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Leaked document reveals Ontario's plan to avoid another COVID-19 lockdown – CBC.ca

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Ontario wants to avoid imposing lockdown-style measures to combat a second wave of COVID-19, but is prepared to take “targeted action” such as closing certain higher-risk businesses, CBC News has learned. 

CBC News obtained a copy of Ontario’s fall pandemic preparedness plan, still in draft form even as Premier Doug Ford’s government is in the midst of announcing some of its elements.

The 21-page draft, provided by a government source this week, acknowledges the recent upsurge in new COVID-19 cases, and lays out three possible scenarios of what the second wave could look like: small, moderate or large.

Whichever scenario plays out, the plan favours responding with targeted restrictions, rather than widespread closures or a lockdown.

“If there is a resurgence of COVID-19, either locally or province-wide, targeted action may be taken to adjust or tighten public health measures,” says the document.  

“The return to an earlier stage of provincial reopening, or even regional approaches to tightening would be avoided in favour of organization-specific or localized changes.”

CBC News asked Ford’s office on Wednesday evening for comment about the plan. A spokesperson said the document is an early draft, “which has since evolved considerably.

“It should not be considered complete,” said Ford’s director of communications, Travis Kann, in an email. “We look forward to continuing to release the full details of the final plan.” 

Ontario is currently seeing a marked upswing in infections, with the daily numbers of new cases hitting levels not seen in four months. There have been on average 386 new confirmed cases reported daily over the past week, while that figure was 337 in the final week of May. 

At that time, all regions were still in Stage 1 of the province’s reopening plan, with restaurants and bars shut. Case numbers were on a downward trend. 

The draft plan says if cases start rising “a specific workplace or organization could be closed for a period of time or have additional public health measures or restrictions applied, or a certain type of higher-risk business in a local area might be closed until trends in public health indicators improve.”

The plan commits at least $2.2 billion to the pandemic response. The biggest single item is nearly $1.4 billion on a range of public health measures, including increased capacity in testing, labs, contact tracing, and efforts to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Other dollar figures in the plan include:

  • $475 million to prepare the health system for a surge in COVID-19 cases.
  • $284 million to reduce backlogs in surgeries and other hospital procedures. 
  • $30 million to identify, manage and prevent outbreaks in schools, long-term care and other settings.
  • $28.5 million for the flu immunization campaign announced on Tuesday.

An additional $90 million is labelled “TBC” (to be confirmed) for a wage enhancement for personal support workers in home and community care. 

Premier Doug Ford has released only part of the province’s fall preparedness plan for COVID-19. He described the plan as massive, with too many elements to release all at once. The draft copy of the plan obtained by CBC News is 21 pages long. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

So far, the government has released two elements of the plan: the upcoming flu vaccination campaign and the expansion of COVID-19 testing to some pharmacies. Ford is expected to reveal more on Thursday, but the full plan was not to be rolled out for several more days. 

Parts of the plan that have not been revealed include expanding testing capacity to 50,000 tests per day, with the ability to ramp up to 100,000 tests per day as needed. The plan also says the province will adopt new testing technologies, including saliva tests and tests that can be processed at the point of care.

The document sets out some benchmarks for success in the public health response to COVID-19. The province wants the positive test rate running no higher than three per cent. It’s aiming for at least 80 per cent of all test results to be completed within 48 hours.

And it wants 90 per cent of all people who test positive for the virus to be contacted within 24 hours.    

There is mixed success with some of these measures right now. The positive test rate province-wide has averaged 1.1 per cent over the past week. The turnaround target for lab tests is currently being met only 68 per cent of the time in Toronto.      

The plan does not state any specific benchmarks to trigger tighter pandemic restrictions. The decision would be based on more than just the daily case count, says the document. The number and type of outbreaks, hospitalization data, and the input of local medical officers of health would also be factored in. 

Private clinics to help clear surgery backlog

Private medical clinics would be paid to help clear the backlog of thousands of procedures that were postponed during the spring wave of the pandemic as hospitals tried to clear space.

The Ministry of Health will address the backlog in part “through innovative channels such as the use of independent health facilities that can deliver additional publicly funded surgical and diagnostic imaging services,” says the document.

It also promises unspecified funding for additional surgeries to take place during extended hours in hospital operating rooms. 

The Ford government is committing at least $2.2 billion to responding to the second wave of COVID-19, according to a draft of its fall preparedness plan. Of that, $284 million is for reducing backlogs in surgeries and other hospital procedures. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The document says the health system is facing challenges that weren’t present during the initial spring wave of COVID-19.

Overcrowding at hospitals is one of them, as patient volumes are beginning to returning to pre-pandemic levels. Hospitals and long-term care homes now have less space for patients and residents as they have had to reduce the number of multi-bed rooms to ensure physical distancing. 

