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Canada's COVID-19 fight is being hampered by 'shockingly bad' data sharing, analysts say – CBC.ca

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B.C. has stopped sharing data on the occupational status of people who test positive for COVID-19, deeming that data too sensitive to share, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

That data includes how many positive COVID-19 cases involve doctors, nurses or health-care workers.

Data analysts say that’s a problem because tracking such positive cases is a crucial marker that can reveal if the health-care system is coming under too much stress — but there’s not much the federal agency can do about it except “ask nice” because the data is owned by the province.

“[PHAC] can confirm that we have not received any information on occupational status of COVID-19 cases from the province of British Columbia since June 2020,” reads an email from a Statistics Canada analyst.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry denied this was the case when CBC asked her about the issue on Oct. 15

“We have not stopped sharing that. … We do provide that information and certainly provide it on request,” she said. 

Henry said the B.C. Centre for Disease Control gathers occupational information and there have been some recent changes to how cases are defined to collect more detail, so reporting “changed slightly … but we’ve certainly reported on health worker data.”

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

But Vancouver data analyst Jens von Bergmann says his attempts to access occupational data have been met only with frustration — and B.C. isn’t the only province not sharing or restricting its data.

“Our overall data effort is just shockingly bad when it comes to COVID. It’s a mess,” he said.

All COVID-19 cases are supposed to be reported by the provinces to the federal health authority through a specific form created in February. The idea was to create a national standard for data collection.

The form has a section coding each case by occupation, including whether a worker is employed in a school, hospital or long-term care facility.

But the information is not always shared as requested, so the result is a patchwork of health data.

Lessons from SARS not learned, analysts say 

Mario Possamai says COVID-19 is being mismanaged in many of the same ways the SARS outbreak of 2003 was, especially around data collection.

In a report released in October called A Time of Fear, Possamai, senior advisor on the 2007 SARS Commission, explains how tracking health workers’ infections is a crucial marker of how well Canada’s health-care system is coping.

It helps officials quickly spot human-to-human transmission, allowing them to react appropriately. For example, close monitoring of health-care worker infection rates in China showed an early spike that led to an upgrade of airborne precautions.

It refers to health-care workers as the “canary in the coal mine” — and compares fighting a pandemic with a lack of data on them to trying to play hockey by skating to where the puck was weeks ago.

The report describes B.C. as perhaps the “most problematic jurisdiction” for providing “incomplete, inconsistent and, on occasion, seemingly contradictory” public health data.

“British Columbia appears to have simply refused to continue providing the number of health-care workers being infected by COVID‐19. It has not provided a reason for doing so,” says Possamai in his report. 

A mural featuring health-care workers on Granville Street in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

For von Bergmann, that means “clearly none of this got fixed” since SARS.

“We are in the same mess again,” he said.

Epidemiology PhD student Jean-Paul Soucy says it is “surprising and concerning” that B.C. doesn’t share occupation data, especially since this province had extreme outbreaks in nursing homes early in the pandemic.

Soucy, a student at the University of Toronto, co-founded the COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group in March in an attempt to knit together the patchwork of national health data into an accessible dashboard.

In March, volunteers transcribed information from news reports and are still harvesting data from graphics to try to create a pan-Canadian snapshot.

“It’s good to be able to share raw numbers so that people have confidence that what’s happening is going to do something against the virus,” said Soucy.

But provinces aren’t legally required to share with the federal government the health data they collect and own.

“All [PHAC] can do is a nice ask,” said von Bergmann.

PHAC initially told CBC on Oct. 14 that B.C. was sharing occupational data, but later corrected that statement and explained the agency received data for the month of June only. It says it’s continuing to negotiate with the province to obtain that information.

Requests for more information have yet to be answered by the B.C. Ministry of Health, which offered assurances that public health staff are continually monitoring and assessing the COVID-19 situation and positivity rates to keep people safe.

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3 Nova Scotians appointed to the Order of Canada – CBC.ca

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Three Nova Scotians have been appointed to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honours.

They are among the 114 appointees announced Friday.

The list includes eight companions, 21 officers, one honorary member and 84 members. The full list can be found here.

“Created in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation,” said a statement on the office of the Governor General’s website.

Appointments are made by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada. More than 7,000 Canadians have received the honour since its inception.

Jeff Dahn of Halifax, who has led groundbreaking research on lithium-ion batteries, was appointed as an officer.

Dahn is considered a pioneer of lithium-ion battery research. (Jill English/CBC)

In 2017, he won the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering for his work in making batteries increasingly efficient. He also won a Governor General’s Award for Innovation in 2016.

Dahn works out of a lab at Dalhousie University. He also began a five-year research partnership with Tesla In 2016.

In the statement, the Governor General’s office also commended him for “his mentorship and adroit bridging of academia and industry.”

Dahn could not be reached for comment Sunday.

‘It’s humbling’

Meanwhile, Dr. Ken Wilson and John Eyking were appointed as members.

Wilson, a plastic surgeon in the Halifax area, was appointed “for his nationally recognized expertise in reconstructive and plastic surgery, and for his volunteer work on international medical missions.”

“It’s humbling, but a very nice addition to a great career,” Wilson said of the honour.

In the mid-80s, Wilson became the first person east of Montreal to dedicate himself to doing plastic surgery for children.

“It was a very satisfying thing for me to be able to look after a lot of the children who have either had to travel, or that hadn’t had, sometimes, the attention they would’ve had otherwise,” he said.

Wilson has spent more than 30 years doing plastic and reconstructive surgery for children. (Submitted by Ken Wilson)

In the mid-90s, Wilson began working with Operation Smile, an organization that provides surgeries and dental care to children with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. He travelled a couple times a year to do surgery in underdeveloped countries, and he estimates he went on about 46 missions.

