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Canada's higher COVID-19 death rate tied to better chronic disease control – CBC.ca

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Heart researchers say there’s a surprising reason Canada has seen higher COVID-19 deaths than many countries with fewer health-care resources — more Canadians live longer with chronic disease, putting them at greater risk of dying from COVID-19.

Research led by Heart & Stroke also found the pandemic has likely postponed thousands of cardiovascular procedures.

Lead author Cindy Yip said the findings underscore the devastating consequences of poor heart health, even if excellent medical care and technology are available.

“Quality of care is good to have, but it’s not enough,” said Yip, principal investigator and director of data knowledge management at Heart & Stroke, formerly known as the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

She said Canadians are somewhat vulnerable to pandemics such as COVID-19 because so many have survived other health crises.

“Because people are living longer with chronic disease like heart conditions and stroke, we need to take actions, and we need them to take care of their health in order to avoid the poor outcome from COVID-19.”

The study notes 11.7 per cent of Canadians suffer from cardiovascular disease, including strokes. That puts Canada in the top third among 63 countries studied — worse than the 11.6 per cent found in the United States, 10 per cent in Russia, 7.6 per cent in South Korea, 4.3 per cent in India and 3.8 per cent in Pakistan.

When it came to reported death rates from COVID-19, Canada ranked higher than all but 14 of the 65 countries studied (two additional countries had sufficient data). That included places with poorer health-care resources such as Russia, India, Pakistan, and China.

The study looked at COVID-19 cases reported between Jan. 21 and April 30, when Canada listed 54,457 confirmed cases and a case fatality rate of 6.1 per cent.

Lower foreign death rates included one per cent in Russia, 5.5 per cent in China and 3.3 per cent in India.

Age 65+ a factor

Yip acknowledged that countries vary in how they report COVID-19-related deaths, but said researchers strove to use comparable numbers.

She said the analysis accounted for the wide range in access to health-care services among countries. But a strong relationship between COVID-19 deaths and the prevalence of heart conditions and stroke was still there.

For every one per cent increase in the number of people with heart problems, the COVID-19 death rate was 19 per cent higher.

Age was also a factor.

For every one per cent increase in the number of people aged 65 years and older, the COVID-19 death rate was nine per cent higher. Nearly nine per cent of the Canadian population is 65 or older.

The study also tried to number the heart-related medical procedures that have been postponed by the pandemic, but Yip said data here is limited, forcing researchers to extrapolate.

Plan needed for those with worsening conditions

She noted data provided by 20 cardiac centres in Ontario indicate fewer heart procedures were performed between March 16 and May 3 and the same period last year: 42 per cent fewer bypass surgeries, 37 per cent fewer angioplasty procedures and 45 per cent fewer valve surgeries.

The report estimates that province-wide, 1,252 procedures are being postponed each month by COVID-19 precautions.

Yip said that could easily translate to thousands of patients across the country. And that means health-care providers need “a very strategic plan” to provide care for people whose conditions may be worsening.

Yip said the study lends increased force to public health directives to physically distance and wash hands often.

But she said it also underscores the need for heart-healthy habits — regular exercise, healthy eating and no smoking or vaping.

“Take care of your heart and brain health because if you don’t have good heart and brain health, if you get COVID-19 your outcome is not good.”

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COVID-19 vaccine for B.C. expected to roll out in 1st week of January, provincial health officer says – CBC.ca

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If everything goes according to plan, everyone in B.C. who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will be immunized by next September, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.

The provincial health officer explained that a more detailed plan for vaccine rollout will be available early next week, but the first shots should be available early in the new year.

“We’re going to make sure we are absolutely ready by then,” Henry said. “We are planning to be able to put vaccine into arms in the first week of January.”

She expects that two vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna will begin arriving in B.C. early in the new year but only about six million doses will be available across Canada.

“That’s not enough for everybody,” Henry said.

The first priority will likely be to immunize the most vulnerable populations, including residents of long-term care homes, as well as health-care workers.

Two other vaccines produced by AstraZeneca and Janssen are anticipated in the second quarter of 2021.

“By the time we get into April of 2021, we’re expecting increased numbers of all the vaccines to be available and that’s when we can start offering it to more people across British Columbia,” Henry said.

It won’t be possible to reach everyone at once, so there will have to be a strategy for sequencing who receives it.

“As long as the vaccine continues to come in, as long as the safety and the effectiveness is good … we hope to have everybody done by September of next year,” Henry said.

