Tam reveals fear about keeping COVID-19 under control, Canada-U.S. land border to remain closed

Tam reveals fear about keeping COVID-19 under control, Canada-U.S. land border to remain closed

  • September 18, 2020
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As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread around the world, Canadians seem to be increasingly concerned about their health and safety.

Currently, there are more than 6,771 active cases of COVID-19 in Canada (with more than 134,900 diagnoses so far) and 9,100 deaths. Nearly 90 per cent of the country’s reported COVID-19 cases have recovered.

Check back for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in Canada.

For a full archive of the first month of the pandemic, please check our archive of events.

September 18

‘…We could lose the ability to keep COVID-19 cases at a manageable level’

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, urged everyone across the country to continue to following the public health measures that have proven to control the spread of COVID-19, including physical distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing a mask.

“The ongoing increase in the national daily case counts is an indicator of accelerated epidemic growth,” Dr. Tam said. “This situation increases the likelihood that we could lose the ability to keep COVID-19 cases at a manageable level.”

When asked if Canada is in a “second wave” of the pandemic, deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said that’s a difficult determination to make on a national level.

“The situation does differ from one area of the country to another,” he said. “Certainly in the four biggest provinces…the case numbers have been going steadily up, increasing for quite a number of weeks and certainly that’s concerning.”

Dr. Tam also spoke about the stigma associated with COVID-19, stressing that someone who tests positive for the virus should be “commended” for going to get tested.

“Yes, there has been stigmatization of racialized populations and different ethnic groups,” she said. “What I will urge everyone to remember is that we do know that there’s differential impact and health equity impacts in certain racialized, ethnic and socially economically disadvantaged populations.”

“It’s because many of these groups are our essential service workers, our personal support workers, people who must continue to work and they may have higher risk of exposure, they may be living in congregate living settings….and there’s access to care issues as well.”

Premiers call for $28 billion in federal healthcare funding

Premiers of Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec held a joint press conference on Friday to call for $28 billion in federal healthcare funding, ahead of the government’s throne speech next week.

“Number one concern is healthcare right now,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.

He said collectively, provinces and territories are spending $188 billion a year on healthcare and about 20 per cent comes from the federal government.

“As the demand is increasing, the support from the federal government has been going down,” Ford said, identifying this has been happening for “decades.”

“Without healthcare, we have nothing,” he said. “Support all Canadians, be a true partner when it comes to healthcare. We’re in desperate need of your support.”

The premier went on to stress that healthcare is a provincial issue but more money is required to deliver the service in the best way for each local jurisdiction.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney sent a message specifically to Albertans who may feel “isolated” from the rest of the country.

“I know many of us feel isolated, sometimes like the rest of the country doesn’t hear us, doesn’t care about the real human plight of what is happening in our province,” he said. “But I want you to know that the other provinces and territories from coast to coast have our back, understand the role that we have played at national builders, and are calling on the national government to do the same.” 

Canada extends border restrictions

Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced Canada will be extending its travel restrictions with the U.S.

The existing regulations, which prohibit non-essential travel, will be in place until Oct. 21.

“We will continue to base our decisions on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe,” Blair said in a tweet on Friday morning.

September 17

New COVID-19 test collection method for B.C. students

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, announced a new, less invasive COVID-19 test collection option is available for K-12 students in the province, conducted by gargling a solution.

“This is a new saline gargle where you put a little bit of normal saline, sterile water in your mouth,” Dr. Henry explained. “You swish it around a little bit and you spit it into a little tube.”

This “made in B.C.” testing collection method doesn’t have to be done by a healthcare provider. The sample is then tested at a laboratory.

Dr. Henry went on to stress that people in B.C. should limit their group of close contacts to only six people. She also reinforced the importance of following physical distancing rules.

“Whether it’s inside or outside, maintaining safe distances is important,” Dr. Henry said. “Just because you can fit 50 people into your small back garden does not make it safe and that’s where we’re seeing transmission.”

More target testing in Alberta

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, announced a more targeted approach to testing in the province as influenza season approaches.

Asymptomatic testing will be reserved for those who are most likely to identify as a positive case. This includes individuals who are most at risk of spreading COVID-19 to vulnerable or at risk populations, including residents and staff in congregate settings, healthcare workers, school staff and Albertans experiencing homelessness. Asymptomatic testing is no longer available for those who don’t have any possible COVID-19 symptoms or no known exposure.

