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Are outdoor ice rinks safe? Experts say skating is low risk, but precautions needed

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From manufactured rinks in city parks, to lengthy swaths of iced-over rivers, Canada’s outdoor public skating spaces may prove popular during the first full winter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health experts say that’s a good thing, as skating outdoors offers opportunity for socialization and exercise. And it poses relatively low risk of coronavirus transmission.

So go ahead and lace up those skates, they say, but be mindful of a couple caveats.

Risk goes up if those outdoor ice surfaces become too crowded, says Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, and safety precautions need to be followed in the moments before and after people hit the ice, where spread is more likely to occur.

“‘The activity (of skating) itself is safe, but if you’ve got 20 people in an indoor change room, especially unmasked, maybe with poor ventilation, that would be a real challenge,” Morris said.

“But in general, the more outdoors and the less crowded, the better. And if people can skate or engage in any other safe outdoor activities this winter, they should absolutely be doing it.”

Municipalities across the country are working on guidelines for their outdoor skating rinks, which can open anywhere from mid-November to early January, weather-depending.

Most cities are expected to cut on-ice capacity in order to better maintain a safe distance between skaters, and places like Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa say other safety measures will depend on public health advice at the time rinks open.

Calgary, home to many outdoor rinks including an artificial ice patch at Olympic Plaza, is also starting a pilot project of skating trails in parks across the city this winter, spokesperson Todd Reichardt said. The idea came together before the pandemic began, but will serve a safety purpose in giving skaters more space to spread out.

Winnipeg’s river trail, which also includes spaces for curling and hockey, is one popular outdoor destination once it opens in the chilly city, typically around New Year’s Eve.

Clare MacKay, a spokesperson for the Forks Renewal Corporation which runs the trail, says the skating area can stretch up to 11 kilometres in length, depending on how the river freezes each year.

Public health guidelines will be implemented on the trail, MacKay says, but the wide-open space gives her confidence people will be able to keep a safe distance.

Still, Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba, expects the river trail to look different this year if COVID cases continue to rise in Winnipeg.

The Manitoba capital reported 265 cases on Thursday and 136 more on Friday, and Kindrachuk says that while outdoor skating is low risk, danger can rise depending on how much COVID we’re seeing when rinks open.

“The trail is kind of a centerpiece for winter in Winnipeg, so it can get busy, and I don’t think we quite know what it’s going to look like (this year),” Kindrachuk said. “We know the situation in Winnipeg has not been good, but is that going to be the case in January and February?

“What we need to focus on is — if we want to be able to do these things safely we need to make the right decisions now to try and reduce transmission.”

Ottawa’s popular Rideau Canal Skateway, which is operated by the National Capital Commission, says it will also follow public health directives as it prepares to open in January, and skaters will be required to adhere to guidelines that will be posted along the trail.

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa who’s lived in the Canadian capital for 17 years, has seen how busy the canal can get at the height of the winter season.

But he’s not concerned with COVID spreading from person to person when they’re gliding past each other on canal’s lengthy ice surface — a six-metre wide track that winds 7.8 kilometres through the city.

“There’s a lot of space and a lot of movement, which is good; it means you’re not being exposed to the same people for prolonged periods,” he said. “And the ventilation is, of course, second to none.”

Crowding into one of the indoor spaces along the trail, such as a warming hut or public bathroom, isn’t advisable though, he added.

“So really it’s the stuff surrounding the skating that’s the concern, not the skating itself.”

Deonandan suggests putting on skates outside to avoid indoor locker areas that may be crowded. And he advises against huddling for warmth with people outside of your household while waiting your turn on an outdoor rink.

Masks should be worn in indoor environments to limit risk, Deonandan says. But wearing a face covering while skating isn’t necessary — “unless maybe you’re ice dancing with someone and you’re face-to-face,” he added.

Morris says skating with a mask likely won’t be a requirement at most rinks, but it won’t hurt to wear one anyway.

“Every measure increases the safety of an activity,” he said. “My guess is that if people are masked, it’s going to make everyone feel safer. And I think that’s part of the importance.”

As for Winnipeggers skating on the river trail this winter, MacKay says making masks mandatory likely won’t be necessary, but that could change based on public health directives.

“Right now things are changing so rapidly, but I mean, it’s Winnipeg in winter,” she said with a laugh. “You’re probably already wearing something over your face just to keep warm.”

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press

Source:- Williams Lake Tribune

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Ottawa extends rules and restrictions for travellers amid rising COVID-19 case counts – Toronto Star

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A slew of travel restrictions and rules meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 will be extended into January, the federal government said Sunday, as case counts continued to rise steadily across the country.

In a statement, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the measures would be in effect until Jan. 21, 2021 for travellers entering Canada from a country other than the United States.

The rules were first imposed near the start of the global outbreak.

