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Canada is slowly re-opening — and new research reveals where you're most at risk of COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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


When 61 members of a choir gathered for a practice in Mount Vernon, Wash., on March 10 — including one with COVID-19 symptoms — the group had no way of knowing just how bad the situation could get.

The two-and-a-half-hour practice was an ideal scenario for the virus to spread: Choir members sat close to each other, sang together, shared snacks, and stacked chairs when it was over.

Two weeks later, 53 of the 61 choir members in attendance had either confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19. Three of those people were hospitalized. Two died.

Was it the singing, close contact, touching of surfaces, or sharing of food that caused the outbreak? Researchers aren’t sure which factors mattered most.

But one thing is common between that outbreak and others studied so far: Spending an extended period of time indoors together seems to help fuel the spread of COVID-19.

Watch: Are you safer from COVID-19 indoors or outdoors?

Andrew Chang asks an infectious disease doctor whether it’s safer to be indoors or outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic. 1:02

“There’s more and more evidence that it is capable of spreading through the air,” said Linsey Marr, an expert in the transmission of viruses by aerosol at Virginia Tech.

“The big outbreaks always involve crowded places, sometimes poorly ventilated, other times, we don’t know.” 

As provinces across Canada are slowly reopening, experts say emerging research offers lessons on how to do that safely — and it suggests tight, enclosed spaces may pose the biggest risk.

Where are outbreaks happening?

The choir practice is the subject of new research from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention that shows how one close gathering can have devastating consequences.

The outbreak is known as what’s called a “superspreader event,” where a highly infectious person can spread the illness to many other people.

Two other recent reports from the CDC also found that the virus could more easily spread in an indoor setting with low ventilation over an extended period of time.

One looked at an outbreak at a call centre in South Korea. The report found 94 of 97 confirmed COVID-19 cases in an office building were all people who worked on the same floor.  

Another paper by researchers in China studied a restaurant in Guangzhou and found an infected individual without symptoms was apparently able to spread the virus to nine others.

The direction the air-conditioning system was blowing may have helped transport the virus particles to other diners, who otherwise had no contact with one another — while the report found those elsewhere in the restaurant who weren’t near the airflow didn’t get sick.

“Ventilation seems to play a role and what that means is that transmission is occurring via droplets in the air that people are inhaling or somehow picking up,” said Marr. 

“The fact that ventilation seems to matter strongly suggests that there is transmission happening through the air.”

The World Health Organization says airborne transmission of the virus “may be possible in specific circumstances,” such as the intubation of a patient in a hospital, but says there isn’t conclusive evidence it can spread from person to person through the air.

Friends are pictured in a public park near the seawall in Vancouver, B.C., on May 6. Emerging research shows simply talking loudly could generate droplets with the potential to carry the virus. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Yet even the simple act of talking can produce hundreds of tiny droplets that have the potential to carry viruses and can remain in the air from eight to 14 minutes, a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found. 

The research team didn’t study the speech droplets of people who had COVID-19 specifically, but they did conclude that even just one minute of loud talking could generate over 1,000 droplets with the potential to carry the virus.

“Protecting yourself from a droplet-borne infection is extremely complicated at the best of times,” said Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto who studies infectious diseases.

“One of those things that’s been extremely consistent is that having people in close quarters — especially breaking bread, so to speak — has increased the likelihood of transmission.” 

Lessons for Canada about reopening

Against the backdrop of this growing body of research, officials across Canada are launching slow, phased reopenings that include many indoor settings.

Starting May 19 in Ontario, retail stores — but only outside of shopping malls, with street entrances — can start reopening with physical distancing measures in place.

In Quebec, the return to some semblance of normalcy is two-tier: Areas outside Montreal are reopening, but the provincial government has already twice delayed easing restrictions in and around the city itself — the epicentre of the province’s COVID-19 cases.

And in British Columbia, restaurants, hair salons, retail stores, museums, and libraries are all slated to reopen soon, though bans on gatherings of more than 50 people will remain in place and nightclubs and bars are expected to remain shuttered longer.

