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Rally outside Mission prison calls for safe release of inmates amid pandemic – BayToday

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MISSION, B.C. — A justice advocacy group says it wants prisoners at a federal institution in British Columbia ravaged by a COVID-19 outbreak to know there are people in the community fighting for their safety.

Meenakshi Mannoe of the Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee says members were rallying outside Mission Institution Sunday and making noise from their cars or at a safe physical distance.

The committee is calling for the urgent care of all prisoners across Canada and the immediate release of detainees to ensure adequate physical distancing and quarantine measures.

Inmates’ sentences should not include exposure to a potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Mannoe said.

“However we feel about the crimes people do, they’re not supposed to be subject to further punishment inside,” she said.

“We want to let them know we’re out here making noise and we’re calling for action from all levels of government and the Correctional Service of Canada to make sure people have safe living conditions.”

The group is also calling for broader testing of all prisoners, and daily updates with details of the situation for their family members.

It is also among more than three dozen organizations demanding an immediate inquest into the death of an inmate at the prison last month.  

Mission Institution is experiencing the largest prison outbreak in Canada. The B.C. government said Saturday that 133 inmates and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

Across Canada, 290 federal inmates have been infected, with 155 having recovered, according to federal figures released Saturday.

There were 41 active cases among correctional officers among a total of 84 who have tested positive since the pandemic began, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said Saturday.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a statement Sunday that the government knows correctional institutions face unique vulnerabilities during public health emergency.

“The situation around COVID-19 is both challenging and rapidly evolving, and our response will continue to adapt as required,” Blair said.

The Correctional Service of Canada said in a statement that it’s working to limit the spread of the virus at each of its prisons.

Inmates who show symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 are medically isolated and both staff and inmates are provided with masks and information about how to use them, it said. Enhanced cleaning protocols are in place, including disinfecting common areas and high-contact surfaces.

“Every effort is made to provide inmates on medical isolation with as much time out of cell as possible while respecting strong infection and prevention principles in order to contain the spread of COVID-19,” it said in an emailed statement.

The correctional service has also suspended visits, temporary absences unless medically necessary and all inter-regional and international transfers of inmates.

On April 25, the correctional service said all inmates at the medium-security Mission prison had been tested for the virus, although new cases continue to be identified.

Based on expert recommendations, the prison installed new hand-washing stations, boosted hygiene supplies and now has nurses at the site around the clock and physician coverage every day.

“These are unprecedented times and we are working diligently, and often around the clock, to prevent the spread of the virus. The situation around COVID-19 is both challenging and rapidly evolving and we continue to adapt our response and do everything in our power to keep our employees and inmates safe,” the correctional service says in a statement.

The Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee organized its first rally outside Mission Institution following an inmate’s death on April 15 from apparent complications related to COVID-19.

Before the pandemic, the group organized an annual memorial for prisoners who have died behind bars. 

When the committee calls for the release of inmates, it doesn’t mean simply setting people free, Mannoe said. It means allowing them space to self-isolate or quarantine with community supports in place for rehabilitation.

“We need to release people into communities in a safe and just way that services the prisoners themselves and the people who have been impacted by their harm,” Mannoe said.

“I’m not saying open the doors, I’m saying let’s resource people and get them out of a system that’s not serving them and a system that a lot of survivors (of crime) would also say doesn’t necessarily lead to justice on their end.”

A COVID-positive prisoner at Joliette Institute in Quebec filed a proposed class-action lawsuit on April 21 against Correctional Service Canada’s handling of the pandemic.

On April 23, the Correctional Service of Canada said it was “conducting an analysis of the offender population” so it could make release recommendations.

The Parole Board of Canada said it had been trying to streamline processes and speed up decisions. In some cases, parolees might be allowed to move home instead of to a halfway house, the board said.

To combat possible infections in its prisons, Newfoundland and Labrador has released 65 inmates under the public health emergency the province declared on March 18. So far, the province’s jails have been COVID-free.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2020.

— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.

The Canadian Press

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Nova Scotia reports no new cases of COVID-19 for first time since March – Toronto Star

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HALIFAX—Nova Scotia increased its social gathering limit on Friday as the province reported no new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since its initial infections were identified in mid-March.

Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, called the development a “significant and encouraging milestone” in a province that has seen a continuing downward trend in new cases over recent weeks.

It kept the total number of confirmed cases at 1,055, including 978 people who have recovered from the virus. Eight people are currently in hospital and three of them are in intensive care.

“It hasn’t been easy but we are seeing positive results,” said Strang.

