COVID-19 in Canada Oct. 5: B.C. models show hopeful signs, but Canada as a whole on the ‘wrong trajectory’ for COVID-19 spread

Elisabetta Bianchini
·9 min read
COVID-19 In Canada
COVID-19 In Canada

‘We are flattening our curve’

B.C. Government/BCCDC
B.C. Government/BCCDC

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, presented the latest modelling data for the province, highlighting that the growth rate of COVID-19 cases is decreasing.

Dr. Henry said this is an indication that people are having “safe connections” in their communities.

B.C. Government/BCCDC
B.C. Government/BCCDC

Dr. Henry also indicated that the number of contacts for each infectious case is also “slowly coming down,” recently hovering around one or less than one. She said limiting contacts is a key component of preventing future spread.

B.C. Government/BCCDC
B.C. Government/BCCDC

Despite some of the successes identified by Dr. Henry, cases in B.C. have increased since the middle of July.

In advance of the Thanksgiving holiday, she said celebrations should be “large in thanks, large in gratitude but small in size.”

“We are flattening our curve and it’s the work of all of us and the actions that we’re taking...that is making this difference,” B.C.’s provincial health officer said. “It’s important for the health of our communities that we continue to do this.”

B.C. Government/BCCDC
B.C. Government/BCCDC

Younger age group, 20 to 29 year olds and 30 to 39 year olds, are overrepresented compared to the percentage of the population they make up.

B.C. Government/BCCDC
B.C. Government/BCCDC

Dr. Henry identified that children still make up less than 10 per cent of total cases in the province, which she says in an indication that schools are not “amplifying transmission” in the community.

B.C. Government/BCCDC
B.C. Government/BCCDC

There have been 50 school exposures in B.C., which includes both students and staff. The latest information from the province indicates that “many exposures were early, suggesting infection occurred prior to school start (as of Oct 1).”

Alberta serology study shows no increase in proportion of people with COVID-19 antibodies

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, revealed Monday that the province’s serology study has analyzed more than 35,000 samples, which has shown that from early-June to early-August the proportion of people with antibodies did not increase.

Dr. Hinshaw stressed that this is a sign that it’s unlikely that the province’s existing tests are missing a significant portion of the population.

She added that many of the recent cases are in the Edmonton area, with particular concerns about people going to work or social gatherings when they are symptomatic, while waiting for their test result.

“This is a significant risk and is one of the factors causing our case numbers to rise,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

Quebec to make masks mandatory in secondary schools, prohibiting sports and leisure activities

As of Oct. 8, all secondary school students in Quebec’s red zones will be required to wear a mask in these settings. This rule will be in place until Oct. 28.

Students in Grades 10 and 11 will go to school with a hybrid in-person and online education model, on alternating days.

Education minister François Roberge said the province does not think schools will have to be completely shut down and the goal is to keep education operations as normal as possible.

The province is also suspending sports and leisure activities in the red zones of Quebec, including gyms.

Activities within a family unit can occur and indoor sports facilities can remain operational for proactive with reduced capacity and physical distancing rules in place. Anyone practicing a sport with someone outside of their family member must maintain a two-metre distance.

“We must continue to do everything we can to limit our contacts,” Quebec Premier François Legault said on Monday.

The Quebec government has also moved forward with urging people in the province to download the COVID Alert app. The premier stressed there are no privacy concern with regards to its functionality but added that it will be most effective the more have the app on their mobile device.

Manitoba adds restriction in restaurants, bars in Winnipeg

The Manitoba government has announced additional restrictions in restaurants and bars in the Winnipeg region, beginning on Oct. 7 and lasting while the region is in the orange risk classification.

The rules include:

  • Tables and seating are at least two-metres apart between people sitting at different tables or a non-permeable barrier, and are able to maintain separation of at least two-meters from other members of the public when they are not seated at a table.

  • Members of the public are assigned to a table when they enter the licensed premise that has seating for the entire party and seating capacity at any table must not exceed 10 persons.

  • Staff must obtain contact information in writing from at least one person in each party attending the licensed premises and the licensee must retain this information for 21 days, after which it must be destroyed.

  • No sale or service of liquor may take place in licensed premises between 10:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m.

  • The operator of the licensed premises must ensure that all members of the public vacate the licensed premises by 11:00 p.m.

