Seven months into the pandemic, medical experts have a better idea of how to treat COVID-19 and how to keep it out of high-risk settings which means there are far fewer people dying of the virus now than there were in the spring.
But doctors and politicians are frantically warning that if the case numbers in Canada keep soaring as they have been in recent weeks, that may not be the case for much longer.
Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease specialist at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, says the second wave of the pandemic in Canada is largely being spread among younger, healthier populations than it was in the spring, when long-term care homes were hit hardest.
In Ontario, at the end of April, 45 per cent of all cases were being diagnosed in people over the age of 60, while people under 40 accounted for less than 25 per cent.
On Sept. 29, people 60 and older made up 11 per cent of new cases, while those under 40 accounted for 62 per cent.
When you couple that with the expanded knowledge about how to treat this virus, it means more people are able to ride out the disease out of hospital, and fewer people are dying.
National data show April, May and June recorded 60 per cent of the total cases in Canada thus far, but 91 per cent of the deaths. The next three months accounted for 34 per cent of total cases, and just eight per cent of all deaths.
But Oughton says that low-risk is not no risk and that, as numbers soar even in younger populations, the number of people who will get very sick and die will also start to go up.
He also says the other risk is that the more the virus spreads in the community, the harder it will be to keep it out of seniors’ residences, and long-term care homes where the impact can be devastating.
“What’s going to happen almost inevitably, as you have more and more spread in the community, it’s going to find more vulnerable groups to spread to,” he said.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday the knowledge learned in the first wave about treatments and public health protections is helping in the second wave, as has the more reliable supply of personal protective equipment.
But none of that is going to help if hospitals fill up to capacity because the system can only be stretched so far.
“At the end of the day, we still can’t see these rises in cases increase exponentially,” said Hajdu.
The average daily cases nationally went from the low 400s at the end of August, to more than 1,700 on Friday, with Ontario and Quebec accounting for more than 80 per cent of them.
While hospitalizations are still far below what they were seven months ago, they are growing. In Ontario and Quebec. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has tripled, and the number in intensive care more than doubled.
In British Columbia hospitalizations quadrupled in September.
Officials with Ottawa Public Health, which recorded its single highest daily total of 142 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, are pleading with people to only have close contact with people they live with.
“Our health care system is in crisis,” the agency tweeted, noting labs are beyond capacity, contact tracing is behind, hospitals are nearing capacity and more long-term care homes have outbreaks.
“Our system can’t handle much more of this,” it said.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the expanded knowledge of the virus and what public health measures are working, will allow governments to be more specific when they impose measures to try and slow the spread. Quebec, for example, is targeting new restrictions on public activities to hotly affected cities like Montreal and Quebec, and leaving much of the province as before.
Ontario put new restrictions Friday on restaurants, banquet halls and gyms only in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel region, where the majority of that province’s cases are being tallied.
Hajdu said there is no easy guideline for governments to follow when new restrictions have to be imposed but, if Canadians want to avoid full lockdowns, it’s critical that they make good decisions about socialization.
“This is a fine-tuned balance between making sure we can have some semblance of a normal economy and a normal life and also protect our health care system and the health of Canadians,” she said. “We are continuously working at that”
Oughton says there is another nasty outcome coming if we can’t get this second wave under control. People who aren’t dying of COVID-19 are still going to be getting cancer and having heart attacks and getting into accidents. If the health care system is overloaded with COVID-19 patients, it will lead to a higher mortality rate in other serious illnesses as well.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2020.
COMMENTARY: In one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, an ugly underside vexes politicians – Global News
Vancouver is one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, framed by breathtaking mountains and sparkling seas, and blessed with the country’s mildest climate as a bonus.
But there’s a dark side to the Pacific coast postcard: grinding poverty, growing homelessness and Canada’s worst drug-overdose epidemic, problems made progressively worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just last Friday night, paramedics were called out to an emergency at a suburban home.
When they arrived, they were met by a shocking scene. Five people were unconscious, supposedly from a natural gas leak.