“This is the best way to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of Albertans during the winter and flu season,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health also commented on Ontario’s changes to the province’s gathering rules. She said the province is looking closely at trends in cases to spot particular transmission issues but stressed that private social gatherings are “challenging” to restrict.

“We don’t need formal restrictions to limit community spread,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “We all have the power to make sure that everything that we do contributes to lower COVID transmission.”

Ontario lowers gathering limits for Toronto, Ottawa and Peel

The Ontario government has announced changes to gathering limits in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa that come with significant fines for both hosts and attendees.

Beginning on Sept. 18, unmonitored, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, down from the previous 50, and outdoor events are capped at 25 people, opposed to the previous 100 person limit.

Hosts of these events will face a minimum fine of $10,000 and attendees will see fines of $750.

This does not extend to organized events at staffed businesses like banquet halls, gyms, restaurants, movie theatres or convention centres.

“This is frustrating for all Ontarians when you have these people who just recklessly ignore the regulations and guidelines that the chief medicals officers put out there,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference on Thursday. “They must be a few fries short of a Happy Meal these people because I don’t get it…they just blatantly ignore it.”

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said although these new rules only apply to three regions, he’s not ruling out the possibility of extending these limits to other areas of the province.

When asked about the difference between these gatherings and schools, where exceedingly more people will be in the same space, Ford said it’s an “apples and oranges” comparison because in schools there are measures in place to eliminate transmission, including cohorts, nurses on hand and teachers supervising.

He said this is no comparison to a “wild party” in someone’s backyard where people are “drinking, hugging, kissing, spitting, every other thing they could possibly think of, not paying attention to the rules.”

The province also announced introduced legislation to freeze rent in 2021 for most rent-controlled and non-rent-controlled residential units. The Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act also proposes to change the Commercial Tenancies Act to extend the ban on evictions for commercial tenants.

“The crisis is far from over and the threat of a second wave is real, as are the challenges it will bring,” Ford said in a statement. “That’s why we need to take the necessary steps now to help families keep a roof over their heads and small businesses keep their doors open.”

September 16

‘Severe fines’ coming for Ontarians breaking social gathering rules

Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s coordinator of the provincial outbreak response, said it is “very disappointing” and “distressing” that the number of COVID-19 cases in the province is increasing.

He said Ontario needs to tackle outbreaks in the province and provided guidance for people planning or attending gatherings.

“When you’re having other people over, you’re sharing their social group as well,” Dr. Huyer said at a press conference on Wednesday.

He went on to say that masks should be worn when coming within a safe physical distance of others and proper hand hygiene is also important, particularly when touching any shared surfaces. If someone becomes symptomatic, they need to make sure they are not going out and interacting with others.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said “severe fines” are coming for anyone in the province who breaks social gathering rules, under provincial jurisdiction, the “highest in the country,” Ford promised.

The Ontario government also launched a voluntary interactive screening tool to help parents, students and school staff monitor and assess possible COVID-19 symptoms.

“We are doing everything we can to keep students and staff safe, and that includes this new screening tool which will help people protect themselves and others from COVID-19,” Ford said in a statement.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to screen themselves or their child for symptoms before going to school. If you’re sick or someone in your household is sick, even with mild symptoms, please stay home.”

‘Canadians must stay strong and vigilant’

At the conclusion of three days of federal cabinet meetings, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged people in country to continue to follow the public health rules in place.

“Canadians must stay strong and vigilant,” Trudeau said.

“We need to rebuild the economy while keeping Canadians safe. These two goal are not mutually exclusive, they go together.”

The prime minister went on to tease next week’s anticipated throne speech, saying it will close the gaps in our “social safety net” and support vulnerable Canadians.

“It is going to be an important moment, setting a course for our country that is going to focus on keeping ourselves safe but also getting through this challenge even better than before,” the prime minister said.

September 15

‘The acceleration in cases in several regions is a cause for concern’

At a press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, expressed her concern about the increase in cases in several areas of the country, particularly related to private gatherings and community events held indoors.

“The acceleration in cases in several regions is a cause for concern,” Dr. Tam said. “We must all act now to pump the breaks, so to speak, on this acceleration.”

Canada’s chief public health officer said anyone planning a gathering should stick to their established bubble of close contacts. For anyone who wants to move forward with a gathering that will include people from outside their bubble, they should evaluate if anyone attending or in their household is at a high risk of critical illness due to COVID-19. If so, the event may not be appropriate.

