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Canada cracking down on Americans entering country to get to Alaska – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada has announced new restrictions against Americans entering the country in an attempt to crack down on the so-called “Alaska loophole.”

The Canada-U.S. land border has been closed to non-essential traffic since March 21, but Americans have still been allowed through if they are driving through Canada to get to Alaska for an essential purpose such as working or returning home.

This has led to cases where Americans have seemingly told border officers that they will be driving on to Alaska, but then vacationed in Canada instead.

Six American tourists were ticketed after hiking around Lake Louise, Alta. in June and six other fines have been levied against Americans in B.C. for Quarantine Act violations. An RCMP spokesperson told CTV News Calgary on Thursday that there had not been any further tickets since the six at Lake Louise.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said Thursday that it is imposing new restrictions on anyone who enters the country from the U.S. mainland to get to Alaska.

Starting Friday, foreigners entering Canada en route to Alaska must do so at one of five approved border crossings: North Portal in Saskatchewan, Coutts in Alberta, or Abbotsford-Huntingdon, Kingsgate or Osoyoos in B.C.

Additionally, CBSA said, anyone travelling through Canada will only be allowed to stay in the country for a “reasonable period” of time, will be required to take the most direct route possible, and will have to report back to Canadian border officers before entering Alaska. They will not be allowed to visit any leisure or tourism sites, get food from any source other than a drive-thru, or pay for gas in any way other than at the pump.

These pass-through visitors will also be given a “hang tag” to attach to their vehicle’s rear-view mirror, to make them easily identifiable. The tag will include the date by which they must leave Canada.

The same restrictions apply to any non-Canadians travelling to the mainland U.S. from Alaska.

According to the CBSA, anyone who provides false information to a border officer could be banned from returning to Canada, while penalties for violating the Quarantine Act can include fines of up to $750,000 and jail terms of up to six months.

With files from CTV News Calgary’s Michael Franklin

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Canada's premiers push for $28B top-up to annual federal health care spending – CBC.ca

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Canada’s premiers are demanding $28 billion in additional federal funding to cover their ballooning health care costs — a boost that would bring annual transfers to $70 billion.

The premiers have agreed unanimously to call on the Liberal government to address what they call an “absolutely critical” situation.

The premiers are meeting in Ottawa today to map out their demands ahead of next week’s throne speech.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Quebec Premier François Legault — the incoming chair of the Council of the Federation — met in person, with other premiers joining virtually.

“It’s time for the federal government to do its fair share,” Legault said.

Ford said that as the demand for health care services has risen, support from the federal government has been decreasing.

“We’re in desperate need of your support,” he said.

The proposed increase would mean the federal government would cover 35 per cent of provinces’ health care costs, up from the current 22 per cent. Right now, the provinces spend $188 billion on health care, with the federal government covering $42 billion.

“We need the support from the federal government. We’re asking the fed government to support all Canadians. Be a true partner when it comes to health care,” Ford said.

Clockwise from top left: Quebec Premier François Legault, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister are meeting in person in Ottawa, with other premiers joining in virtually. (Evan Mitsui, Michael Wilson, William Wang, Gary Solilak/CBC)

Pallister said Canadians are living in fear because of the consequences of federal underfunding, such as longer waits for services and diagnoses.

“Right now, millions of Canadians are waiting for an appointment for a test, for consequential treatment, for surgery. Those delays are painful. A lump that isn’t diagnosed is not fun,” he said.

“Every single day right now in Canada, there are people in fear directly of the consequences of delay, and their families join in that fear, and their friends join in that fear.”

Pallister said it’s been a longstanding problem that has gone unaddressed. He said it’s time for the federal government to resume its “rightful role as a true funding partner” in order to shorten wait times and improve health care.

Ford and Legault met in Mississauga, Ont., last week to discuss economic recovery and health preparedness as the number of active COVID-19 cases rises in parts of the country.

“Premier Ford is in Ottawa to join his fellow Premiers ahead of the throne speech to press the federal government on critical priorities for the people of Ontario, including strengthening frontline health care, helping people and businesses get back on their feet, and moving shovel-ready infrastructure projects forward,” said Ford’s spokesperson Ivana Yelich in an email.