Regardless of when these types of businesses officially reopen across Canada, the research trends can help us navigate which activities put Canadians more at risk, said Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba. 

Kids socially distancing at a school for children of essential service workers in West Vancouver. Experts say indoor settings with poor ventilation are a growing concern for the spread of the disease. (Ben Nelms)

“It informs our decisions when we start to think about things like reducing [physical] distancing measures,” he said, adding that means anything from interacting in stores or dining at a restaurant. 

“We now have to think about new strategies to employ to be able to reduce these types of events.”

‘Move as many activities outdoors as possible’

Kindrachuk said examples like glass barriers for cashiers could become part of the “new normal” of society after the pandemic ends, and more people will think about how easily infectious diseases spread on a day-to-day basis. 

“I think we’ll be revisiting many of the aspects of our lives where people are in close quarters,” Morris said.

“I don’t think anyone can now imagine going on a subway system that’s totally jam-packed and feeling comfortable right now.”

A man waits on a subway platform in Vancouver on April 22. Experts say cramped settings like transit are another potentially risky environment. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Morris said these types of social settings where people congregate en masse — like schools, malls, stadiums and transit — will be an ongoing concern for the spread of the disease.

“Now the only way that we’ll be able to safely manage this moving forward is by getting us to a very low level, and having ongoing surveillance, and accepting that — at times — people are going to be infecting others,” he said.

“But if we have very good surveillance and contact tracing, we will be able to limit the extent of the spread once it rears its head.” 

The simplest way to reduce transmission, according to Marr, is to reconfigure our lifestyles to avoid crowded indoor places, particularly those with poor ventilation.

While talking about gatherings this week, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry put it this way: “Outside is always better than inside.”

Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry explain how to safely host a barbecue:

Dr. Bonnie Henry shares her recommendations on how to create physical distance while hosting a barbecue this summer. 1:24

It’s a move that should prove easier in the summer months when restaurants and bars, for instance, can potentially open patio seating.

“I think we should try to move as many activities outdoors as possible,” Marr said. “Obviously avoiding dense crowds is a good idea and paying careful attention to ventilation in buildings is going to be helpful.”

A closed patio space is seen in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday. Providing more space for people should prove easier in the summer months when restaurants and bars can potentially open patio seating. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Reconfiguring society in that way could give people open-air options to resume a somewhat normal life, while reducing their risk of catching COVID-19.

“We can’t stop it,” Marr said, “but we can slow it.”


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

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Canada now has more than 95,000 coronavirus cases — more than 34K are active – Globalnews.ca

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More than 720 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Canada on Saturday — all but 41 of them from Ontario and Quebec.

As Canada surged past 95,000 cases of COVID-19, the two most populous provinces continued to account for the vast majority of new cases and deaths reported daily.

Nearly 53,000 people around the country are considered recovered.


READ MORE:
How many Canadians have the new coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

Ontario saw 455 new cases — but only 387 of them were new since Friday — while Quebec reported 226 new infections. Quebec has more than 52,000 cases so far, while Ontario has seen more than 30,000.

Quebec has seen nearly 5,000 deaths so far, accounting for almost 64 per cent of the national death toll. Ontario has the second highest number of deaths, at just over 2,400.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Protestors want commitment on status for asylum seekers working Quebec COVID-19 frontlines


Coronavirus outbreak: Protestors want commitment on status for asylum seekers working Quebec COVID-19 frontlines

Out of 70 new deaths reported on Saturday, Ontario and Quebec both reported 35 fatalities each. Quebec saw hospitalizations go down, and only 22 of the 35 deaths were classified as new.

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

Alberta recorded 40 new cases and no new deaths, bringing its figures to more than 7,100 cases and 146 deaths. This was a sharp uptick from a day earlier, when the province reported just seven new cases. More than 6,600 people are deemed recovered.


READ MORE:
Pool testing for COVID-19 could help Canada reopen. Here’s what it is

Saskatchewan reported one new case, for a total of 650 cases. Eleven people have died so far, and more than 610 are considered recovered.

