Canada’s top doctors say they’re striving for a best-case scenario but preparing for the worst: a so-called “fall peak” of COVID-19 cases across the country that threatens to overwhelm the public health-care system.
Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam and deputy public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo presented new modelling on the coronavirus on Friday, flagging a potential surge in cases several times worse than what we’ve seen so far in Canada.
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) documents show officials are aiming for a “slow burn” scenario, in which the number of cases remains low, so that the public health-care system can deal with the influx of patients. But officials are also planning for a “reasonable worst-case scenario,” where a fall spike in infections is followed by ongoing peaks and valleys, putting excessive demands on the health system.
Tam noted that this fall’s surge will coincide with the flu and cold season, potentially putting added strains on hospitals and other health resources.
She declined to put a figure on what the caseload might look like, but said health authorities should plan for “something that’s at least several times worse than your previous experience.” There is much that’s still not known about COVID-19, including whether it accelerates with seasonality.
WATCH | Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam on potential COVID-19 surge:
Tam said what actions Canadians take now will determine how transmissions unfold in the fall.
“Continuing to build up capacity across our health, public health and laboratory systems while urging all Canadians to continue with public health practices will give us the best chance of keeping the epidemic on a slow burn, while preparing us in the event of a need to rapidly ramp up response measures for possible larger resurgence,” Tam said.
The number of new cases reported daily has increased in recent weeks, with the highest rate of infection among people aged 20-39 years old.
As businesses and schools reopen and more people return to the workplace, Tam stressed that Canadians must be vigilant in following public health guidelines to avoid a major rebound.
Key measures to limiting outbreaks are:
- Detecting and isolating cases.
- Contact tracing and quarantining.
- Physical distancing, handwashing and staying home when possible.
- Using exposure notification apps.
Njoo said about 1.9 million people have downloaded Canada’s COVID-19 exposure notification app, and he urged people to take part, especially young people who go to pubs and nightclubs.
Case load expected to climb
In the short term, PHAC says the case load could grow to between 121,650 and 127,740 by Aug. 23, and the number of deaths could climb to between 8,980 to 9,115.
The majority of cases have been reported in Ontario and Quebec, while Nunavut has not recorded a single case.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s office says the government knows a second wave of COVID-19 is possible, and is making appropriate preparations.
“That’s why we’ve been careful in how we’ve started to lift some public health measures, and why we’ve worked with the provinces and territories to establish a supply of PPE and medical supplies to keep Canadians safe,” Hajdu’s spokesperson Cole Davidson said in a statement.
“Deliveries of PPE and medical supplies continue to arrive at PHAC warehouses from both domestic and international suppliers while we work with provinces and territories to prepare for future needs, including the administration of potential vaccines and a possible second wave.”
Today’s modelling information is not intended to predict what will happen, but to provide a snapshot of what could happen in certain scenarios. It projects that the “peaks and valleys” could continue through 2022.
It comes as anxiety increases about potential outbreaks as students return to classrooms in the coming weeks.
British Columbia released its own modelling Thursday, showing the province’s COVID-19 curve is now climbing at a higher rate than the initial outbreak in March, and suggesting a second wave could be bigger than the first by September.
Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry said the province’s contact-tracing efforts could help reduce the number of transmissions.
Canada’s top doctor has said while Canada has been successful at slowing the spread of COVID-19, there could be a resurgence if Canadians don’t strictly follow public health guidelines on physical distancing, hand-washing and limiting mass gatherings.
Ottawa prepares to squeeze big U.S. tech firms over loss of revenue for Canadian news outlets – CBC.ca
Advocates for Canada’s news media sector have welcomed the federal government’s clearest pledge yet to squeeze web giants for compensation. But there’s evidence it will be a long, difficult process.
Major U.S.-based tech firms such as Facebook and Google have long been accused of funnelling advertising revenues away from Canada’s struggling news organizations while not paying the outlets for their copyrighted content.
In its throne speech on Wednesday, the Liberal government put it this way: “Web giants are taking Canadians’ money while imposing their own priorities.”
In the speech, read by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, the government vowed, “Things must change, and will change.”
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has been signalling his intent to take on the Silicon Valley companies for months, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic crisis, there was no guarantee that it would remain a legislative priority.
Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, said after the speech that he was encouraged by the government’s message.
“We’ve felt for a long time that we’re contributing a lot to these platforms and getting nothing back,” he told CBC News in an earlier interview. “It’s because we’re in this essentially powerless position that we’re asking government to intervene.”
His newspaper is among countless media organizations across the country imperilled by an ongoing loss of ad revenue, compounded by the pandemic.
A tally by the Canadian Association of Journalists at the end of April found that 50 outlets had recently closed and 78 had cut staff, resulting in 2,053 job losses.
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, an advocacy group, now estimates the job cuts in journalism have surpassed 3,000 since COVID-19 struck in the early part of the year.
Some news outlets have benefited from Ottawa’s wage subsidy program during the pandemic — and a tax credit-based media bailout before that — but the loss of revenues to web giants is seen as a longer-term threat.