She has repeatedly said the vaccine will not be mandatory.

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Dr. Henry explains why she banned both indoor and outdoor team sports | Offside – Daily Hive

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A day after hinting that new restrictions would be coming for indoor team sports for adults, today the province announced that both indoor and outdoor team sports are now suspended for adults in BC.

While outdoor activities are typically safer than those happening indoors, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry clarified why sweeping restrictions have been put in place.

“What we have found… is that a number of these adult team sports are really very much social gatherings, as well as sport,” said Dr. Henry. “And unfortunately, those types of gatherings are leading to transmission events that are happening.”

It seems that the problem with beer league hockey is the beer, more than the hockey.

“It’s the locker room. It’s the before, it’s the after,” she said. “It’s the going for a coffee or a beer after a game that has been the most source of transmission. Sometimes it’s very difficult, because much of that is built into the culture of many of the adult team sports.”

Henry told a “cautionary tale” about a hockey team from the interior of BC that travelled to Alberta and brought COVID-19 back to their community, infecting “dozens” of people, including family members and coworkers.

“I mentioned hockey yesterday. We’ve seen transmission events in curling, we’ve seen it with a number of adult team sports. Now’s our time, we need to step back from those, take that temptation, unfortunately, away, and make sure that we’re not giving those opportunities for the virus to take hold, and travel between the different communities as we have seen happen in the last few weeks, unfortunately.

“It was the advice of the team from around the province that this was an important thing that we felt we needed to do now. So that is an additional restriction.”

Dr. Henry said that supervised sports for children have not been the source for the same type of risk and transmission. That’s why kids sports have been allowed to continue for individual drills and training, while maintaining physical distance. But games, tournaments, and competitions have been temporarily suspended for youth sports.

“We recognize, of course, the importance for young people of having these opportunities to participate in sport, and how important it is,” said Dr. Henry, who added that she recognizes that sports are important for adults also.

Dr. Henry said that in the past few weeks and months, about 10-15% of cases have been related to physical and sport activities.

“That’s an underestimate,” she cautioned. “Those are [just] the ones that we know that we have linked.”

Among those cases, “very intense transmission” has been seen in things like spin classes, high-intensity interval training, and hot yoga. Post-game beverages haven’t been the main issue for these activities, but rather heavy breathing and poor ventilation has.

“These are areas where you have groups of people that are close together, very high breathing, high intensity, or lack of ventilation,” she said.

So what can we do to stay active?

Henry mentioned online classes from your local gym as an option. She also encouraged adults to stay active by going for a run or a walk, or playing sports like tennis, golf, and swimming.

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High-risk seniors to get COVID-19 vaccine first in B.C.: provincial health officer – Times Colonist

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VICTORIA — Seniors in British Columbia’s long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get immunized against COVID-19 starting in the first week of January with two vaccines, the province’s top doctor says.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna will be the first to be rolled out after approval by Health Canada.

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However, Henry said only about six million doses are expected to be available across Canada until March.

“So we won’t be able to broadly achieve what we call community immunity or herd immunity, but that will come,” she said

At least two other companies, including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, are in the process of submitting data to Health Canada and regulatory agencies around the world in hopes of getting approval for their vaccines.

“Those ones we hope will be available sometime in the second quarter of 2021,” Henry said.

“We hope to have everybody done by September of next year,” she said of the province’s efforts through “Operation Immunize.”

“By the end of the year, anybody who wants vaccine in B.C. and in Canada should have it available to them and should be immunized.”

Henry said B.C. health officials worked with their federal counterparts Thursday on ways to facilitate the delivery of vaccines as they anticipated various challenges that could come up in the immunization process.

More details will be provided about the province’s vaccine plan next week, Henry said.

She reported 694 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, for a total of 35,422 infections in the province.

There have been 12 more deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in B.C. to 481.

Henry noted health-care workers are tired from the pandemic as everyone deals with an “anxiety-provoking time,” but that it’s important to stay “100 per cent committed” to getting through the next few months before vaccines are available.

“We know that our long-term care homes in particular are most vulnerable and we know right now it’s the biggest challenge that we are facing,” she said.

Henry has banned all indoor and outdoor sports teams for adults, saying a team in the province’s Interior recently tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from Alberta.

“What we have seen in the past few weeks to months is that 10 to 15 per cent of cases have been related to physical fitness and sports activities,” she said, an estimate based on cases that have been linked.

Most transmissions of COVID-19 among adult involved in sports have been through social activities related to the gatherings, Henry said.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.

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