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Community spread of COVID-19 threatens Atlantic bubble



Atlantic Canada has been celebrated as North America’s COVID marvel for having, as the New York Times wrote recently, ‘almost extinguished the virus’

People walk on Spring Garden Road in Halifax, on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. Travel is no longer the primary cause of all cases in Nova Scotia, a worrisome turn of events.

Tim Krochak/Bloomberg

Where’s the leak in the bubble?

After pulling up its drawbridges to beat COVID-19, infections in the East Coast are edging up. While the case counts are still remarkably small by comparison to the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia officials are warning that community spread of COVID has begun, meaning cases of unknown origin.

“I understand this is very stressful and I get that you are scared,” Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said this week after confirming two school-based cases.

But the virus isn’t just entering schools, as officials fully expected it would and prepared for — cases are “quickly creeping into a number of our neighbourhoods,” McNeil said. And public health is struggling to trace a number of them.

In September, the province had just three confirmed new cases; in October, 21. Three new cases were reported Wednesday, bringing November’s total so far to 45 — a trajectory, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said, “that we can’t continue to follow.”

New Brunswick reported nine new cases Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases to 40, with no one hospitalized. Prince Edward Island added three new cases, and Newfoundland and Labrador, two.

By comparison, Ontario reported 1,417 new cases, and 32 more deaths Wednesday.

Still, the uptick in Nova Scotia has nerves frayed. Strang warned against “unsubstantiated rumours” after two students tested positive. He urged that students from the affected schools not be excluded from community events and sports. “Please, we need to be kind and careful how we treat each other and don’t add to people’s fear and anxiety.”

Travel is no longer the primary cause of all cases in Nova Scotia, a worrisome turn of events. In seven cases “we can’t identify a source that is directly related to travel,” Strang said. The school cases are linked to adults who contracted COVID-19 from a workplace.

Atlantic Canada has been celebrated as North America’s COVID marvel for having, as the New York Times wrote last month, “almost extinguished the virus.” The four Atlantic provinces moved swiftly when the SARS-CoV-2 virus reached its shores, walling themselves in, tightening borders and setting up checkpoints at points of entry. In July, premiers created a travel bubble, waiving the 14-day quarantine rule for East Coast residents travelling between the four provinces.

The aggressive game plan cost 171,000 jobs and a forecasted $1.7 billion drop in tourism, but the region rebounded faster than the rest of the country, Reuters reported. According to a Reuters poll, three of four Atlantic economies are expected to fare better than Canada as a whole this year.

It was important to act swiftly and gain an upper hand over the virus, Dalhousie University epidemiologist Susan Kirkland said in a September interview with the National Post, “because once you start to have daily cases that are coming in fast and furiously, especially in smaller provinces like Nova Scotia and the Atlantic region, we just don’t have the capacity to keep up.”

“We’re at a new level,” Kirkland said when reached Wednesday. For the longest time, Manitoba was in a similar state, with very low levels of COVID-19, she said. “And all of a sudden, it’s skyrocketed very quickly and increased exponentially.”

“We’re not at the point yet where things are moving so quickly that we can’t get a handle on it again,” said Kirkland. “It means being extremely vigilant over the next little while.”

There are certainly no plans to open the bubble, and a stern McNeil told reporters he would promptly shut the economy down again, in sections, if needed.

Maritimers have been remarkably good at doing the things that they’ve been asked to do in terms of distancing and masking. Kirkland said. Effective Friday, masks or face coverings will be mandatory in all indoor and public spaces in Prince Edward Island. Nova Scotia brought in similar mandatory masking in July. New Brunswick’s mask rule took effect in October.

“The issue we’re up against now is that we really have to reduce the number of contacts that we have,” Kirkland said, particularly social gatherings in households.

With this week’s positive vaccine news, “I think that people are understanding that the winter is going to be difficult, but also there is some hope on the horizon,” Kirkland said.