But first responders quickly determined that no gas was leaking. The five victims had succumbed to an overdose of toxic drugs.
Amazingly, police, paramedics and firefighters were able to revive all five by administering heavy doses of naloxone, an emergency drug used to counteract the effects of powerful opioids.
Hundreds of other Vancouver-area drug users have not been as fortunate. Nearly five people a day are dying from overdoses in the province.
What’s driving the carnage? Experts say the Canada-U.S. border lockdown has slowed the flow of narcotics. Dealers lace existing supplies with deadly fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that continues to circumvent border restrictions through the mail.
Drug users, meanwhile, are using alone more often as they cut down on social interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And the supply of cash from provincial and federal relief programs has added to the demand for drugs, according to some street-level experts.
Drug overdoses are spiking across Canada during the pandemic, of course, but Vancouver’s O.D. rate is particularly alarming in the Downtown Eastside, the poorest neighbourhood in the country.
When the pandemic hit in the spring, there were terrible fears of COVID carnage in the densely-populated neighbourhood, where many poverty-stricken residents suffer from underlying health conditions.
Though the COVID-19 death rate in the Downtown Eastside is not as bad as originally feared, new studies suggest the area has not been spared from the virus.
Bloodwork done at community pop-up clinics found high rates of coronavirus antibodies, indicating many residents may have been infected with COVID-19 and recovered.
“Many may not have known they were infected, or they attributed symptoms to something else,” Dr. Brian Conway, of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre, told me.
It’s a troubling discovery, especially as homeless downtown residents fan out to other parts of Vancouver’s metropolitan area, where tent cities are growing.
In East Vancouver’s Strathcona Park, campers are living in an estimated 400 tents, making it the largest homeless encampment in Canada.
The normally peaceful neighbourhood is pleading for help, as conditions worsen at the camp and violent incidents escalate.
Last week, a man was stabbed inside a tent at the park and was not discovered until eight hours later. Another man seriously injured in an assault was lying on the ground in the park for 12 hours before policed were called.
A loaded semi-automatic assault rifle was found in a rolled up tent bag about a block from the park.
On Saturday night, a neighbourhood activist who pleaded for help for the campers said she was attacked by an unknown assailant outside her home near the park, requiring stitches for a head injury.
All of these incidents — and many more — are under investigation by police.
As the ranks of homeless swell, the overdose death rate rises and the number of COVID-19 cases climbs a second wave, B.C. politicians are making plenty of promises.
British Columbians head to the polls this Saturday in a snap election called last month by NDP Leader John Horgan.
All major parties have promised new investments, initiatives and programs to reduce poverty, increase housing and rescue neighborhoods.
With election day looming, there’s hope the next government can make progress. But a pattern has been repeating itself in the city for months now: as one tent city shuts down, another one pops up.
In Canada’s most beautiful city, it will take bold initiatives to deal with an ugly underside.
Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Show’ on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for Global News. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Today’s coronavirus news: 1 in 4 Canadians say mental health is worse now; Health Canada recalls counterfeit hand sanitizer sold at Dollarama in Ontario; Argentina passes 1M cases – Toronto Star
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
9:10 a.m. An employee at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Mississauga recently tested positive for COVID-19.
Management was notified of the case on Oct. 19 and the employee’s last day of work was on Oct. 13.
The company said once management is notified of a positive test result, the store undergoes a deep clean and sanitization.
9 a.m. In a seniors housing building in east-end Toronto, 69-year-old Maureen Clohessy has taped over her power outlets, hoping to keep bedbugs out of the bachelor unit she’s called home for three years.
Each day, she watches for the scuttling critters, her eyes scanning from her plugs to her ceiling in an apartment on the seventh floor. The building at 828 Kingston Road is known as Glen Stewart Acres, and it’s one of several senior-specific buildings operated by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.
Like other community housing buildings in Toronto, Glen Stewart Acres has battled pests from bedbugs to rodents and cockroaches. The housing operator saw a leap of 17.4 per cent in demands for pest treatments across all their buildings last year. Clohessy’s building was supposed to be treated top-to-bottom this spring. But then the pandemic hit — and the process was put indefinitely on hold.
