By Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press on October 9, 2020.
CALGARY – Infectious disease specialists say a recent surge in COVID-19 cases that surpasses a spike last spring must not be shrugged off as merely a byproduct of increased testing.
“I think minimizing right now is a real mistake,” said Dr. Lynora Saxinger of the University of Alberta.
“People are not wanting to believe that this is a thing, because I think they don’t want to return to the state that we were living in earlier in the year. That’s a dangerous path to take and we should be much more precautionary right now.”
The Canadian Press compiled data posted publicly in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec over one week ending April 21 and another ending Oct. 6 to get a sense of how the two case surges compare.
Daily cases in Alberta were two per cent higher in the most recent period compared with the April week. Ontario’s were 13 per cent higher, Quebec’s were 14 per cent higher and B.C.’s cases were more than triple the mid-to-low, double-digit numbers it experienced in April.
Alberta, an early leader in increased testing, took nearly four times as many swabs during the October week than it did in the April one. B.C’s daily testing grew eightfold, while Ontario and Quebec did about 4 1/2 times as many weekly swabs during the fall week than they did in the spring.
The positivity rate – the percentage of tests that come back positive – in all four provinces has dropped markedly between the spring and fall surges.
Quebec and Ontario don’t officially post historical positivity rates, so The Canadian Press divided the total number of weekly tests by the total number of weekly cases. It’s an imperfect estimate as often there is a lag between when tests are done and cases are recorded by public health.
Quebec, which averaged around 6,300 daily tests and 930 new cases during the April week, had a positivity rate during that period of about 15 per cent.
In the more recent week, when Quebec had five consecutive days with new cases in the quadruple digits, its positivity rate sat at roughly four per cent.
Ontario, which is dealing with a hefty backlog of swabs waiting to be analyzed, posted an official daily positivity rate of two per cent for Oct. 7, down from the roughly six per cent range it had in mid-April.
Alberta’s positivity rate dropped to one per cent from nearly five per cent and B.C.’s fell to 1.3 per cent from four per cent.
Experts say the lower positivity rates now shouldn’t provide comfort.
Early testing was largely limited to people with a handful of specific symptoms and those who came into close contact with them. Tests are now available to a much broader portion of the population and many more mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic cases are being found.
“The threshold for what we consider high on per-cent positivity probably should be considered different now than it was in the spring,” said Saxinger.
Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of Calgary, noted that testing among people with no suspected exposure or symptoms in Alberta over the summer unearthed very few new cases. The province has since tightened its asymptomatic testing criteria, limiting it to those at higher risk or with upcoming travel.
“We are still screening asymptomatic people, but these are people we have a reason to believe were exposed and that seems to capture most of the cases in the community,” he said.
Jenne reminded that numbers we’re seeing today reflect viral transmission that happened 10 to 14 days ago.
“So we have to always be reacting to what is coming down the pipe and not necessarily what’s happening today.”
In recent weeks, testing has been relatively stable while cases have trended up.
“There’s been a definite increase in the number of people who are infected. It isn’t just because they’re testing more,” said Dr. Ameeta Singh, an infectious diseases specialist at Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital and the University of Alberta.
Hospitalization trends are a lagging indicator that experts are eyeing with concern.
In Ontario, for instance, hospitalizations began creeping into the triple digits about two weeks ago and as of Friday, there were 225 people hospitalized.
“Definitely that’s when we start to become a bit more alarmed,” said Singh.
“That’s kind of the tip of the iceberg. It tells you that there’s way more community transmission than you might expect.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 9, 2020
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Ontario dog becomes first known to test positive for COVID-19 in Canada | News – Daily Hive
An Ontario dog has tested positive for COVID-19 after a research study proved the possibility by placing the animal in an infected household.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, they had been notified of the confirmed case contracted by a Niagara region dog on October 23.
The dog was part of a research study “following the diagnosis of COVID-19 in several people in the same household,” according to the release by OMAFRA.