No new cases

For the second day in a row, all of the Atlantic provinces saw no new cases or deaths on Saturday. Nova Scotia has the most number of cases — 1,058, including 61 deaths. Most of New Brunswick’s 136 cases have recovered as it battles an outbreak in the Campbellton region — one person in the province has died.

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Coronavirus: Montreal borough announces cancellation of summer aquatic activities


Coronavirus: Montreal borough announces cancellation of summer aquatic activities

Newfoundland and Labrador has two active cases, and is set to allow travel within the province starting June 8 (Monday). Prince Edward Island has seen no new infections since all 27 of its cases have recovered.

The Northwest Territories and the Yukon remain COVID-19 free, with all their cases having recovered weeks ago. Nunavut remains the only region in Canada that hasn’t seen a case yet.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus outbreak: Canada could see up to 9,400 total deaths by June 15, new modelling shows

Manitoba also reported no new cases on Saturday, leaving it with nine active cases and more than 280 recoveries. Seven people have died in the province so far.

British Columbia had no new figures to report on Saturday. The province has seen more than 2,600 cases so far and 167 deaths.

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The novel coronavirus has resulted in more than 6.8 million cases around the world and more than 398,000 deaths, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.

— With files by The Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Anti-black racism protests, vigils planned across Canada – CBC.ca

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Canadians continued to rally and demonstrate against anti-black racism and police brutality on Saturday, a day after thousands attended protests and vigils across the country.

The demonstrations follow days of protests across the U.S. over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis, Minn. A police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. 

Many are calling for police reform and an end to systemic racism.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam on Friday urged demonstrators to “take care of themselves” and follow public health guidelines such as physical distancing as much as possible and using hand sanitizers.

Read on to see what’s happening around Canada.

Toronto

Thousands demonstrated in two separate protests in Toronto against anti-black racism. The first protest began at Nathan Phillips Square, while the second began at Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Twanna Lewis, a Toronto resident at Trinity Bellwoods Park, said she was protesting for the first time on Saturday because she felt the need to take a stand for people who are voiceless. She has an 18-year-old black son, cousins, uncles and a brother.

“It’s 2020 and we need to be doing better,” Lewis told CBC Toronto. “It’s a shame that we have to be having this conversation in this day and age, when we think that we have gone so far.”

WATCH | Hand sanitizer, masks handed out at Toronto protest:

CBC’s Lorenda Reddekopp reports from inside a peaceful protest march Saturday where hand sanitizer and masks were being handed out 3:09

At Nathan Phillips Square, demonstrators chanted, held placards and posters, and listened to speakers. Then the protesters marched to the U.S. consulate and onward to Yonge-Dundas Square.

“I can’t breathe,” the crowd chanted at one point at Nathan Phillips Square, in a reference to some of Floyd’s last words before his death on May 25.

People held up signs that read “No Justice No Peace” and “Yes it’s here too Ford.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford had said Canada doesn’t have the “systemic, deep roots” of racism as the U.S.

WATCH | Protesters, police speak at Toronto demonstration:

Action for injustice group behind march through downtown: CBC’s Natalie Nanowski reports from the scene at Nathan Phillips Square 4:01

St. John’s 

Thousands of people kneeled on the lawn of Confederation Building in St. John’s during a rally in support of the Black Lives Matter.

The rally, organized by newly established Black Lives Matter NL, featured speeches and performances from members of the area’s black community sharing their own stories of racism.

Crowds were able to physically distance during the rally, spreading themselves across the lawn of Confederation Building. There was a small police presence, but no incidents were reported.

A demonstrator holds up a sign during a Black Lives Matter rally at the Confederation Building in St. John’s on Saturday. (Marie Isabelle Rochon/Radio-Canada)

Zainab Jerrett, who came to Newfoundland in the 1990s and is a professor at Memorial University, was one of the speakers on stage and was overwhelmed by the public support.

“That shows that this problem is effecting everybody, and everyone wants to chip in to bring a solution,” Jerrett said. “I almost got emotional because there’s so many people … young people of all cultures in Newfoundland.”

“This is an awakening. The people are interested in listening to the black community” she added. “[But] we are all the same. The more we come together as a human race, the better.”