8:32 a.m. The rate of COVID-19 testing in the part of the city hit hardest by the virus is lagging behind other neighbourhoods, data newly posted by Toronto Public Health shows.
That data, released Monday and current to Oct. 4, shows that eight of the 10 neighbourhoods with the highest per cent positivity for COVID-19 are in the northwest part of the city, which reporting by the Star has shown to be most at-risk.
At the same time, all eight of those neighbourhoods had rates of testing below the average for neighbourhoods where there was data available.
On Monday, the city’s board of health called on the province to increase the availability and accessibility of pop-up testing in neighbourhoods disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, said Monday that more testing is needed to “fully understand” what’s happening in those neighbourhoods. Testing is the responsibility of the province.
8:30 a.m. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says three more patients have tested positive for COVID-19.
That brings the total number of cases at its 1-4 Unit in downtown Toronto up to five after two were announced on Sunday.
CAMH is one of three hospitals in Toronto with active outbreaks,
Toronto Western Hospital said on Sunday five staff and three patients in two of its units have tested positive.
St. Joseph’s Health Centre was reporting outbreaks in four units on Sunday.
The province says an outbreak is declared when two or more people test positive for the virus within 14 days who could have reasonably caught COVID-19 at the hospital.
8:10 a.m. Health Canada is recalling a product labelled a hand sanitizer but that it has determined is counterfeit.
The government department says a counterfeit version of the authorized Daily Shield hand sanitizer has been found for sale at a Dollarama store in Thunder Bay.
Health Canada warns the false version may not be effective at killing bacteria and viruses, and may pose serious risks to health.
It also says that the unauthorized product is suspected to contain methanol, which is not authorized for use in hand sanitizers and could cause severe adverse reactions or death when ingested.
The counterfeit version is labelled with NPN 80098979, Lot 6942; Expiry May 2023 and is sold in a 250 mL format.
7:30 a.m. The number of passengers screened in a single day for flights in the U.S. topped one million for the first time since COVID-19 infections began to spike last March.
The notable milestone, reached Sunday, signifies both the progress made since the darkest days of pandemic for the devastated U.S. airline industry, when fewer than 100,000 people were screened per day in April, and how far it still has to go.
The million plus passengers screened Sunday compares with 2.6 million on the same day last year, or roughly 60% fewer, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
The TSA said that the 6.1 million passengers at U.S. checkpoints the week of Oct. 12 through Oct. 18 was the greatest volume measured since the start of the pandemic.
Vacation plans and business trips were frozen in the spring as millions took shelter. With so little known about the virus, few wanted to board planes or walk through an airport even if they could.
Airlines received $50 billion (U.S.) in cash and loans from Congress in March on the condition that they held off on layoffs at least through October. Airlines are now warning of mass layoffs while lobbying Congress and the White House for another $25 billion (U.S.) to pay workers for the next six months.
7:15 a.m. Colombian cyclist Fernando Gaviria has tested positive for the coronavirus and has been withdrawn from the Giro d’Italia.
Gaviria and a staff member for Team AG2R La Mondiale were the only positives out of 492 tests carried out Sunday and Monday.
Gaviria’s UAE Team Emirates says the rider “was immediately isolated following the test result and is feeling well and is completely asymptomatic.”
The team notes that Gaviria also had COVID-19 in March.
Gaviria has won five stages at the Giro during his career.
Overall contenders Simon Yates and Steven Kruijswijk had already been withdrawn from the race after testing positive. Australian standout Michael Matthews also was withdrawn. The Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma teams withdrew their entire squads last week following a series of positive results from the first rest day.
7:10 a.m. Rugby Europe has suspended all internationals to the end of November, including the long-delayed last round of the men’s championship.
On Nov. 1 were scheduled Romania vs. Belgium and Georgia vs. Russia, and on Nov. 15 Spain vs. Portugal. They have been postponed since March.
Georgia has already retained the title, while Romania is in last place, which drops the occupier into a promotion-relegation match against the waiting Netherlands.