Nova Scotia announced more details of a reopening plan set for next Friday, even as neighbouring New Brunswick put the brakes on expanding the current phase of its plan. That province is dealing with a growing cluster of new cases in the Campbellton area, allegedly caused by a health-care worker who returned from Quebec and didn’t self-isolate.

Strang was asked about what lessons Nova Scotia could take from the Campbellton outbreak.

“The message in that is really about the importance of self-isolation when you cross borders,” he said. “What it shows us is the importance of very closely monitoring our borders. We need to be very thoughtful and careful about how we lift those border restrictions.”

Premier Stephen McNeil announced a new gathering limit of 10 people effective immediately — a doubling from a limit of five that was imposed when health restrictions were put in place in late March.

Physical distancing of two metres would still be required, except among members of the same household or family “bubble.” The limit is the same indoors and outdoors, with exceptions for outdoor weddings and funeral services which can have 15 people.

Strang clarified that when it comes to weddings, that limit of 15 would have to include photographers and caterers if that’s what couples wanted in their ceremonies.

He said the gathering limit also applies to arts and culture activities such as theatre performances and dance recitals, faith gatherings, and sports and physical activity. Businesses such as theatres, concerts, festivals and sporting activities would also have to adhere to the 10-person limit.

“We are watching our epidemiology and will consider expanding the way people can have close social interaction when we see how this first stage in the reopening is going,” said Strang. “It’s very important that we don’t introduce too much risk of COVID-19 at any one time and we have the capacity to monitor the effect of any steps.”

McNeil said that private campgrounds would also be allowed to open, but would only operate at 50 per cent capacity and must ensure public health protocols are followed, including adequate distancing between campsites.

Provincial campgrounds are scheduled to open June 15 at reduced capacity to ensure a minimum of six metres between individual sites.

The latest measures came two days after McNeil announced that most businesses required to close under a public health order in late March would be allowed to open next Friday, provided they are ready with a plan that follows physical distancing protocols.

The list of businesses includes bars and restaurant dining rooms, hair salons, barber shops, gyms and yoga studios, among others.

Some health providers would also be allowed to reopen, including dentistry, optometry, chiropractic and physiotherapy offices. Veterinary services can also operate along with some unregulated professions, such as massage therapy, podiatry and naturopathy.

Earlier Friday, the province announced it would add 23 new long-term care beds because of a need resulting from some facilities slowing or stopping admissions during the pandemic.

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It said it is entering into an agreement with Shannex RLC Ltd. to convert a floor at the Caritas Residence, a private assisted-living home in Bedford, N.S., into nursing home beds.

Residents would be able to move into the facility in early June and will be tested for the virus before being admitted.

According to the government, there are 132-long term care facilities in Nova Scotia.

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Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada – Terrace Standard – Terrace Standard

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B.C. and Alberta have become the latest provinces in Canada to investigate cases of an unusual syndrome in children, which doctors around the world are studying to see if there’s a definitive link to COVID-19.

The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital are each examining 20 possible cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C.

Earlier this week, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health announced doctors are looking into one suspected case in the province, while British Columbia said it is investigating half a dozen cases.

“Because there isn’t really a definitive, one specific test that says, ‘yes, you have multisystem inflammatory syndrome’ or ‘you don’t,’ I don’t think that the cases themselves are 100 per cent clearly defined from children who might have some other type of infection,” said Dr. Jeremy Friedman, the associate chief of pediatrics at SickKids.

“It might take a little bit of time to really be absolutely certain about how many cases that are being investigated are actually truly related to COVID.”

Friedman’s team at the Toronto hospital have also been in contact with the study at Sainte-Justine run by Marie-Paule Morin, a pediatric rheumatologist.

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C. The agency’s case definition includes current or recent COVID-19 infection or exposure to the virus, a fever of at least 38 C for at least 24 hours, severe illness requiring hospitalization, inflammatory markers in blood tests, and evidence of problems affecting at least two organs that could include the heart, kidneys, lungs, skin or nervous system.

The CDC said some children may have symptoms resembling Kawasaki disease, a rare condition that can cause swelling and heart problems.

In other parts of the world, the illness is also called Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS).

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that while little is known about MIS-C, ”it seems to be more something that happens as a result of (a child’s) immune system going into overdrive after an infection and causing this inflammatory response in multiple organs.”

Hinshaw gave little information about the province’s first suspected case, other to say that the child is stable in hospital.

In Toronto, Friedman said one of the 20 children had to be admitted to an intensive care unit. All have responded well to treatment and have gone home.

