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Opposition leaders briefed on alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in Canada – SooToday

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OTTAWA — Alarming new projections for the spread of COVID-19 in Canada are expected to forecast a dramatic rise in cases over the next few weeks if Canadians don’t strictly limit their contact with people outside their households.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam has already warned that Canada is on track to hit more than 10,000 cases per day by early December if current trends continue.

That’s more than double the current daily case count, which is already straining the health care system in some regions.

New federal modelling of the course of the pandemic is to be presented publicly Friday morning.

Sources briefed on the work say the modelling will project a much worse scenario by the end of December — 20,000 cases per day at the current rate of contacts and as much as 60,000 a day if Canadians increase their number of contacts as the holiday season approaches.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the modelling before its official release.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave federal opposition leaders an advance look at the numbers Thursday in a confidential briefing from Tam and her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the purpose of the briefing was to keep opposition leaders in the loop and impress upon them the need to put aside partisanship and join in a common effort to urge Canadians to strictly limit their contacts with people outside their households.

That did not stop Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole from blaming the Trudeau government for the worsening state of affairs.

“What struck me was that 11 months after news about the spread of COVID-19 emerged, after thousands of lives and millions of jobs have been lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars has been added to the national debt, we as a country are worse off than we were at the start of the pandemic,” O’Toole said in a statement after the briefing.

“We are in this position because the government failed to give Canadians the ability to rapidly and frequently test for COVID-19; has failed to tell Canadians how they plan to deliver a vaccine; and failed to be transparent with Canadians about what COVID-19-related information they are using to make decisions that affect lives and jobs.”

O’Toole called for a “real plan to test, trace, and isolate those who are infected” and added that “shutting down the entire country again is simply not a solution.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement that opposition leaders heard during the briefing “the same news Canadians are seeing on their TVs,” referring to leaked news of the updated projections.

“The number of COVID-19 cases is going up across the country and people are worried about what this means for their families and communities,” Singh said.

“We must continue to face this pandemic by doing each our part to flatten the curve. Wear a mask, wash your hands and don’t travel outside of your home unless it is essential.”

Green Leader Annamie Paul told CBC the briefing was “sobering” and that it underscored her call for a co-ordinated national strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet did not attend the briefing. He sent his House leader, Alain Therrien, in his stead.

Tam has said Canadians need to reduce their current rate of contact with others by at least 25 per cent in order to flatten the curve.

And last week, she and Njoo gave a graphic description of the consequences if the trajectory toward more than 10,000 cases per day is not halted.

At the current level of just under 5,000 cases per day, Tam said routine medical procedures are being cancelled, intensive care beds are almost full and health-care workers are exhausted.

“So you can only imagine that if we got to that level (of 10,000), that the pressure on the health-care system will be huge,” she told a news conference in Ottawa on Nov. 13.

“You would definitely not be doing routine surgeries, and that the already exhausted health-care workers will be, you know, extremely stretched,” she said.

Njoo pointed to what happened in northern Italy and New York City last spring, when their health systems were overwhelmed.

“Doctors were having to make a life and death decision in terms of who would be on a ventilator, who wouldn’t. And who wants to be in that position?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2020.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

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BC adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases – Salmon Arm Observer

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The growing number of COVID-19 positive tests without the likely source identified is a key sign of rapid community spread that is outpacing the growth and reach of B.C.’s contact tracing teams.

Contact tracers have been hired, transferred and trained as quickly as possible to keep up with the current surge of novel coronavirus infections, particularly in the Fraser Health region where about 70 per cent of the new cases are being identified. Public health officials have also pleaded with people to cooperate when they are contacted about their movements in likely exposure situations.

The number of “unknown” sources has been running at about 20 to 25 per cent in Fraser Health, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, and reorganizing the reporting system has helped as the case numbers have taken off in November. Specialized teams have been assigned for workplaces, schools and health care facilities, where people are exposed in the community and then go to work or school. And test results are now being transmitted by automated text message.

“I wouldn’t say we’re losing but we’re on the edge for sure,” Henry said at a briefing for reporters in Victoria Nov. 27. “Contact tracing is something where we need to spend time with people. We’ve automated some things including the automated response so people are now getting their test results, whether positive or negative, by text with information about what to do and how to start the process of determining who they had contact with so when they are contacted, that can speed it up and there’s an online form we’re putting in place for that as well.”

RELATED: B.C. sees deadliest day Wednesday, 13 deaths, 738 cases

RELATED: B.C. plans for COVID-19 vaccine rollout in early 2021

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the original goal of adding 500 contact tracers has been revised to 1,200, and retired health care staff are stepping up to help keep up with demand. The return of the province-wide essential-only travel advisory is showing up, as people limit their movements and social contacts in a bid to get infections down before the Christmas season.

“COVID-19 everywhere in the world, the second wave is incredibly tough, and regardless of the question of resources and on top of it, we need everyone to be all-in,” Dix said. “In the last week in terms of activity in the province we’ve seen a decline in ferry traffic and other things that show how committed people are.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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B.C. to provide update on new COVID-19 cases – CTV Edmonton

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VICTORIA —
B.C. health officials are slated to release a written update on COVID-19 cases, outbreaks and deaths discovered in the province over the past 24 hours.

