Canada reported an additional 6,346 new infections of the novel coronavirus Saturday as several provinces broke new case and fatality records amid the second wave of the pandemic.
The new data, which includes another 93 fatalities from the virus, pushes the country’s total cases to 408,569 and its death toll to 12,589. A total of 324,800 patients have since recovered while over 15,283,000 tests have been administered.
Saturday’s numbers provide a limited snapshot of the virus in Canada. Provinces like P.E.I. and British Columbia as well as both the Yukon and Northwest Territories do not report new case data over the weekend.
As the number of COVID-19 cases surges, hospitalizations and deaths also continue to grip communities across the country.
The nation’s top doctor said that Canada still has a “long road ahead” in its fight against the virus, despite plans to roll-out a vaccine in the new year.
“All along the way Canadians have made sacrifices and despite a still long road ahead, there is some good news on the horizon,” Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, wrote in a statement Saturday.
Quebec reports more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time since pandemic began
“An initial supply of vaccines is expected to become available in early 2021 and although supply will be limited at the outset, Canada is well-positioned to provide access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for all Canadians.”
Tam, who noted the logistical and operational challenges of distributing the vaccine, also reiterated that “any and all” vaccines approved by Health Canada would meet the highest standards of safety and effectiveness.
According to the latest epidemiological data, a daily average of 6,168 new cases were diagnosed every day from Nov. 27 to Dec. 3, with 7.4 per cent of 74,596 daily tests turning out to be positive. A daily average of 87 virus-related deaths were also being reported during the same period.
“The latest longer-range forecasting, using a model from Simon Fraser University, forecasts that if we continue on the current trajectory, we could have 10,000 cases daily by January,” warned Tam, who also noted the burdening impact of the virus’ spread on both the country’s high-risk population as well as its health-care workforce.
Quebec added more than 2,000 new cases of the virus for the first time Saturday, with health officials reporting 2,031 confirmed infections in their latest update. The province also announced 48 more deaths attributed to the virus — of which only 11 occurred in the past 24 hours.
Health officials in the province said that the high case count was inflated, however, because a number of cases identified the day before that were not reported in Friday’s case count. To date, the province’s total cases stand at 149,908 and its death toll at 7,231.
Both Ontario and Alberta posted record-high case counts Saturday as well.
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In Alberta, provincial authorities added 1,879 new cases. The data, which included another six deaths, pushed the province’s total caseload to 66,730.
Ontario, on the other hand, reported 1,859 more cases — raising its total infections to 125,385. The new cases mark the single highest increase in new COVID-19 infections since the 1,855 reported on Nov. 27. Another 20 deaths were also added by the province, pushing Ontario’s death toll to 3,757.
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Manitoba also set a new record Saturday, as authorities confirmed 19 additional deaths due to the virus. The province’s death toll now stands at 381 and its caseload at 18,423 after Saturday’s announcement. Saskatchewan added 203 new cases and no new deaths on Saturday.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick added two more cases, Nova Scotia six and Newfoundland and Labrador another four. Nunavut, which lifted it’s COVID-19 lockdown everywhere except for its hotspot Arviat this week, posted eight more cases on Saturday.
Globally, cases of the novel coronavirus continue to spread, with over 66,442,000 infections being reported so far according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. A total of 1,526,000 deaths have also been attributed to the virus, with the United States, Brazil and India continuing to lead in both infections and deaths.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
1 year after Canada's first coronavirus case, the COVID-19 pandemic rages on – CBC.ca
Monday marks one year since the first case of the virus that causes COVID-19 was confirmed in Canada, in a patient who came to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital after returning from Wuhan, China.
While many of the lessons learned from the early days of the novel coronavirus are being applied in the pandemic’s second wave, concerns remain about inadequate protections in long-term care and the disproportionate impact of the virus on people of colour.
Among both long-term care residents and the general public, more people have now died of COVID-19 in Ontario during the second wave than in the six months after the global pandemic was declared in March.
“These are all preventable deaths,” said Dr. Nitin Mohan, an assistant professor at Western University in London, Ont., and a physician epidemiologist with the public health consulting firm ETIO.