“This is a six-alarm fire, and the government needs to act right now — this parliament — to start imposing the rule of law over these Silicon Valley giants that are cratering our industries,” said Daniel Bernhard, executive director of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.
Cox and Catherine Tait, president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, were among the Canadian media executives who signed a joint letter to all federal party leaders in February, demanding fairer rules surrounding competition, copyright and taxation for online content.
Now comes brass tacks. We are looking forward to specific policy from <a href=”https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@JustinTrudeau</a> on 1) making sure tech companies pay their fair share of taxes and 2) are held liable for the hateful and illegal content they publish 3) support public and private Canadian media 2/3
Media, tech firms have complicated relationship
Guilbeault has been working on a plan to address the imbalance between Canadian news organizations and the web giants. As it stands, platforms like Facebook and Google can share headlines and snippets of news articles without directly compensating the outlets.
What’s more, the tech firms sell advertising on the content they didn’t create.
It’s a complicated relationship, however. Local and national media outlets also rely on web traffic driven by search engines and social media platforms — some of the sites most visited by Canadians.
WATCH | Regulations for tech giants to ‘pay their fair share,’ minister says:
“The days where the [tech] companies could decide just about everything … are over,” Guilbeault said in a recent interview.
While legislation could come as early as this fall, few details are known about how the government plans to address the issue.
The throne speech provided this vague hint: “The government will act to ensure [web companies’] revenue is shared more fairly with our creators and media.” The speech also alluded to tackling “corporate tax avoidance by digital giants.”
Guilbeault acknowledged he has “an uphill battle” ahead. Experiences abroad confirm that.
Experiences in other countries offer lessons
In France, Google refused to comply with a 2019 European Union directive to pay to use snippets of news stories. Instead, the platform removed article extracts from search results, leaving only the links.
The matter was hardly resolved. Earlier this year, the French competition authority ordered Google back to the bargaining table.
Michael Geist, a law professor at the University Ottawa, said he does not expect Facebook to easily co-operate, either.
“The risk, if we move toward licensing links, is that news stories are going to disappear for Canadians from social media services” altogether, he warned.
Geist pointed to Australia, which has a population approximately two-thirds the size of Canada’s and may provide the best preview of the battle brewing here.
A draft code published over the summer by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission drew swift rebukes from both Google and Facebook. The plan would allow for news publishers to negotiate with the tech firms for compensation when their content is reposted.
In response, Facebook “reluctantly” threatened to ban the sharing of news articles on its platforms in Australia. Critics pointed out it would still be possible to post false stories.
Google, for its part, said the Australian strategy put the search engine and its sister platform YouTube “at risk.”
We’re answering your questions about how a new regulation could impact you. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/AFairCode?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#AFairCode</a>. Thread ↓ (1/5) <a href=”https://t.co/vLTUWs0CdN”>pic.twitter.com/vLTUWs0CdN</a>
“I think the idea is right — there needs to be some sort of fair exchange,” but identifying the correct process poses a challenge, said Andrea Carson, an associate professor in the department of politics, media and philosophy at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, who received a grant from Facebook to research online misinformation.
“I’m not sure any country, at this point, has worked out best practices yet.”
Guilbeault has been monitoring such efforts overseas and expects other governments will follow suit soon.
“If it’s two, three, four, five [countries], I think it’s going to become impossible for Facebook to start boycotting everybody,” he said.
A statement issued by Facebook on Thursday did not directly address the issue of compensating news organizations in this country. “We welcome new rules for the internet that support innovation, free expression and the digital economy,” a company spokesperson said in an email.
A representative for Google Canada said the company looks forward “to continued collaboration with the [Department of Canadian Heritage] to explore new ways to support the Canadian creator and media ecosystem.”
Guilbeault is working on requirements for streaming services to contribute more to Canadian content as well. Regulations are also in the works for social media companies to address harmful content — for example, the quicker removal of hate speech or any incitement to violence.
“We have worked hard over the decades to have a safe Canada in the real world, and that’s what we’re trying to translate onto the web,” Guilbeault said. “Right now, one could argue that it’s not really the case.”
Canada's top doctors reveal flip side to public praise: 'I've had death threats' – CTV News
The top health officials co-ordinating Canada’s COVID-19 response say the majority of public reaction to their work has been positive — but they’ve also received some abusive feedback that ranges from “well-thought-out insults” to “death threats.”
“I’ve got a lot of positive responses, but there are many people who don’t like what I do, or don’t like the way I say it or don’t like my shoes and feel quite able to send me nasty notes, to leave phone calls, to harass my office staff,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s top doctor, speaking Tuesday.
“I’ve had to have security in my house, I’ve had death threats,” she added.
Her comment made headlines after she revealed the death threats she’d been facing — and it prompted reporters to quiz other health officials about how they’ve been treated by the public.
While the other public health officers did not report death threats, they said they had been on the receiving end of some abuse.
