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COMMENTARY: In one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, an ugly underside vexes politicians – Global News

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Vancouver is one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, framed by breathtaking mountains and sparkling seas, and blessed with the country’s mildest climate as a bonus.

But there’s a dark side to the Pacific coast postcard: grinding poverty, growing homelessness and Canada’s worst drug-overdose epidemic, problems made progressively worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just last Friday night, paramedics were called out to an emergency at a suburban home.

When they arrived, they were met by a shocking scene. Five people were unconscious, supposedly from a natural gas leak.

But first responders quickly determined that no gas was leaking. The five victims had succumbed to an overdose of toxic drugs.

Read more:
Four arrests after homelessness, anti-police brutality activists occupy Vancouver intersection

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Amazingly, police, paramedics and firefighters were able to revive all five by administering heavy doses of naloxone, an emergency drug used to counteract the effects of powerful opioids.

Hundreds of other Vancouver-area drug users have not been as fortunate. Nearly five people a day are dying from overdoses in the province.

What’s driving the carnage? Experts say the Canada-U.S. border lockdown has slowed the flow of narcotics. Dealers lace existing supplies with deadly fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that continues to circumvent border restrictions through the mail.

Drug users, meanwhile, are using alone more often as they cut down on social interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the supply of cash from provincial and federal relief programs has added to the demand for drugs, according to some street-level experts.

Drug overdoses are spiking across Canada during the pandemic, of course, but Vancouver’s O.D. rate is particularly alarming in the Downtown Eastside, the poorest neighbourhood in the country.

When the pandemic hit in the spring, there were terrible fears of COVID carnage in the densely-populated neighbourhood, where many poverty-stricken residents suffer from underlying health conditions.

Read more:
$450,000 to restore Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park

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Though the COVID-19 death rate in the Downtown Eastside is not as bad as originally feared, new studies suggest the area has not been spared from the virus.

Bloodwork done at community pop-up clinics found high rates of coronavirus antibodies, indicating many residents may have been infected with COVID-19 and recovered.

“Many may not have known they were infected, or they attributed symptoms to something else,” Dr. Brian Conway, of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre, told me.

It’s a troubling discovery, especially as homeless downtown residents fan out to other parts of Vancouver’s metropolitan area, where tent cities are growing.

In East Vancouver’s Strathcona Park, campers are living in an estimated 400 tents, making it the largest homeless encampment in Canada.

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The normally peaceful neighbourhood is pleading for help, as conditions worsen at the camp and violent incidents escalate.

Last week, a man was stabbed inside a tent at the park and was not discovered until eight hours later. Another man seriously injured in an assault was lying on the ground in the park for 12 hours before policed were called.

A loaded semi-automatic assault rifle was found in a rolled up tent bag about a block from the park.

On Saturday night, a neighbourhood activist who pleaded for help for the campers said she was attacked by an unknown assailant outside her home near the park, requiring stitches for a head injury.

All of these incidents — and many more — are under investigation by police.

Read more:
Vancouver city council to consider drug consumption site in Yaletown

As the ranks of homeless swell, the overdose death rate rises and the number of COVID-19 cases climbs a second wave, B.C. politicians are making plenty of promises.

British Columbians head to the polls this Saturday in a snap election called last month by NDP Leader John Horgan.

All major parties have promised new investments, initiatives and programs to reduce poverty, increase housing and rescue neighborhoods.

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With election day looming, there’s hope the next government can make progress. But a pattern has been repeating itself in the city for months now: as one tent city shuts down, another one pops up.

In Canada’s most beautiful city, it will take bold initiatives to deal with an ugly underside.

Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Show’ on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for Global News. You can reach him at mike@cknw.com and follow him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews​.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Once Canada gets a vaccine, what happens next? Doctor answers our COVID-19 questions – Global News

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Canadians have been asking this question for months now — when will we get the vaccine?

Epidemiologist Dr. Isaac Bogoch recently joined The Morning Show to speak to that question and to share all the latest COVID-19 updates.

On Tuesday, Moderna gave the world good news when it announced that its vaccine is up to 94.5 per cent effective.

However, Dr. Bogoch says the promising results also call for optimistic caution. The data still needs to be peer-reviewed and made accessible to experts.

READ MORE: Britain approves Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for use, 1st in world to do so

Moderna applied for vaccine approval in the U.S. and the U.K. However, the company has been gradually releasing data to Health Canada for its approval.

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The infectious diseases expert believes the approval process will be fair and transparent.