Long-term care crisis continues
“The fact that we’re this far along in the pandemic and we’re still seeing the outbreaks and deaths in long-term care homes, it’s almost embarrassing that this is happening,” Mohan said in an interview.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch of Toronto’s University Health Network calls what happened in Ontario’s long-term care homes last spring tragic.
“What’s more tragic is how it’s unfolding in the second wave, because there certainly could have been steps taken between wave one and wave two to significantly protect the most vulnerable population among us,” said Bogoch in an interview.
“What we’re seeing in the long-term care facilities just demonstrates, unfortunately, years and years of neglect,” he said. “It was awful to watch this unfold, but sadly, it was predictable.”
Uncertainties characterized early days
In the first two months of 2020, predictions varied about how Canada would be affected by the novel coronavirus first identified in China.
Public health officials and political leaders seemed to tilt more toward calming fears about COVID-19 than sounding the alarm.
There were repeated assurances that the risk in Ontario was low, that the general public should refrain from wearing masks. Well into March, officials were saying that no evidence could be found of community spread.
“Those uncertainties in the early part of the pandemic were real because we just didn’t know,” said Bogoch.
Although he acknowledged that public health messaging adapted over time, Bogoch said it didn’t do so as fast as they would have liked.
The system was slow to acknowledge that the virus was not just being imported by travellers returning from a handful of distant countries, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician in Hamilton and an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University.
“I think the pivot from this being a travel disease to this being an endemic disease was done relatively late,” Chagla told CBC in an interview.
“There’s something to be said about understanding the evidence has changed and recognizing it quickly and making those changes quickly.”
Chagla said a crucial point came in late February when community transmission was identified in the U.S. and doctors in Canada were seeing people returning from the U.S. with COVID-19.
“There was no hope that this was not going to (spread in) Canada at that point,” he said. “I think probably that was the turning point to say, ‘OK, there is a risk here to us. We need to start invoking public health measures.’ ”
Ontario declared its state of emergency on March 17, and the federal government halted non-essential travel across the land border with the U.S. on March 20.
Mohan believes governments acted decisively to impose lockdown measures in the spring.
“We were dealing with something that was relatively new and unknown, getting data and making decisions in real time,” he said.
Lack of testing hampered tracking
When experts look back to the early months of 2020, there’s a general consensus that Ontario’s hospital sector mobilized quickly to face COVID-19, readying for a potential surge of patients even as supplies of personal protective equipment were tight.
However there’s also strong agreement that Ontario’s limited capacity to test for the coronavirus hampered the ability to track its spread.
Until May, Ontarians couldn’t get a test for COVID-19 unless they met a strict range of criteria that excluded much of the general public.
Given the death rates in the first wave, scientists believe the actual number of infections in the spring was far higher than the officially reported case counts.
“There were some clear limitations in our testing capacities that are a result of poor funding models of public health,” said Mohan.
“In a once in a generation pandemic, when we need to act quickly and decisively, it’s hard to do that when you’re sort of building a plane in the sky.”
The ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to be transmitted by people before they showed any symptoms also confounded the experts.
Early on, officials put a big emphasis on screening people for symptoms such as fever and cough. Although that helped identify a significant proportion of cases, it sent an inaccurate message that people couldn’t spread the virus before showing symptoms.
“Had we known clearly that there was pre-symptomatic transmission, I think the way we would have handled things would have been much different,” said Chagla.
He said quarantines would have been imposed on travellers sooner and the way public health officials traced cases would have changed significantly.
Chagla, Bogoch and Mohan all say too little was done to protect people in racialized and low-income communities.
Even this deep into the pandemic, people of Black and South Asian descent are over-represented among the COVID-19 caseload.
2nd wave shows signs of receding
The one-year anniversary of the virus in Canada comes amid signs that the second wave is starting to recede, albeit with warnings that new case numbers will only continue to drop if public health restrictions stay in place.
There are also fears that highly contagious variants of the coronavirus could either prolong the second wave or drive an even more widespread third wave before the bulk of the population gets vaccinated.
