While the COVID-19 epidemic in Canada remains “largely under control,” one of Canada’s top public health officials is warning that the potential for a significant spike in new cases “is not just hypothetical, as this is exactly what we are already seeing in some other parts of the world.”
As the United States nears three million cases of COVID-19 and states like Texas and California show record-high numbers of newly-reported cases, Canada’s public health agency on Wednesday released the latest figures in its modelling of the coronavirus outbreak in this country, showing the epidemic is on the same trajectory as it was at the end of June.
Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer of Canada, told a media briefing in Ottawa today that “the current patterns of COVID-19 infections show limited to no transmission in most areas of the country.”
Dr. Njoo pointed out that most of the recent outbreaks have been localized, citing northern Saskatchewan and Ontario’s Peel and Windsor-Essex regions as hotspots that emerged over the last two weeks.
These outbreaks have led to Canada’s Rt number — representing the average number of people infected by each individual case — rising above 1 after staying below 1 for most of the last 10 weeks. An Rt above 1 suggests the spread of the disease is growing.
Dr. Njoo said that “with cases low in number, the daily Rt is likely to fluctuate dramatically. It remains important for us to closely monitor for new cases and outbreaks that could arise in any part of the country, even in places which might have few or no cases at the moment.”
Watch: ‘Limited to no transmission’ of coronavirus in most of Canada: PHAC
‘Things can change quickly’
In a press conference in Ottawa earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed the same warning.
“The situation is stabilizing in Canada today because Canadians did their part and followed public health instructions,” he said, “but we still have to be very careful. Things can change quickly.”
The models forecast that by July 17, Canada will have detected between 106,000 and 111,000 cases and suffered between 8,560 and 8,900 deaths.
As of July 7, the country had experienced 107,000 cases and 8,818 deaths, according to a tally by CBC News.
The data indicate that cases among Canadians over the age of 80 have declined the most, but that the prevalence of COVID-19 among Canadians between the ages of 20 and 39 has not declined at the same pace.
“To continue to prevent a resurgence and manage the epidemic,” Dr. Njoo said in French, “we need the rate of infection among this age group to decrease in a constant manner. Though severe illness is less frequent among younger age groups, young adults are not protected from serious consequences.”
Young people can also spread the virus to more vulnerable populations.
As of the public health agency’s data up to July 7, there have been only 24 recorded deaths among Canadians under the age of 39 due to COVID-19, representing just 0.3 per cent of the total. But they represent over eight per cent of hospitalized cases and nearly 10 per cent of those admitted to intensive care units.
Dr. Njoo said that, as businesses re-open and personal restrictions are lifted, he expects to see a resurgence in cases. He said there’s a risk of a significant spike in the summer and into the fall without enhanced public health measures related to case detection, contact tracing and quarantining.
The models suggest that without these measures in place, there is a “distinct possibility” that the caseload could explode beyond even the peak of the first wave in April, he said.
And while he thinks things are going well so far, Dr. Njoo said “we need to keep underlining the key public health messages and telling people that no, it’s not over, and if there’s too much of what we call a relapse … then certainly we’ll see more of these outbreaks.”
Source: – CBC.ca
Canada adds 390 new coronavirus cases, 9 more deaths as provinces warn of surges – Global News
To date, Canada has now seen 121,174 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The death toll stands at 9,015, after nine more deaths were reported since Wednesday.
Although Ontario and Quebec are reporting lower case counts than at the peak of the pandemic last spring, other provinces like British Columbia are escalating dramatically, while those in central Canada are now posting double-digit increases regularly.
In Atlantic Canada, only New Brunswick reported new cases Thursday, adding two to a provincial total that now stands at 180. There are a total of 16 active cases across the four easternmost provinces, including five reported in Prince Edward Island on Wednesday.
Quebec broke a short streak of reporting fewer than 100 new cases per day, with 104 more infections bringing the provincial total to 60,917. Six new deaths were also reported, although nearly all of them had occurred prior to Tuesday.
Tracking COVID-19 infections in Quebec
Ontario saw one of its lowest daily counts on record, with 78 new cases, though the total did not include data from Toronto Public Health. The province’s total now stands at 40,367, with 2,787 deaths. No deaths were reported Thursday.
Manitoba saw 25 new infections for a total of 588 confirmed by laboratory tests, along with 15 that are still considered probable. Saskatchewan saw a similar increase, with 27 new cases, bringing its total to 1,511.
In Alberta, officials reported 76 new cases and three more deaths. To date, the province has seen 11,969 cases and 220 deaths.
