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Alberta to allow concerts, hot tubs and trade shows starting Friday as 120 new cases announced

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Outdoor concerts with vocalists and wind instruments, outdoor whirlpools and hot tubs, and indoor trade shows and exhibits will be allowed again in Alberta as of Friday, even as the province reported more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since early May.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at a press conference Thursday the province had been looking at similar activities that are already permitted, like outdoor pools and other types of concerts, as well as farmers markets, and determined lifting these restrictions would be safe to do so.

“I think these three things that we’re opening right now, I don’t anticipate will significantly increase risk,” she said.

“It really is about social settings and encouraging people to consistently be following those two-metre distances, masking when that’s not possible, staying home when sick, washing hands regularly, and if this happens in all of these settings, then we can collectively bring our numbers down again.”

Outdoor hot tubs and whirlpools are regulated, just like public outdoor pools, she said, which have been open for some time without transmission of COVID-19 happening in those settings.

Other types of concerts have already been allowed as well, she said. Concerts with wind instruments and singers will have restrictions on distancing and barriers between musicians to prevent the spread of the virus.

“But again, because it’s outdoors, I don’t believe that whether someone is gathering to hear a musician play a non-wind instrument, or gathering to hear someone sing, that doesn’t change that risk. So again, those two things are fairly minor,” she said.

Meanwhile, some visitor restrictions at Alberta’s long-term care centres will be lifted starting next week.

Beginning next Thursday, residents will be allowed to have two supporters visit indoors as long and as often as they wish, and up to four visitors for outdoor visits. Each facility will be drafting its own visitor policy, which can be less restrictive if all residents agree.

Previously, only one support person was allowed when a resident’s care needs could not be met by staff.

Hinshaw said people living in long-term care have been hit hard by the disease — and account for 119 of Alberta’s 165 deaths — but some residents are also seeing their health decline because of isolation.

“There are no risk-free options with COVID-19. This virus is still here, and residents in these facilities remain uniquely vulnerable. At the same time, we must also consider the overall health and well being of those residents and the risks of isolation brought on by strict universally applied visitor restrictions,” she said Thursday.

“We believe (opening the visitor policy) will help people remain socially and emotionally connected, while still protecting those who are most at risk of severe outcomes.”

There were 120 new cases of COVID-19 discovered on Wednesday, and two people have died. Thursday’s announcement follows a recent trend of higher cases being reported, including 82 on Tuesday. Three new regions were added to the COVID-10 watchlist.

Fifty-three cases are now linked to the outbreak at Edmonton’s Misericordia Community Hospital, with one new case reported since Wednesday. There were 14 new cases reported in the outbreak at Good Samaritan Southgate Care, for a total of 32 cases.

To date, the province has had a total 9,114 cases, including 165 deaths.

Source:- Simcoe Reformer

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The U.S. reported more than 2100 deaths in a single day, and things are projected to get worse – CTV News

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More than 2,100 COVID-19 deaths were reported in the U.S. on Tuesday, making it the highest single day death toll the country has seen since early May.

The most deaths in a single day were recorded April 15 — 2,603 people.

When cases and hospitalizations began to surge weeks ago, officials predicted deaths would soon follow. Daily cases haven’t dipped below 100,000 in three weeks. And for the 15th consecutive day, the U.S. beat its own hospitalization record, with now more than 88,000 COVID-19 patients nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The coming weeks are likely to continue getting worse, before a possible vaccine begins to offer some relief. But just how much worse things will get depends on the mitigation steps taken across the country — as well as the kinds of celebrations Americans will opt to host over the coming days, experts say.

With small gatherings already helping drive the surge in many places, leading public health officials have warned against traditional Thanksgiving celebrations this week, instead urging Americans to stay home and celebrate only with members of the same household. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended last week Americans should not travel for Thanksgiving.

Many seemed to heed the warnings: New poll results released Tuesday by Axios-Ipsos shows about 61 per cent of Americans have changed their Thanksgiving plans. Among the most common changes were deciding to see only immediate household members and having a smaller family dinner than originally planned, according to the poll. Nearly one in 10 Americans say they no longer plan to celebrate the holiday at all.

But others still chose to fly ahead of Thanksgiving, with more than one million travelers passing through security at the country’s airports on Sunday alone, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

“It’s potentially the mother of all superspreader events,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, said Tuesday night.