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Source: – Belleville Intelligencer

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COVID-19 in B.C.: Over 2000 new cases and 46 deaths on weekend, five healthcare outbreaks, and more – The Georgia Straight



Tragically, this past weekend has proven to be the most fatal time period that B.C. has witnessed during the course of the pandemic so far, with the largest number of deaths over a three-day period.

Meanwhile, new case counts remain high and the number of active and hospitalized cases continue to climb.

There were also five new healthcare outbreaks, and 14 stores and 23 flights with confirmed cases.

Henry explained that the process is “arduous” and involves many epidemiologists across the province, and that as case numbers increase, the process becomes even more challenging.

The data error announced on November 25 was rectified over the weekend, with changes reflected in today’s case numbers.

Accordingly, Henry said that they will be further automating their process, which will allow epidemiologists to spend more time on understanding the outbreaks and clusters in the community.

She said the daily numbers are important but that they look more at trends rather than individual days, which she has explained in the past can reflect a number of factors.

She said they will be adding the seven-day rolling daily average and talking more about it in the coming weeks to help people understand it.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
Province of British Columbia

At today’s in-person briefing, Henry provided updates for the past three time periods:

  • 750 new cases from November 27 to 28;
  • 731 new cases from November 28 to 29;
  • 596 new cases from November 29 to 30.

In addition, due to the correction to the data-reporting error from Fraser Health (based on a technical issue which has since been rectified), there were an additional 277 historical cases added.

Accordingly, there was a total of 2,354 new cases (including 10 epi-linked cases) over the weekend period.

The new case count includes, by region:

  • 1,365 new cases (including 277 historical cases) in Fraser Health;
  • 212 in Interior Health;
  • 73 in Northern Health;
  • 58 in Island Health;
  • one person from outside Canada.

Active cases have increased by 383 cases since November 20, rising to a total of 8,855 active cases as of today.

At the moment, there are 316 people in hospital (15 more than November 20), with 75 of those patients in intensive care units (six more than November 20).

One area that has decreased is the number of people being monitored by public health—the number dropped by 291 people since November 20 to 10,139 people today.

A total of 23,111 people have now recovered.

Sadly, B.C. had 46 deaths over the past three days, which Henry said is the highest-ever count. She also said that about 80 percent of the deaths were people in longterm care facilities. The eldest person who died this past weekend was 103 years old, Henry said.

Of the 46 deaths, Dix said there were:

  • 15 deaths from November 27 to 28;
  • 17 deaths from November 28 to 29—which establishes a new high;
  • 14 deaths from November 29 to 30.

The previous record was 13 deaths on November 26, which all three of the past days surpassed.

Dix also explained that 35 of those deaths in Fraser Health with the other 11 deaths in Vancouver Coastal Health.

The total number of deaths is now at 441 people who have died during the pandemic.

B.C. has recorded a cumulative total amount of 33,238 cases, which includes:

  • 21,070 cases in Fraser Health;
  • 8,850 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
  • 1,750 in Interior Health;
  • 845 in Northern Health;
  • 629 in Island Health;
  • 94 people from outside Canada.

Unfortunately, there are five new healthcare outbreaks:

  • Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead (4579 Chatterton Way) in Victoria, where Island Health stated that one staff member has tested positive and is limited to one unit;
  • St. Judes Anglican Home (810 W 27th Avenue) in Vancouver, where Vancouver Coastal Health imposed restrictions on November 26;
  • Lakeview Care Centre (3490 Porter Street) in Vancouver, where Vancouver Coastal Health imposed restrictions on November 26;
  • Fleetwood Villa (16028 83rd Avenue) in Surrey, where Fraser Health stated the one resident has tested positive;
  • Mountainview Village (1540 KLO Road) in Kelowna, where Interior Health stated that one resident and one staff member tested positive, and that the outbreak applies to both east and west units on the second floor.

In addition, one facility that wasn’t on Henry’s list was PICS Assisted Living Centre (12075 75A Avenue) in Surrey, where Fraser Health stated today that one resident and one staff member have tested positive.

