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As vaccine supply ramps up, provinces and territories fine-tune rollout plans – CBC.ca

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Vaccine deliveries are ramping up and provinces and territories are starting to unveil more of their vaccine rollout plans.

Each province has a phased plan for vaccine deployment which indicates when the various priority groups can expect to receive the shots.

Here’s what we know so far about who’s getting the shots and when.

British Columbia

B.C. is still in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout, which covers residents and staff of long-term care facilities, health care workers who may provide care for COVID-19 patients and remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

The subsequent phase is expected to run through March and includes seniors 80 and over, Indigenous seniors 65 and over, hospital staff and medical specialists, vulnerable populations living and working in congregated settings and staff providing in-home support to seniors.

B.C. is planning to announce the details of Phase 2 of the immunization program on Monday.

Immunization clinics overseen by local health authorities are being organized in 172 communities in school gymnasiums, arenas, convention centres and community halls.

B.C. said it would start reaching out to those in line for vaccines in Phase 2 to tell them how to pre-register for immunization appointments.

A truck carrying COVID-19 vaccine crosses the Canada-U.S. border into B.C. on Monday, Dec. 12, 2020. (CBSA/Lestudio Neuf)

People will be notified by postcard, email, text or phone call, through specialty clinics, independent living homes, home care services and family physician offices.

Pre-registration for vaccinations opens in March. People can pre-register, online or by phone, two to four weeks before they are eligible. Eligibility is based on the current phase of the vaccination program and the recipient’s age.

Those contacted for vaccination appointments are pre-screened for eligibility before they choose a location, date and time to receive the shot.

Mass clinics for the general population are scheduled to start on April 6, beginning with the 75-79 age group.

The B.C. government website says it is developing a registration and record system and a process to register for vaccine access and receive a formal record of immunization.

For more information about B.C.’s vaccination plan, go here.

Alberta

As of Feb. 24, seniors 75 and over (born in 1946 or earlier) and seniors 65 and over living in First Nations and Métis communities were eligible for vaccination. The Alberta government estimates there are about 230,000 seniors in these two groups.

Starting the first week of March, select pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer will be offering the vaccine. By the end of the week about 100 pharmacies will provide shots. A list of participating pharmacies can be found here.

Staff at participating pharmacies will contact people who are eligible for the shots.

Given the anticipated vaccine delivery schedule, Alberta Health Services says it expects it will be vaccinating people in this first phase over most of March.

Allan Pasutto, 86, of Penhold, Alberta gets the COVID-19 vaccine in Red Deer. (AHS)

Phase 2 is expected to begin in April. Vaccinations in this phase will be offered to anyone aged 50 to 74 years, anyone with underlying health conditions, First Nations and Métis people aged 35 and older, residents and staff in congregate living settings and eligible caregivers.

The Alberta government says that, as supply increases, it will accelerate vaccinations on the model of its annual flu campaign by using Alberta Health Services staff, community pharmacies and family physicians. The province was able to administer 1.3 million flu shots in six weeks last fall — an average of over 30,000 shots per day.

Starting February 24, Alberta started using an online booking tool www.ahs.ca/covidvaccine. Those eligible for vaccination also can call the province’s 811 Health Link number for information.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said appointments are now available seven days a week from 8:20 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. at 58 sites around the province, and the hours will be extended as more vaccines arrive.

No walk-ins are allowed. Seniors who can’t find transportation to their appointments can call 211 — the government’s information line for programs and services — for help.

For more information about Alberta’s vaccination plan, go here.

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s Phase 1 is still underway, focusing on health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care homes, residents 70 years and older and residents in remote and northern regions over the age of 50.

People eligible for vaccination in Phase 1 are being contacted directly by phone or mail.

Phase 2 is expected to begin in April and will cover the general population, starting with people aged 60-69 and working down in 10 year increments. Phase 2 will also cover individuals considered to be extremely vulnerable to infection, and staff and residents of group homes and emergency shelters.

Doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine are loaded onto a plane for delivery to Southend and Wollaston in Saskatchewan. (Colin Ratushniak )

The province said it expects that when Phase 2 begins, the Saskatchewan Health Authority will be operating 226 vaccine clinics in 181 communities across the province. Those clinics will include mass vaccination sites, drive-through locations and mobile vaccination clinics. More sites will be added through pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

A mass vaccination clinic will open in April at the International Trade Centre at Evraz Place in Regina. Appointments will be needed.

People will be asked to register for vaccination through an online platform or by phone. 

For more information about Saskatchewan’s vaccination plan, go here.

Manitoba

Manitoba’s immunization teams are now vaccinating all residents age 92 and older (born on or before December 31, 1928) and First Nations people 72 and older (born on or before December 31, 1948).

Vaccinations are also available to individuals working in laboratories handling COVID-19 specimens, in immunization clinics and testing sites and in isolation accommodation facilities. The vaccine is being offered now to those working in congregate living facilities who were born on or before Dec. 31, 1960, and people working in licensed personal care homes.

A COVID-19 vaccine dose is administered in Thompson, Manitoba. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Health care staff who work for acute care facilities and emergency response services (ERS), home care workers, correctional facility staff, dental office staff and those who work in facilities providing services insured by Manitoba Health and Seniors Care (such as family medical practices and outpatient surgical units) are eligible for the vaccine.

So are community services workers, staff at homeless shelters and family violence shelters and those who provide disability services and child and family services.

The next eligible group includes health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of shared living facilities and essential workers. It’s not known yet when Manitobans in this group will receive their shots.

Manitoba has set up a Vaccine Queue Calculator to allow Manitobans to estimate when they’ll receive their vaccines.

The province expects to open two new “supersites” for large-scale vaccinations in Selkirk and the Morden-Wrinkler area the week of March 12, bringing the number of such sites to six. (Three are in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson, with a fourth facility at the airport outside Thompson.)

The province says it plans to expand to 13 supersites throughout Manitoba in April. It has hired 1,212 staffers to help with the vaccination effort.

More than 400 medical clinics and pharmacies have applied to be a part of the immunization campaign.

Manitobans with questions about the vaccination plan and their position in the queue can go to this website or call a toll-free number: 1-844-626-8222.

Manitoba’s booking portal is still in the testing phase.

Ontario

Ontario’s vaccination rollout is in Phase 1, which covers staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes, and highest-priority health care workers.

In March, Phase 1 is expected to expand to adults 80 years of age and older, staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and other congregate care settings, high-priority health care workers, all Indigenous adults and adult recipients of chronic home care.

Vaccines have been delivered to Ontario’s 34 public health units in Ontario and the pace of the rollout could vary depending on the region.

Nicole Laplante, centre, receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Embrun, Ont., Jan. 13, 2021. (Submitted by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit)

Phase 2 is set to begin in April. This phase will add more vaccination sites, including municipally run locations, hospital sites, mobile vaccination locations, pharmacies, clinics, community-run health centres and aboriginal health centres.

In August, the province is to move to Phase 3 and make vaccines available to everyone who wants to be immunized.

The Ontario government’s online portal for mass vaccination pre-registration and appointment booking is set to launch on March 15. For those without access to the internet, the province will establish a customer service desk to register and book appointments. Neighbourhood mobile clinics are being planned by local public health units. 

For more information about Ontario’s vaccination plan, go here.

Quebec

On the island of Montreal, vaccinations are now available to people 80 and older. To make an appointment, go to this website or call 514-644-4545.

The rest of Quebec will start vaccinating anyone 85 years of age or older next week. Anyone born before 1936 can start making an appointment for their first dose on February 25, by phone (1-877-644-4545) or online.

Quebec has posted a document describing the procedure here. Once more vaccines arrive, Quebec plans to expand inoculations to include seniors 70 and up and those with chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

The province has started to prepare by securing mass vaccination sites, such as the Olympic Stadium.