“One of the ways we think the Midwest was seeded with virus over the summer was with the Sturgis, South Dakota, motorcycle rally, where people were infected and then dispersed out through the Midwest. Now imagine that on a massive scale, with people leaving from every airport in the United States and carrying virus with them,” he said.

And a negative test result isn’t enough, leading officials have warned. Assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services Adm. Brett Giroir said Tuesday tests can return false positive or false negative results and aren’t always an indication of whether someone is infected at that current moment.

“A test that’s negative today doesn’t mean you’re going to be negative tomorrow or the next day,” he said. “It is certainly not wrong to get a test before you travel because if you are positive, you need to stay home, no questions asked. But if you do get a negative test, it doesn’t give you a free pass.”

 

Officials project more strained hospitals, more deaths

As grim as the current numbers may seem, local leaders and officials throughout the country are projecting an even harder next few weeks.

In Colorado, more people are now infectious with the virus than at any other point in the pandemic, Gov. Jared Polis said, declaring the state is at “the height of infection.”

On its current trajectory, Colorado is forecast to more than double its current death toll of more than 2,800 to about 6,600 by the end of this year. That’s as hospitals are already filling up, reporting nearly double the daily number of new patients the state saw in the spring, Polis said.

In Denver, about 25 intensive care unit beds remain available for patients while only 14 remain in Colorado Springs, he added.

In California, another bleak projection. The state’s top health official said Tuesday California is also amid a surge, cases are growing faster and ever, and he expects to see deaths climb and the hospital system pressed like never before.

Hospitalizations have jumped by more than 81 per cent in two weeks, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Tuesday, while ICU admissions have increased about 57 per cent during the same time frame.

“I think that certainly the numbers of deaths will likely go up … just as we are exceeding our highest ever numbers of cases and beginning to see our hospital systems pressed with COVID beyond where they’ve ever been pressed before, (the) idea that the number of deaths could exceed where we’ve been before is also indeed real and true,” Ghaly said.

And in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday the state was on track to see “a major spike,” with hospitalization rates increasing by 128 per cent over the past three weeks.

 

To curb spread, more restrictions

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who last week announced public schools would be closing, said Tuesday evening that more restrictions are likely on the way.

“It’s quite clear unfortunately, in the next week or two, we should see some substantial restrictions. I think indoor dining will be closed, gyms will be closed,” he said. “I’m not happy about it, no one’s happy about it, but that’s what’s coming.”

More restrictions were announced in Nashville this week, where Mayor John Cooper said restaurants and bars will be limited to a maximum of 50 per cent capacity, with social distancing.

Additionally, there will be a 10 p.m. last call and service for food and beverages and no entry to establishments after that time. The new limits will go into effect on November 30.

“The additional modifications are being made in response to the continued spike in COVID cases and concerns about hospital capacity,” Cooper wrote on Twitter.

In the hard-hit Texas community of El Paso, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced Tuesday a partial curfew that would work to address social and recreational activities but does not apply when residents are out for essential or nonessential business. The curfew will run from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and will expire Monday.

“You will be able to be purchasing, shopping, whatever it is that you need to do of any essential or nonessential businesses under the conditions that are placed,” he said. “We’re trying to create a balance on the health of our community and the economy.”

“But let me emphasize the following,” the judge said. “It is a shelter at home order. Residents are strongly urged to shelter at home. If leaving home to obtain essential or nonessential service, this order strongly recommends that only one person per family participate in obtaining goods and services.”

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state was stepping back to Phase 2 starting Wednesday, amid an “aggressive third surge of COVID-19.” Under the restrictions, restaurants, gyms, barber shops, nail salons, movie theaters and nonessential businesses are limited to 50 per cent capacity.

“There is not a single region of our state that is not seeing increases in new cases, hospitalizations and growing positivity of COVID tests, and I am incredibly concerned by Louisiana’s trajectory and our ability to continue to deliver health care to our people if our hospitals are overrun with sick patients,” Edwards said in a statement.

“Now is the time to make changes,” he added.

Meanwhile in Connecticut, the governor on Tuesday announced he has signed an executive order increasing the maximum fines for businesses that violate COVID-19 rules to US$10,000. The previous maximum penalty was $500.

“While the overwhelming majority of businesses in Connecticut have shown an incredible amount of leadership and have been fantastic partners in this front, we have seen a small number of businesses in flagrant violation of these public health rules,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. “That’s all you need to cause a superspreading event that leads to a large number of cases and hospitalizations.”

