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Toronto’s top doctor issues ‘warning to the entire city’ as new cases surpass 200 in single day

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As new cases of COVID-19 in Toronto reach the highest point in the pandemic since May, city officials are moving for the first time to shut down establishments that have put members of the public at risk of virus spread.

On Friday afternoon, in a late-scheduled press conference, Dr. Eileen de Villa said there were 236 new cases and the first reported outbreak in a Toronto school with two students infected and more than two dozen isolating at home.

And the medical officer of health, under her own authority, has moved to close four “hospitality-focused” businesses that have flouted public health orders and thwarted investigators, including pressuring employees who are ill to continue working.

“An increase, day-over-day, of this scale is a warning to the entire city,” de Villa said, urging residents to stay six feet apart whenever they can from anyone they don’t live with, wear a mask and wash their hands.

De Villa said “several concerning factors” led to the orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, including: Several infected employees working at multiple locations; illegal buffet dining; unco-operative business owners hampering investigative efforts; and staff working while ill and concerns of staff being pressured to do so.

“These factors combined to create a significant risk to efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

With the orders still outstanding Friday afternoon, de Villa promised to update the public on the names and locations of the businesses once orders were served.

The steps taken Friday are the first time the city is acting to close businesses outside of provincial orders after the province claimed bars and restaurants were not to blame.

On Friday, Toronto Public Health posted the first detailed example of virus spread demonstrating how a night out led to at least 20 confirmed cases and dozens of high- or low-risk contacts across three separate bars and how the infection spread from one place to the next.

 

“A powerful reminder that #COVID19 spreads when given the chance & we all need to take steps for self-protection: here’s a real-world example of how 1 night out in TO led to 20 cases & at least 80 people exposed to the virus who had to self-monitor, self-isolate & get tested,” the tweet said, showing a chart of cases and contacts across the three locations.

Friday’s new case number is the largest single-day total the city has reported since May 22.

According to the Star’s daily count, the city has averaged 167 new cases each day this week, the highest its seven-day average has been since early June.

That average has been accelerating since the city entered Stage 3 or reopening on July 31, and has more than doubled in just the last eight days.

In early August, Toronto was seeing as few as 13 cases reported each day on average.

Like much of Ontario, Toronto was hit hard in the spring by institutional outbreaks in long-term-care homes and hospitals, and by mid-April these vulnerable settings accounted for the largest share of total cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

So far in the fall, the city is not yet reporting a similar rise in new institutional outbreaks. According to city data, the recent spike has been mostly driven by close contact in non-outbreak settings, such as at home, and by untraceable spread in the community.

The numbers account for more than half of the province’s total Friday and came as Premier Doug Ford announced the province would restrict bars open hours and shut strip clubs.

The limit on drinking in bars comes more than two months after the city requested the province make those rules — ahead of Stage 3 — to help reduce the risk of virus spread.

On Friday, when pressed by a reporter on why it took so long to implement those measures, Ford said they were being “cautious,” noting an earlier decline in cases.

Meanwhile all but one of Toronto’s health indicators on its online dashboard were yellow or red. Only the percentage of positive test results, at 1.9 per cent, was green.

 

But Dr. Irfan Dhalla, a vice-president and general internist at St. Michael’s Hospital, tweeted even that number may be troubling, saying other targets are much lower than the city’s 10 per cent — less than 0.1 per cent or between 0.1 and 1 per cent.

“So, really, there’s nothing green anymore on Toronto’s scorecard,” he wrote Friday.

Asked how the current case count will affect schools, de Villa said the first outbreak was expected and she anticipates more in future.

Two students at Glen Park Public School, near Bathurst Street and Lawrence Avenue West, have tested positive and are isolating at home. As a precaution, a teacher and two classes, with 35 students total, are also isolating.

A total of 28 other schools in the Toronto District School Board were also reporting cases, for a total of 20 infected students and 14 infected teachers. Richview Collegiate had the most, with three infected students.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board reported eight infected students and three infected staff at 10 schools.