Dr. Tam went on to say the next best thing a gathering host can do is hold the event outdoors, physically distanced, and ask guests to wear a mask. They should also ensure there is access to soap and water, or hand sanitizer, and frequently clean common surfaces.

“Our traditional gatherings may look different this fall but I know that hosts will feel better knowing that they did everything they could to reduce the risk of their event becoming another outbreak,” she said.

Canada’s chief public health officer went on to confirm that anyone anyone who has been in contact with a known COVID-19 case should quarantine for a period of 14 days. She added that people who are tested as part of an outbreak setting, like a long-term care home, a negative test “doesn’t mean that you will get out of the quarantine period” because that test is just a result at that particular moment in time.

‘Call of solidarity’ in Quebec

Quebec Premier Francois Legault had a message for all people in Quebec as a “call for solidarity” on Tuesday, while COVID-19 cases continue to be identified in the province.

“The problem we have is mainly community transmission between friends and families,” Legault said. “If the virus continues to spread people will be hospitalized, some people will die.”

“I’m worried also for people who need to be treated, I’m worried for our children, we cannot close our schools. I’m also worried for our businesses for our workers. The situation is worrying and we must act now.”

The premier also spoke about Montreal in particular, saying that on a per 100,000 residents basis, the city is “doing better than many other regions.” Legault indicated the explanation may be that people in the city were more impacted in the spring and are “more careful” because they don’t want to see that situation again.

‘The best case scenario for a COVID-19 vaccine is certainly in 2021’

Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer of P.E.I., stressed people in the province need to continue to follow the public health rules in place because COVID-19 will be with us for a long time.

“We now know that COVID-19 is here for the long-term and really until such time as there is an effective and accessible vaccine or treatment,” Dr. Morrison said. “The best case scenario for a COVID-19 vaccine is certainly in 2021.”

The chief public health officer added that she believes “COVID fatigue” has contributed to people not following the isolation rules in place.

“Many people no longer see the value or need to self-isolate and instead want to skip self-isolation or do it for less time,” she said. “But people who choose not to self-isolate are putting themselves, their families and our community at risk.”

When asked about the likelihood that trick-or-treating will be allowed for Halloween, Dr. Morrison said the discussions are still ongoing but “Halloween may look a little different.”

Ontario officials tease announcement related to COVID-19 ‘hot spots’

The Ontario government announced it is investing $2.5 million through the Ontario Together Fund in Linamar Corp., located in Guelph, Ont. The company is retooling its assembly line to manufacture ventilator components to produce 10,000 Ontario-made e700 ventilators, in partnership with O-Two Medical Technologies.

“Ontario is the workshop of Canada, and it’s the creativity and ingenuity of enterprising companies like Linamar and O-Two that will make Ontario-made medical equipment known for quality and excellence across the country and around the world,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “By building homegrown capacity to make ventilators, we will never again have to rely on any other country for this critical piece of lifesaving medical equipment.”

When asked about the previously announced move by the provincial government to pursue COVID-19 testing at pharmacies, as a way to prevent long lines at assessment centres, the premier said this is still something in the works.

He went on to tease that there will be announcement related to the three “hot spots” for COVID-19 spread, Toronto, Ottawa and Peel, coming soon.

“I just ask the small percentage, the one or two percent who are having these parties in the backyard, guys we just can’t do it,” Ford said.

Canada’s health minister says ‘massive shutdown’ for Canada is ‘very difficult’

Following first day of the federal cabinet’s two-day meeting, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu commented on Canada’s preparedness for a second wave of COVID-19.

“We are living with COVID and we’re in that stage now where we’re learning as society to live with COVID,” Hajdu said.

The health minister revealed multiple second wave scenarios have been discussed, a “slow burn” where there are small “peaks and valleys” or a “very severe fall surge.”

“There is always a possibility that the numbers could grow exponentially,” she said. “This is a sneaky virus, it can easily infiltrate communities, households and we have to take it seriously, we cannot let up.”

Hajdu went on to use Ontario as an example, highlighting that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the province isn’t widespread and it may not be the most effective method to have broad closures when there are regions that haven’t been impacted at all, or not to the same extent as more populous areas like Toronto, Ottawa and Peel.

“I think we are in a stage where we have to work very closely with the provinces and territories to have a much more surgical approach,” she said. “I think a massive shutdown for a province or for the country, it’s very difficult.”