 

States begin preparing for possible vaccine

While no vaccine candidate has gotten the green light from FDA yet, preparations to receive and distribute Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine have begun at the Jackson Health System in Miami, Florida, according to Dr. Lilian Abbo, chief of infection prevention and control at the system.

“Jackson Health System is one of five hospitals in the state and the only one in Miami who will get the vaccine in the first phase,” Abbo told CNN.

“We will be starting with health care workers, and people that are at high risk, frontline providers, following the guidelines from the health department and the state,” she said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he received news from the White House that the state, along with others, will likely receive their first batch of vaccines around mid-December. He said his office hasn’t been given exact numbers of vaccines that the state would be receiving but said that health care workers and anybody who is in direct contact with COVID-19 patients will be prioritized to first receive the vaccine.

But there is still an important process ahead before a COVID-19 vaccine could potentially get that green light, FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, said Tuesday.

“Our scientists are going to pour over the data — and remember, this is a study of over 44,000 individuals — so we’re going to look at all the patient data and be very careful about number crunching to make sure that we agree with the conclusion regarding safety and efficacy,” Hahn told South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott in an interview posted to Instagram.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet December 10 to discuss the data. Hahn said the public will be able to watch the meeting virtually, and a summary of the data will be available online.

“That committee is going to report back to us, and then after we hear their recommendations, we’re going to move forward,” he said.

“We’re going to use that process for every other application that comes forward, no matter what,” he added.

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B.C. sets record with 941 new COVID-19 cases, 11 in Island Health – Nanaimo News NOW

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A record number of COVID-19 cases were confirmed by the province on Tuesday, with 941 added to B.C.’s total. (The Canadian Press)

By NanaimoNewsNOW Staff

RECORD DAY

Nov 24, 2020 4:09 PM

NANAIMO — British Columbia has set a record high for new COVID-19 cases in a single day.

The province announced 941 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, Nov. 24, the highest number of new cases in a single day.

Eleven cases are in the Island Health region, taking the health authority’s total to 505 throughout the pandemic.

A total of 152 cases are active in Island Health, a majority of which are in the central Island region with 95. Thirteen cases are in the north and 44 in south Vancouver Island.

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What Canada's hardest-hit provinces can learn from those that handled COVID-19 best – CBC.ca

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When epidemiologist Susan Kirkland opened a Halifax newspaper on Saturday, she was stunned. 

“Three protest rallies planned,” the Chronicle Herald headline read, in part.

“Oh, no,” the head of public health and epidemiology at Dalhousie University thought to herself. “Please don’t be anti-vaxxers or anti-maskers.”

As Kirkland read further, she realized they weren’t related to the pandemic at all. 

One was a rally for alleged victims of a pediatric dentist, a second to demand reparations for former residents of Africville and the third was an anti-war protest about an upcoming security conference. 

“Oh,” she said with relief. “Phew.” 

Critical juncture for Atlantic bubble

The situation in the Atlantic bubble has been like night and day from the rest of Canada. 

The four Atlantic provinces have managed to control the spread of COVID-19 through tight border restrictions, strict isolation of travellers and comprehensive tracing of outbreaks. 

But Kirkland says much of the credit also belongs at an individual level. 

“I do feel like the response from the public in the Atlantic region is different than other parts of the country,” she told CBC News. 

“I think there’s also a certain amount of pride that we have been able to maintain the bubble, and I don’t think that people want to see it change.”

Visitors explore Peggy’s Cove, N.S., on July 4. When the Atlantic bubble is operating, people in the four Atlantic provinces can move around the region without self-isolating. People from outside Atlantic Canada must self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

But it has changed, put on hiatus with the news Monday that Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador were pulling out of the bubble due to rising COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. 

Nova Scotia reported 37 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, its most in a single day since April 23. 

“I am worried. I think that we’re on the brink and at a very, very critical juncture,” Kirkland said. “This is the point where we either make it or break it. We’ll keep numbers low or they will, like everywhere else, just begin to escalate and skyrocket.

“The window is narrowing — but we still have the potential to get it under control.”

‘Squandered’ sacrifices in Alberta

Elsewhere in the country, people are facing a much different situation. 

Alberta is seeing COVID-19 cases skyrocket at an unprecedented rate, rising to more than 1,500 per day and even outpacing provinces such as Ontario despite only having a third of the population. 

“I’ve been worried for many weeks now,” said Dr. Leyla Asadi, an infectious diseases physician in Edmonton. “I don’t know what the next two weeks will bring.” 

