COVID-19 in Canada on Sept. 28, 2020: Ontario premier issues stern warning on second 'wave or tsunami,' Quebec enters red alert

COVID-19 In Canada
COVID-19 In Canada

Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches move into the red alert level

Quebec Premier François Legault announced Monday that the regions of Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches are moving into the red alert level, the most critical alert level in the province.

From Oct. 2 to Oct. 28, only people living at the same address can be inside a home at the same time, with an exception for a single caregiver.

Dining rooms in restaurants will be closed, but take-out services will be allowed, and other public spaces like bars, theatres, casinos and cinemas must shut down operations.

Places of worship can operate with a maximum of 25 people. Everyone must stay two metres apart outside and they must where a mask when that is not possible.

“We also need to reduce our contacts everywhere in Quebec,” Legault said. “We cannot wait for the red alert.”

“The number of cases is rising, if we don’t want our hospitals to be submerged, if we want to limit the number of deaths we must act strongly right now.”

Ontario could see thousands of COVID-19 cases a day in second wave

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, explained that there are two models for the future of the province’s second wave, one that would lead to thousands of new cases a day.

The “most concerning” model is the “penultimate or the tsunami-type wave” where there is rapid exponential growth in cases that impacts the whole province.

“We would be up and having anywhere from three to four to five thousand new cases a day,” Dr. Williams said at a press conference on Monday.

The second model is identified by “undulating waves” and would continue into 2021, but modellers have not identified how big each of these shorter waves would be.

“This is a wakeup call for us, we have to pay attention to this in a serious way,” the Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said.

Dr. Williams added that considerations are still being brought forward to the public health measures table related to moving all of Ontario, or certain areas of the province, back to Stage 2 of Ontario’s reopening plan. He added that the core difference between the COVID-19 situation now and when restrictions were initially put in is that virus was all over the province, instead of mainly being identified in more urban areas of Ontario. Dr. Williams confirmed that some of the recommendations being put forward are “pan-Ontario” measures and restrictions.

The province’s chief medical officer of health asked the public to be cautious about who they interact with, particularly individuals who are not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously.

“We’re getting some people out there who are basically saying, we don’t really care about the rules and we’re going to be cavalier about it,” Dr. Williams explained. “I would avoid contact with those people...because you have no idea, and they have no idea, if they’ve been exposed or not at this stage.”

“It’s like running a marathon race...we think we’re well in the lead and we’re just sort of slacking off. You have to pick up the pace again and sometimes that’s harder to do.”

Ontario officially in the second wave of COVID-19

At a press conference on Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and health officials have confirmed that the province is in the second wave of COVID-19.

“We know that this wave will be more complicated, more complex, it will be worse than the first wave we faced earlier this year,” Ford said. “Please follow the health guidance, please download the COVID Alert app, please get your flu shot this year, it’s absolutely critical.”

“If we can get everyone to take these simple steps, we can tip the scale, we can avoid the worst.”

The premier went on to say that the actions people in the province make now will impact whether Ontario faces “a wave or a tsunami.”

“This is extremely, extremely serious,” Ford said. “Everything is on the table.”

‘The question is, which type of second wave is it?’

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the command table is looking at various metrics and data points to determine the severity of this second wave, including hospitalizations, ICU cases, cases in long-term care settings, outbreaks, lab testing capacity, percent positivity and case contact management.

“The question is, which type of second wave is it?” Dr. Williams said. “Right now we [are] in a second wave that looks like one of those undulating waves, how big it is we don’t know yet.”

“It’s not like the tsunami-type second wave but we’re watching to much will it have impacts on our systems.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health confirmed the virus is mutating but it is still unclear if that has weakened the virus at all.

At this point, the provincial government is not reinstating any additional restrictions but Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott stressed that the advice of the chief medical officer will be taken on any future business closures or stricter lockdown measures.

‘700 new cases is shocking’

Ontario Liberal Party Leader, Steven Del Duca, has called on the provincial Conservative government to add restrictions as case numbers continue to rise.

“700 new cases is shocking. Wave 2 has hit Ontario and Doug Ford has no plan,” the statement reads. “It’s time to listen to the health experts and take a regional approach to closing bars, restricting indoor dining and taking a hard look at non-essential gatherings.”

