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.
The end of the pandemic may be finally within sight in Canada, after incredible progress has been made battling back the spread of COVID-19 with widespread vaccination uptake and dogged adherence to strict public health measures across the country.
More than 15 months of immeasurably hard work is now paying off, and we’re poised to cross the finish line and possibly shift our focus to helping other countries get there sooner for the greater good of humanity.
Canadians should be rewarded for their efforts to end the third (and hopefully last) wave of COVID-19 and soon return to a somewhat normal pre-pandemic style of life — without the constant fear of the unknown that lies ahead with this relentless virus.
But nothing is set in stone with COVID-19, and that uncertainty in the coming weeks and months is dividing experts on what to do next — leading some to call for reopening more quickly, while others suggest we move more cautiously as the pandemic recedes.
Delta variant poses new ‘challenge’
One wildcard Canada has been dealt in recent weeks is the highly transmissible delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, which could single-handedly disrupt our endgame plans and make our vaccination targets even more pressing.
“The issue is delta. We’re obviously much better off than we were in March, but we’re facing the same challenge,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, a medical microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
“Three months ago, before we had delta, it really did look like we were all going to get vaccinated and it was going to be fine — but this virus is just more difficult than that.”
Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious diseases expert in Toronto and acting CEO for Health PEI, says he’s approaching the summer with “cautious optimism.”
“If it weren’t for the delta variant, I think there would be a lot more optimism. But I think that we still have the majority of Canadians who are not really protected,” he said.
“It’s bizarre, but we really haven’t changed things that much yet because of that variant, and the fact that the vaccines, with only one dose, are only about a 30 per cent efficacy. So that’s the challenge.”
WATCH | What you need to know about the delta variant:
Federal health officials urge caution with reopening
Despite the spread of delta, Canada’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to fall week-over-week thanks to more than 37 million doses of vaccines given to date — the equivalent of almost the entire population of the country.
But top federal public health officials are still extremely cautious with their messaging to Canadians out of a fear of provinces and territories lifting restrictions too soon, seeing a surge in COVID-19 levels and prompting another brutal wave or devastating lockdown.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says that while there is currently an average of fewer than 640 COVID-19 cases per week, under 1,000 hospitalized and less than 500 patients in ICUs, now is not the time to let our guard down.
“We do have to be quite cautious, because the provinces are just beginning to open up, and then we will see what happens,” she said during a news conference Tuesday.
“Even though we have a good dose of coverage, we still need to, I think, go higher. And quite a number of people haven’t had the full vaccination.”
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo even said he “would love to have 100 per cent coverage for both doses” in Canada — an almost impossibly high goal that is a far cry from the 75 per cent with one dose and 20 per cent with two set in late May.
Officials accused of ‘moving goalposts’ on reopening
Some experts are critical of the “pessimistic” messaging coming from federal health officials at a time when Canadians should be celebrating the progress we’ve made, the drop in COVID-19 levels the vaccines have provided and the safe activities available to us.
“Public health messaging has been pessimistic, both from the federal level and for us specifically in Ontario,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga.
He added that can have a negative effect on the general public’s perception of the pandemic.
“We are in the best position we’ve been in and people are more scared than they were a year ago, when we had no vaccine.”
Dr. Fahad Razak, an epidemiologist and internist with St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said the effectiveness of the vaccines has proven to be a “scientific miracle” and should be kept “front of mind in all of our public health messaging.”
“We have had a very tough 15 months with this pandemic, we’ve had some of the longest durations and severities of public health restrictions in the world,” he said.
“Canadians have accepted and followed those recommendations really admirably, and there should be a recognition that we’ve made incredible grounds in the last few months.”
Chakrabarti says the persistent negative tone in messaging from some federal and provincial health officials has caused them to “lose the room” and is fuelling “the anxiety of reopening” while possibly “undermining vaccine efficacy.”
“You have people that are fully vaccinated and still worried for their life; you have people that are going to say, ‘What’s the point of getting vaccinated?’ So it actually feeds into vaccine hesitancy,” he said.
“Others feel like the rug’s been pulled out or that they’re moving goalposts.… People become dismayed, they don’t see any hope.”
‘We’re not closing again’
On the same day Tam said she was not in favour of lifting mandatory masking mandates despite the fact the 75-20 vaccine threshold had been surpassed, British Columbia announced masks would be recommended but no longer mandatory.
And while the Ontario Science Table estimated that delta now makes up more than 70 per cent of cases in the province and its reproduction value is above one, meaning it could cause exponential case growth, Ontario moved to Step 2 of reopening a few days early.
“Yes we want to release restrictions as quickly as we can, but the other side of it is that none of us, I don’t think, want to be facing another wave with an increased number of deaths and hospitalizations and the potential to have to shut down again,” McGeer said.
“It’s really challenging for governments and public health to walk the line of what’s the most relaxed we can be before we get into trouble, and how much worse is it to go slow versus having to go back?”
Gardam says that while some experts have said it’s not possible to vaccinate our way out of the pandemic entirely, it is possible to get close to doing so with one caveat: If you relax restrictions too early, the virus will find vulnerable populations to infect.
Chakrabarti says that given the fact that seniors, long-term care residents and other populations at risk of severe outcomes have largely been vaccinated, a surge in cases driven by delta won’t be nearly as severe as in the past.
But McGeer says there is still too much unknown about what impact the spread of delta in Canada might have in the coming weeks and months to relax restrictions entirely yet.
“We don’t know how many people have to be vaccinated to slow this down. We don’t know how well people are protected against severe disease from delta,” she said. “We’re really in a very uncertain time.”
Gardam says his biggest concern right now isn’t necessarily the spread of delta itself, but the inability of Canadians to endure another lockdown in the future.
“God help us if we get into a fourth wave where you have to shut everything down again. I mean, can you even fathom what the public would do with that? To me, that is an absolute no-go zone,” he said.
“This is it. We’re not closing again. So please, let’s not do anything so rash that we actually force ourselves to close again.”
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.
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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