After federal COVID-19 modelling showed that the fall could bring about yet another surge in COVID-19 cases with the Delta variant spreading rapidly, doctors say that the best way to avoid a fourth wave is to vaccinate, test, trace and isolate.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, released modelling on Friday that indicates cases are beginning to rise as a result of the more contagious Delta variant, but there is still time to flatten the curve.
“There’s no summer vacation for getting second doses and first doses, because we don’t have that leeway,” Dr. Lisa Barrett told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
She added that people who are delayed in getting their shots, first or second, need to make an effort to get it as soon as possible.
“Before we get into all of these back to school and other situations in a respiratory virus season like the fall, we’ve got to keep going,” she said.
While breakthrough cases have happened among vaccinated people, they remain rare and vaccines remain the best defense against COVID-19.
”It very much is that these vaccines are amazing, and the cornerstone of our prevention toolbox, and our control,” said Barrett. “The limiting of virus really, really depends on people getting two doses of this vaccine.”
There are other steps Canadians can take to continue protecting themselves, vaccinated or not, and they’re no different than what’s been urged since early on in the pandemic: masking and testing.
“There’s some simple tools out there, in addition to vaccines, like masking and testing, that would reduce the risk of this being a disease of the unvaccinated,” Barrett said.
While the modelling shows the potential for a fourth wave in the fall, an infectious disease specialist said that models are only as good as the variables put into them, but that the possibility of another surge is possible.
“It’s possible that we could have a sort of fourth wave. I would guess that it could be a muted fourth wave, because unlike previous waves, we do have vaccinated people,” Dr. Ronald St. John, former director-general of the Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response, told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
While provinces begin to loosen restrictions, or in some cases do away with them altogether, one doctor says that it’s the unvaccinated population who will be hit hardest by a fourth wave.
“The fourth wave is certainly going to affect those who are unvaccinated, but I think what we really need to start looking at are, who are these unvaccinated populations?” Dr. Veronica McKinney, director of Northern Medical Services at the University of Saskatchewan, told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
She said that unvaccinated populations need to be identified in order for doctors and experts can work with them, so that they can be comfortable getting vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
“The way that it’s been portrayed is that it’s an individual choice and that people are just being resistant but I really believe that now is the time to look at what are the pieces that have led to this in the system?” she said.
Policies need to change to encourage people to get vaccinated, but also to take time off in the event they do get sick, added McKinney.
“We need to look at those policies that are making it difficult, those people who don’t get sick time, who don’t want to be tested because they don’t want to be off work but also not necessarily trusting what is being presented,” she added.
Even with getting more shots in arms, McKinney said that provinces such as Saskatchewan and Alberta have lifted public health measures necessary to test, trace and isolate in a way to prevent a fourth wave.
“Part of the challenges that our communities are now dealing with is the fact that there are no longer public health orders that we can use to try to help in terms of keeping people isolated if they need be, testing, all of those pieces that were very helpful, but are no longer existent [Saskatchewan],” she said.
Medical assistance in dying given to 10K Canadians in 2021 – CTV News
More Canadians are ending their lives with a medically-assisted death, says the third federal annual report on medical assistance in dying (MAID). Data shows that 10,064 people died in 2021 with medical aid, an increase of 32 per cent over 2020.
The report says that 3.3 per cent of all deaths in Canada in 2021 were assisted deaths. On a provincial level, the rate was higher in provinces such as Quebec, at 4.7 per cent, and British Columbia, at 4.8 per cent.
“It is rising remarkably fast,” University of Toronto law professor Trudo Lemmens, who was a member of the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Medical Assistance in Dying, wrote in an email to CTV News. He noted that some regions in the country have quickly matched or surpassed rates in Belgium and the Netherlands, where the practice has been in place for over two decades.
Advocates say it isn’t surprising because Canadians are growing more comfortable with MAID and some expect the rising rates may level off.
“The…. expectation has always been it (the rate) will be something around four to five per cent, (as in) Europe. We will probably, in the end, saw off at around the same rate,” said Dr. Jean Marmoreo, a family physician and MAID provider in Toronto.
The report uses data collected from files submitted by doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists across the country involving written requests for MAID.
Among the findings:
- All provinces saw increases in MAID deaths, ranging from 1.2 per cent (Newfoundland & Labrador) to a high of 4.8 per cent (British Columbia);
- More men (52.3 per cent) than women (47.7 per cent) received MAID;
- The average age was 76.3 years;
- Sixty-five per cent of those provided with assisted death had cancer. Heart disease or strokes were cited in 19 per cent of cases, followed by chronic lung diseases (12 per cent) and neurological conditions like ALS (12 per cent);
- Just over two per cent of assisted deaths were offered to a newer group of patients: those with chronic illnesses but who were not dying of their condition, with new legislation in 2021 allowing expanded access to MAID.
Documents show that 81 per cent of written applications for MAID were approved.
Thirteen per cent of patients died before MAID could be provided, with almost two per cent withdrawing their application before the procedure was offered.
Four per cent of people who made written applications for medical assistance were rejected. The report says some were deemed ineligible because assessors felt the patient was not voluntarily applying for MAID. The majority of requests were denied because patients were deemed not mentally capable of making the decision.
But other countries with long-established programs reject far more assisted death requests, said Lemmens, citing data that shows 12 to 16 per cent of applicants in the Netherlands are told no.
