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How Quebec went from COVID-19 success story to hot spot in 30 days –



A little over a month ago, Health Minister Christian Dubé congratulated Quebecers for their hard work at containing the spread of the coronavirus.

It was a Tuesday, Aug. 25, and the province had registered just 94 new cases of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. 

“We have really succeeded at controlling the transmission of COVID,” Dubé said at a news conference in Montreal. 

It was a statement of fact, but the ground had already started to shift. In the intervening weeks, transmission increased. At first it grew slowly, then exponentially. 

On Monday, the government implicitly acknowledged it has again lost control of the virus. The province is reimposing lockdown measures on Quebec’s two biggest cities, starting Oct. 1. 

Until Oct. 28, Quebecers won’t be able to entertain friends or families at home. Bars, restaurant dining rooms, theatres and cinemas will also be closed.   

“The situation has become critical” Premier François Legault said Monday evening. “If we don’t want our hospitals to be submerged, if we want to limit the number of deaths, we must take strong action.”

The new measures will bring abrupt changes to the lives of millions of Quebecers. They will also prompt questions about how the public health situation could have deteriorated so quickly.

This story tries to trace how Quebec again lost control of the spread of COVID-19.

At first, a stern warning

As Dubé addressed reporters on that Tuesday in late August, public health officials in Quebec City were busy trying to track down patrons of Bar Kirouac, a watering hole in the working-class Saint-Sauveur neighbourhood.

A karaoke night at the bar ultimately led to 72 cases and the activity being banned in the province.

There were also numerous reports by then of young people holding massive house parties and flouting physical distancing recommendations. One of them, in Laval, led to a small outbreak.

WATCH | Legault explains why harsh measures are necessary:

Quebec Premier François Legault says the second wave came because Quebecers did not follow public health guidelines. 0:39

On Aug. 31, as Quebec’s daily average of new cases neared 152 cases, Legault delivered a stern warning. 

“There has been a general slackening in Quebec,” Legault said. “It’s important to exercise more discipline.”

Legault and his health minister threatened stiffer punishments for those who disobeyed public-health rules, but stopped short of imposing new restrictions.

Private gatherings identified as the culprit

In late August, public health officials were attributing the rise in infections to Quebecers returning home from vacations around the province, as opposed to the start of school. 

Though Quebec’s back-to-school plan wasn’t met with widespread criticism, some experts expressed concern about the large class sizes and the lack of physical distancing guidelines for students. 

The government also ignored advice that it should make masks mandatory inside the classroom.

A teacher wearing protective equipment greets her students in the school yard at the Philippe-Labarre Elementary School in Montreal on Aug. 27. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

But the first weeks of the school year went relatively smoothly. By the start of Labour Day weekend, only 46 out of the province’s 3,100 schools had reported a case of COVID-19. Importantly, there were no major outbreaks.

The problem was elsewhere. Outside schools, in the community at large, cases continued to rise. On Sept. 8, the province was averaging 228 cases per day.

By now public health officials had identified private gatherings as the main culprit behind the increase.

Montreal’s regional director of public health, Dr. Mylène Drouin, was among those who urged more caution when hanging out with friends and family. 

“Yes, we can have social activities, but we have to reduce contacts to be able to reduce secondary transmission,” Drouin said on Sept. 9.

Warning signs

In an effort to spell out the consequences of the increase in cases, the Quebec government unveiled a series of colour-coded alert levels. 

Areas coded green would see few restrictions; yellow zones would see more enforcement of existing rules; orange zones would be the target of added restrictions; and red zones would see more widespread closures of non-essential activities.

When the scheme was announced on Sept. 8, Quebec City was classified yellow. Montreal was classified green.

At this point, though, health experts were already concerned that more needed to curb the spread of the virus.

“It is important to intensify these measures,” Dr. Cécile Tremblay, an infectious disease specialist with the Université de Montréal hospital network, said after the alert levels were announced.

The warning signs were starting to multiply.

Officials in Montreal were investigating 20 outbreaks at workplaces on Sept. 9; a week later that number had risen to 30. Long lines were also forming outside testing centres, filled with anxious parents and their children.

