When Adil Butt’s body started to ache, he immediately isolated himself in a small bedroom for a month to keep his young family safe from COVID-19.
The 42-year-old lives in Thorncliffe Park, a tightly knit community of apartment buildings in Toronto’s east end. Neighbours have been hit hard by the coronavirus.
Butt phoned to inquire about testing at a local pop-up site on Saturday, Dec. 5, got tested and received his positive result the following Monday.
He went above and beyond public health guidelines to avoid passing on the virus to his wife and children, ages 10, seven, six and three.”Nobody got it,” he said. “It was very hard, especially [for] my small kid.”
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the first quarantine measures to control COVID-19. When CBC News canvassed some doctors and scientists across Canada on what’s fundamentally changed in health care during the pandemic, what stood out was the need for more collaborative care similar to what Butt received.
Primary care providers help prevent people from coming to hospital with damaging and costly complications of diabetes or infections.
Deaths and policy failures
Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of social medicine at Toronto’s University Health Network, said community health centres such as where Butt was tested offer a one-stop shop of services, including prescription medications, healthy foods and connections to housing and jobs for people living on the margins across Canada.
“There’s actually systemic discrimination in the way we pay for primary care and the way we fund our health-care system,” he said.
Boozary said the pandemic has exposed public policy failures, not only in long-term care homes but also in neighbourhoods where essential workers, many who are racialized, bear a disproportionate burden.
“Our failure or lack of policy has really determined who lives and who dies,” Boozary said. “When you go back to look at things like primary care, if you put the map of where primary care funding was and the map of where COVID was, there’s a complete mismatch.”
Boozary draws hope from community health centres, which he said have been a leader for decades in gaining patients’ trust by working with them regularly where they are.
Caring for all to stop coronavirus
Cheryl Prescod, executive director of Black Creek Community Health Centre in the city’s northwest, said their service is priceless and underestimated.
“Throughout this past year, I believe we saw our value,” she said.
Asked about the need for stable funding beyond the pandemic, Prescod said, “We feel invisible compared to larger hospitals or larger health-care institutions. The small community health centres are the distant cousins.”
But the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will not discriminate between someone who earns a high income and someone who doesn’t.
WATCH | Community volunteers ease vaccine roll out:
Several community and religious groups in British Columbia are armed with computers and phones, ready to help local seniors sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations. 2:03
“The virus will not be stopped unless we take care of everybody,” Prescod said.
Paulina Aghedo works as one of the centre’s community ambassadors, sharing safety tips to stop the spread in her neighbourhood.
Now, Aghedo hands out flyers and sparks conversation, all to raise awareness of testing sites in apartment complexes, lobbies and parking lots. It’s home to many personal support workers and grocery clerks who work long hours and may still struggle to make ends meet.
She recalled knocking on doors in her crowded building to distribute flyers when a friend called to say someone needed to know about testing right away.
“She is just coughing in her working place and they told her if she doesn’t bring that COVID-19 test [result] she shouldn’t come back to work,” Aghedo said.
The flyer reached the woman, who tested negative and no longer feared losing her job.
“I was very happy I could help someone,” Aghedo said.
For his part, Butt gave up his job as an Uber driver during COVID-19. He temporarily lost his sense of smell, even for perfume that was pungent to his wife, as well as sense of taste.
During self-isolation, the food delivery volunteer relied on friends from his neighbourhood to return the gesture. For Butt, seeing neighbours helping each other to cope and recover resembles how doctors and nurses care for patients in hospitals.
“He [a friend] was bringing the food for me and leaving it outside my door and this is how we survived,” Butt said of his neighbour.
Butt’s fever broke after a few days and he’s fully recovered.
OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.
Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.
“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.
The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.
Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.
Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.
“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”
Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.
($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)
Good morning. Here is the latest news on COVID-19 and its impact on Ottawa.
