Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the next phase of rapid testing deployment in the province will begin Friday.
According to Shandro, mobile units will be deployed to homeless shelters and long-term care facilities. Positive cases are expected to be identified in a matter of hours.
“Alberta’s COVID-19 testing program is critical to managing and preventing the spread of the virus in our communities,” said Shandro in a statement released in conjunction with the announcement. “Bringing rapid point-of-care testing directly to the locations where it can help protect the health of the most vulnerable Albertans is an important addition to our provincial testing system.”
The pilot will begin Friday in the Edmonton Zone, before expanding to the Calgary Zone on the week of Dec. 21 and throughout the province — including remote rural areas — in the days and weeks to follow.
Shandro says more than 2.5 million tests have been administered in Alberta and more than 1.5 million Albertans have been tested.
“We are at a turning point,” said Shandro, referencing the slight downtrend in COVID-19 cases in Alberta. “Vaccination will turn the tide of the pandemic.”
On Nov. 26, Shandro announced that rapid tests would be available in early December at several testing sites throughout the province including Calgary, Edmonton, Slave Lake and St. Paul. Two versions of rapid COVID-19 test kits — the Abbott IDNow and PanBio — were approved by Health Canada and the federal government provided thousands of the kits.
Alberta Health Services and Alberta Precision Laboratories said those kits are being supplied to a number of testing sites throughout the province.
Last month, Shandro said 577,000 of the tests have been received from the federal government so far, adding that these tests can identify positive cases of COVID-19 in under 20 minutes.
The testing will still need to be performed by health-care professionals, and they will only be used on individuals who have exhibited symptoms of the disease over the past seven days.
Rapid testing will not be available to Albertans who are close contacts or who may have been exposed but are asymptomatic.
'It is totally irresponsible': union calls out Manitoba's health-care restructuring amid the pandemic – CTV News Winnipeg
Manitoba is planning to move forward with the second wave of restructuring its health-care system, which includes shifting the management of the Cadham Provincial Laboratory and other health-care facilities – a move critics say is irresponsible during a pandemic.
The province began its restructuring of the health-care system in 2018, shifting responsibility for a number of health-care sectors to Shared Health.
On Wednesday, the province said it would move into its next phase of that transition, giving the responsibility of Cadham Provincial Laboratory, Selkirk Mental Health Centre, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, dental and oral health, emergency medical services, and other health-care-related sectors to Shared Health.
The province said about 1,600 employees may be affected by the move, which will begin no earlier than May 2021.
In a news release, the province said the transition is being planned to be as “simple and non-disruptive as possible,” though the union representing about 1,100 of the impacted employees is not so sure.
Michelle Gawronsky, the president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU), said this is not the time for large-scale changes.
“I think it is totally irresponsible of this government to be going down this path, putting services, putting the people providing the services, in an unknown right now,” Gawronsky said.
“Our members, these folks, right now are concentrated on getting us through COVID, and that to me should be the government’s very first priority – is getting Manitobans to the other side of the COVID pandemic. Not disrupting health-care in any way shape or form.”
Gawronsky said the union has received little information about the shift. She said they were told of the plan to move forward Wednesday morning, hours before the province released the news publicly.
“Right now we have more questions than answers,” she said. “They say the devil is in the details always, so until we actually have the details of exactly what the government has planned here, we don’t know what the outcome is going to be in the long run.”
The province said there will be no impact on the day-to-day duties of the health-care workers impacted by the transition during the notice period. It said there will be no impact on the accessibility of health services for Manitobans.
“We are grateful for the ongoing commitment of all health-care workers to the pandemic response and to the many health services that Manitobans continue to rely upon and access during this unprecedented time,” Manitoba’s Minister of Health and Seniors Care Heather Stefanson said in a news release.
“This preparation work is necessary to ensure a seamless transition when we are ready and able to safely do so without impacting Manitoba’s pandemic response.”
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he believes the province’s decision to move forward with the transition will cause confusion during the pandemic response.
“The government shouldn’t be using the pandemic as cover to try and sneak through significant changes to the health-care system that they had planned long before COVID was ever top of mind for any of us,” Kinew said.
The province said it will now begin discussions with union representatives, something Gawronsky said can’t happen until the province provides more information.
“It is unfortunate the government chose to make this announcement without having details ready to be able to give to Manitobans, to be able to give to these people that right now – quite frankly – are dealing with COVID,” she said.
“We are ready to sit down when the time is appropriate and we have all the answers to our questions. That is when we are able to sit down to ensure that services Manitobans rely on are not going to be hindered or hurt in any way here.”
The province said the final decisions on the transitions will be made in the coming months.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Minister Stefanson referred CTV News back to a provincial news release.