And more stories were circulating of private gatherings where the 10-person limit was ignored, angering the health minister.

He told reporters about a dinner with 17 people at a restaurant in Montérégie, which led to 31 cases. A corn roast in the Lower St. Lawrence, he said, resulted in 30 cases.

“To me, that’s unacceptable,” Dubé said on Sept. 15  “If people won’t understand from these examples then, I’m sorry, but they’ll never understand.”

He moved Montreal, and four other regions, into the yellow zones and banned bars from serving food after midnight. The province was averaging 338 new cases per day.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said the province is at a fragile state in its fight against COVID-19. He encouraged Quebecers to act responsibly. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

Second wave arrives

The warnings from the government did not curb the spread of the virus. By mid-September, authorities were reporting more cases in closed settings.

On Sept. 17, Herzliah High School in Montreal became the first school in the province to say it was shutting down for two weeks to deal with an outbreak. At least 400 other schools were also dealing with active cases of COVID-19. 

Cases accumulated too in private seniors homes (known as RPAs), a major source of concern for public officials given the vulnerability of the residents to COVID-19. 

There were only 39 cases in RPAs at the start of the month, and 157 by Sept. 20.

On that day the government announced it was moving Montreal, Quebec City and the Chaudière-Appalaches region into the orange zone, the second-highest alert level. Private gatherings were capped at six people.

The province was by then averaging 501 new cases per day. The second wave had begun, according Quebec’s public health director, Horacio Arruda. 

Red zone

Over the last week, Quebec’s health system has shown signs of strain as authorities race to contain the spread of the virus. 

Drouin, the Montreal public health director, admitted on Sept. 21 that her contact-tracing teams were swamped by the demand.

Until now, the increase in cases had not been accompanied by a corresponding surge in hospitalizations. Most of the new cases were concentrated in younger people.

But the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Quebec has increased by 45 per cent in the last seven days. Hospital staff are starting to get stretched. Several thousand health-care workers are in preventive isolation. 

“We’re feeling the second wave,” Dr François Marquis, the head of intensive care at Montreal’s Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital. “We were apprehensive about it, but now it’s a reality.”

On Monday, Quebec reported 750 new cases of COVID-19. Montreal and Quebec City were classified as red zones later that evening.

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Alberta sets new high in COVID-19 cases among kids and teens, while testing declines –



The number of cases of COVID-19 among school-aged children in Alberta has again surged to a new high, while the number of kids and teens being tested continues to decline.

Data from Alberta Health shows the number of new daily cases has continued to rise among five- to nine-year-olds and has again shot up, especially, among 10- to 19-year-olds.

Over the past week on record, an average of 85 cases were recorded per day among school-aged kids and teens.

In-person classes resumed at many Alberta schools on Sept. 1, and for several weeks the number of new daily cases had been on the decline.

That changed during the last week in September, when cases started to rise. The trend has continued through October.

Testing numbers among kids and teens surged in late September to unprecedented heights but have since declined.

For the week ending Oct. 28, there were less than 14,000 kids tested. That’s the second-lowest weekly total since classes resumed in September.

Testing volumes have been generally declining, week after week, throughout October. The proportion of positive tests, meanwhile, has been growing.

In late September, less than one case was being detected for every 100 kids tested.

Over the past week, that’s up to 4.3 cases per 100 kids tested.

The previous peak in cases among school-aged kids came in April. At that time, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said about eight or nine per cent of tests were coming back positive.

As of Thursday, Hinshaw said there were active alerts (involving a single case) or outbreaks (two or more cases) at 249 schools. That’s roughly 10 per cent of schools in the province.

There were 730 active cases among those who attend these schools.

“So far, in-school transmission has likely occurred in 87 schools,” Hinshaw said Thursday. “Of these, 48 have seen only one new case occur as a result.”

