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Pediatricians sound alarm on lack of support needed to meet flu shot demand amid COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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Ontario pediatricians say their calls for the financial and logistical support needed to do more flu vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic have so far gone unheeded and fear an “imminent crisis” lies ahead.

“We … would like to express our urgent concerns regarding an imminent crisis in influenza vaccination,” said an online petition launched on Change.org Saturday by the pediatrics section of the Ontario Medical Association. 

“Right now, Public Health seems to expect the status quo from years past, when individual doctor’s offices and scattered flu clinics gave flu vaccines.”

Public health officials and health-care experts have stressed the importance of getting the flu shot this year to avoid burdening the health-care system even more during the pandemic.

Pediatricians say the coronavirus outbreak makes it more critical than ever for children to get flu shots, not only because influenza can make them very ill, but also because they can easily spread the virus to vulnerable people, such as the elderly, for whom both flu and COVID-19 can be very dangerous.

But health-care providers won’t be able to give nearly the normal number of flu vaccinations in their offices and clinics this year, they say, because of COVID-19 safety protocols such as eliminating crowded waiting rooms, seeing patients by appointment only, and the time needed for rigorous cleaning and disinfecting of exam rooms between each vaccination. 

WATCH | Why more people are planning to get flu shots this year:

Officials have ordered more doses of the flu shot because demand is expected to be higher during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the details about how to safely administer flu vaccinations haven’t been worked out. 1:49

The solution, they say, is “planning large scale, community-based province wide flu vaccination clinics,” which would be held in large venues that allow for physical distancing, as well as outdoor or drive-through clinics. 

“These would ensure that we can safely administer flu vaccine universally throughout the province in large numbers, quickly and efficiently,” the petition says.

Logistical hurdles for flu shots

Doctors are anxious to get such clinics up and running as soon as this year’s flu vaccine becomes available in October — but it’s not something that community-based medical practices can set up their own, said Dr. Jacob Rosenberg, a pediatrician in Woodbridge, Ont.

“We can’t just bring in droves of people to line up and get flu shots the same way that we’ve done in our office in the past,” he said in an interview with CBC News.

Rosenberg estimated that his office alone vaccinated 4,500 to 5,000 children against influenza last year — largely through weekend flu clinics that would see more than 150 kids in a three- to four-hour period. 

After COVID-19 struck, Rosenberg and his colleagues reached out to York Region’s public health department to ask for logistical help in organizing outdoor clinics or renting a large venue. They also asked for nursing support and supplies, such as portable refrigeration to keep vaccines at the right temperature. 

Public health departments ‘stretched thin’

York Region Public Health responded with a guidance document and checklist on how to plan and operate a COVID-safe flu clinic, but said it was unable to provide additional logistical support.

The response was frustrating, Rosenberg said.

“What we’re saying is we don’t think we can do it on our own. We need help.”

Pediatrician Dr. Jacob Rosenberg said children between six months and five years are at higher risk of getting very sick from the flu. Children also spread the flu easily to others. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

In an interview with CBC News, Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s medical officer of health, said he sympathizes with community physicians.

“We certainly applaud their efforts to step up to the challenge this year,” he said.

But public health departments are also “stretched thin” as they manage the COVID-19 crisis and ramp up efforts to deliver the flu vaccine to primary-care providers, Kurji said.

Public Health will also hold immunization clinics in long-term care homes and vulnerable populations that are harder to reach, he said.

“We like to work as co-operatively as possible … but ultimately, when it actually comes to the provision of nurses or when it comes to the provision of dollars, that is not part of our mandate,” Kurji said. 

Look to province for more resources, public health says

Any additional logistical and financial support for physicians during this year’s flu campaign needs to come from the Ontario health ministry, Kurji said. Toronto Public Health echoed that response.

CBC News asked the ministry if it would provide funding or other resources to primary-care providers to help them set up COVID-safe flu vaccination clinics. 

In a response emailed Sunday, the health ministry did not answer specifically, saying only “more details on the influenza vaccination program will be available in the coming weeks.”

Toronto Public Health will run some flu vaccination clinics of its own, said Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s associate medical officer of health, in an email to CBC News. Just as in physicians’ offices, those clinics will require appointments and physical distance to prevent COVID-19 spread, she said. 

