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It's easy to point the finger at parties — but younger Canadians spread COVID-19 in all kinds of settings –



The virus behind COVID-19 has a knack for slithering through society undetected. 

Not everyone gets a fever, and not everyone gets a cough. Instead, the range of symptoms can pop up in various parts of someone’s body, like a nagging headache or upset stomach, mimicking a whole host of other ailments. Many people don’t feel sick enough to worry, if they ever get symptoms at all.

So when someone young and healthy does test positive for SARS-CoV-2 — as hundreds of Canadians now do every day — the question often is: Where’d they catch it? 

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford often points the finger at crowded parties. “We can’t have these big parties,” he said earlier this month. “We can’t have the big weddings.”

There are multiple recent reports of cases tied to bustling indoor spaces — from strip clubs to wedding events — that build on months of research showing the combination of crowds, close contact and closed settings for virus transmission is like kindling for a fire.

But younger Canadians may also be fuelling the spread of COVID-19 in far more mundane ways, with potentially dire consequences. 

Emerging details from public health officials suggest a variety of social gatherings are helping SARS-CoV-2 find new hosts — and in Ontario, a majority of those virus carriers are under 40.

They’re getting infected at cottages, family gatherings, dinner parties — all kinds of indoor settings, and not always the ones with large, headline-making crowds.

“The vast majority of transmission is with close contact with someone who’s infected, typically for a prolonged period of time in an indoor environment,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a Toronto-based infectious disease specialist.

Risks in indoor settings

The notion that indoor settings are riskier is nothing new. For months, case studies from around the world have highlighted danger zones: cruise ships, a call centrea choir practice.

But the specifics of where real people are getting real infections in Ontario has been hazier, beyond now-obvious hot spots like long-term care homes and other institutional settings.

In recent weeks, a clearer picture began emerging. 

On one end of the spectrum, there are the big, risky gatherings called out by Ford: A series of wedding events in Markham led to more than 20 cases, for example, while infected staff at two Toronto strip clubs sparked multiple confirmed cases and hundreds of possible exposures.

In London, Ont., at least nine university students have tested positive for the virus so far, and public health officials suggested they socialized in the city’s jam-packed downtown bar scene.

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Then there’s the other end of the spectrum: smaller groups of friends and family meeting up indoors.

In Windsor, public health officials recently carried out contact tracing and tracked more than 30 recent cases back to one family’s social life — including parties and dinners with friends at home and a card game in a storage unit, the region’s local newspaper reported.

Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, on Monday outlined several similar settings that led to recent infections, including one family gathering and another family’s trip where time was spent with someone who wound up having COVID-19.

“Personal gatherings are the main driver of cases,” Dr. Mustafa Hirji, acting medical officer of health for Niagara Region, noted in a tweet the same day.

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With COVID-19 on the rise among those under 40 in Ontario, science communicator Samantha Yammine warns that playing the blame game won’t help bring down the numbers among the young. 8:53

One striking case study from Ottawa involved a 10-person cottage trip. It’s a gathering size allowed by the province, as long as there’s physical distancing in place, but according to the city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, the trip wound up being a cautionary tale.

“There was one person who developed cold-like symptoms while at the cottage party and then tested positive on their return home. Subsequently, seven of those friends tested positive for COVID-19,” Etches recently told Ottawa’s city council. 

“Within nine days, one person with symptoms became 40 confirmed people who tested positive.”

After leaving the cottage, some members of the group had visited work and retail locations, including two child-care centres that wound up shuttered to prevent further spread — and several people ended up hospitalized.

The chain of virus transmission from a cottage gathering into the community, identified by Ottawa public health officials. Within nine days, one person with symptoms led to 40 confirmed cases. (CBC News/Ottawa Public Health)

‘It leaves lasting damage’

That’s the ripple effect of young adults getting infected: They can pass it on to more vulnerable people, including the elderly and those in long-term care, who are more likely to wind up seriously ill or worse.

Those younger Canadians themselves could also fare poorly, even if death is a rare outcome.

According to a random sample of hospital outpatients from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 per cent of previously healthy adults between 18 and 34 weren’t back to their usual health 14 to 21 days after testing positive, while thousands of others around the world say their symptoms are lasting far longer.