Ottawa’s top doctor warns schools could remain closed after the April break next week
Ottawa sets new record for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on Friday
The city of Ottawa admits it doesn’t have enough supply to vaccinate residents 50 and older in high-priority neighbourhoods
Kingston closes popular waterfront park to prevent COVID-19 spread
COVID-19 by the numbers in Ottawa (Ottawa Public Health data):
New COVID-19 cases: 242 new cases on Friday
Total COVID-19 cases: 19,030
COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (previous seven days): 146.0
Positivity rate in Ottawa: 9.2 per cent (April 2 to April 8)
Reproduction Number: 1.05 (seven day average)
Who should get a test?
Ottawa Public Health says you can get a COVID-19 test at an assessment centre, care clinic, or community testing site if any of the following apply to you:
You are showing COVID-19 symptoms;
You have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by Ottawa Public Health or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app;
You are a resident or work in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by Ottawa Public Health;
You are a resident, a worker or a visitor to long-term care, retirement homes, homeless shelters or other congregate settings (for example: group homes, community supported living, disability-specific communities or congregate settings, short-term rehab, hospices and other shelters);
You are a person who identifies as First Nations, Inuit or Métis;
You are a person travelling to work in a remote First Nations, Inuit or Métis community;
You received a preliminary positive result through rapid testing;
You require testing 72 hours before a scheduled (non-urgent or emergent) surgery (as recommended by your health care provider);
You are a patient and/or their 1 accompanying escort travelling out of country for medical treatment;
You are an international student that has passed their 14-day quarantine period;
You are a farm worker;
You are an educator who cannot access pharmacy-testing; or
You are in a targeted testing group as outlined in guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
The Brewer Ottawa Hospital/CHEO Assessment Centre: Open Monday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The Moodie Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Open Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (testing only)
The Heron Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Ray Friel Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (testing only)
COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Howard Darwin Centennial Arena: Open daily 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Centretown Community Health Centre: Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sandy Hill Community Health Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 pm.
Somerset West Community Health Centre: Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Wednesday.
COVID-19 Drive-Thru Assessment Centre at 300 Coventry Road: Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Vaccine eligibility screening tool:
To check and see if you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Ottawa, click here.
COVID-19 screening tool:
The COVID-19 screening tool for students heading back to in-person classes can be found here.
Classic Symptoms: fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath
Other symptoms: sore throat, difficulty swallowing, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, pneumonia, new or unexplained runny nose or nasal congestion
Less common symptoms: unexplained fatigue, muscle aches, headache, delirium, chills, red/inflamed eyes, croup
Ottawa’s top doctor warns it’s “more likely than not” that all elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa will be closed for in-person learning after the April break.
“I am now thinking the probability that schools will close to in-person learning after the spring break is higher than the probability the COVID-19 situation will improve in time to keep schools open,” said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health.
“My heart is heavy because I know how important schools are to the health of our community.”
Etches says Ottawa Public Health will make a decision by next Wednesday on whether schools will reopen or close after the April Break.
Ottawa Public Health reported 242 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday, the highest one-day case count in the capital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The surging numbers prompted the city’s medical officer of health to issue a rallying cry to Ottawa residents, saying the city has reached a key point in the COVID-19 “marathon.”
“We are tired. We’re fatigued. We want this to be over. And this is the point in our COVID marathon where we’re hitting the wall,” Dr. Vera Etches told reporters Friday. “This is our defining moment. It’s a moment where we’ve got to break through that wall.”
Ottawa’s positivity rate increased to 9.2 per cent for the period of April 2 to 8 from 8.8 per cent. Ottawa’s weekly incidence rate is now 146 cases per 100,000 people.
Residents aged 50 and over in three hot spot postal code areas in Ottawa can now book an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but the city warns it doesn’t have enough vaccine supply to vaccinate everyone.
On Friday, Ontario opened vaccine appointments at community clinics to residents born in 1971 or earlier who live in certain “hot spots.” In Ottawa, the hot spots have been identified as postal codes K1T, K1V, K2V.
A memo from Dr. Vera Etches and Ottawa’s general manager of emergency and protective services Anthony Di Monte said residents 50 years of age and older living in the provincially identified “hot spots” of K1T, K1V and K2V are eligible for vaccine appointments at community clinics.
Residents living in the high-priority neighbourhoods of Emerald Woods – Sawmill Creek and Greenboro East and Ledbury – Heron Gate and Ridgemont will have the option to book at either a community clinic or at a pop-up clinic.
