Canada is at a “crossroads” in its pandemic battle and the actions of individual Canadians will decide whether there’s a massive spike in COVID-19 cases coming, according to the latest projections from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
Federal health officials presented new modelling today that shows the epidemic is accelerating nationally. They warned that if Canadians don’t step up preventative measures, the virus could spread out of control and trigger a wave of infections bigger than the first one.
“With minimal controls, the virus is capable of surging into a very sharp and intense peak because most Canadians don’t have immunity to the virus,” Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam told a news conference in Ottawa today.
Short-term projections show there could be up to 155,795 cases and up to 9,300 deaths by Oct. 3.
If the current rate of infection is maintained, the epidemic is expected to re-surge — but if that rate increases, it is expected to resurge “faster and stronger.”
Rapid detection of new cases and a swift response to outbreaks are both key to controlling the pandemic, PHAC modelling documents show.
Tam said there has been a significant demographic shift in the caseload since June: instead of the virus disproportionately affecting elderly Canadians, most infections are now being reported in Canadians aged 20 to 39.
Tam and her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, are joined by Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand at the news conference.
CBC News is carrying it live.
The last modelling figures were released on Aug. 14. At that time, Canada’s top doctors said they were striving for a best-case scenario but preparing for the worst: a so-called “fall peak” of COVID-19 cases across Canada that would threaten to overwhelm the public health care system.
PHAC officials said they were aiming for a “slow burn” scenario, in which the number of cases remains low enough for the public health care system to keep ahead of the influx of patients.
But officials also were planning for a “reasonable worst-case scenario” — a fall spike in infections followed by ongoing peaks and valleys that put excessive pressure on the health care system.
The recent rise in cases coincides with the flu and cold season, which could put added strain on hospitals and other health resources.
Health care workers have been working on the front lines for months now and are now bracing for a possible spike in hospitalizations, prompting concerns about potential burnout.
As U.S. presidential election enters final days, Canada braces for the fallout – CBC.ca
The federal government is preparing for the weeks of uncertainty that might follow a U.S. presidential election day with no clear winner — by drawing up contingency plans for the border and other issues that might erupt between the Nov. 3 vote and inauguration day in January.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has signalled already that his government has been monitoring the election more closely in the final weeks of the campaign because of its potential impact on the Canadian economy.
“I think we’re certainly all hoping for a smooth transition or a clear result from the election like many people around the world,” Trudeau told a news conference earlier this month. “If it is less clear, there may be some disruptions and we need to be ready.”
The cabinet committee on global affairs and public security has been preparing for various scenarios: President Donald Trump’s reelection, a victory by Democrat Joe Biden, or a lengthy period of uncertainty coupled with multiple court challenges to decide the outcome.
We can’t rely on the good-neighbour, best-friend status anymore. And that remains regardless of a Trump or a Biden victory.– Sen. Peter Boehm
A government official (who asked not to be identified because the person is not authorized to speak publicly on the plans) said the cabinet committee is worried about security at the border, the prospect of even higher COVID infection rates in the U.S. and the possibility of Trump taking harder lines on international issues that could affect Canada.
Trump has refused on a number of occasions to say he will guarantee a smooth transition of power if he loses and has been pushing unsubstantiated claims about massive voter fraud during the pandemic as an unprecedented number of Americans mail in their ballots.
Sen. Peter Boehm is an experienced former Canadian diplomat who was posted to Washington during the disputed 2000 election result in Florida between George W. Bush and Al Gore. He said the Canadian government has worked hard since Trump’s election to develop contacts at all levels of the government in the United States.
A more ‘sophisticated’ approach to Washington
Boehm said those contacts, honed during the prolonged negotiations to renew NAFTA, should help Canada navigate any challenges that emerge after Nov. 3.
“What we’ve seen over the last four years is a greater utilization of the tools we have. What that means is not just discussions at the head-of-government level but with Congress, on Capital Hill and with state and local government,” he said.
