This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
COVID-19 levels haven’t been this low in Canada in a long time — and that’s reason to breathe a collective sigh of relief — but the actions we take now to maintain control mean the difference between living with the virus or hiding from it in the weeks and months ahead.
In the past seven days, Canada averaged fewer than 500 new COVID-19 cases per day, under 750 patients in hospital and just 366 people in intensive care.
Ontario, Canada’s largest province with a population of close to 15 million people, recorded no new deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday for the first time in nine months.
“That is remarkable,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.
“That’s in the context of not having everyone vaccinated, so that’s even more remarkable. Vaccines are holding up, they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.”
But without a clear strategy for containing the spread of COVID-19 as more of the country reopens, experts say Canada is destined to repeat the mistakes of the past by failing to protect our most vulnerable — which now includes the unvaccinated.
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Delta variant has ‘moved the goalposts’ in Canada
Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, says the more contagious and potentially more deadly coronavirus variant known as delta has significantly “moved the goalposts” for eradicating COVID-19 in Canada.
“A few months ago my working assumption was that Canada would basically be done with this pandemic over the summer because we were going to be vaccinating so much,” he said, adding that individuals infected with delta are more likely to have severe outcomes from COVID-19.
“That’s moved herd immunity probably beyond reach.”
Canada has so far fended off another surge in COVID-19 largely thanks to vaccinations, but Fisman says delta has raised the reproductive rate of the virus from about 2.4 to between six and eight, meaning one person can typically pass it on to between six and eight others.
WATCH | What’s known about the delta variant and what makes it different:
In addition to that increased transmissibility, Fisman and co-author Prof. Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, suggest in a new preprint study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, that delta also has an increased risk of hospitalization and death.
Thankfully the vaccines are holding up well against the variants, with another recent Canadian preprint study on vaccine effectiveness, also awaiting peer review, signalling strong protection against severe illness from delta and echoing earlier global data from countries like Israel.
“There is that potential that the vaccinated people are going to be fine. At most, it might seem like they have a cold,” said study co-author Dr. Jeff Kwong, an epidemiologist and senior scientist at the Toronto-based Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
“But the people who are not vaccinated can still get very sick from delta and those are the people who are at risk of having serious outcomes like getting hospitalized or dying.”
The challenge now lies with the millions of unvaccinated Canadians who are now more at risk of COVID-19 than ever — despite hopes Canada can hit a goal of getting 80 per cent of our eligible population fully vaccinated.
“Unfortunately, for a 90 per cent efficacious vaccine, that’s not going to be enough,” Fisman said. “You have these pockets of vulnerability and you’re going to have tremendous pressure to not lock things down again.”
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam urged unvaccinated Canadians to get their shots now before colder months arrive to avoid anything like the devastating fall wave Canada experienced last year.
“We must keep the momentum up,” she said during a press conference Thursday. “The best target to reach for, to get ahead of highly transmissible variants as we head for an indoors fall, is getting the highest possible vaccine coverage as quickly as possible.”
But experts say simply encouraging unvaccinated Canadians to roll up their sleeves will only go so far, and keeping COVID levels low will require a targeted strategy.
Schools most ‘susceptible’ to spread of COVID-19
Children under the age of 12 now make up the single largest cohort of unvaccinated Canadians, due to their ineligibility to get vaccinated, and experts say they should be the first group to protect in the fall.
“Almost all the outbreaks are going to be among the school population, because that is the susceptible population,” said Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa.
“So we have to invest in ventilation, in small class sizes, in high-quality masks, and symptom checks and rapid tests for schools.”
A new study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the use of both masking and HEPA air filters reduced the risk of COVID-19 exposure in a classroom-like environment by up to 90 per cent.
In addition to schools, Fisman says the same precautions can be used in other places at heightened risk of airborne spread of the virus — including office buildings, restaurants and bars — where masking is intermittent and people come into close contact indoors.