There’s also a shortage of health-care workers, particularly in home and community care, according to the plan.  

The draft document says the province will take action on what it calls “health behaviour surveillance” as part of its efforts to slow transmission of COVID-19. 

There are no dollar figures attached to this, but the document says the aim is “to track adherence to public health measures across Ontario.”

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Trudeau says pandemic 'sucks' as COVID-19 compliance slips and cases spike – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he understands that Canadians are increasingly frustrated by “annoying” measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, but he’s urging people to stay the course as cases continue to climb in some parts of the country.

Canada is in the grips of a second pandemic wave. Some provinces — notably Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec — are now seeing case counts larger than those reported in the spring, at the onset of the pandemic.

“This sucks, it really, really does,” Trudeau told a COVID-19 press briefing this morning. “It’s going to be a tough winter. It’s easy for us to want to throw up our hands … it’s frustrating to have to go through this situation.

“Nobody wanted 2020 to be this way, but we do get to control how bad it gets by all of us doing our part.”

Trudeau said Canadians must get this latest pandemic wave under control or risk putting their Christmas festivities in jeopardy.

“Unless we’re really, really careful, there may not be the kinds of family gatherings we want to have at Christmas,” he said.

After a summer lull, the death count in Canada has also started to climb. Hospitalizations and the number of people in intensive care units (ICUs) remain at manageable levels in most regions, despite the cresting caseload.

Some Toronto-area hospitals are nearing 100 per cent capacity as they grapple with both COVID-19 cases and other patients.

Data indicates that younger, healthier people — who are more likely to recover without medical intervention — are driving the COVID-19 spike during this round of the pandemic.

Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said there’s no doubt that Canadians are tired of the restrictions that have upended their social and economic lives for the better part of eight months.

“What we’re seeing around the world is people are suffering from COVID fatigue,” Njoo said.

Another full lockdown is not necessary at this point, he said.

“We want to get back to as normal as possible, the functioning of society,” he said, adding Canada needs to find the “sweet spot” where new cases of COVID-19 don’t threaten to overwhelm the health care system.

Asked if governments bear any responsibility for conflicting messages from federal and provincial leaders and local public health officials about how Canadians should go about their daily lives during the pandemic, Trudeau said the situation on the ground in the provinces and territories varies greatly and does not demand national uniformity.

WATCH: Trudeau questioned about public confusion over pandemic messaging

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at the bi-weekly pandemic briefing in Ottawa on Tuesday. 2:34

Trudeau said Ottawa is not intent on plunging the country into another shutdown — and the country is better equipped to handle this wave than it was in March and April.

“We have a better understanding of COVID-19. We have better tools to deal with COVID-19 and we can be a little more targeted but, yeah, that means a little more complication in our messages,” Trudeau said.

“It’s frustrating to see friends at the other end of the country doing things you’d love to be able to do but you can’t.”

Trudeau said that when his six-year-old son Hadrien recently asked him if COVID-19 would with us “forever,” he assured him the pandemic  would end — but its impact will depend on Canadians doing their part in the short term by wearing masks wherever possible, keeping a two-metre distance from others and avoiding large social gatherings altogether.

“We need to do the right thing, we need to lean on each other, we need to use all the tools that we can,” he said.

Trudeau sounded a positive note today, too, saying that Canada has placed orders for tens of millions of possible vaccine candidates. He said pharmaceutical companies are developing promising treatments.

“Vaccines are on the horizon. Spring and summer will come and they will be better than this winter,” he said.

All told, the federal government has secured 358 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines — an insurance policy if some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective in clinical trials.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world Tuesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

People in British Columbia and Alberta’s two largest cities are facing tighter restrictions around some social gatherings after an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday that while she has often spoken about the need to “balance between minimizing the risk of COVID-19 and minimizing the risk of harms of restrictions,” the province is now “losing the balance we have been seeking.”

The temporary measure, which caps attendance at 15 for events where people will be “mixing and mingling” like parties and baby showers, applies in the Calgary and Edmonton areas.

Alberta has reported a total of 25,733 cases since the pandemic began, with 4,477 of those listed as active cases. As of Sunday, health officials reported 118 people were being treated in Alberta hospitals, with 16 of those patients in ICU beds. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer in British Columbia, also placed restrictions on gatherings on Monday, with a focus on events in people’s homes. Henry said gatherings are now limited to people in an immediate household, plus their so-called “safe six” guests.

WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry said mask-wearing is expected in public in B.C.:

B.C.’s provincial health officer says British Columbians must wear non-medical masks in public, but stopped short of making them mandatory. 2:13

“This is a bit of a sobering weekend for us,” she said after provincial health officials reported 817 new cases since Friday.