For Forbes, COVID-19 started with chest pain, but she never had a fever or cough, which are the usual symptoms. Instead, she wound up having various gastrointestinal issues and shortness of breath. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Nada Forbes, a 37-year-old mother of two living in Oakville, Ont., has been suffering with lingering symptoms for six months after testing positive for the virus following a trip to Egypt in March.

The illness started with chest pain, but Forbes never had a fever or cough, which are the usual symptoms. Instead, she wound up having various gastrointestinal issues and shortness of breath.

“You can get a moderate case, or a mild case, that goes on and on and on, and leaves lasting damage and leaves you with these lingering problems — when you started as a healthy person without any pre-existing conditions,” she warned.

Don’t ‘shame and blame’

Months into the pandemic, health experts now say it’s crucial the younger demographic is better informed about how to avoid spreading the virus, without any finger-pointing.

“Harm reduction is not about shame and blame,” said Samantha Yammine, a Toronto-based neuroscientist and science communicator.

Yammine said for many young adults, avoiding risk can be difficult. She recently surveyed her roughly 70,000 Instagram followers about their COVID-19 experiences, and hundreds of respondents cited various challenges — from living with roommates or in a multi-generational home, to working in sectors where safety measures aren’t always followed. 

“Why did we ever open up indoor dining and have a setting where people would be talking loudly, with people in large groups, without wearing masks?” Yammine said.

Toronto-based neuroscientist and science communicator Samantha Yammine says there’s a need to ’empower people to make decisions that are more safe but allow them to live their lives.’ (Michael Barker)

The province is holding off on the next phase of reopenings, but there’s no word yet if officials will start scaling back limits on the size of gatherings or implementing any lockdowns to curb rising case counts.

In the meantime, Bogoch said that for young adults trying to safely navigate daily choices, it’s all about layering in protection to lower the risk as much as possible, such as increasing ventilation and wearing masks as much as possible.

“You want to get together for this wedding, for your friend’s birthday, for some other ceremony, but let’s make smart choices,” he said. “So can you do it outside? Can you spread apart? Can you have fewer numbers?”

Yammine said the aim can’t be zero risk, since that’s an impossible goal.

“If we focus on what we can do versus what we can’t do, we can empower people to make decisions that are more safe but allow them to live their lives,” she said. “Because this isn’t going away any time soon.”

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Canada reports more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases, 7 deaths – Global News



Winnipeg police say a woman has died and several other people have been injured in a collision involving a vehicle that was fleeing police.

The crash happened at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the area of Salter Street and Boyd Avenue, police said in a statement.

According to police, officers tried to pull over a vehicle for a traffic stop but the driver “took off at a high rate of speed.”

Read more:
Vehicle-pedestrian collision on Portage Ave. leaves one person in critical condition

Seconds later, the vehicle hit another car in the nearby intersection of Andrews Street and Boyd Avenue.

Four people in the vehicle that was struck — including an infant and a child — were sent to hospital.  A woman who was in that vehicle has died from her injuries, police said.

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Two people from the vehicle that had fled police were also transported to hospital.

Police said most of the victims are in critical or serious condition.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which investigates serious incidents involving police, has been called to investigate.

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

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Canada's death toll could hit 16000 by the end of 2020, new modelling warns – CTV News



Canada could see as many as 16,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the year if current public safety measures don’t change, according to new modelling from the United States that has provided accurate assessments of the American death toll.

But a Canadian pandemic modelling expert says that, while anything is possible, the American model may not be capturing the whole picture in Canada.

The model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington suggests Canada could see 16,214 deaths by Jan. 1 based on the current situation. If public safety mandates are loosened, such as physical distancing, the death toll could be even higher, hitting a projected 16,743 lives lost.

Universal masking in public spaces could curb those numbers and save thousands of lives, the model suggests, pointing to countries like Singapore that have successfully put in place masking protocols that are 95 per cent effective. Singapore has reported 27 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

If Canada were to successfully implement similar rules, the modelling predicts a death toll of 12,053.

So far Canada has reported 9,256 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 150,000 cases. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned earlier this week that the country is at the beginning of a second wave of infections as he urged Canadians to take public health guidance seriously.

