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Code Red for COVID-19: Ottawa's top doctor warns COVID status "close" to most severe level – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb in Ottawa, the medical officer of health is on the verge of moving Ottawa’s COVID-10 overall status to the most severe warning level during the pandemic.

“We are close to ‘Red,'” said Dr. Vera Etches when asked during Wednesday’s Council meeting about the current COVID-19 status in Ottawa.

The medical officer of health also warned that Ottawa could introduce a “targeted approach” to new restrictions and closures if the COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

The Ottawa Public Health coloured coded system indicates the status of COVID-19 in Ottawa by “Green,” “Yellow,” “Orange” and “Red.”  Ottawa is currently in the “Orange” status for COVID-19, one step below the most severe level of the COVID-19 status. 

The “Orange” status signals decreasing spread and few outbreaks, some hospital capacity and some health care worker infections. A “Red” status means “increasing spread and outbreaks. Limited hospital capacity and many health care worker infections. Limited or no ability to isolate cases/quarantine”

“We’ve spoken about whether we’re ‘Red’ now. Why I have not moved us into red as a global assessment is because our hospitalizations have stayed stable. This is good news, right?” said Dr. Etches.

“So the people who are testing positive are younger on the whole, so we’re not seeing the more serious complications that lead to hospitalizations.”

Ottawa Public Health reported 65 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the second highest one-day total of COVID-19 cases in September. On Tuesday, a record 93 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Ottawa.

Councillor Diane Deans asked Dr. Etches if it’s possible for Ottawa to avoid the Code “Red” status.

“I have a lot of confidence that the people of Ottawa can do this. We can turn the curve because we have done it before.”

“I don’t want to have to shut things down”: Dr. Etches

During Wednesday’s Council meeting, Councillor Mathieu Fleury asked Dr. Etches about the possibility of new closures and restrictions due to the rising number of cases. Dr. Etches said Ottawa Public Health would take a “targeted approach” to addressing possible sources of COVID-19.

“We will risk going into having to do more closures if we don’t turn the curve,” said Dr. Etches.

“I’m not interested in creating more economic damage. That harms our health as a population; we need to keep places open that are employing people. We’ll need to take a targeted approach if there is a type of business that’s causing more challenges.”

The medical officer of health said Ottawa Public Health is speaking with officials in cities seeing a large spike in new cases, including Toronto and Peel, about possible steps to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re all interested in a targeted approach to tackle where infections are spreading. For the most part, it’s really the social gatherings, in people’s homes.”

Last Thursday, Ontario announced new limits on social gatherings across the province. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, while outdoor events can have 25 people.

“We need to then make sure that we’re adhering to the new provincial regulations of no more than 10 in a gathering, but really as few as possible.  So your household and the people who are important to support you in your life. Whether they’re your grandparents or child care,” said Dr. Etches.

“I don’t want to have to shut things down.”

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Asymptomatic testing no longer available to Albertans without known exposure to COVID-19 – Edmonton Journal

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Article content continued

With 3,203 active cases, Hinshaw said right now the province is at a critical point.

“We’re in a danger zone where the coming weeks will really tell that story about whether we are able collectively to bend that curve downwards by following all of that guidance that’s already out there, that’s up online,” Hinshaw said.

“Or if we start to tip the wrong way, and start to see our hospitals fill up, and impair our ability to do elective surgeries, impair our ability to offer services that our health-care system needs to be able to offer to others that are not COVID related. So we’re not yet again at that point where our system is not able to cope. But we are getting closer.”

Hinshaw continues to be concerned by the high number of cases of COVID-19 in the Edmonton Zone where additional voluntary measures to prevent spread of the virus were implemented almost two weeks ago. There are currently 1,607 active cases in the zone that includes the City of Edmonton and surrounding municipalities, or about 50 per cent of the province’s active cases. Over the last 24 hours, 147 new cases were identified in the region.

The City of Edmonton has 1,318 active cases or 129 per 100,000 people.

“There is some good news in Edmonton,” Hinshaw said. “The rate of growth has started to slow somewhat and the R-value (reproductive rate) in Edmonton has come down from 1.35 to 1.17.

“This is a good start but the bad news is anytime the R-value remains above one, the number of cases is still growing. We need to bring this value below one to reduce the burden on our health system.”

COVID-19 in schools

About eight per cent of schools across the province have one case of COVID-19 or have an outbreak of two or more cases, Hinshaw said, with 512 confirmed cases currently in these schools.

Ninety-six schools have an outbreak with 26 of those on the province’s watch list after five or more cases have been identified.

In Edmonton, J. J. Bowlen School declared an outbreak after a second case was confirmed on Monday.

ajunker@postmedia.com

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Alberta pauses asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 – rdnewsnow.com

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By Chris Brown

results taking too long, Hinshaw says

Oct 20, 2020 5:47 PM

Saying that test results are not getting back to Albertans quick enough, the province’s top doctor has announced a “significant” change to testing that she called a critical step to improving COVID-19 control in the province.

“Effectively immediately we will be pressing pause on all asymptomatic testing in those who have no known exposure,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday. “This is an important and necessary step that will help us reduce testing wait times, get results to Albertans and limit the spread.”

With cold and flu symptoms mirroring COVID-19 symptoms, labs became overwhelmed in the past few weeks by the increase in tests.

Hinshaw said even with a September shift to only doing asymptomatic testing among priority groups, wait times for results have not decreased as much as they need to in order to use lab test information to prevent spread in an optimal way.

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49 cases of COVID linked to Calgary wedding, 'aggressive' contact tracing underway – CTV Toronto

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CALGARY —
Health officials are continuing to do “aggressive contact tracing” after 49 cases of COVID-19 were linked to a large wedding held in Calgary earlier this month.

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during Tuesday’s regular update that 49 of 63 people who attended the event have since been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We cannot comment on specifics about individual cases due to patient confidentiality,” said Tom McMillan, assistant director of communications for Alberta Health.  

“There are currently 49 cases linked to this outbreak, all of which are active. Aggressive contact tracing is underway to identify anyone who may have been exposed and ensure they are isolating and tested.

“AHS is working closely with the organizers and those who have contracted the virus. Anyone at risk is being contacted directly by AHS.”

The wedding was attended by a number of people from different households.

“At this time, it is not clear what specific factors led to the level of exposure that has occurred. The public health investigation is currently underway,” said McMillan.

There have been several outbreaks reported in Calgary in recent weeks linked to social gatherings.

And officials are reminding Albertans that gatherings like wedding receptions or informal get-togethers at homes or community spaces carry an increased risk of transmission.

“It is important that nobody attend if they are feeling ill with even mild symptoms, or if they are awaiting test results,” said McMillan.

“It is also important that organizers of social gatherings do everything possible to comply with the public health guidance in place, including ensuring that there is enough space for physical distancing between cohorts, follow gathering size restrictions, and avoiding sharing food and utensils.”

There are a number of outbreaks ongoing in the city, the most serious being at Foothills hospital where 47 patients and 39 staff members have tested positive, and 12 deaths have been linked to the virus.

On Monday, the province reported Alberta added 898 cases of the coronavirus over the weekend, a tally that increased the province’s confirmed infection count to 3,138 – a pandemic high.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, is scheduled to give a regular update on COVID-19 in the province at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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