Glen Park is the only Toronto school that meets Ontario’s “outbreak” definition of at least two cases where at least one is “linked to a school setting,” de Villa said. That suggests one student infected another, as opposed to schools where all the infected students contracted the virus at home or another setting.

“This (outbreak) definition supports a swift response that will help manage the spread of COVID-19 aggressively …,” de Villa said.

 

The Star spoke to a mother of a 10-year-old girl at Glen Park Public School who was among the children sent home to isolate for two weeks.

“We are still on the fence on whether it is worth getting in a lineup for testing,” said the mother, who did not want her name used.

On Wednesday, she said, parents received information from Toronto Public Health saying there was a case of COVID in the school but weren’t given any additional details, such as the grade level, so they could prepare themselves.

“It was really frustrating. It’s a quite a big school and it would have been very helpful to get more information from Toronto Public Health,” she said.

On Friday morning, a new message from Toronto Public Health was waiting.

“I woke up to an email saying there was a case in her class and she would be isolated,” she said.

“There was definitely a sense of high anxiety among the parents initially. It’s not an email you want to get but you put it in perspective.”

It was “bad luck” that Glen Park ended up with positive cases of COVID, she said. Staff have worked hard to get the students familiar with safety practices like social distancing and cohorting classes.

“They have tried to do everything they can to prevent this. Everything is very well planned out. It’s well organized.

“Here, if they have to go to the bathroom every class has 15 minutes where they can go knowing there won’t be a big group of kids,” she said.

The email that detailed the rules for isolation was soon followed by a message from her daughter’s teacher who said classes would continue on Zoom with two or three sessions held each day.

“It was very reassuring,” the mother said. “They are going to learn a lot about resilience and flexibility from all of this.”

“It is obviously unfortunate but it is not unexpected,” said Ryan Bird, TDSB spokesperson.

“With the numbers continuing to climb in Toronto and elsewhere, we did anticipate that we would have these cases start popping up in our schools among our students and staff.”

Bird said the TDSB continues with “enhanced cleaning multiple times a day” along with requirements for universal masking among students and staff, proper physical distancing and hand washing.

In a statement Friday, Coun. Joe Cressy, the city’s board of health chair, warned the city was reaching a “dangerous tipping point in our battle with COVID-19” and risk of future lockdown.

“Other jurisdictions that have been successful at containing the virus have shown that we need policies that directly respond to the very real risks that we’re facing,” his statement said. “While today’s announcement is welcome news, we still need more proactive actions on the part of all governments — and we need it now.”

He said that includes boosting testing capacity across the province and the federal and provincial governments working to provide rapid testing options for those in high-risk workplaces.

Elsewhere, officials were being clear about telling people to stay apart.

 

Quebec Premier Christian Dubé asked residents to cancel their gatherings over the next few weeks, including Thanksgiving, the CBC reported Thursday, as the province remains the hardest hit by the virus in the country.

With files from David Rider, Ed Tubb and Moira Welsh

 

 

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags

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BC health officials to release final coronavirus update of the week this afternoon | News – Daily Hive

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On Friday afternoon, BC health officials will release their final coronavirus update for this week in the form of a written statement.

The update is expected between 3 and 4 pm and comes after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix held a live update on the virus in Surrey on Thursday, focusing on the Fraser Health region.

Henry said on Thursday that 234 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the province, for a recorded total of 14,109 in BC.

By specific health region, this equates to 4,588 known cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 8,036 in Fraser Health, 256 on Vancouver Island, 734 in Interior Health, 406 in Northern Health, and 89 from those who reside outside the province.

There are currently 2,344 active cases in British Columbia. Out of these active cases, 86 people are in hospital, and 24 of these are in intensive care.

As well, 5,714 people are currently under “active monitoring” for symptoms as a result of their exposure to known cases.

There has also been one additional death.

A total of 11,448 cases are now considered fully recovered in the province.