The federal government is providing $19 billion to the provinces to help ease the financial burden of the pandemic; about $10 billion of that sum is for health-related expenses.

But Ford and Legault said more long-term funding is needed to address critical health care issues that predate the pandemic, such as the increasing cost of new medical technologies and drugs and an aging population.

The federal government will transfer almost $42 billion to provinces and territories for health care this fiscal year under an agreement that mandates an an annual increase of three per cent.

Legault has said that the federal contribution is well below the 50 per cent share originally agreed upon decades ago.

Before the premiers’ meeting, Ford sat down with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the city’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches.

The provincial government has imposed stricter rules on gatherings in the Ottawa, Toronto and Peel regions after their COVID-19 infections spiked.

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Today's coronavirus news: Tory calls alarming jump of 130 new cases in Toronto 'troubling'; Ontario surpasses 400 infections for first time since June; Canada/U.S. border closure extended to Oct. 21 – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 11:35 a.m.: Canada/U.S. border closure extended to Oct. 21

  • 11 a.m.: Tory calls alarming jump in Toronto ‘troubling’

  • 10:23 a.m.: Ontario surpasses 400 infections for first time since June

  • 9:05 a.m.: EMA recommending steroid for treatment

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

12:13 p.m.: Deputy public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo declines to say generally there’s a second wave across Canada.

The seven-day average of new daily cases is now 849, he said at his daily media briefing.

“It’s too early to declare a second wave, but the increase is the trend that’s concerning us.”

11:50 a.m.: Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet has tested positive for COVID-19, the party says.

His wife said earlier this week she had tested positive.

Blanchet was already in self-isolation after a staff member contracted the illness.

In a statement, Blanchet says he feels healthy.

11:35 a.m. (updated): Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the partial closure of the border with the United States is being extended another month, to Oct. 21.

Crossings of the border have been largely restricted to trade goods, essential workers and citizens returning home since March, in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Blair and his American counterpart, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, each tweeted the latest one-month extension of the closure agreement this morning.

The pandemic has raged in the United States throughout the spring and summer, and cases in Canada have recently started rising again as well.

At the same time, leaders in border communities have asked federal authorities to loosen restrictions slightly to allow people with links on both sides to live more normally.

The Conservatives also called Friday for Blair to allow more compassionate exemptions to the closure, such as for people who are engaged to be married or where loved ones are seriously ill.

11:10 a.m.: New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh is accusing his Liberal and Conservative counterparts of doing the bidding of big business during the pandemic.

Singh takes the swipe at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole in a speech today that lays out the NDP’s priorities ahead of next week’s throne speech.

Singh is calling on the Liberals to do more to help working people cope with the economic hardship of the COVID-19 crisis.

That includes extending benefits for unemployed Canadians that he says the Liberals are planning to curtail.

He’s also calling on the government to do more to help seniors, and address the crises in climate change and affordable housing.

But Singh is differentiating himself from Trudeau and O’Toole by telling his supporters his two main political rivals are essentially in the back pocket of big business and the “super-rich,” who he says have profited massively during the pandemic at the expense of working people.

11 a.m.: In light of an alarming jump Friday in new COVID-19 infections in Toronto, Mayor John Tory says the city is looking hard at new restrictions.

Calling the increase of 130 cases for Toronto reported by the provincial governmen “troubling,” Tory said rules could include applying the new smaller gathering limits to banquet halls and other businesses.

Toronto had asked Premier Doug Ford to apply the new limits — 10 people indoors, 25 people outdoors — to businesses that host wedding.

But the new rules announced this week for Toronto, Peel and Ottawa apply only to private events and not Ones hosted by businesses.

The mayor said city officials will over the weekend what other steps Toronto can take on its own.

Tory said he learned Friday of a fifth Toronto wedding where infections occurred.

Toronto is also expected next week to introduce new mandatory mask rules applying to workplaces.

The Star’s David Rider and Jennifer Pagliaro has the story.

10:23 a.m. (updated): Ontario is reporting 401 new cases of COVID-19 today, a daily increase not seen since early June.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says Toronto is reporting 130 new cases, with 82 in Peel Region and 61 in Ottawa.