Quebec Premier François Legault and Health Minister Christian Dubé watch a woman register for her COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

It has set up mass vaccination sites already in major urban centres in anticipation of an increase in the vaccine supply.  One of them — the Palais des congress de Montreal, in the heart of downtown — is set up to vaccinate up to 2,000 people per day.

For more information about Quebec’s vaccination plan, go here.

New Brunswick

Phase 1 is underway, covering long-term care residents and staff, front line health care staff, First Nations adults 16+ and individuals 85 and over.

Clinics are being held this week and next at 321 licensed long-term care homes and those vaccinations are expected to be completed by March 14. Residents and staff are being contacted directly by their employers to register for vaccination. Others in Phase 1 are being contacted directly to book appointments.

For individuals aged 85 or older living in the community, details on clinic locations and registration process will be announced in the coming weeks.

A box containing 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 arrives at the Miramichi Regional Hospital. (Government of New Brunswick)

Phase 2 starts in April and will include residents in other communal settings, health care workers providing direct patient care (such as pharmacists and dentists), firefighters, police officers, home support workers for seniors, people 70 and over, people with complex medical conditions, volunteers at long-term care homes, people 40 and over with three or more chronic conditions and truckers or workers who cross the Canada-U.S. border regularly.

The N.B. government’s website says that details about who can register for vaccination and when will be announced in the coming weeks. Clinic locations are also being finalized.

The province is asking residents to wait for those details instead of tying up resources by calling the provincial tele-care number or their local health practitioners.

Prince Edward Island

P.E.I.’s vaccination effort is in its first phase, which will continue throughout March. Public health nurses had been delivering the vaccines; trained pharmacists were approved recently to administer the doses as well.

Those getting vaccinations in this phase are residents and staff of long term care homes, health care workers in direct contact with patients who face an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors 80 and older, adults 18 and older living in Indigenous communities, residents and staff of shared living facilities (such as group homes, shelters and correctional facilities) and truck drivers and other workers who routinely travel out of the province.

Starting February 22, vaccine clinics in P.E.I. will start giving doses to seniors aged 80 and older. You can find a list of clinics here.

The province says other population groups will be told when they can be vaccinated as the rollout continues. The province expects to have four clinics in operation starting in March — in O’Leary, Summerside, Charlottetown and Montague.

Vaccinations in P.E.I. are by appointment only. When their turns come up, Islanders can book their appointments by calling 1-844-975-3303 or by filling out a form available through this government website.

For more information about Prince Edward Island’s vaccination plan, go here.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s vaccination effort is in Phase 1. That covers those who work directly with patients in hospitals or care homes, people who live and work in long term care homes and people who live and work in adult residential care centres and regional rehabilitation centres.

There’s no word yet on when the next phase of the vaccine rollout will begin. When it does, it will include: anyone who works in a hospital (and might come into contact with patients); doctors, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists and pharmacists; people who live in correctional facilities, shelters and temporary foreign worker housing; people who are required to travel regularly for work (such as truck drivers); people responsible for food security (such as workers in large food processing plants); those aged 75 to 79 and those 80 and older.

Alvena Poole, 83, receives her vaccine from Allison Milley, a nurse at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, on Feb. 22, 2021. (Communications Nova Scotia)

N.S. Public Health is holding prototype clinics before deploying vaccines across the province.

The first prototype clinic — for seniors 80 years and older — opened at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax starting the week of Feb. 22. 

More clinics will open in the coming weeks: in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro on March 8; in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth on March 15, and in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth on March 22.

The province also is planning to set up clinics in pharmacies as well.

Those at the head of the queue will receive letters from the province explaining how to schedule a vaccination appointment.

Once contacted, appointments can then be booked online or by calling 1-833-797-7772 the week before the clinic opens.

For more information about Nova Scotia’s vaccination plan, go here.

Newfoundland & Labrador

Newfoundland & Labrador is in Phase 1 of its immunization plan. Doses in this first phase are earmarked for congregate living settings for seniors, health care workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, people 85 and older and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities.

