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Alberta death toll from COVID-19 pandemic tops 1,000 – CBC.ca

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More than 1,000 people have now died from COVID-19 in Alberta, though active cases have continued to follow a downward trend over the past five days.

The declining case numbers seen over the holiday season are, in part, due to the fact that laboratories have performed fewer tests in recent days, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Monday. 

Yet despite the drop in active and new cases, the number of people being treated in hospitals for the illness has not declined.

Hinshaw provided case numbers for the most recent five-day period.

  • Dec. 23 — Alberta reported 1,007 new cases, completed 15,585 tests and added 30 more deaths.
  • Dec. 24 — Alberta reported 1,191 new cases, completed 17,845 tests and added 18 more deaths.
  • Dec. 25 — Alberta reported 914 new cases, completed 14,193 tests and added 17 more deaths.
  • Dec. 26 — Alberta reported 459 new cases, completed 6,866 tests and added 27 more deaths.
  • Dec. 27 — Alberta reported 917 new cases, completed 9,633 tests and added 20 more deaths. 

That brings the death toll since the pandemic began to 1,002.

As of Monday, the province had 15,487 active cases, while 878 people were being treated in hospitals for the virus, including 148 in ICU beds.

Hinshaw characterized Monday’s update as “difficult,” given that she had to report 112 deaths had been added to the total over that five-day period.

Fewer tests over the holidays

It will likely take several weeks before the trend of declining cases is reflected in the number of deaths and hospitalizations and ICU admissions, she said.

“We know that things like deaths, hospitalizations, ICU, those are what we call lagging indicators, because they do happen at a delay of one to two weeks after we start to see our case numbers change,” she said.

“So we would expect that those numbers would take longer to start to come down than our case numbers.”

WATCH | A doctor’s account from an Alberta ICU during Christmas: 

Dr. Raiyan Chowdhury is an intensive care physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. He shares what it’s like working in an ICU during Christmas. 0:44

Over the holidays, fewer people went to testing centres, she said, so the lower number of tests would translate into lower numbers of positive cases.

The positivity rate over much of that five-day period shifted between six and seven per cent, but jumped to more than nine per cent on Dec. 27, she said.

New variant appears in Alberta

The province’s top public health doctor announced that Alberta has reported its first case of a new variant of the virus, first seen earlier this month in the United Kingdom.

“It is important to remember that the public health measures in place are protective against this variant, and the best thing we can do to protect each other is to follow them,” Hinshaw said.

“Following public health measures is in part also contributing to our declining cases.”

WATCH | Alberta records first COVID-19 variant in recent traveller from the U.K., says Dr. Deena Hinshaw:

Alberta traveller who tested positive for the COVID-19 variant did “everything they were supposed to do,” says Alberta’s Dr. Deena Hinshaw. 2:15

There is some evidence that the variant may be more infectious than other strains of the virus, she said, but there is no evidence that it has spread in the province beyond that single case.

“We are working with the Public Health Agency of Canada to be able to get the flight details and the list of individuals who were on the same plane,” Hinshaw said.

“There’s a time delay between when that individual arrived and when the symptoms began, and so it’s something that’s a theoretical possibility of transmission … at the moment, we have looked at the situation and believe that the risk is very low, but we will be making those phone calls to make sure that we are providing that additional information to anyone who may have been seated near this individual on the flight.”

WATCH | Alberta paramedics push for place on COVID-19 vaccine priority list: 

Paramedics in Alberta say the uncontrolled nature of their work as first responders should give them high priority for COVID-19 vaccines, while dentists in British Columbia want to be among the second round of health-care workers to be vaccinated. 1:48

The encouraging downward trends reflect the collective actions taken by Albertans over the past two weeks, Hinshaw said.

“We must remain attentive to the orders in place and continue to follow them closely to make sure that we don’t see a spike in mid-January that ignites a dangerous spread in 2021.”

‘Tragic milestone’

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney issued a statement calling the death toll a “tragic milestone” and said those 1,002 people were mothers, fathers, husbands or wives who will be mourned and missed.

