With Canada’s coronavirus cases escalating at a worrying rate, health officials say they are preparing for what many call a “second wave” of the pandemic, with some suggesting it may have already arrived.
But experts say framing the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases in “waves” is inaccurate, and ignores how human behaviour is playing a role — and how it’s critical to controlling the spread of the virus.
The country has seen a dramatic resurgence of the virus in recent weeks, along with long lines for testing in some cities. In the last two weeks alone, the number of cases reported nationwide each day has risen by nearly 50 per cent.
While Canada saw a brief rise in cases earlier this summer, cases have now risen back to levels last seen in late May and early June, when daily cases were falling from their peak in mid-to-late April.
Yet even when the pandemic was at its lowest point during last spring’s widespread economic lockdown, Canada was still reporting over 200 new cases daily — which experts say is proof that we’re still dealing with the first wave.
“It didn’t go anywhere,” said Caroline Colijn, a mathematics professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver who specializes in infectious disease modelling.
“What does a wave do? It comes and then recedes and disappears by itself, not because you jump off the towel and push it back. We haven’t had that sort of natural thing where the infection burns itself out. We brought it down through our own behaviour, but it’s still here.”
Coronavirus: ‘Can’t rule out’ second wave of COVID-19, says Canadian health minister
Sarah Otto, an evolutionary biologist and modelling expert at the University of British Columbia, is even more blunt.
“Technically, we’re nowhere near a ‘second wave’ as it’s defined in terms of a disease,” she said. “The second wave happens when people lose immunity to that disease and it comes back.
“Instead, what we’ve had are ebbs and flows based on how we’ve changed our behaviour to combat the spread of the virus. So as we’ve returned more and more to so-called ‘normal’ behaviour — and especially now that schools have reopened — we’re seeing more cases.”
While younger people have appeared to lead the way in recent infections, older Canadians have also continued to contract the virus at steady rates.
Several provinces have also reported cases in schools among both students and teachers since in-class learning resumed earlier this month, with some schools — including in Winnipeg and parts of Ontario — shutting down and moving classes online.
Health officials and experts say they have yet to see community transmission result from those school outbreaks. However, Colijn and Otto both say their models suggest cases across the country may continue to rise over the short term, particularly in the provinces driving the surge: British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario.
Concerns of COVID-19 second wave as new cases rise
But Daniel Coombs, a mathematical modelling expert at the University of British Columbia, says that rise could be tempered the same way cases were brought down the first time: by managing our behaviour.
“The problem I have with the language of ‘waves’ is it suggests (the pandemic) is out of control, where I strongly feel that we have the capacity in this country to control it,” he said.
“I think what we’re going to see over the fall and winter is health officials pulling those levers to sort of tune their policies so that schools can stay open — as they’re really critical to our society — while adjusting regulations elsewhere to keep transmission low.”
Coombs pointed to last week’s order in British Columbia that closed nightclubs and banquet halls while putting new restrictions on bars and restaurants. Although it was met with some opposition from owners, he said the order struck a balance between cutting down on large gatherings while doing relatively minimal economic damage.
Cases have continued to climb in that province, however, reaching a new record high on Thursday with 165 new infections.
The premiers of Ontario and Quebec have warned of similar restrictions, along with fines and minimal lockdowns, if behaviour doesn’t change and cases don’t start falling again.
Coronavirus: Legault says Quebec could see second wave if COVID-19 case trend continues
A new Ipsos poll suggests 75 per cent of Canadians would approve a widespread shutdown of non-essential businesses if cases reach another peak like last spring’s. Roughly the same number said they anticipate another rise in cases this fall, which they called a “second wave.”
But Otto says those penalties can be avoided if people remember that they’re part of the solution, and remember their responsibility to their community.
“Especially now that kids are back in school, it’s so critical they get that in-person learning, so I want to reduce my own activities so they can have that opportunity,” she said.
She also suggested keeping an eye on the case numbers and which communities are seeing surges, and adjusting behaviour accordingly if cases start rising closer to home.
“Our health officials are reading the thermometer and saying, ‘Oh, it’s too warm in here, it’s getting out of control there,’” she said. “But we’re the switch on the furnace, and it’s our decision to go, ‘Oh, I have to listen to the thermostat, I better shut off.’ We’re part of the solution.”