“We have introduced a number of policies to keep Canadians safe but must remain flexible and adapt to the evolving COVID-19 situation,” Blair said in a statement.

The ministers said restrictions for visitors crossing the border from the U.S. are currently in place until Dec. 21, but may be extended.

Among the new rules is a requirement for anyone entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days.

But the ministers also said they’re looking to make it possible for “high-performance, amateur sporting organizations” to hold major international events on Canadian soil.

They said the successful applicants would need to present a public health plan as well as show they’ve secured the support of provincial and territorial governments and health authorities.

The Department of Canadian Heritage will issue authorizations in consultation with the Health Agency of Canada, the ministers said.

The announcement comes as COVID-19 case counts continued to mount, though at levels slightly below the record-setting daily tallies seen in several regions in recent weeks.

Public health officials in Quebec reported 1,395 new cases on Sunday, while Ontario recorded 1,708 new infections — pushing the provincial totals since the pandemic began to 141,038 and 114,746, respectively.

Cases also have gone up steadily in Atlantic Canada, with New Brunswick reporting 14 new diagnoses on Sunday and Newfoundland and Labrador recording four additional infections.

Public health officials in Nova Scotia logged 10 new cases, all in the province’s central zone, which includes Halifax.

Manitoba reported 365 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and 11 new deaths — almost all of which were linked to outbreaks in care homes.

Health officials said nine of the 11 deaths were people in their 80s and 90s, one was a man in his 60s and one was a man in his 70s.

The case count in Nunavut also rose by 13, while Saskatchewan reported 351 new infections.

Alberta reported its second highest number of new COVID-19 cases, logging 1,608, with nine more deaths.

Canada’s top public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the highest rate of infection is among people aged 80 and over, while more outbreaks are happening in long-term care homes.

“Cases are increasing among older adults,” Tam said in a statement.

Both Quebec and Manitoba reported new, significant outbreaks at such facilities.

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A Montreal public health agency on Sunday transferred 20 residents of a long-term care home to two local hospitals after a COVID-19 outbreak drew widespread concern this week.

Officials said 30 residents had tested positive for COVID-19 at Maimonides Geriatric Centre. Ten residents there have died during the pandemic’s second wave, according to the latest Quebec Health Department data.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2020.

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Canada public health officials urge reduced contacts as COVID cases continue to rise – Kamloops This Week

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The federal government says it’s extending a slew of travel restrictions and rules meant to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic into the new year as case counts continue their steady rise across the country.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu say the rules, first imposed near the beginning of the global outbreak, will now be in effect until Jan. 21, 2021 for travellers entering Canada from a country other than the United States.

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The ministers say restrictions for visitors crossing the border from the U.S. are currently in place until Dec. 21, but may be extended.

Among the rules is a requirement for anyone entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry into Canada.

But the ministers also say they’re looking to make it possible for “high-performance, amateur sporting organizations” to hold major international events on Canadian soil.

They say the successful applicants would need to present a public health plan as well as show they’ve secured the support of provincial and territorial governments and health authorities.

The announcement comes as COVID-19 case counts continued to mount, though at levels slightly below the record-setting daily tallies seen in several regions in recent weeks.

Public health officials in Quebec are reporting 1,395 new cases in the past 24 hours, while Ontario is reporting 1,708 new infections.

The provincial totals since the pandemic began now stand at 141,038 and 114,746, respectively.

Cases are also rising steadily in Atlantic Canada, with New Brunswick reporting 14 new diagnoses on Sunday and Newfoundland and Labrador recording four additional infections.

Public health officials in Nova Scotia logged 10 new cases, all in the province’s central zone, which includes Halifax.

Authorities in Manitoba reported 365 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and 11 new deaths — almost all of which were linked to outbreaks in care homes.

The case count in Nunavut also rose by 13.

Canada’s top public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the highest rate of infection is among people aged 80 and over, while more outbreaks are happening in long-term care homes.

Both Quebec and Manitoba are reporting new, significant outbreaks at such facilities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2020.

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Coronavirus: Hamilton reports 61 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death – Global News

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After hitting new daily highs with COVID-19 cases over three days, Hamilton’s new cases on Sunday were lower compared to the two previous days.

The city reported 61 new positive tests on Sunday which puts active cases up to 503 as of Nov. 29.

Public health also reported another death, a 70-year-old woman from the community died on Nov 27.

The city has had 84 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Read more:
Ontario reports 1,708 new coronavirus cases, 24 deaths

Hamilton has 19 active outbreaks involving a total of 306 people as of Nov. 29 at:

  • Six long-term care homes — Alexander Place, Baywoods Place, Chartwell Willowgrove, Hamilton Continuing Care, Idlewyld Manor, and St. Joseph’s Villa (south tower).
  • Three retirement homes — First Place Hamilton, Grace Villa, and The Village at Wentworth Heights
  • Five workplaces  —  Rainbow Cleaning, Golden Auto Service, Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd., Red Hill Orthodontics, and Universal Precision Technology
  • One school — Rehoboth Christian School — Copetown.

