OTTAWA — The fall will bring new risks in the COVID-19 pandemic along with colder weather and indoor family holiday gatherings, Canada’s chief public health officer warned Friday.
With the final long weekend of the summer season upon us, Dr. Theresa Tam said Canadians need to consider their own risk factors and the details of plans for any in-person gatherings with friends and family.
And they should be asking themselves some important questions, she said.
“Are you at high risk of developing serious complications if you become infected?” Tam asked rhetorically.
“Or if you would have to self-isolate, would this seriously disrupt your upcoming plans?”
Knowing the people you’re with does not protect you from catching the virus that causes the respiratory illness, Tam warned.
And Canadians need to consider whether people they live with are at high risk of contracting the virus, she said.
After months of dealing with the novel coronavirus, government agencies, employers and individuals understand COVID-19 better now, so the situation Canadians are facing is different from the one in the spring when the disease first began to spread widely, Tam told reporters in Ottawa.
But there is renewed concern that the number of cases could balloon out of control still.
An average of 525 COVID-19 cases a day have been reported in Canada the past week, a noticeable uptick from earlier in the summer, and schools are reopening across the country.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford criticized hosts of backyard parties, whom he blamed for new cases in his province. Friday, Ontario reported 148 new COVID-19 infections, nearly half of them in a suburban region just west of Toronto.
Tam said contagion in private settings is a major concern now, but at the same time local health authorities will order fresh closures and reductions in public activities if they’re needed to suppress new outbreaks. Those shouldn’t be needed if people follow public health advice, she said.
British Columbia’s top doctor warned this week that there is the potential for an explosive spread of COVID-19 cases over the Labour Day long weekend.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged B.C. residents to choose smaller gatherings over larger ones over the weekend in a continuing effort to keep case numbers low.
“Choose to spend time with your household bubble instead of a group of strangers and choose to use those layers of protection wherever you go,” Henry said Thursday.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault declared Friday that the contagion was under control in his province, despite authorities there reporting more than 180 new COVID-19 infections for the second consecutive day.
Still, Legault urged Quebecers to be prudent ahead of the long weekend.
“I am asking you not to let your guard down,” he said.
Tam said downloading the government’s COVID Alert app is one way to mitigate the risks of catching and spreading the illness unknowingly although it is currently only operational in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Quebec has said it does not plan to use the app, but announced Friday that it will launch its own alerting system.
Health Minister Christian Dube told a Montreal news conference the system will allow regions to be designated by zone, depending on the number of COVID-19 cases found in those regions.
Details of the system were to be revealed Tuesday, although Dube compared it to the warning notice boards already found in certain parks in Quebec.
As of Friday, Canada had recorded 130,834 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 9,140 deaths.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2020.
Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press
Four Ottawa schools under outbreak as number of COVID-19 cases inches up – Ottawa Citizen
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The other three schools with outbreaks remain open although some students have been sent home to isolate.
Whether a school remains open during an outbreak depends on how many groups of students are affected, said the statement from Ottawa Public Health.
Officials trace close contacts, which usually includes anyone in the same classroom as someone who has tested positive. Close contacts are usually sent home to self-isolate for 14 days.
“If there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there is risk of spread to additional cohorts, there may be a decision to close the entire school in order to stop transmission in the school,” said Public Health.
At Franco Ouest, where three students tested positive for COVID-19, parents were sent a letter from public health saying a “partial dismissal” of students at the school had been decided upon because the outbreak was “contained to a small group.”
“There is no evidence of widespread transmission within the school,” the letter said. The duration of the dismissal has not been established, but it could be two or more weeks, said the letter.
Public health officials notify students who need to isolate or be tested for COVID-19.
However, all students and staff at schools under outbreak should monitor themselves for symptoms and avoid going to “facilities where physical distancing cannot be maintained, in particular daycare centres, play groups, etc.” said the letter to parents. “Visiting older persons or those with chronic illness is also not recommended during this time.”
Murder trial on pause while Winnipeg juror tested for COVID-19 – Medicine Hat News
By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press on September 23, 2020.
WINNIPEG – Jury deliberations for a second-degree murder trial in Manitoba have been put on hold so a juror can be tested for COVID-19.
Court of Queenâ€™s Bench Justice Vic Toews told the remaining 11 jurors that the man was exhibiting symptoms and was not allowed to enter the courthouse.
The other jurors were sent home and advised to self-isolate until the manâ€™s test results are complete.
Jury trials were suspended across the country in the spring as the justice system grappled with how to handle the pandemic.
They resumed in Manitoba at the start of September with the trial of Kane Moar, who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Ricardo Hibi.
Hibi, a 34-year-old foster home manager, was stabbed to death in 2018.
The court put several protocols in place. Jury selections have been held in a large convention centre near the courthouse and there has been physical distancing in courtrooms during trials.
