New cases of COVID-19 have steadily dropped over the last 12 days, a downward trend that experts say offers reason for hope even as the second wave pushes hospitals dangerously close to capacity.
Tracking by CTVNews.ca shows the country’s seven-day average has consistently fallen since Jan. 10, from 8,260 cases to 5,957 cases by Jan. 22.
Twelve days may seem brief, but infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the trajectory is a clear trend in the right direction.
“It looks like we have at least started to turn the corner, but we have a long road ahead,” Bogoch told CTVNews.ca on Friday.
The downward trend is particularly good news because respiratory viruses typically flourish during the winter, said infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla.
“Clearly it’s not just a few days’ numbers. There is a significant decrease, which is great,” Chagla said.
It may be tempting to point to vaccines as a potential reason for the drop, particularly as countries such as Israel have seen cases plummet amid their own aggressive vaccination plan. But both doctors rejected the idea that vaccines are responsible, since only two per cent of Canada’s population has received vaccines. In Israel, more than a quarter of the country has been vaccinated.
“(Canada’s vaccines) have been rolled out primarily to long-term care and health-care workers. That enough is not enough to drive down the case counts,” Chagla said.
Instead, both Chagla and Bogoch point to stricter public health measures in Quebec and Ontario, where lockdowns have shuttered non-essential businesses and social gatherings have been banned for weeks.
“So really it does come to the lockdowns,” Chagla said.
The downward trend comes at a time when some experts had predicted the country would still be experiencing the worst of a post-holiday surge in cases. While that’s not happening right now, Bogoch pointed out that Canada still experienced a sharp rise in cases following the holidays, with Canada’s seven-day average hitting its peak on Jan. 8 with 8,310 cases.
“It was pretty bad. I honestly think if we didn’t have those measures to blunt it, it would’ve been significantly worse,” he said.
Even as new cases fall, Canadian hospitals continue to struggle to keep up with hospitalizations, according to David Fisman, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto.
“Unfortunately critical illness lags, so we still have ICU admissions at high levels that reflect the holiday surge,” he said.
Canada’s case count may hold promising news, including the possibility of providing more breathing room for hospitals, but Bogoch said it’s far too soon to pat ourselves on the back.
“I still think we’ve got to be careful here. While the trend is going down, we can’t let out guard down,” Bogoch said.
“We cannot plateau. We have to continue that downward trend.”
'Each time we get a different answer': Do older children arriving to Canada have to stay in quarantine hotels? – CTV Toronto
A group of Toronto-area parents are struggling to interpret Canada’s rules over whether younger adults and older children have to book themselves into so-called quarantine hotels when they return to Canada.
The problem appears to be the use of two definitions for whether a child or a young adult qualifies for an exemption and can go straight home — with two different ages — and, if someone is caught in between, no one is sure what will happen when they get to the airport.
“Each time we get a different answer,” said Michael Stavsky, whose 20-year-old son Isaac is slated to return to Canada after spending two years studying in Israel on March 10. Stavsky said his son has received both doses of the vaccine while studying abroad.
“We had answers ranging from, ‘sure it says 22 and under, that’s no problem,’ to others that said ‘no it’s 19 and under and even one saying, ‘it’s 20 and under.’ We don’t know,” he said.
The Stavskys aren’t the only family that’s had this issue, said Peter Kent, the MP for Thornhill. He said he’s received several calls from people who aren’t sure where government officials will send their children.
“It’s been very inconsistent and CBSA, Health Canada and Immigration Canada, the messaging is all over the place,” Kent told CTV News Toronto.
The hotel stay requirement can cost between $1,000 and $2,000 depending on the hotel and require all incoming air travellers to Canada to spend at least three days in an approved hotel at their own expense as they await the results of a COVID-19 test they were required to take when they landed in Canada.
Some guests have complained to CTV News about a lack of bottled water and hot, prompt meals; others have said the hotels have been very difficult to book.
CTV News Toronto reached out to the Canadian Border Services Agency about the question of whether young adults must stay in the hotels, but the department referred the inquiry to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which didn’t respond by deadline.
The answer, however, may lie in the order-in-council that explains the quarantine regulations. It says most people are required to “quarantine themselves without delay at a government-authorized accommodation…and remain until they receive the result for the COVID-19 molecular test.”
The rule doesn’t apply to a “diplomatic or consular courier” and an “unaccompanied dependent child or an unaccompanied minor.”
If that seems clear, it isn’t, said immigration lawyer Michael Battista, who pointed out that “unaccompanied minor” is customarily someone under 18, while a “unaccompanied dependent child” for immigration purposes is someone who is under 22 — as long as they are not married.
“To use both definitions simultaneously does create confusion,” Battista said.
He said strictly the language implies that if a person meets either definition they should be eligible — but it is going to be up to the border guards — because any legal appeal will take too long to make a difference for a two-week quarantine.