It’s not known yet when the next phase of the province’s vaccination plan will begin. That phase will cover health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of all other congregate living settings and essential workers. These categories are still being defined by the province and its health department says details of future phases are still being finalized.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald smiles at St. John’s public health nurse Ellen Foley-Vick after giving her the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in St. John’s, Nfld., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (Sarah Smellie/The Canadian Press)

For more information about Newfoundland & Labrador’s vaccination plan, go here.

Yukon

Priority groups in Yukon have received their first doses and, in some cases, their second doses as well.

As of Feb. 19, high-risk health care workers and long-term care residents and staff had received their second doses.

Those living in remote rural communities and people aged 65 and older are to start getting their second doses beginning the week of Feb. 22.

Over the past few weeks, every community outside Whitehorse has been visited by one of two mobile vaccine clinic teams (named ‘Balto’ and ‘Togo’) delivering first doses to all residents 18 and over.

In Whitehorse, a mass clinic will open on March 1 that will deliver up to 800 immunizations a day — both first and second doses.

All Whitehorse residents 18 years of age and older can now book appointments for their first shots.

Those living in Whitehorse must book appointments online or by calling 1-877-374-0425. In rural Yukon, where internet access may be an issue, appointments are recommended but walk-ins are also welcome.

For more information about Yukon’s vaccination plan, go here.

Northwest Territories

All NWT long-term care residents have received first and second doses. The NWT COVID-19 vaccine strategy says the general population can expect access to the vaccine in late March or early April.

The original NWT strategy said there would be enough doses to immunize 75 per cent of eligible residents 18 years of age and older should by the end of March. That target date has now been put off to the end of April.

“This generous initial allocation from the federal government recognizes the territories’ limited health care system capacities and the vulnerabilities of remote Indigenous communities,” says the strategy document.

The vaccine schedule and booking tool are now online and will be updated as more doses are delivered.

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, territorial medical director, receives her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Stanton Territorial Hospital on Jan. 10. (Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority)

Those living in larger centres are expected to call or book online for their vaccinations. In smaller communities, dates and locations for vaccination clinics will be advertised and residents will be asked to show up.

Multiple small mobile vaccine units are travelling to 33 communities to help local health care staff administer doses.

For more information on NWT’s vaccination plan, go here.

Nunavut

Nunavut says it expects to have 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18 vaccinated by the end of March.

Nunavut is only using the Moderna vaccine right now and has been staging vaccine clinics in two or three communities at a time.

Starting March 1, the next round of clinics to administer the first dose will be held in five communities.  

Starting around March 5 and March 6, nine locations will start holding clinics for the second dose of the vaccine. 

In Iqaluit, vaccinations are by appointment only and are being directed toward elders 60 or older, those living in community shelters, front line health workers, Medivac flight crews, residents and staff of group homes and Iqaluit’s Akaausisarvik Mental Health Treatment Centre, and residents and staff of correctional facilities.

The next phase in Iqaluit is expected to begin March 1 and will be for people age 45 and over.

Nunavut relays COVID-19 information through public service announcements on TV, social media, community radio and the government’s website. The website shows the locations of clinics, their times of operation and contact information.

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COVID-19 in Ottawa: Fast Facts for April 10, 2021 – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
Good morning. Here is the latest news on COVID-19 and its impact on Ottawa.

Fast Facts:

  • Ottawa’s top doctor warns schools could remain closed after the April break next week
  • Ottawa sets new record for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on Friday
  • The city of Ottawa admits it doesn’t have enough supply to vaccinate residents 50 and older in high-priority neighbourhoods
  • Kingston closes popular waterfront park to prevent COVID-19 spread

COVID-19 by the numbers in Ottawa (Ottawa Public Health data):

  • New COVID-19 cases: 242 new cases on Friday
  • Total COVID-19 cases: 19,030
  • COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (previous seven days): 146.0
  • Positivity rate in Ottawa: 9.2 per cent (April 2 to April 8)
  • Reproduction Number: 1.05 (seven day average)

Testing:

Who should get a test?