One day after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared in Kingston’s University District, the city is closing the popular Breakwater Park until the end of the university school year to prevent large gatherings.
Mayor Bryan Paterson has issued an emergency order to close Breakwater Park for the next 10 days.
“This timeline coincides with students move-out, but can be extended if needed. As one of our most popular community parks, closing it is a last resort,” said Paterson in a statement
“Yesterday, however, we saw troubling instances of overcrowding, which is especially concerning given the current outbreak in the nearby University District.”
Pictures on social media showed dozens of people in the popular park along the waterfront on Thursday. During the provincewide shutdown, outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of five people.
MONTREAL — Over the past two to three weeks, Dr. Francois Marquis, head of intensive care at Montreal’s Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital, says he started noticing the average age of COVID-19 patients dropping.People arriving at the hospital are on average, about 10 to 15 years younger than earlier patients in need of medical care after contracting COVID-19, he said in an interview Wednesday.
“We are starting to see what was very unlikely during the first wave: 30 or 40-year-olds without any previous medical history, people in good health,” Marquis said.
“They’re not seeing a doctor, they’re not taking any kind of medication, they don’t have diabetes, they don’t have high blood pressure — they just get sick.”
Marquis’s observations echo a warning earlier this week from Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, who said health officials across the country are reporting rising numbers of younger patients in hospitals who soon need intensive care.
“Many of them deteriorate quite quickly and have to be admitted to the ICU,” she said.
Dr. Gaston De Serres, an epidemiologist with Quebec’s public health institute, said the proportion of Quebecers over 80 in hospital with COVID-19 has been declining since mid-March — largely due to vaccination.
He said it’s not just the proportion of hospital patients who are younger that’s increasing, the overall number of younger patients is rising as well. De Serres said there were 40 people between 50 and 59 years old who were hospitalized the week of March 7. During the week of March 28, there were 54.But hospitalizations are still not rising significantly among people under 30. “It’s younger,” he said of the average age of patients. “It’s not young.”
Ten people between 20 and 29 years old were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Quebec the week of March 28, up from five two weeks earlier, De Serres said.
“If you have more cases, you will clearly have more hospitalizations, but the proportion of all hospitalized cases will remain small because these younger age groups are very low risk of being hospitalized.”
De Serres said he thinks more younger people are getting sick because the coronavirus variants of concern are more transmissible and they lead to more severe illness more frequently.
Mike Benigeri, director of the data bureau at the Institut national d’excellence en sante et services sociaux, a Quebec government health-care research institute, said that over the past two weeks, there has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of people aged 40 to 69 who have been infected with COVID-19. He said the percentage is even higher among people aged 18 to 30.
Marquis said older people and those with other medical conditions may notice a COVID-19 infection sooner. People who are healthier may not seek medical attention until they’re very ill, he added.
“They will push the limits of endurance up to the point when they say, OK, it’s enough, I really need to go to the hospital,” he said.
Despite the odds of dying being low among younger people, that doesn’t mean the consequences among the small group who do get severely ill are any smaller, he said.
“If you’re that unlucky guy, well, you’re going to die — and you’re not going die 1.5 per cent, you’re going be fully dead.”
Quebec Premier Francois Legault has repeatedly said that with vaccination protecting older people, the province will be able to tolerate more COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Quoc Nguyen, a gerontologist at the Universite de Montreal hospital centre, said while that may be true when it comes to deaths, it may not be the case for ICU capacity.
“When we look at one case in December versus one case in March, it seems that for a single case we have more intensive care than we used to before, but we don’t necessarily have more hospitalization,” he said.
It’s ICU capacity that worries Marquis. His ICU is supposed to have 24 beds, but because staff members have left the health-care system — particularly nurses — it now has a capacity of 14: seven beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients and seven for everyone else.
“I am really afraid that in two weeks we’re going to be in the same place as Ontario is right now and I don’t think that we can deal with that many patients,” he said.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has imposed a four-week stay-at-home order after a third wave of COVID-19 started to overwhelm the health system.
“They’re going to saturate the ICU availability very, very quickly for a very long time,” Marquis said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.
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