“But even as we reach this painful milestone, there is reason for hope,” Kenney said.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, pictured in September, said more than 6,000 Albertans have received their first vaccine doses and the province can ‘see the light at the end of the tunnel.’ (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press)

“As of today, more than 6,000 Albertans have received their first vaccine doses. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And so on this grim day, I ask all Albertans to double down on our public health measures. Let’s prevent as many Albertans as we can from experiencing the same pain and loss that so many already have.”

NDP Official Opposition deputy leader Sarah Hoffman offered her condolences to the families and friends of those who have died of COVID-19.

“We continue to call on Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP to do more to prevent the spread and further tragic loss of life,” Hoffman said in a statement.

“We need more staff in Alberta’s continuing care centres, we need an actual plan for school re-entry in January and we need updated modelling on COVID-19 so that we have the facts and transparency on the risks we face as this pandemic carries on.”

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COVID-19 worsening Canadian students' diets, inactivity, alcohol consumption: study – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A new Canadian study has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased unhealthy behaviour in post-secondary students.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, reported that isolation brought on by the novel coronavirus has led to a “significant worsening of already poor dietary habits, low activity levels, sedentary behaviour, and high alcohol consumption among university students.”

Nutrition professor and lead author of the study, Gordon Zello, said in a press release that the findings could be used to help students maintain healthy behaviours going forward.

“Our findings are important because university students, especially those most vulnerable for poor nutrition and sedentary behaviour, should be targeted for interventions aimed at maintaining and improving physical activity and dietary practices during this pandemic and beyond,” Zello said.

Researchers noted the study is the first to assess “changes in students’ dietary intake, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour” amid COVID-19.

The findings were published Friday in the peer-reviewed medical journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

The study looked at 125 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina who were living independently or had roommates, but were responsible for buying and preparing their own meals.

Over the course of the four-month study, the students responded to online questionnaires about their food and drink consumption, physical activity and sedentary behaviour before and during the pandemic.

The study started just as Saskatchewan was imposing COVID-19 restrictions, according to researchers. Zello said this timing ensured that details of students’ eating and activity habits prior to the pandemic and during it were “fresh” in their minds.

“With pre-pandemic research already showing university students to be a vulnerable group for inadequate diet and physical activity, the measures imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to examine further impact on their lives,” Zello said.

The study found that the students consumed less food every day during the pandemic compared to before.

Researchers say the students ate 20 per cent less meat, 44 per cent less dairy, and 45 per cent fewer vegetables as the pandemic continued.

While they drank considerably less caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea, Zello said the students’ alcohol consumption “increased significantly.” He added that these dietary habits could pose serious health implications following the pandemic.

“This dietary inadequacy combined with long hours of sedentary behaviour and decreased physical activity could increase health risks in this unique population during COVID-19 confinement and once the pandemic ends,” Zello explained in the release.

The researchers behind the study noted that “several reasons” may explain the students’ dietary shift.

Zello said that public health measures implemented to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as reduced grocery store hours and restaurant closures, may have limited students’ shopping frequency and the availability of healthy food options.

STUDENT FITNESS

According to the study, previous research has shown that psychological distress brought on by the coronavirus has been linked to “poor diet quality, particularly increased consumption of alcohol.” With that in mind, the study said that students may be eating less to counteract their lack of exercise and “increased sedentariness.”

Researchers found that only 16 per cent of the students studied were meeting Canadian guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week prior to the pandemic. They say that “further decreased” to 9.6 per cent during COVID-19.

Of those that were meeting Canadian activity guidelines before the pandemic, researchers say 90 per cent became less active.

The number of hours spent in “sedentary behaviour,” sitting or lying down with little energy expenditure, also rose by three hours to approximately 11 hours a day, according to the study.

“There’s no doubt that measures such as the closures of gyms and other recreational facilities by the universities and other private and public establishments within the province resulted in reductions in the level of physical activity,” the study said.

Researchers say another reason for the decrease in physical activity may be that many students were no longer walking to school after universities moved to remote learning formats.

