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BC COVID-19 infections keep rising, 762 more Wednesday – Surrey Now-Leader – Surrey Now-Leader

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B.C.’s string of record-breaking COVID-19 infections continued Wednesday with 762 additional people diagnosed and 10 deaths attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.

The daily cases surpasses the record 717 cases on Tuesday, after more than 600 cases a day added since Friday.

“We have seen a rising number of new cases of COVID-19 across the province and we need to slow this down,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a statement on the situation Nov. 18. “We need to put the brakes on the virus and doing this requires a sustained effort by all of us.”

New cases continue to be centred on the Fraser Health region, with 481 reported Wednesday, and another 210 in the Vancouver Coastal region. There were 20 new cases on Vancouver Island, 38 in the Interior Health region including the Okanagan and Kootenays, and 13 in Northern Health.

There are three new senior care outbreaks reported with at least one positive test, at Menno Home in Abbotsford, Agecare Harmony Court Estates in Burnaby and Peace Villa in Fort St. John.

The number of people in hospital continues to rise, with 209 admitted with COVID-19, 58 in intensive care. The rest of the 6,861 active cases are at home in self-isolation, and 9,871 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposures.

“This second surge is putting a strain on our health-care system, our workplaces and us all,” Henry and Dix said. “We need to ease this pressure so we can continue to manage the virus in our province and also continue to do the many activities that are important to us.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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Black (market) Friday | The Star – Toronto Star

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Retailers in Manitoba are finding new loopholes within mandated public-health orders to peddle non-essential products, just in time for the busy holiday sales this weekend.

But speaking to reporters Friday, chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the province doesn’t want to penalize large businesses for exploiting apertures in prescribed restrictions just yet — even if they are directly contravening them by pushing merchandise out the door through new ways such as drive-thru services.

It’s a repeat of what happened only a week ago, epidemiologists and commerce stakeholders told the Free Press, when code-red restrictions were heightened to prohibit the in-person sale of non-essential items to begin with.

This time, however, they said the provincial government has had enough time to act and make appropriate changes before mass turnouts at retailers.

“We’re acting on good faith,” said Roussin, as bargain-loving Winnipeggers didn’t let pandemic restrictions keep them from their Black Friday shopping missions. “We’re not going to be issuing fines on this right now.”

News of in-person bargains travelled quickly Thursday and overnight, with hordes of shoppers lining up Friday morning, as early as 5 a.m. Parking lots were also quick to fill up with cars chock full of customers hoping to purchase discounted non-essential items, including electronics, toys, jewelry, makeup and clothing.

At Walmart, a new drive-thru service has been introduced, with individual locations either designating specific lanes for cars or asking people to park anywhere before a salesperson approaches them. Without requiring any advance notice or appointments, customers were able to place orders with a sales associate and pick between several items before paying for them with credit and debit cards or cash.

“It’s like I’m legit shopping for my stuff the way I would inside the store just by being outside,” said Gina Torros, a Winnipegger who waited in advance to get into the drive-thru outside the Empress Street Walmart to buy a new TV.

“It’s really cool, kinda like the pandemic doesn’t really affect this type of full shopping experience.”

Asked whether Walmart’s new services are allowed under current public-health rules for the province, Roussin said it is “completely against the spirit of the orders.”

He said only remote purchasing of non-essential items (through curbside pickup or delivery) is permitted. “Just because we are not fining them doesn’t change our overall message,” added Roussin.

Walmart declined to comment further on how it will adapt its new drive-thru services to be applicable under provincial restrictions. A spokesperson said the retailer, however, plans on continuing drive-thrus in Manitoba until at least Dec. 13, with discounted flyer items open to customers every Friday, Saturday and Sunday leading up to it.

Meanwhile, customers at the Real Canadian Superstore and Costco have been sent online flyers with discounts for in-person sales — resulting in plenty of traffic lined up at several of their parking lots in the city on Friday.

Martin Groleau, vice-president of marketing at Costco Canada, told the Free Press those lineups are “not necessarily our fault.”

