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'May soon be completely out of control': COVID-19's dire possibilities could dramatically change Canada – National Post

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As if fear isn’t already in the air, if not in the grocery store lineups, then grim plans for a significant influenza pandemic in Canada are a jolt of panic infused with sobering reality of worst-case scenarios as COVID-19 continues its alarming spread.

Stockpiling body bags, choosing a central place where people bring corpses of family members and identifying hockey and curling rinks cold enough to be temporary morgue sites are among the government’s planning guidelines.

The surge capacity of crematoriums, running out of coffins and church space for holding funerals and recruiting temporary grave diggers are all outlined in the “Management of Mass Fatalities: Canadian Pandemic Influenza Preparedness,” a planning guideline prepared by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2009.

“There are currently no plans to recommend mass burials or mass cremations. This would only be considered in the most extreme circumstances,” the guidelines reassuringly offer.

That could very easily happen here in very short order

It warns of six months’ worth of deaths compressed into six weeks.

“Most crematoriums can handle about one body every 4 hours and could probably be run over 24 hours to cope with increased demand. Cremations have fewer resource requirements than burials and, where acceptable, this may be an expedient and efficient way of managing large numbers of deceased during a pandemic.

“Refrigerated trucks can generally hold 25-30 bodies without additional shelving.”

They are hard words to read.

It is the job of disaster planners to think about the unthinkable.

The scenarios they envision are the stuff of nightmares and end-times movies but, it stands to reason, having such plans are better than the alternative of not having them, while also hoping they are never needed.

What is happening around the world and beginning across Canada makes this contagion of novel coronavirus the most worrisome health scare in generations.


Medical personnel care for patients in an emergency temporary room, set up to ease pressure on the healthcare system caused by the coronavirus pandemic, at a hospital in Brescia, Italy, on March 13, 2020.

Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters

Hope of containment has failed.

What was once an alarming but distant tragedy in China is now, in a slow-to-dawn suddenness most saw coming but didn’t accept, Canadian reality. Or at least the start of what is expected to become reality.

Many Canadians seem stuck in the stage of thinking the most important thing is to hoard toilet paper or else laugh at people hoarding toilet paper.

The reality, however, is sinking in.

As the virus jumps from country to country, each nation reacts in its own way. A mix of surprise and dark humour greeted the curtailment of national passions and deemed a doomsday sign: Iran cancelling public Friday prayers, an end to kissing in Italy, closing of pubs in Belgium, shuttering soccer in Spain, cancelling basketball in March in the United States, the end of Tim Hortons’ Roll-Up-The-Rim contest in Canada.

Each caused an awakening.

Perhaps the NHL suspending the hockey season was the shock that woke you up, or closing of schools; maybe it was U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech cancelling most travel from continental Europe or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie, testing positive for COVID-19.


In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, customers crowd a Costco store in Montreal to stock up on food and supplies, March 13, 2020.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Patty Hajdu, the federal health minister, said COVID-19 could infect between 30 and 70 per cent of Canada’s population. That would mean somewhere between 11. 3 million and 26.3 million people in Canada could get sick, with varying severity.

Life, for weeks, months or more — no one is really sure — will be significantly different.

What is happening in Italy offers a strong warning.

The Italian government ordered a nationwide lockdown. All shops except food stores, pharmacies and stores selling essentials were closed and all travel sharply restricted. More than 1,000 people have died with more deaths inevitable.

In the region around Milan, one of Italy’s wealthiest areas, COVID-19 is breaking the health-care system.

“It’s as if you were asking what to do if an atomic bomb explodes,” Dr. Antonio Pesenti, head of Lombardy’s intensive crisis care unit, told the Washington Post. “You declare defeat. We’ll try to salvage what is salvageable.”

Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, said Italy’s crisis must spark an aggressive reaction in Canada.

“That could very easily happen here in very short order,” Warner said.

“The COVID-19 situation is dire and may soon be completely out of control. Health-care resources are finite, and thus we will not be able to provide care for all who become ill.

“We already run at 100 per cent capacity on most days in the intensive care units in Ontario and if we get a (surge) of patients all at once… there is no system that can handle that. It’s impossible.

“I don’t want to have to be in the position, which is something people are planning for, to have to triage resources. That’s something we haven’t really experienced in Canada but that is the reality in Italy today — decisions are made as to who gets access to critical care and who doesn’t and people who don’t are dying.

“If we can spread out the number of people who get infected over time, maybe the system can adjust,” Warner said.


A view of St. Peter’s Square, on the fourth day of an unprecedented lockdown across of all Italy imposed to slow the outbreak of coronavirus, March 13, 2020.

Alberto Lingria/Reuters

What Warner and public health agencies are urging is simple behaviour everyone should take to slow the rate of transmission.

Hand washing, covering coughs and avoiding contact with others will likely slow its spread; “social distancing can save thousands of lives,” said Warner.

The hubris of modern life made the simple ask of washing of hands as our salvation seem laughable, an ode to snowflakes or witch doctors or handwringing.