“We’ve had some successes in Canada that we can be proud of, and we still have models of clear, compassionate public health messaging,” she said. “We just need to keep listening to them and not be complacent.
“We’re not the kind of society that will nail your door shut to make sure you stay quarantined. We’re not going to have surveillance on people’s indoor parties. This is still a matter of trust, and we need to keep working ourselves while trusting each other. Because this isn’t over.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada adds 2,531 new coronavirus cases, but new data shows record weekend surge
Canada reported another 2,531 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Monday, but new data from over the weekend reveals the country posted a far higher number a day earlier — shattering the daily record.
Backdated cases reported Monday by Alberta and British Columbia, who take weekends off from announcing testing data, show Sunday’s true total of new cases nationwide was 3,004.
It’s the first time over 3,000 cases have been reported in a single day across the country.
Saturday’s true daily total was nearly as high, at 2,932 new confirmed infections.
To date, Canada has reported 219,982 cases of COVID-19, although 184,306 of those patients have recovered from the disease.
Over 11.2 million tests have been performed to date. The weekend testing data shows an average three per cent positivity rate each day among new tests performed.
The national death toll has risen to 9,973, after 27 new deaths were reported Monday. Some of those deaths are historical, including in Quebec, while the deaths reported by Alberta and B.C. date occurred between Friday and Monday.
Alberta and British Columbia both set new records over the weekend, their data revealed on Monday. While Alberta surpassed 500 daily cases for the first time on Sunday, the previous day saw B.C. break a new threshold of over 300 cases.
Alberta reported another 504 new cases for Monday alone, bringing the province’s total to 25,733. Its death toll climbed to 307 after seven deaths over the weekend, while 20,949 patients have recovered.
“Alberta, we have a challenge,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said while announcing the new numbers.
“We have now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we have been seeking,” she added.
British Columbia’s public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry called her own province’s weekend numbers “sobering.” She also announced new limits on social gatherings, including inside private homes.
“We have seen a notable increase in transmission of COVID-19 as a direct result of social gatherings in private homes,” she said.
“To get through our COVID-19 storm it requires all of us to do our part.”
There were 207 new cases confirmed in B.C. Monday, for a new total of 13,140 lab-confirmed cases. An additional 231 “epidemiologically linked” cases have not been confirmed through testing, but are part of the province’s grand total.
Three new deaths were reported over the weekend, taking the death toll to 259, and 10,734 recoveries have been confirmed to date.
Heading east, Saskatchewan reported 54 new cases and no new deaths. The province has seen 2,783 cases with 2,108 recoveries to date, while the death toll remains at 25.
Manitoba saw another 100 new cases, while an additional death was reported for a total of 55. There have now been 4,349 cases so far, yet 2,177 of those patients have recovered.
Ontario announced another 851 new cases — Monday’s highest provincial total — and six more deaths, bringing the province’s count to 71,224 cases and 3,099 deaths. A total of 60,839 people have recovered from the virus.
In Quebec, 808 new cases were reported along with 10 new deaths, although only two of them occurred over the past 24 hours. The province has seen 100,922 cases, 6,153 deaths and 85,822 recoveries to date.
Nearly every Atlantic province reported at least one new case on Monday, with no new deaths in the region. Prince Edward Island, which has seen 64 cases to date with only one active case remaining, has not reported data since Friday.
New Brunswick announced three new cases for a total of 331 to date. Six people have died to date in the province, while 265 have recovered
Nova Scotia saw one new case, bringing its total to 1,101 infections. Out of those, 65 have died and 1,031 others are considered recovered.
One new case was also reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, which has now seen 291 cases and four deaths to date, with 282 recoveries.
In the territories, the Yukon added two new cases to its total, which now sits at 22. Fifteen of those cases have recovered, while no deaths have been reported to date.
The Northwest Territories has seen nine cases to date, yet all but one of them have recovered. No cases were announced Monday.
Nunavut remains free of local coronavirus cases, although several infections have been confirmed among out-of-territory workers at a pair of local mines. Officials say those are not considered local cases and have been counted by their home jurisdictions.
The new surge in coronavirus cases across the country comes as the federal government comes under scrutiny for its spending amid the pandemic.
Opposition MPs on Monday voted for a motion approving a parliamentary probe of government contracts for supplies, remedies and vaccine candidates. The Liberal government argued revealing the sensitive contracts could jeopardize future deals.
