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SARS lessons help Canada prep for COVID-19, but hospital capacity a worry – Nelson Star



Canadian medical experts say the country’s already overstretched emergency rooms would find it difficult to cope if a true outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, were to take hold in Canada.

So far, the virus has been relatively contained to mainland China, thanks in part to one of the largest quarantines in modern history.

“We must not look back and regret that we failed to take advantage of the window of opportunity that we have now,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said in a message to all the world’s countries Friday.

The risk of contracting the virus in Canada right now is extremely low, and public health officials have been lauded for their efforts to detect and isolate the nine cases confirmed in the country so far.

The hundreds of patients across the country who have tested negative for the virus are also a sign that containment efforts are working as they should.

But Canada’s most recent case in British Columbia has raised fears about where and how the disease is being transmitted abroad. Unlike others who’ve imported the virus from China or from people who have recently been to China, the woman in her 30s contracted the illness while in Iran.

“Any imported cases linked to Iran could be an indicator that there is more widespread transmission than we know about,” said Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam Friday.

Canada has taken major steps to prevent the kind of shock that befell Ontario during the outbreak of the coronavirus known as SARS in 2003 that led to 44 deaths. Creating the Public Health Agency of Canada, which Tam heads, is one of them.

The country is now better co-ordinated, has increased its lab-testing capabilities and is prepared to trace people’s contacts to find people who might have caught a contagious illness without knowing it.

But once the number of incoming cases reaches a critical mass, the approach must change, according to infectious-diseases physician Dr. Isaac Bogoch of Toronto’s University Health Network.

He likens the response to trying to catch fly balls in the outfield: as the number of balls in the air increases, they become harder and harder to snag.

READ MORE: Woman in Fraser Health region confirmed as sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

“Every health care system has limits,” Bogoch says. “The question is, if we start getting inundated with cases, how stretched can we get?”

Many emergency-room doctors argue Canada’s ERs are already as stretched as they can get and are worried about what would happen if they suddenly had to start treating COVID-19 cases en masse.

From the public-health perspective, the greatest challenge may be as simple communicating across all parts of the health system across the country, said Dr. Jasmine Pawa, president of the Public Health Physicians of Canada.

“We cover a very wide geographic area,” she said, though she added that Canada has made great strides over the course of the SARS experience and the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009.

Dr. Alan Drummond of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, who works at the hospital in Perth, Ont., says he doesn’t want to fearmonger, especially considering all the lessons Canada has learned from past outbreaks, but the reality of life in the ER gives him pause.

“Our day-to-day experience in crowded hospitals, unable to get the right patient in the right bed on a day-to-day basis … makes us really question what the integrity of our health-care system would be like in a major severe pandemic,” Drummond says.

He envisions that a disease like COVID-19, if it spread widely, would have a major impact, including the possibility of cancelled surgeries and moving stable patients out of hospitals who would otherwise stay.

“I think there would have to be hard decisions made about who lives and who dies, given our limited availability by both speciality and (intensive-care) beds and we would probably see some degree of health-care rationing,” he says.

The problem may be even more pronounced because of Canada’s aging population, he said. The virus tends to hit older people harder, according to observations made in China and abroad, and is also particularly dangerous for people with other health problems.

Older people also tend to stay admitted in hospital beds even when they are in relatively stable condition because of a lack of long-term-care beds across the country.

That keeps emergency rooms from being able to move acute patients out of the ER and into those beds, limiting hospitals’ capacity to handle new cases.

Tam agreed Friday that hospital capacity is a “critical aspect” of Canada’s preparedness for a potential coronavirus outbreak, but said even very bad flu seasons can have a similar effect on emergency rooms.

“If we can delay the impact of the coronavirus until a certain period, when there’s less influenza for example, that would also be very helpful,” she said.

She also suggested people who are concerned about the possibility that they’re developing COVID-19 symptoms should call ahead to a hospital so they can make proper arrangements for containment and isolation.

Canada is doing its best, along with every other country in the world, to seize this time of relative containment and plan ahead, Tam said.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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SHA warns of possible COVID-19 transmission at North Battleford Walmart – News Talk 650 CKOM



A person who tested positive for COVID-19 visited the North Battleford Walmart on May 21.