The reality is these public health measures may be crucial.

“Given that there is currently no effective vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19, public health measures will be the only tools available to mitigate the impact of the virus,” the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said Friday.

It’s a strategy known as “flattening the curve,” based on the graphs of potential peak infection rates. Reducing the peak burden on the health-care system caused by new cases and spreading that peak out allows for better treatment for everyone who is ill.


“Flattening the curve” provides an opportunity to significantly reduce deaths from COVID-19.

Matthew McQueen/Director, Public Health Program, University of Colorado Boulder

And also buys time for a vaccine.

What might our lives look like when Canada is in the full grip of COVID-19?

The government has plans and recommendations on measures for individuals, communities and governments.

It’s a balancing of risk versus reward, personal freedoms and cultural and religious needs, along with who is most impacted by actions on a sliding scale of possible responses.

PHAC notes in its guidelines the ethical debate of “societal versus individual interests” and comes down on the side of society: “When a health risk like a pandemic affects a population, public health ethics predominates, and a higher value is placed on collective interests.”

Some possibilities are more invasive than others, such as closing public transit and schools.

“Widespread school closures as a control measure have the potential of coming at a high economic and social cost since school closures would impact the many families that have one or both parents working outside of the home,” PHAC says.

It’s as if you were asking what to do if an atomic bomb explodes. You declare defeat. We’ll try to salvage what is salvageable

Other things, like going to church, theatres, sporting events and concerts could be risky.

“Restrictions on non-essential gatherings could pose a barrier to accessing group support and personal freedoms (e.g., cancelling church services, closing community centres). It may also have cultural or religious implications (e.g. funerals, religious services, weddings).”

Businesses should consider staggered work hours to avoid crowding, allowing work from home and relaxing sick leave policies. Businesses may need to be closed all together depending on local situations, PHAC says.

Mass gatherings, such as concerts, sporting events, religious services and conference should be reconsidered or avoided.

“They can amplify the spread of infectious diseases and have the potential to cause additional strain on the health care system when held during outbreaks,” the guidelines say.

Self-serve buffets, it notes, should be off the menu.

If things get as bad as they could, such trivial concerns will be absent for a long time.

• Email: ahumphreys@postmedia.com | Twitter:


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Canada’s daily coronavirus case numbers drop to 675 as death toll surpasses 100 – Globalnews.ca

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Canada reported an increase of 675 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday as the country continues its apparent downward trend in new case numbers this week.

The last time the country’s daily increase was in the 600s was on March 25, according to a Global News tally.


READ MORE:
How many Canadians have the new coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

The period of time between mid- to late-March marked the beginning of Canada’s COVID-19 outbreak, with thousands of new cases reported daily continuing as the norm in the country from April to May.

The low amount of reported cases followed yet another grim uptick, however, as deaths linked to the virus had clocked in at over the 100 mark today.

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A total of 103 new coronavirus deaths were reported on Wednesday, following just 31 and 69 deaths reported on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.






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George Floyd protests: How to stay safe while demonstrating during the coronavirus pandemic

Total cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada now number at 93,074 while today’s deaths bring the country’s toll to 7,498.

Ontario and Quebec continued to report the highest amounts of cases and deaths in the country.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Ontario, which reported 338 new cases on Wednesday, has since surpassed Quebec in newly reported infections.

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On the other hand, Quebec — which remains the epicentre of the country’s COVID-19 pandemic — reported 81 deaths out of the total 103 that were announced today. Ontario added 19 to that figure.

Several other provinces announced additional COVID-19 infections on Wednesday as well.

British Columbia added another 22 cases to its provincial total, whereas Alberta announced 19 new infections.






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Coronavirus outbreak: Expanded requirements for face coverings for transportation system workers

The other provinces with new infections all numbered in the single-digits, however, with Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia announcing just one new case of the coronavirus each.

New Brunswick reported an increase of just two.

More to come…

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

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No difference between racism in Canada and the U.S., activists say – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Some of Canada’s leaders have said that systemic racism does not exist in the country the way it does in the U.S. However, Canadian activists say the racism black people face in each country is no different.

Former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday that racial tensions do not stop at the border.

“When people think about racism they look at what’s happening in the States and they put on these blinders, and they presume that racism… only exists when you can blatantly see it happening — when someone’s being choked with a knee, when someone’s being shot at, when someone is dying,” Caesar-Chavannes said. “That’s not the case of our reality every single day. Systemic racism, microaggressions exist in our institutions.”

Protests began last week in Minneapolis in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes. The protests have since spread across other parts of the world and Canadians have joined in solidarity.

Despite a surge in anti-racism protests globally, Canadian author and activist Desmond Cole told CTVs Your Morning that is not a new movement in either Canada or the United States.

“Black people have literally been saying the same thing for generations and it feels like the desperation to be heard before — [that] we’re completely unable to live in this society — the desperation is what’s changing, but nothing that we’re saying is new,” Cole said in an interview on Wednesday.

