Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is asking Canada for help with U.S. residents of a small peninsula who have been marooned by the pandemic-related closure of the U.S.-Canada border.
Point Roberts is part of Washington state, but it juts out from the Canadian mainland south of Vancouver and it is not connected to the rest of Washington. About 1,300 Washington residents live there.
In a letter Friday to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Inslee noted that the residents of Point Roberts are isolated, but they are usually able to drive through Canada and back into Washington state to obtain goods and services or to see family and friends.
With the border closed to nearly all travel since March 21, that hasn’t been possible.
Inslee suggested that residents of Point Roberts could be given special travel permits allowing them to drive directly to and from the Washington state mainland. Canada has granted similar travel permits to Americans driving between the Lower 48 and Alaska.
Sorry to burst your COVID-19 'social bubble' but even small gatherings are getting riskier – CBC.ca
For months, Canadians have been bubbling up with other friends and family to socialize safely during the pandemic.
But with COVID-19 case counts rising in many communities, kids back in schools and more people returning to work, many public health experts agree that what worked as a safe approach in the early days of the lockdown now comes with more risk.
“I honestly think with the return to school right now, most people’s bubbles have burst,” says epidemiologist Ashleigh Tuite. “You’re talking about large numbers of connections.”
In Ontario, “social circles” allow you to see up to 10 people without the usual pandemic precautions in place as long as all of those family members, friends or neighbours make a pact to socialize only with each other, while in Alberta, the cap for your “cohort” is your household plus up to 15 other people.
In B.C., the guidelines for a “bubble” are a little looser. Officials say the members of your immediate household can be “carefully expanded” to include outsiders, with the goal of limiting the number as much as possible — since these are people you’re allowed to kiss, hug, chat with and dine with, without masks or distancing.
It’s a concept being adopted in several countries around the world. And while it works well in principle, experts warn it may be harder to maintain at this point in the pandemic.
Bubble makes sense in ‘theory’
“As a theory, the bubble makes a lot of sense,” said Dr. Dominik Mertz, an associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at Hamilton’s McMaster University. “But there’s a lot of confusion from people over what it is.”
He also added it can be tough to do safely, particularly if the bubble involves multiple households “who all have different risks.”
Say you have two four-person households socializing without the usual pandemic precautions. On paper, it follows the Ontario and B.C. guidelines.
But what if one person is back at work, leaving them exposed to dozens of colleagues? Or either family’s children are in school, where physical distancing and mask wearing might be a challenge?
A small sphere of contacts can quickly expand to include everyone that each family member comes in contact with, which means the bubbling approach really isn’t “useful” anymore, according to Tuite, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
‘It’s not going to work for all people’
Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa, agreed it’s not a “perfect model” at this point in the pandemic.
“It would’ve worked better back when things were fully locked down,” he said, adding there’s still merit in bubbling with a few close friends or family if everyone is cautious.
“I don’t want to remove any tools from the table,” he said. “If bubbling is working for some people, keep on doing it. But it’s not going to work for all people.”
For instance, a supply teacher, with a social network of students and staff in various classrooms or even buildings, can’t realistically have a social bubble without any precautions, Deonandan said, while someone working from home might be able to do it more safely.
WATCH | ‘Exponential’ growth in new cases in parts of Canada, says infectious disease specialist:
For many people, losing their bubble could mean a long, lonely winter, made worse by mental health struggles or living alone.
“We know there are benefits to having that human contact,” said Dr. Nitin Mohan, a physician epidemiologist and assistant professor at Western University in London, Ont.
But when dropping temperatures push people indoors, where transmission risk is higher, and families start making plans to gather over the upcoming stretch of holidays, it could make adhering to the bubble principles even tougher.
Bubble burst? Isolate for a while
Mertz says Canadians should already be planning for upcoming gatherings like Thanksgiving.
If outside-the-bubble family members want to celebrate together, find ways to do it safely, he says, by meeting outdoors and staying apart as much as possible. Otherwise, you’re blending several household bubbles together and upping the risk for everyone.
And if you do throw caution to the wind for a turkey feast, there’s another approach: Isolate yourself as much as possible for two weeks after the gathering.