Ottawa Public Health says you can get a COVID-19 test at an assessment centre, care clinic, or community testing site if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are showing COVID-19 symptoms;
  • You have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by Ottawa Public Health or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app;
  • You are a resident or work in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by Ottawa Public Health;
  • You are a resident, a worker or a visitor to long-term care, retirement homes, homeless shelters or other congregate settings (for example: group homes, community supported living, disability-specific communities or congregate settings, short-term rehab, hospices and other shelters);
  • You are a person who identifies as First Nations, Inuit or Métis;
  • You are a person travelling to work in a remote First Nations, Inuit or Métis community;
  • You received a preliminary positive result through rapid testing;
  • You require testing 72 hours before a scheduled (non-urgent or emergent) surgery (as recommended by your health care provider);
  • You are a patient and/or their 1 accompanying escort tra­velling out of country for medical treatment;
  • You are an international student that has passed their 14-day quarantine period;
  • You are a farm worker;
  • You are an educator who cannot access pharmacy-testing; or
  • You are in a targeted testing group as outlined in guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Ottawa:

There are several sites for COVID-19 testing in Ottawa. To book an appointment, visit https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/shared-content/assessment-centres.aspx

  • The Brewer Ottawa Hospital/CHEO Assessment Centre: Open Monday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • The Moodie Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Open Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (testing only)
  • The Heron Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The Ray Friel Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (testing only)
  • COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Howard Darwin Centennial Arena: Open daily 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
  • Centretown Community Health Centre: Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sandy Hill Community Health Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 pm.
  • Somerset West Community Health Centre: Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Wednesday.
  • COVID-19 Drive-Thru Assessment Centre at 300 Coventry Road: Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Vaccine eligibility screening tool:

To check and see if you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Ottawa, click here

COVID-19 screening tool:

The COVID-19 screening tool for students heading back to in-person classes can be found here.

Symptoms:

Classic Symptoms: fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath

Other symptoms: sore throat, difficulty swallowing, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, pneumonia, new or unexplained runny nose or nasal congestion

Less common symptoms: unexplained fatigue, muscle aches, headache, delirium, chills, red/inflamed eyes, croup

Ottawa’s top doctor warns it’s “more likely than not” that all elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa will be closed for in-person learning after the April break.

“I am now thinking the probability that schools will close to in-person learning after the spring break is higher than the probability the COVID-19 situation will improve in time to keep schools open,” said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health.

“My heart is heavy because I know how important schools are to the health of our community.”

Etches says Ottawa Public Health will make a decision by next Wednesday on whether schools will reopen or close after the April Break.

Ottawa Public Health reported 242 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday, the highest one-day case count in the capital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The surging numbers prompted the city’s medical officer of health to issue a rallying cry to Ottawa residents, saying the city has reached a key point in the COVID-19 “marathon.”

“We are tired. We’re fatigued. We want this to be over. And this is the point in our COVID marathon where we’re hitting the wall,” Dr. Vera Etches told reporters Friday. “This is our defining moment. It’s a moment where we’ve got to break through that wall.”

Ottawa’s positivity rate increased to 9.2 per cent for the period of April 2 to 8 from 8.8 per cent. Ottawa’s weekly incidence rate is now 146 cases per 100,000 people.

Residents aged 50 and over in three hot spot postal code areas in Ottawa can now book an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but the city warns it doesn’t have enough vaccine supply to vaccinate everyone.

On Friday, Ontario opened vaccine appointments at community clinics to residents born in 1971 or earlier who live in certain “hot spots.” In Ottawa, the hot spots have been identified as postal codes K1T, K1V, K2V.

A memo from Dr. Vera Etches and Ottawa’s general manager of emergency and protective services Anthony Di Monte said residents 50 years of age and older living in the provincially identified “hot spots” of K1T, K1V and K2V are eligible for vaccine appointments at community clinics.

Residents living in the high-priority neighbourhoods of Emerald Woods – Sawmill Creek and Greenboro East and Ledbury – Heron Gate and Ridgemont will have the option to book at either a community clinic or at a pop-up clinic.