She says nearly 70 per cent of the new cases are in people under the age of 40.

The total number of cases in Ontario now stands at 46,077, which includes 2,825 deaths and 40,600 cases classified as resolved.

There were also 176 cases newly marked as resolved over the past 24 hours.

The province says it processed 35,826 tests over the previous day.

The Star’s Rob Ferguson has the story.

10:15 a.m.: Hamilton has its first confirmed case of COVID connected to a school.

A late-Thursday release from Hamilton public health says a staff member at the Umbrella Family and Child Centres of Hamilton’s before- and after-school program at Templemead Elementary School tested positive for COVID-19. Templemead is located on the east Mountain and is part of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

“HWDSB is working with public health officials to facilitate case and contact tracing,” the release states.

No information was provided on when the person tested positive, nor what their role with the program is or when they last worked.

“It is vital that personal health information and identifiers are not released, and the privacy of everyone involved is respected,” the release states.

10:10 a.m. Two Canadian film and television organizations say hundreds of productions and thousands of jobs are on hold because the government has yet to intervene and help them get COVID-19 insurance.

The Canadian Media Producers Association and the Association québécoise de la production médiatique say $1 billion in production volume is at risk because of the lack of insurance options.

They have identified 214 camera-ready film and TV projects that cannot move forward because they can’t find insurance and say those productions would generate 19,560 jobs.

The organizations pitched a federal government-backed insurance program in June, but say politicians have yet to act on the proposal.

The groups say the lack of government help now means that the entertainment industry is facing an even more dire situation and they hope intervention will come soon.

Several Canadian productions were halted when COVID-19 started spreading across the country in March, but many are slowly returning with added precautions, including mandatory distancing and mask policies.

9:05 a.m.: The European Medicines Agency is recommending an inexpensive steroid be licensed for the treatment of people with severe coronavirus who need oxygen support.

The EMA says it is endorsing the use of dexamethasone in adults and adolescents age 12 or older who need either supplemental oxygen or a ventilator to help them breathe. The drug can be taken orally or via an infusion.

In June, British researchers published research showing dexamethasone can reduce deaths by up to one third in patients hospitalized with severe coronavirus. Shortly afterward, the U.K. government immediately authorized its use in hospitals across the country for seriously ill coronavirus patients.

Steroid drugs like dexamethasone are typically used to reduce inflammation, which sometimes develops in COVID-19 patients as their immune system kicks into overdrive to fight the virus.

9:02 a.m.: Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 0.6 per cent in July to $52.9 billion, helped by higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations.

Economists had expected an increase of 1.0 per cent for the month, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Statistics Canada says sales were up in six of 11 subsectors in July with the motor vehicle and parts dealers subsector contributing the most to the increase with a 3.3 per cent increase. Sales at gasoline stations rose 6.1 per cent.

However, the agency said core retail sales, which exclude those two subsectors, fell 1.2 per cent.

Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers fell 11.6 per cent, while sales at food and beverage stores dropped 2.1 per cent.

Retail sales in volume terms were up 0.4 per cent in July.

8:07 a.m.: Young people are reporting higher levels of stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic compared to those over age 60 despite their significantly lower risk of dying from the virus itself, a new study has revealed.

Levels of generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder are proving to be the highest and more prevalent among those under 25, while those over age 60 reported the lowest levels for both disorders.

These numbers are revealed in new research published in early September by Dr. Izunwanne Nwachuchwu from the University of Calgary, alongside researchers from the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services. The study shows that 96 per cent of people under age 25 said they’ve experienced moderate or high levels of stress as a result of the pandemic, compared to 68 per cent of people over the age of 60.

Read the full story by the Star’s Nadina Yousif

7:31 a.m.: Canada’s top curling teams are trying to cobble together a competitive fall season despite the COVID-19 pandemic decimating the calendar.

The Grand Slam of Curling was whittled from six events this winter to just two scheduled for next April and November’s Canada Cup of Curling was cancelled, creating a competitive void for the country’s elite curlers.

A slew of September and October bonspiels across Canada have been called off, but some remain on the calendar.