Thousands of new infections are still being reported every day across the country, and the average daily number of deaths is not expected to decrease for weeks.
About 200,000 Canadians have contracted COVID-19 in the past month alone. The case fatality rates among different age demographics suggest that hundreds of those will die.
“It’s hard for me to reconcile with the mistakes being made in the second wave,” said Mohan.
“We can’t get back these lives lost.”
How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada's first case – CTV News
On January 25th, 2020, Canadians were still living their lives like they always had: commuting to the office, visiting friends, dining out, hugging loved ones, vacationing. But the announcement that day of Canada’s first COVID-19 case set in motion a chain of events that would soon change everything.
By March, with cases climbing, health officials began implementing a series of measures that would fundamentally alter how many Canadians live. Lockdowns and calls for physical distancing led to companies shifting to work from home, travel restrictions, mask-wearing rules, cancellation of major events, and video meetings replacing in-person interactions as people were asked to avoid seeing anyone, even loved ones.
Jack Jedwab, the president of the Association for Canadian Studies, says the biggest change to Canadians’ daily lives has been the isolation from friends, family and co-workers.
“I think at the root of a lot of that change is these limits on our mobility, which take different forms, whether it’s interacting with family and friends, or seeing people that we’re accustomed to seeing in our daily lives in person as opposed to on screens,” he said.
An online survey conducted for Jedwab’s group in September found that over 90 per cent of the 1,500 people polled said COVID-19 had changed their lives, with most citing the inability to see family and friends as the biggest factors.
While few Canadians have been untouched by the pandemic, Jedwab says women, newcomers to Canada and people who were already economically and socially vulnerable appear to have been among the most deeply affected, particularly by job losses.
Here’s a look at how COVID-19 has changed daily life for some Canadians of different groups:
For Bill VanGorder, a retired 78-year-old from Halifax, the pandemic put a temporary halt on his active social life and his favourite pastimes of volunteering in the local theatre and music scenes.
“Theatre people, as you may know, are people who love to hug, and not being able to hug in these times probably has been one of the most difficult things,” he said in a phone interview.
He considers himself lucky, because at least he and his wife Esther have each other, unlike many of his single friends who are completely isolated. Many older people, who are more at risk of severe complications from COVID-19, are struggling to stay connected with family or finding people to help them with household tasks.
VanGorder, who works with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, also believes unclear government messaging, particularly on when older adults will get access to the vaccine, is “creating huge anxiety and mistrust in the system,” among already-nervous seniors.
But while the pandemic has been hard, he says there have also been silver linings. He and many of his friends have been learning to use platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime, which help seniors stay in touch with relatives and connect with their communities.
“We think the positive thing is that, of course, this knowledge will continue after COVID and will be a real step forward, so that older adults can feel more involved in everything that’s going on around them,” he said.
The first thing he’ll do when things get back to normal is to hug his grandchildren and theatre friends, he said.
As classes have moved online, many students have had to adapt to living and studying in small spaces and being isolated from friends and campus life at a stage when forging lifelong friendships and social networks can be crucial.
Small living quarters, the inability to travel home, financial fears and uncertainties about the job market have contributed to a “greater sense of isolation” for many students, according to Bryn de Chastelain, an Ontario resident studying at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
While he believes schools have done their best to support students, de Chastelain says many students have seen their mental health suffer.
“A number of students are really struggling with having to learn from home and learn online, and I think that a number of strategies that students are used to taking up are very difficult to replicate in the online environment,” he said.
Schools across the country were shut down for several months in the spring, ushering in a challenging time for parents who were suddenly forced to juggle full-time child care, work and keeping their families safe.
The reopening of schools in the fall brought different challenges depending on each province’s COVID-19 situation and approach. In Ontario, some parents opted for full-time online learning, while others were forced into it when Premier Doug Ford chose to extend the winter break. In Quebec, which doesn’t allow a remote option for most students, some reluctant parents had no choice but to send their children back to class.
“I think uncertainty, not only for kids but for everything — work, life relationships and everything — that has certainly been the theme of COVID,” said Doug Liberman, a Montreal-area father of two.
