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How Revelstoke handled the Spanish flu – Salmon Arm Observer



This isn’t the first time Revelstoke has gone through a pandemic.

The devastating Spanish flu struck Canada hard 100 years ago. Interestingly, the disease’s name is a misnomer as it didn’t originate on the Iberian Peninsula, but was the result of widespread misunderstanding.

Spain was one of the few countries in Europe to remain neutral during the First World War. Unlike Germany and Britain, where wartime censors suppressed news of the flu to avoid impacting morale, the Spanish media was free to report in gory detail.

Since countries undergoing a media blackout could only read in-depth accounts from Spanish news they assumed the country was the pandemic’s epicentre and the name stuck.

Yet, it’s unknown where the flu originated. The theories vary but include wartime trenches, farmers in Kansas or even Chinese labourers. Regardless, the illness wiped out up to 100 million people between 1918 and 1920, which is more than double those killed in battle during the First World War.

The disease travelled the globe, largely dispersed by returning troops.

In the spring of 1918, the flu arrived in Canada through the ports of Québec City, Montréal and Halifax.

Armistice Parade in Revelstoke, November 11, 1918. Although there was a pandemic on at the time, people still went to some gatherings and stood shoulder to shoulder. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

Cathy English, curator for the Revelstoke museum, said there were 6,000 people at that time in the Revelstoke area. There were no roads from Sicamous or Golden, so it’s likely the disease arrived by train.

By October, the city had its first death. Mike Bzulynski died at the age of 26. The following day Harry Turnross, 23, died. Two days later, Mrs. Antje Versteegh, 74, followed.

The deaths continued, sometimes daily, for the next several months. The outbreak killed the young and healthy, turning their strong immune system against them in a way that was unusual for flu.

According to reports, some people died within hours of becoming ill, their skin turned blue and their lungs filled with fluids, causing them to suffocate.

“The nursing staff in Revelstoke were hit particularly hard,” English said.

To stop the spread, churches, theatres and club meetings were disbanded. Schools shut and the teachers became nurses to replace those becoming ill.

“It was a hard time,” English said.

Similar to COVID-19, experts said the widespread transmission of the Spanish flu around the globe was partly due to a lack of immunity in the population. There was also no vaccine.

Queen Victoria Hospital, circa 1919. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

Regardless, newspapers advertised advice and cures. One Revelstoke article suggested soaking cotton balls in alcohol and chloroform, placing it between one’s teeth and inhaling. In 24 hours, the article said the patient should be saved.

Ruby Nobbs wrote in Revelstoke – History and Heritage that everyone in her family fell ill and she was forced to nurse them.

Nobbs was 12 years old at the time. Unlike today, there was little to none government aid. As a result, the Department of Health was created in 1919, from then on, public health was a responsibility shared by all levels of government.

By mid-November, the Revelstoke Review proclaimed the worst was over as deaths slowed.

The flu ban was conditionally lifted, opening schools and churches.

After being fumigated and ventilated, the theatre also reopened with a showing of a Mary Pickford movie.

However, by Christmas, the flu ban was reinstated as the second wave of disease hammered through the city.

By mid-January 1919, bans were lifted permanently. In total, the flu killed 37 people.

While many gatherings were cancelled locally during the Spanish flu, some continued, such as the Armistice parade on Nov. 11, 1918. Photos show folks standing shoulder to shoulder to watch the entertainment and celebrate peace.

“They weren’t social distancing like today,” English said.

She said it appears as if people were not as concerned about congregating.

“Maybe they were just excited to be at the end of war.”

The World War I Armistice Parade marched all over Revelstoke. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3627)

Closures to help stop the spread of disease continued on and off through the 1920s for measles and polio. Yet, English said Revelstoke has never experienced anything to the extent of the closures brought on by COVID-19.

“There have been temporary bans, but nothing like this,” she said.

For now, it’s unknown when normality will return, but the province said it won’t happen this month and most likely not the next.

English wonders how this pandemic will be remembered.

The museum said it’s able to glean what Revelstoke was like during the Spanish flu through newspaper accounts.

Due to plunging advertising revenues caused by the novel coronavirus, media outlets across Canada are closing. For example, on April 2, the Vancouver Courier suspended both its print and online news.

“How will we preserve the memories from this significant event?” English asked.



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Queen Victoria Hospital, circa 1919. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

The World War I Armistice Parade marched all over Revelstoke. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3627)

The Spanish Flu hit Revelstoke in the fall of 1918. Although schools and churches were closed during the Spanish flu pandemic, some large gatherings went ahead. Cathy English, curator at Revelstoke Museum, they were not social distancing like today. This is Armistice Parade in Revelstoke, November 11, 1918. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3638)

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Testing underway after 8 migrant workers at Elgin County farm test positive for coronavirus – Global News



Officials with the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) and Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) say coronavirus testing is underway at a St. Thomas-area farm after at least eight temporary foreign workers tested positive for the virus this week.

An outbreak was declared on Thursday at Ontario Plants Propagation, a greenhouse operation along John Wise Line, days after the MLHU said it first became aware of a case Monday night involving a worker at the farm, health officials said on Friday.

New Brunswick reverses ban on temporary foreign workers

That initial case led to 16 of the worker’s close contacts being tested on Tuesday, with seven of the tests coming back positive. As those workers live in London, the seven are included in the tally of new cases that was reported on Friday by MLHU.

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According to the health unit, another 40 workers living at the same complex as the first case were tested on Wednesday at London’s Carling Heights Assessment Centre.

The remaining workers in the group, meanwhile, were to be tested on Friday at Ontario Plants Propagation. Test results for all were expected over the coming days.