Curling Canada’s return-to-play guidelines provide a template for events to go ahead with several modifications on and off the ice to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We want to play as much as we can under whatever guidelines are set and get some competition in,” said skip Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

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“That’s about all we can hope for. It’s not about going out and trying to win prize money and points. None of that stuff really matters.

6 a.m.: British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has hinted that fresh restrictions on social gatherings in England could be announced soon as part of efforts to suppress a sharp spike in confirmed coronavirus cases.

Following reports that the government was considering fresh curbs on the hospitality sector, such as pubs and restaurants, Hancock said this is a “big moment for the country.”

He said that another national lockdown is the “last line of defence” and that most transmissions of the virus are taking place in social settings.

Hancock says the government’s strategy over the coming weeks is to contain the virus as much as possible “whilst protecting education and the economy.”

The government has come under sustained criticism in the past week following serious issues with its virus testing program.

5:45 a.m.: Confirmed cases of the coronavirus have topped 30 million worldwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

The worldwide count of known COVID-19 infections climbed past 30 million on Thursday, with more than half of them from just three countries: the U.S., India and Brazil, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins researchers.

The number increased by 10 million in just over a month; global cases passed 20 million on August 12.

5:31 a.m.: Joe Biden on Thursday went after President Donald Trump again and again over his handling of COVID-19, calling Trump’s downplaying of the pandemic “criminal” and his administration “totally irresponsible.”

“You’ve got to level with the American people — shoot from the shoulder. There’s not been a time they’ve not been able to step up. The president should step down,” the Democratic presidential nominee said to applause from a CNN drive-in town hall crowd in Moosic, outside his hometown of Scranton.

Speaking about Trump’s admission that he publicly played down the impact of the virus while aware of its severity, Biden declared: “He knew it and did nothing. It’s close to criminal.”

Later, Biden decried Americans’ loss of basic “freedoms” as the U.S. has struggled to contain the pandemic, like the ability to go to a ball game or walk around their neighbourhoods. “I never, ever thought I would see just such a thoroughly, totally irresponsible administration,” he said.

5:21 a.m.: China says imported coronavirus cases climbed to 32 over the previous 24 hours.

Thirteen of the cases reported Friday were in the northern province of Shaanxi, whose capital Xi’an is a major industrial centre. The eastern financial and business hub of Shanghai reported 12.

China has gone more than a month without reporting any cases of locally transmitted coronavirus cases within its borders.

5:18 a.m.: U.N. World Food Program chief David Beasley is warning that 270 million people are “marching toward the brink of starvation” because of the toxic combination of conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beasley on Thursday urged donor nations and billionaires to contribute $4.9 billion to feed the 30 million he said will die without U.N. assistance.

He reminded the U.N. Security Council of his warning five months ago that “the world stood on the brink of a hunger pandemic,” and welcomed the response, which averted famine and led countries to fight back against the coronavirus.

Beasley said the U.N. food agency is keeping people alive “and avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe” but he said “the fight is far, far, far from over.”

5:14 a.m.: India’s coronavirus cases have jumped by another 96,424 infections in the past 24 hours, showing little signs of slowing down.

The Health Ministry on Friday raised the nation’s confirmed total since the pandemic began to more than 5.21 million. It said 1,174 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 84,372.

India is expected within weeks to surpass the reported infections seen in the United States, where more than 6.67 million people have been reported infected, the most in the world.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday made a fresh appeal to people to use face masks and maintain social distance as his government chalked out plans to handle big congregations expected during a major Hindu festival season beginning next month.

5:10 a.m.: The Australian government on Friday announced a 5 million Australian dollars ($3.7 million) grant to the national news agency as part of pandemic-related assistance to regional journalism.

Australian Associated Press is critical to media diversity and has consistently demonstrated its commitment to accurate, fact-based and independent journalism over its 85-year history, including a strong contribution to regional news, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a statement.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered unprecedented challenges for Australia’s regional media sector, with severe declines in advertising revenue threatening the sustainability of many news outlets,” Fetcher said.

AAP provides services to more than 250 regional news mastheads across Australia, covering public interest content on national, state and regional news. This allows regional mastheads to concentrate on local news stories important for their communities, he said.