READ MORE: Canada in talks with coronavirus vaccine makers ‘every day’ as approvals near: Anand

While we still don’t know when will we receive the vaccine, Bogoch says prioritized groups like people in long-term care homes and front-line workers will be among the first to get the vaccine when it is available.

He says a significant number of deaths come from long-term care homes and giving them vaccines will reduce the stress on the health-care system.

As for concerns about side-effects of the vaccine, Bogoch says people receiving the two-shot vaccine may experience fatigue, fever and a sore arm. “It is important to inform people on what they can expect,” he says.

READ MORE: How to naturally boost your immune system during cold and flu season

While Canada, and indeed the world, waits for vaccines amid continued restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, lockdowns have been working elsewhere — in countries like France and the U.K. — to reduce infection.

Bogoch says “we can all acknowledge that they’re terrible for mental health, they bad for physical health, they take a tremendous economic toll,” and urges Canadians to stay patient in these lockdowns because they can get the cases under control despite the challenges.

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“Unfortunately, when health-care systems are stretched beyond capacity, that’s really the last straw,” he added.

To find out more about Canada’s process of getting vaccines, watch the full video above. 

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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CDC shortens quarantine recommendation for U.S., raising questions in Canada – CBC.ca

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The recommended quarantine time for close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case is being reduced by up to a week in the United States, but while some of Canada’s health experts say a similar approach could be useful here, others aren’t so sure.

The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday it had shortened the recommended length of quarantine after exposure from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result.

Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday, but Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, says cutting that time in half would be beneficial.

“It would be super important for the sake of incentivizing people to actually quarantine after exposure,” he said.

“And there’s a lot of different things that could theoretically open up — getting health-care workers back to work, getting kids back to school — a lot of ways where this could ease the burden of potential exposure in society.”

The CDC had previously said the incubation period for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could extend to 14 days, but the organization now says most people become infectious and develop symptoms between four and five days after exposure.

Chagla says the 14-day window was likely inspired from SARS data, where the incubation period was longer.

While isolation and quarantine are sometimes used interchangeably, Chagla says there’s a difference in the terms. Isolation is for those who have tested positive, while quarantine is for people who may or may not actually have the virus, like close contacts of positive cases or those travelling into Canada. Isolation recommendations for positive cases vary, but are typically 10 days after symptom onset.

Typical course of infection

Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says a change in quarantine guidance reflects our evolving understanding of COVID-19.

“If you’re exposed, it takes a couple days for you to become infectious, so [seven to 10 days] should be enough to tell whether you’ve got the virus,” Tuite said. “But of course, that’s assuming your experience is reflective of the typical course of infection.”

The key to the CDC’s new guidance for Tuite is having the option to end quarantine at seven days with a negative test result. She suspects that’s in place to stop people who have the virus but no symptoms from ending the quarantine period too early.

A positive test at Day 7 would mean that person should continue to isolate, Tuite said, while a negative result would mean they could safely end quarantine, knowing enough time has passed since exposure to confidently assume they won’t still get sick.

Testing capacity challenges

Dr. Don Sheppard, the founder and director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4), says the CDC’s plan makes sense scientifically, but there would be logistical issues in testing every COVID contact in Canada who wanted to end their quarantine at Day 7.

“It’s impossible to do that,” he said. “It’s either 14 days of proper isolation, or it’s seven days with a negative test, and right now our system cannot offer seven days plus testing to the public at large.”

WATCH | Could the 14-day isolation period be shorter? (At 01:18:45):

Canadians put their questions about the worsening COVID-19 pandemic to experts during an interactive two-hour special, hosted by Adrienne Arsenault and Andrew Chang. 1:39:27

Testing capacity does exist in certain situations, Sheppard said, like for health-care workers and other front-line staff that need a quicker quarantine to get back to work. He cautioned, however, that taking a test on Day 7 still means isolating for an extra day or two while awaiting results.

Quarantine also needs to be done solo in order to work, Sheppard added, warning that the CDC guidance isn’t meant as a loophole for holiday gatherings if your family isolates together for seven days before an event.

Supports for people to quarantine

He used an example of military recruits in the U.S. who were told to quarantine for 14 days before reporting to camp. A handful of positive tests (0.9 per cent) were caught upon arrival, suggesting true quarantine hadn’t been followed.

Those recruits were sent home while the rest underwent another group quarantine. When tested again two weeks later, the positivity rate had grown to 1.3 per cent.

“Why? Because there were people incubating and they turned positive. And those people infected others in their groups,” Sheppard said.

“So if you don’t do strict, single-person isolation, you don’t actually break the cycle of transmission, you just pass it around in your group.”