“That would give us downtime, so in case someone got infected, you are not spreading it from that gathering into each individual bubble,” Mertz said.
The various experts who spoke with CBC News acknowledged the challenges in sticking to even the safest bubbling plan, with peer pressure, slip-ups, and our innate desire for human connection all potential obstacles.
For that reason, Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist with the Sinai Health System and University Health Network in Toronto, stresses the onus shouldn’t just be on individuals to reduce transmission.
From a system-wide perspective, he says, provincial governments need to ensure every piece of the pandemic plan is adequately resourced: testing capacity, contact tracing, personal protective equipment and hospital staff.
“If you can’t test people who are symptomatic, then you can’t contact trace … and you can’t identify people who are about to become symptomatic and are unknowingly and unwittingly spreading the disease,” he said.
Ontario gathering sizes reduced
Ontario officials say they’re working to increase testing capacity amid hours-long lineups in multiple cities, including Ottawa and Toronto.
The province is also lowering the maximum size limit for private gatherings — things like backyard barbecues or dinner parties, with precautions in place among people in different social circles — in some regions.
The new limits will be 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, with hefty fines of $10,000 or more for organizers who flout the rules.
Deonandan calls that the “single best policy intervention” for controlling the spread of COVID-19, given the growing body of research showing large gatherings can be hot spots for virus transmission.
“Mask wearing, that’s important. Distancing, that’s important, too,” he said. “But time and time again we see explosions of cases in otherwise controlled areas … driven by these super-spreading events.”
Even smaller gatherings can fuel the virus’s spread, like infections after a family outing documented in Toronto, and a 10-person cottage trip — which would still meet the province’s new rules — that led to 40 new cases in Ottawa.
It’s not clear if anyone involved in those gatherings was bubbling together, and Mertz stresses in all situations, the same safety precautions apply.
“Whether you continue with the bubble concept or not, it comes down to the less people gathering, the more time you can spend outside, the more you can spread out — the lower the risk.”
Canada’s coronavirus cases are surging, but experts reject it’s a ‘second wave’ – Global News
With Canada’s coronavirus cases escalating at a worrying rate, health officials say they are preparing for what many call a “second wave” of the pandemic, with some suggesting it may have already arrived.
But experts say framing the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases in “waves” is inaccurate, and ignores how human behaviour is playing a role — and how it’s critical to controlling the spread of the virus.
The country has seen a dramatic resurgence of the virus in recent weeks, along with long lines for testing in some cities. In the last two weeks alone, the number of cases reported nationwide each day has risen by nearly 50 per cent.
While Canada saw a brief rise in cases earlier this summer, cases have now risen back to levels last seen in late May and early June, when daily cases were falling from their peak in mid-to-late April.
Yet even when the pandemic was at its lowest point during last spring’s widespread economic lockdown, Canada was still reporting over 200 new cases daily — which experts say is proof that we’re still dealing with the first wave.
“It didn’t go anywhere,” said Caroline Colijn, a mathematics professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver who specializes in infectious disease modelling.
“What does a wave do? It comes and then recedes and disappears by itself, not because you jump off the towel and push it back. We haven’t had that sort of natural thing where the infection burns itself out. We brought it down through our own behaviour, but it’s still here.”
Coronavirus: ‘Can’t rule out’ second wave of COVID-19, says Canadian health minister
Sarah Otto, an evolutionary biologist and modelling expert at the University of British Columbia, is even more blunt.
“Technically, we’re nowhere near a ‘second wave’ as it’s defined in terms of a disease,” she said. “The second wave happens when people lose immunity to that disease and it comes back.
“Instead, what we’ve had are ebbs and flows based on how we’ve changed our behaviour to combat the spread of the virus. So as we’ve returned more and more to so-called ‘normal’ behaviour — and especially now that schools have reopened — we’re seeing more cases.”
While younger people have appeared to lead the way in recent infections, older Canadians have also continued to contract the virus at steady rates.
Several provinces have also reported cases in schools among both students and teachers since in-class learning resumed earlier this month, with some schools — including in Winnipeg and parts of Ontario — shutting down and moving classes online.