“The operator of this farm has been tremendously co-operative with us, and we believe that this outbreak is now contained,” said Dr. Alex Summers, associate medical officer of health with the MLHU, during Friday’s coronavirus media briefing.

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“Of course, we will be monitoring that very closely over the next couple of weeks.”

Coronavirus outbreak: How the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities in the food supply chain

Coronavirus outbreak: How the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities in the food supply chain

Summers said the workers had arrived primarily from Guatemala and Jamaica, and that as far as the health unit was aware, all had quarantined for 14 days upon arriving in Ontario.

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The workers are currently in self-isolation, and none have been admitted to hospital.

Health officials are still working to find the source of the outbreak, but Summers said it was believed they had been in Canada long enough that they either contracted it here, or “one of the other workers may have had mild symptoms that weren’t identified and transmitted it subsequently to their colleagues.”

“We believe that we have readily identified all close contacts and any additional cases,” Summers said. “Of course, we continue to watch for further results. But those tests have been done.”

Health officials stressed there was no risk to the public from the products grown on the farm, and that they didn’t believe there had been any close exposure or close contact outside of the migrant farmworker community.

“The living conditions for these migrant farmworkers were certainly a congregate living setting, but not exceptionally crowded, nor of specific concern for us,” Summers said.

“They were people living together and that would have resulted in the transmission.”

B.C.’s agricultural sector short 6,000 to 8,000 jobs due to lack of foreign workers

COVID-19 cases have also been reported at other southwestern Ontario farms during the pandemic.

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Fifty-one workers, local and foreign, at Greenhill Produce in Kent Bridge, Ont., tested positive for the coronavirus last month.

In Windsor-Essex, at least 16 workers from three farms in the region had tested positive for the virus as of early this month, the region’s health unit said.

In March, four workers tested positive at Highline Mushrooms in Kingsville, Ont.

Approximately 20,000 migrant workers come to the Ontario each year to work on farms and in greenhouses.

— With files from Shawn Jeffords of The Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Six people can be added to existing double bubbles, government announces – NTV News



The provincial government announced Friday that residents can expand their bubbles effective immediately.

Up to six more people can be added to an existing double bubble. The new members do not have to be from the same household, but cannot change once added. The government still advises people to keep their bubbles as small as possible.

More guidance can be found online here:

Dr. Proton Rahman is scheduled to release new projections Friday on how the COVID-19 pandemic is unfolding.


Dr. Fitzgerald announced no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.


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Ontario ramps up COVID-19 testing –



A new testing strategy for COVID-19 will see “targeted campaigns” to check workers in Ontario communities with hot spots and key sectors where the virus spreads easily, including auto manufacturing, food suppliers and major retailers.

Officials unveiled the new blueprint Friday, with elements echoing what Premier Doug Ford has been saying for more than a week — and what epidemiologists have been pushing for much longer — to get a better picture of the illness as the economy reopens.

“It’s really to be proactive and understand what’s happening,” said Dr. Vanessa Allen of Public Health Ontario, who was instrumental in cobbling together a network of provincial, hospital and private labs to expand testing capacity.

For example, workers at LCBO stores were offered testing in the last few days along with Toronto police, said Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner, who was brought in to lead the testing strategy. Several liquor store workers have tested positive in the last few months.

If there are concerns about the virus in a particular business, mobile teams will be sent in to test, he added.

There are also plans to support “enhanced testing” for hospital workers and their families, residents and staff in retirement homes, and more testing in nursing homes, where a first testing blitz of all residents and staff was completed two weeks ago after the new coronavirus raced through hundreds of facilities. About 30 per cent of retirement home testing has been completed.

That testing will continue next week in addition to testing open to the public at Ontario’s 131 assessment centres, which changed their criteria two weeks ago to allow anyone with one symptom of COVID-19 to be swabbed, along with people with no symptoms but occupational risk of exposure, such as health-care workers, their families and grocery-store workers.

Previously, people with mild or moderate symptoms were turned away from testing centres and told to self-isolate at home. Confusion over eligibility prompted Ford to issue a plea for people to get checked under the new criteria.

The goal going forward is to “identify, contain and monitor” new cases and spread of COVID-19, officials said, releasing figures showing 55 per cent of test results are available the next day and 82 per cent within two days.

Aside from communities with a higher number of cases, officials will also focus on “high-risk” individuals, such as hospital patients and cross-border workers.

Officials are aiming to increase Ontario’s lab capacity to get ready for the fall, when more respiratory symptoms will pop up and create “a need for greater testing,” Allen said.

Ontario’s testing for COVID-19 has ramped up this week and is close to peaks rarely reached as the number of cases since the illness arrived four months ago approached 29,000 with almost 2,300 deaths.

Ministry of Health figures released Friday show 18,525 nasal swabs were processed at a network of provincial, hospital and commercial labs across the province the previous day.

The provincial daily lab capacity is just over 20,000.

Results were in progress on another 13,351 samples and there have now been 680,687 tests processed in the province of 14.5 million, or 4.7 per cent of the population.

There were another 391 confirmed and probable cases as of 11 a.m. Friday, according to a Star compilation of data from health units in the previous 24 hours.

That raised the total number of cases to 28,544 and 2,272 deaths.

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About 66 per cent of cases have been in the Greater Toronto Area.

To date, at least 1,625 nursing-home residents have died, and there are outbreaks in 123 homes, down six from the previous day. But 1,476 nursing-home residents and 1,113 staff members are still fighting active cases of the highly contagious virus that spreads easily in close quarters.

The Ministry of Health said there were 826 Ontarians in hospital for COVID-19, with 129 in intensive care and 100 on ventilators. While the first two numbers were down from the previous day, there were six more patients who had to be put on ventilators to breathe.

Just under 21,000 Ontarians have recovered from the virus.

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