“It’s difficult on Canadians, it’s difficult on their mental health, it’s difficult on their economic health, it’s difficult on the economy of Canada.”

September 14

Wildfire smoke or COVID-19?

As wildfire smoke pushes through B.C. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, admitted at a press conference on Monday it may be difficult for people in the region to differentiate between COVID-19 and the impacts of the air quality.

She said dry cough, runny eyes and irritation can be associated with both smoke and COVID-19. Fever, chills and aches are likely not from smoke.

Dr. Henry also spoke about transmission of COVID-19 in outdoor spaces. She said droplets can disperse quickly outside so it’s unlikely for someone to inhale enough of the virus in a “walk-by transmission event.”

Dr. Henry said known spread in the province from outdoor events was when people were close for an extended period of time.

She went on to stress that an “anti-racist” and supportive approach should be taken to COVID-19 with concerns about the stigma associated with people who may become infected.

Alberta’s top doctor warns of possible rise in cases this fall

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, tried to provide some guidance to people in the province concerned about a second wave of COVID-19 in Alberta.

Dr. Hinshaw said at a press conference on Monday that the province may see a rise in cases in the fall but “what this looks like is up to us.”

She said the increase could be a sharp spike in cases or it could be “ripples,” where cases rise, level off and fall.

“Our dedication cannot waver,” she said, stressing that as winter approaches people will spend more time indoors, so keeping community transmission low is particularly important.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said it’s important to balance COVID-19 risks with people’s ability to work, socialize and exercise for support one’s overall health.

‘Lack of understanding’ of social gathering rules in Ontario

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said there has been “some lack of understanding” when it comes to the social gathering rules in the province.

“We have said that you can have a gathering of up to [50 people inside], that doesn’t mean you can walk around and get close to them and not wear a mask,” Dr. Yaffe said. “That means you can be in a room with that many people but if they’re not in your social circle, you have to wear a mask if you’re going to get close to them.”

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, echoed that sentiment saying that people are assuming social gatherings and social circles are the same but they are very different. He added that the size of the location of an indoor gathering, and the clearing resources and procedures in place, also need to be considered.

With regards to the possibility of adding lockdown measures, Dr. Yaffe said she thinks a regional approach makes sense at this point with almost 80 per cent of cases being from three public health units.

‘The second wave is going to be more complicated’

Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic “is coming” and stressed how important it is for everyone in the province to follow all the public health rules and hygiene practices.

“I think it’s fair to say that the second wave is going to be more complicated and more difficult to deal with than the first wave because we also have flu season approaching, in addition to COVID-19,” Elliott said. 

“We also have a reduced capacity in our hospital because we have a number of people who were in long-term care homes but because they’ve had to half their capacity for infection prevention and control, they’re back in hospital, and we’re also working on the thousands of surgeries and other medical procedures that were postponed due to the first wave.”

The deputy premier and health minister said people should not go to large gatherings or be in large groups where people are not following hygiene measures “because that’s what’s causing COVID-19 to spread.” She added that Ontario’s fall preparedness plan will be coming “in short ordering.”

Elliott and Ontario Premier Doug Ford would not specify the exact mark the province will have to hit for restriction to be put in place, with over 300 cases reported in the province on Monday, but they said there would be a number of considerations, including the overall trend in case counts and community transmission.

“We will take every step necessary, including further shutdowns,” Ford said. “In the second wave of COVID-19, it’s a scenario that we have been preparing for all summer long.” 

Ford said any lockdown measures put in place would have to be executed on a regional basis, with most of the recent COVID-19 cases in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa, linked to social gatherings.

“I’m begging you, please, just cut out the social gatherings, it’s just not worth it,” the premier said. “It’s coming back to bite us.”

September 11

‘Now is the time to not be complacent’

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, defended the decision by the Canadian government to advise against non-essential travel in March, saying that the Level 3 alert was significant, including countries that hadn’t announced any cases yet, even though initial discussions of the virus began earlier in the year.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase across much of Canada, Dr. Tam said increasing restrictions will be dependant on the local epidemiology.

“The idea is to not let things get to a point where the activity is not manageable,” she said. “I do think we need to monitor not just the numbers everyday but the speed of acceleration, the reproduction number et cetera.”

Dr. Tam added that critical factors will be each region’s ability to detect and track cases, and whether the local public health capacity has been exceeded.