“Ontarians are more concerned about keeping their parents and grandparents safe from Wave 2 than they are about opening up bars and casinos. Ontario’s hospitals are spot on, we need new restrictions on weddings, restaurants and bars, gyms, non-essential business and places of worship.”

The Ontario government also announced Monday that $52.5 million will be invested to “recruit, retain and support” 3,700 more frontline health care workers and caregivers to prepare for increased demand on the province’s healthcare system.

“Today's significant investment will allow us to recruit, retain, and quickly deploy a militia of health care heroes, caregivers, and volunteer professionals to care for our seniors and most vulnerable and ensure our health care system is prepared to deal with any outbreaks or surges in cases,” Ford said in a statement.

Alberta’s top doctor explains why a herd immunity approach to COVID-19 won’t work

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, made her Monday update from home after coming down with a sore throat on Friday. She tested negative for COVID-19 over the weekend but will remain at home until her symptoms subside.

“I don’t want to pass on whatever it is I have to others, so I’m working from home until my symptoms resolve,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health spoke about the concept of herd immunity, which is a situation where enough people in a population have immunity to prevent an infection from spreading widely. Dr. Hinshaw said that for COVID-19, it has been estimated that 50 to 70 per cent of a population needs to be immune to have herd immunity, while serology tests in Canada estimate that only one per cent or less have been infected with the virus.

“What I have heard sometimes suggested for COVID-19 is that because younger people are generally at low risk of experiencing severe outcomes, we should protect older Albertans but otherwise let the virus spread as quickly and freely as possible, so that we can build up a collective immunity to it,” she explained. “This suggestion, however, does not take into account the drawbacks of this approach.”

“COVID-19 is able to spread rapidly and we are all interconnected. Adopting a herd immunity approach would have a serious and deadly impact on many people in the population...The more community transmission that we see, the greater the risk of it spreading to older and at-risk Albertans.”

Dr. Hinshaw added that we still don’t know enough about long-lasting immunity to COVID-19 so something like a herd immunity approach “could be for nothing.”

Alberta’s top doctor also said guidance on Halloween is coming but the recommendations to health officials, and included in the guidance, include things like a “candy shoot or candy slide.”

“Making some kind of a device that the person who’s giving out candy can put at the top of the slide and the child can have their bag at the bottom, so there’s a distance between them, but the candy can still be provided,” Dr. Hinshaw explained.

B.C.’s provincial health officer reveals the scenario where a whole school would have to close

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, confirmed that contact tracing has shown that the main source of COVID-19 transmission in the province continues to be through social gatherings, either in a private home or a “less controlled setting.”

“We know that important ceremonies, important events like weddings, birthdays, funerals...have been driving this in the last few weeks,” Dr. Henry said. “What this means is that through the choices we make, we can control the course of the pandemic as we’re moving into the fall.”

With regards to schools, B.C.’s provincial health officer said the only scenario she could see where a whole school would have to be closed is if “too many of the teachers or staff had been exposed to each other or become sick and the school couldn’t operate safely.”

The province is also expected to provide additional guidance on school sports, limiting games among teams in one region. Dr. Henry said some sports, like wrestling in particular, won’t be able to resume this fall.

Groups are ‘the biggest risk,’ Manitoba’s top doctor says

The Manitoba government is asking the public to limit their close contacts, and avoid crowded spaces.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief medical officer of health, stressed at a press conference on Monday that gatherings are particularly important considerations for COVID-19 transmission.

“Group sizes, period, will form an important risk factor and they always have for this,” Dr. Roussin said. “Our interventions will almost always include group sizes because we know that’s the biggest risk.”

He went on to say that additional restrictions for bars and restaurants are being considered and it is “very likely” that more interventions for these settings will be implemented. Dr. Roussin gave the examples of limiting loud music so people don’t have to speak as loudly and reducing hours of operation because public health orders are not followed as closely in the later hours of the day.

Manitoba’s chief medical officer of health also teased that guidance on Halloween will be presented in the coming weeks and stressed that measures will have to be put in place to limit contacts during these activities.

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