AAP Chair Jonty Low and Chief Executive Emma Cowdroy welcomed the funding as an “endorsement of the role that AAP plays in providing a key piece of Australia’s democratic Infrastructure.”

5 a.m.: Israel is set to go back into a full lockdown later Friday to try to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has steadily worsened for months as its government has been plagued by indecision and infighting.

The three-week lockdown beginning at 2 p.m. (1100 GMT) will include the closure of many businesses and strict limits on public gatherings, and will largely confine people to their homes. The closures coincide with the Jewish High Holidays, when people typically visit their families and gather for large prayer services.

In an address late Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that even stricter measures may be needed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. There are currently more than 46,000 active cases, with at least 577 hospitalized in serious condition.

“It could be that we will have no choice but to make the directives more stringent,” Netanyahu said. “I will not impose a lockdown on the citizens of Israel for no reason, and I will not hesitate to add further restrictions if it is necessary.”

Under the new lockdown, nearly all businesses open to the public will be closed. People must remain within 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) of home, but there are several exceptions, including shopping for food or medicine, going to work in a business that’s closed to the public, attending protests and even seeking essential pet care.

4:05 a.m.: Four conservative-minded premiers are to issue today their wish list for next week’s throne speech on which the fate of Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government could hinge.

Quebec’s François Legault, Ontario’s Doug Ford, Alberta’s Jason Kenney and Manitoba’s Brian Pallister plan to hold a news conference in Ottawa to spell out what they hope to see in the speech.

Billions more for health care is likely to top their list.

Ford and Legault last week called on Ottawa to significantly increase the annual federal transfer payments to provinces and territories for health care.

The transfer this year will amount to almost $42 billion under an arrangement that sees it increase by at least three per cent each year.

On top of that, the federal government is giving provinces and territories $19 billion to help them cope with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, including some $10 billion for health care.

4 a.m.: A new survey finds that young people have been vaping less frequently since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The survey, conducted by the Lung Association of Nova Scotia and Smoke-Free Nova Scotia, finds that respondents decreased vaping to five days per week from six, on average.

They also cut back to an average of 19 vaping episodes per day, down from 30.

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario.

The researchers say it may be related to warnings of potential complications from COVID-19 for e-cigarette users.

The survey heard from more than 1,800 respondents between 16 and 24 years old, and found most begin vaping at around the age of 15.

Thursday 8.18 p.m. B.C. has once again topped its previous daily record for new COVID-19 cases, the Richmond Sentinel reports.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 165 new cases since Wednesday. That raises the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 7,663. There are 1,705 active cases, an increase of 91 from yesterday, and of nearly 300 from a week ago, the Sentinel reports.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said it’s important to put the high case count in context; yesterday, there were 7,674 tests conducted across B.C., the highest number in a single day since the pandemic began.

Click here for more of Thursday’s COVID-19 coverage.

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Sorry to burst your COVID-19 'social bubble' but even small gatherings are getting riskier – CBC.ca

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For months, Canadians have been bubbling up with other friends and family to socialize safely during the pandemic.

But with COVID-19 case counts rising in many communities, kids back in schools and more people returning to work, many public health experts agree that what worked as a safe approach in the early days of the lockdown now comes with more risk.

“I honestly think with the return to school right now, most people’s bubbles have burst,” says epidemiologist Ashleigh Tuite. “You’re talking about large numbers of connections.”

In Ontario, “social circles” allow you to see up to 10 people without the usual pandemic precautions in place as long as all of those family members, friends or neighbours make a pact to socialize only with each other, while in Alberta, the cap for your “cohort” is your household plus up to 15 other people.

In B.C., the guidelines for a “bubble” are a little looser. Officials say the members of your immediate household can be “carefully expanded” to include outsiders, with the goal of limiting the number as much as possible — since these are people you’re allowed to kiss, hug, chat with and dine with, without masks or distancing.

It’s a concept being adopted in several countries around the world. And while it works well in principle, experts warn it may be harder to maintain at this point in the pandemic.

Bubble makes sense in ‘theory’

“As a theory, the bubble makes a lot of sense,” said Dr. Dominik Mertz, an associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at Hamilton’s McMaster University. “But there’s a lot of confusion from people over what it is.”