A total of 111 schools were listed as having outbreaks, including 45 on the watch list, meaning they have five or more cases:

  • City Of Airdrie — Coopers Crossing School.
  • City Of Calgary — Lester B. Pearson High School.
  • City Of Calgary — Nelson Mandela High School.
  • City Of Calgary — Canyon Meadows School.
  • City Of Calgary — Ecole de la Rose Sauvage.
  • City Of Calgary — John G. Diefenbaker High School.
  • City Of Calgary — Calgary French & International School.
  • City Of Calgary — St. Francis High School.
  • City Of Calgary — Bishop McNally High School.
  • City Of Calgary — New Heights School and Learning Services.
  • City Of Calgary — Sir Winston Churchill High School.
  • City Of Edmonton — Archbishop O’Leary.
  • City Of Edmonton — Centre High.
  • City Of Edmonton — Ross Sheppard High School.
  • City Of Edmonton — St. Oscar Romero Catholic High School.
  • City Of Edmonton — McNally School.
  • City Of Edmonton — Vimy Ridge.
  • City Of Edmonton — Highlands School.
  • City Of Edmonton — Cardinal Collins High School Academic Centre.
  • City Of Edmonton — Harry Ainlay School.
  • City Of Edmonton — Queen Elizabeth School.
  • City Of Edmonton — Dr. Donald Massey School.
  • City Of Edmonton — Louis St. Laurent.
  • City Of Edmonton — St. Joseph.
  • City Of Edmonton — Edmonton Islamic Academy.
  • City Of Edmonton — Jasper Place School.
  • City Of Edmonton —M.E. LaZerte School.
  • City Of Edmonton — Headway School Society of Alberta.
  • City Of Edmonton — Aurora School.
  • City Of Edmonton — Steinhauer School.
  • City Of Edmonton — St. Francis Xavier.
  • City Of Edmonton — Tipaskan School.
  • City Of Edmonton — St. Bernadette.
  • City Of Edmonton — Kate Chegwin School.
  • City Of Edmonton — Michael A Kostek Elementary School.
  • City Of Edmonton — St. Thomas Aquinas School.
  • City Of Red Deer — Hunting Hills High School.
  • City Of St. Albert — Richard S. Fowler Catholic Junior High School.
  • City Of St. Albert — Elmer S. Gish School.
  • City Of St. Albert — St. Albert Catholic High School.
  • Rocky View County — Khalsa School Calgary Educational Foundation.
  • Strathcona County — Bev Facey Community High School.
  • Strathcona County — Lakeland Ridge School.
  • Town Of Cochrane — RancheView School.
  • Westlock County — Richard F. Staples Secondary School.

You can find a full list of school outbreaks on the Alberta Health website.

Hinshaw said 153 schools that used to be on the list have been removed after they were deemed to no longer have any active cases.

Changes to checklist for student health

Hinshaw announced changes to the daily checklist of student health used by schools and child-care facilities across the province — as well as many parents.

“The first change is that we are removing runny nose and sore throat from the list of symptoms that require mandatory isolation for children,” she said.

In the past week, Hinshaw said more than 3,400 kids and youth tested for COVID-19 reported having a sore throat, and, of those, roughly 700 had a sore throat as their only symptom. Among those 700, less than one per cent tested positive.

Similarly, more than 3,300 kids with a runny nose were tested, and about 600 had a runny nose but no other symptoms. Of those 600, less than 0.5 per cent tested positive for COVID-19.

“This shows us that these symptoms by themselves are very poor indicators of whether a child has the virus,” Hinshaw said.

“I want to be clear that this change is only for those who have not had a known exposure,” she added.

Hinshaw said the second change is a “shift towards a more targeted checklist,” which will take into account the total number of symptoms a child has.

There will be no change if a child has any of the “core isolation symptoms,” which include cough, fever, shortness of breath or loss of taste or smell. Kids with these symptoms must still isolate for 10 days or have a negative test result and resolved symptoms before resuming their previous activities.  

The change, which takes effect Monday, will apply to all other symptoms. If a child has only one such symptom, Hinshaw said “they should stay home and monitor for 24 hours.”

“If their symptom is improving after 24 hours, testing is not necessary and they can return to normal activities when they feel well enough. However, if the child has two or more of the symptoms on the list, then testing is recommended and they should stay home until the symptoms go away or they test negative for COVID-19.”

The changes align Alberta’s approach with those of B.C., Ontario and Quebec, Hinshaw said.