Worldwide, the novel coronavirus has infected at least 43.4 million people and killed more than 1,157,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The United States continues to lead the world in both confirmed cases, at nearly 8.7 million, and deaths, at over 225,000.
India is close behind in cases with 7.9 million, followed by Brazil at nearly 5.4 million.
39% of Canadians have 'serious problem' with how police interact with people of colour: poll – CBC.ca
Nearly two in five Canadians believe there is a serious problem with the way police forces interact with Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) communities across the country, according to a new poll.
The Angus Reid survey Defend or Defund?, which polled 5,005 adult Canadians, also found that nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) agree systemic racism is a serious problem, and almost three-quarters (73 per cent) say police in Canada interact inappropriately with Black, Indigenous and people of colour at least some of the time.
When Canadians were asked which answer reflects their feelings about how police interact with non-white people on a national level, the results showed:
- 39 per cent felt there was a serious problem.
- 34 per cent said it was sometimes a problem.
- 15 per cent said there was no problem.
- 12 per cent weren’t sure.
But fewer Canadians see the way police treat non-white people in their province as a serious problem, and the number drops again when asked about their own communities.
When Canadians were asked the same question about community policing, the results showed:
- 27 per cent felt there was a serious problem.
- 27 per cent said it was sometimes a problem.
- 27 per cent said there was no problem.
- 19 per cent weren’t sure.
Urban vs. rural
The survey found there is a clear divide on the issue based on whether someone lives in an urban or rural area.
Those outside of major cities were half as likely to say there was a serious problem with how police interact with Canadians of colour in their communities: Almost 30 per cent of urban respondents believe there is a serious problem, while only 14 per cent of rural respondents feel that way. Two in five of those polled in rural areas don’t see a problem at all.
Breaking down the results between major urban centres in Canada, the survey showed a greater proportion of residents in the Greater Toronto Area were concerned about police interaction with non-white people than in western cities.
- In the GTA, 41 per cent said it’s a serious problem;
- In Winnipeg, 36 per cent;
- In Montreal, 35 per cent;
- In Vancouver, 29 per cent;
- In Edmonton, 24 per cent;
- In Calgary, 23 per cent.
Topical issues within policing
The poll also explored viewpoints on several topical policing issues in Canada, including systemic racism, use of force and police funding.
It found that 28 per cent of Canadians agree there is systemic racism within the RCMP, specifically. And 27 per cent of Canadians said that police are too quick to use force to solve a problem.
Amid national and international outcry over violence and death at the hands of the police, there have been calls to defund the police. In the poll, 25 per cent of Canadians agree there is too much funding going to police forces and that it should be reduced. The survey found 38 per cent of Canadians believed funding levels were just right.
The online poll was conducted from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1, 2020, and carries +/- 1.5 percentage points margin of error 19 times out of 20.
Anand says Conservative COVID-19 motion could endanger Canada's ability to procure vaccines, PPE – CTV News
Canada’s relationships with companies supplying protective gear and possible COVID-19 vaccines will be endangered if the latest Conservative request for what could be thousands of pages of pandemic documents is passed, says Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
However, the federal Conservatives were quick to balk at this assertion, insisting their demands are entirely legitimate and necessary.
If this latest Conservative opposition day motion passes, Canadians could have access to hundreds if not thousands of pages of internal health-focused policy documents related to the federal government’s COVID-19 response so far, as part of a health committee study on the Liberals’ response to the pandemic to-date.
In a Monday morning press conference Anand argued that passing the motion as drafted would undermine ongoing contract negotiations and threaten Canada’s ability to procure future COVID-19 supplies and could dissuade leading medical firms from doing business in this country, in a final attempt to convince opposition parties to vote down the motion.
“If this motion passes, it is my grave concern that those contracts are at risk, those negotiations are at risk, and suppliers will then as a result be hesitant to contract with the federal government. And that chill on our supplier relationships then undermines and perhaps negates our ability to procure additional PPE, buy additional vaccines, and additional rapid test kits,” Anand said.
“What is on the table here is the lives of Canadians. That’s the end goal of our procurements, that is what we are trying to protect… These procurements did not happen overnight. They were not easy. It was an incredibly difficult summer, and we managed to come through it with these procurements for Canadians. It hurts my heart to think that they would be jeopardized if this motion passes,” Anand said.