In a release Sunday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and Indigenous Services Canada said the individual was likely infectious at that time.

Public Health Officials are advising customers who were at the North Battleford Walmart on May 21 between noon and 2 p.m. to immediately self-isolate if you’ve had any symptoms of COVID-19, and call HealthLine 811.

All other customers who were at the business during the time period should self-monitor daily for symptoms of COVID-19 until June 5.

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No new COVID cases reported in N.S. –



There were no new cases of COVID-19 reported Sunday in Nova Scotia’s battle against the deadly virus.

As of Sunday, the province has confirmed 1,056 cases and 60 COVID-19 deaths, 53 of which have occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax.

The province has administered 41,944 negative tests. 

Confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90. Seven individuals are currently in hospital, two of those in intensive care, and 981 people have now recovered and their cases of COVID-19 are considered resolved. 

Cases have been identified in all parts of the province. A map and graphic presentation of the case data is available at .

The QEII Health Sciences Centre’s microbiology lab completed 578 Nova Scotia tests Saturday.

As of Saturday, there were 14 active cases at Northwood, including 10 residents and four staff. Northwood is the only licensed long-term care home in Nova Scotia with active cases.

The expanded list of symptoms being screened includes fever (chills or sweats), cough or worsening of a previous cough, sore throat, headache, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sneezing, nasal congestion or runny nose, hoarse voice, diarrhea, unusual fatigue, loss of smell or taste and red, purple or blueish lesions on the feet, toes or fingers without clear cause.

Anyone experiencing one of those symptoms is asked to visit to determine if a further call to 811 for additional assessment is required.

Public health is working to identify and test people who may have come in close contact with the confirmed cases. Those individuals who have been confirmed are being directed to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.

Anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia must self-isolate for 14 days. As always, any Nova Scotian who develops symptoms of acute respiratory illness should limit their contact with others until they feel better.

It remains important for Nova Scotians to strictly adhere to the public health order and directives of practising good hand-washing and other hygiene steps, maintaining a physical distance of two metres from those not in your household or family household bubble and limiting planned gatherings of people outside your household or family household bubble to no more than 10.

Nova Scotians can find accurate, up-to-date information, handwashing posters and fact sheets at .

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New coronavirus outbreak at senior home in London-Middlesex, 1 more death, 5 new cases –



Another death related to the novel coronavirus has been confirmed in London-Middlesex on Sunday, along with another outbreak at a seniors’ home.

Five new cases and four recoveries were also reported Sunday.

This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in the area to 536, with 380 recoveries — around 71 per cent, and 53 deaths.

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The Middlesex-London Health Unit says the deceased is a woman in her 70s, and her death is associated with a long-term care home.

All the new cases are from London Ont., according to the MLHU.

Out of the total number of cases, 168 are linked to seniors’ homes, which includes both long-term care and retirement residences.

There have been 101 cases at long-term care homes specifically, where 60 residents and 41 staff have tested positive. There have been 23 deaths.

Statistics on London’s two COVID-19 assessment centres as of May 31.


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There have been 67 cases of COVID-19 at retirement homes, where 44 residents and 23 staff were infected and 10 people passed away.

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The most recent outbreak was declared Saturday, May 30 at Chelsey Park Retirement Community. It’s unclear how many residents and/or staff have tested positive.

There are seven other active outbreaks in the region, all at seniors’ homes. This includes the third floor of Chelsey Park, Country Terrace, the Medway area of Henley Place LTC Residence, Kensington Village, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care, Sisters of St. Joseph and Waverley Mansion.

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The London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) says 15 patients were being treated in hospital for COVID-19 as of Friday, which is their latest update.

At least 42 staff members have also tested positive. It’s not clear how many cases remain active.

Of the region’s cases, 499 have been reported in London.

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Elsewhere, 20 cases have been reported in Strathroy-Caradoc, along with seven in Middlesex Centre, four each in North Middlesex and Thames Centre and one each in Lucan Biddulph and Southwest Middlesex.


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Provincially, Ontario reported 326 new cases of novel coronavirus Sunday morning, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 27,859.