She acknowledged “it is also another change in a year that has been full of other changes already.”

“I know that most parents and child-care operators are used to the current symptom list and this new list may be a little challenging at first, as parents and operators adjust,” she said.

“But these changes will help get Albertans under 18 back into classrooms and child-care settings more quickly, while still keeping each other safe.”

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Canadian Burial Insurance



Canadian burial insurance

Most of us don’t want to think about our funerals, but no matter how much we neglect the inevitable, the reality is that somebody will be responsible for the expenses when the time comes. The question is, will it be our mourning loved ones that pay the bill, or will we prepare and buy funeral insurance to cover those expenses so that they have one less issue to worry about.

Funeral insurance covers your loved ones by paying funeral and service fees, so they don’t have to. Many funeral insurance plans are between $5000 and $20,000 in value and are open to People of any age, so it’s never too late to start making the requisite arrangements.

One of the best things about a funeral insurance policy is that they’re inexpensive and open to all. Funeral insurance rates are charged every month, so the payment is distributed over one year instead of appearing all at once every six or twelve months. Also, a funeral insurance package does not require a medical test, so those in high-risk groups, such as smokers, or with pre-existing medical conditions will still apply.

Even without these incentives, the fact is that funeral rates are continually increasing. Much of our new life insurance, if any, is not enough to cover medical costs, pending loans, and funeral expenses. However, with an additional funeral insurance policy, we can be confident that our loved ones have the resources to make a pleasant farewell.

Funeral insurance provides coverage and tells those we love that we have taken care of them enough to arrange and save them from the needless burden paying for our funeral. But, more than that, burial insurance can also be used to cover extra medical expenses or other bills accrued, so that debt collectors will not hurt our families at one of the saddest moments of their lives. Funeral insurance can also leave anything behind to ease their loss: college income, home repairs, or living expenses. And the recipient of the funeral insurance policy does not have to pay any taxes on the money.

Today, many people are hesitant to get insurance plans because they don’t want to be insulted by salesmen or wait for the approval. This is not an issue with funeral insurance. Interested individuals can request a funeral insurance application online without negotiating with a qualified sales force or disclosing personal information to strangers. Also, the funeral insurance application is reviewed promptly and released quickly.

The reality is that funeral insurance is the right decision for everyone and everyone because we never know when our time is coming. Funeral insurance is easy to obtain and afford. Funeral insurance will cover our funeral costs, hospital expenses, and other obligations while also providing our loved ones with some tax-free money to support them through this challenging period. Funeral insurance also allows us the peace of mind to realize that we have relieved the pressure, worry, and sorrow of our loved ones by taking action to plan for the future. The funeral insurance policy is our last way to say, “I love you.”

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Corbella: Save the fearmongering for Halloween and follow the science on COVID-19 – Calgary Herald



Article content continued

“The choice is not between implementing another lockdown or letting COVID-19 run unimpeded. Instead, we must make it as easy and safe as possible for Albertans to live with this virus for the foreseeable future.”

We do that, she says, by “implementing targeted measures when needed, such as the 15-person limit on social gatherings announced on Monday” for Calgary and Edmonton, and not a repeat of across-the board lockdowns that lead to so much despair and hardship.

Stephen Avenue Mall was quiet in downtown Calgary on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many businesses closed and office workers at home. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Hinshaw says learning from other jurisdictions also helps. As a result, there are some new rules for parents to follow when it comes to their school-aged children attending school.

Already, angry, hateful tweets are popping up on Twitter attacking Hinshaw and the provincial government for this.

The first change includes removing runny nose and sore throat from the list of symptoms that require mandatory isolation for children.

Hinshaw says in the past week, more than 3,400 children and youth reporting a sore throat were tested for COVID-19. Of those, just a little over 700 had a sore throat as their only symptom. “Less than one per cent of those tests were positive,” she said.

“Similarly, more than 3,300 children were tested with a runny nose, with only 601 of whom having a runny nose and nothing else. Less than 0.5 per cent of those tested positive for COVID-19.

“This shows us that these symptoms by themselves are very poor indicators of whether a child has the virus.

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