“We really need to figure out how to make those places safe,” said Fisman. “Vaccines are a lot of it, but with the variants we’re not going to have this thing disappear as I think many of us had hoped in the spring.”
Borders vulnerable to ‘import’ of variants
The importation of new and existing variants from countries around the world is another challenge for Canada’s ability to control COVID-19 in the future — especially with pressure to reopen the U.S. border mounting.
“We should look at border controls a bit more carefully,” said Deonandan. “Even if we get it under control in Canada, it’s raging around the world. We don’t want to import cases.”
Fisman says Canada’s borders are another key vulnerability for the future, because of the repeated pattern of variants from abroad arriving in the country in the past — more than almost any other country in the world.
“The U.S. is less vaccinated than we are — they’re probably going to be a variant factory come the fall,” he said, adding that Canada needs to address its “leaky quarantine system.”
“We need to be doing better on getting surveillance and coming up with smarter systems for actually doing proper quarantine and tracking people as they cross the border.”
Fortunately, Canada is armed with an incredibly effective weapon against the importation of variants — vaccines — we just need to build a big enough border wall of immunity.
“The issue is that with travel, with reopening the borders, there are going to be people coming in with infections potentially as well,” said Kwong.
“But as long as people here are vaccinated, then there’s nowhere for the virus to go.”
COVID-19 now a ‘disease of the unvaccinated’
There’s been much discussion about the last group of unvaccinated Canadians that need to be reached due to hesitancy or accessibility, but what is less often talked about is that they are not a single homogenous group — making them much harder to target.
“The issue is that getting the last 25 per cent is going to take us double the work than it took us to get the first 75 per cent vaccinated,” said Sabina Vohra-Miller, a pharmacologist and science communicator with the South Asian Health Network.
“There’s a whole host of different reasons as to why they’re not vaccinated. So, we kind of have to peel through the layers and each layer is going to take a very targeted, very focused effort to get to them.”
Vohra-Miller says they could be homebound seniors or people with chronic medical conditions who are unable to access vaccination clinics, workers without paid sick leave, or those who are simply hesitant and would benefit from a conversation with their doctor.
Regardless, Chagla says COVID-19 is “now a disease of the unvaccinated” in Canada — one that previous protective measures won’t address.
“Unfortunately the solution out there isn’t going to be masking or physical distancing,” he said. “It’s going to be having antibodies in your blood.”
Vaccine passports a potential ‘carrot’ in Canada
That’s why experts say Canada is at the most critical point of its vaccine rollout, the final stretch, and we need to pull out all the stops to get shots in arms now.
“We really need to use every single carrot and stick available to us in a society like ours to encourage people to get vaccinated,” said Fisman.
“That really means talking about selective access to things that people like to do, like concerts, like restaurants, and having possibly a different set of rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.”
Manitoba became the first province to unveil a type of vaccine passport last month, by allowing fully vaccinated travellers to skip quarantine if they showed proof of vaccination. The federal government followed suit earlier this month for all travellers to Canada.
Now Quebec may go a step further, by requiring digital vaccine passports that would bar the unvaccinated from some non-essential services — such as gyms, team sports and theatres, for example — as early as September.
WATCH | What digital vaccination passports will mean for Quebec:
“If anyone knows anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated yet, if you could just please beg them, urge them, do whatever you can to try to convince them to get one dose at least,” Kwong said.
“It’s about finding those people who haven’t gotten their first dose yet whether it’s because they have been nervous, haven’t felt comfortable getting it or they just haven’t been able to access the vaccine yet — it’s time to really get on it.”
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.
What Canada did on Saturday at the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympic games – CTV News
Michael Woods came agonizingly close to opening Canada’s medal account on the first full day of competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Take a look at what Canada did on Saturday at the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympic games:
Men’s individual — Crispin Duenas, Toronto, finished 16th in the ranking round with a score of 665.
Mixed team — Canada (Stephanie Barrett, Mississauga, Ont., and Duenas) placed 17th overall in the ranking round with 1,295 points, just missing a berth in the main draw by two points.