“I am concerned and so are other medical officers of health,” she said. “Now is the time to not be complacent…We do not want this to escalate further.” 

Deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, also spoke about Quebec’s recent karaoke ban in the province, confirming that singing and shouting are known higher-risk activities.

“I don’t think at this point you could consider that a safe activity,” Dr. Njoo said.

Trudeau confirms initial COVID-19 meeting in January

At a joint press conference with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that as of Jan. 2, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, convened a meeting with her counterparts across the country about the concerns around the virus.

He added that throughout the month meetings occurred and discussions about preparation were being had.

This comes after reports that U.S. President Donald Trump played down early warning signs of COVID-19 back in February.

Alberta changes guidance on singing, concerts

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, announced changes to the guidance around singing and music performances in the province.

Limited band practice, singing and wind instrument concerts can occur provided distancing, cleaning and other precautions are taken. Choirs can also resume in limited numbers with masking.

Dr. Hinshaw stressed that audience singing and group singing in faith settings are still discouraged, and dance floors are still not permitted because it is difficult to safely mitigate exposures in these settings.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health also stressed that COVID-19 can impact people differently. For example, some may get a fever as the body tries to fight off the virus while in others, the virus causes inflammation, which can lead to them feeling tired and achy. It can also lead to symptoms like pneumonia or trouble breathing.

“Once the virus is inside your body it can latch on to a cell inside your lungs,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “If enough virus latches on to cells and gets inside them, they take over those cells and make copies of themselves.”

“In most people, it will take about five to eight days before enough virus copies are made for symptoms to show.”

Dr.  Hinshaw advised the public to stay home if they are at all sick and get tested for COVID-19, but even if the test comes back negative they should stay home until they are feeling better, because the result could have been a false negative.

‘We’re not in a second wave but the trend is not good’

Quebec Premier Francois Legault warned people in the province that a second wave could be on the horizon if public health rules are not followed, as the daily case count soared past 200 on Friday.

“We’re not in a second wave but the trend is not good,” Legault said at a press conference. “And if the trend continues we may come to a second wave.”

The premier also spoke about COVID-19 spreading at private parties, which he admits is difficult to track but something he has also spoken to premier Doug Ford about, with Ontario seeing a similar trend.

“The best way is to try to convince the population to respect the directives,” he said. “Maybe we can eventually do something in houses but at this point, we’re not looking for that.”

“I’m asking the population, please look at the number of cases…it’s serious.”

September 9

Alberta to launch new map of COVID-19 cases in schools

At a press conference on Wednesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the province will be creating an online map so parents and guardians can see if there may be COVID-19 risks in schools in their community.

Schools will only be added to this map if there are two or more cases in a school setting within a 14-day period, acquired or transmitted in the school. Dr. Hinshaw said all 16 COVID-19 cases linked to 16 schools have not met that threshold at this point.

An example of a situation that would not be included in the map is if there is a family with two children at the same school. One child became him but was kept at home, not able to transmit the virus in the school, but the other became infected with COVID-19 while at home with their sibling.

Dr. Hinshaw also provided clarity on face coverings, stressing that medical face masks protect both the person wearing it and the person around them, which is different from non-medical face masks, like cloth masks.

“When you use non-medical face masks…it doesn’t have the same degree of protection [to] the person wearing it,” she said. “Although there is some emerging evidence that would indicate that wearing those kinds of face masks…may reduce the amount of infectious particles and potentially reduce the chances of having a severe illness.”

B.C. invest $1.6 billion in fall, winter COVID-19 planning

The B.C. government announced it is investing $1.6 billion in a fall/winter preparedness plan to strengthen the healthcare system to manage COVID-19 in the province.

“The actions we are taking today are a big step to help protect everyone in our province as we head into the fall, and in doing that, will also help lessen the impact the pandemic has had on our economy,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said in a statement. “We know people have stepped up to stop the spread, and right now we need good people to step forward to help deliver these life-saving initiatives.”

The plan includes hiring an estimated 7,000 healthcare workers in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities. Individuals will start in a healthcare support worker position and will receive training to become a healthcare assistant. The starting salary will be $20 per hour and particular consideration will be given to people who lost their job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The B.C. government will also have 45,000 Fluzone-High Dose immunizations available to residents of long-term care and assisted living facilities, with two million total flu vaccines available this year.