Calgary

A vigil is scheduled for 4 p.m. MT outside Calgary’s Olympic Plaza in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

“We must all come together to speak against murders by police officers and the institutions defending them,” organizers said in a Facebook post.

They also encourage attendees to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines like wearing masks and physical distancing.

Thousands attended a similar demonstration in Calgary on Wednesday.

Fort McMurray, Alta.

Elsewhere in Alberta, a Black Lives Matter rally was held at Fort McMurray City Hall.

The rally comes as Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam says Wood Buffalo RCMP officers beat and arrested him in a Fort McMurray parking lot earlier this year. 

People gather outside city hall for a Black Lives Matter Rally in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Saturday. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

London, Ont.

In London, Ont., hundreds gathered at Victoria Park for an anti-racism rally.

Mayor Ed Holder said he supports the purpose behind the rally but declined to attend in person to comply with physical distancing rules recommended by health authorities in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Guelph, Ont.

Volunteers handed out bottles of water and squirts of hand sanitizer to marchers in Guelph, Ont., as thousands of demonstrators descended upon city hall. Organizer took COVID-19 precautions after health officials urged protesters to adhere to public health protocols.

A similar demonstration in Kitchener on Wednesday saw thousands of people walk through the downtown core holding signs. 

Volunteers handed out bottles of water and squirts of hand sanitizer to marchers in Guelph. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

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‘They’re targeting us’: Why some advocates want to defund Canadian police – Global News

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In recent days, protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality have erupted across the U.S. and Canada in response to the deaths of Black Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

Now, some advocates are calling for police forces to be defunded and taxpayer money to be redirected — a conversation that is also happening in Canada, stemming from the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black and Indigenous woman who fell from her Toronto apartment balcony after police entered the unit.

Police claim they were responding to a reported assault, but the family has questioned the role of the police in her death. The Special Investigations Unit, Ontario’s police watchdog, is currently investigating.

READ MORE: Advocates call plan to boost Black history B.C. school curriculum ‘long overdue’

Defunding the police means redirecting the budget for Canada’s police forces to other services that focus on social supports, mental health and even spaces like transit, said Sandy Hudson, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter Toronto and a law student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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“There’s no reason why we can’t start a service that is another emergency response service where people can call a number and have someone who is trained in de-escalation,” Hudson said.

Now, with more incidents of police brutality in the news, calls for defunding the police both in the U.S. and Canada are louder than ever.

The history of police in Canada

This is hardly the first time defunding the police has been talked about in Canada, experts told Global News.

Examining the way police uphold and participate in anti-Black racism and violence towards Black and Indigenous communities in Canada has been a discussion for decades, said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

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“Part of it is discrimination within policing — both implicit and explicit — but then the other parts of it are how the police operate and what we’re asking police to do,” he said.






0:54
Regis Korchinski-Paquet death: Toronto protesters march in memoriam, against anti-Black violence


Regis Korchinski-Paquet death: Toronto protesters march in memoriam, against anti-Black violence

The origins of policing in the southern United States were based on preserving the slavery system, as Time magazine reports, and police were primarily tasked with being “slave patrols” to prevent Black slaves from escaping. After the Civil War ended, these patrols still existed to uphold segregation and discrimination towards Black people.

Police in Canada were historically also tasked with “clearing the land” to steal the property of Indigenous Peoples, said Hudson.

“Those two focuses of the police, Indigenous and Black people, controlling us … there’s a through line to today and how the police interact with our communities,” she said.

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READ MORE: The RCMP was created to control Indigenous people. Can the relationship be reset?

Policing has been used to enforce the dominant narrative in Canada, which is colonization, said Alicia Boatswain-Kyte, a social work professor at McGill University whose research examines systemic oppression.

“These institutions are a product of (colonialism); they stem from that,” she said. “Right now we’re seeing what it looks like at this stage … and it gets manifested in the form of police brutality.”

Mental health, homelessness and other social issues

Experts are concerned that police in Canada are tasked with issues related to poverty, mental health and homelessness, and they are “ill-equipped and an inappropriate resource to be addressing those issues,” Owusu-Bempah said.