Pharmacists will also help ease the load by administering the flu vaccine, she said. 

But pharmacists in Ontario currently aren’t allowed to give the flu vaccination to children under five years of age, leaving much of the burden for immunizing a critical age group on physicians and nurses.

Young children considered high risk

Very young children are considered a high-risk group to become seriously ill from flu and should start receiving the influenza vaccine at six months of age, pediatric guidelines say. 

This is also the first fall in Canada where COVID-19 and influenza will both be circulating, which leads to “the great unknown” for children, Rosenberg said. 

“Children seem to get milder cases with COVID-19, they seem to get it less than the general population, but what happens if you have influenza and then an otherwise healthy child gets COVID-19?” he said. 

“The answer is we don’t fully understand.”

WATCH | Health experts say this is the year to get a flu shot:

Health authorities are urging Canadians to get a flu shot this year to avoid the spectre of a “twindemic,” where the health-care system is overwhelmed by COVID-19 and influenza, but there are concerns about how to safely deliver flu shots to more people. 3:31

The Ontario Medical Association has been in talks with the provincial government for over a month to try and come up with a flu vaccination plan “that everyone could get behind,” said OMA president Dr. Samantha Hill.

“Everyone’s aligned that this needs to happen. The government is absolutely aligned that the flu vaccines are going to be important,” she said. 

But Hill said she’s not optimistic that the Ministry of Health will come through with the logistical support that will ease physicians’ fears. 

“I don’t have a lot of great feedback from those meetings as to where we are now,” she said. 

“The ‘how you get from here to there’ part seems to be missing.  And that’s what’s causing all that anxiety on behalf of physicians.”

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What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Friday, Oct. 30 – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • Starting next Monday (Nov. 2), the COVID-19 symptom list for Albertans under the age of 18 is changing. Runny nose and sore throat will be removed from the list of symptoms that require mandatory isolation for children.
  • As of last Monday (Oct. 26), there were outbreaks at 11 per cent of the province’s schools, or 101 schools, 39 of which had more than five cases. There were 680 cases in schools.
  • Alberta reported 477 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total active cases in the province to 4,921 — another new high after hitting record numbers nearly every day for the past week.
  • That comes after the province saw 1,440 new cases over the weekend — more than the number of cases reported in the entire month of June, and nearly as many as were reported in the month of May. 
  • Alberta’s data system will be undergoing some maintenance over the weekend, meaning no new numbers will be reported on Monday. Data updates are set to resume on Tuesday.
  • Five more people have died, bringing total deaths in the province to 318. 
  • There are 130 people in hospital, 18 of whom are in intensive care.
  • If you’re wondering how to handle Halloween this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, here are some ideas on how to trick-or-treat, give out candy or celebrate in a different way — without the fear of catching or spreading the coronavirus.
  • The province has brought in new mandatory limits of 15 people at most social gatherings in Edmonton and Calgary.
  • The province is also recommending voluntary measures in both cities: wearing non-medical masks in all indoor work settings, except where people are alone in an office or cubicle, or a barrier is in place, and limiting themselves to no more than three cohorts. 
  • It also recommends that people in Edmonton and Calgary limit themselves to no more than three social cohorts.

(CBC)

What you need to know today in Alberta:

Alberta set another record on Thursday with 4,921 active cases of COVID-19, an increase of 128 from the day before.

The death toll now sits at 318, up five from Wednesday. Five more deaths were reported on Thursday. They involved:

  • A man in his 40s from the South zone.
  • A woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak in Agecare Skypointe in the Calgary zone.
  • A man in his 90s from the Calgary zone who was not a resident in continuing care.
  • A man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Mount Royal Revera in the Calgary zone.
  • A woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at the Edmonton General Care Centre. The death was the fifth linked to the outbreak and was announced Wednesday by Covenant Health.

Starting Monday, the COVID-19 symptom list for Albertans under the age of 18 is changing. Runny nose and sore throat will be removed from the list of symptoms that require mandatory isolation for children.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the changes to the symptom list are intended to get children and teenagers back into child care or classrooms as quickly and safely as possible, while minimizing the risk of COVID-19.

In the last week, she said, more than 3,400 children and youth who were tested for COVID-19 reported having a sore throat. Just over 700 of them had a sore throat as their only symptom, and less than one per cent of their tests came back positive.