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BC regional health officers can now issue COVID-19 restrictions in their own jurisdictions | News – Daily Hive

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After hinting on Thursday that region-specific public health orders could become a reality, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry released an amendment to her public health order around public and private gatherings on Friday.

The amendment gives regional medical health officers the power to issue COVID-19 restrictions for their own jurisdictions instead of being bound to province-wide rules.

Henry states the order was made in recognition of the fact that “the risk differs in different regions of the province and that medical health officers are in the best position to assess local circumstances and to determine whether or not additional or more restrictive steps need to be taken.”

Henry states such orders by health officers could mean further prohibitions or the imposing of more restrictive limitations or conditions, “with respect to gatherings and events in the geographic area of the province, or a part of the geographic area of the province, for which the medical health officer is designated.”

Henry issued the original public health order around household gatherings this past Monday, which stated household gatherings must be limited “in private homes to no more than your immediate household, plus “your safe six.”

This, she said at the time, “is a province-wide order that applies to all homes for all occasions.”

Henry said she issued the order because “similar to what occurred in the summer with vacation homes and rentals, we have seen a notable increase in new cases and transmission of COVID-19 as a direct result of social gatherings in private homes.”

Until this week, provincial orders on gatherings and events allowed events of up to 50 people, as long as a number of guidelines could be met, including a sufficient amount of space for patrons to maintain a two-metre distance from one another and a limit of six patrons at each table, even if they were part of the same party.

However,  “we know the vast majority of homes cannot safely accommodate large numbers of people,” said Henry on Monday.

For those trying to flout the new rules, “enforcement will be stepped up to ensure people are following this new order, with the immediate focus on the Fraser Health region, where the increase in new cases is most notable,” said Henry.

Then, on Thursday, Henry again singled out the Fraser Health region as an area of the province that is seeing a surge of infections and reporting high test positivity. She characterized the rise of cases in the region – which  encompasses the eastern Lower Mainland from Burnaby to Boston Bar – as “quite dramatic.”

Fraser Health officials also asked residents in the region not to invite friends or family into their homes ahead of Halloween weekend because private gatherings have been driving new infections in recent weeks.

Other provinces such as Ontario and Quebec have already implemented tighter restrictions in their biggest cities that were seeing high coronavirus transmission.

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COVID-19 update for Oct. 30: Now is not the time for parties or large gatherings, say health officials – Standard Freeholder

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Health officials are reminding people to make the Halloween weekend safe for everyone by maintaining safe physical distances from one another.

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Oct. 30, 2020.

We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on in B.C. right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly throughout the day, with developments added as they happen.

Check back here for more updates throughout the day.


B.C.’S COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS

As of the latest figures given on Oct. 30:
• Total number of confirmed cases: 14,381 (2,390 active)
• New cases since Oct. 29: 272
• Hospitalized cases: 78
• Intensive care: 25
• COVID-19 related deaths: 263 (1 new)
• Cases under public health monitoring: 6,003
• Recovered: 11,670
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 26

IN-DEPTH: COVID-19: Here are all the B.C. cases of the novel coronavirus


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

COVID-19: Here’s everything you need to know about the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Have you been exposed? Here are all B.C. public health alerts

COVID-19 at B.C. schools: Here are the school district exposure alerts

COVID-19: Avoid these hand sanitizers that are recalled in Canada

COVID-19: Here’s where to get tested in Metro Vancouver

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool


LATEST NEWS on COVID-19 in B.C.

3 p.m. – Health officials report 272 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death

The province reported another 272 cases of COVID-19 on Friday and one additional death, bringing the total number of people who have died to 263.

There are 2,390 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, and 6,003 people are under public health monitoring after being exposed to a known case.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced this week that gatherings are now limited to people in an immediate household, plus their so-called “safe six”’ guests.

The B.C. government says it will increase surveillance this weekend as the new order came into effect.

In a joint statement, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix are reminding people to make the Halloween weekend safe for everyone by maintaining safe physical distances from one another.