In the late 1990s, Wilson became the chief of surgery at the IWK children’s hospital in Halifax, a position he held for more than a decade.

He stopped practising five years ago, but Wilson now works as a medical consultant for Doctors Nova Scotia and is chair of the board for Operation Smile Canada.

“It was a wonderful career,” said Wilson. “I gotta say, I’ve been very lucky over the years to have the opportunity to do what I did.”

While there is no ceremony this year due to COVID-19, Wilson was mailed his snowflake insignia, as well as a “lovely book” detailing the history of the Order of Canada and the many recipients over the years.

‘All in a day’s work’

Eyking, a farmer and entrepreneur who founded Eyking Farms, was recognized for his “personal and professional dedication to the Cape Breton community, particularly within the agriculture industry.”

Eyking, of Millville, N.S., immigrated to Canada in 1963 from the Netherlands. He started a farm, which later grew into a family operation run by him, his wife and their 10 children.

He is also an inductee of the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Reached by phone Sunday, Eyking, 89, was modest about his appointment. He credited his farm’s accomplishments to the work of his large family.

“For me, it was all in a day’s work and I enjoyed it,” he said.

He, too, received a parcel from the Order of Canada, and said he enjoyed the book.

“There’s quite a few Cape Bretoners in there,” he said.

The recipients will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.

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Ottawa extends international travel restrictions citing COVID-19 risk – CBC.ca

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The federal government has extended existing international travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, barring entry to most travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for “essential” reasons.

In a news release issued Sunday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21.

Similarly, restrictions on travellers arriving from other countries will be extended until Jan. 21, as will the mandatory requirement for anyone who is granted entry to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Emergency orders brought forward on Mar. 16 banned most foreign nationals from entering Canada for non-essential travel. There are a number of exceptions for immediate family members of citizens, essential workers, seasonal workers, caregivers and international students, to name a few.

By extending the expiration dates to the 21st of the month, today’s change brings the timing of the international travel restrictions in alignment with those governing the Canada-U.S. land border. Previously, international restrictions expired on the last day of each month while the Canada-U.S. border restrictions expired on the 21st.

Both have been regularly extended since March.

“The government continues to evaluate the travel restrictions and prohibitions as well as the requirement to quarantine or isolate on an ongoing basis to ensure Canadians remain healthy and safe,” the release said.

“The ability to align U.S. and international travel extension dates, as well as the mandatory isolation order, beginning on Jan. 21, 2021 will enable the government to communicate any travel extensions or changes as quickly as possible and provide certainty for Canadians, U.S. and international travelers.”

International travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

Exemption for amateur sports events

The release also said the government will begin accepting applications from “high-performance amateur sport organizations” seeking to hold single sport events in Canada. Applicants will need to show they have a plan to protect public health that is approved by provincial or territorial officials and the relevant local health authorities in order to be considered.

Sport Canada, which is part of the Department of Canadian Heritage, will be responsible for authorizing such events, in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the release said.

More than 1,300 professional athletes have been issued national interest exemptions, which allow those who don’t qualify under current COVID-19-related restrictions to travel to Canada, or to skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine when they arrive.

Last month, the federal government expanded the eligibility for people coming from the U.S. on compassionate grounds. Those changes governing family reunification have been broadened to include exceptions for certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents including couples who have been dating for at least a year, including their children, grandchildren, siblings and grandparents. 

Despite travel restrictions, more than five million arrivals into Canada have been allowed to skip the 14-day quarantine requirement, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency, mainly because they’re essential workers.

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Ottawa extends international travel restrictions citing COVID-19 risk – CBC.ca

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 on


The federal government has extended existing international travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, barring entry to most travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for “essential” reasons.

In a news release issued Sunday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21.

Similarly, restrictions on travellers arriving from other countries will be extended until Jan. 21, as will the mandatory requirement for anyone who is granted entry to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Emergency orders brought forward on Mar. 16 banned most foreign nationals from entering Canada for non-essential travel. There are a number of exceptions for immediate family members of citizens, essential workers, seasonal workers, caregivers and international students, to name a few.

By extending the expiration dates to the 21st of the month, today’s change brings the timing of the international travel restrictions in alignment with those governing the Canada-U.S. land border. Previously, international restrictions expired on the last day of each month while the Canada-U.S. border restrictions expired on the 21st.

Both have been regularly extended since March.

“The government continues to evaluate the travel restrictions and prohibitions as well as the requirement to quarantine or isolate on an ongoing basis to ensure Canadians remain healthy and safe,” the release said.

“The ability to align U.S. and international travel extension dates, as well as the mandatory isolation order, beginning on Jan. 21, 2021 will enable the government to communicate any travel extensions or changes as quickly as possible and provide certainty for Canadians, U.S. and international travelers.”

International travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

Exemption for amateur sports events

The release also said the government will begin accepting applications from “high-performance amateur sport organizations” seeking to hold single sport events in Canada. Applicants will need to show they have a plan to protect public health that is approved by provincial or territorial officials and the relevant local health authorities in order to be considered.

Sport Canada, which is part of the Department of Canadian Heritage, will be responsible for authorizing such events, in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the release said.

More than 1,300 professional athletes have been issued national interest exemptions, which allow those who don’t qualify under current COVID-19-related restrictions to travel to Canada, or to skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine when they arrive.

Last month, the federal government expanded the eligibility for people coming from the U.S. on compassionate grounds. Those changes governing family reunification have been broadened to include exceptions for certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents including couples who have been dating for at least a year, including their children, grandchildren, siblings and grandparents. 

Despite travel restrictions, more than five million arrivals into Canada have been allowed to skip the 14-day quarantine requirement, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency, mainly because they’re essential workers.

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