“Yes, we’re offering discounts for Black Friday, but they’re not being offered in Manitoba stores,” said Groleau, who is also the director of membership at the company. “We are certainly not selling non-essential items either, please know that.”

The provincial government said a Costco on McGillivray Boulevard was handed a $5,000 fine for selling non-essential items to customers, in a news release on Friday. Groleau said he did not want to comment on that, and that he “still stands beside” his statement.

At Manitoba Liquor Mart locations, “hot buy” discount programs also caused some lineups. But a spokesperson said that wasn’t necessarily because of Black Friday specials.

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“We are not running any Black Friday specials — any and all discounts in our stores are the same as you would find any day or week of the year,” said Andrea Kowal, director of public affairs at Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, in a statement.

“The only advertising campaign we are doing right now… is actually to discourage busy stores — it encourages customers to not shop at peak times and think about using home delivery.”

Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist and health policy expert based in Winnipeg, said “all of this put together could easily cause COVID-19 transmissions.

“While I can’t speak to exactly the socio-economic or health reasons which Dr. Roussin is thinking of,” she said in an interview, “I can certainly say there’s already enough ways for people to access purchasing items if they need to — and maybe, a stern order would help preventing businesses from finding such loopholes.”

“It certainly is much safer just to stop this from happening altogether.”

Chuck Davidson, president of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, said public health should “move beyond messaging” for business owners and allow for restrictions, instead of “continuously telling them what to do without rules to govern it.”

“If you want to prevent it, you should,” he said. “But I don’t think you can blame businesses for finding creative ways to survive during this time until you’re going to. It’s the only time of the year they can be making up their pandemic losses.”

Roussin said Friday the onus is on customers flocking to stores, however.

“There are two sides to this — it’s a supply and a demand,” he said. “But, no matter what these stores have set up, there shouldn’t be a demand. Manitobans should be staying home.

“They should be responsible for going shopping for non-essentials when that is not our messaging.”

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What Canadians need to know about COVID-19 before gathering over the holidays – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


Canadians considering gathering with loved ones over the holidays this year need to come to terms with some harsh realities. 

The country faces a perfect storm: record rates of COVID-19 amid a growing sense of pandemic fatigue at a time when we typically travel to see loved ones and spend time together indoors.

But COVID-19 is insidious, an unwanted guest that can slip in unnoticed and wreak havoc despite our best efforts to control it. 

“We have to ask ourselves honestly, must we socialize? And the answer is probably no,” said Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

“There is no way to eliminate risk except not to do it in the first place.”

But we’ve learned a lot more about how COVID-19 spreads since it first emerged at the beginning of this year, which can help inform us on where we’re most at risk. 

Confusion over holiday guidelines

There’s understandably a lot of confusion about what sorts of holiday gathering might be reasonable to consider this year, especially since depending on where you live in this country the rules and recommendations differ.  

The official advice from Canada’s chief public health officer is to avoid large gatherings, non-essential travel and to keep things as small as possible within your household. 

Certain provinces, like Ontario, recommend skipping extended family gatherings altogether and taking precautions like self-isolating for 10 to 14 days for those travelling home from away, including colleges and universities.

While others, like Quebec, have put a lot of faith in their population by allowing gatherings of up to 10 people for four days over the holidays after a seven day period of self-imposed quarantine.

But Deonandan says we can’t necessarily rely on people to completely self-isolate on their own — that requires not leaving home for groceries, essential items or even to walk the dog. 

WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam advises no large gatherings or non-essential travel

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, says it’s clear that Christmas this year is not going to be like other years. She recommends against any gatherings but has some advice if people choose to forgo the public health guidelines. 0:48

“You’re also going to have outliers who have infectious periods longer than two weeks,” he said.

“If enough people do this, you’re going to get a sufficient number of people who do not fall under that umbrella who are indeed infectious and who start outbreaks.” 

Silent spread a ‘key driver’ of outbreaks

While we weigh whether it’s even possible to gather safely with friends and family in a pandemic, it’s important to keep in mind the unseen dangers we could be inviting in — even in parts of the country that have low rates of COVID-19.