“And what that tells us is that we have had to become more sophisticated in our approach, that there has to be consistent contact and a network, because we can’t rely on the good-neighbour, best-friend status anymore. And that remains regardless of a Trump or a Biden victory.”
The Trump presidency has proven to be an unpredictable dance partner for Ottawa. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and imposed national security tariffs on Canadian exports of steel and aluminum.
Trump called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “very dishonest and weak” in tweets following the troubled G7 summit hosted by Canada in 2018 — while on other occasions he’s declared that he likes the prime minister very much.
A protectionist tilt on both sides
Biden is less volatile and more in line with Canada on issues such as climate change. But he would cancel the Keystone XL pipeline project — which is still viewed by Alberta as a vital prop for the troubled oilpatch — and his platform emphasises the same sort of Buy American and protectionist procurement pledges championed by Trump.
Either way, Canadian officials will need to remain vigilant in protecting this country’s interests — particularly the bilateral trade relationship and the millions of jobs that depend on it, and especially if pressure mounts from the U.S. side to re-open the border for non-essential travel.
“The past four years created real frictions,” said Andrew McIntosh, a Canadian-born lawyer in Florida who heads the Canada-Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.
“You can’t be a Canadian living in the States and not recognize that the relationship has been challenged, not just in business terms but as neighbours, the value we place on the relationship. I don’t think anyone can look at the Canada//U.S. relationship and not feel that there’s been a disregard for the history and close ties between the two countries.”
Donald Trump unbound
Scotty Greenwood is the CEO of the Canadian-American Business Council and a partner with Crestview Strategy in Washington. She said Canada will have to tread carefully if no clear winner emerges on Nov 3.
“Everyone is holding their breath to see if it’s four more years of Trump or a new administration,” she said.
Greenwood said that she believes Trump would be further emboldened by winning a second term.
“You would need to worry a lot about tariff wars. The expectation is that the United States would get into more and more of a transactional relationship,” she said. “Canada developed a playbook that was reasonably successful in dealing with the Trump administration during the NAFTA negotiations and they will need to keep that.”
Boehm said the Canada/U.S. relationship has to be built around more than personal connections to the person in the Oval Office.
“What this relationship comes down to is not whether you like the chief executive but what’s in your own nation’s best interests,” he said.
“That’s how the U.S. works and that’s how Canada has to work.”
That means Canadian political leaders need to refrain from making any comments or endorsing either Trump or Biden — especially if the process of counting mail-in ballots, or deciding on court challenges launched over the results, leaves the outcome uncertain for days or weeks.
Ontario reports 821 new cases of COVID-19, 2nd-most since resurgence began in August – CBC.ca
Ontario reported 821 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the second-most on a single day since a resurgence of the illness began in the province in mid-August.
Toronto once again saw the most with 327, while 136 were recorded Peel Region and 79 in Ottawa.
The new case count is the highest number the province has seen in the second wave, since 939 cases were reported on Oct. 9. The seven-day average of new daily cases, which had been slowly dropping over the last several days, ticked back up with today’s update and is now about 743.
Notably, just over 24,000 tests were completed yesterday — the lowest number of tests Ontario has processed on a single day since Sept. 9. The province previously said it aimed to be processing 50,000 tests per day by mid-October, and as many as 68,000 daily by mid-November.
The number of confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus in Ontario is 6,237, an all-time high.
Hospitalizations, as well as the number of patients in intensive care and using ventilators, all went up. Hospitalizations rose from 252 yesterday to 274 today, ICU patients went from 69 yesterday to 72 today, and people in the ICU using ventilators went from 40 to 45.
The province is also reporting three more deaths.
Premier appeals to people with symptoms to get tested
Asked Tuesday about the relatively low levels of testing in the last 24 hours, Premier Doug Ford said the province’s labs have now cleared through a backlog of tests that once ballooned to more than 90,000 and that there is capacity for as many as 50,000 daily, but that people can’t be forced to be tested.