The province also plans to increase its testing capacity from approximately 10,000 to 20,000.

The province is also dedicating $42.3 million to develop a Hospital at Home program, where patients can get 24/7 care at home instead of being admitted to hospital. It will launch through the Victoria General Hospital initially.

At a press conference on Wednesday, health minister Adrian Mix presented four scenarios the provincial government is preparing for. The low COVID-19 scenario has few number of new daily COVID-19 cases and beds required in hospitals, approximately 25 in ICU and 57 in acute occupancy. The moderate scenario increases to 55 in ICU and 98 in acute care, the high scenario would see 108 in ICU and 201 in acute care. The top level, “High++” would see 214 in ICU and 400 in acute occupancy.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, urged everyone in the population to get the influenza vaccine this year.

She added that although cases seem to be rising, she believes Halloween can be celebrated this fall “but it will look different.” Some recommendations include being in small groups outside, celebrating with a small neighbourhood at the end of a driveway, or sharing prepackaged candies so children do not need to sort through a shared pile.

WE Charity ceases operations in Canada

The WE Charity announced Wednesday that the organization is closing its Canadian operations due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the Canada Student Service Grant sandal.

At this point, the U.K. and U.S. operations have not been impacted, neither is the ME to WE affiliate.

Ontario, Quebec premiers call on the federal government for more recurrent financing for health care

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Quebec Premier François Legault are calling on the federal government to provide more long-term health care funding by increasing the Canada Health Transfer (CHT).

This comes after both provinces caution the public about a possible second wave of COVID-19. Ford said the two provinces have been “on the frontlines” of the pandemic and the systems need to be strengthened for the fall and beyond.

Legault added that the federal government needs to “do its part” with recurrent financing, without conditions. He added that discussions need to occur with other provincial and territorial leaders, but a more specific figure they are looking for will be tabled “very shortly.”

The premiers also spoke about B.C.’s recent move to close nightclubs and stand-alone banquet halls, while also restricting liquor sales at bars, pubs and restaurants.

Ford said if any local public health units have concerns about these venues, or even the overall gathering limits in the province, they have the ability to add additional restrictions.

Legault indicated most of the recent cases in the province are not coming from bars but are stemming from private gatherings.

Trudeau asks Canadians to ‘be vigilant’ as the fall season approaches

At a press conference on Wednesday to announce the new $221 million program for Black entrepreneurs in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on Canadians to continue to follow the public health measures in place across the country.

“We are not out of the woods,” Trudeau said. “Canadians need to continue to be vigilant. Canadians need to continue to be careful.”

“The last thing that anyone wants is to have to once again shut down our economies and suspend our lives to try and counter a massive second wave.”

He called on the public to make the right choices to keep the country safe, including trying to not overwhelm Canada’s healthcare system.

September 8

B.C. imposes new restrictions in bars, nightclubs, banquet halls, restaurants and pubs

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, announced a new order to strengthen restrictions at bars, nightclubs, banquet halls, restaurants and pubs.

Effective Tuesday, all nightclubs and stand-alone banquet halls must close until further notice.

Liquor sales at all bars, pubs and restaurants must stop at 10 p.m. and all venues must close at 11 p.m. If these establishments have full meal service, that can continue beyond 11 p.m., but alcohol cannot be served.

Music or other background sounds in bars, lounges, pubs and restaurants, can be no louder than normal conversations, so patrons don’t have to talk loudly.

Dr. Henry said the province needs to “find the balance” to get through the next few months to a year.

“I use orders as a last resort,” she said. “We do it for things where we know that it will make a difference, where we’ve seen transmission events.”

Dr. Henry also recommended people consider pulling back on the size of their social bubbles, similar to the six people allowed earlier in the year or in restaurants.

When asked if she has concerns about the number of private parities increasing as a result of the new restrictions at bars and nightclubs, Dr. Henry recognized this as an ongoing concern.

“We do know that there has been a move towards private parties,” the provincial health officer said. “It is trying to appeal to people’s better nature but then taking away some of the temptations that have been repeated offenders, in terms of venues where people continue to go.”

Dr. Henry went on to say that she does feel restaurants are “really safe,” for the most part, and are doing a “super job” overall.

‘The reality is, we have to learn to live with COVID’

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said at a press conference on Tuesday that if school districts are able to provide a detailed plan on how physical distancing will be maintained in schools, existing masking rules can be relaxed.