“The problem with this virus is that it’s like many other viruses,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, a medical microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai hospital who worked on the front lines of the SARS epidemic in 2003. “You shed virus before you get sick and some people who get infected don’t develop symptoms.” 

“That’s why what has worked is everybody wearing masks and everybody maintaining social distance, because you can’t tell who the next infected person is going to be.”

McGeer says viruses like influenza, chickenpox and measles typically present symptoms in the body before people are infectious — but the virus behind COVID-19 is different. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated scientific guidance this week that acknowledged asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals account for more than half of all COVID-19 transmissions. 

“Silent transmission is one of the key drivers of outbreaks,” said Seyed Moghadas, a professor of applied mathematics and computational epidemiology at Toronto’s York University. 

“There is an incorrect notion in the general population that if someone feels fine then they are not infected. A person can certainly be infected, infectious, and feel completely fine.” 

Seyed Moghadas at York University says because of high rates of asymptomatic COVID-19 infections, silent transmission is one of the ‘key drivers’ of outbreaks. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Moghadas, the lead author of a study published in the journal PNAS on the silent spread of COVID-19 that was cited in the CDC guidelines, says this underscores how difficult the virus is to control, a challenge “magnified” in close quarters.

In Nova Scotia, which has successfully contained the spread of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic despite the bursting of the Atlantic bubble this week, catching those silent spreaders before they unknowingly infect others is key. 

Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University, has partnered with public health authorities in a pilot project to use rapid COVID-19 tests on people without symptoms in high-traffic areas of Halifax. 

It’s only been a few days, but what they’ve found was surprising. 

On the first day they tested 147 people and found one asymptomatic case, the second day they tested 604 more and found another one, and on the third day they did 804 tests and found five more. 

“We recognized that there are a lot of people out there, even if they’re doing the right thing, that don’t know they’re infected, don’t know they’re infectious and could be spreading to other people,” said Barrett.

“When there’s community spread of a virus that has a long period of time when you can be infectious without symptoms, you have to test broadly in the community or you have no idea what’s going on.” 

‘A negative test is not a license to socialize’

One novel approach to avoid meeting with loved ones while unknowingly infectious that has emerged is to get a COVID-19 test beforehand to pre-emptively detect it. 

But the timing of that test is incredibly important and there’s a lot of room for error, so it may be a less effective strategy than it first appears.

A new study in the journal Science looked at 1,178 people infected with COVID-19 and more than 15,000 of their close contacts to determine when people were most infectious. 

It found most of the transition — 87 per cent — happened in a fairly wide window of time, up to five days before or after symptoms appeared, while 53 per cent was in the pre-symptomatic phase.

“It’s possible to be early in the disease cycle such that you won’t detect any viral presence. But in two days suddenly you’re infectious and now we’re screwed,” said Deonandan, at the University of Ottawa.

“So a negative test is not a license to socialize.”

Still, Deonandan says there will be people who are going to socialize anyway, so it’s better they do so with precautions in place like testing and self-isolating than nothing — even if those precautions aren’t perfect.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, Canadians are being told to consider meeting virtually, avoid risky indoor gatherings without masks and instead find ways to connect while still physical distancing.

“I think the pitch to people is that yes, we’re used to having time off school and we’re used to seeing everybody,” said McGeer. “But this is the year to delay.” 

WATCH | Tam on the holiday season and how the pandemic won’t go on forever

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

“The best advice this year is maybe not to go too far from home,” said Barrett. “Is it worth it to lose control of the virus?”

“We’re hanging on by a thread here. Please don’t let that thread break.” 


To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.

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U.S. coronavirus vaccine plans take shape as hospitalizations set new records – Global News

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U.S. health authorities will hold an emergency meeting next week to recommend that a coronavirus vaccine awaiting approval be given first to healthcare professionals and people in long-term care facilities.

The meeting, announced on Friday by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committee on immunizations, suggests that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be close to authorizing distribution of the long-awaited medication, at least to those considered most vulnerable.