One healthcare outbreak has been declared over: Louis Brier Home in Vancouver.

Henry said there are active outbreaks in 57 longterm care facilities and five acute care units for a total of 62 healthcare facilities. 

She also said there are 1,338 active cases (847 residents and 487 staff) involved in healthcare outbreaks.

Fraser Health declared one community outbreak at Newton Elementary (13359 81st Avenue) in Surrey, which has been temporarily closed for two weeks.

The list of schools with new exposures will be published in a separate forthcoming article.

Over the past three days, there have been 14 stores with employees who have tested positive.

Sobeys announced that four of its Safeway locations had staff members who tested positive:

  • one employee who last worked on November 18 at the 1766 Robson Street location in Vancouver;
  • one employee who last worked on November 19 at the 1780 East Broadway location in Vancouver.
  • one employee who last worked on November 24 at the 2101 Lahb Avenue location in Vancouver;
  • one employee who last worked on November 26 at the 6564 East Hastings Street location in Burnaby.

In addition, Sobeys announced an employee who last worked on November 18 at the FreshCo location at 7165 138th Street in Surrey tested positive.

Meanwhile, Loblaw announced seven of its stores had staff members who tested postive.

One employee who tested positive last worked on November 23 at Joti’s No Frills (310 West Broadway) in Vancouver.

Another employee who tested positive last worked on November 25 at Your Independent Grocer (1255 Davie Street) in Vancouver’s West End.

The remaining five stores were Real Canadian Superstore locations, including:

  • two employees who last worked on November 18 and 21 at the 2332 160th Street location in Surrey;
  • two employees who last worked on November 19 and 23 at the 3185 Grandview Highway location in Vancouver;
  • one employee who last worked on November 23 at the 8195 120th Street location in Delta;
  • one employee who last worked on November 23 at the 2280 Baron Road location in Kelowna;
  • one employee who last worked on November 24 at the 14650 104th Avenue location in Surrey.

Meanwhile, T&T Supermarket reported that a backroom employee who last worked on November 26 at the Metrotown location (147–4800 Kingsway Avenue) in Burnaby has tested positive.

Canadian Tire reported an employee who tested positive last worked on November 16 at its Prince George location (5008 Domano Boulevard).

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added 23 flights to its lists of flights confirmed with COVID-19:

  • November 15: Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver;
  • November 15: Air Canada 114, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • November 17: Air Canada 314, Vancouver to Montreal;
  • November 17: Air Canada 8421, Kelowna to Vancouver;
  • November 18: Air Canada 202, Vancouver to Calgary;
  • November 19: Air Canada 103, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • November 19: Air Canada 114, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • November 19: Air Canada 225, Calgary to Vancouver;
  • November 20: Flair 8102, Calgary to Vancouver;
  • November 22: Aeromexico AM696, Mexico City to Vancouver;
  • November 22: Air Canada 1126, Kelowna to Vancouver;
  • November 22: WestJet WS139, Calgary to Vancouver;
  • November 22: Air Canada AC311, Montreal to Vancouver;
  • November 22: WestJet Flight 3455, Calgary to Abbotsford;
  • November 23: Air Canada AC854, Vancouver to London;
  • November 24: Air Canada Flight 554, Vancouver to Los Angeles;
  • November 25: United Airlines Flight 5312, San Francisco to Vancouver;
  • November 25: Cathay Pacific 865, Vancouver to Hong Kong;
  • November 25: United Airlines 1641, Denver to Vancouver;
  • November 26: Air Canada AC121, Toronto to Vancouver;
  • November 26: Air Canada AC8081, Vancouver to Victoria;
  • November 27: Air Canada AC0044, Vancouver to Delhi;
  • November 27: Air Canada 8417, Kelowna to Vancouver.

For affected row information, visit the BCCDC website.