The study noted that 55 per cent of students studied were employed before the pandemic, and only 49 per cent continued to be employed in the following months, adding to the overall decrease in activity.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • Pfizer says it will increase vaccine deliveries by mid-February.
  • China building isolation hospitals in Hebei province to combat increase in infections.
  • Brazilian approval of Sputnik V vaccine delayed by missing data.
  • Some health-care workers are still hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca.

Canada has reached a grim new milestone in its fight against COVID-19, with the country’s case count surging well past 700,000, ahead of an expected reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand on Saturday said she understands Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.

She said she has been in touch with the drugmaker and been assured it’s “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible,” Anand said on Twitter. The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.

WATCH | CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin answers questions about strained ICUs and vaccine delays:

The CBC’S John Northcott puts your coronavirus-related questions to family physician and CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin. 9:26

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics, said on Friday that Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by 50 per cent for four weeks.

Pfizer said it hopes the upgrade will allow it to produce two billion doses per year, up from 1.3 billion doses. The company said in an email to CBC News on Saturday that it will increase its vaccine deliveries beginning the week of Feb. 15.

As of Friday night, more than half a million Canadians had received inoculations against the virus that causes COVID-19.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 12 35 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 707,354 cases of COVID-19, with 75,558 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,984.

In British Columbia, the B.C. Hotel Association said implementing an inter-provincial travel ban would decimate what’s left of the sector’s operators and urged Premier John Horgan — who sought legal advice on such an action — to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

WATCH | British Columbia mulls how to keep visitors out:

Frustrated by the number of non-residents ignoring stay-at-home orders and coming to British Columbia to holiday, the province is considering how to keep them out. 2:06

Alberta saw 717 new cases and 15 new deaths on Saturday.

Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths

In Regina, police fined a woman $2,800 after breaking up a large gathering. Police in the city have now issued at least 10 tickets for people violating public health orders related to COVID-19.

Manitoba recorded 180 new cases and two additional deaths

The update comes one day after the provincial government asked people for their input on the possibility of lifting some pandemic restrictions next week.

Ontario reported 3,422 new cases on Sunday, after registering 3,056 new cases the previous day. Locally, there are 1,035 new cases in Toronto on Sunday, 585 in Peel Region, 254 in Windsor-Essex County, 246 in York Region and 186 in Niagara Region, Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.

Children wears face masks as they play in the snow in Ottawa on Saturday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Quebec reported 1,744 new cases on Sunday, after counting 2,225 new cases on Saturday.

In east-end Montreal, a group of protesters braved a snowstorm on Saturday to denounce the province’s COVID-19 curfew, which has been in place for a week.

The protest took place in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough and was organized by a group called “No police solution to the health crisis.” Montreal police were present at the protest and asked that everyone present wear masks and respect physical-distancing guidelines.

New Brunswick recorded 27 new cases on Saturday.

Nova Scotia added four new cases on Sunday, after reporting the same number the previous day. Last week, mandatory testing for rotational workers in the province came into effect. Workers are now required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Sunday after seeing no new infections on Saturday.

Northwest Territories health officials are urging anyone who has been in self-isolation in Hay River or Kátł’odeeche First Nation since Jan. 1 to arrange for a COVID-19 test after wastewater testing suggested there are one or more cases in the area.

Meanwhile, officials confirmed the first positive case in Fort Liard, a hamlet nearly 545 kilometres southwest of Yellowknife.

In Nunavut, a worker at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine, located about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, has tested positive, the company said. There have now been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday via email.

What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday, more than 94.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.1 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.

WATCH | WHO chief pleads for breaking of COVID-19 transmission:

As the global death toll from the coronavirus pushed past 2 million, the head of the World Health Organization urged people to use the tools they have to curb the virus and lift the burden on health workers. 1:40

Brazil‘s health regulator on Saturday said it’s seeking further data on Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before considering its approval for emergency use.

Regulator Anvisa wants assurances on Phase 3 clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine by drugmaker Uniao Quimica.

Moscow has approved Sputnik V for Russian domestic use, though clinical trials there have not yet been completed.