Quebec is leading the country with new cases of COVID-19. On Saturday, the province reported another 698 cases, the highest daily infection numbers since May.

Dionne Aleman, an associate professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in mathematical models for pandemic prediction, said the IHME model is “simplistic” and does not account for regional differences across the country.

While a second wave of COVID-19 infections has started, Aleman points out that deaths are not in a second wave. COVID-19 deaths in Canada peaked in April and May, when more than 100 people died in connection with the virus daily. Those numbers have remained much lower in recent months, with five deaths reported on Friday.

“The fact that deaths are not tracking with infections as they did in the first wave indicates that vulnerable individuals are taking more precautions to protect themselves now, and it is reasonable to assume those precautions will continue as the second wave gets worse. This model does not account for the fact that some people are behaving differently from others, and thus, the projected deaths are likely overstated,” Aleman told on Saturday over email.

The latest modelling by the Public Health Agency of Canada does not offer predictions to the end of the year, but suggests that, based on current rates, the death toll could steadily rise to 9,300 lives lost by Oct. 2.

The IMHE modelling has proven to be accurate. Earlier this year, the model predicted that the U.S. would hit 200,000 deaths in September, a grim milestone that happened earlier this week. Now, the model predicts the U.S. death toll will nearly double by the end of the year, reaching 371,509 by Jan. 1.

The IMHE model also predicts daily infections — a number that includes people who aren’t tested for COVID-19 — could hit more than 19,000 by the end of the year.

Aleman said it’s important to remember that, even if a person doesn’t die from COVID-19, the consequences of getting sick can be serious.

“There are numerous examples of otherwise healthy individuals with severe reactions to COVID taking several weeks and even months to recover, and there are indications that there could be long-term health consequences,” she said.

“We should view these projections of exponential infection increase with great concern, and we as individuals should take every reasonable precaution to stem this increase before it is too far out of control. Wearing masks is easy and effective, and we should do it.”

Infections may be on the upswing, but Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Saturday that limiting personal contacts as much as possible can help once again flatten the curve. She encouraged Canadians to take time this weekend to chat with loved ones about how to keep their bubbles safer.

“Even if people attending an event are part of your extended family, as has been the case with some of these private gathering outbreaks, it doesn’t mean they are not infected, even if no one appears to be unwell,” Tam said in a statement.

“Despite the very real concern of a large resurgence in areas where the virus is escalating, there is still reason to be optimistic that we can get things back to the slow burn.”

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B.C. university launches 1st peace and reconciliation centre in Canada –



The University of the Fraser Valley hopes its new Peace and Reconciliation Centre (PARC) — which the school says is the first of its kind in Canada — will help contribute to a more equitable society.

Professor Keith Carlson, the centre’s chair, said institutions like universities and governments can often reinforce unequal power structures by excluding knowledge and experience from historically-marginalized communities.

The PARC was established to counter that by “bringing new voices to the table,” he told Margaret Gallagher, guest host of CBC’s On the Coast on Thursday. 

Aside from collaborating with academic departments like Peace and Conflict Studies, the PARC will offer funding and scholarships to students and faculty, as well as community members not affiliated with UFV “who are looking for partners and allies to change the world,” said Carlson. 

The Abbotsford-based university says it has received substantial funding from the Oikodome Foundation, a local Christian charity.

UFV launched the PARC Thursday with a virtual event featuring speeches from Steven Point, the first-ever Indigenous chancellor of UBC, and former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.

‘Deep listening’

Jacqueline Nolte, dean of UFV’s college of arts, said the university envisions the PARC as a hub for constructive dialogue, research and creative expression aimed at building trust among diverse communities. 

“We will facilitate deep listening and mediation such that all people will feel heard and acknowledged,” she said in a news release. 

The scope of the centre won’t be narrow.

Along with relations between Indigenous people and settlers, Carlson said the centre could address everything from domestic violence to interfaith conflicts in the Middle East and Ireland. 

Carlson, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous and community-engaged history, echoed Nolte’s words.

“What we’re saying [is] that we value Indigenous ways of knowing,” Carlson said.

“The structures that underlie racism need to be dismantled so that everybody in this country […] will be able to enjoy all the privileges that anybody who’s of European descent [has].”

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