B.C. has reported a total of 13,371 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, with 2,325 of the cases considered active. The most recent information from health officials said 77 people were in hospital with 26 in intensive care.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 7 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had 220,213 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 184,303 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,973.

Manitoba’s provincial public health officer also urged people to avoid gathering in large groups, saying many of the 100 new cases reported in the province on Monday linked back to social gatherings — including Thanksgiving.

Dr. Brent Roussin said if the province’s trajectory continues, health officials expect to have a total of more than 5,000 cases by the end of the week. The province had 4,349 cases as of Monday, with 2,117 considered active. There were 80 people in hospital, with 15 in intensive care.

WATCH | Manitoba frustrated by rise in COVID-19 cases:

As Manitoba sees a continued increase in COVID-19 cases, it’s seeing an unprecedented surge in its hospitals and ICUs. As pressure to close parts of the province mounts — officials are pointing fingers and doctors are bracing for the worst. 1:55

Roussin wasn’t the only Manitoba official with words of warning. Premier Brian Pallister expressed frustration on Monday at people with too many close contacts as cases increase.

“Grow up and stop going out there and giving people COVID,” the premier said. 

Saskatchewan reported 54 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total number of reported cases in the province to 2,783, with 650 of those considered active cases.

In Ontario, a region west of Toronto is waiting for word on whether tougher measures will be imposed by the province as part of the effort to fight COVID-19. Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer, said while neither he nor Halton Region’s local medical officer are ready to make a decision on tighter measures for the area, they will be watching case counts and other metrics closely in the coming days.

Quebec Premier François Legault moved Monday to extend restrictions on people living in so-called red zones until Nov. 23, saying daily COVID-19 case numbers and deaths are still too high to allow an easing of limits in places like Montreal and Quebec City.

WATCH | How health authorities are trying to balance restrictions and COVID-19 caseloads:

Infectious disease physician Dr. Zain Chagla discusses how health officials try to balance restrictions and COVID-19 case loads when the data doesn’t show up for weeks after a decision is made. 1:35

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported three new cases on Monday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 60. Health officials in both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland reported one new case, while there were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island.

There were two new cases reported in Yukon on Monday, and a mine in Nunavut reported that two workers who had been reported as presumptive cases were confirmed as positive for COVID-19. The workers were flown to their home province of Quebec and instructed to self-isolate.


What’s happening around the world

Several potential COVID-19 vaccines are seeing early results from Phase 3 trials, with AstraZeneca saying its has shown results in older and younger participants. Meanwhile, Moderna is so positive about its results it has applied to make its vaccine available earlier. 2:07

A case count maintained by Johns Hopkins University put the number of COVID-19 cases around the world at over 43.5 million as of Tuesday morning with over 29.2 million cases considered recovered. The Baltimore, Md.-based institution’s count of deaths stood at more than 1.1 million. 

In the Americas, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the United States is at a two-month high, straining health-care systems in some states.

The White House said on Tuesday it saw a potential deal on COVID-19 stimulus funding in “coming weeks,” casting doubt on whether a deal could be struck with Congress before the Nov. 3 election. A spokesperson for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that she was hopeful an agreement could be reached ahead of the election, but noted that there were still major issues that needed to be addressed.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people vote in the U.S. presidential election in the Jurassic Parking structure at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, Calif., on Monday. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

In the Asia-Pacific region, China reported the highest number of asymptomatic infections in nearly seven months. China detected 137 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases on Sunday in Kashgar in the northwestern region of Xinjiang after one person was found to have the virus the previous day — the first local new cases in 10 days in mainland China.

Hong Kong announced it would reopen public beaches and increase the number of people allowed to sit together in bars and restaurants starting Friday as the city continues to unwind strict COVID-19 rules put in place in July.

In India, authorities reported 36,470 newly confirmed coronavirus infections. That’s the lowest one-day tally in more than three months in a continuing downward trend. In its report Tuesday, the country’s health ministry also listed 488 new fatalities from COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 119,502.

The case number reported Tuesday is the lowest since India had 35,065 newly confirmed infections on July 17. Last month, the country hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but daily infections have been decreasing since then.

In Europe, many governments prepared on Tuesday to introduce new restrictions to try to curb a growing surge of coronavirus infections across the continent and provide economic balm to help businesses survive the pandemic. 

Italian police officers stand in front of a shattered Gucci store window during a protest of far-right activists against measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, in downtown Turin on Monday. (Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets across Italy on Monday to vent their anger at the latest round of restrictions, including early closing for bars and restaurants, with demonstrations in some cities turning violent.

In neighbouring France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin warned the country to prepare for “difficult decisions” after some of the strictest restrictions currently in place anywhere in Europe have failed to halt the spread of the disease.