On the heels of Anand’s press conference, sponsor of the motion Conservative MP and health critic Michelle Rempel Garner called the minister’s remarks “hyperbolic” and “fear-mongering,” and said if the Liberals have genuine concerns there are parliamentary avenues to pursue changes to the proposal.
“These are pieces of information that the Canadian public needs to know to have stability, these are reasonable questions for Parliament to ask,” Rempel Garner said. “When you’re seeing the numbers of COVID cases this weekend, this motion needs to pass. I mean that’s even more evidence to me that Parliament needs to be looking at a calm, rational questioning of the government’s approach to this pandemic which is what this motion is designed to do.”
From the moment it was proposed, the Liberals have rejected the motion, stating that not only was it a cumbersome request, but it would take department resources off the day-to-day response to the still-surging COVID-19 pandemic. The Liberals have also said that they feel they have been transparent in regularly updating Canadians on progress with procurements and on pursuing new testing and treatment options.
“This is not about politics. As we are in the middle of the second wave, and the number of COVID cases continues to increase, this is not the time for this motion to be passed. This is not the time to threaten and weaken our relationships with our suppliers, on whom Canadians’ health and safety depends,” she said, adding that she agrees that MPs should study the federal COVID-19 response but it shouldn’t include this level of disclosure.
If the vote on Monday afternoon goes as anticipated, it’s set to pass despite the Liberals’ objections as the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democrats have voiced their support for the motion. However, it’s possible these recent concerns could prompt a change of position or, at least, spark a push for amendments to the motion.
STAKEHOLDERS ‘VERY’ CONCERNED
Over the last few days stakeholders have been speaking out about concerns they have with the release of the information the Conservatives are calling for.
On Friday, in letters to the government from the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) and the federal vaccine task force voiced their fears that if the disclosures include confidential, proprietary, or sensitive business information is made public it will have “very” serious negative impacts on the work and procurements currently underway.
In one letter, CME President Dennis Darby said many Canadian producers who re-tooled to help supply the country with much-needed personal protective equipment did so “under the assumption that any shared sensitive business information would be kept confidential.”
“The desire to now publish this information undermines the efforts put into the response by manufacturers and could do irreparable harm to Canada’s manufacturing businesses and international reputation as a good place to do business. Simply put, if companies cannot trust that their information will be kept confidential, a chill will set in on private enterprise seeking out government procurement contracts generally. We must avoid this scenario at all costs,” Darby said in a letter that was also sent to Conservative and NDP critics.
Major pharmaceutical company Pfizer has also joined the list of those speaking out against the Conservative motion. In a letter to Health Canada officials sent over the weekend, Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow said he is “deeply concerned with the implications and likely unintended consequences should this motion receive the support of enough parliamentarians.”
Pinnow said that the vetting process to release these documents “could interfere with contractual negotiations.”
Pfizer Canada is calling on MPs to consider amending the motion to include stronger language to safeguard scientific and commercially-sensitive information, and to explicitly direct the parliamentary law clerk who would be doing any redactions, to consult any impacted third parties about the information being released, as is standard under current access to information procedures.
WHAT’S BEING REQUESTED?
Among the information the motion would compel departments to turn over:
- The approval process, procurement plans and protocol for distribution related to rapid and at-home testing as well as vaccines;
- federal public health guidelines and the data being used to inform them, including current long-term care facility COVID-19 protocols as well as the Public Health Agency of Canada’s communication strategy;
- the availability of therapeutics and treatment devices for Canadians diagnosed with COVID-19 as well as the availability of personal protective equipment;
- the government’s progress in evaluating pre- and post-arrival rapid testing for travellers as well as the impact of delaying the closure of Canada’s borders;
- the development, efficacy and use of data related to the government’s COVID Alert application as well as the government’s contact tracing protocol; and
- Canada’s level of preparedness to respond to another pandemic.
The motion calls on the government to disclose a host of emails, documents, notes, and other records from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as from cabinet ministers’ offices since mid-March related to the COVID-19 response as well as related to discussions with the World Health Organization.
The current limitation on the request only excludes personal privacy information and national security concerns.
Further, the Conservatives want the study to start within a week and the government to provide “comprehensive” responses to all of the above issues within a month, a compromise from the initial 15-day window proposed.
And, once the documents are submitted, the committee would have the ability to call a slate of cabinet ministers to testify, for three hours each.
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