MONTREAL — Some provincial authorities saw encouraging signs in the fight against COVID-19 on Monday, even as experts warned that it’s too soon to draw conclusions from the data and urged Canadians not to relax their efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
Officials in both Quebec and Manitoba noted that case numbers have dropped slightly in recent days and suggested that their populations’ efforts to control the virus could be paying off.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said case numbers in his province appeared to be dipping.
“We’re definitely not out of the woods,” he told a news conference as the province reported 118 cases.
“We certainly still have a long way to go before we can return to normal.”
Roussin said the province is looking at easing some restrictions in the coming days, but that any changes would be gradual.
Quebec reported 1,634 new COVID-19 cases, which included about 200 from the previous day that weren’t noted because of a delay.
The province had broken the 3,000-case mark in early January and has a seven-day rolling average of more than 1,900 cases a day.
Health Minister Christian Dube noted on Twitter that the Quebec City region in particular had seen a decline in the number of new infections recently, which he saw as a sign that “the sacrifices that we’re asking of Quebecers are bearing fruit.” However, he asked Quebecers to continue their efforts in order to reduce the number of hospitalizations, which rose Monday after three straight days of decline.
Universite de Montreal public health professor Benoit Masse said it will take another week or two to know whether the downward trend will be sustained and to gauge the impact of the recently imposed curfew. He said the province should know more by Feb. 8, when curfew restrictions are set to lift.
Ontario also reported its lowest number of COVID-19 cases since early January, with 2,578 new infections, but the province completed a little more than 40,000 tests Sunday, compared with more than 60,000 the day before.
Nova Scotia also reported no new cases for the second time this month.
The news was less positive in New Brunswick, where the Edmundston region entered the province’s highest pandemic-alert level, ushering in new restrictions on businesses in the region after a record-breaking number of new cases on Sunday.
The province reported 26 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday after Sunday’s all-time high of 36.
Ontario announced that a new hospital set to open in Vaughan, Ont. would be used to relieve a capacity crunch because of rising COVID-19 admissions. Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott said the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital would add 35 new critical care beds and 150 medical beds to the province’s bed capacity.
Hospital capacity has been a concern in many provinces, with doctors in Ontario and Quebec being told to prepare for the possibility of implementing protocols to decide which patients get access to life-saving care in the case of extreme intensive care unit overcrowding.
Nationally, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are still increasing, according to Canada’s chief public health officer.
Dr. Theresa Tam noted that hospitalizations tend to lag one or more weeks behind a surge in cases.
“These impacts affect everyone, as the health-care workforce and health system bear a heavy strain, important elective medical procedures are delayed or postponed, adding to pre-existing backlogs,” she wrote in a statement.
She said an average of 4,705 COVID-19 patients a day were being treated in Canadian hospitals during the last seven days, including an average of 875 in ICUs.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021
— With files from Steve Lambert, Shawn Jeffords and Sidhartha Banerjee
20 additional deaths reported as Ontario surpasses 300K COVID-19 cases – CityNews Toronto
Ontario reported 1,062 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday as the province passed a sobering milestone.
It’s the fifth straight day more than 1,000 new infections were confirmed, bringing the provincial total to 300,816 since the pandemic began.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases sits at 1,104, which is an increase from 1,031 last Sunday.
Toronto reported 259 new cases while Peel Region added 201 new infections to its total. York Region reported just 86 new cases – the fewest number of new cases since moving into the Red-Control zone last week.
An additional 23 variants of concern were also confirmed in the province with 528 cases of the variant first discovered in the UK. There are 27 variant strains of the virus first confirmed in South African and just three of the variant first discovered in Brazil.
Another 20 people have died as a result of COVID-19, none involving residents in a long-term care setting, leaving the provincial death just shy of 7,000.
Provincial officials processed 49,185 tests in the last 24 hour period with more than 18,000 samples remaining to be confirmed.
Another 19,167 vaccines were administered on Saturday, bringing the provincial total up to 687,271. Just over 260,000 Ontarians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
While the number of hospitalizations fell to 627, likely due to the lack of full reporting from hospitals on the weekend, the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU rose to 289 while those on ventilators also increased to 185.
'We need this:' Getting COVID-19 vaccine to remote and urban Indigenous populations – Kamloops This Week
Chief Chris Moonias looked into a web camera as he prepared to get a COVID-19 vaccine just after precious doses arrived in his northern Ontario community.
“I’m coming to you live from Neskantaga First Nation community centre where our vaccines will be administered,” a jovial Moonias, wearing a blue disposable mask, said during a Facebook live video at the start of February.
Moonias was first to get the vaccine in the fly-in Oji-Cree First Nation on the shores of Attawapiskat Lake north of Thunder Bay.
The vaccine had arrived by plane earlier in the day after weeks of planning, and the chief’s video was part of a campaign to get community members on board.
Moonias said in an interview that he had done his own research, had spoken with medical professionals and wasn’t concerned about getting the shot.
About 88 per cent of eligible on-reserve members have since received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Second doses are to arrive Monday.
However, earlier this week, the reserve declared a state of emergency due to a COVID-19 outbreak, with some cases linked to the Thunder Bay District Jail.