South Africa remained the hardest hit country in Africa, with more than 716,000 recorded COVID-19 cases and more than 19,000 deaths according to the Africa CDC.

People in Iran, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, faced new daily records of infections and deaths. Authorities have ordered residents in Tehran to wear masks in public, and many public sector workers in the capital have been told to stay home every second day.

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Canada adds 2,531 new coronavirus cases, but new data shows record weekend surge

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Canada reported another 2,531 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Monday, but new data from over the weekend reveals the country posted a far higher number a day earlier — shattering the daily record.

Backdated cases reported Monday by Alberta and British Columbia, who take weekends off from announcing testing data, show Sunday’s true total of new cases nationwide was 3,004.

It’s the first time over 3,000 cases have been reported in a single day across the country.

Saturday’s true daily total was nearly as high, at 2,932 new confirmed infections.

To date, Canada has reported 219,982 cases of COVID-19, although 184,306 of those patients have recovered from the disease.

Over 11.2 million tests have been performed to date. The weekend testing data shows an average three per cent positivity rate each day among new tests performed.

The national death toll has risen to 9,973, after 27 new deaths were reported Monday. Some of those deaths are historical, including in Quebec, while the deaths reported by Alberta and B.C. date occurred between Friday and Monday.

Alberta and British Columbia both set new records over the weekend, their data revealed on Monday. While Alberta surpassed 500 daily cases for the first time on Sunday, the previous day saw B.C. break a new threshold of over 300 cases.

Alberta reported another 504 new cases for Monday alone, bringing the province’s total to 25,733. Its death toll climbed to 307 after seven deaths over the weekend, while 20,949 patients have recovered.

“Alberta, we have a challenge,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said while announcing the new numbers.

“We have now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we have been seeking,” she added.

British Columbia’s public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry called her own province’s weekend numbers “sobering.” She also announced new limits on social gatherings, including inside private homes.

“We have seen a notable increase in transmission of COVID-19 as a direct result of social gatherings in private homes,” she said.

“To get through our COVID-19 storm it requires all of us to do our part.”

There were 207 new cases confirmed in B.C. Monday, for a new total of 13,140 lab-confirmed cases. An additional 231 “epidemiologically linked” cases have not been confirmed through testing, but are part of the province’s grand total.

Three new deaths were reported over the weekend, taking the death toll to 259, and 10,734 recoveries have been confirmed to date.

Heading east, Saskatchewan reported 54 new cases and no new deaths. The province has seen 2,783 cases with 2,108 recoveries to date, while the death toll remains at 25.

Manitoba saw another 100 new cases, while an additional death was reported for a total of 55. There have now been 4,349 cases so far, yet 2,177 of those patients have recovered.

Ontario announced another 851 new cases — Monday’s highest provincial total — and six more deaths, bringing the province’s count to 71,224 cases and 3,099 deaths. A total of 60,839 people have recovered from the virus.

In Quebec, 808 new cases were reported along with 10 new deaths, although only two of them occurred over the past 24 hours. The province has seen 100,922 cases, 6,153 deaths and 85,822 recoveries to date.

Nearly every Atlantic province reported at least one new case on Monday, with no new deaths in the region. Prince Edward Island, which has seen 64 cases to date with only one active case remaining, has not reported data since Friday.

New Brunswick announced three new cases for a total of 331 to date. Six people have died to date in the province, while 265 have recovered

Nova Scotia saw one new case, bringing its total to 1,101 infections. Out of those, 65 have died and 1,031 others are considered recovered.

One new case was also reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, which has now seen 291 cases and four deaths to date, with 282 recoveries.

In the territories, the Yukon added two new cases to its total, which now sits at 22. Fifteen of those cases have recovered, while no deaths have been reported to date.

The Northwest Territories has seen nine cases to date, yet all but one of them have recovered. No cases were announced Monday.

Nunavut remains free of local coronavirus cases, although several infections have been confirmed among out-of-territory workers at a pair of local mines. Officials say those are not considered local cases and have been counted by their home jurisdictions.

The new surge in coronavirus cases across the country comes as the federal government comes under scrutiny for its spending amid the pandemic.

Opposition MPs on Monday voted for a motion approving a parliamentary probe of government contracts for supplies, remedies and vaccine candidates. The Liberal government argued revealing the sensitive contracts could jeopardize future deals.

Worldwide, the novel coronavirus has infected at least 43.4 million people and killed more than 1,157,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The United States continues to lead the world in both confirmed cases, at nearly 8.7 million, and deaths, at over 225,000.

India is close behind in cases with 7.9 million, followed by Brazil at nearly 5.4 million.

 

 

 

 

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