minister said the province “has a detailed group that’s working within the Ministry of Health to deal with the physical logistics,” such as safely storing the serum at low temperatures.

“Then there are also the issues about who should receive the first vaccines,” she said, noting the committee’s work is well under way.

Elliott said “there are people from the ethics tables that are also going to be on this committee to figure out what is the most fair and equitable way of distributing the vaccine.”

Trudeau said only that there are “many ongoing preliminary discussions around our plan to unfold, to rollout vaccines and deliver them across the country.”

Ottawa’s role is to co-ordinate the global purchase and front-end delivery of vaccines to provinces.

So far, the federal government has shortlisted four companies that specialize in providing logistics services.



The federal government will soon decide whether to further invite them to compete for the job of co-ordinating the delivery of vaccines, or whether it will simply select one or more to do the work.

That decision was expected to be made by Nov. 23, but seems certain to be delayed to late November, said another official who spoke on a background-only basis.

Additionally, the federal government has bought 126 freezers — made by Panasonic and Thermal Scientific — to boost existing federal freezer capacity to store anticipated COVID-19 vaccine supplies, once approved by Health Canada.

Of the 126, 26 are “ultracold” and can store vaccines at minus 80C, and 100 are freezers that provide minus 20C. Ottawa says that means it has secured freezer capacity for about approximately 33.5 million “ultra-frozen” and frozen vaccines.

Federal officials who answered questions from the Star downplayed the need for additional help from the private sector or other Canadian companies which in the past week stepped up to offer to mobilize to assist with the daunting logistics of providing cold-chain storage for the vaccine.

The federal government plans now to work only through the four companies on the shortlist.

Those companies may subcontract portions of the work, but all have guaranteed they’ll be able to provide end-to-end support for vaccine delivery.

Pfizer’s is the only vaccine candidate, among the seven for which Canada has purchase contracts, that requires “ultracold” storage temperatures.

Moderna, the second company to report its RNA-based vaccine candidate shows a 94.5 per cent efficacy rate, has less stringent cold storage requirements.

Canada has purchased 20 million doses of each.

It’s not clear which vaccine or vaccines will first cross the finish line at the Health Canada regulatory agency before they will be allowed to be distributed.

Tam has said some vaccines could become available in early January, within six or seven weeks.

Robert Benzie

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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Fire at Burnaby Hospital a factor in COVID-19 outbreak affecting 55 patients – Global News



Fraser Health says the COVID-19 outbreak at Burnaby Hospital has grown to 55 patients and has contributed to five deaths.

Forty staff members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and health officials are working to determine if they are connected to the outbreak.

The hospital is not accepting new admissions, Fraser Health said, with the exception of the intensive care unit, maternity unit, and community palliative care.

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Fraser Health declared an outbreak at the hospital on Nov. 9 after finding evidence of transmission in a medicine unit.

A fire at the hospital on Nov. 16 appears to have contributed to the outbreak, the health authority said, as patients had to be moved into different areas of the hospital during the blaze for their safety.

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RCMP continue to investigate the cause of the fire.

Burnaby hospital emergency room temporarily closed after fire

Burnaby hospital emergency room temporarily closed after fire – Nov 16, 2020

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Golden Links Lodge addresses concerns over group activities held prior to COVID outbreak – CTV News Winnipeg



The COVID-19 outbreak at Golden Links Lodge in Winnipeg continues to grow, and now the care home is responding to questions about recreational activities that had been taking place inside the facility prior to the outbreak.

According to the latest numbers from the care home, there have been 53 cases among residents and 20 cases among care home staff.

The province said three people have died, leaving family members concerned about their loved ones.

On Nov. 15 Jordan Hanna found out his grandma tested positive for the disease.

“It’s a flood of fear,” said Hanna.

There have been more than 70 cases linked to Golden Links Lodge since an outbreak was declared on Nov. 11.

Photos posted on the Golden Links Facebook page on Nov. 6 show residents gathered inside the care home for a worship service. Three days later it showed them taking part in an exercise class. Activities Hanna feels are important but are too risky given the way the virus spreads.