Tuite says that further illustrates the usefulness of a shortened quarantine period.

A mother with young children, or someone who shares a small apartment with another person will find it harder to properly quarantine for longer periods, she said, as will someone who can’t afford to take a full two weeks off work.

“It really comes down to having the means to do it,” she said. “Can you survive for two weeks if you’re not getting income? Can you isolate in a household with multiple people?

“We need to have support in place so that people can quarantine, and that doesn’t change whether it’s for a week or 14 days. But it becomes much more challenging when it’s for longer periods.”

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CDC shortens quarantine recommendation for U.S., raising questions in Canada – CBC.ca

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The recommended quarantine time for close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case is being reduced by up to a week in the United States, but while some of Canada’s health experts say a similar approach could be useful here, others aren’t so sure.

The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday it had shortened the recommended length of quarantine after exposure from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result.

Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday, but Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, says cutting that time in half would be beneficial.

“It would be super important for the sake of incentivizing people to actually quarantine after exposure,” he said.

“And there’s a lot of different things that could theoretically open up — getting health-care workers back to work, getting kids back to school — a lot of ways where this could ease the burden of potential exposure in society.”

The CDC had previously said the incubation period for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could extend to 14 days, but the organization now says most people become infectious and develop symptoms between four and five days after exposure.

Chagla says the 14-day window was likely inspired from SARS data, where the incubation period was longer.

While isolation and quarantine are sometimes used interchangeably, Chagla says there’s a difference in the terms. Isolation is for those who have tested positive, while quarantine is for people who may or may not actually have the virus, like close contacts of positive cases or those travelling into Canada. Isolation recommendations for positive cases vary, but are typically 10 days after symptom onset.

Typical course of infection

Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says a change in quarantine guidance reflects our evolving understanding of COVID-19.

“If you’re exposed, it takes a couple days for you to become infectious, so [seven to 10 days] should be enough to tell whether you’ve got the virus,” Tuite said. “But of course, that’s assuming your experience is reflective of the typical course of infection.”

The key to the CDC’s new guidance for Tuite is having the option to end quarantine at seven days with a negative test result. She suspects that’s in place to stop people who have the virus but no symptoms from ending the quarantine period too early.

A positive test at Day 7 would mean that person should continue to isolate, Tuite said, while a negative result would mean they could safely end quarantine, knowing enough time has passed since exposure to confidently assume they won’t still get sick.

Testing capacity challenges

Dr. Don Sheppard, the founder and director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4), says the CDC’s plan makes sense scientifically, but there would be logistical issues in testing every COVID contact in Canada who wanted to end their quarantine at Day 7.

“It’s impossible to do that,” he said. “It’s either 14 days of proper isolation, or it’s seven days with a negative test, and right now our system cannot offer seven days plus testing to the public at large.”

WATCH | Could the 14-day isolation period be shorter? (At 01:18:45):

Canadians put their questions about the worsening COVID-19 pandemic to experts during an interactive two-hour special, hosted by Adrienne Arsenault and Andrew Chang. 1:39:27

Testing capacity does exist in certain situations, Sheppard said, like for health-care workers and other front-line staff that need a quicker quarantine to get back to work. He cautioned, however, that taking a test on Day 7 still means isolating for an extra day or two while awaiting results.

Quarantine also needs to be done solo in order to work, Sheppard added, warning that the CDC guidance isn’t meant as a loophole for holiday gatherings if your family isolates together for seven days before an event.

Supports for people to quarantine

He used an example of military recruits in the U.S. who were told to quarantine for 14 days before reporting to camp. A handful of positive tests (0.9 per cent) were caught upon arrival, suggesting true quarantine hadn’t been followed.

Those recruits were sent home while the rest underwent another group quarantine. When tested again two weeks later, the positivity rate had grown to 1.3 per cent.

“Why? Because there were people incubating and they turned positive. And those people infected others in their groups,” Sheppard said.

“So if you don’t do strict, single-person isolation, you don’t actually break the cycle of transmission, you just pass it around in your group.”

Tuite says that further illustrates the usefulness of a shortened quarantine period.

A mother with young children, or someone who shares a small apartment with another person will find it harder to properly quarantine for longer periods, she said, as will someone who can’t afford to take a full two weeks off work.

“It really comes down to having the means to do it,” she said. “Can you survive for two weeks if you’re not getting income? Can you isolate in a household with multiple people?

“We need to have support in place so that people can quarantine, and that doesn’t change whether it’s for a week or 14 days. But it becomes much more challenging when it’s for longer periods.”

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