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Canada's COVID-19 case numbers show early positive signs – CBC.ca

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Cases of COVID-19 are declining in many parts of Canada, but experts say those early positive signs are dependent on widespread restrictions. 

Quebec, now under a province-wide curfew, has seen new cases declineOntario has showed 10 consecutive declines in its seven-day average, a metric that helps to spot long-term trends compared to daily numbers that can spike up and down.

Caroline Colijn, an infectious disease modeller at Simon Fraser University, said most of the provinces seem to be declining.

“Ontario’s kind of uncertain, Saskatchewan’s growing still or again, but the rest are kind of flat or declining,” said Colijn, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in mathematics for evolution, infection and public health.

“That’s the first decline we’ve seen in Quebec and Ontario for quite a while,” she said. “In our models, it looks like a genuine decline.”

More tools needed

In B.C., for example, Colijn said the epidemic is stabilizing with strict measures such as telling people not to socialize outside their household.

But Colijn fears Ontario’s stay-at-home order, Quebec’s curfew and restrictions in other provinces aren’t solutions that people can sustain for months.

If people don’t limit their number of contacts with others then cases will start to climb again until vaccinations reach the general population. 

“Unless we want to do this for six months, we do need to be thinking about throwing other tools that we have available at this problem.”

WATCH | Researchers test new tools for COVID-19 surveillance:

Researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax are working on a 3D-printed ball that can collect a building’s sewage and test the water for coronavirus. They say the tool could be used to trace outbreaks and to test the effectiveness of vaccines. 4:05

Colijn said widespread restrictions, symptomatic testing and contact tracing remain cornerstone tools. But those tools should be supplemented with wider rapid testing technologies coming to the fore, which Colijn believes could support re-opening the economy.

Federal and provincial scientists are validating rapid tests, currently used at remote mines as well as the film and airline industries, for more widespread use. 

Sask. heading in the wrong direction

Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, divides the country’s into three main groups based on per-capita case counts:

  • The top: Atlantic Canada, which has the fewest cases.
  • The middle: Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., which have showed month-long improvements in COVID-19 activity following lockdowns. If trends in Ontario and Quebec continue, then they could be added to the middle group. 
  • The bottom: Saskatchewan, which Muhajarine said isn’t even heading in the right direction, with an average of 300 new cases daily.

Muhajarine is concerned about the steep climb in COVID-19 deaths in the Prairie province.

“On Dec. 1, we had 51 deaths and by Jan. 1 it tripled to 155,” he noted.

In the first 21 days of the month, another 84 people have died in Saskatchewan.

“We really need to reverse course,” Muhajarine said. “To do that, we need very strict measures with a stay-at-home order and enforcement of orders. When we see the case numbers reverse course, we have to get our testing, tracing and isolation regime back up.”

Restrictions on retail stores, restaurants and bars could help bring cases, hospitalizations and deaths down given how Saskatchewan is “stretched to the limit,” he said.

Even places with early signs of decline, like Ontario, will see hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb for a period because of the lag time from new infections in December, health experts say. 

Essential workplaces key for Ontario

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician with Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said the province’s seven-day averages are encouraging.

A worker at the Gateway Postal facility, in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday. Canada Post confirms a major outbreak of COVID-19 at the plant — the largest mail facility in the country that reflects how cases continue to occur among essential workers. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“We’re now more than two weeks past what would be the New Year’s surge,” Chakrabarti said, referencing people socializing over the holidays despite advice from public health officials and politicians to stay at home. 

Now that the holiday peak in new cases is over, regular winter transmission of the virus is happening in the population, he said.

Chakrabarti recalls how during the province’s first wave in the spring, cases came down and then were stuck at a plateau for months, which he said could happen again.

Driving case counts down further would ease pressure on health-care systems and protect vulnerable residents of long-term care homes.

The key, he says, is to tackle where transmission is still happening: essential workplaces.

“We were seeing people getting infected at work and then bringing it home to their family, where it was being amplified,” he said of the first wave. “That’s still happening and something a lockdown doesn’t address.”

It’s why Chakrabarti and others advocate for:

“Yes, there are some people who are breaking the rules,” Chakrabarti said. “But we also need to look at the very different industrial setups because these factors are huge, right? This is one of the reasons why things haven’t ever really turned quickly in Ontario.”

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Here are the facts about British Columbia’s wildfire situation on July 24

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These are the facts about British Columbia’s wildfire situation, according to the BC Wildfire Service dashboard at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Active fires: 434

Wildfires of note: Four. Shetland Creek fire, Kamloops Fire Centre; Antler Creek fire, Cariboo Fire Centre; Aylwin Creek fire, Southeast Fire Centre; Komonko Creek fire, Southeast Fire Centre.

Fires started in last 24 hours: 87

Out-of-control fires: 260

Active fire causes: Lightning 80 per cent, human 6 per cent, undetermined 14 per cent (percentages are rounded)

Firefighting staff deployed: 1,170

Aircraft deployed: 193

Area burned since April 1: 8,106 square kilometres

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Wildfire roars into Jasper, Alta., townsite; multiple structures ablaze

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EDMONTON – Parks officials say a wildfire is now inside the Jasper, Alta., townsite. Crews are battling multiple structure fires and are trying to protect key infrastructure.

More coming.

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Wildfire reaches outskirts of Jasper, Alta., as first responders ordered to leave

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EDMONTON – Parks officials say one of two wildfires bearing down on the Jasper, Alta., townsite has reached the southern outskirts of the community.

All first responders have been ordered out of Jasper National Park for their safety and to give fire crews more room to operate.

Two fires whipped by strong winds are bearing down on the town, from the north and the south.

Katie Ellsworth, with Parks Canada, said the southern one reached the outskirts of the townsite just before 6 p.m.

A last-ditch effort to reroute the fire to natural barriers like Highway 16 and the Athabasca River failed.

About 5,000 live in Jasper, and they, along with about 20,000 visitors, had to flee at a moment’s notice Monday night when the fires flared up.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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