The people coming into Canada from Israel are much more likely to be vaccinated than those already here — more than 93 per cent of adults in the country have received at least one dose, while less than five per cent of Canadian adults have.
Canada's Divorce Act modernized | CTV News – CTV Toronto
The federal government has revamped legislation in hopes couples won’t have to go through custody battles during a divorce.
As of Monday, significant changes have been made to Canada’s Divorce Act, which hasn’t seen substantial updates in more than 20 years.
The federal government said the aim of the legislation — which applies to legally married couples who are divorcing — is to put more emphasis on the best interests of a child.
“The children are at the centre of this legislation,” said Tahira Karim with Legal Aid Alberta.
“Parties are going to have to demonstrate how their decisions are going to impact the child and that impact better be positive.”
For the first time, the Divorce Act mentions family violence and will require courts to consider any instances of abuse when making decisions.
“It’s a really big step forward in recognizing that violence could have a huge impact on the family and more importantly, impact on children,” said Karim.
Karim said the changes are a long time coming.
“We needed something that was written down, something that acknowledged various things that were happening in life and society that weren’t recognized by law,” said Karim.
The legislation also establishes guidelines for when one parent wants to relocate with a child.
“The more things written down there, the less you have to fight for yourself right,” said Livia Fajkusz, a mother of three whose divorce was finalized in January.
Fajkusz said her divorce was amicable but she believes the new laws will help other couples settle their differences outside court.
“For me the most important changes are they put a more detailed description about family violence … not just physical violence but mental, emotional abuse, financial abuse,” she said.
Fajkusz is a life coach who now runs divorce coaching for parents. She said it’s an emotional process.
“It’s an overwhelming thing going through divorce and taking care of the kids at the same time and dealing with your own feeling of loss,” she said.
The reforms were schedule to go into effect July 1, 2020 but were postponed until March.
The government also said other objectives include helping to reduce child poverty and make Canada’s family justice system more accessible and efficient.
More details on the Divorce Act can be found on the Government of Canada’s website.
Canada's chief science adviser issues warning about B.C.'s 'experiment' with vaccine timing – CBC.ca
British Columbia’s decision to extend to four months the interval between first and second doses of three different vaccines amounts to a “population level experiment,” said Mona Nemer, Canada’s chief science adviser.
“I think that it’s possible to do it. But it amounts right now to a basically population level experiment. And I think it needs to be done as we expect clinical trials to be carried out,” Nemer told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics today.
Nemer told host Vassy Kapelos that the data provided so far by Moderna and Pfizer on their vaccines were gathered when the first and second doses of the vaccines were being spaced three to four weeks apart, not three to four months apart.
“I think it’s really important that we stick with the data and with the great science that give us these fantastic vaccines, and not tinker with it,” she said.
If provinces want to find out if the interval between the first and second doses can be extended to 16 weeks, she said, those provinces should conduct proper clinical trials by registering participants and explaining to them the possible advantages and disadvantages of taking part.
She said that while such trials might show that it’s safe to extend the interval to four months, Canada is not there yet.
“For now, we simply don’t have enough data that tells us this is an effective strategy, particularly when we think that we have variants of the virus that are emerging that are not as well recognized by the vaccine,” Nemer said.
“Partial immunity is something that people need to be very wary of. And it’s probably best to just vaccinate as recommended and as studied for now.”
Watch: Mona Nemer: ‘partial immunity is something that people need to be very wary of.’:
B.C. extends the interval
Earlier today, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks.
“From the very early days, we made sure that every single dose is recorded and we knew who got what vaccine when, and part of this feeds into our evaluation of vaccine effectiveness,” Henry said.
“We have seen that the vaccines we have here in B.C. are safe and they provide a very high level of real world protection with the initial dose.”
Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, and countries around the world, shows “miraculous” protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Henry said the B.C. CDC has been exchanging data with colleagues across the country and similar results are coming from Quebec, as well as from the U.K., Israel and other countries.
She also said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has been looking at the issue and will be issuing a statement on the matter in the near future.
As of March 1, however, the advice NACI is providing on its website says that the interval between the first and second shots of the Moderna vaccine should be four weeks, the interval for Pfizer should be three weeks and the interval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be 12 weeks.
The head of Moderna’s Canadian operations, Patricia Gauthier, told Kapelos Monday that the company’s own trials, and the conditions under which the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, are tied to a four week interval.
“That being said, we’re in times of pandemic and we can understand that there are difficult decisions to be made,” Gauthier said. “This then becomes a government decision. We stand by the product monograph approved by Health Canada, but governments … can make their own decisions.”
Gauthier said she is not aware of any studies done or led by Moderna on what happens when the interval between the first and second doses is changed from four weeks to four months.
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