The update is expected after 3 p.m. Thursday.

On Wednesday, health officials announced 738 new cases of COVID-19, as well as 13 more deaths related to the virus.

The update marked the deadliest day in B.C. since the pandemic began.

As of Wednesday, B.C. has seen a total of 29,086 cases of COVID-19, 7,616 of which are considered active. Of those cases, 294 people are in hospital for treatment, 61 of whom require critical care.

Meanwhile, B.C.’s death toll has reached 371 since the start of the pandemic.

In the Island Health region, 21 new cases of COVID-19 were discovered Wednesday. There are now 173 active cases of the virus in the health authority, including three people who are in hospital for treatment, none of whom require intensive care.

Since the pandemic began, Island Health has seen a total of 526 COVID-19 cases and six deaths related to the virus.

As of Wednesday, 347 people have recovered from COVID-19 in the Island Health region, while 19,814 have recovered across the province.

On Wednesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that recent daily COVID-19 case totals were incorrect due to “challenges with a data system” in the Fraser Health region.

The discrepancies included an update to Tuesday’s reported total. While health officials reported 941 new cases – a new record – there were actually 695, Henry said.

A breakdown of the recent discrepancies, reported between Nov. 17 and Nov. 24, can be found here.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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COVID-19: B.C. brings in new mask enforcement policy as cases spike – Peace River Record Gazette

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Masks are required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older, in most indoor places

Update: On Nov. 25, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province had reported incorrect COVID-19 case totals from Nov. 17 to 24 due to “data transfer errors” within the Fraser Health Region.

After reviewing the data, the province now says the total number of new cases from Monday to Tuesday was actually 695 and not 941, the number originally reported by Henry.


Original story: British Columbia set a single-day high of 941 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and recorded 10 additional deaths from the respiratory disease.

According to the B.C. Centre of Disease Control, the vast majority of the new cases are in the Fraser Health region which reported 678 cases between noon Monday and noon Tuesday, while a further 174 were recorded in Vancouver Coastal Health.

The provincial total of those who have tested positive now stands at 28,348, with 7,732 active cases.

The dramatic jump in cases comes less than a week after the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, tightened restrictions on social gatherings and introduced a mandatory mask policy for indoor public settings.

On Tuesday, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth introduced new enforcement measures within the Emergency Program Act that will give law enforcement officers the power to issue $230 fines to anyone not wearing a mask in an indoor public place.

“This new order … will ensure we have the tools necessary to enforce the mask mandate as recommended by (Henry),” said Farnworth, who also further extended the provincial state of emergency until Dec. 8.

Masks are required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older, in most indoor places including malls, drug stores, restaurants (except when seated and eating), public facilities and post-secondary institutions. The province says masks are encouraged for younger children, age two to 12, in public settings but they are not mandatory.

There are also medical exemptions for people unable to wear a mask due to psychological, behavioural or health conditions or physical, cognitive or mental impairments. Those incapable of putting on or removing a mask are also exempt.

The mask order also does not extend to schools which is something that the B.C. Teachers Federation continues to demand.

BCTF president Terry Mooring asked parents in an open letter on Tuesday to encourage their children to wear masks in school.

“By talking to your children about wearing their masks in school, you can help us create that respectful culture of mask wearing,” said Mooring, who conceded that there are some staff and students who, for various reasons, can’t wear masks and some learning situations where masks are inappropriate.

Henry said Monday that students are in schools with a group of people they see day-to-day, unlike businesses where people interact with others they don’t know, necessitating wearing a mask. She did say she supports mask wearing in common areas and by adults at schools.

B.C. health officials say there are currently 10,283 people who are under public health monitoring as a result of exposure to known cases. A further 19,605 people who tested positive have recovered.

A total of 358 people have died from COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began, while 284 people are currently being treated in hospital, including 61 who are in critical care.

The province announced two new health care facility outbreaks at Valley Haven Care Home in Chilliwack and Little Mountain Place care home in Vancouver, while outbreaks at Fraserview Intermediate Care Lodge in Richmond and Agassiz Seniors Community have been declared over.

Fraser Health said Tuesday that 55 patients and 40 staff members have tested positive at Burnaby Hospital where a COVID-19 outbreak was first declared on Nov. 9. There have been five patient deaths linked to the outbreak.

“All patients, staff, support staff and medical staff are tested for COVID-19. As a precaution, the hospital is not accepting new admissions at this time, with the exception of the intensive care unit (ICU), maternity, and community palliative care,” Fraser Health said.

Meanwhile, Vancouver Coastal Health has issued a COVID-19 exposure alert for a popular downtown Vancouver pub. The health agency says anyone who visited The Morrissey at 1227 Granville Street on either Nov. 12 or 13, between 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on both days, may have been exposed to the virus and should monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms.

With a file from The Canadian Press

sbrown@postmedia.com

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