Mixed doubles — Josephine Wu, Edmonton, and Joshua Hurlburt-Yu, Toronto, lost their group-stage match 2-0 to Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand.
Women’s doubles — Rachel Honderich, Toronto, and Kristen Tsai, Burnaby, B.C., were defeated by Selena Piek and Cheryl Seinen of the Netherlands, 2-1.
Men’s doubles — Jason Ho-Shue, Markham, Ont., and Nyl Yakura, Pickering, Ont., lost 2-0 to Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.
Women — Melissa Humana-Paredes, Toronto, and Sarah Pavan, Kitchener, Ont., won their opening group-stage match 2-0 (21-16, 21-14) over Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon of the Netherlands. Heather Bansley, Waterdown, Ont., and Brandie Wilkerson, Toronto, lost 2-1 (18-21, 21-15, 15-11) to the Chinese team of Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia.
Men’s welterweight (63-69 kg) — Wyatt Sanford of Kennetcook, N.S., lost 5-0 to Merven Clair, Mauritius, in the round of 32.
Men’s road race — Michael Woods, Ottawa, placed fifth overall in a time of 6:05:26, one minute, seven seconds behind the winner; Guillaume Boivin, Montreal, was 65th (6:21:46); while Hugo Houle of Ste-Perpetue, Que., 85th (6:25:16).
Individual — Chris von Martels, Ridgetown, Ont., and his horse, Eclips, were seventh in their qualifier group after the first day with a score of 68.059.
Team — Following the first day, Canada is ranked 11th with 2,191 points, with the other riders (Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu, Saint-Bruno, Que., and Lindsay Kellock, Toronto) to compete in the coming days.
Men’s individual sabre — Shaul Gordon of Richmond, B.C., lost 15-10 in the round-of-32 to Mojtaba Abedini of Iran.
Men — Keegan Pereira of Pickering, Ont., had the lone goal as Canada (0-1) lost 7-1 to Germany.
Men’s floor exercise — Rene Cournoyer, Repentigny, Que., placed 68th in qualifying with a score of 11.766, did not advance.
Men’s horizontal bar — Cournoyer, was 36th in qualifying (13.266), did not advance.
Men’s parallel bars — Cournoyer, 63rd (12.333), did not advance.
Men’s pommel horse — Cournoyer, 55th (12.800), did not advance.
Men’s rings — Cournoyer, 33rd (13.666), did not advance.
Men’s vault — Rene Cournoyer, 44th (13.866), did not advance,
Individual all-around — Cournoyer placed 55th overall (77.697), did not advance.
Women’s lightweight double sculls — Jennifer Casson, Kingston, Ont., and Jill Moffatt, Bethany, Ont., were second in their qualifying heat in seven minutes, 11.3 seconds to earn a berth in the semifinals.
Women’s pairs — Caileigh Filmer, Victoria, and Hillary Janssens, Cloverdale, B.C., won their heat (7:18.34) and advance to the semifinals.
Women’s fours — Canada (Stephanie Grauer, Vancouver; Nicole Hare, Calgary; Jennifer Martins, Toronto; Kristina Walker, Wolfe Island, Ont.) finished third in their race (6:40:07) and will need to advance through the repechage stage.
Women’s eights — Canada (Susanne Grainger, London, Ont.; Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Calgary; Kristen Kit, St. Catharines, Ont.; Madison Mailey, Lions Bay, B.C.; Sydney Payne, Toronto; Andrea Proske, Langley, B.C.; Lisa Roman, Langley, B.C.; Christine Roper, London, Ont.; Avalon Wasteneys, Campbell River, B.C.) placed second in their qualifier (6:07.97) and will race in the repechage.
Men’s lightweight double sculls — Patrick Keane, Victoria, and Maxwell Lattimer, Delta, B.C., were third in their heat (6:27:54) and will go to the repechage.
Men’s pairs — Kai Langerfeld, North Vancouver, B.C., and Conlin McCabe, Brockville, Ont., finished third (6:40.99) and qualified for the semifinals.