A 2018 report on racial profiling by the Ontario Human Rights Commission found that a Black person was 20 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a fating shooting by Toronto police. The report was the result of an inquiry launched after Andrew Loku, a father of five who was experiencing mental health issues, died after being shot by police.

A coroner’s inquest ruled that Loku’s death was the result of a homicide and recommended that police are better trained if they are to deal with mental health calls.

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“The violence we see inflicted by the police are often happening with people who are having a mental health crisis,” said Hudson.

Shifting the money to fund organizations that understand the nuances of mental health issues and the challenges faced by racialized communities would be a better use of taxpayers’ money, she said.






4:29
How racism affects Black mental health


How racism affects Black mental health

Out of the nearly one million calls the force responds to, Toronto police respond to about 30,000 mental health calls every year, spokeswoman Meaghan Gray told the Canadian Press.

The force’s mobile crisis intervention teams ⁠— which include a trained officer and a mental health nurse ⁠— attend only 6,000 of those calls each year because they do not go to calls where a weapon may be involved.

Annual training for the force includes courses on communication and deescalation techniques, said Gray.

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“The Toronto Police Service believes that mental health is a complex issue that requires the involvement of multiple entities, including but not limited to community support, public health, and all levels of government, to render any meaningful change,” she said.

READ MORE: Marches in Toronto, Ottawa to honour Black lives lost at hands of police officers

It would be better if a mental health nurse or some other trained expert was always present, Boatswain-Kyte said.

“Are they (police) really the ones that are best suited?” she said.

“Social workers, for instance, go to school to understand how to form relationships, to understand how people are excluded and what factors contribute to their exclusion.”

READ MORE: George Floyd death draws scruitiny on police use of force. What’s Canada’s protocol?

By making police the body available to provide help in these situations, Boatswain-Kyte said, it sends a message that people with those health issues aren’t welcome in our society.

“Regardless of the amount of training … the implicit bias as a result of what (police) have been socialized to believe and understand about the ‘dangers’ of Black and brown bodies is going to influence them at the time when they have to make a decision.”

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Boatswain-Kyte points to a study published in May from Columbia University that found there is “no evidence that enhanced police training focused on mental health crises” can reduce fatal shootings towards those having a mental health crisis, or racialized people in general.

By the numbers

In Toronto, the largest portion of a resident’s property tax bill — around $700 out of an average bill of $3,020 — goes to the Toronto Police Service. The lowest portion of property taxes goes to children’s services, Toronto employment and social services and economic development and culture.

The situation is similar elsewhere in the country, as the Vancouver police budget has grown by more than $100 million in the last decade, representing about one-fifth of the city’s $1.6-billion 2020 operating budget.






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Backlash mounting over Premier Doug Ford’s comments on racism in Canada


Backlash mounting over Premier Doug Ford’s comments on racism in Canada

A 2014 report published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute found that policing budgets in Canada had doubled compared to the GDP since 2004, even though the public calls to police have “remained stable.”

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“Police associations have been happy to stoke public fears about safety, but the correlation between numbers of officers, crime rates and response times has long been shown to be spurious,” the report said, authored by Christian Leuprecht, a political science professor at Queen’s University and Royal Military College.

Police work that is essentially unrelated to policing could be done by other groups, Leuprecht explains.

Moving forward

Owusu-Bempah is calling on city mayors like Toronto Mayor John Tory to review which roles and functions we want the police to provide and which should be provided by other agencies.

“Then we need a lot of (the) funding currently spent on police … given to other organizations” that are better equipped to help with issues like homelessness and mental illness, he said.

Given the recent incidents of anti-Black racism and brutality perpetuated by police, Hudson says defunding the police would also give agency and safety to Black communities.

READ MORE: George Floyd’s death still a homicide despite evidence of medical issues: experts

“How could the body that is ostensibly meant to provide safety for our communities … be one of the the the the reasons we keep getting hurt?” Hudson said.

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“Most people don’t have to interact with police at all … but for our communities, they’re targeting us.

“We just want to live like everybody else.”

— With files from the Canadian Press

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Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca

Olivia.Bowden@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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