COVID-19 vaccine Ottawa immunization clinic

One day after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared in Kingston’s University District, the city is closing the popular Breakwater Park until the end of the university school year to prevent large gatherings.

Mayor Bryan Paterson has issued an emergency order to close Breakwater Park for the next 10 days.

“This timeline coincides with students move-out, but can be extended if needed. As one of our most popular community parks, closing it is a last resort,” said Paterson in a statement

“Yesterday, however, we saw troubling instances of overcrowding, which is especially concerning given the current outbreak in the nearby University District.”

Pictures on social media showed dozens of people in the popular park along the waterfront on Thursday.  During the provincewide shutdown, outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of five people.

Kingston's Breakwater Park

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Average age of Quebec COVID-19 patients has dropped by 10 to 15 years, doctors say – National Post

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MONTREAL — Over the past two to three weeks, Dr. Francois Marquis, head of intensive care at Montreal’s Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital, says he started noticing the average age of COVID-19 patients dropping.

People arriving at the hospital are on average, about 10 to 15 years younger than earlier patients in need of medical care after contracting COVID-19, he said in an interview Wednesday.

“We are starting to see what was very unlikely during the first wave: 30 or 40-year-olds without any previous medical history, people in good health,” Marquis said.

“They’re not seeing a doctor, they’re not taking any kind of medication, they don’t have diabetes, they don’t have high blood pressure — they just get sick.”

Marquis’s observations echo a warning earlier this week from Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, who said health officials across the country are reporting rising numbers of younger patients in hospitals who soon need intensive care.

“Many of them deteriorate quite quickly and have to be admitted to the ICU,” she said.

Dr. Gaston De Serres, an epidemiologist with Quebec’s public health institute, said the proportion of Quebecers over 80 in hospital with COVID-19 has been declining since mid-March — largely due to vaccination.

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He said it’s not just the proportion of hospital patients who are younger that’s increasing, the overall number of younger patients is rising as well. De Serres said there were 40 people between 50 and 59 years old who were hospitalized the week of March 7. During the week of March 28, there were 54.

But hospitalizations are still not rising significantly among people under 30. “It’s younger,” he said of the average age of patients. “It’s not young.”

Ten people between 20 and 29 years old were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Quebec the week of March 28, up from five two weeks earlier, De Serres said.

“If you have more cases, you will clearly have more hospitalizations, but the proportion of all hospitalized cases will remain small because these younger age groups are very low risk of being hospitalized.”

De Serres said he thinks more younger people are getting sick because the coronavirus variants of concern are more transmissible and they lead to more severe illness more frequently.

Mike Benigeri, director of the data bureau at the Institut national d’excellence en sante et services sociaux, a Quebec government health-care research institute, said that over the past two weeks, there has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of people aged 40 to 69 who have been infected with COVID-19. He said the percentage is even higher among people aged 18 to 30.

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Marquis said older people and those with other medical conditions may notice a COVID-19 infection sooner. People who are healthier may not seek medical attention until they’re very ill, he added.

“They will push the limits of endurance up to the point when they say, OK, it’s enough, I really need to go to the hospital,” he said.

Despite the odds of dying being low among younger people, that doesn’t mean the consequences among the small group who do get severely ill are any smaller, he said.

“If you’re that unlucky guy, well, you’re going to die — and you’re not going die 1.5 per cent, you’re going be fully dead.”

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has repeatedly said that with vaccination protecting older people, the province will be able to tolerate more COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Quoc Nguyen, a gerontologist at the Universite de Montreal hospital centre, said while that may be true when it comes to deaths, it may not be the case for ICU capacity.

“When we look at one case in December versus one case in March, it seems that for a single case we have more intensive care than we used to before, but we don’t necessarily have more hospitalization,” he said.

It’s ICU capacity that worries Marquis. His ICU is supposed to have 24 beds, but because staff members have left the health-care system — particularly nurses — it now has a capacity of 14: seven beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients and seven for everyone else.