Moonias said four off-reserve members in Thunder Bay, all under the age of 40 — including his nephew — have died. And he’s worried about the 200 other members who live off the reserve — almost the same number as those on the reserve — and when they’ll get inoculated.
“I even thought about flying my peopleup… to get the vaccine,” said Moonias, who added it’s unlikely to be an option because of cost.
Canada is in the midst of the largest vaccine rollout in its history. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Indigenous populations much harder and Ottawa says they are a priority for vaccinations.
The actual distribution remains complex and varied across the country.
Neskantaga is one of 31 fly-in First Nations included in Operation Remote Immunity, part of the first phase of Ontario’s vaccination rollout. The operation was developed with Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Ornge, the province’s air ambulance service. The goal is to provide mass vaccinations by April 30 and it is having early successes.
There are challenges getting the vaccine to remote First Nations and questions about distribution for urban Indigenous populations.
The Assembly of First Nations says most Indigenous communities haven’t received sufficient supply to extend doses to their off-reserve members. The National Association of Friendship Centres says there is no national vaccination plan for urban Indigenous people.
There’s also concern there is no national plan to tackle decades of mistrust created by systemic racism and experimentation on Indigenous people.
There are many examples throughout Canadian history of scientists sponsored by the federal government or the government itself doing medical experiments on Indigenous people, including children, who were the subject of a tuberculosis vaccine trial in Saskatchewan that began in the 1930s.
Ontario New Democrat Sol Mamakwa, who represents the electoral district of Kiiwetinoong, said some constituents tell him they are scared to take the vaccine. They don’t trust it.
He has been travelling to communities to help promote it and received his first dose alongside members of Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation.
Community engagement has been key in vaccine uptake, Mamakwa said. Promotion begins weeks before vaccine teams arrive and includes radio campaigns, social media posts and live online question-and-answer sessions.
It’s about giving people information, he said.
“One of the only ways out of this pandemic is the vaccine,” said Wade Durham, Ornge’s chief operating officer, who added it’s key to have Indigenous people involved in vaccine planning.
Each First Nation in Operation Remote Immunity has a community member responsible for answering questions and setting up a vaccination site. Immunization teams are required to take cultural training and, when possible, include Indigenous medical professionals and language speakers.
Indigenous Services Canada said it is aware that a history of colonization and systemic racism has caused mistrust, so campaigns are being developed specifically for First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.
Michelle Driedger, a Metis professor of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba, said experience has shown that stakes are high when it comes to Indigenous communities.
During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the Public Health Agency of Canada prioritized vaccines by geography. A main lesson learned was to increase Indigenous representation at decision-making tables, she said.
At the time, Indigenous people were over-represented in hospitalizations and intensive care stays, as well as in deaths. Those living in remote and isolated communities experienced worse outcomes.
Driedger said the vaccine response is better now, but there is “rational skepticism.” There needs to be a transparent vaccination plan for Indigenous communities — no matter where they are, she said.
The Matawa First Nations tribal council said its four communities reachable by road are not getting the same vaccine access as its five fly-in ones, and more needs to be done.
Provincial officials have said that remote First Nations received priority for the vaccine rollout because of less access to on-site health care and increased health risks. Chief Rick Allen from Constance Lake First Nation has said the vaccine needs to go where the outbreaks are.
Back in Neskantaga, Moonias said he’ll do anything he can to protect anyone he can.
He continues to give updates about his vaccination. In another Facebook video posted soon after he received his shot, the chief gave a thumbs-up and said he had no pain or discomfort.
“We need this. We need to beat this virus.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021.
This story was produced through the Journalists for Human Rights Indigenous Reporters Program under the mentorship of The Canadian Press, with funding from the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch.
One-third of new virus cases in north of province – Winnipeg Free Press
As case counts, hospitalizations and test positivity rates continue to trend downwards across the province, northern Manitoba continues to take on the brunt of the province’s COVID-19 cases, with more than a third of new cases identified in the region.
The province reported 90 new cases of COVID-19 and four new deaths as of Saturday morning.
Of the new cases 37 were identified in the Northern health region, with an additional 34 in Winnipeg, eight cases each in the Interlake-Eastern and Southern Health regions, and three cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
The number of confirmed B.1.1.7 variant of concern cases in the province remains at five.
Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate continues to dip closer to three per cent — the number health officials indicated could lead to looser restrictions — reaching 3.7 percent provincially and 3.2 per cent in Winnipeg.
Public health officials said Thursday loosened restrictions will be considered in two phases as early as March 5, with the second phase to come Mar. 26.
Manitoba completed 1,861 tests Friday, bringing the total number of lab tests since last February to 523,507.
The total number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Manitoba is 31,809, with 1,208 cases listed as active and 29,708 individuals who have recovered from the virus.
The COVID-19 related deaths reported Saturday include two women in their 80s, and a man and woman in their 90s, all from the Winnipeg health region.
The total number of virus-related deaths in the province is now 893.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to improve, too. The province announced 69 people are currently in hospital with active cases of the virus, with an additional 120 people in hospital who are considered no longer infectious but still require care for a total 189 hospitalizations.
There are 11 people in intensive care units with active COVID-19 and 16 people who are no longer infectious but continue to require critical care for a total of 27 ICU patients, the province said.
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