There have been no reported deaths linked to MIS-C in Canada, but some children have died from the illness in New York, France and the United Kingdom.

Friedman said it is “highly suspicious” that there seems to be an increase in children presenting MIS-C symptoms about a month after the peak in the number of COVID-19 infections in their communities.

“That seems to be a consistent time that people are seeing this uptick,” he said.

But Friedman noted that none of the children at SickKids tested positive for an active coronavirus infection. His team has blood samples from each child that will then be tested for COVID-19 antibodies.

Although Health Canada has recently approved two serological tests, Friedman said he is waiting to hear from provincial experts on which one is most accurate.

The Canadian Paediatric Society recently published MIS-C guidelines for clinicians and caregivers and is tracking and studying the illness nationwide.

“This syndrome is still very new, and scientists and doctors are learning about it in real time,” the society said in an email Friday.

“The CPSP study will provide essential, timely information about how children are being affected, which children are at highest risk, and will enable us to adjust best practices for prevention and care based on evidence.”

Friedman said parents should be vigilant about signs of MIS-C, but they shouldn’t be alarmed since the numbers are low and the condition is treatable.

“This is definitely going to add to what we know about COVID and hopefully some aspects of what we learn will inform the development of vaccines,” he said.

“It’s quite reassuring to know that we can all learn from each other and that is happens in a pretty rapid sequence.”

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada – Lacombe Express

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British Columbia and Alberta have become the latest provinces in Canada to investigate cases of an unusual syndrome in children, which doctors around the world are studying to see if there’s a definitive link to COVID-19.

The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital are each examining 20 possible cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C.

Earlier this week, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health announced doctors are looking into one suspected case in the province, while British Columbia said it is investigating half a dozen cases.

“Because there isn’t really a definitive, one specific test that says, ‘yes, you have multisystem inflammatory syndrome’ or ‘you don’t,’ I don’t think that the cases themselves are 100 per cent clearly defined from children who might have some other type of infection,” said Dr. Jeremy Friedman, the associate chief of pediatrics at SickKids.

“It might take a little bit of time to really be absolutely certain about how many cases that are being investigated are actually truly related to COVID.”

Friedman’s team at the Toronto hospital have also been in contact with the study at Sainte-Justine run by Marie-Paule Morin, a pediatric rheumatologist.

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C. The agency’s case definition includes current or recent COVID-19 infection or exposure to the virus, a fever of at least 38 C for at least 24 hours, severe illness requiring hospitalization, inflammatory markers in blood tests, and evidence of problems affecting at least two organs that could include the heart, kidneys, lungs, skin or nervous system.

The CDC said some children may have symptoms resembling Kawasaki disease, a rare condition that can cause swelling and heart problems.

In other parts of the world, the illness is also called Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS).

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that while little is known about MIS-C, ”it seems to be more something that happens as a result of (a child’s) immune system going into overdrive after an infection and causing this inflammatory response in multiple organs.”

Hinshaw gave little information about the province’s first suspected case, other to say that the child is stable in hospital.

In Toronto, Friedman said one of the 20 children had to be admitted to an intensive care unit. All have responded well to treatment and have gone home.

There have been no reported deaths linked to MIS-C in Canada, but some children have died from the illness in New York, France and the United Kingdom.

Friedman said it is “highly suspicious” that there seems to be an increase in children presenting MIS-C symptoms about a month after the peak in the number of COVID-19 infections in their communities.

“That seems to be a consistent time that people are seeing this uptick,” he said.

But Friedman noted that none of the children at SickKids tested positive for an active coronavirus infection. His team has blood samples from each child that will then be tested for COVID-19 antibodies.

Although Health Canada has recently approved two serological tests, Friedman said he is waiting to hear from provincial experts on which one is most accurate.

The Canadian Paediatric Society recently published MIS-C guidelines for clinicians and caregivers and is tracking and studying the illness nationwide.

“This syndrome is still very new, and scientists and doctors are learning about it in real time,” the society said in an email Friday.

“The CPSP study will provide essential, timely information about how children are being affected, which children are at highest risk, and will enable us to adjust best practices for prevention and care based on evidence.”

Friedman said parents should be vigilant about signs of MIS-C, but they shouldn’t be alarmed since the numbers are low and the condition is treatable.

“This is definitely going to add to what we know about COVID and hopefully some aspects of what we learn will inform the development of vaccines,” he said.

“It’s quite reassuring to know that we can all learn from each other and that is happens in a pretty rapid sequence.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2020

— With files from The Associated Press

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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