Asadi says the situation in Alberta isn’t a result of individuals not following public health guidelines necessarily, but instead reflects that the province has been a victim of its own success. 

A man wears a mask in downtown Calgary on Oct. 30. On Nov. 14, Alberta broke 1,000 daily new cases of COVID-19 for the first time. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

When COVID-19 cases dropped to relatively low numbers in the summer, there was a reluctance to act on the part of the provincial government. 

“We had great success and maybe that resulted in our leadership questioning the models and, because crisis was averted, perhaps they thought that the models just weren’t accurate,” she said. 

“We’ve squandered our sacrifices from the summer, and now we’re in a really tough place.”

Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of emergency in Alberta Tuesday and implemented new public health measures to address the rising COVID-19 case numbers across the province, but stopped short of a lockdown. 

Most indoor social gatherings are prohibited, while outdoor gatherings, weddings and funerals can have a maximum of 10 people. Masks are also mandatory in all indoor work places in Calgary and Edmonton, but not provincewide. 

Unlike Nova Scotia, which instituted mandatory mask mandates on July 24 — a day when it reported no new cases — Alberta has hesitated.

Alberta’s daily reported COVID-19 cases now rival Ontario’s for the highest in the country, even though it has a third of the population. The province’s resistance to restrictions may be crumbling, but Alberta’s top doctor says a surge in hospitalizations is inevitable as cases ‘snowball.’ 2:02

Asadi, who was part of a group of experts who penned a letter to provincial leaders last month calling on them to put in place stricter restrictions, said before Kenney’s announcement that masks are “low-hanging fruit.”

“Having masks mandated provincially, that’s not going to negatively impact the economy in any way,” she said. 

“If we act earlier then the measures can be more targeted and can be shorter in time. But now, I can’t see anything other than a strict lockdown getting us out of trouble — and it won’t even get us out of trouble.” 

Reluctance to act ‘early and hard’ reason for surge

COVID-19 is spiralling out of control in many parts of the country, with a record high 5,713 cases in a single day this week.

Ontario and Manitoba also announced all-time high numbers of new COVID-19 cases, and millions of Canadians were plunged back into strict lockdowns in different parts of the country.

In response, Canada’s chief public health officer said provinces and territories need to be more proactive — and act sooner rather than later.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam talks to The National’s Andrew Chang about the holiday season and getting to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. 6:31

It’s not only the number of cases that are worsening; it’s who is being infected.

“The other huge problem that we have now are the inequities associated with this pandemic,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious disease physician with Sinai Health System in Toronto.

“Part of the reason I think that we’re not paying as much attention as we should be to the harm is that the harm is not predominantly occurring to the people in power in our society.”

McGeer is watching the worsening outbreaks across Canada through the eyes of a microbiologist who has decades of experience in infection prevention and control.

“I’m a little bit worried about what’s going to happen in Alberta,” McGeer said. “I think we’ll be cancelling surgery again, probably in order to cope with the ICU load three or four weeks from now.”

Surgeries such as hip and knee replacements could be cancelled down the road, as it can take up to two weeks for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear.

Surgical oncologist Dr. Usmaan Hameed, centre, operates on a patient at North York General Hospital on May 26. Putting in measures sooner could help prevent surgeries from being cancelled. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“The reason we’re having this surge is because we kept things open longer than we should have,” she said. 

“The more cases you have when you act, the longer it takes to slow down and regain control and the more trouble you’re in going forward. So if we had put in measures two weeks before we did, then we might not be cancelling surgery.”

McGeer also acknowledges that politicians in Canada can only re-introduce safety measures when their citizens are behind them.

“If politicians move and they don’t have the population with them, then it’s not going to work either.”

McGeer advocates for preventative measures such as testing, tracing and isolating individuals who test positive to keep COVID-19 case counts low.

“It’s very clear that if we had been able to start this outbreak early and hard with preventive measures, if we’d been able to do the contact tracing, if we’d been willing to put people up in hotels for quarantine, we might be where Newfoundland is now,” she said. “And that has huge rewards.”

Those tantalizing rewards could help reinvigorate Canadians outside the Atlantic provinces who face a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and the hospitalizations and deaths that could follow the holiday season. 

“I get how tired people are; I’m tired of it myself. But this is not about being tired,” McGeer said. “We just need to hold on until we can get vaccines, right? And they are coming.”

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