Masks also became mandatory after an employee at the Winnipeg courthouse tested positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this month.
Toews reassured jurors in the Moar trial about the precautions before sending them home Wednesday.
â€œAt this time, the best advice I can give you is simply go home,â€ he said. â€œI would advise you to self-isolate over this period of time, minimize your contacts as much as you can and you will be contacted by the court as to when you come back.â€
The judge said he was optimistic that jurors would return as soon as Thursday to hear the charge before beginning deliberations on a verdict. However, Toews said there may have to be other actions if the juror’s results come back positive for COVID-19.
â€œIâ€™m taking instructions from the public health officials, not only in respect of the results of testing of your colleague on the jury, but what implications that has for you.â€
Manitoba announced 42 new cases of COVID-19 in the province Wednesday, as the number of people testing positive in the capital city continued to surge.
Thirty of those new cases are in the Winnipeg health region and the province announced possible exposures at restaurants, bars and during a trivia night at a pub.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said earlier this week he was worried by the rising numbers in Winnipeg, where some people who tested positive had visited multiple locations while symptomatic.
The province also announced confirmed cases in three more schools, but said the infections were not acquired in the classroom and the risk is low.
There have so far been 1,674 cases in Manitoba and 18 people have died.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.
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Public health officials call for tighter restrictions, warn COVID-19 could spiral out of control – CBC.ca
Infectious disease experts say Canadian health authorities must tighten restrictions again or hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 will increase exponentially in the coming weeks.
Echoing comments made Tuesday by Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, who said Canada is at a crossroads in its pandemic battle, experts in public health are urging governments to take decisive action to prevent the current resurgence of the virus from spiralling out of control.
Canada reported 1,248 new cases Wednesday, and on Tuesday the country’s most populous province, Ontario, reported its highest number of new cases since early May.
Tam outlined projections that show new cases could climb to 5,000 daily by October if we continue on the current course.
“To date, we’re not moving fast enough to get ahead of this,” said Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease physician based at a Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “I think we’re being lulled into a false sense of security because of the low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths [relative to earlier in the pandemic]. But they will come in the next six weeks or so.”
He said asking people nicely to tighten their social circles is not going to be enough.
“I think that appealing to people’s better natures — that, hey, you should be careful and you should make sure you limit your contacts — I don’t think that that’s going to work, to be perfectly frank.”
Gardam said Canadians grew fatigued with the restrictions imposed on their social circles earlier in the year and won’t be eager to return to them unless pressed.
“I think we’re going to have to be a lot more forceful,” he said.
That means demanding Canadians tighten their social circles, and backing that up with enforcement.
“I would argue that we need to be very cautious, like we were back in March, in order to weather the storm from all the increased contacts that we’ve had.”
Right now, “people are playing fast and loose with bubbles all over the place,” said Gardam.
If you increase the number of contacts that you have, this is going to go to hell real quick.– Michael Gardam, infectious disease physician, Women’s College Hospital
Instead, he says we need to rethink social bubbles now that school is in session again.
“We’re all going to have to pay the price because our kids are in school now. So what are we giving up?
“If you want to keep the restaurants open and bars, maybe you have to give up your private gatherings,” he said. “Because if you just increase in every dimension, if you increase the number of contacts that you have, this is going to go to hell real quick.”
The actions taken in the next two weeks could change the trajectory of the months to come, said Laura Rosella, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health,
“There’s a lot of things with this pandemic that we can’t control, but we might be able to control who we interact with, especially socially, and who’s in our bubble,” said Rosella, who holds a PhD in epidemiology.
“I would encourage everyone to rethink what their bubbles are given the new situation, especially if something’s changed, if someone’s gone back to work, someone’s entering a school situation and especially if vulnerable people are in their bubbles.”
Rosella said her advice to Canadians is to “really think through what is absolutely necessary” when it comes to interactions with others.
More than a blip
Rosella said Canadians can’t afford to ignore the changes happening with COVID-19.
“We’re not in the August situation anymore. There’s clearly an uptick of cases,” said Rosella, “The fact that we’re already on that trajectory tells me that the likelihood of this being just a small blip, that we’re not going to notice and we can carry on, is pretty low.”
“We are going to experience a significant increase that we’re going to have to manage and react to. It could be worse if we do nothing. And if we act, we could minimize the impact of it.”
Dr. Samir Gupta, a clinician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto, said getting a handle on this COVID-19 surge means returning to restrictions implemented earlier in the pandemic.
Speaking with Heather Hiscox on CBC Morning Live Wednesday, Gupta said Canadians “need to start making similar sacrifices to the ones we made the first time around,” which was successful with flattening the curve in the spring.
Without enforcement, “we risk overwhelming our health-care system capacity … [and getting] into real trouble,” he said.
“We don’t want to have to turn people away and not be able to take care of people who are sick with this virus. And that’s the biggest risk we face.”
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