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PM urges Canadians to wear masks indoors at all times as winter approaches – News 1130

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OTTAWA — As the COVID-19 situation continues to raise concerns, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested on Friday that as winter approaches Canadians consider wearing a mask anytime they are indoors.

During a briefing, he pointed to record high new cases in B.C. and Saskatchewan and record-high deaths in Ontario.

Trudeau also said there is increasing evidence that aerosol spread is a vector of transmission and we need to wear masks and avoid crowded, enclosed spaces.

“We all have our reasons to keep each other safe, to follow public health advice. We need to do that. It’s particularly nice outside in many parts of the country this week, which means we’re still enjoying lots of fresh air. But winter is coming. And that means we’re going to have to get into more enclosed spaces, we’re not going to be able to open windows wide in rooms, ventilation is going to become much more important.” he said.

“I have, over recent days, taken to trying to wear a mask anytime I’m inside, including when I’m more than two metres distance from people, when I’m not actually speaking,” he added.

“This is an extra degree of protection, but it’s an extra onerous step that many of us are going to have to take on. But we all need to do what we can to slow and stop the spread of COVID- 19. Obviously, everyone’s situation is different, contexts are different, but using our best judgment and making those little sacrifices so that we don’t continue to see mounting losses and increase disruptions from spread of COVID-19,” he said.

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“We’ve seen many of our allies in Europe have to go into severe lockdowns, imposed curfews. We’ve been able to avoid that in Canada so far right across the country during the second wave, because, in general, we have been acting quickly. And because the federal government has been there to provide support to individuals and businesses that allow public health authorities to go ahead and act quickly to prevent further spreads.”

Trudeau also said vaccines will hopefully be ready in the spring, but there’s a lot of work to do between now and then.

Long road ahead for vaccine

Canada Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization provided preliminary guidance Tuesday on the populations that should be considered for early COVID-19 immunizations.

“While this preliminary guidance is helpful for planning, there is still a long road ahead. Clinical trials need to continue. Health Canada still needs to approve the vaccines, if they are deemed safe and effective, and we will be receiving additional advice on prioritization, based on the characteristics of each vaccine, once approved,” she said.

Tam also suggested Health Canada is not considering national public health measures or recommendations.

“I think our role has been to provide guidance and recognize that the provinces and territories implement guidance, and they are taking into account their local epidemiology and their particular capacities and circumstances, so that’s how it actually works,” she said.

“If there are some extraordinary needs, there are different tools that the government, in fact, the prime minister and others can take,” she added.

Tam said Canadians have flattened the COVID-19 curve once, and given much more is known about the virus now, they, working with public health and government officials, can do it again.

“I think that’s the most effective and appropriate way of managing.”

‘Targeted approach’

Balance is also important, she added.

“So we don’t blanket cover the country with the same public health measures, but try to use a more targeted approach, and that is still currently the approach.”

In the meantime, Tam added, it is crucial to continue to layer on individual protections known to be effective keeping infection rates low. Earlier in the week, Tam appealed to Canadians to wear three-layer, non-medical masks with filters to limit transmission of COVID-19.

Friday she reiterated health and safety protocols, and suggested wearing a mask when spending time indoors with people from outside your immediate household, and avoid or limit time spent in closed, crowded spaces and close-contact situations where you can’t consistently maintain physical distancing.

Canada has recorded a total of 251,338 cases of COVID-19 to date, with more than 32,000 active.

Quebec reported 1,133 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, and 25 additional deaths associated with the novel coronavirus.

Ontario reported 1,003 new cases of COVID-19, and 14 new deaths.

B.C. surpassed 400 new daily COVID-19 cases for the first time on Thursday.

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Province reports 1,707 new COVID cases today – SooToday

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Public Health Ontario has confirmed 1,707 new cases of COVID-19 today, which is 39 fewer than yesterday. There were 1,746 cases reported on Monday.

Of today’s new cases, most are confined to the Greater Toronto Area. There are 373 new cases confirmed in Peel Region, 727 cases in Toronto and 168 in York Region; that represents 1,268 — or 74 per cent — of the new lab-confirmed cases reported over the past 24 hours.

The agency also reported seven more deaths related to the coronavirus over the past 24 hours. Yesterday, eight deaths were reported.

More than 1,373 cases have been resolved since yesterday. 

Over the past 24 hours, 34,600 tests were completed.

Since the start of the pandemic, public health labs in Ontario have processed more than 6.3 million COVID-19 tests.

Throughout Ontario, there are 645 people currently hospitalized with the coronavirus.