“Our players and our officials are mostly ‘amateurs,’” Rugby Europe president Octavian Morariu said on Tuesday. “We cannot expose them to the virus or to quarantine periods that would be problematic for them.”
5:53 a.m.: A number of fishing crew who flew into New Zealand on chartered planes have the coronavirus.
Health officials said Tuesday that 11 have tested positive so far and another 14 cases are being investigated.
The crew members have been in quarantine at a Christchurch hotel since they arrived, and tested positive during routine testing, officials said. The news could deal a blow to New Zealand’s efforts to restart its fishing industry, which has struggled to find local workers to crew vessels.
Jeremy Helson, the chief executive of Seafood New Zealand, said all the men tested negative before flying to New Zealand. “While we await to see how many cases there are, the fact that they were all detected in quarantine shows the system is working well,” Helson said in a statement.
The origin of the infected crew members wasn’t immediately clear, although a number of fishing crew have been arriving in New Zealand in recent days from Russia and Ukraine.
New Zealand has managed to stamp out community spread of the virus.
5:51 a.m.: Near the end of September, with coronavirus cases falling and more schools and businesses reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration urged restraint, citing a statistical model that predicted a startling 89-per-cent increase in virus hospitalizations in the next month.
That hasn’t happened. Instead, state data shows hospitalizations have fallen by about 15 per cent since that warning while the weekly average number of new cases continues to decline even as other more populous states like Florida, Ohio and Illinois see increases.
California’s good news isn’t enough to change what Newsom calls his “slow” and “stubborn” approach to reopening the world’s fifth-largest economy. He again cautioned people against “being overly exuberant” about those coronavirus numbers, pointing to a “decline in the rate of decline” of hospitalizations.
5:50 a.m.: A Cabinet minister says Pakistan has witnessed a 140 per-cent increase in fatalities from COVID-19 in recent weeks due to widespread violations of social distancing rules.
Asad Umar, the planning and development minister who oversees Pakistan’s response to coronavirus, warned on Twitter “We will lose both lives and livelihoods” if people did not adhere to social distancing rules.
His comments Tuesday came shortly after the military-backed Command and Operations Center reported 14 deaths and 625 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had warned on Monday that Pakistan’s big cities could face a second wave of COVID-19 in the coming weeks because of increasing pollution in winter. Pakistan has reported 324,084 cases, including 6,673 COVID-19 deaths.
5:49 a.m.: As Argentina passed 1 million virus cases Monday, it is now smaller cities like Ushuaia that are seeing some of the most notable upticks. Doctors have had to quadruple the number of beds for COVID-19 patients over the last month. At least 60 per cent of those tested recently are coming back positive for the virus.
“We were the example of the country,” said Dr. Carlos Guglielmi, director of the Ushuaia Regional Hospital. “Evidently someone arrived with the coronavirus.”
Across Latin America, three other nations are expected to reach the 1 million case milestone in the coming weeks — Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The grim mark comes as Latin America continues to register some of the world’s highest daily case counts. And though some nations have seen important declines, overall there has been little relief, with cases dropping in one municipality only to escalate in another.
The trajectory is showing that the pandemic is likely to leave no corner of Latin America unscathed.
5:44 a.m.: Canadians continue to experience mental health difficulties due to the pandemic, with one in four saying their stress level is higher than during the first COVID-19 wave, according to a new poll.
The online survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found that only 19 per cent of Canadians say their mental health is better now than in March and April as infection rates tick up and autumn sets in.
However, about 54 per cent said their mental state is about the same as when the coronavirus first struck the country.
Participants cited concerns about the length and severity of the pandemic as their biggest source of anxiety, followed closely by social isolation and family health.
“If we cannot see extended family during the holidays and rekindle that positive energy that we get from family and friends, it might lead to a long winter,” said Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.
“It’s almost like, when is this thing going to end?”
4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. EDT on Oct. 20, 2020:
There are 200,939 confirmed cases in Canada.
