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Public health officials call for tighter restrictions, warn COVID-19 could spiral out of control – Yahoo News Canada

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Public health officials call for tighter restrictions, warn COVID-19 could spiral out of control

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.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="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&nbsp;the current resurgence of the virus from spiralling out of control.” data-reactid=”33″>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.

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“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. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Adjusting bubbles” data-reactid=”61″>Adjusting bubbles

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.

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“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.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="More than a blip” data-reactid=”98″>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.

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Speaking with Heather Hiscox on CBC&nbsp;Morning Live&nbsp;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.” data-reactid=”123″>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.”

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St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto declares COVID-19 outbreak among ER staff – pentictonherald.ca

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TORONTO – Another hospital in downtown Toronto has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 among its staff.

Unity Health says there are five active coronavirus cases among emergency room staff at St. Michael’s Hospital.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the health network says “no patient cases have been identified to date” and the risk of patient exposure is low.

However, it recommends anyone who visited the ER at St. Michael’s within the last two weeks to self-monitor.

The hospital is one of four in Toronto that have declared COVID-19 outbreaks in recent days.

The others are St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto Western Hospital and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2020.

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Correctional officer contracts COVID-19 after brief encounters with infected individuals – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A case study of a correctional officer who tested positive for COVID-19 despite having no sustained exposure of at least 15 minutes with any infected individual is providing new evidence that the virus can be transmitted in brief encounters.

The study, released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, has prompted them to expand their definition of a “close contact.”

On July 28, the study states, six incarcerated or detained individuals who had not yet received their COVID-19 results arrived to a Vermont correctional facility from out of state, and were transported to a quarantine unit. In the process, all six — who were not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms — briefly interacted with a 20-year-old correctional officer.

The six tested positive for COVID-19 on July 29. In the contact tracing process, officials looked at every interaction the six had while they would have been infectious, and determined that the 20-year-old correctional officer was not a close contact who needed to be quarantined, according to the Vermont Department of Health’s rules, since he had never been within two metres of any of them for 15 minutes.

Thus, the correctional officer continued working — until August 4, when, at the end of his shift, he started feeling the symptoms of COVID-19, including a loss of smell and taste, a cough, a headache and shortness of breath, among other symptoms.

He tested positive for COVID-19 on August 11.

In order to find out how the correctional officer had contracted the virus, officials observed video surveillance on July 28 to tally up the time the officer had spent within two metres of any of the six individuals who had COVID-19.

“Although the correctional officer never spent 15 consecutive minutes within 6 feet of an [incarcerated person] with COVID-19, numerous brief (approximately one-minute) encounters that cumulatively exceeded 15 minutes did occur,” the case study stated. “During his eight-hour shift on July 28, the correctional officer was within six feet of an infectious [incarcerated person] an estimated 22 times while the cell door was open, for an estimated 17 total minutes of cumulative exposure.”

The study added that while the six incarcerated or detained people wore cloth face masks during some of these interactions, there were a few interactions in a cell doorway or the recreation room where they did not wear a mask.

The correctional officer was wearing a face mask and eye goggles at all times.

Since the officer had no travel-related exposure or any other known close contact exposures, officials surmised that he’d contracted the virus during one of his interactions on July 28.

A “close contact” according to the CDC is someone who was “within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset.”

In the wake of this study, they are adding to the definition anyone who spends 15 minutes cumulatively within six feet (two metres) of an infected person, even if those 15 minutes are the result of numerous brief interactions, and not in one go.

Fifteen minutes has never been the make-or-break length of time that is necessary for an exposure — there is no magic number detailing exactly how long it takes the virus to successfully make the jump from one body to another.

There are numerous factors that contribute to the risk of contracting COVID-19, and the 15-minute mark is merely a benchmark to allow officials to categorize at what point exposure is most likely, in order to know how to prioritize resources for contact tracing.

In Canada, the official COVID Alert app also uses the 15-minute rule, only alerting those who were closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes to a person who tested positive.

The risk of exposure can be minimized or increased by a number of things, including physical proximity, whether they’re in an enclosed space, whether there is adequate ventilation and air flow, as well as whether both individuals are wearing masks, among other factors.

The case study concluded by advising that public health officials consider the extra risk of cumulative exposure due to brief interactions in settings where frequent interaction within two metres of a person is necessary, such as within a correctional facility.

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St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto declares COVID-19 outbreak among ER staff – Toronto Star

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TORONTO – Another hospital in downtown Toronto has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 among its staff.

Unity Health says there are five active coronavirus cases among emergency room staff at St. Michael’s Hospital.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the health network says “no patient cases have been identified to date” and the risk of patient exposure is low.

However, it recommends anyone who visited the ER at St. Michael’s within the last two weeks to self-monitor.

The hospital is one of four in Toronto that have declared COVID-19 outbreaks in recent days.

The others are St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto Western Hospital and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2020.

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