Yesterday, Dr. Hinshaw approved a plan from the Fort Vermilion school division for six schools, which includes only one cohort being in a hallway at a time and staggering class transitions.

With 11 COVID-19 cases identified in 11 different schools in Alberta, the province’s chief medical officer of health stressed it’s important to differentiate between a student who was in a school when they were infectious and an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 but couldn’t have transmitted the virus in the school setting.

Dr. Hinshaw said when cases come up in schools, all students in a classroom are considered close contacts if they were in the shared space.

“The reality is, we have to learn to live with COVID,” she said, adding that students and parents also need to ensure that public health measures are followed outside of school settings.

‘It is just so important to remain vigilant’

At a press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, provided additional details on the province’s “pause” in loosening any restrictions for four weeks.

She revealed some of the measures that were under consideration were increasing the number of people who could play in a sports league, loosening rules around spectators at motor sports, opening steam rooms and saunas, and requests around casinos.

Dr. Yaffe also stressed that the gathering limit of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors includes the physical distancing requirement, unless you’re coming into contact with someone in your 10 person social circle.

“It is just so important to remain vigilant,” she said. “The virus is out there and we are seeing the numbers creeping up.”

Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health also highlighted that a number of recent cases have been linked to known outbreaks, including churches and weddings. She stressed that although some cases have been linked to schools, it’s important to identify that the virus was not acquired in the school setting in these cases.

Ontario premier concerned about ‘hot areas’ for COVID-19 spread

Deputy Premier of Ontario and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, said the province will be “taking a pause” from loosening any additional restrictions for four weeks.

“The latest trends in numbers have raised some concern, especially as we begin to reopen schools and post-secondary institutions,” Elliott said. “We did not take this decision lightly.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford identified three “hot areas” for COVID-19 spread: Brampton, Ottawa and Toronto.

Ford went on to say more severe punishments are required for people who are not following the COVID-19 rules in place, encouraging people to call the police if they see their neighbours hosting big parties and gatherings.

He added that more work needs to be done to ensure people are adhering to the 14-day quarantine requirement for travellers.

“We have to come down hard on people who are quarantining coming into our country,” Ford said. “It’s a privilege to come into Canada, it’s a privilege to be here in Ontario.

“If you aren’t sitting on your couch, we’re coming after you.” 

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, stressed that this is definitely not the time for people to be casual with the public health measures in place, particularly as students go back to school and respiratory virus season approaches.

Dr. Williams also urged people in Ontario to not host or attend large gatherings.

“If you do not know the people and their exposure, you can’t assume that it’s not a problem, it is probably a problem,” he said.

‘Critical’ two-week period ahead for Canada’s COVID-19 situation

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, indicated at a press conference on Tuesday that the next couple of weeks will be “critical” to see the impact back-to-school plans and the long weekend will have on transmission of COVID-19.

She stressed that the increase in the average daily case counts in “concerning” but “it is a reflection of what is happening in the community.” Over the past seven days, the average new cases per day is 545.

“The most difficult part…is the fact that there are private functions and family gatherings where we need to make sure that we support every person in this country to know what to do to minimize the risk,” Dr. Tam said.

When asked about the classification of COVID-19 as a respiratory disease, Canada’s chief public health officer said it is a respiratory virus because human-to-human transmission is most likely through respiratory droplets, but its impact is more widespread.

“Science is evolving in terms of how the virus, once it gets inside your body, can impact your health,” Dr. Tam said. “This virus seems to be able to have an impact on multiple systems in your body, including your cardiovascular system, including your inflammatory response, how your blood vessels may be inflamed, et cetera.”

On Tuesday, The Globe and Mail reported that Canada’s Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, has ordered an independent review of the pandemic early warning system, the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN). This comes after the outlet reported back in July that that the GPHIN system “went silent” in May 2019, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world.

Dr. Tam said Tuesday the system was “never closed” and continued to function, based on her personal knowledge.

“I don’t think there was ever a shut down of the system,” she said. “The review will look at what actually happened to those specific alerts as opposed to the regular daily reports and whether they would have reached…a broader audience.”

Dr. Tam said there was a question about if it is sufficient to sent out the daily report or if there should be an alert, which goes beyond the Canadians context.

Quebec implements a coloured tier system for COVID-19 in the province

The Quebec government has announced a four-tier regional alert and intervention system as the number of daily COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the province.

