Infectious disease experts say Canadian health authorities must tighten restrictions again or hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 will increase exponentially in the coming weeks.
Echoing comments made Tuesday by Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, who said Canada is at a crossroads in its pandemic battle, experts in public health are urging governments to take decisive action to prevent the current resurgence of the virus from spiralling out of control.
Canada reported 1,248 new cases Wednesday, and on Tuesday the country’s most populous province, Ontario, reported its highest number of new cases since early May.
Tam outlined projections that show new cases could climb to 5,000 daily by October if we continue on the current course.
“To date, we’re not moving fast enough to get ahead of this,” said Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease physician based at a Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “I think we’re being lulled into a false sense of security because of the low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths [relative to earlier in the pandemic]. But they will come in the next six weeks or so.”
He said asking people nicely to tighten their social circles is not going to be enough.
“I think that appealing to people’s better natures — that, hey, you should be careful and you should make sure you limit your contacts — I don’t think that that’s going to work, to be perfectly frank.”
Gardam said Canadians grew fatigued with the restrictions imposed on their social circles earlier in the year and won’t be eager to return to them unless pressed.
“I think we’re going to have to be a lot more forceful,” he said.
That means demanding Canadians tighten their social circles, and backing that up with enforcement.
“I would argue that we need to be very cautious, like we were back in March, in order to weather the storm from all the increased contacts that we’ve had.”
Right now, “people are playing fast and loose with bubbles all over the place,” said Gardam.
If you increase the number of contacts that you have, this is going to go to hell real quick.– Michael Gardam, infectious disease physician, Women’s College Hospital
Instead, he says we need to rethink social bubbles now that school is in session again.
“We’re all going to have to pay the price because our kids are in school now. So what are we giving up?
“If you want to keep the restaurants open and bars, maybe you have to give up your private gatherings,” he said. “Because if you just increase in every dimension, if you increase the number of contacts that you have, this is going to go to hell real quick.”
The actions taken in the next two weeks could change the trajectory of the months to come, said Laura Rosella, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health,
“There’s a lot of things with this pandemic that we can’t control, but we might be able to control who we interact with, especially socially, and who’s in our bubble,” said Rosella, who holds a PhD in epidemiology.
“I would encourage everyone to rethink what their bubbles are given the new situation, especially if something’s changed, if someone’s gone back to work, someone’s entering a school situation and especially if vulnerable people are in their bubbles.”
Rosella said her advice to Canadians is to “really think through what is absolutely necessary” when it comes to interactions with others.
More than a blip
Rosella said Canadians can’t afford to ignore the changes happening with COVID-19.
“We’re not in the August situation anymore. There’s clearly an uptick of cases,” said Rosella, “The fact that we’re already on that trajectory tells me that the likelihood of this being just a small blip, that we’re not going to notice and we can carry on, is pretty low.”
“We are going to experience a significant increase that we’re going to have to manage and react to. It could be worse if we do nothing. And if we act, we could minimize the impact of it.”
Dr. Samir Gupta, a clinician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto, said getting a handle on this COVID-19 surge means returning to restrictions implemented earlier in the pandemic.
Speaking with Heather Hiscox on CBC Morning Live Wednesday, Gupta said Canadians “need to start making similar sacrifices to the ones we made the first time around,” which was successful with flattening the curve in the spring.
Without enforcement, “we risk overwhelming our health-care system capacity … [and getting] into real trouble,” he said.
“We don’t want to have to turn people away and not be able to take care of people who are sick with this virus. And that’s the biggest risk we face.”
Nova Scotia reports no new cases of COVID-19; 6 active cases – CTV News Atlantic
Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. The total number of active cases in the province remains at six.
There is no longer anyone in hospital as a result of COVID-19.
Monday’s no new cases breaks a three day streak of new cases being reported. From Friday to Sunday, five new cases were reported, all in the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s central zone, and all related to travel outside of the Atlantic bubble.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed 461 Nova Scotia tests on Sunday, with one new case identified.
To date, Nova Scotia has 105,189 negative test results.
There are 1,097 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, but 1,026 cases are considered resolved, and 65 people have died – leaving six active cases in the province.
There is no one in hospital as a result of COVID-19.
The province’s confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.
Sixty-one per cent of cases are female and 39 per cent are male.
There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the central zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.
The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.
- Western zone: 56 cases
- Central zone: 919 cases
- Northern zone: 68 cases
- Eastern zone: 54 cases
STATE OF EMERGENCY RENEWED UNTIL NOVEMBER
The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, has been extended to Nov 1, unless government terminates or extends it before then.
COVID ALERT APP NOW AVAILABLE
On Thursday, Nova Scotia Health announced that Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is now available in the province.
The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
LIST OF SYMPTOMS
Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:
- sore throat
- shortness of breath
- runny nose/nasal congestion
SELF-ISOLATION AND MANDATORY MASKS
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.
Anyone who travels to Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic region is required to self-isolate for 14 days and must fill out a self-declaration form before coming to the province.
However, the province has eased some self-isolation requirements for out-of-province rotational workers.
