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Province keeping a wary eye on flu season, nursing chief says

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Last year, according to the province’s final Influenza Surveillance Report for the 2019-20 season, only 26.3% of people got the annual booster which is actually a slight increase from the previous year. The province is preparing for a pandemic bump and has purchased enough shots for 40% of the population with the option to purchase more.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 283 active COVID cases in Manitoba, with nine people in hospital and three in intensive care. With school returning last week, the province is already starting to see positive case numbers begin to increase with seven at John Pritchard School and at least one case in five other schools in the province.

This past January, hospitals were flooded after two strains of the flu plus the respiratory virus all peaked at the same time. If a second or third wave of COVID hits, there will be an even bigger need for beds and resources.

Siragusa said they have been preparing for this potential.

“We have been planning for many months, making sure we have the staff and the space and the supplies available to deliver to the population of Manitoba, it has been all hands on deck,” she said, noting there will be bigger spaces in clinics to allow for better physical distancing, more hand sanitizer and signage.

The province’s top nurse also said last year was a good example of how the health system was able to adapt to the spike in flu cases and that it should be able to again this year.

“I think we’re even more better prepared,” she said. “We have protocols, we have regular teams who we have been working with because of COVID and we have many back-up plans as to when we need to accelerate or expand.”

The province will likely launch its flu shot campaign in October, though no date has been finalized.

jaldrich@postmedia.com

Twitter: @JoshAldrich03

Source:- Winnipeg Sun

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Outbreak over at St. Martin School – Tbnewswatch.com

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THUNDER BAY — A COVID-19 outbreak at St. Martin School has been declared to be over.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit on Friday said no additional cases have been detected at the school since cases were announced on Feb. 10, Feb. 11 and Feb.22. There has also been no evidence of additional spread at the school.

An outbreak was declared when it was determined cases had been acquired at the Mary Street school.

St. Martin, along with all schools in Thunder Bay, on Monday will pivot to online learning only for a period of two weeks, based on a recommendation issued by the health unit.

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Barrie latest city placed under lockdown as province invokes emergency brake in Simcoe-Muskoka and Thunder Bay health units – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Ontario government is invoking its so-called “emergency brake” and placing both the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit under the grey lockdown category in its tiered framework for COVID-19 restrictions.

The move means that the vast majority of non-essential businesses in both Simcoe-Muskoka and Thunder Bay will have to close as of 12:01 a.m. on Monday.

Social gatherings will also be prohibited, except among members of the same household.

Retail establishments are still permitted to operate but are limited to 25 per cent capacity unless they predominantly sell groceries, in which case they can have 50 per cent of their regular capacity.

The additional restrictions come amid a recent rise in cases in both health units.

Thunder Bay’s rolling seven-day average of new cases has more than doubled since this time last week to 38.8 and local officials are recommending that all schools move to remote-only instruction for the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, in Simcoe-Muskoka the rolling seven-day average of new cases is up 40 per cent from this time last week and now stands at 43.

The Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit is also reporting a total of 184 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, accounting for more than a third of all confirmed cases involving a variant of concern across Ontario.

“The main issue for me are the variants of concern of COVID-19. Here we have a substantial amount of the UK variant. It really commenced with a very large and tragic outbreak at Roberta Place that affected some other facilities as well but now we see it spreading in the community in greatly increasing numbers, probably triggering the rise we have seen in case counts overall,” Simcoe Muskoka’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner told CP24 on Friday afternoon. “We are acting early in that we are just seeing this now. I did not want to wait longer. I wanted to be prompt about it because if this is the beginning of a rise the longer you wait to act the worse it will be and the longer it will take to bring it under control.”

Both the Simcoe-Muskoka and Thunder Bay health units were placed in the red zone in the province’s framework back on Feb. 12 following the lifting of the stay-at-home order, allowing restaurants to serve a limited number of customers while permitting other businesses, like gyms and hair salons, to reopen.

But in recent days the indicators in both regions worsened.

Gardner said earlier this week that he was “very seriously considering” asking the province to place the region in lockdown due to a concerning spike in cases, which included a doubling of cases in Barrie.

Speaking with CP24 on Friday, he said that the district had seen a steady decline in cases from mid-January until last week and that the recent spike has him “quite concerned” about a potential third wave locally.

“I am certainly pleading with people in Simcoe-Muskoka and beyond actually to heed the message of staying home and to go out only for essential purposes. Even though it is not actually required now I am pleading with people to abide by that and going back into this lockdown status I think helps to strengthen the message,” he said.

Niagara moved from lockdown to red zone

The decision to impose additional public health restrictions in two regions with rising infections comes one day after the release of new modelling that warned that daily case counts are likely to rise to 2,500 a day by the end of March due to the presence of the new variants.

The modelling, however, suggested that the province can protect the gains it has made by being “nimble” and quickly taking action to address flare-ups.

“Quickly implementing stronger measures to interrupt transmission of COVID-19 is a key component of the government’s plan to safely and gradually return public health regions to the framework,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in a news release issued late Friday afternoon. “Due to data and local context and conditions in the Simcoe-Muskoka and Thunder Bay Districts, it was necessary to tighten public health measures in these regions to ensure the health and safety of the region at large and stop the spread of the virus.”

A total of nine regions will move to different levels in the province’s tiered framework on Monday but Simcoe-Muskoka and Thunder Bay are the only health units being placed in more restrictive categories.

Niagara Region will move from the grey lockdown zone to the red zone while Chatham-Kent, Middlesex-London and Southwestern Public Health will all be placed in the less restrictive orange category.

The Ford government is also moving the Haldimand-Norfolk and Huron Perth public health units from orange to yellow and the Grey Bruce public health unit from yellow to green.

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Machin out at CPPIB – BNN

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Mark Machin resigned as head of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board after he went to the United Arab Emirates and received a COVID-19 vaccine, defying guidance from Justin Trudeau’s government to avoid international travel.

“After discussions last evening with the board, Mr. Machin tendered his resignation and it has been accepted,” CPPIB said in a written statement Friday morning. John Graham was named to replace him as chief executive officer.

The office of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland criticized Machin after the Wall Street Journal revealed the trip Thursday evening. Canada is still struggling to ramp up its own immunization campaign against the virus.

‘Very Troubling’

“While the CPPIB is an independent organization, this is very troubling,” Katherine Cuplinskas, a spokeswoman for Freeland, said by email. “The federal government has been clear with Canadians that now is not the time to travel abroad.”

The finance department was unaware of Machin’s trip, Cuplinskas said, referring further questions to the CPPIB.

Despite securing more doses per capita than any other nation, Canada has administered enough shots to vaccinate just 4.5 per cent of its population one time, compared with 29 per cent in the U.K. and 20.6 per cent in the U.S., according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. That’s because Canada has to import the vaccines, and shipments have lagged.

Travel Scandals

Recent public opinion has turned against officials who defy the government’s pleas to not leave the country: Rod Phillips, Ontario’s finance minister, was forced to resign on Dec. 31 after it was revealed he took a Caribbean vacation at a time when many businesses in the provinces were ordered to shut their doors to contain the virus.

With vaccine deliveries now accelerating after delays caused in part by export controls in the European Union, Trudeau maintains that every Canadian will be inoculated by the end of September.

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