He also added it can be tough to do safely, particularly if the bubble involves multiple households “who all have different risks.”

Say you have two four-person households socializing without the usual pandemic precautions. On paper, it follows the Ontario and B.C. guidelines.

But what if one person is back at work, leaving them exposed to dozens of colleagues? Or either family’s children are in school, where physical distancing and mask wearing might be a challenge?

A small sphere of contacts can quickly expand to include everyone that each family member comes in contact with, which means the bubbling approach really isn’t “useful” anymore, according to Tuite, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

‘It’s not going to work for all people’

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa, agreed it’s not a “perfect model” at this point in the pandemic.

“It would’ve worked better back when things were fully locked down,” he said, adding there’s still merit in bubbling with a few close friends or family if everyone is cautious.

“I don’t want to remove any tools from the table,” he said. “If bubbling is working for some people, keep on doing it. But it’s not going to work for all people.”

For instance, a supply teacher, with a social network of students and staff in various classrooms or even buildings, can’t realistically have a social bubble without any precautions, Deonandan said, while someone working from home might be able to do it more safely.

WATCH | ‘Exponential’ growth in new cases in parts of Canada, says infectious disease specialist:

Parts of Canada are seeing ‘exponential’ growth in COVID-19 cases with Ontario headed toward a thousand new cases per day, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam. 0:58

For many people, losing their bubble could mean a long, lonely winter, made worse by mental health struggles or living alone.

“We know there are benefits to having that human contact,” said Dr. Nitin Mohan, a physician epidemiologist and assistant professor at Western University in London, Ont. 

But when dropping temperatures push people indoors, where transmission risk is higher, and families start making plans to gather over the upcoming stretch of holidays, it could make adhering to the bubble principles even tougher. 

Bubble burst? Isolate for a while 

Mertz says Canadians should already be planning for upcoming gatherings like Thanksgiving.

If outside-the-bubble family members want to celebrate together, find ways to do it safely, he says, by meeting outdoors and staying apart as much as possible. Otherwise, you’re blending several household bubbles together and upping the risk for everyone.

And if you do throw caution to the wind for a turkey feast, there’s another approach: Isolate yourself as much as possible for two weeks after the gathering. 

“That would give us downtime, so in case someone got infected, you are not spreading it from that gathering into each individual bubble,” Mertz said.

The various experts who spoke with CBC News acknowledged the challenges in sticking to even the safest bubbling plan, with peer pressure, slip-ups, and our innate desire for human connection all potential obstacles.

For that reason, Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist with the Sinai Health System and University Health Network in Toronto, stresses the onus shouldn’t just be on individuals to reduce transmission.

From a system-wide perspective, he says, provincial governments need to ensure every piece of the pandemic plan is adequately resourced: testing capacity, contact tracing, personal protective equipment and hospital staff.

“If you can’t test people who are symptomatic, then you can’t contact trace … and you can’t identify people who are about to become symptomatic and are unknowingly and unwittingly spreading the disease,” he said.

Ontario gathering sizes reduced

Ontario officials say they’re working to increase testing capacity amid hours-long lineups in multiple cities, including Ottawa and Toronto.

The province is also lowering the maximum size limit for private gatherings — things like backyard barbecues or dinner parties, with precautions in place among people in different social circles — in some regions.

The new limits will be 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, with hefty fines of $10,000 or more for organizers who flout the rules.

Deonandan calls that the “single best policy intervention” for controlling the spread of COVID-19, given the growing body of research showing large gatherings can be hot spots for virus transmission.

“Mask wearing, that’s important. Distancing, that’s important, too,” he said. “But time and time again we see explosions of cases in otherwise controlled areas … driven by these super-spreading events.”

Even smaller gatherings can fuel the virus’s spread, like infections after a family outing documented in Toronto, and a 10-person cottage trip — which would still meet the province’s new rules — that led to 40 new cases in Ottawa.

It’s not clear if anyone involved in those gatherings was bubbling together, and Mertz stresses in all situations, the same safety precautions apply.

“Whether you continue with the bubble concept or not, it comes down to the less people gathering, the more time you can spend outside, the more you can spread out — the lower the risk.”

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