Bolstered by early successes, drugstores are accelerating their push into traditional health care amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Loblaw Companies Ltd., which began offering COVID-19 testing for patients at a handful of its Alberta pharmacy locations in June, plans to expand the program to all 234 of its pharmacies in the province by Sept. 1.
The company says it has reached out to all 10 provinces to discuss in-store testing outside Alberta, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford this week acknowledging the possibility.
The swab tests are only for those with no symptoms or any known contact with coronavirus patients and may be useful for teachers returning to school or Canadians who take care of an older family member, said Theresa Firestone, head of health and wellness at Shoppers Drug Mart. Loblaw-owned pharmacy locations include Shoppers stores as well as Independent Foods and No Frills.
“It’s very convenient. We’re in every community. The other plus is they don’t have to line up with people who may have symptoms. We’ve shared that with Ontario and with other provinces, so at this point we’re looking forward to what they may decide,” Firestone said.
London Drugs also conducts COVID-19 tests in Alberta. It began offering the service at six locations during the past two weeks and plans to roll it out at nine more by October. Like Shoppers, it bills Alberta Health Services for testing costs.
The service builds on other responses to the pandemic such as online pharmacist consultations and a pilot program where patients consult virtually with doctors in a private room in the store.
London Drugs, whose 82 stores are located across all four Western provinces, is among the pharmacy retailers beefing up their role in a health-care system grappling with an aging population.
“With the extended hours of operation, you can basically go in when our stores are open and be able to find a pharmacist to ask a question. So what we’re able to do at that point is basically help triage the system,” said Chris Chiew, head of pharmacy at the Richmond, B.C.-based retailer.
London Drugs has also hired diabetes educators to test blood sugar and cholesterol levels and assist patients with weight management and diet.
Shoppers has stepped even further into the realm of physicians, opening one of three planned medical clinics with doctors who cater to a roster of patients and walk-in services.
“There are a number of Canadians who don’t have access to a family physician. And we thought there was an opportunity for us to really play a role here in terms of access,” Firestone said.
Drugstores can also handle the bureaucratic side of health care, freeing up doctors to spend more time with patients, she said.
“Looking for PPE (personal protective equipment), sorting out their waiting rooms so that people are socially distanced, managing virtual care…we’re able to take that burden on for them,” Firestone said.
Community access and convenience are a critical advantage drugstores can cultivate as thinning profit margins prompt them to look beyond over-the-counter sales for income.
“Drugstores have faced tighter margins for generic drugs in recent years and have been looking for alternative sources of revenue,” said University of Calgary economics professor Aidan Hollis.
Some provinces now allow pharmacists to vaccinate patients — flu shots, for example — and write prescriptions for certain medication, such as birth control, as well as extend prescription refills for chronic medications.
“In addition, pharmacies find it attractive to draw patients in for health care even if they don’t earn profits on supplying health care: once the patients are there they may purchase other goods,” Hollis said.
Drugstore chains under the umbrella of McKesson Canada, including Rexall, Guardian and I.D.A., have also started to offer the tests and have conducted more than 6,000 to date.
Metro Inc. declined to comment on any attempts to provide COVID-19 testing. The bulk of the company’s Jean Coutu drugstores are located in Quebec, which unlike some provinces does not allow pharmacists to conduct testing via nose and mouth swabs.
B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba have not expressed particular interest in asymptomatic testing in pharmacies, according to London Drugs, which has reached out to all three provinces.
“They have the capacity right now to be able to do the number of tests that they want to do,” Chiew said.
Ontario conducted 24,353 tests last week and can process up to 33,000 weekly through its provincial lab network, the health ministry said.
“We are looking at ways of enhancing access to testing. Having pharmacies function as testing centres is currently under consideration,” spokeswoman Miriam Mohamadi said in an email.
“How to integrate pharmacies into the COVID-19 diagnostic network, specifically how they would function and for whom they would be appropriate, is being explored.”
Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
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Valley transmission rate among world's best | News | pentictonherald.ca – pentictonherald.ca
A mid-month rise in COVID-19 cases can be traced back to British Columbians getting a little too close to one another over the Labour Day weekend, health officials say.
Another 139 cases, only three of which were in the region served by Interior Health, were announced province-wide between Thursday and Friday.
Since Sept. 15, the average number of new daily cases has been 153.
In the first two weeks of the month, the average daily number of new cases was 108.
“The cases we are seeing today are a direct result of how we spent our Labour Day long weekend. Let’s break the chain of transmission and turn this trend around,” Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a joint Friday statement.
“No one intends to pass the virus onto friends or family, but it is very easy to do. It can take up to two weeks for symptoms of COVID-19 to develop and, in that time, we can inadvertently spread it to others.”
As of Friday, there were 1,803 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C. and another 3,075 who are under active public health monitoring because of their identified exposure to someone known to be infected.
Hospitalizations rose two, to 59, and 20 of them are in intensive care.
Across the province, 7,842 British Columbians have now been infected since the start of the pandemic, including 492 in the Interior Health region.
A total of 220 people have died in B.C. from COVID-19; two of those deaths occurred in the region served by Interior Health.
B.C. vs. Canada
A total of 330 people across the Okanagan have been infected by COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, new figures from the government indicate.
That number represents 0.08 per cent of the region’s population of 377,000 people.
In the past two weeks, 13 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the Okanagan.
The rate of transmission in the Valley is now among the province’s lowest, behind the West Kootenays and northwest B.C., and far below the rates being experienced in Vancouver and Surrey.
Every Thursday, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control produces a surveillance report covering a variety of COVID-19 data with infection statistics broken down by geography, patient age and likelihood of hospitalization.
The most recent report provides some context to the scope and effect of the pandemic beyond the daily case counts provided by Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
What often attracts the most media and public attention is the rising number of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases.
Between Sept. 11 and Sept. 17, 833 new cases were confirmed provincewide, compared to 789 in the previous one-week period.
And the number of active COVID-19 cases across the province also rose in the past two weeks, from 1,412 to 1,705.
That number has been rising steadily since mid-July, and is now more than three times higher than active case counts in March, before the start of near-lockdown provisions ordered by the government.
But the surveillance reports also contain information that, while perhaps not reassuring exactly, give a fuller picture of how the pandemic is affecting British Columbians.
Here are some other highlights from this week’s COVID-19 surveillance report, with numbers accurate to Thursday:
— Cases have surged among people aged between 20 and 40, with that group now accounting for 44 per cent of all COVID-19 infections in B.C.
But only 10 per cent of British Columbians who’ve been hospitalized for the disease have been between 20 and 40, and no one in this age range has died of the disease.
Those numbers reflect the fact that reasonably healthy young people are simply much less likely to become seriously ill if they catch COVID-19.
— There are almost one million children and teenagers under 19 in B.C., but only 605 of them have caught COVID-19. That represents 0.06 per cent of the population group. Of the 605 children or teens who were infected, only five were hospitalized, none were treated in intensive care, and all have recovered.
— Of the 219 British Columbians who died of COVID-19 from the onset of the pandemic until this past Thursday, 28 per cent were over the age of 90, 69 per cent were over age 80, and 88 per cent were over age 70.
Three new outbreaks, 8 additional cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region – CTV Toronto
The Region of Waterloo is reporting eight new cases of COVID-19, and three new outbreaks in the community.
Public Health added 13 cases to the region’s total on Saturday. Eight of those cases are considered new, while the remaining five are part of a revision to the previous tally.
The total number of positive cases in Waterloo Region is now 1,571, with 1,357 cases considered resolved and no new deaths.
Public Health is also reporting three new outbreaks.
One is at the YWCA St. Paul Childcare Centre on Birchcliff Ave. in Kitchener. Public Health has confirmed to CTV News that there is one case reported in a child. The centre remains open, but the region says other students in the cohort are currently isolating at home.