Read more:
Coronavirus: U.S. Supreme Court rules against New York limits on religious services

United Airlines has begun moving shipments of the vaccine, developed by Pfizer Inc, on charter flights to ensure it can be quickly distributed once it is approved, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will vote on Tuesday to recommend that the FDA allow healthcare professionals and long-term care facilities to be the first two groups to get initial vaccine supplies, a CDC spokeswoman said.

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A green light for any vaccine would come as welcome news to Americans, who political leaders have clamped under increasingly aggressive measures to curtail the spread of the virus.






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Coronavirus: Joe Biden, wife Jill highlight importance of Americans staying home for Thanksgiving


Coronavirus: Joe Biden, wife Jill highlight importance of Americans staying home for Thanksgiving

Los Angeles County health officials on Friday banned all public and private gatherings for at least three weeks and urged residents to stay home as much as possible.

The county exempted religious services and protests from the order, citing constitutional protections in an apparent acknowledgment of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week that rejected New York state’s restrictions on churches and synagogues.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, dismissed the top court’s decision as “irrelevant,” saying it was narrowly tailored to specific areas no longer subject to the limits.

Read more:
Risk of Thanksgiving coronavirus spike ‘extremely high’ in U.S., experts warn

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But the ruling could drive legal challenges against similar limits placed on houses of worship in other states, including California.

“It is fair to say that this Supreme Court ruling has broader implications and governors would be wise to be guided by it in any attempts to single out houses of worship for disparate treatment,” Randy Mastro, lead attorney for the Catholic Archdiocese of Brooklyn in the case, told Reuters.

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said this week her latest COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings also applied to indoor religious services, reducing the maximum number of worshippers from 100 to 50 people.


Click to play video 'U.S. Thanksgiving feared to become COVID-19 superspreader event'



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U.S. Thanksgiving feared to become COVID-19 superspreader event


U.S. Thanksgiving feared to become COVID-19 superspreader event

‘Skip the crowds’

Americans already weary from eight months of lockdowns began the holiday season on Friday under pressure to stay home, avoid gatherings and curtail Christmas shopping.

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One day after the nation marked a low-key Thanksgiving, malls and retailers imposing strict COVID-19 rules saw fewer shoppers for the traditional Black Friday start of holiday shopping.

“Remember, skip the crowds and shop from home this Black Friday,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a first-term Democrat, wrote on Twitter.

Read more:
White House still party planning amid coronavirus, ignoring advice from health officials

Roughly 90,000 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals on Friday, a number that has doubled in the last month to the highest since the pandemic began.

“This is the reality we face when COVID-19 is allowed to spread unchecked – ICUs at capacity, not enough health care workers available,” New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a tweet.

Grisham, a Democrat, did not say who she believed had let the virus spread unchecked. The governor has imposed a lockdown requiring all “non-essential” businesses to close and residents to stay home.

About 880 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday in New Mexico. A hospital in rural Curry County was the latest to reach capacity in its intensive care unit this week, according to the county’s Facebook page.


Click to play video 'Joe Biden delivers Thanksgiving address, discourages large gatherings amid COVID-19 pandemic'



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Joe Biden delivers Thanksgiving address, discourages large gatherings amid COVID-19 pandemic


Joe Biden delivers Thanksgiving address, discourages large gatherings amid COVID-19 pandemic

Some politicians and health experts feared Americans traveling for Thanksgiving could spread the contagion. Many heeded advice to stay home on Thursday but others chose to travel, saying they were willing to risk illness to see family.

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On the day before Thanksgiving, typically one of the busiest travel days of the year in the United States, more than 1.07 million people transited through U.S. airports – the most of any day since the start of the pandemic, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

More than 4 million traveled through airports from Sunday to Thursday, compared with more than 11 million for the same period last year, TSA data shows.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Melissa Fares in New York, Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert, Diane Bartz and David Shephardson in Washington, Anurag Maan in Bengaluru and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles Writing by Dan Whitcomb Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Bill Tarrant, Robert Birsel)

© 2020 Reuters

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