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Coronavirus outbreaks at two Toronto hospitals tied to 29 cases

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Two new coronavirus outbreaks were declared at Toronto hospitals in recent days, with 29 patients and staff members confirmed to be infected.

Unity Health spokesperson Robyn Cox said St. Joseph’s Health Centre now has 16 patients under treatment for COVID-19, but seven of them likely acquired their infection at the hospital.

She said an additional 13 staff members have tested positive for the virus.

The infections are linked to four units within the hospital facility: the 2L medicine unit, the 3M unit, the 2E Unit and the 4E unit.

The outbreaks first occurred in each unit between Oct. 3 and Oct. 16.

“We will be implementing widespread testing of staff and patients in the coming days,” Cox said, as well as new safety measures for staff working in clinical areas.

University Health Network says that three patients and six staff members at Toronto Western Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 15.

The outbreak occurred on two units of the general internal medicine department – units 8A and 8B – in the hospital’s Fell Pavilion.

An outbreak of COVID-19 is defined in Ontario as two cases detected in any congregate setting within 14 days where those cases could have been acquired within the setting.

A Toronto Western Hospital spokesperson said additional testing of patients and staff is underway.

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School Flu Vaccine Information Coming Soon – VOCM

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The regional health authorities are starting to distribute information on free flu shots for students in the school system.

The provincial government announced earlier this month that it would be providing flu shots in schools and long-term care homes to help encourage influenza vaccination rates.

Public health officials are most concerned about the possible strain to the health care system caused by the flu and COVID-19. The flu can seriously affect vulnerable patients. It’s spread was suddenly halted earlier this year due to public health measures imposed.

This year all school staff and students from grades 4 to 12 will be offered flu vaccines at school. Parents will not be accommodated in schools and are being encouraged to make an appointment for their own flu shot at a flu clinic, or through their doctor or local pharmacy. Parents will not be permitted to enter the school to support or comfort their child. If the child does require support, parents are encouraged to take their child to a flu clinic.

Consent forms are in the process of being distributed over the coming days.

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As spread slows slightly, OPH wants Ottawans to fine tune their physical distancing – CBC.ca

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While the rate of COVID-19 transmission in Ottawa has declined over the last two weeks, Ottawa Public Health is calling on residents to take further measures — albeit small ones — to combat the respiratory virus.

At a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Dr. Vera Etches, the medical officer of health with Ottawa Public Health (OPH), said the virus takes advantage of moments where people let their guard down. Despite the messages about the importance of physical distancing, wearing masks and hand hygiene, Etches said there are situations where people seem to forget themselves. 

What’s more, these are often situations where government enforcement doesn’t have jurisdiction — such as in private homes where mandatory mask bylaws don’t apply or at gatherings small enough to be permitted under provincial regulations. Etches referred to these situations as “blind spots.”

“One blind spot is gathering with extended family and larger friend circles and thinking that the risk of COVID-19 isn’t there,” she said. “Another one is socializing before or after a team sport.”

Close contact with people outside your household always poses a risk of transmission, said Etches, no matter who you are.

“People don’t think of these settings like carpooling or meeting up with extended family in the same way they might in terms of going to a gym or going to a bar. So we’re just trying to expand people’s risk assessment.”

Lunch at work often a problem 

One of the most common opportunities for COVID-19 transmission is during lunch breaks between colleagues, said Etches.

Coworkers may spend the entire work day safely distancing and wearing a mask, only to sit together and remove their mask to sip coffee or eat lunch, and inadvertently spread the virus. 

“Employees having lunch together seems to come up over and over,” she said. “Whether it’s in a health-care setting or a school or a workplace … it is what gives the virus an opportunity to spread.”

Dr. Vera Etches, medical officer of health, says Ottawa’s numbers are dropping, though people are still gathering with extended family or socializing before and after team sports. 0:52

Etches said “it’s no one’s fault,” reiterating the virus is often present before people feel sick.

One simple solution is if people have to remove their masks to eat lunch, they ensure they stay at least two metres away from others, she said. 

Case numbers in Ottawa improving

While much of September and October was overshadowed by a rise of the second wave, Etches said on Tuesday, there are signs to be hopeful about.

“I want to say congratulations to the people of Ottawa. There are some encouraging indications that we’re having some success,” she said.

Etches said local health officials are still working on their recommendations for the province as to whether they think Ottawa is ready to relax measures.

The province’s Stage 2 modified measures in Ottawa went into effect Oct. 10 and are set to expire by next month. Health Minister Christine Elliott would not say whether the Ottawa will be allowed to transition to Stage 3 or whether the increased restrictions, on things like indoor dining or gyms, will continue.

As Halloween approaches, Etches still recommends families cancel trick-or-treating and parties and opt for virtual celebrations and walks with household members only to see neighbourhood decorations. 

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Early COVID-19 vaccines 'likely to be imperfect': U.K. Vaccine Taskforce chair – Toronto Sun

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U.K. Vaccine Taskforce Chair Kate Bingham said on Tuesday that the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines “is likely to be imperfect” and that they “might not work for everyone.”

“However, we do not know that we will ever have a vaccine at all. It is important to guard against complacency and over-optimism,” Bingham wrote in a piece published in The Lancet medical journal.

“The first generation of vaccines is likely to be imperfect, and we should be prepared that they might not prevent infection but rather reduce symptoms, and, even then, might not work for everyone or for long,” she added.

Bingham wrote that the Vaccine Taskforce recognizes that “many, and possibly all, of these vaccines could fail,” adding the focus has been on vaccines that are expected to elicit immune responses in the population older than 65 years.

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She said that the global manufacturing capacity for vaccines is vastly inadequate for the billions of doses that are needed and that the United Kingdom’s manufacturing capability to date has been “equally scarce.”

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