“The seniors here are anywhere from 60 to 100 and they’re already stuck in one place for so long,” said Hanna. “It’s hard to deny them that entertainment or excitement or connection. So I think it has its place but definitely not right now.”

Provincial guidelines only say people in personal care homes who are isolating should not participate in group activities.

In an email to CTV News the care home’s CEO Marcy-Lynn Larner said there is no evidence any recreation activities have contributed to the outbreak.

Larner said contact tracing indicates the initial transmission is staff-related.

“Every attempt has always been made to ensure the well-being of our residents is always our priority while balancing meaningful stimulation and activity to our residents’ lives,” Larner said.

Like other long term care centres, the not-for-profit care home has been dealing with staffing shortages due to infections among workers.

Four City of Winnipeg paramedics and a district chief of operations responded to Golden Links last Thursday night as part of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s rapid response team. Full assessments were conducted on seven residents — one was taken to hospital.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service returned Friday, completed more assessments, and vowed to continue providing support when needed.

Emergency crews cleared the scene Friday night and have not been required to return, a WFPS spokesperson said Tuesday.

Hanna said it’s clear more help is needed and wants the military called in.

“So they can one, care for people — make sure that they’re attended to and also do what they did in Ontario and Quebec and start reviewing the best practices, how they’re handling things and provide a report,” said Hanna.

Last week Golden Links put out a call to families to help out with their loved ones at the care home.

Larner said a few families have been attending, while others enlisted support through an agency that provides companionship.

According to Larner, four residents are on what the care home describes as social leaves with their families.

Larner said staff have been working around the clock to care for residents who remain at Golden Links and promised to keep families updated. 

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Coronavirus in BC: More than 940 COVID-19 cases confirmed in one day – CTV News Vancouver



B.C. health officials announced another 941 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, shattering the province’s previous record for daily infections.

The latest update from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix also set new records for hospitalizations and active cases in B.C.

In a written statement, Henry and Dix urged people across the province to curb social interactions as much as possible, as required under B.C.’s temporary public health order.

“We need to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our province and that needs to happen now,” the health officials said. “Let’s remember that every case of COVID-19 is a person who requires support and care, who may become severely ill and need to be in hospital, and whose family will experience the stress, emotional burden and for some, the tragedy, that has come with this virus.”

There have now been 28,348 cases of the novel coronavirus identified in B.C. since the start of the pandemic, and 19,605 people have recovered.

The latest infections pushed the province’s active caseload to a record 7,732, while hospitalizations reached a new high of 284. That includes 61 patients struggling in intensive care or critical care.

The previous record for daily cases was 767, set on Nov. 18. Prior to November, the province had never topped 400 cases in 24 hours.

Another 10,283 people are under active public health monitoring after being exposed to a known case of COVID-19.

Henry and Dix also announced two more coronavirus outbreaks in health-care facilities, at Valley Haven Care Home and Little Mountain Place. The outbreak at Fraserview Intermediate Care Lodge has been declared over.

New outbreaks in the health-care system have been declared on a daily basis in B.C., as the province’s rapidly surging caseload continues spilling over into environments where elderly people face some of the greatest risks of severe complications and death from the disease.

As of Monday, there were 60 active outbreaks in long-term care homes, assisted living facilities and acute care units across the province – and 970 of B.C.’s active cases involved care home staff and residents.

“B.C.’s health-care workers are in our labs and hospitals, at our testing sites and in our communities. These people are our health-care system. They are there to support all of us without question and without pause, and we need to show that same support to them by all of us doing our part,” Henry and Dix said.

“That is also why everyone, young and old, needs to pause their social interactions and increase their layers of protection and stay within their local communities as much as possible.”

Under B.C.’s temporary restrictions, which will remain in place until at least Dec. 7, residents are asked to limit in-person social interactions to what’s known as their “core bubble.” For anyone in a shared living situation, such as families and roommates, that means only seeing people from your own household.

Those who live alone are allowed to choose a “core bubble” consisting of a maximum of two people, such as partners, close friends or family members.

Events of any size are to be cancelled or delayed, though officials said people can still hold small weddings, funerals or time-sensitive ceremonies such as baptisms, though there are strict rules including that no more than 10 people attend.

More information on B.C.’s public health order is available online.

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