Meanwhile, the number of cases of COVID-19 among school-aged children in Alberta has again surged to a new high, while the number of kids and teens being tested continues to decline.

Data from Alberta Health shows the number of new daily cases has continued to rise among five- to nine-year-olds and has again shot up, especially, among 10- to 19-year-olds.

Over the past week on record, an average of 85 cases were recorded per day among school-aged kids and teens.

As of Monday, there were outbreaks at 11 per cent of the province’s schools, or 101 schools, 39 of which had more than five cases. There were 680 cases in schools.

Alberta has reported a total of 27,042 cases since the pandemic began. Before this past week, which set new records on multiple days in a row, the highest active case total was 3,022, which was reported on April 30 at the peak of the first wave.

The active case rate per 100,000 people is 121 in Calgary and 183 in Edmonton. 

A snapshot of the active COVID-19 cases by health district in Calgary as of Oct. 28. (CBC)

A new temporary measure, which caps attendance at 15 for events where people will be “mixing and mingling” like parties and baby showers, applies in the Calgary and Edmonton areas.

The province is also recommending two voluntary measures in both cities: wearing non-medical masks in all indoor work settings, except where people are alone in an office or cubicle, or a barrier is in place, and limiting themselves to no more than three cohorts. 

The federal minimum security Pê Sâkâstêw Centre in Maskwacis has been locked down after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Another three staff members are self-isolating at home. 

A spokesperson for Correctional Service Canada told CBC News they don’t believe the infected employees were in close contact with any of the inmates.

An outbreak at the Calgary Correctional Centre has gotten bigger, according to new numbers provided by Alberta Health Services. As of Thursday, 100 inmates and 18 staff members have tested positive.

Albertans have been administered more than 597,000 doses of the flu shot so far this year, an increase of more than 50,000 when compared to the same time period last year.

“Thank you for doing your part to help stop the spread of influenza, and helping our health system stay focused on the pandemic response,” Hinshaw said Thursday.

Health officials have said this year it is more important than ever to get the flu shot because of the pandemic. 

Here’s the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Thursday.

  • Edmonton zone: 2,277, an increase of 22 from the day before.
  • Calgary zone: 1,879, an increase of 91 from the day before.
  • North zone: 325, an increase of one from the day before.
  • South zone: 256, the same as the day before.
  • Central zone: 162, an increase of two from the day before.
  • Unknown: 22, a decrease of two from the day before.  

Find out which neighbourhoods or communities have the most cases, how hard people of different ages have been hit, the ages of people in hospital, how Alberta compares to other provinces and more in: Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Alberta — and what they mean

What you need to know today in Canada:

As of 7:30 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 228,542 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases, with 27,259 of those active. Provinces and territories listed 191,209 as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 10,074.

In Ontario, new provincial projections for COVID-19 show that virus growth is slowing and the province is seeing a “more gentle curve” than it was initially preparing for, public health officials say.

Quebec reported 1,030 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 more deaths on Thursday, as federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu confirmed that the province would be receiving a much larger batch of rapid COVID-19 testing kits than previously announced.

The province will receive about 453,000 in total, with a little less than half of that order expected to arrive by the end of this week. That means Quebec will receive about 37 per cent of the 1.2 million kits being deployed across Canada by the federal government.

Saskatchewan reported 82 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, breaking the record for the highest single-day jump in new cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Manitoba also had a record-breaking day Thursday with 193 new cases and 97 people in hospital with the illness — both new highs for the province. It also announced one new death.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on Canadians suffering from mental illness, opioid addiction and other substance abuse problems, says a new study released today by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) which confirms anecdotal reports warning that the pandemic’s health consequences extend well beyond the novel coronavirus itself.

(CBC News)

Self-assessment and supports:

With winter cold and influenza season approaching, Alberta Health Services will prioritize Albertans for testing who have symptoms, and those groups which are at higher risk of getting or spreading the virus.

General asymptomatic testing is no longer available to anyone, but voluntary asymptomatic testing is available to:

  • School teachers and staff.
  • Health-care workers.
  • Staff and residents at long-term care and congregate living facilities.
  • Any Albertans experiencing homelessness.
  • Travellers requiring a test before departure.

Additional groups can also access asymptomatic testing if required.