“I am really afraid that in two weeks we’re going to be in the same place as Ontario is right now and I don’t think that we can deal with that many patients,” he said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has imposed a four-week stay-at-home order after a third wave of COVID-19 started to overwhelm the health system.

“They’re going to saturate the ICU availability very, very quickly for a very long time,” Marquis said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.

——

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Canada’s hospitals deploy artificial lungs, scramble for staff as COVID-19 hits younger patients

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artificial lungs

By Anna Mehler Paperny and Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) -Younger Canadians are bearing the brunt of the nation’s latest COVID-19 surge, creating growing demand for artificial lungs and a struggle to maintain staffing in critical care units as hospitals make last-ditch efforts to save patients.

Treatment with artificial lungs, known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is much more likely to be deployed for patients under age 65, explained Marcelo Cypel, surgical director for the extracorporeal life support program at Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN).

Last week, there were a record 19 ECMO patients at UHN, 17 of them with severe COVID-19. When the sickest COVID-19 patients’ lungs fill with fluid and mechanical ventilators can no longer do the job, artificial lungs can save lives.

By Monday, doctors had weaned some off the machines and were down to 14 ECMO patients, 12 of them with COVID-19.

The need for these artificial lungs reflects a change in Canada‘s epidemic, which has taken a turn for the worse, with new cases surging and outbreaks hitting workplaces and schools.

With many seniors vaccinated and new, far more contagious coronavirus variants circulating widely, younger patients are increasingly arriving in intensive care.

“It’s very different now than the first wave, when we saw older people with comorbidities,” Cypel said. “We’re seeing more … young essential workers.”

The ECMO situation is under control for now, but things can change very quickly, Cypel cautioned.

When hospital systems in other countries were overwhelmed, they had to stop using ECMO because it requires a lot of staff – seven or more people to start the treatment.

About 55% of people who receive the therapy survive, Cypel said. However, they are often left with “severe physical limitations” from their extended hospital stay, he added.

Many of Canada‘s provinces are in the grip of a worsening third COVID-19 wave, as they struggle to hasten vaccine rollouts. The country reported more than 6,200 new cases on Monday, with the percentage of people testing positive for the virus up to 3.8%.

‘SEEING BURNOUT’

In British Columbia, where hospitals are bracing for a surge in demand for intensive care unit (ICU) beds caused by the highly concerning P.1 virus variant first discovered in, and now ravaging, Brazil, critical care doctor Del Dorscheid from Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital is more worried about staffing than artificial lung use.

On a given shift, he said, a third of the staff are working overtime.

“They’re working so hard to find bodies to fill those empty spots,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’re seeing more mistakes. Not yet, anyways. But we are certainly seeing burnout.”

For ICUs, there is no end in sight. As of Tuesday, there were 497 COVID-19 patients in Ontario’s ICUs, a new high. Last week, experts advising the provincial government said that could rise to 800 by the end of April even with a new stay-at-home order – or approach 1,000 without it. The province stopped short of a new stay-at-home order.

New restrictions implemented in Ontario last week change little for hardest-hit areas. In Toronto, patios for outdoor bars and restaurants closed, and a plan to reopen salons was shelved. On Monday, hard-hit Peel, west of Toronto, moved on its own to suspend in-person classes at schools for two weeks.

Canada‘s vaccination rate has picked up after a slow start, with 15% of the population getting at least one shot. But data from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences shows that the Ontario communities at highest risk of COVID-19 transmission also have the lowest rates of vaccination.

These communities tend to have a high proportion of residents unable to work from home, many of them non-white immigrants holding down jobs at high risk of virus exposure.

Some lack cars to drive to vaccination sites or paid time off to get the vaccine, said Brampton doctor Amanpreet Brar. Some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods lack pharmacies that dispense COVID-19 vaccines.

“It really reflects systemic inequities we see in our society,” said Brar. “They’re considered non-essential, while their work is considered essential.”

(Editing by Denny Thomas and Bill Berkrot)

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