-Quebec: 94,429 confirmed (including 6,044 deaths, 79,529 resolved)
-Ontario: 65,075 confirmed (including 3,050 deaths, 55,978 resolved)
-Alberta: 22,673 confirmed (including 292 deaths, 19,243 resolved)
-British Columbia: 11,687 confirmed (including 253 deaths, 9,753 resolved)
-Manitoba: 3,382 confirmed (including 42 deaths, 1,597 resolved)
-Saskatchewan: 2,396 confirmed (including 25 deaths, 1,973 resolved)
-Nova Scotia: 1,097 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,026 resolved)
-New Brunswick: 313 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 207 resolved)
-Newfoundland and Labrador: 287 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 272 resolved)
-Prince Edward Island: 63 confirmed (including 60 resolved)
-Yukon: 17 confirmed (including 15 resolved)
-Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
-Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved), 3 presumptive
-Nunavut: No confirmed cases
Total: 201,440 (3 presumptive, 201,437 confirmed including 9,778 deaths, 169,671 resolved)
Monday 6:35 p.m.: The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at its Queen Street West site, with five patients testing positive for the virus. It is the first outbreak at Canada’s largest mental health hospital since April.
Two patients were said to have COVID-19 on Sunday. By Monday at 5 p.m., CAMH updated their website to reveal three more patients had tested positive, bringing the total to five current patients with the virus.
The new outbreak brings the number of patients who have tested positive for the virus at CAMH to 29 since the pandemic began. Nineteen have since recovered and three were discharged.
Canada-China spat heats up over ambassador's alleged threat – CTV News
The diplomatic spat between Canada and China grew more heated on Monday as Beijing denounced press criticism of its ambassador to Ottawa, only to have Canada’s deputy prime minister and opposition leader echo the criticism.
The exchange comes at a moment when ties between the countries are at their lowest point in years, largely due to China’ outrage over Canada’s detention of a top executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and the subsequent arrest of two Canadians.
The new friction arose when China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, branded pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong as violent criminals and said if Canada grants them asylum it would amount to interference in China’s internal affairs.
“If the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong SAR, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes,” Cong said in a video news conference from the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.
Asked if his remarks amounted to a threat, Cong replied, “That is your interpretation.”
Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland said in Parliament on Monday that the ambassador’s comments “are not in any way in keeping with the spirit of appropriate diplomatic countries between two countries.”
Freeland said Canada will speak out for human rights in China and said Canada will support its citizens living in Hong Kong. “Let me also reassure the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong that a Canadian is a Canadian and we will stand with them.” Freeland said.
Her statements came hours after Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters that his government had complained to Canada over press criticism of Cong’s remarks. He said Canadian leaders “did not verify, but also condoned the anti-China comments spreading across the nation and made groundless accusations against China.”
He didn’t specify the media criticism, but the Toronto Sun on Saturday published an editorial calling on Cong to apologize, adding. “If he won’t apologize and retract his threats, boot him back to Beijing.”
Meanwhile, Erin O’Toole, the leader of Canada’s main opposition Conservative party, said Monday that Cong had threatened Canadians in Hong Kong and called on the envoy to either apologize or leave.
Cherie Wong, the executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, a group that advocates for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, called Cong’s comment a “direct threat” to all Canadians.
“It should not be lost on Canadians living in Hong Kong or China, they could be next. Ambassador Cong suggested so himself,” Wong said.
Protests against the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese governments swelled last year, and Beijing clamped down on expressions of anti-government sentiment in the city with a new national security law that took effect June 30.
The law outlaws subversive, secessionist and terrorist activity, as well as collusion with foreign powers to interfere in the city’s internal affairs. The U.S., Britain and Canada accuse China of infringing on the city’s freedoms.
Cong also rejected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that China is engaging in coercive diplomacy by imprisoning two Canadian men in retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive on an American extradition warrant. The executive, Meng Wanzhou, is living under house arrest in Vancouver while her case wends through a British Columbia court.
In December 2018, China imprisoned two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and charged them with undermining China’s national security. Convicted Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg was also sentenced to death in a sudden retrial shortly after Meng’s arrest.
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