Tests identify COVID-19 ‘variant of concern’ at fast-growing Barrie LTC outbreak – Toronto Star
Preliminary testing has confirmed that at least six COVID-19 cases at a Barrie long-term-care home are due to a “variant of concern” of the virus that causes the illness.
The fast-moving outbreak at Roberta Place Long Term Care, which began on Jan. 8, has now spread to most of the building’s 130 residents as well as 69 staff and two visitors. Nineteen people have died so far, and five residents and one staff member are in hospital.
On Wednesday, health officials said testing by the Public Health Ontario laboratory identified a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in six samples. It will be another three or four days before genetic sequencing is complete, at which point health officials will know which variant is present. In recent weeks, experts have warned about the arrival of strains from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil.
“It’s very likely that it’s one of those strains,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, the medical officer of health for the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit. The rapid progression of cases indicates “a very high attack rate,” he said.
All three variants are thought to be more transmissible than the existing virus. The U.K. version, the most-studied so far, has been found about 50 per cent more contagious.
Officials say they don’t know at this point how the outbreak began, or if it’s connected to a visitor.
One visitor had close contact with an individual who had travelled out of country, Gardner said, but not to the U.K., South Africa or Brazil. That close contact is now also a case, he said.
Residents of long-term-care homes are allowed to designate two people as “essential” visitors, typically family members, who may come into the home to help with care. Both confirmed visitor cases are in that category, Gardner said.
Gardner said he’s concerned about the risk of the variant spreading in the community. The speed of the outbreak “speaks to the caution that staff that go into this facility have to exercise with infection control practices,” he said.
“We certainly need to work hard to provide the care needed to the residents and to bring (the outbreak) under control,” said Gardner. “But we also need to exercise caution that it doesn’t spread out into the community as well. Hence the importance of the infection control that’s practised by everyone who goes into the facility.”
Patients from the home have been admitted to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, and Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital has provided a director to manage the outbreak.
The home is also set to receive help from the Canadian Red Cross this week and the corporation that manages the home, Jarlette Health Services, has redirected staff to the facility, Gardner said.
In a statement, Ontario Minister of Long Term Care, Merrilee Fullerton said the outbreak underscored the need for people to stay home to stop the spread of the virus.
“It is also a stark reminder of the need for greater vigilance at our borders with incoming travellers,” she said.
Fullerton is not the only politician worried about incoming cases of COVID from other countries.
On Monday, Quebec Premier François Legault demanded that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ban all non-essential travel into and out of the country because of vaccine delays and rising case counts.
The federal government has said it is keeping a close watch on variants from other countries and Trudeau has hinted that Ottawa “can impose new restrictions without advance notice at any time” on travellers, the Canadian Press reported.
The UK variant, referred to as B.117, was first identified in December. Genetic sequencing showed that it was responsible for cases as early as September, before quickly becoming the dominant strain in that country.
Last week, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said the risk of the U.K. variant was a driving factor behind the province’s new stay-at-home order.
COVID-19 variant identified at Barrie, Ont., long-term care home where 19 residents have died – CTV Toronto
BARRIE, ONT. —
A COVID-19 variant has been identified in six swab tests done at Roberta Place in Barrie, Ont., where an outbreak has claimed at least 19 lives.
Since the health unit declared an outbreak at the long-term facility, cases have exploded, with 122 residents, 69 staff, and two visitors testing positive for COVID-19.
Nineteen residents have now died after becoming infected.
“The impact of this outbreak on the facility has been tragic, and these interim results of a variant are extremely concerning for everyone,” says Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
Gardner says the virus spread so rapidly the health unit was immediately concerned about a possible variant. It’s not known how the new strain got into the seniors’ home.
“Usually, we never do find out for sure,” Gardner says contact tracing is challenging. He says one staffer was in contact with a person who travelled out of the country and tested positive for COVID-19 but says it’s unknown if that was the source.
Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital took the lead on containing the outbreak after Gardner issued the order on Saturday.
“The health unit, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, and Roberta Place, as well as our partners including the Red Cross, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, community physicians, are all working together to contain the spread of the virus and protect residents and staff,” Gardner adds.
The health unit says it is testing to find out what strain of COVID-19 they are dealing with using a two-part test.
The first part of the test indicated “a very high probability that they are of a variant strain of concern.” The second portion of the test is a whole-genome sequencing that determines the exact strain.
Gardner says the concern goes beyond Roberta Place. “This institution, like any, is part of the community,” he says. “There is potential for it to spread to the community.”
“We know from research that it [the strain] is more communicable,” Gardner says.
Meanwhile, a mobile vaccine clinic administered the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to residents who were able and willing.
“We understand that these are very unprecedented and challenging times for the families, residents and staff of Roberta Place, and we appreciate the concern of all involved as we get more information on the variant in the coming days,” said Dr. Gardner.
The results from the genome testing are expected in three to four days.
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