The green level is the vigilance tier, followed by the early warning yellow level. Orange is the moderate alert level and red is the maximum alert level.

Any movement between these levels will be based on three factors: the epidemiology in the region, the level of transmission and the capacity of the healthcare system.

Quebec’s health minister Christian Dubé said the level in each region will be reviewed each week by public health authorities and discussed on the municipal level as well.

Dubé stressed that COVID-19 is still a significant threat that is spreading within the community, but it is possible for the public to prevent a second wave of the virus by following the public health measures in place.

September 4

‘One metre does offer protection over no distancing’: Alberta’s Dr. Hinshaw weighs in on an adjusted precaution

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, revealed the province is looking at the evidence around different levels of distancing, primarily differentiating between a one-metre and two-metre distance for preventing COVID-19 transmission.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, suggested on Thursday that a one-metre is sufficient in a classroom setting or with people you interact with on an ongoing basis.

“One metre does offer protection over no distancing,” she said at a press conference on Friday. “Increasing the distance adds layers of protection. … We have to pick the number that we think serves the best purpose for the most people.

“We also know that depending on the circumstances, depending on the length of time someone is in the same space, depending on airflow, depending on how sick a person is … even two metres in some instances may not be sufficient.”

In shelters in Alberta in particular, two metres needs to be maintained among individuals who are moving around but a one-metre distance is fine between sleeping matts when individuals are sleeping.

In advance of the long weekend, Dr. Hinshaw urged people in the province to have fun but prioritize safety.

“Close contacts are the largest source of exposure,” she said.

For anyone planning on having a barbecue or small gathering, Dr. Hinshaw recommends that everyone bring their own food and use their own utensils.

Ontario premier defends the province’s top doctor after calls for his resignation

Earlier this week, Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), called for Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams to resign. She cited that the province needs preventative measures to be implemented faster and criticized his communication skills.

At a press conference on Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford responded to these calls for resignation, saying “it’s so easy to play armchair quarterback and criticize people.”

“I have all the confidence in the world in Dr. Williams,” Ford said. “They’ve been calling for Dr. Williams’ head since the beginning and I take personal offence [to] that.”

“Dr. Williams has worked around the clock, this man doesn’t sleep, he’s out there protecting the people.”

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the province, the Ontario premier said he’s “really concerned” about virus spread in the Peel region, primarily in Brampton.

“I gave the mayor three calls today…I need to talk to you, find out what’s happening out there,” Ford said. “Something is broken when you have three per cent of the population with 40 per cent of the cases.”

Just days away from the resumption of in-person learning in schools, it was reported that about one-third of Toronto elementary students will participate in remote education for the school year.

Ford maintains the provincial government has “thrown everything and the kitchen sink” at opening schools and apologized to students for the “fear mongering on TV” about going back to the classroom.

“I can assure you as premier, I will do everything in my absolute power to protect our kids and our children and our students in this province,” he said.

The questions Canadians should answer before going to an event or gathering

At a press conference on Friday Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, urged the public to ask themselves a series of questions about their risk factors before going to an event or gathering, particularly if they are indoors.

The recommended questions are as follows:

  • Are you at high risk of developing serious complications if you become infected or if you would have to self-isolate, would this seriously disrupt your upcoming plans, priorities and responsibilities?

  • Are there people at high risk of developing serious complications of COVID-19 in your household or in your contact bubble that you could unintentionally infect?

  • Has the host of an event made changes to the location to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19? This includes making it easy to maintain physical distance and requiring face masks.

  • Are you able to adjust your plans at the event or activity? For example, stepping away if it gets crowded, washing your hands or wearing a mask.

“You cannot hold big parties…it’s those kind of settings that have contributed to outbreaks, some of them pretty large,” Dr. Tam said, adding that “vacation behaviours” in advance of the Labour Day long weekend could result in many opportunities to escalate virus spread.

Canada’s chief public health officer urged everyone to keep their social network consistent and as the weather gets cooler, prepare indoor spaces to make it safer for close contacts. If someone is even very mildly symptomatic, they should stay away from others completely and consider getting tested for COVID-19.

To date, about 2.2 million Ontarians have downloaded the COVID Alert app, which Dr. Tam says is “not too bad” in terms of uptake but “we can definitely do better.”

She particularly recommends that younger people download the app because they have been more present in group settings. Dr. Tam highlighted that there has been a case in Ottawa identified as a result of the individuals getting an alert on the app.

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