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Toronto reports highest single-day case count – CityNews Toronto



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Ontario NDP calls for more asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in schools after 19 new cases discovered – CTV Toronto



NDP MPPs are calling on the Ford government to conduct widespread COVID-19 testing at all schools in the province’s hardest hit neighbourhoods after asymptomatic testing at an East York elementary school unearthed 19 previously undetected infections.

Members of the official opposition are urging the provincial government to immediately deploy resources to facilitate voluntary testing centres inside schools in Ontario neighbourhoods with high COVID-19 positivity rates.

“Doug Ford is trying to save a buck by underserving the hardest hit areas,” NDP Deputy Leader and Brampton Centre MPP Sara Singh said in a news release issued Monday.

“He has been refusing to send extra help to hot spots, because he wants to do things on the cheap. That’s resulting in longer, deeper lockdowns and more devastating illness. We need help to end this nightmare, and stop the virus from hurting our loved ones.”

On Sunday, it was revealed that asymptomatic testing at one Thorncliffe Park elementary school resulted in 18 students and one staff member testing positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In a letter sent to parents yesterday, the principal of Thorncliffe Park Public School said Toronto Public Health detected the cases after 433 tests were processed on Thursday and Friday.

Thorncliffe Park is one of the neighbourhoods in the GTA that has been hardest hit by the pandemic.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday afternoon, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that the data indicate that community transmission in Thorncliffe Park is substantially worse than the transmission happening within the school.

“I think it should be noted that the principal within this school has communicated that the positivity rate compared from the community to the school is quite vast. In the community, it is roughly 16 per cent positivity whereas in the school it is roughly four per cent,” he said.

“There is a four time increase of transmission happening in the community notwithstanding that those schools are right at the heart of those neighbourhoods.”

He said the disparity indicates that there is “something right happening” when it comes to the “layers of prevention” occurring in the public school system.

“The fact that hundreds of students and staff have gotten tested in this school in conjunction with the local public health unit, I think underscores that the plan in place is working hard to mitigate any further spread,” Lecce said.

“This morning, including the data points from Thorncliffe, 99.9 per cent of Ontario students are COVID-free and that continues to underscore the importance of following public health advice and it really I think demonstrates the importance of keeping schools open, which is our plan for 2021.”

Roughly 14 per cent of the province’s 4,828 publicly funded schools have at least one reported case of COVID-19 and at least four schools are currently closed as a result of outbreaks of the disease.

Province changed testing guidelines last week

Just last week, the province adjusted its COVID-19 testing guidance for school staff and students in Toronto, York Region, Peel Region and Ottawa to allow voluntary asymptomatic testing.

The province also offered school boards in the regions an additional $35 million to strengthen public health measures.

The testing pilot, which is in place for four weeks, was implemented to better track how the virus is spreading in and around schools.

Since late September, Ontario’s assessment centres would not test asymptomatic people unless they were linked to a known case.

The NDP called the funding and four-week testing program a “half-measure.”

“Some students in some regions may be able to get tests. According to the government, the location and method for testing will vary between regions and cities, regions will have to develop their own plan,” the NDP said in a news release last week.

“Ford’s still trying to cheap out on testing students, teachers and staff, and that’s not good enough.”

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said he believes the discovery at Thorncliffe Park Public School is an imporant one.

“We know that children tend to be minimally, if not symptomatic at all, but they appear to be quite good at spreading this,” he told CP24 on Monday.

“So we need to be quite aware of whether or not there is any asymptomatic signal within our younger children to prevent that from spreading to others in a multi-generational household or others who are certainly going to be at a higher risk if they acquire COVID-19 and become a lot sicker.”

Sharkawy said he hopes the province continues to expand asymptomatic testing in schools.

“There are a lot of asymptomatic people out there who are infected with this virus and unfortunately until we ramp up our testing capacity and ideally target areas that appear to be harder hit, we won’t really know the extent of the disease that’s out there,” he told CP24 on Monday.

“I think that this was actually an important finding. I don’t think it is one that should create too much alarm amongst people sending their children to school but I hope it is a pilot program that will catch on, especially in other areas that are hard hit.”

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