Health officials and experts say they have yet to see community transmission result from those school outbreaks. However, Colijn and Otto both say their models suggest cases across the country may continue to rise over the short term, particularly in the provinces driving the surge: British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario.
Concerns of COVID-19 second wave as new cases rise
But Daniel Coombs, a mathematical modelling expert at the University of British Columbia, says that rise could be tempered the same way cases were brought down the first time: by managing our behaviour.
“The problem I have with the language of ‘waves’ is it suggests (the pandemic) is out of control, where I strongly feel that we have the capacity in this country to control it,” he said.
“I think what we’re going to see over the fall and winter is health officials pulling those levers to sort of tune their policies so that schools can stay open — as they’re really critical to our society — while adjusting regulations elsewhere to keep transmission low.”
Coombs pointed to last week’s order in British Columbia that closed nightclubs and banquet halls while putting new restrictions on bars and restaurants. Although it was met with some opposition from owners, he said the order struck a balance between cutting down on large gatherings while doing relatively minimal economic damage.
Cases have continued to climb in that province, however, reaching a new record high on Thursday with 165 new infections.
The premiers of Ontario and Quebec have warned of similar restrictions, along with fines and minimal lockdowns, if behaviour doesn’t change and cases don’t start falling again.
Coronavirus: Legault says Quebec could see second wave if COVID-19 case trend continues
A new Ipsos poll suggests 75 per cent of Canadians would approve a widespread shutdown of non-essential businesses if cases reach another peak like last spring’s. Roughly the same number said they anticipate another rise in cases this fall, which they called a “second wave.”
But Otto says those penalties can be avoided if people remember that they’re part of the solution, and remember their responsibility to their community.
“Especially now that kids are back in school, it’s so critical they get that in-person learning, so I want to reduce my own activities so they can have that opportunity,” she said.
She also suggested keeping an eye on the case numbers and which communities are seeing surges, and adjusting behaviour accordingly if cases start rising closer to home.
“Our health officials are reading the thermometer and saying, ‘Oh, it’s too warm in here, it’s getting out of control there,’” she said. “But we’re the switch on the furnace, and it’s our decision to go, ‘Oh, I have to listen to the thermostat, I better shut off.’ We’re part of the solution.”
“We’ve had some successes in Canada that we can be proud of, and we still have models of clear, compassionate public health messaging,” she said. “We just need to keep listening to them and not be complacent.
“We’re not the kind of society that will nail your door shut to make sure you stay quarantined. We’re not going to have surveillance on people’s indoor parties. This is still a matter of trust, and we need to keep working ourselves while trusting each other. Because this isn’t over.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sept. 17 – CBC.ca
- Quebec urges residents to continue to follow public safety measures this coming weekend.
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford tightens restrictions in some regions amid rise in cases.
- British Columbia confirms record-breaking 165 new cases.
- Officials shut down high school in Ottawa Valley, first in the province to close.
- Ontario health experts struggling to trace the source of new infections.
- Testing priorities will change in Alberta, chief medical officer of health says.
- India has confirmed another record jump in coronavirus cases.
- U.S. economy still struggling to recover, Labour Department says.
- 10 fans told to quarantine after Kansas City Chiefs game
With climbing cases of COVID-19 across Canada, health experts are struggling to trace the source of new infections — raising concerns that several provinces are lacking crucial information to curb a potential second wave this fall.
In Quebec, Health Minister Christian Dubé and chief public health officer Dr. Horacio Arruda held a press conference on Thursday, to encourage residents to continue practising safe social distancing as the weekend approaches. Dubé said this weekend is not the time to go out partying and risk pushing a region into a higher COVID-19 alert level.
He said regions will remain yellow, but will be changed to orange in the coming days depending on the progress and the number of active cases over the weekend.
Dubé also reminded people that bars, even if they sell food, cannot sell liquor after midnight and that includes restaurants and microbreweries.
WATCH | Quebecers warned to heed health measures to slow coronavirus:
As of Thursday afternoon, there are 66,356 confirmed cases in Quebec.