In a grim milestone, Ontario’s daily case count of 78 was matched by British Columbia, a feat not achieved since the very early stages of the pandemic. B.C. has in recent days watched its number of active cases explode past 500, the only province to see such a dramatic uptick compared to recoveries.
Modelling released by B.C. health officials Thursday warned the province could see a massive growth of new cases into September unless people refrain from large gatherings, including indoor parties, and re-commit to physical distancing.
Officials are directing their messaging particularly toward young people, who now make up a majority of new cases, despite accounting for only a small fraction of hospitalizations.
Dr. Bonnie Henry explains possible long-term effects of COVID-19 on young people
The province recently announced it would be delaying the start of the school year for students by two days to Sept. 10.
Most other jurisdictions across Canada are going ahead with returns to in-class learning in September, yet debates are raging over issues like mandatory masks and how to conduct some classes and activities like physical education.
Those same back-to-school debates are now front of mind around the world, where the coronavirus has now infected at least 20.7 million people and killed over 750,000, according to public health data compiled by John Hopkins University.
Experts say the true number of cases could be up to 10 times higher than official data shows, due to testing shortages that have continued to plague several countries since the pandemic began.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Ontario reports 78 new COVID-19 cases, education minister 'unlocks' $500M for school return – CBC.ca
Ontario reported an additional 78 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, however numbers for Toronto Public Health were not available for today’s provincial update.
Of those public health units that did report new daily case counts, Peel had the most, with 19. Ottawa had 10, while Windsor-Essex had nine and Waterloo eight.
CBC News has reached out to Toronto Public Health for an explanation about its data, but has yet to receive a response.
At a news conference Thursday, Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical health officer, called Ontario’s overall direction “positive,” but said people need to keep their diligence up to keep the numbers down.
“Our trends have consistently … been coming down,” he said. “You’re doing great. You need to keep doing well and as you go to the next phase, we have to do that even better.”
Williams estimated Thursday’s total number of confirmed cases would likely fall closer to 95 had Toronto Public Health’s data been included.
“I would estimate … we may be closer to 95,” said Williams. “I don’t think we’re over 100, that’s probably the good news.”
All of the figures used in this story are found in the Ministry of Health’s daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, which often avoid lag times in the provincial system.
Ontario has now seen a total of 40,367 confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, slightly less than 91 per cent are considered resolved. Another 99 cases were marked resolved in today’s update.
There are currently some 891 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide, though there are likely more given the lack of data from Toronto today. Active cases are confined mostly to the southern reaches of Ontario.
The province’s network of about 30 labs processed 29,626 test samples for the novel coronavirus yesterday.
Ontario’s official death toll from the virus stayed steady at 2,787. A CBC News count based on data provided by public health units puts the real toll at 2,825.
Province unlocking $500 million on ventilation, PPE for schools
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced he had “unlocked” $500 million for the province’s back-to-school plan.
The funding is meant to enhance physical distancing and improve air quality, along with providing PPE and boosting the number of custodians, ahead of the return to school in September.
The minister also announced an additional $50 million for upgrades to ventilation systems and $18 million for online learning amid concerns over student safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The half a billion dollars in funding comes after the ministry allowed school boards to dip into reserve funds. Boards that do not have reserves will be provided with funding from an $11 million allocation.
“Our plan is a living document. It is responding to needs on the ground,” said Lecce.
The education minister said he is also expanding school boards’ ability to access reserve funding for this particular year.
Some parents, educators and medical professionals have criticized the provincial government’s strategy for students. In particular, the decision to keep elementary school class sizes at pre-pandemic levels has faced scrutiny.
In Ontario, there are no cap sizes for classes in Grades 4 through 8, only a maximum average of 24.5 across each board. That means it’s not uncommon for children in high enrolment school boards to find themselves in classes of 30 or more students.
The government has said that distancing when possible, combined with a host of other measures such as self-screening by students and staff and mandatory masks for Grades 4 to 12, would keep children safe.
Premier in Windsor
Meanwhile, Ford announced $30 million through the Connecting Links program in order to build and repair roadways in the province.
The premier also met with local leaders in Windsor-Essex to discuss the region’s economic recovery now that it has entered Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan.
Ford said he talked with area mayors about opening a new hospital, as well as expanding capacity at the region’s Ceasar’s Casino.
“We need to take the same approach as we do with cinemas,” Ford said of the casino.
“I have to protect those jobs,” he said “I have to protect those folks … same as I have to protect the automotive industry here.”
The premier also toured the Ford Motor Company’s Essex Engine Plant where a portion of the facility was retooled to produce plastic face shields for front-line workers during the pandemic.