Liberman said the biggest challenge has been trying to balance the health and safety of his family with keeping his food manufacturing business going and maintaining a sense of normalcy for his two girls, ages 10 and 12.
For his family, that has meant trying to spend time outside but also accepting more screen time, and ultimately, taking things day-by-day.
“I certainly think that we certainly don’t have the answer, and I think we’ve done as best as we could, like everybody else has,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020.
Filipina nanny asks to stay in Canada after kidney diagnosis – CBC.ca
Most young mothers don’t have to make a choice between hugging their children and accessing the medical treatment that keeps them alive, but that’s the situation Kherin Dimalanta says she faces here in Ottawa.
Dimalanta, 33, is a Filipina nanny working for a family of two doctors, one of whom has become the face of the fight against COVID-19 in this city.
While Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, a regular contributor to CBC, goes to work in the ICU and his wife Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng sees patients at her private psychology practice, Dimalanta is at home caring for their three young boys.
“We would not have been able to do what we did through the pandemic, to continue our work, if we did not have help at home,” said Cathy Kyeremanteng.
Dimalanta arrived three and a half years ago under a live-in caregiver visa. After a few years of working in Ottawa, she had hoped to apply for permanent residency and bring her own two children to live with her in Canada.
But six months after she arrived, Dimalanta went for a routine blood test as part of an insurance application and discovered she had chronic kidney disease.
The diagnosis meant she was no longer medically admissible to Canada, even though she had already worked and paid taxes in Canada for months before she fell ill.
“It just turned my life upside down,” Dimalanta said. “I feel like I don’t have the right to dream anymore.”
WATCH | Dimalanta’s difficult choice:
Immigration system ‘doesn’t feel Canadian’
Dimalanta’s nightly dialysis costs around $40,000 a year. That’s almost twice the annual health-care cost threshold set by the Liberal government in 2018. Prospective immigrants who would cost the health-care system more than $21,204 a year are ineligible for permanent residency because they’re deemed an excessive burden.
But Cathy Kyeremanteng believes that rule shouldn’t apply to people who were already working legally and paying taxes in Canada.
How could Canada send somebody home to die in front of their children, just because we have to pay for the medical treatment?– Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng
“She fell sick while she was here, by no fault of her own,” Kyeremanteng said.
“How could Canada send somebody home to die in front of their children, just because we have to pay for the medical treatment?… It doesn’t feel Canadian to me.”
WATCH | Frustration over the government’s decision:
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada was unable to provide a comment by deadline on the situation facing people who, like Dimalanta, are already living and working in Canada, but are not medically admissible.
“It illustrates the structural problem in our immigration system,” said Jamie Liew, an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa.
Liew says that while highly skilled immigrants often come to Canada with their permanent resident status pre-approved — which means they’re not at risk of being sent home if they get sick — low-skilled migrant workers can only apply for permanent residency after a few years.
“We, for whatever reason, don’t value [them] the same way … despite the fact that a lot of skilled migrant workers provide essential services, as we’ve seen through the pandemic,” Liew said.
Nanny’s difficult choice
Dimalanta has applied for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds because she cannot afford dialysis treatment in the Philippines. Without it, her doctors have told her she will die.
While she waits for the humanitarian appeal, a process that often takes years, she has applied for both a temporary resident permit and an open work permit so that she’s eligible for OHIP and has the freedom to return to the Philippines to see her children.
Almost two years later, no decision has been made on Dimalanta’s application.
She has “implied status,” so she’s allowed to continue to work and pay taxes, but every few months she must appeal to the OHIP review committee for continuing coverage. She can’t risk leaving the country in case she’s not allowed back in.
It’s now been almost four years since she last saw her children.
“My kids will always say, ‘Don’t worry, Mama. Just stay there and get well.’ Even if I ask, you know, what gift do you want for Christmas? It’s, ‘Don’t think about us, just get well,'” Dimalanta said.
Without a reprieve, she has a stark choice: stay in Ottawa and access life-saving treatment, or go home to her children and watch her condition worsen.
“Is it better for me to stay here and get the medication and work still? Or is it better for me to go home, see them, hug them?” she asked. “What would you choose?”
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