Doctors across Canada are warning that they are seeing an increase in young Canadians being hospitalized with more severe complications from COVID-19.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy previously told CTV’s Your Morning that the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is infecting those under the age of 40 more, largely due to increased circulation of more transmissible variants.
“We’re seeing younger, healthier people develop this disease because they’re unvaccinated and these variants are just likely to hit them,” Sharkawy said on Wednesday.
“You don’t know where you’re going to end up on that dial and unfortunately, we’re seeing some pretty tragic consequences of that,” he added.
According to new modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canada is on track to see a “strong resurgence” of COVID-19 cases across the country if these variants continue to spread and become more commonplace, and if public health measures remain at current levels.
The new long-range projections, released on Friday, show that the highest incidences of COVID-19 are currently being experienced in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and parts of Ontario, while the overall incidence rates are highest among young adults aged 20 to 39 and have declined among older Canadians.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that as of Friday, over 7,100 variant cases have been reported across Canada, with the B.1.1.7 variant accounting for more than 90 per cent of those infections.
During a press conference, Tam said that coronavirus variants may be impacting younger Canadians more than older generations because many seniors and vulnerable groups have already been vaccinated.
“…That circulation of COVID-19 in younger, more mobile and socially connected adults presents an ongoing risk for spread into high-risk populations and settings, and continuing transmission in the community,” Tam said.
She noted that it is important to remember “although severe illness is less common in younger age groups, serious or prolonged illness can occur at any age.”
Dr. Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa, told CTV News Channel on Friday that the variants have almost created “a brand new pandemic.”
“This is not the same disease we’ve been dealing with for the past year. The new variants are a dire threat, they’re… more transmissible and lethal so our old mitigation strategies might not be sufficient,” Deonandan explained.
However, he reiterated that COVID-19 vaccines will still work against most of these variants.
“Our best bet to get out of this quickly is to restrain ourselves from unnecessary exposure and to ramp up vaccination as much as we can,” Deonandan said.
He added that vaccine hesitancy as well as waiting for a certain vaccine instead of taking the one that is first offered increases the risks these variants pose to individuals and communities.
“If we have available doses and people are stepping up to receive them within their time, that slows down the overall process and extends the suffering of the population unnecessarily,” Deonandan said.
“Every day you spend unvaccinated is a day that you’re at risk of getting COVID and therefore at risk of being hospitalized, at risk of long COVID, and at risk of dying,” he added.
Deonandan said Canada will reach herd immunity and return to normal faster, and likely stifle out most of the variants of concern, if people get vaccinated as soon as possible and maintain current public heath restrictions.
YOUNG VARIANT CASES A CONCERN ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Toronto emergency room physician Dr. Kashif Pirzada recently took to social media to share images of the lungs of COVID-19 patients to highlight the toll COVID-19 is taking on young people.
In one set of images, a set of healthy lungs from a 30 year old are seen next to a pair from a 35-year-old teacher who tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.
The infected set of lungs appear to be entirely covered in a white shadow. Pirzada previously told CTV Toronto this is what the lungs look like when they are filled with fluid, making it extremely difficult to breathe.
“All of us are kind of shocked how young these patients are,” Pirzada said. “What worries us is people are unaware of this. People are taking risks, they are going into crowded settings, but they have no idea how bad [COVID-19] is getting.”
Dr. Daniel Kalla, head of the emergency department at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver, said at a press conference on Monday that scans showing fluid-filled lungs are familiar to every doctor in the country treating COVID-19 patients.
Kalla said it is “vitally important” that younger people understand these risks associated with the coronavirus can also affect them.
“We’ve had a couple cases at St Paul’s with people who quite literally were fine the night before, who are then not only put on life support, but put on bypass because their lungs don’t … work anymore, and it happens so quickly,” Kalla explained.
While he acknowledges that young, healthy people who contract COVID-19 typically recover, Kalla says the novel coronavirus remains a “very unpredictable virus.”
“I know there’s this false sense of security because most young, healthy people do fine with it, but a certain percentage is going to get incredibly sick and some of them are going to die,” Kalla said.
“You can’t just rely on the fact that you were healthy before you had COVID,” he added.
B.C.’s top doctor said on Thursday she is concerned that the spread of variants, especially the B.1.1.7 variant, could be bringing more severe illness to all ages.
“We’ve now seen data particularly from the U.K., but some other countries as well, that shows that it can have increased severity of illness in younger people and across the age spectrum,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news conference.
In an interview with CTV Regina, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw warned that becoming sick with a coronavirus variant can bring different and more severe complications than that of the original virus.
“We’re definitely seeing that younger people are as susceptible to the COVID virus as anyone else, and that when people get sick with COVID — particularly with a variant — it’s a more serious illness that can cause more harm,” Shaw said.
Shaw stressed the importance of young people continuing to follow public health restrictions so as not to overwhelm the health-care system.
“I’m really worried because if young people are becoming ill, and our hospitals are going to be struggling to help manage and take care of everybody because of the increased spread of the virus, we’re all in a difficult situation,” Shaw said.