Residents of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are not required to self-isolate when travelling to Nova Scotia, but they must be prepared to provide proof of their place of residency at provincial borders.
Visitors from outside the Atlantic region who have already self-isolated in another Atlantic province for 14 days may travel to Nova Scotia without having to self-isolate again.
It is mandatory to wear a non-medical mask in most indoor public places in Nova Scotia.
Kenney won’t rule out further COVID-19 restrictions ‘if things get really out of control’ – Global News
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says there is a lot of pressure to introduce further restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the province. But implementing measures like a lockdown isn’t the way he wants to go.
While appearing on the Danielle Smith Show on 770 CHQR on Monday morning, Kenney said that while he cannot exclude the possibility of introducing new restrictions, the best way to go forward is to have Albertans exercise “personal responsibility.”
“I cannot exclude the possibility that, in the future, if things get really out of control, that we may have to introduce narrowly targeted measures to limit the spread,” he said.
“But our strong preference is to trust people to exercise personal responsibility.”
Alberta has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks — particularly in the Edmonton zone. On Friday, there were 2,836 active cases. Of those, 1,525 — or more than half — were in the Edmonton zone.
The numbers that concern Kenney more, however, are the death toll and the increase of people hospitalized or in intensive care units with COVID-19.
On Friday, there were 117 people in the hospital due to the novel coronavirus, with 11 of those in the ICU.
“We need to learn to live with COVID,” Kenney said.
“It’s going to continue to spread throughout our population until there is an effective vaccine and we don’t know when that will be.”
Formal restrictions unlikely in Alberta as transmission mostly happening outside business environment: Hinshaw
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has said one of the reasons the number of hospitalizations has increased so much is because of the number of outbreaks in hospitals across the province.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 70 outbreaks listed by Alberta Health. Four of those outbreaks were in hospitals.
As for the death toll, 288 Albertans have died due to COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon.
Kenney’s comments about the possibility of further restrictions is a sharp change from comments at the beginning of September. At the time, active case numbers were returning to numbers not seen in Alberta since May.
When asked about it on Sept. 9, Kenney shot down the idea of further restrictions.
“Alberta’s belief is we’re not going to micromanage our way out of this. We’re only going to get through this if people exercise personal responsibility, and that’s what we call on Albertans to do,” Kenney said.
“We want to do everything we possibly can to avoid jerking around people — indiscriminately shutting down their businesses, their jobs and their livelihoods.”
The comments were echoed by Hinshaw who said at the time the evidence showed transmission is happening in social settings, not in businesses, so formal public health measures were not likely.
Voluntary health measures for the Edmonton zone were introduced on Oct. 8 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in that region.
Albertans living in that zone were asked to reduce private gatherings to no more than 15 people, be part of only three cohorts, and wear masks inside all businesses where distancing isn’t possible.
Hinshaw announces voluntary health measures for Edmonton zone amid spike in COVID-19 cases
Hinshaw said it takes one to two weeks between action and results, so she said the data should start to show this week whether those measures succeeded in slowing the spread.
— With a file from Allison Bench, Global News
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Manitoba's COVID-19 numbers trend downward as bars and restaurants face restrictions – Virden Empire Advance
WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s COVID-19 numbers have started to drop somewhat following a surge last week and after restrictions were imposed on restaurants and bars.
Health officials reported 80 new cases and the deaths of two residents at a Winnipeg personal care home Monday.
It was the fourth consecutive day that the new case number was in the double-digits after peaking last week at 173.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said there is no definitive way to link the drop to earlier closing times that were imposed on licensed restaurants and bars in the Winnipeg region two weeks ago.
But he said that was the aim of the rules — to cut the case count by reducing the amount of time people spend gathered in groups in close quarters.
“We just know with this virus that it’s prolonged indoor contact, and so businesses that have that as a major part of their business operation are unfortunately quite affected by this pandemic.
“And so when we see the cases going up, we have to do whatever we can to try to keep the numbers manageable.”
Further restrictions in greater Winnipeg took effect Monday. Casinos and live-entertainment nightclubs must close. Bars, lounges and restaurants must operate at half capacity.
The measures are to be in place for two weeks and may be extended if COVID-19 numbers don’t drop.
Bars that are attached to hotels — licensed with the province under the category of “beverage rooms” — were originally supposed to be closed for two weeks as well. But the government changed its mind at the last minute and allowed them to stay open under the same half-capacity limit as bars, lounges and restaurants.
“We’re happy that they’re having a different thought on that,” Scott Jocelyn, president of the Manitoba Hotel Association, said of the government move.
“So many areas of our industry have been impacted (by the pandemic) and it (would have been) just another body blow.”
Business groups in Winnipeg have said bars and restaurants were already hurting and the increased restrictions are likely to force some to close unless the Manitoba government offers financial help.
The province has already offered general wage subsidies to businesses, but has been noncommittal on further aid geared toward the hospitality sector.
The province is also trying to tackle long wait times for testing by using doctors’ offices after normal business hours.
The first office is scheduled to open Tuesday evening at a walk-in clinic in the city’s south end. Appointments will be available online.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2020
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