They say this is also not the time for large gatherings in homes as the number of cases of COVID-19 spikes.

— The Canadian Press

12:30 – Port of Vancouver says it supports federal extension on cruise ship ban

Transport Canada has extended a ban on cruise ships to the end of February as the country continues to  grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s the third time the federal agency has imposed a ban on visiting cruise ships, after the federal government extended the ban at the end of May, sinking Vancouver’s lucrative summer cruise ship season.

Port of Vancouver spokesperson Arpen Rana said Friday that Vancouver’s cruise season begins in April and concludes in October, so they can’t speculate on the revenue impact for 2021 but said the port supports the decision.

“As a Canada Port Authority, we support and follow the direction of Transport Canada regarding the recently announced extension of measures pertaining to cruise ships,” said Rana.

“We are actively engaged in discussions with the cruise industry and tourism partners to support the industry under these challenging conditions.”

Rana did not say when the port expected the ban to lift, or whether it might be extended into the spring, but said the agency is working with the Association of Canadian Port Authorities Cruise Committee to resume safe cruises sometime next year.

The committee is made up of all port authorities with cruise terminals in Canada.

Given that the extension ends before the season kicks into gear in May, it does not change much in terms of anticipated revenue lost, said Sabrina Tey, a spokesperson for Tourism Vancouver.

The ban has taken a heavy toll this year on Vancouver’s tourism industry, however, as an estimated 1.3 million cruise ship passengers on 310 ships were scheduled to make port in Vancouver in 2020 before the pandemic hit.

Each ship translates into $3 million in tourism spending.

11:30 a.m. – To report Halloween parties in Vancouver call 311

Vancouver residents are being reminded ahead of Halloween that reports of large gatherings or parties, which are not allowed under a new COVID-19 rules, should be reported to 311 and not 911.

This follows an order this week from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry limiting gatherings in private residences to the household members plus six others within the household’s bubble. B.C.’s cases  have been going up, with more than 200 cases reported a day for more than a week.

Health officials have said most of the new cases are in the Fraser Health Authority, and are linked to social gatherings such as weddings, celebrations of life, and holidays.

Vancouver police said they are asking residents to keep 911 lines free for emergencies and to call 311 if there is a large gathering. The VPD has issued two tickets on the order, one to a host of a party and the other to an individual for failure to comply.

Meantime, in the last month the city of Vancouver has received hundreds of complaints on 311 about the pandemic, including 130 complaints of too many people being inside a business, 120 calls about house parties, 61 complaints about gatherings exceeding 50 people.

Thirty-three callers complained about people promoting parties or gatherings, three were upset about banquet halls being open, and 16 called to complain about people not adhering to social distancing measures.

There were also 160 other pandemic-related calls. Of those 49 had to do with too many people gathering together.

For more on this, read How do I have a Safe Halloween?

12 a.m. –  Even small gatherings can kill during a pandemic, say health officials

Health officials shared a sobering story during Thursday’s COVID-19 update, meant to drive home the tragedy that could be prevented when people adhere health orders and guidelines.

“It is something that reminds us of how important the measures that we need to take right now can be in protective lives,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, who said Thursday that B.C. is “in a danger zone.”

Henry said the latest death recorded was of a woman in her 80s who attended a small birthday party of less than 10 people in a private home.

Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO of Fraser Health hosted Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing in Surrey on Thursday.

B.C. saw 234 new cases and one death reported between Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the province’s total number of reported cases up to 14,109 since the start of the pandemic. There are are now 2,344 active cases of COVID-19.

Of those, 86 remain in hospital, of which 24 are in the intensive care unit.

There are 4,588 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 8,036 in Fraser Health, 256 in Vancouver Island, 734 in Interior Health, 464 in Northern Health and 89 who are non-B.C. residents.



LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information

Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool

Vancouver Coastal Health – Information on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

HealthLink B.C. – Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page

B.C. Centre for Disease Control – Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update

World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

–with files from The Canadian Press

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