Cole said that police are repeatedly sent to help when a crisis involves a black person because Canadians are still afraid of black people.

“We keep insisting that there’s no other way, but obviously somebody who’s trained in de-escalation, somebody who’s trained to talk to people, someone who doesn’t have a weapon, someone who can offer services and support, that person is obviously a better person to come and respond,” Cole said.

Cole said the federal government needs to look at other ways to help black people when they are in crisis rather than sending the police.

“When somebody is in crisis, what we do now is we say, ‘Let’s send several burly men with guns, who have a licence to kill to go and support somebody who may be in mental health crisis.’ We don’t care about the fact that maybe that person might be terrified of an armed response to their house.”

Caesar-Chavannes said racism in Canada can be seen daily when considering incarceration rates and health statistics.

“When you look at our health outcomes, when you look at our justice system and the overpopulation of our prisons with black and indigenous people, you have to really think about whether or not systemic racism does not actually exist in this country because I think it’s our lived reality every day,” Caesar-Chavannes said.

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT RACISM IN CANADA

Caesar-Chavannes said politicians don’t have to look any further than the country’s Indigenous populations to understand that “racism has and continues to exist in Canada.”

Before steps can be taken to address racism in Canada, Caesar-Chavannes said there first needs to be “an accountability and an understanding [of] racism existing.” She said Canada’s leaders cannot throw around the term ‘anti-black racism’ without having concrete steps to help solve the issue.

“It needs to start with adequate, sustained and intentional funding for programs that address anti-black racism in a way that organizations [and] programs don’t have to keep seeking and looking for funding and jumping through hoops to get that funding,” Caesar-Chavannes said.

To do so, Caesar-Chavannes said “unusual suspects” — anyone who has “intersections of intersecting identities” — need to help drive these conversations forward and to suggest “ways for the government to actually create equity for equity seeking groups.”

Caesar-Chavannes explained that women, black women, Indigenous people, religious minorities and people with disabilities, among others, need to be part of the conversation to create change.

“We need to have those unusual suspects at the table. If you’re having the same conversations right now with the same people that you had conversations with two years ago, you need to really change and think about if you want, sustainable change and if you want lasting change — change that’s going to have a real impact with people on the ground,” she said.

At the beginning of the 43rd Parliament, Caesar-Chavannes shared on Twitter her 43 goals that she hoped to accomplish during the term, including increasing the number of black people in Cabinet, increasing the number of black staffers, and to understand that diversity is ubiquitous.

“We’ve not had an Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) or a Deputy Minister (DM) of black heritage, a black person, in any of those positions since the formation of our country. And I think the federal composition of our system needs to be reflective of the population that it serves and that includes on the bureaucratic side,” Caesar-Chavannes said in an interview with Your Morning.

She quit the Liberal caucus in March 2019 to sit as an independent after alleging that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been hostile towards her.

POLICING AND CORPORATE POWER

Toronto community organizer and human rights activist Akio Maroon said in an interview with CTV News Channel that defunding the police would help address racism in Canada.

“Demilitarizing the police, defunding the police, that would be a start. I think Toronto’s police budget is $1.08 billion… And that is just way too much,” Maroon said on Wednesday. She added that that money could be spent elsewhere to better address the issue.

“The money that we are spending for law enforcement, we can move that money to mental health resources, we can have after school programs, we can educate our community members,” Maroon said. “There are other ways in which we could be looking at reinvigorating our justice system without this kind of carceral environment.”

In addition to the police, Cole said corporations can also be blamed for continued racism against black people, saying both of their powers should be disbanded.

While corporations including Nike, Ben & Jerry’s, Spotify and Amazon have taken to social media to share statements in support of anti-racism protests, Cole says they need to do more.

“Corporations have too much power like the police do. They are a huge part of this problem if not the main source of this problem, because all of this labour that poor people are doing is to serve these corporations while we die against it,” Cole said.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found that black people are at a higher risk of in-hospital death compared to white people.

“We’re living in a crisis right now where people are dying of a communicable disease that we have never seen before this year, and corporations are still forcing people to go to work for minimum wage,” Cole said. “Black people are disproportionately dying of COVID, working for these corporations instead of staying home.”

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Trudeau positions Canada as champion of co-ordinated global recovery plan – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today to make the case for a co-ordinated global response to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s poorest countries.

He’ll be among the leaders and heads of state to deliver remarks during a virtual summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).

Among other things, he is expected to promise that Canada will partner with developing countries, which stand to be the hardest hit by the pandemic, and help to rally the world behind measures like debt relief to help them survive the crisis.

That is similar to the message Trudeau delivered last week while co-hosting a major United Nations summit, alongside UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Without a global co-ordinated recovery plan, the UN estimates the pandemic could slash nearly $8.5 trillion US from the world economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year and potentially 130 million more over the course of the decade.

While no country has escaped the economic ravages of the deadly novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, developing countries, already in debt distress before the pandemic, cannot afford the kinds of emergency benefits and economic stimulus measures undertaken in wealthy, industrialized countries like Canada.

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