  • Algoma Public Health: 60 cases, rate of 52.4 per 100,000 people. There are three known active cases.
  • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit: 79 cases, rate of 54.7 per 100,000 people. There are 10 known active cases.
  • Porcupine Health Unit: 106, rate of 127 per 100,000 people. There are no known active cases. 
  • Public Health Sudbury and Districts: 230 cases, rate of 113.1 per 100,000 people. There are eight known active cases.
  • Timiskaming Health Unit: 18 cases, rate of 55.1 per 100,000 people. There is one known active case. 
  • Northwestern Health Unit: 121 cases, rate of 123.2 per 100,000 people. The health unit has also reported two probable cases that are under investigation. There are 17 known active cases.
  • Thunder Bay District Health Unit: 308 cases, rate of 168 per 100,000 people.There are 93 known active cases.

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Some Ottawa Public Health programs slowly returning – CBC.ca

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has begun ramping up some community programs that were suspended at the start of the pandemic, but the city’s medical officer of health said not all will return to their pre-COVID-19 selves.

The pandemic didn’t just throw OPH’s budget into disarray but also how it offered many of its services, including chronic disease prevention work.

“These kinds of teams are completely redeployed to the COVID-19 response,” said Dr. Vera Etches, the city’s medical officer of health, on Monday.

OPH also had to shutter its four dental clinics across the city that offered services to people who had difficulties paying for care elsewhere.

The St. Laurent Boulevard clinic reopened for emergency services last week, while the Wabano Centre clinic should reopen part time on Thursday, Etches said.

Ottawa’s medical officer of health Vera Etches during a school visit in early September. Etches says some of OPH’s programs have gone virtual, while others have been scaled back or cancelled altogether. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Those clinics together saw 140 clients a day before the pandemic hit, said OPH’s director of health promotion and chief nursing officer Esther Moghadam, and the hope is to get the other two open so vulnerable populations have easier access to one nearby. 

While the clinics were closed, Moghadam said dentists across the community stepped up to help and will likely have to continue to do so until the clinics are at full capacity.

“It’s still very early … There is going to be a need that we won’t be able to address fully,” she said.

Another program that fell by the wayside was the Healthy Growth and Development Program, which Etches said is currently running at 50 per cent capacity.

Its breastfeeding support work is moving online or having mothers come to OPH or other community partners instead of nurses visiting them in their homes.

Two mothers breastfeed their babies in Spain in a file photo. Ottawa Public Health’s Healthy Growth and Development Program, which offers breastfeeding support, is running at about 50 per cent capacity and has had to prioritize who gets an at-home visit from a public health nurse. (Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images)

Not all programs are set to return to the way they once were.

“We’re looking to learn from the new tools we have, the innovative approaches that can be built upon and the partnerships that we have grown to extend some of this work into the future,” said Etches.

That future shift includes those services tailored at chronic diseases, which she said will change because private companies have been stepping up to help protect and promote employee health.

COVID-19 in 2021

Ottawa’s Board of Health unanimously passed its largest budget ever at its meeting Monday night, with $24 million of its $98.1 million budget for 2021 expected to cover a number of one-time COVID-19 expenses

Even with positive vaccine updates, Etches said next year’s budget forecasts a similar amount of COVID-19 cases, outbreaks, follow-up and communication work in 2021 as exists now.

It is also expecting to help provide that COVID-19 vaccine to Ottawa residents “which we are hopeful, initially, will protect against hospitalizations and deaths in the people most at risk,” she said.

“That would be excellent.”

The budget will go to city council for final approval on Dec. 9.

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Parents welcome asymptomatic COVID-19 tests in schools, even if the news isn't always good – CBC.ca

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It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster weekend for Toronto father Yaser Nadaf, after Ontario’s new asymptomatic testing for schools in COVID-19 hot spots turned up 19 new positive cases at his children’s school.

While his daughter and her Grade 3 class were cleared to return to school on Monday, his son’s Grade 2 class must self-isolate for 14 days, even though the youngster himself was among those who tested negative.

The weekend’s testing blitz at Thorncliffe Park Public School — the first Toronto District School Board (TDSB) location selected for the voluntary testing pilot announced last week — saw 14 classes affected and sent home for two weeks. However, the rest of the school will remain open, according to direction from Toronto Public Health.

Nadaf is rolling with it, saying he believes teachers and staff have been trying their best to maintain health and safety precautions and protocols.

“What can we do? This is going on everywhere in the world,” he said. “They try their best, but at the same time they cannot prevent it completely.”

Testing asymptomatic students and staff is currently being offered at designated schools in Toronto, Peel and York regions and Ottawa — four Ontario regions with a high number of active COVID-19 cases.