“This dog did not have any clinical signs of disease. The current understanding of COVID-19 is that the overall risk of infection and illness in most domestic animals is low.”
The release states that current evidence suggests that mink, ferrets, cats, and (rarely) dogs can be infected with the virus; however, there is still “uncertainty” surrounding what this means for animals and how the virus behaves through different animal species.
“As a precautionary measure, people with COVID-19 symptoms, or those who are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case, should restrict contact with their pets, livestock or any other animals, and exercise the same infection control precautions they would around people,” read the release.
“Pets belonging to owners infected with COVID-19 should be kept indoors as much as possible and contact between these pets and anyone other than their designated caretaker should be avoided as much as possible.”
Quebec gym, yoga and dance business owners vow to reopen despite COVID-19 measures – Global News
A coalition of about 200 Quebec gym, yoga, dance and martial arts business owners say they intend to reopen their doors on Thursday in defiance of provincial health rules.
The businesses are calling on Quebec Premier François Legault to lift COVID-19 restrictions that forced fitness facilities to close this month.
In a statement, they say their facilities contribute to the overall physical and mental health of the population and they were not the source of COVID-19 outbreaks.
They say the lockdown measures will force them out of business after they’ve made significant investments to comply with health measures during the pandemic.
The owners say they intend to reopen across the province but will back down if health authorities can demonstrate by Thursday that their operations have led to outbreaks.
On Oct. 8, Quebec introduced new public health measures for regions under the province’s highest COVID-19 alert level, shuttering gyms, putting limits on team sports and making masks mandatory for high school students.
Last week, Legault hinted that some red zone restrictions would remain in place even as the initial 28-day lockdown in Montreal and Quebec City come to an end on Wednesday.
Legault, Health Minister Christian Dubé and Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, are to hold a news conference this afternoon.
Quebec gym owners, athletes in COVID-19 red zones brace for 2nd shutdown
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Coalition of fitness centres threatens to reopen regardless of Quebec's red zone restrictions – CBC.ca
A coalition of Quebec gyms, yoga studios and other recreational activity centres are threatening to reopen at the end of the week, even if the province extends the 28-day partial lockdown.
Such facilities have been closed since Oct. 8, as part of a series of measures imposed by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Premier François Legault has scheduled a news conference for 5 p.m. today, where he is expected to extend many of the measures imposed earlier this month in red zones.
Owners of fitness facilities say they have spent thousands of dollars to ensure their locations are safe and that their clients depend on exercise to keep physically and mentally healthy.
In a statement issued Monday, the group — which says it numbers more than 200 — says they will reopen Oct. 29 regardless of what the government decides.
“All the sanitary measures in force will be respected,” the statement said.
“If the government by then can prove to us, through studies, that we are the source of the outbreak, we will reverse it.”
Question of mental and physical health, owners say
Dan Marino and Christian Ménard, two of the men representing the coalition, both have shared social media posts publicly that provide misleading information about COVID-19.
For example, Marino has shared posts on his Facebook page that question the effectiveness of masks and minimize the dangers of the novel coronavirus. Ménard has asked people to sign a petition against Quebec’s mandatory mask law.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Marino said It would be unacceptable for gyms to stay closed.
“I have heard from too many people who are in distress,” said Marino who owns Mega Fitness Gym in Quebec CIty. “It’s mental and physical health.”
Dany Laflamme, owner of Nova Gym, a martial arts centre in Quebec City, said customers are calling every day.
“It’s truly sad. My customers are my family,” he said.
Gyms have been the site of outbreaks in Quebec and neighbouring Ontario.
But regardless of the risk, the coalition says customers want to get back to their favourite gym or studio.
Tanya de Montign told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak that the gym closures have had a substantial impact on her clients’ mental health.
She owns the Idolem yoga studio in Brossard, and when she closed her doors yet again earlier this month, she said “I had people leaving my studio crying.”
“I had people actually telling me they didn’t know how they would end up being able to get through these 28 days without us,” she said.
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