Another outbreak has been declared at Lanark Heights Long-Term Care Home in Kitchener, after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
The operator of the home says they are both asymptomatic cases and the employees “have been off work and will continue to be off work for the next 14 days.”
Lanark says essential visitors will still be allowed in the home, as long as they comply with screening measures.
The region’s COVID-19 dashboard also shows a new outbreak at a “congregate setting.” According to the province, this refers to a shared space which could include shelters, group homes and correctional facilities.
The latest update brings the total number of local outbreaks to six.
On Friday, the region announced an outbreak at a gym after three people tested positive for COVID-19. CTV News has confirmed that it was the F45 Waterloo location on Glasgow Street.
The University at Village Gates, a retirement home in Waterloo, has been listed on the region’s dashboard since Sept. 5 after a staff member had a positive COVID-19 test.
An active outbreak has also declared at second unnamed “congregate setting.” According to the region, there are a total of two active cases between these two locations and both involve staff members.
In addition to these locations, Goodlife Fitness has confirmed to CTV News that two of its members have contracted COVID-19. Both were members at its Williamsburg location. This latest announcement was not included in the region’s daily update.
NEW SOCIAL GATHERING RULES
The number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb, with 407 infections reported across the province on Saturday.
That’s the highest total since the beginning of June.
Premier Doug Ford calls the latest results “alarming.”
“Folks, the alarm bells are ringing,” he said at Saturday’s news conference. “Too much of it is being tied to people who aren’t following the rules. People who think it’s okay to hold parties, to carry on as if things are back to normal. They aren’t.”
In response, the province is imposing new restrictions in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
Social gatherings are now limited to 10 people in an indoor setting, or 25 people outdoors.
The new rules only apply to private gatherings, and don’t include movie theatres, restaurants, banquet halls, places of worship and gyms.
Saturday’s announcement comes just days after similar rules were put in place for Ontario’s worst COVID-19 hotspots, and after top doctors in Waterloo Region and the Guelph-area urged the province to take more action.
Anyone who breaks the social gathering rules could face a fine. The province says organizers may have to pay $10,000, while attendees would be fined $750.
“With more and more people returning to work, children returning to schools, and students going back to college or university, we need to ensure we are doing everything we can to minimize the risk of spread,” said Health Minister Christine Elliot at the press conference.
But not everyone is happy with the premier’s announcement.
The NDP Deputy Leader put out a statement today criticizing the plan, saying it’s a sign of poor planning. They would also like to see lower limits not just in social gatherings, but in school classrooms too.
The new rules will remain in effect for the next four weeks.
One confirmed COVID-19 case reported at L'Essor – Windsor Star
Article content continued
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens issued as statement late Satuday morning encouraging residents to comply with the newest restrictions.
“We are all in the drivers seat when it comes to the regulations and limitations that are imposed on Windsor and Essex County,” Dilkens said. “The stronger our collective response, the more flexible guidelines I am confident our region will be permitted.
“To ensure that our region is not further restricted, I would strongly urge all residents to take this news to heart and to follow these guidelines strictly.”
Locally, Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence has confirmed one case of COVID-19 at L’Essor high school.
The school board released the information Friday, saying in the interest of privacy it will not identify the student or staff member who tested positive for the virus but will immediately notify parents, students and staff if a class, cohort or school is ordered closed by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
The health unit reported eight additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday in the region.
The new cases bring the cumulative total to 2,623 since March.
Three outbreaks continue at long-term care or retirement homes.
Those homes are Dolce Vita in Windsor, where there are four residents and two staff members who have tested positive for the virus.
Two Leamington homes have positive cases – Rosewood Erie Glen with one staff member testing positive and New Beginnings with 21 residents and seven staff members testing positive.
There are currently no workplace outbreaks.
A total of 76 people in Windsor-Essex have died as a result of COVID-19.
Also as of Saturday, 2,452 cases in the region have been categorized as resolved, two more since Friday.
For more information on COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex, including public exposure notifications, visit www.wechu.org/cv.
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