Thorncliffe Park Public School was the first Toronto District School Board location selected to participate in a new voluntary asymptomatic testing program at schools in four COVID hot spots in Ontario. The testing found 19 positive cases, and 14 classes were sent home to self-isolate. (CBC)

The goal is to improve tracking of the coronavirus and prevent transmission within schools, as well as to inform future public health decisions. While parents and health experts seem to be applauding the pilot, some are also highlighting shortcomings in how it’s being rolled out.

Over the weekend, testing also began in Ottawa at Manordale Public School, part of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. Amber Mammoletti, an occasional teacher working at two schools this fall, dropped by on Sunday to be tested with her son, Flynn.

“I think there’s people walking around not realizing they have it — no symptoms — so it’s just better to keep everyone safe: Get tested if you can and see what happens,” she said.

WATCH | How testing helped Cornell University become a model of COVID-19 prevention:

At the start of the school year, Cornell University implemented a strategy of regular testing and robust contact tracing on campus. The plan was expensive, but it’s prevented any major COVID-19 outbreaks at the New York institution. 8:19

School boards are working with local public health authorities to determine which schools to target over the next four weeks, but the expectation is that new positives will undoubtedly emerge, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said.

“The 19 cases we’ve learned about over the weekend [at Thorncliffe Park PS] as a result of the testing is a concern, but it’s not unexpected,” he said Monday.

“While this information is concerning, it really is the information that our public health officials need to know, because it gives them a better snapshot of how many of those asymptomatic people are positive cases of COVID.”

Despite the batch of positive cases arising from this first weekend, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce reiterated his assertion that “99.9 per cent of Ontario students are COVID-free” during a press briefing on Monday afternoon.

Acknowledging that “we still have work to do” in tracking COVID-19 cases in communities, he characterized the new testing initiative as an extension of the existing safety measures his ministry had announced.

“The fact that hundreds of children, students and staff have gotten tested [at Thorncliffe Park PS] in conjunction with the local public health unit I think underscores that the plan in place is … working hard to mitigate any further spread: identifying COVID cases, isolating them or moving them from the school, so we don’t have spreaders within the school.” 

‘Canaries in the coal mine’

A targeted campaign of testing in schools — which in most neighbourhoods are considered trusted, known places — is a welcome tool that adds to the barometer of what’s happening in the communities they’re located in, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician and assistant professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“Parents who may not be encouraged to go get tested in their local communities will readily take their kids to the school, which is a place they know,” he said.

“Things like this are going to be canaries in the coal mine. You kind of get a better sense of what’s happening in the community by doing these local testing strategies.”

Manordale Public School in Ottawa was also among the schools selected for the pilot project. Students and staff lined up on Sunday for testing. (CBC)

He added the caveat, however, that the type of test being used will likely cause more chaos for families and schools.

For the pilot, Ontario is using PCR testing, which detects the genetic material of a virus. Although considered the gold standard, it’s also so sensitive it would “pick up kids who are infectious, as well as kids who were infectious two, four, six weeks ago,” Chagla said.

He suggested that they could have chosen rapid antigen tests, which flag active infections by identifying proteins on the surface of infectious virus particles.

The rapid antigen tests may offer a more precise picture “of who is really a threat to the community versus who had COVID six weeks ago, where they’re not really a threat,” Chagla said.

WATCH | Nova Scotia offers rapid COVID-19 tests in Halifax for asymptomatic cases:

Health officials in Nova Scotia offered rapid COVID-19 testing in Halifax to reduce the virus’s spread in the province by catching asymptomatic cases. 2:01

Though Toronto parent Jessica Lyons welcomes the introduction of asymptomatic testing, she said it comes months late and should be offered more widely.

“This is desperately needed,” said the mother of two school-aged children and an organizer with the Ontario Parent Action Network.

“Much more testing in schools — to make it accessible, to make it easy for parents and families and students to do — is really essential. So we support this pilot, obviously, but we think that it should have come … weeks and weeks ago, and it needs to be expanded.”

PCR testing being used in the pilot project is considered the gold standard, but it’s also so sensitive it would ‘pick up kids who are infectious, as well as kids who were infectious two, four, six weeks ago,’ said Dr. Zain Chagla. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Back in Thorncliffe Park, among the Toronto communities hardest hit by COVID-19 this year, parents in the neighbourhood expressed concern about the new positive cases found through the testing initiative. But they’re also adamant about one thing: their schools staying open.

Remote learning last spring was “really hard for kids. We’ve seen the mental stress on our child and other kids,” said Osamah Aldhad, father of a second grader who he said really missed being at school.

“When we were kids, you know, we used to run away from school,” Aldhad noted.

“Now they’re actually really wanting to go to school, which is really important for them.”

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