The Brazilian regulator was expected to make a decision on Sunday about authorizing emergency use of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac and Britain’s AstraZeneca.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned on Sunday that despite the U.K. government’s confidence about its coronavirus vaccination plan, the public needed to stay home as the country’s health service was “on the cusp” of being overwhelmed.

Raab told broadcaster Sky News that the U.K. was a “global leader” in its vaccination rollout, and he was confident that the government’s roadmap would meet targets.

In China, officials reported 109 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, two-thirds of them in a northern province that abuts Beijing, and no deaths.

This aerial photo taken on Saturday shows construction of a centralized COVID-19 quarantine centre in Shijiazhuang, in northern Hebei province. (China News Service/AFP via Getty Images)

There were 72 new cases in Hebei province, where the government is building isolation hospitals with a total of 9,500 rooms to combat an upsurge in infections, according to the National Health Commission.

China had largely contained the virus that was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has reported hundreds of new infections since December. The Health Commission on Saturday blamed them on travellers and imported goods it said brought the virus from abroad.

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Policy alignment, predictability to mark Canada-U.S. relationship under Biden, ambassador says – CBC.ca

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The shared priorities between this country and its southern neighbour — including the COVID-19 crisis, economic recovery and climate policy — will define the Canada-U.S. relationship under a Biden presidency, Canada’s ambassador to the United States says.

“I think that the Biden administration and our government have an enormous amount of policy alignment,” Kirsten Hillman said in an interview airing Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

“And I think also that we are going to find a more predictable government to deal with and a bit more traditional relations in terms of how we deal with them,” she added.

Ahead of president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration — which Hillman will attend in person — Canada’s top diplomat in Washington said tackling the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is a chief concern.

“We are both focusing on … ensuring the safety and health of our citizens, respecting science, respecting experts, being clear and consistent in the advice that we give [and] caring about people around the world in that regard as well,” Hillman told CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton.

Getting Canada and the U.S. “back on track economically … in partnership with each other” is also a priority on the countries’ long list of mutual policies, as is climate change, Hillman said.

Trudeau, Biden have ‘very warm’ relationship

Despite their common goals, the United States that Biden will inherit is still reeling from the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol and accusations that outgoing President Donald Trump incited the attack.

“You can imagine how much [Biden’s] got on his plate with COVID and the economy and now the events of last week and the repercussions that are coming out of that,” Hillman said. “I do think that he’s been pretty clear around some of the aspects of his economic policy that are a little more protectionist than we would want to see.”

Biden’s pandemic recovery plan includes a pledge to “Buy American” — a promise to purchase, produce and develop made-in-America goods.

As for whether the relationship between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the incoming president will mirror that of Trudeau and former president Barack Obama, Hillman said such ties are forged among the myriad ways both countries “interact and work together.”

“But of course, the tone at the top matters. It’s not the only thing that matters, but it does matter. And the prime minister and president-elect Biden have a very warm and good relationship. So that is definitely going to be an asset.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, with Joe Biden, at the time U.S. vice-president, arrive at a state dinner in Ottawa on Dec. 8, 2016. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Fostering connections during last 4 years

A change in administration also doesn’t mean the connections Canada formed over the past four years were all for naught. 

“We always work really hard to foster strong relations on the Hill, in particular in the Senate and in the House, because in the system of governance here … it’s a co-equal branch of government that has an awful lot of authority over issues that matter a lot to Canada,” Hillman said.

The ambassador pointed to the renegotiated NAFTA deal as an example of those relationships in action.

“We went across the nation, and it was very healthy for the Canada-U.S. relationship, that activity. It was very healthy for us to remind each other of the degree to which we are integrated, the degree to which we are mutually supportive.”

Hillman said she’s in talks with Biden’s transition team but noted that incoming nominees and appointees to the White House are not engaging directly with foreign governments until a new president is sworn in.

“If we look at the slate of appointees and nominees that are coming [into] the Biden administration, many, many of them are well known to Canada and really good friends of Canada,” she said. “So that is also a strong reason for optimism.”

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