B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have all reported a bump in cases throughout September, and some have paused their reopening plans as a result.
As of 3:40 pm ET on Thursday, Canada had 140,556 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 122,842 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,238.
In B.C. a record number of new cases were confirmed on Thursday, and two new outbreaks have been declared in hospitals in the Lower Mainland.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged British Columbians to stick to gatherings with six or fewer people and to keep those groups of six consistent. She said the new restrictions to end the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. is necessary to slow transmission of the disease.
Meanwhile in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford unveiled a series of new measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including restrictions on social gatherings in three regions and significant fines for violating the new rules.
Ford held a news conference Thursday afternoon saying the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases “are concerning,” and that the province has decided to “implement further restrictions,” starting Friday.
He also announced that Ontario will have the “highest fine anywhere in the entire country,” with a minimum amount of $10,000 for organizers of illegal social gatherings, and a $750 fine for individuals who “break the rules and show up to these parties.”
As a result of the growing pandemic in Ontario, health officials have shut down a high school in the Ottawa Valley after a third staff member tested positive for COVID-19 — making it the first school in the province to close since the new school year began.
All in-person classes at Fellowes High School in Pembroke, Ont., were halted Wednesday after the latest case was linked to two previous ones, also involving staff members.
WATCH | Ford announces new COVID-19 gathering limits, freeze on rent increase:
In an emailed statement to CBC News, Renfrew County District School Board spokesperson Jonathan Laderoute said the closure will remain in place until further notice.
“The decision was made shortly after a third case was confirmed earlier today that was linked to two previous cases,” the email reads. “The school will reopen only with public health approval.”
WATCH | Alarms raised after COVID-19 cases close Ontario high school:
Despite the school closure and an increasing caseload, health officials in Ontario say they can’t trace how roughly half of its latest COVID-19 cases became infected, even as Ford announced new measures to try to slow the pace of spread.
To gain insights into the September surge of COVID-19 in Canada’s largest province, CBC News has analyzed Ontario’s data on active cases — those who have most recently tested positive for the virus and are either hospitalized or still considered to be infectious.
Data suggests that many Ontarians are currently contracting COVID-19 through unmemorable interactions with others in the course of their daily lives. Experts are worried that failing to track the source of so many new infections will hamper efforts to rein in the spread of the virus.
Those under 40 are driving the spread in most provinces. In Ontario, health officials have identified smaller, indoor gatherings as the culprit. Younger people may also be working in precarious jobs where their exposure is increased, or where sick days may not be readily available.
“If we don’t understand how and where people are getting infected, it’s very hard to control this disease,” said Ashleigh Tuite, epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “It suggests that our contact tracing is not up to the level that we wanted it to be.”
Alberta is starting to see a caseload similar to that in Ontario and Quebec, which is concerning as the prairie province has a much lower population, said Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
On Thursday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said testing priorities will change as the province prepares for increasing testing demands.
With flu season upon us, Hinshaw said asymptomatic testing will therefore no longer be recommended for general population.
“We and every other province in Canada must prepare for a surge in demand in tests this winter. We must prioritize our testing, especially as we prepare for the flu system to ensure that testing is scheduled and that results are returned as quickly as possible.”
For the first 15 days of September in Alberta, the province has reported an average of 137 new cases of COVID-19 per day. That’s up from an average of 88 cases for that same period in August, meaning that cases have gone up by about 55 per cent in the last month.
WATCH | Looking back at six months of COVID in Alberta:
The province is also facing widespread community transmission of COVID-19, Smith said, rather than the disease appearing in a few specific hotspots, like a long-term care facility.
While some of the increase in Alberta cases could be attributed to more testing in September with upwards of 30,000 people tested per day, Smith said these jumps in case counts are still concerning.
What’s happening around the rest of Canada
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says dealing with COVID-19 remains his government’s number one job.
Trudeau says Canadians deserve an ambitious plan for a healthier and safer Canada, a country that’s fair and inclusive and clean and competitive.
He made his comments at the end of a two-and-a-half day cabinet retreat.