Drug shortages could 'imperil the lives' of Canadians, doctors warn Ottawa – CTV News
A group of some of Canada’s leading doctors and pharmacists have issued an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging the federal government to address shortages for critical drugs such as Azithromycin, Lorazepam and Remdesivir that could “imperil the lives” of Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic
The Critical Drugs Coalition issued the letter on Thursday, asking the government to bring attention and resources to Canada’s drug supply challenges. These challenges have existed for the past decade but doctors say they have been “greatly exacerbated” due to the novel coronavirus.
“We simply cannot afford to jeopardize the lives and wellbeing of our patients due to an inadequate supply of critical drugs,” the letter reads.
Some of the drugs currently in shortage include forms of Azithromycin, Ceftriaxone, Dexamethasone, Lorazepam, Midazolam, Propofol, Remdesivir, Salbutamol and Tocilizumab, among others. The letter says that health-care professionals have also seen shortages in antibiotic drugs, some of which are on the Tier 3 list, including Penicillin G.
According to the letter, 24 out of 32 drugs on Health Canada’s Tier 3 shortage list are essential for treating COVID-19. Medications on the Tier 3 list are drugs experiencing an active significant shortage and have no suitable alternatives.
With these critical drugs typically prescribed for various condition such as epilepsy, high blood pressure, pain, and asthma, many pharmacies across the country have been limiting patients to one month’s worth of medication at a time to discourage people from stockpiling medication amid the uncertainties around the pandemic.
CTV News previously reported that doctors are also experimenting with different treatments using existing medications to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients, which in some cases, have led to misinformed members of the public stockpiling the medicine and causing shortages for patients suffering from other serious diseases requiring the drugs.
“As frontline pharmacists and physicians, we have seen and heard of serious shortages of essential, critical medications. These drugs are often used simultaneously in ORs, ERs and palliative care wards, as well as ICUs,” the letter reads.
While Canada’s ICUs are seeing fewer COVID-19 patients, the Critical Drugs Coalition says the pandemic has placed a burden on their drug supply with patients often requiring weeks of treatment on ventilators.
Deputy Minister of Health Canada Stephen Lucas said in April that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely lead to shortages of drugs and medical devices for Canadians.
Lucas said the federal government has a team dedicated to addressing the problem and is working with regulators in the U.S., Australia and Europe to identify where the supply-chain disruptions are occurring.
The federal government has also issued an interim order to allow certain international drugs that may not fully meet regulatory requirements to be imported and sold in Canada to help address drug shortages. However, pharmacists and physicians say they’re still facing shortages.
CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION
Health experts behind the letter worry that a likely second wave of infections in Canada will further increase drug shortages and put Canadians lives at risk by compromising the optimal care for their health unless certain measure are put in place.
While the letter is addressed to Trudeau, the Critical Drugs Coalition is calling for immediate action by all levels governments including provincial, territorial, and municipal with national support. The letter said Canada will “perpetually face drug shortages” unless concrete action is taken.
The Critical Drugs Coalition is a grassroots, volunteer-run coalition of physicians, pharmacists and others concerned by drug shortages amid the pandemic. The coalition recommends that Canada find a long-term solution to the problem, starting with the robust stockpiling of critical medications.
“Many of the critical care drugs should be part of the National Strategic Emergency Stockpile. However, it is clear that Canada simply did not have enough stockpiled to meet the demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and that there has been under allocation and underspending for the emergency stockpile,” according to the letter.
Some of Canada’s national medical bodies including the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) have also signed the letter.
In order for the stockpiling strategy to be effective, the letter says governments must work closely with hospitals across Canada to establish a comprehensive list of essential medications for hospital-based care. Additionally, it suggests governments develop a plan to obtain medications in a co-ordinated manner to prevent unintended competition.
The letter is also calling for a publicly owned or supported critical drugs manufacturer as a safeguard against future drug shortages.
China and India supply some 80 per cent of the active ingredients and raw materials for many of the medications, and while some drugs are assembled in Canada, none are completely manufactured here from start to finish.
The letter explained that this national manufacturer would specialize in creating the critical drugs on the Critical Medications List, and “would be primarily involved in satisfying significant portions” of national medication demands.
Going forward, the letter is urging greater transparency and communication from governments to the health sector and the public on the supply of critical medicines to ensure drug supply issues are addressed before they pose any serious risks to sick patients.
“We encourage our government to give this urgent issue attention and efforts now, so that Canadians can have the confidence that their healthcare system will be there when they most need it,” the letter said.
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