Ford said the province has set up additional testing units in hotspots, but some people seem to be holding back from getting an assessment.
The province changed its testing guidelines last month, making COVID-19 tests available only to symptomatic people by appointment at its assessment centres.
The change came after the government was heavily criticized for hours-long lineups at walk-in testing centres that assessed people with or without symptoms.
Meanwhile, Ontario is extending most of its emergency orders until Nov. 21 as the province faces a resurgence of COVID-19.
In a news release Tuesday, the provincial government announced the extension will be in place for 30 days with exceptions for orders around pandemic pricing on electricity and electronic access to personal health records.
“With the cold and flu season upon us and the continuing high number of COVID-19 cases in certain parts of the province, it’s critical we continue to take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of Ontarians,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.
Masks not required in dance studios, province says
The province has also updated its pandemic rules to allow dance classes to resume in Ontario’s four hot spot areas.
Asked Tuesday why small fitness studios aren’t allowed to open under the current regulations but dance studios are, Ford drew a distinction between the two saying that unlike fitness studios, dance studios are cohorted.
The province announced this week that dance classes will be allowed to resume in hotspot areas as long as dances are pre-registered and physical distancing is observed.
Masks are not required inside the studios.
Asked why that is, Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters Tuesday, “It’s because of the distance and the separation between the dancers that can be maintained such that the masks aren’t necessarily required.”
Airborne transmission of COVID-19 however has not been ruled out, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updating its guidance this month to say infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets that can linger in the air for minutes to hours.
NDP bring motion to eliminate for-profit LTCs as some face insurance woes
Also Tuesday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she would introduce a motion to remove for-profit companies from the long-term care system and replace them with an “all non-profit and public system.”
“We need to take action to protect seniors and fix the long-term care system for good, and we have to do it now,” Horwath said in a tweet.
A vote on the motion is expected this afternoon.
Meanwhile, some of Ontario’s long-term care homes are having trouble securing liability insurance for COVID-19, a situation that could force some of them to close, says a group representing more than 70 per cent of the province’s homes.
The Ontario Long-Term Care Association says its homes are being offered new policies without a key provision: coverage for infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
The association has now turned to the federal government for help, saying potential claims could place a burden on the homes’ finances, and that loans could be denied over the lack of coverage.
Previously, long-term care homes received $5-million to $10-million coverage for damages or claims related to infectious diseases, CEO Donna Duncan said.
Now, insurance companies are including a “contagious disease exclusion endorsement” in policies for the homes, she said.
Her association has pleaded its case to the federal government in a letter sent late last week, asking Ottawa to provide a “backstop” and essentially insure the insurance companies.
Ontario to provide COVID-19 liability protection to some workers, businesses
Also Tuesday, Attorney General Doug Downey introduced a new bill that would provide liability protection to some workers, businesses and non-profits against COVID-19 exposure-related lawsuits.
Downey says the bill, if passed, would ensure anyone making an “honest effort” to follow public health guidelines while working or volunteering not be exposed to liability. The bill will not prevent lawsuits against those who willfully, or through “gross negligence”, endanger others, he said.
The government says health-care workers and institutions, front-line retail workers, and charities and non-profits would be covered by the bill.
The legislation would also cover coaches, volunteers and minor sports associations.
Outbreak at CAMH worsens
Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is reporting three more patients have tested positive for COVID-19 on a unit at its Queen Street site.
It follows confirmation Sunday of an outbreak at the unit, when it said two people had COVID-19.
Two other Toronto hospitals also confirmed outbreaks over the weekend.
The centre says it has implemented standard infection prevention and control procedures for respiratory outbreaks, including closing the unit to admissions and transfers.
Ontario changes the rules so dance classes are now allowed again in the COVID hotspots. But Zumba classes (dance style exercise class) are still not allowed. <a href=”https://t.co/WrOdjZp6gV”>pic.twitter.com/WrOdjZp6gV</a>
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