Men’s fours — Canada (Jakub Buczek, Kitchener, Ont.; Will Crothers, Kingston, Ont.; Luke Gadsdon, Hamilton; Gavin Stone, Brampton, Ont.) were fifth in their heat (6:05.47) and will be in a repechage.
Women — Janine Beckie, Highlands Ranch, Colo., scored both goals as Canada downed Chile 2-1, to improve to a win and a draw.
Canada beat Australia 7-1 to improve to 2-1 in the group stage.
Women’s 100 butterfly — Margaret MacNeil of London, Ont., posted the fifth-best time in qualifying (56.55) to advance to the semifinals.
Women’s 400 individual medley — Tessa Cieplucha, Georgetown, Ont., was 14th in qualifying (4:44.54), did not advance; Sydney Pickrem, Halifax, did not start.
Women’s 4×100 freestyle relay — Canada (Penny Oleksiak and Kayla Sanchez, Toronto; Taylor Ruck, Kelowna, B.C.; Rebecca Smith, Red Deer, Alta.) posted the third-best time in qualifying (3:33.72) to earn a berth in the final.
Men’s 100 breastroke — Gabe Mastromatteo, Kenora, Ont., was 38th in qualifying (1:01.56), did not advance.
Mixed doubles — Mo Zhang, Richmond, B.C., and Eugene Wang, Toronto, lost in the round-of-16 to Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen of China, 4-1.
Women’s flyweight (49 kg) — Yvette Yong, Toronto, lost her round-of-16 match to T.K. Truong of Vietnam, 19-5.
Women’s singles — Leylah Annie Fernandez, Laval, Que., def. Dayana Yastremska, Ukraine, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, in her opening match and will play Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in the second round.
Women’s doubles — Gabriela Dabrowski, Ottawa, and Sharon Fichman, Toronto, were eliminated after losing their first-round match to Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani of Brazil, 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Men — Canada lost to Italy 3-2 (26-28, 18-25, 25-21, 25-18, 15-11) in its opening group stage match.
Monika Eggens of Pitt Meadows, B.C., scored three goals but Canada (0-1) lost to Australia, 6-5.
‘Shadow pandemic’ of femicide looms, experts warn as Canada prepares to reopen – Global News
After more than a year of quarantines, lockdowns and separations due to COVID-19, Canada is slowly reopening. But experts say another pandemic, of femicide and domestic violence, has been quietly raging across the country.
The proof is in the reports. Preliminary findings from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability’s (CFOJA) mid-year report found 92 women and girls were killed, mostly by men, between January and June of this year.
Femicide is the killing of a girl or woman because of their gender. Men were identified as the accused in 79 out of 92 killings in the first half of 2021.
Indigenous women were over-represented in this year’s report, making up 12 per cent of femicide victims, despite comprising just 5 per cent of Canada’s overall population.
Experts say the data is unsurprising.
“We, as in violence against women organizations, advocates and survivors, have been naming that there is a shadow pandemic happening and that is gender based violence,” says Farrah Khan, a gender justice advocate and manager of Ryerson University’s Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education.
Numbers have been steadily rising since the COVID pandemic began. CFOJA, which tracks femicides across the country, said 160 women and girls were victims of femicide last year, an uptick from the 118 who were killed in 2019.
Khan said the health crisis that has led to repeated lockdowns across the country has “set women up” for unhealthy relationships that could result in their deaths. Women, who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, accounted for more than 35 per cent of job losses across the country and make up a majority of Canada’s minimum wage workers.
She says this could have prompted many women to move in with potentially abusive partners to save on costs that left them trapped and unable to leave when things began to escalate in an unsafe way. Things like child-care problems and food insecurity, also rampant during the pandemic, are also reasons women end up trapped with their abusers.
“The lockdown has increased the abusers’ access to them, has increased their ability to control their mobility, increased their ability to set strict rules about who they interact with,” she said of women during the pandemic, including those with abusive family members.