Nineteen new deaths were also announced, bringing the total fatalities attributed to the virus in the province to 2,266.

More than 21,800 cases are considered resolved, which makes up 78.3 per cent of all confirmed cases.

Nationally, Canada is seeing 90,505 cases of COVID-19, which includes 7,093 deaths and 48,573 recoveries.

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Elgin and Oxford

The region is seeing a new case of COVID-19 after three days of no new cases, deaths or recoveries.

Officials with Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) reported Sunday the total number of cases in the region now stands at 74, with 60 recoveries and four deaths — a tally that has remained unchanged since April 22.

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Of the region’s cases, eight are linked to an active outbreak at Secord Trails, a long-term care facility in Ingersoll, Ont.

Eight staff members have tested positive at the home since the outbreak was declared on May 18. Health officials reported zero cases among residents at the facility.

It’s one of three outbreaks that have been declared in the region since late March. The other two have since been resolved. No deaths have been reported as a result of the outbreaks.

A chart from SWPH showing the per cent positivity rate of coronavirus tests in the region, April 3 to May 31, 2020.

A chart from SWPH showing the per cent positivity rate of coronavirus tests in the region, April 3 to May 31, 2020.


Ten cases remain active in the region, with eight cases in Oxford County, including four in Ingersoll, and two each in Tillsonburg and Woodstock.

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In Elgin County, one active case has been reported in St. Thomas.

It’s unclear where the location of the newest case reported on Sunday is.

The health unit said 4,852 tests had been administered in Elgin and Oxford as of Sunday, with 504 awaiting results.

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Huron and Perth

Local health officials say the numbers related to COVID-19 did not change Sunday.

There are 52 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which includes 45 recoveries and five deaths.

Health unit figures show the newest case was reported in Stratford, Ont., on Friday, where 26 of the region’s cases have been reported as well as four deaths. The other death is from St. Marys.

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A chart from HPPH showing cumulative totals of COVID-19 cases, deaths and recoveries from early March to May 30, 2020. The health unit notes that the graph uses symptom onset date for cumulative confirmed cases. If the person does not have symptoms, the date of the swab test is used.

A chart from HPPH showing cumulative totals of COVID-19 cases, deaths and recoveries from early March to May 30, 2020. The health unit notes that the graph uses symptom onset date for cumulative confirmed cases. If the person does not have symptoms, the date of the swab test is used.


As many as 23 of the region’s cases have been linked to the seven outbreaks, which have seen a total of 14 staff and nine resident cases as well as four deaths.

The deaths were associated with a since-resolved outbreak at Greenwood Court that saw six residents and 10 staff infected.

The health unit said 3,354 tests had been administered in Huron and Perth as of Saturday. Of those, 145 were awaiting test results, and 3,157 have tested negative.

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Sarnia and Lambton

The death count for COVID-19 remains the same in the region, but the total number of cases rose by one on Sunday, as well as the total number of recoveries, by two.

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According to officials with Lambton Public Health (LPH), this brings the total number of cases in the region to 263, with 200 recoveries — about 76 per cent.

The total number of deaths remains unchanged at 22.

A chart from Lambton Public Health showing the number of confirmed cases in the county by reported date, March 24 to May 30, 2020.

A chart from Lambton Public Health showing the number of confirmed cases in the county by reported date, March 24 to May 30, 2020.

Lambton Public Health

Two outbreaks remain active in Lambton, Ont., including one at Lambton Meadowview Villa in Petrolia, where one staff member has tested positive, and at Vision Nursing Home in Sarnia, where a severe outbreak has seen at least 25 residents infected — one more from the day before — as well as seven deaths and 24 staff test positive.

It’s the worst outbreak reported in the county so far, surpassing the outbreak at Landmark Village that saw 30 residents infected, six deaths and 10 staff test positive. That outbreak was declared over on May 6.

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Bluewater Health in Sarnia said Sunday the facility was treating 13 COVID-19 patients on Sunday, and also seeing 20 patients who were suspected to be positive or awaiting tests — three less than the day before.

As of late Saturday, 6,500 test results had been received by county health officials. It’s unclear how many tests remain pending.

— With files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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