A COVID-19 testing site is opening up for Indigenous people in Toronto, just in time for the cold and flu season.
“There’s not much trust for some Indigenous folks in our health-care system because of discriminatory practices or blatant racism,” said Steve Teekens, executive director of Na-Me-Res, an emergency shelter and housing organization.
“We have a vacant building here and one of our managers thought this would be a fabulous idea to offer it up as a COVID testing facility for Indigenous people,” Teekens said.
Roughly 250 students have been sent home from John Pritchard School in Winnipeg as the number of COVID-19 cases linked to it climbed to seven, Manitoba’s education minister said on Wednesday.
Students at the North Kildonan school in Grades 6, 7 and 8, as well as those in a split Grade 4/5 class and the Henderson Early Learning Centre (the school’s before and after program), started remote learning on Wednesday, Kelvin Goertzen said at a news conference.
“Of course, we knew that there would be cases within the school system, and we wanted to ensure that there could be quick response when those cases arose,” Goertzen said.
Those students may continue learning from home for up to two weeks, the Winnipeg school said in a letter to parents on Tuesday.
Alberta’s health minister and chief medical officer of health have said they would support repealing a piece of legislation that gives the government the power to make vaccines mandatory.
The Public Health Act currently contains a section that allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to order Albertans to be immunized or re-immunized against a communicable disease in certain circumstances, like an epidemic.
That power has never been used in the province’s history, nor can Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, imagine a scenario where it would be.
“I think if we have a piece of legislation that we’re unlikely to use, I’m not sure it provides much benefit,” she told the legislative review committee examining the act in August. “I would be comfortable with that particular piece of the legislation being removed.”
Travellers flying out of Halifax will soon have their temperature taken before liftoff to scan for one of the symptoms of COVID-19.
Next Wednesday, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is rolling out temperature screening stations in the departure sections of 11 airports, including Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
WATCH | Rapid rise in cases in many parts of Canada, infectious disease specialist says:
All passengers who have a fever (38 C and above), and don’t have a medical certificate to explain a condition that would result in an elevated temperature, will not be allowed to continue their travel and will be asked to rebook after 14 days.
Leah Batstone, spokesperson for the Halifax International Airport Authority, said they’re happy to have another feature to help ease people’s fears and concerns about air travel.
What’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 29.9 million. More than 941,000 people have died, while 20.3 million have recovered.
Authorities in Pakistan have closed as many as 22 schools across the country after detecting violation of physical distancing regulations amid a steady decline in COVID-19 cases.
The government action comes only two days after authorities allowed schools to reopen.
Thursday’s announcement by the military-backed command and control centre came after health officials alerted the government that students at some schools were violating distancing guidelines.
The number of new confirmed coronavirus infections have hit a record in the Czech Republic, surpassing 2,000 cases in one day for the first time.
The country’s health ministry said a total of 2,139 cases were registered on Wednesday, about 450 more than the previous number recorded a day earlier.
The ministry said 388 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, 55 more than the previous day, with 81 in serious condition.
India has confirmed another record jump in coronavirus cases, logging 97,894 cases in the past 24 hours.
The country’s health ministry said on Thursday the new cases raised the nation’s confirmed total to more than 5.1 million since the pandemic began. It said 1,132 people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 83,198.
At the current rate of infection, India is expected within weeks to surpass the 6.6 million reported cases in the United States, which is currently the country with the most reported infections.
The number of people in the United States applying for unemployment benefits dropped to 881,000 last week, but the Labour Department reported Thursday that the economy is still struggling to recover and rebuild the job market.
Before the pandemic hit the economy, the number signing up for jobless aid had never exceeded 700,000 in a week, even during the depths of the 2007-09 Great Recession. Now they’ve topped 700,000 for 26 straight weeks.
Meanwhile, 10 fans who attended the Kansas City Chiefs game last week have been told to quarantine after one tested positive for COVID-19, Kansas City health officials announced Thursday.
A person who watched the NFL game from the group’s box in Arrowhead Stadium’s lower level tested positive a day later, the health department said.
The health department and Chiefs organization worked together to track down those who had contact with the person.
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