“I worry about the people also that are living through it right now that are not reaching out to services, are not feeling safe to do so because someone is monitoring their phone, somebody is monitoring their computer.”
Of the 160 women killed according to the report, researchers said 128 women and girls were killed by men. A majority of them were killed in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut accounting for 13.68 per cent and 5.21 per cent respectively.
Increase in domestic violence reported during lockdown
Victims of abuse could see more challenges in rural and remote areas, Khan says, because of isolation and the lack of mobility sometimes present in those communities.
“Already mobility is challenged. Already there’s no computer in the house that doesn’t have spyware on it,” Khan said, adding that “what’s needed in Toronto is different than what’s going to be needed in rural and remote areas.”
Numbers are also stacking up in more densely populated provinces.
In Ontario alone, femicide has increased by more than 84 per cent in the first half of 2021, according to the latest report from the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH).
“[When] we compare that to the prior year, there’s been an increase every single month,” Marlene Ham, executive director of OAITH, told Global News. “To have six months in a row show an increase in the number of femicides, that does surprise us, but it also really concerns us.”
From December 2019 through June 2020, the report found 19 confirmed femicides throughout the province. The next year, they reported 35.
Younger women between the ages of 18 and 35 accounted for a majority of this year’s femicides at 30 per cent, while younger men between 18 and 35 years accounted for 50 per cent of all perpetrators this year. Researchers found intimate partner cases made up 80 per cent of femicide cases in 2021.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ham said OAITH began noticing more femicides in Ontario when the province reopened, likely as a result of women trying to leave their abusers.
“When survivors leave or make a plan to leave, for some of them that can be the most dangerous time,” she said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate assistance. For a more comprehensive list of resources, click here.
Assaulted Women’s Helpline
Toll-free TTY: 1-866-863-7868
Shelter Safe: Network of women’s shelters across Canada
Canadian Family Law Lawyers Network
Legal Aid Domestic Abuse Hotline
Women’s Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre of Durham
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Phone: 416-323-9149 ext. 234
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Fauci says prospect of open border for fully vaccinated Canadians part of active U.S. talks – CBC.ca
U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci says the prospect of opening the U.S. border to fully vaccinated Canadians is part of an “active discussion” in the White House.
“I can tell you that the border situation and letting Canadians in who are fully vaccinated is an area of active discussion right now in the U.S. government,” he told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics in an exclusive Canadian interview.
“As a public health official, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out why policies haven’t changed.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. government issued a renewal order keeping the borders with Canada and Mexico closed until August 21.
According to U.S. Homeland Security officials, the move is part of the government’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the more contagious delta variant.
The delta variant has been wreaking havoc south of the border, where infections and hospitalizations are up in nearly all 50 states.
Fauci said the delta variant now accounts for 83 per cent of cases in the U.S. Those cases are concentrated in southern states, where vaccination rates are lower than the national average.
“In some of the southern states where the level of vaccination is very low and the level of the transmission of the virus is very high, we’re seeing a significant surge in cases,” Fauci said.
“This virus has an extraordinary capability of efficiently spreading from person to person.”
The White House has enlisted the help of celebrities and athletes to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, particularly in states led by Republican governors. In recent days, high-profile conservative figures such as Fox pundit Sean Hannity have encouraged Americans to get vaccinated.
Concerts, vaccines, bobbleheads, and even <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ManCrushMonday?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ManCrushMonday</a>: watch Olivia Rodrigo and Dr. Fauci read fan tweets. <a href=”https://t.co/NnwKwrkNWW”>pic.twitter.com/NnwKwrkNWW</a>
Fauci said the U.S. must increase its vaccination rate to end current outbreaks of COVID-19.
“We’re seeing some of them starting to come around, which is a really good thing, because we’ve got to realize and act on it, that the common enemy is the virus,” he told Power & Politics.
“The virus doesn’t have any idea who’s a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent.”
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