“It ….may be an indication that restrictions (in my view safeguards) are weaker here than in the most liberal euthanasia regimes,” he wrote in his email to CTV News.
But Marmoreo, who has offered MAID since 2016, sees Canada’s low rejection rate differently.
“It is more like that the right cases are put forward,” she said.
“We have a very good screening process right from the get-go. So before people actually even make a formal request to have assisted dying, they have a lot of information that’s been given to them by the intake….here’s what’s involved in seeking an assisted death, you must meet these eligibility criteria.”
B.C. ‘clear’ there’s not enough housing as Vancouver encampment ordered dismantled
VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s acting attorney general says the province was “clear” with Vancouver officials that the Crown corporation responsible for subsidized housing does not have enough spaces available for people who are being told to dismantle their tents along a street in the city’s Downtown Eastside.
Murray Rankin, who is also the minister responsible for housing, says housing is a human right, and the “deeply concerning scenes from Hastings Street demonstrate how much more work we have to do to make that a reality for everyone in our communities.”
Rankin in a statement Friday says BC Housing has accelerated efforts to secure new housing for encampment residents including pursuing new sites to lease or buy and expediting renovations on single-room occupancy units as they become vacant.
He says BC Housing is aiming to make a “limited number” of renovated units available next week, with more opening later in the fall.
Vancouver fire Chief Karen Fry ordered tents set up along Hastings Street sidewalks dismantled last month, saying there was an extreme fire and safety risk.
Police blocked traffic Tuesday as city staff began what’s expected to be a weeks-long process of dismantling the encampment but little had changed by the end of the week with most residents staying put, saying they have nowhere to go.
The city has said staff plan to approach encampment residents with “respect and sensitivity” to encourage the voluntary removal of their tents and belongings.
Community advocacy groups, including the Vancouver Area of Drug Users and Pivot Legal Society, have said clearing the encampment violates a memorandum of understanding between the city, the B.C. government and Vancouver’s park board, because people are being told to move without being offered suitable housing.
The stated aim of the agreement struck last March is to connect unsheltered people to housing and preserve their dignity when dismantling encampments.
The City of Vancouver may enforce bylaws that prohibit structures on sidewalks “when suitable spaces are available for people to move indoors,” it reads.
The province is not involved in the fire chief’s order or the enforcement of local bylaws, which prohibit structures on sidewalks, but it is “bringing all of BC Housing’s resources to bear to do what we can to secure housing for people, Rankin said.
“I recognize the profound uncertainty and upheaval people impacted by the fire order are facing, and we will provide updates on this work as we have news to share,” he said.
Rankin, who had been serving as minister of Indigenous relations, was appointed acting attorney general after David Eby stepped down to run for leadership of the B.C. NDP.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.
The Canadian Press
N.W.T. RCMP deploy controversial roadside cannabis screening devices
YELLOWKNIFE — RCMP in the Northwest Territories have begun using roadside cannabis-screening technology that has faced criticism from defence lawyers elsewhere in Canada.
Mounties in the territory announced late last month that they had deployed devices designed to take a saliva sample and test for the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, the main psychoactive substance in cannabis. They said the technology would help them detect impaired drivers and make roads safer.
But some criminal defence lawyers have raised concerns about these devices’ ability to deliver reliable test results, particularly in cold temperatures. They argue the technology isn’t effective at determining whether someone is impaired.
“It can lead to people being arrested who are actually innocent,” said Kyla Lee, a lawyer based in Vancouver.
Lee said research has shown the devices may be more likely to deliver false results in extreme cold temperatures, and movement during analysis could also affect outcomes. She added that while the devices can deliver either a positive or negative test result, they do not indicate how much THC may be in a person’s bloodstream.
Lee recently represented a Nova Scotia woman in a constitutional challenge of the law that allows for roadside drug testing technology in Canada.
Michelle Gray, who uses cannabis for multiple sclerosis, had her car impounded and her licence suspended for a week after she failed a cannabis saliva test at a roadside checkpoint in 2019, even though she passed a sobriety test that same night.
“The technology just doesn’t exist yet to allow police to make a determination of impairment via drugs using physical equipment,” Lee said.
Lee is awaiting a decision on the constitutional challenge in Nova Scotia. She said she expects there will be further court challenges in other Canadian jurisdictions where these devices are used, including the Northwest Territories.
There are two devices approved for roadside cannabis screening in Canada: the Drager DrugTest 5000 and the Abbott SoToxa mobile test system. The companies that manufacture the devices recommend they be used in temperatures no lower than 4 C and 5 C, respectively.
Cpl. Andree Sieber of the Regina Police Service, which began using roadside devices to detect cannabis use in early 2020, said officers bring drivers to their vehicles for testing to prevent issues with weather conditions or temperatures.
“We’ve used it throughout all seasons here in Regina,” she said. “We have very cold winters and some pretty nasty, snowy cold days and you have the person attend back to your vehicle with you where it’s heated and it’s not an issue.”
Sieber said the more THC a person has consumed, the more likely they are to show signs of impairment and to test positive.
The RCMP said roadside screening devices are just one tool they use to detect and investigate drug-impaired drivers alongside officers’ observations. They said field sobriety testing and drug recognition experts remain the primary enforcement tools.
“Police officers rely on what they see and hear, as well as what they smell when investigating impaired drivers,” the RCMP said in a written statement. “Regardless of how a drug is consumed, there are signs of that consumption and police are trained to recognized them.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Emily Blake, The Canadian Press
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