There are also outbreaks at four other locations including Hamilton Police Services-Records Department, Rygiel Supports for Community Living, CONNECT Communities and St. Joseph’s Healthcare-CTU Charlton.

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Read more:
St. Joe’s investigating COVID-19 outbreak at Hamilton long-term care home

The outbreak at Chartwell Willowgrove involves 86 total cases since the outbreak began, including 56 residents, 28 staff members and two other people connected to the home.

Hamilton Continuing Care’s outbreak, now being managed by St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, is at 46 cases tied to 28 residents, 17 staff and one other person.

Baywoods Place and Grace Villa have reported more than 30 cases each since their outbreaks began.

The city has 3,111 total cases since the pandemic began. Twenty-five people with COVID-19 are now in hospital requiring specialized care.

Health officials say there have been 553 positive coronavirus cases in Hamilton in the last 10 days.

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Hamilton is in the “red-control” level of the province’s new COVID-19 response framework as of Sunday.

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Halton Region reports 32 new COVID-19 cases, one death at LTC

Halton region reported 32 new COVID cases on Sunday. The region now has 722 active cases as of Nov. 29, with Oakville accounting for 237 and Burlington accounting for 124 cases.

The latest death revealed on Sunday was from the Wyndham Manor LTC outbreak in Oakville. The facility’s outbreak involves 56 residents, 15 staff members and nine deaths.

The region now has 63 deaths tied to the coronavirus.

Halton has 21 outbreaks involving 216 people at six long-term care homes (Allendale in Milton, Wellington Park Care in Burlington and Chartwell Waterford, Post Inn Village, West Oak Village and Wyndham Manor, all in Oakville), two retirement homes (Amica Georgetown as well as Sunrise in Burlington), and one hospital (acute medicine unit of Joeseph Brant Hospital in Burlington).

Read more:
Burlington’s mayor asks residents of locked down areas to stay in their regions

The region has one active outbreak at a school which involves four cases at Alfajrul Bassem Academy, a private Islamic elementary.

Halton has 3,630 total COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

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Halton Region is in the red-control level of the province’s new COVID-19 response framework as of Sunday.

Niagara Region reports 25 new COVID-19 cases

Niagara public health reported 25 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday. There are 202 active cases as of Nov 28.

The region has 16 active outbreaks connected with the coronavirus in the community.

Read more:
Ontario could see 6,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-December, modelling suggests

There are seven institutional outbreaks at two retirement homes (The Meadows of Dorchester in Niagara Falls, and Garden City Manor in St. Catharines) and six long-term care homes (Millennium Trail Manor and Bella Senior Care Residence in Niagara Falls, Gilmore Lodge in Fort Erie, as well as Woodlands of Sunset and Rapelje Lodge in Welland).

The region has 83 virus-related deaths and 2,128 total positive cases since the pandemic began.

Read more:
A look at what has gone wrong in Ontario long-term care amid the coronavirus pandemic

Niagara Region is in the orange-restrict level of the province’s new COVID-19 response framework as of Sunday.

Haldimand-Norfolk reports five new COVID-19 cases

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) reported five new COVID-19 cases on Sunday. The region has had 654 lab-confirmed positive cases since the pandemic began.

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The region has just one institutional outbreak as of Sunday at Dover Cliffs LTC in Port Dover with a staff member testing positive for the coronavirus. No residents have tested positive.

There are 44 active cases as of Nov. 29.

Read more:
‘Delays and confusion in decision-making’ impacted Ontario’s COVID-19 response: AG

Both counties have had 32 combined COVID-19-connected deaths since the pandemic began.

Haldimand-Norfolk is in the yellow-protect level of the province’s new COVID-19 response framework as of Sunday.

However, Queen’s Park will be downgrading the region into the orange-restrict level effective on Monday.

Brant County reports 10 new COVID-19 cases

Brant County’s health unit (BCHU) reported 10 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday. The region now has 498 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.

There are 69 active cases as of Nov. 29 with six people receiving hospital care.

Brant County also has 36 cases tied to four institutional outbreaks at a retirement home (Brucefield Manor in Mount Pleasant), a long-term care centre (Brierwood Gardens in Brantford), the surgical inpatient unit at Brantford General and Community Living Brant in Brantford.

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Read more:
‘Majority’ of Canadians should be vaccinated against coronavirus by September: Trudeau

The outbreak at Brucefield Manor involves 25 people, with five staff members and 20 residents testing positive for COVID-19.

Brant County is in the orange-restrict level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework as of Sunday.

The region has had five deaths tied to COVID-19.

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

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