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B.C. could see 1000 COVID-19 cases per day within weeks, modelling suggests – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
New modelling shows B.C.’s daily COVID-19 case numbers have been doubling every 13 days, leaving the province’s contact-tracing teams struggling to stay ahead of the spread.

The data shared by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday suggests B.C. could soon see upwards of 1,000 new cases per day if people don’t alter their behaviour. The province has recorded 3,809 cases over the last week alone, for an average of 544 per day.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase, particularly in the last couple of weeks, and it’s stretching our ability to cope from a public health perspective,” Henry said, noting that B.C.’s case rate per million residents has surpassed Ontario’s in recent days.

The alarming numbers, and the strain they’re putting on contact-tracing teams, are behind the province’s strict-but-temporary new rules around socializing, Henry said.

The provincial health officer didn’t blame the spike on individuals or businesses, but said it’s clear the public must adapt to their new reality – and soon.

“The thing we’re learning about this virus is that it can now transmit very easily as we’re moving indoors, as the weather’s changing, and we need to pay attention to that,” Henry said.

The province’s reproductive rate, which is an average of how many additional infections are generated by each new case, has once again topped 1.5.

B.C. had managed to bring it below one before Thanksgiving, but has unfortunately seen “a takeoff of the virus in our communities” since then, Henry said.

“When you’re above one, that gives the potential for it to spread quite rapidly,” she warned.

Modelling

The modelling data also showed where people in B.C. are catching COVID-19, and the primary source continues to be households and social interactions, including family gatherings and parties.

Henry said while many gyms are taking “all the right measures” to prevent spread, people are still sometimes transmitting the virus in the way they congregate and catch-up with one another either before or after they exercise.

The numbers also show that young people are once again driving infection rates in the province, as they did in the summer before officials imposed new rules on bars, restaurants and vacation rentals.

People between the ages of 20 and 29 have seen the biggest spike in infection rates of any age group, and Henry said that has spilled over into other demographics – including the elderly, who are at much higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

Modelling

“We’ve seen, in the last few weeks, a dramatic increase in cases in people 80 years of age and older,” Henry said. “And once again we’re starting to see spillover into long-term care homes.”

Health authorities in the Lower Mainland have been declaring outbreaks in seniors’ home on a daily basis, and hospitalizations from COVID-19 – considered to be one of the best measures of the severity of the pandemic – reached a record high of 155 on Thursday.

The modelling data shows 116 hospitalizations were recorded over a single week, from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7. Those account for one tenth of all hospitalizations recorded in B.C. since the start of the pandemic.

Officials said B.C. has hired 636 contact-tracers to date, most in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions, and there are plans to hire more than 800 in total.

But Henry stressed that public health resources are still being stretched dangerously thin. She shared several real-life examples of contact-tracing investigations that highlight just how quickly one infection can cascade into a complicated web of transmission.

Modelling

One involved an employee at an industrial site, who ended up causing 48 other positive cases in that workplace alone. Another seven people were infected as a result of interactions with those workers, and an additional 111 people were forced to self-isolate for two weeks as a result of possible exposure.

Four additional workplaces were also put at risk, including a medical clinic, a lumber mill, a processing plant and a car dealership.

“This just gives you a sense of one single workplace where somebody unintentionally brought the virus in with them, whether it was because they didn’t recognize they had symptoms or they didn’t feel they were able to stay home because of the nature of the work they were doing,” Henry said.

Officials have consistently said contact-tracing efforts are crucial to keeping the province’s rate of transmission in check. But Henry warned the rapid surge in cases has already put that work “in jeopardy,” and that a major shift is needed to bring the province back down to a manageable caseload.

“Our ability in public health to find everybody in a timely way, particularly in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions has been stretched to the max,” she said. “And we are falling a little bit behind.”

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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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Golden Links Lodge addresses concerns over group activities held prior to COVID outbreak – CTV News

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WINNIPEG —
The COVID-19 outbreak at Golden Links Lodge in Winnipeg continues to grow, and now the care home is responding to questions about recreational activities that had been taking place inside the facility prior to the outbreak.

According to the latest numbers from the care home, there have been 53 cases among residents and 20 cases among care home staff.

The province said three people have died, leaving family members concerned about their loved ones.

On Nov. 15 Jordan Hanna found out his grandma tested positive for the disease.

“It’s a flood of fear,” said Hanna.

There have been more than 70 cases linked to Golden Links Lodge since an outbreak was declared on Nov. 11.

Photos posted on the Golden Links Facebook page on Nov. 6 show residents gathered inside the care home for a worship service. Three days later it showed them taking part in an exercise class. Activities Hanna feels are important but are too risky given the way the virus spreads.

“The seniors here are anywhere from 60 to 100 and they’re already stuck in one place for so long,” said Hanna. “It’s hard to deny them that entertainment or excitement or connection. So I think it has its place but definitely not right now.”

Provincial guidelines only say people in personal care homes who are isolating should not participate in group activities.

In an email to CTV News the care home’s CEO Marcy-Lynn Larner said there is no evidence any recreation activities have contributed to the outbreak.

Larner said contact tracing indicates the initial transmission is staff-related.

“Every attempt has always been made to ensure the well-being of our residents is always our priority while balancing meaningful stimulation and activity to our residents’ lives,” Larner said.

Like other long term care centres, the not-for-profit care home has been dealing with staffing shortages due to infections among workers.

Four City of Winnipeg paramedics and a district chief of operations responded to Golden Links last Thursday night as part of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s rapid response team. Full assessments were conducted on seven residents — one was taken to hospital.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service returned Friday, completed more assessments, and vowed to continue providing support when needed.

Emergency crews cleared the scene Friday night and have not been required to return, a WFPS spokesperson said Tuesday.

Hanna said it’s clear more help is needed and wants the military called in.

“So they can one, care for people — make sure that they’re attended to and also do what they did in Ontario and Quebec and start reviewing the best practices, how they’re handling things and provide a report,” said Hanna.

Last week Golden Links put out a call to families to help out with their loved ones at the care home.

Larner said a few families have been attending, while others enlisted support through an agency that provides companionship.

According to Larner, four residents are on what the care home describes as social leaves with their families.

Larner said staff have been working around the clock to care for residents who remain at Golden Links and promised to keep families updated. 

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