Dr. Heather Morrison, who serves as the top doctor in P.E.I., said she’s received a small amount of feedback that’s been frightening.
“Overwhelmingly, it’s been so wonderful,” Morrison told CTV News in an interview.
However, she conceded that “there have been threats, at times.”
“It makes me concerned for my family, and my children, and my staff,” Morrison said.
While some doctors, such as Henry and Morrison, reported outright threats, others said that while they hadn’t faced any threats, there had been a heaping of criticism levelled towards them.
“Dr. Hinshaw has received a wide range of correspondence from Albertans,” said a spokesperson for Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
“While this includes strong personal and professional criticisms, she has not received death threats or hate mail to date.”
Newfoundland and Labrador’s top doctor, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, said in her Wednesday press conference that it’s “unfortunate” people feel public servants “deserve to be the target of such harassment.”
“In the Public Health Division we’ve had our share of emails that aren’t necessarily in agreement with some of the things that we have done, but you know, we have to accept that as part of the job I guess,” she added.
Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said in her own Wednesday press conference that she has also been on the receiving end of insults — but no threats.
“I haven’t had any threats. I’ve had some very-well-thought-out insults sent my way, but for the most part, no, no threats,” she said.
RESEARCH POINTS TO WOMEN FACING MORE CRITICISM ONLINE
At least one study indicates that the numbers reflect what these doctors are describing — and may point to a gender divide in the negative feedback they face.
Erin Kelly is the CEO of Advanced Symbolics Inc., which uses Artificial Intelligence for human behaviour research. She studied the feedback these public health officer face using a randomized, controlled sample of 270,000 Canadians taken from Twitter.
Kelly said the randomized, controlled sample she studied was taken from Twitter between October 1, 2019 to September 22, 2020. She said her results had a margin of error of +/- 1 per cent, with a 95-per-cent confidence interval 19 times out of 20.
She said they found, overall, discussion about Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and Bonnie Henry was “well in excess of 80 per cent positive, so overall Canadians feel they’re doing a good job.”
“However, we have seen for some of them like Bonnie Henry, feelings about her have been on the decline since about April, and especially since July, that contestations questioning her competence have been increasing,” Kelly said.
She added that roughly a quarter of the discussions about Tam were what she would “classify as racist.”
“But the bigger picture that we see is a gender bias in how public health officials are being perceived,” Kelley said.
She explained that where there are negative comments directed at public health officials, “it comes overwhelmingly from men.”
She said that when this was compared to the comments Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams faces, “the comments from men were overwhelmingly positive.”
“So it’s not as though they’re always negative about public health officials generally, it seems to be splitting along gender lines,” Kelly said.
When asked about this gender difference, Alberta’s top doctor said it would be “difficult” to compare what she’s experienced with the feelings among her colleagues.
“It’s not something I’ve discussed with my male colleagues across the country so that might be something of interest to find out if they’re experiencing some similar frustrations,” Hinshaw said.
“I think it is quite understandable that people do feel angry, it’s just really important that, if people are feeling angry, that they frame their concerns in a respectful way…whether people in leadership are women or men.”
Coronavirus: Canada adds 1,329 cases, 5 deaths Thursday – Global News
Canada added 1,329 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday and five deaths.
That brings the national total to 148,941 cases and 9,249 deaths, with two deaths added from earlier in the week.
Ontario reported 409 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing its case total to 48,496 and count back into the 400s after 335 cases were reported Wednesday.
Currently there are 88 people in hospital with the virus in the province, with 27 of them in intensive care and 11 on a ventilator.
Quebec, meanwhile, reported 582 new cases on Thursday, bringing the province’s total to 69,670. Hospitalizations increased by six to 184, with 31 in intensive care.
Coronavirus: Quebec health minister asks Quebecers to limit social interactions
One additional death was announced that occurred between Sept. 17 and 22. The province has the most deaths in the country at 5,810.
Out west, British Columbia reported 148 new cases on Thursday, with 61 currently in hospital, 20 of them in intensive care. The province has seen 8,543 cases total.
Two new deaths were reported as well.
Alberta announced 158 new cases, with 58 people currently in hospital, 14 in intensive care. There are 1,462 active cases total.
The province also announced one new death — a man in his 80s from Calgary.
Manitoba reported 37 new cases of COVID-19. The province currently has 449 active cases, with 11 in hospital and six in intensive care.
The province also confirmed the death of a woman in her 90s in a long-term care home in Winnipeg, which was first reported on Tuesday.
Saskatchewan added five new cases to its tally of 1,835 total cases on Thursday, and currently has 130 active cases with eight people hospitalized. No new deaths were reported.
Coronavirus: Trudeau says Canada can ‘bend the curve’ together again
In the Maritimes, New Brunswick reported one new case of an individual from Fredericton but who is currently in Ontario.
Nova Scotia added no new cases to its sole active case. The province currently has one person in ICU and has had 1,087 cases total.
No cases were reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI or any of the territories.
There have been 32,091,257 cases reported worldwide and 980,299 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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