  • Licensed premises must be closed for dine-in services between 11 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

Food can be sold after 11:00 p.m. for delivery or take-out and this does not apply to liquor retail. Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief medical officer of health, said the province is looking at possible additional restrictions related to noise levels in these settings.

‘The social circle, at this point, is not relevant’

Ontario’s top doctors are now explicitly telling people in the province to “avoid close contact with people outside of your household.”

“Your close contacts should be limited to those people who you live with,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, associate chief medical officer of health, said at a press conference on Monday. “If you live may consider having exclusive close contact with another household that you trust.”

“The social circle, at this point, is not relevant.”

Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said provincial health officials are “concerned” about the number of contacts positive cases have identified, totalling 200 to 300 in seven or eight days.

“That’s surprising and perplexing,” Dr .Williams said. “You shouldn’t have that many tot talk about.”

Dr. Yaffe added that the number of contacts per case is “much high than we saw in the first wave” are there are more interrelated outbreaks across multiple settings.

“We’re not doing as well as we should,” Dr. Williams said. “We need to really tighten up on the social contacts.”

“We need to be especially careful around events and gatherings.”

‘I want to exhaust every single avenue before I ruin someone’s life’

At a press conference on Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province is in need of more diagnostic lab technicians to detect and manage COVID-19 cases, reiterating that rapid tests are going to be “an absolute game changer.”

When asked about adding restrictions across Ontario for restaurants, the premier said the province needs to the data to backup those widespread measures.

“I have to sit back and look at evidence,” Ford said. “I want to exhaust every single avenue before I ruin someone’s life.”

“It’s easy to go in there and say, I’m just shutting down everything.”

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the province continues to look at what can be done provincially versus actions by municipal governments to prevent transmission of the virus, particularly in Toronto.

He added that the province is not implementing any interprovincial travel restriction but urged the public to not move around Ontario, as much possible.

Ontario invests $35 million to hire additional teachers, support school operations

The Ontario government announced it is investing $35 million to support school boards in Peel, Ottawa, Toronto and York, the COVID-19 “hot spots” in the province.

“As we find ourselves at the beginning of a second wave of COVID-19, we know there are schools in hotspot areas that need extra supports to keep students and staff safe,” Ford said in a statement. “That's why we're immediately authorizing the release of this funding to reinforce existing investments to improve physical distancing and remote learning and hire more staff, so our kids and teachers stay safe and healthy.”

This additional funding can be used to provide “increased distancing between students through the hiring of additional teachers, early childhood educators, and educational assistants.” It can also support remote learning.

Canada on the ‘wrong trajectory’ for COVID-19 spread

Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated that the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, primarily in Ontario and Quebec, is “not where any of us wanted to be.”

“Even if we cant gather this long weekend, we still have a chance to turn things around for Christmas,” Trudeau said. “Beating this virus is a team Canada effort and we’re here for Canadians right across the country.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, confirmed that Ontario and Quebec make up 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases and the “accelerated spread” in these regions “reminds us how rapidly this virus can take hold.”

“While right now, we are on the wrong trajectory in some parts of the country, if we all commit to doing our part to reduce the spread of the virus, I’m confident we can right the ship and plank the curve again, and we can do this together,” Dr. Tam said.

For Thanksgiving, Canada’s chief public health officer advised people in Ontario and Quebec that the “most sensible” thing to do would be to “keep to your family, immediate social circle now.”

“This is not the time to sort of be complacent about anything,” she said.

‘It is foundational to Canada that everyone has access to health care’

At a press conference on Monday, the prime minister revealed he will be speaking with Minister of Health Patty Hajdu about private clinics offering COVID-19 testing.

“It is foundational to Canada that everyone has access to health care,” Trudeau said. “I have seen these reports on private clinics and testing, and I will be speaking with the health minister later today to ensure follow up on this.”

He also commented on Toronto scaling back its contact tracing. The prime minister stressed that contact tracing is “extremely effective” but recognized that it must be conducted in a timely manner.

“Once you start getting to backlogs, apparently it becomes more difficult to have contact tracing be as effective,” Trudeau said.

Dr. Tam recognized that some local public health units in Canada are feeling “really tired” and stressed that “public health capacity is not limitless.”

“Speed is of the essence,” she said. “The faster you reduce this acceleration the sooner you will actually come out of it.”

“Decisions will have to be made pretty rapidly.”

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