The province says Albertans who have returned to Canada from other countries must self-isolate. Unless your situation is critical and requires a call to 911, Albertans are advised to call Health Link at 811 before visiting a physician, hospital or other health-care facility.

If you have symptoms, even mild, you are to self-isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, until the symptoms have disappeared. 

You can find Alberta Health Services’ latest coronavirus updates here.

The province also operates a confidential mental health support line at 1-877-303-2642 and addiction help line at 1-866-332-2322, both available 24 hours a day. 

Online resources are available for advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.

There is a 24-hour family violence information line at 310-1818 to get anonymous help in more than 170 languages, and Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-403-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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B.C.’s top doctor is reminding you to keep your gatherings small this Halloween – News 1130

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SURREY (NEWS 1130) – While B.C.’s top doctor is giving the thumbs up to trick-or-treating this weekend, it’s a different story when it comes to parties.

“No Halloween parties this weekend,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said during her COVID-19 update on Thursday. “This Halloween weekend we need to celebrate in new ways. We need to keep our groups small.”

It comes days after she issued a new provincial health order, limiting gatherings at homes to no more than the people living there plus six others in their “safe bubble.”

“This is because many of the things we do at parties and celebrations, things like talking and hugging and eating and drinking together indoors are much, much riskier. Particularly now.”

But Henry said if you plan to get together with people in your safe six this weekend, it should maybe be at a restaurant instead of someone’s home.

“It does prevent transmission of this virus. There are some very clear reasons for this. First, for most of us, our homes do not have the space for everybody to keep that safe distance that we need right now. Second, our homes don’t have those layers of protection that we have built in to other places to slow the spread of COVID-19,” she explained.

“We don’t use such things as plexi-glass barriers and one-way pathways in our homes, which naturally means that we will be closer to each other.”

Unlike at the grocery store or a school, we’re also more likely to forget about precautions at home because we’re more familiar and comfortable with our setting, Henry added.

Related stories: 

“Many of the new cases we have today are directly linked to gatherings — in our homes and elsewhere — that are now resulting in community transmission of COVID-19 across the province. But this has been particularly the case in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Health region.”

People in the Fraser Health region are being asked to skip out on gatherings, even small ones, altogether this weekend.

“Even small gatherings can be risky right now,” Fraser Health Authority President Dr. Victoria Lee said Thursday. “At this crucial time, we’re asking people who reside in the Fraser Health region to take a pause and reconsider as our social interactions outside of our households.”

The Fraser Health region has seen the majority of COVID-19 cases in the province.

When it comes to trick-or-treating, Henry said that should be kept small too.

“It can be done safely, outside, with small groups. Making sure that we give the others the space to stay safe and also importantly to respect those homes that are choosing not to participate this year.”

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COVID-19 Live Updates: News on coronavirus in Calgary for Oct. 30 – Calgary Herald

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Have you been impacted by COVID-19?

Postmedia is looking to speak with people who may have been impacted by the growing second wave of COVID-19 here in Alberta. Do you have a family member in the Foothills hospital? Did you attend the recent wedding that led to 51 cases? Send us an email at reply@calgaryherald.com to tell us your experience, or send us a message via this form.



Alberta updates symptom checklist for students

Pictured is a classroom in Henry Wise Wood High School that could accommodate a cohort of up to 38 students on Friday, August 28, 2020. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Pictured is a classroom in Henry Wise Wood High School that could accommodate a cohort of up to 38 students on Friday, August 28, 2020. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Alberta is providing new guidance for parents checking for COVID-19 symptoms before school each morning.

Currently, students are asked to stay home and monitor for 24 hours when they have one of the non-core COVID-19 symptoms of chills, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, muscle/joint aches, or headache. Starting Monday, the government will be removing runny nose and sore throat from the list of symptoms that require mandatory isolation for school-aged children.

“Based on our data so far, the risk of a child with just one of these symptoms has COVID is even lower if that child is not known to be a close contact of someone with COVID-19,” Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday, emphasizing that this new checklist only applies to those with no known exposure to COVID-19.

Also starting Monday, children with only one of the non-core symptoms should still stay home and monitor for 24 hours, but if they improve, testing is not necessary and they can return to normal activities. If they have two or more symptoms, however, they should stay home until the symptoms improve or they test negative for COVID-19.

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