With files from CTVNews.ca’s Rachel Aiello, CTV News Toronto, CTV News Vancouver and CTV News Regina
Nigerian separatist leader Kanu denies terrorism charges in court hearing
Nigerian separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu pleaded not guilty to charges including terrorism in an Abuja court on Thursday, three months after his trial was delayed when authorities failed to produce him in court.
The charges against Kanu, a British citizen, also included calling for secession, knowingly broadcasting falsehoods about President Muhammadu Buhari, and membership of an outlawed group.
The military considers Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) a terrorist organization.
IPOB wants a swathe of the southeast, homeland of the Igbo ethnic group, to split from Nigeria. An attempt to secede in 1967 as the Republic of Biafra triggered a three-year civil war that killed more than 1 million people.
Security services barred journalists from entering the court and forcibly dispersed crowds of supporters who gathered nearby.
In selfies with his lawyer circulating in local media, Kanu looked healthy and in good spirits.
Kanu was first arrested in 2015, but disappeared while on bail in April 2017. His social media posts during his absence, and his Radio Biafra broadcasts, outraged the government, which they said encouraged attacks on security forces.
Security agents produced him in court in Abuja on June 29 after detaining him in an undisclosed country. His lawyer alleged he was detained and mistreated in Kenya, though Kenya has denied involvement.
Kanu has filed charges alleging that he was illegally taken from Kenya and asking that he be repatriated to Britain.
On Thursday, his lawyers also asked, unsuccessfully, for Kanu to be transferred to the Nigerian Correctional Centre instead of the state security custody for easier access to his lawyers.
Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, said they have an application challenging the competence of the underlying charges, most of which reference Radio Biafra broadcasts made out of London.
“I can’t see how someone would make a statement in London and it becomes a triable offence in this country,” Ejiofor told reporters.
The trial was adjourned until Nov. 10.
(Additional reporting by Abraham Achirga and Afolabi Sotunde in Abuja, writing by Libby George, editing by Angus MacSwan)
U.S. FAA seeks new minimum rest periods for flight attendants between shifts
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to require flight attendants receive at least 10 hours of rest time between shifts after Congress had directed the action in 2018, according to a document released on Thursday.
Airlines for America, a trade group representing major carriers including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others, had previously estimated the rule would cost its members $786 million over 10 years for the 66% of U.S. flight attendants its members employ, resulting from things like unpaid idle time away from home and schedule disruptions.
Aviation unions told the FAA the majority of U.S. flight attendants typically do receive 10 hours of rest from airlines but urged the rule’s quick adoption for safety and security reasons.
Under existing rules, flight attendants get at least 9 hours of rest time but it can be as little as 8 hours in certain circumstances.
“Flight attendants serve hundreds of millions of passengers on close to 10 million flights annually in the United States,” the FAA said, adding that they “perform safety and security functions while on duty in addition to serving customers.”
It cited reports about the “potential for fatigue to be associated with poor performance of safety and security related tasks,” including in 2017, when a flight attendant reported almost causing the gate agent to deploy an emergency exit slide, which was attributed to fatigue and other issues.
The FAA estimated the regulation could prompt the industry to hire another 1,042 flight attendants and cost $118 million annually. If hiring assumptions were cut in half, it said, that would cut estimated costs by over 30%.
After the FAA published an advance notice of the planned rules in 2019, Delta announce it would mandate the 10-hour rest requirement by February 2020.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson is testifying at a U.S. House Transportation subcommittee hearing on Thursday.
House Transportation Committee chairman Peter DeFazio said on Wednesday that it was “unacceptable” to delay the FAA adopting the flight attendant rest rule and mandating secondary flight deck barriers to better protect the cockpits on all newly manufactured airliners.
Attorneys at the FAA “need a little poke” to move faster on rules when ordered by Congress, DeFazio said on Thursday at the hearing. “Do not screw around with it for three years… you just do it.”
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants representing 50,000 workers at 17 airlines, said the rule was critical.
“Flight attendant fatigue is real. COVID has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short night, and combative conditions on planes,” she said. “Congress mandated 10 hours irreducible rest in October 2018, but the prior administration put the rule on a process to kill it.”
During the pandemic, flight attendants have dealt with records numbers of disruptive, occasionally violent passenger incidents, with the FAA citing 4,837 unruly passenger reports, including 3,511 for refusing to wear a mask since Jan. 1.
The FAA proposes to make the new flight attendant rest rules final 30 days after it publishes its final rules.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jason Neely and Bill Berkrot)
Canada government, provinces agree COVID-19 vaccine travel passport – officials
Canada’s federal government and the 10 provinces have agreed on a standard COVID-19 electronic vaccination passport allowing domestic and foreign travel, government officials told reporters on Thursday.
The deal prevents possible confusion that could be caused if each of the provinces – which have primary responsibility for health care – issued their own unique certificates. The officials spoke on the condition they not be identified.
The document will have a federal Canadian identifying mark and meets major international smart health card standards.
“Many (countries) have said they want to see a digital … verifiable proof of vaccination, which is what we’re delivering,” said one official.
In addition, federal officials are talking to nations that are popular with Canadian travelers to brief them about the document.
The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier this month that from Oct 30, people wishing to travel domestically by plane, train or ship would have to show proof of full vaccination.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Alistair Bell)
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