Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday called the need to stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19 a “duty” for Canadians — but with case numbers on the rise, health systems are trying to free up space ahead of an expected surge of coronavirus patients.
The prime minister outlined some of the public health and financial measures the government is taking to try and clamp down on the virus and support people struggling with the financial fallout of the pandemic. But he said the government alone can’t win the fight.
“We must fulfil our collective responsibility to each other. Listening to public health rules is your duty.”
Global numbers of recorded coronavirus cases are approaching one million, according to a database maintained by a U.S. university, with almost 10,000 of those reported cases in Canada.
Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University has been tracking the recorded cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by a novel coronavirus that first emerged in China. The database, which shows a worldwide total of more than 940,000 cases, draws data from a range of sources including the World Health Organization, national and regional health agencies and media reports, but experts say the real spread of the virus is likely wider than suggested by recorded cases.
The real figures are believed to be much higher because of testing shortages, differences in counting the dead and large numbers of mild cases that have gone unreported. Critics say some governments have been deliberately under-reporting cases in order to avoid public criticism.
In Canada, provinces and territories are implementing ever-tighter public health measures and restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the disease, as well as planning ahead for an expected surge in hospitalizations.
In Alberta, health officials have delayed surgeries, expanded ERs and made moves to allow Alberta Health Services to free up beds for an expected increase in COVID-19 patients. Premier Jason Kenney said this week that things “will get worse before they get better,” but also said the province’s health system has the equipment and staff needed to cope with the outbreak.
Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont., is installing a temporary 93-bed structure on its grounds to help prepare for an uptick in cases. The hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Ian Preyra, says the pandemic response unit will allow the hospital to keep its critical-care and high-acuity beds for the sickest patients.
In Sudbury Ont., Health Sciences North recently admitted its first COVID-19 patient. The hospital had already cancelled elective surgeries and is making moves to free up beds.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says COVID-19 presents a “serious” health risk in Canada, noting that though risk varies in different communities, the risk to Canadians is “high.” The federal public health agency, which has been monitoring the situation and evolving research around the novel coronavirus, said in its public page on risk: “If we do not flatten the epidemic curve now, the increase of COVID-19 cases could impact health-care resources available to Canadians.”
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Wednesday that on the public health side, officials are working to try and flatten the curve and slow the spread of infection through measures like physical distancing and urging proper hygiene. At the same time, she said, the health-care system is working to quickly ramp up capacity ahead of an expected surge of COVID-19 patients.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
As of 6 a.m. ET Thursday, provinces and territories had reported 9,731 confirmed and presumptive cases, with 129 deaths. The provinces and territories that provide data on the cases considered resolved listed 1,739 cases as recovered.
Public health officials have cautioned that the numbers likely don’t capture the full scope of the outbreak because they don’t include people who haven’t been tested and potential cases still under investigation. Get a deeper look at what’s happening in your area through the CBC case tracker.
British Columbia is offering some relief to customers on hydro bills, including credits for residential customers who have lost income and assistance for affected businesses. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta reported two more COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday as reported case numbers rose to 871. “The hard truth is that things will get worse before they get better,” said Premier Jason Kenney. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
“We still have a long way to go.” That’s the word from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who said it’s too early to tell when the province will hit its COVID-19 peak. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Health officials are seeing early signs of community transmission of COVID-19 in Manitoba’s largest city. Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said health officials haven’t been able to pinpoint a source of transmission for four or five cases in Winnipeg. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Roughly 1 in 10 reported COVID-19 cases in Ontario are health-care workers. Data published by the provincial Ministry of Health after an inquiry by CBC Toronto indicates that health-care workers account for 229 of the province’s 2,392 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec’s premier reminded people to stay away from seniors’ homes during the pandemic, saying it’s a matter of “life or death” for the vulnerable population. François Legault, who had warned of a looming shortage in critical gear, said Wednesday that the province had received shipments that were expected to last through the week. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick’s premier said the province’s state of emergency has been extended for another two weeks. Blaine Higgs said his province will also put up barriers where needed to discourage people from congregating in public spaces. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
The top doctor in Nova Scotia is reminding people to stick close to home. Dr. Robert Strang said people shouldn’t be focused on how to get back to their regular activities, but should instead look to “minimize our interaction with others to protect each other.” Read more about what’s happening in N.S, including the story of YMCA workers checking in on local seniors.
WATCH | N.S. couple talks about self-isolating after travel:
Prince Edward Island is stepping up screening at the Confederation Bridge. “Don’t come if it’s not essential. You are going to be turned away,” said Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Steven Myers. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador is offering funding to help essential workers with child care. Premier Dwight Ball said the program will allow families “to avail of an alternate arrangement in a safe, regulated environment with guidance from public health.” Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
Yukon has reported a sixth case of COVID-19, but says so far three people have recovered. In the Northwest Territories, the public health emergency has been extended. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
WATCH | Canadians prepare for an extended period of isolation:
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
From The Associated Press, updated at 6 a.m. ET
From New York to Los Angeles, U.S. officials are warning that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is ahead.
New York state’s coronavirus death toll doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already complained that U.S. states are competing against each other for protective gear and breathing machines, or being outbid by the federal government.
President Donald Trump acknowledged that the federal stockpile of personal protective equipment used by doctors and nurses is nearly depleted.
“We’re going to have a couple of weeks, starting pretty much now, but especially a few days from now, that are going to be horrific,” he said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said even a “tucked-in bandana” could slow the spread of the virus and reminded people to keep their distance.
“I know it will look surreal,” he said, donning a mask. “We’re going to have to get used to seeing each other like this.”
As hot spots flared in New Orleans and Southern California, the nation’s biggest city, New York, was the hardest hit of them all, with bodies loaded onto refrigerated morgue trucks by forklifts outside overwhelmed hospitals.
“It’s like a battlefield behind your home,” said 33-year-old Emma Sorza, who could hear the sirens from the swamped Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
Cuomo said projections suggest the crisis in New York will peak at the end of April, with a high death rate continuing through July.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in hard-hit Italy, Spain and parts of Europe
From The Associated Press, updated at 6:30 a.m. ET
The head of the World Health Organization’s office in Europe says figures show that more than 95 per cent of people who have died of coronavirus on the continent have been aged over 60. But Dr. Hans Kluge said age is not the only risk factor for severe disease, noting: “The very notion that COVID-19 only affects older people is factually wrong.”
In an online news conference Thursday in Copenhagen, Kluge said “young people are not invincible” — echoing similar recent comments from WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The UN health agency says 10 per cent to 15 per cent of people under 50 with the disease have moderate or severe infection.
“Severe cases of the disease have been seen in people in their teens or 20s with many requiring intensive care and some unfortunately passing away,” Kluge said.
WATCH | How young people may be fuelling the spread of COVID-19:
He said recent statistics showed 30,098 people have been reported to have died in Europe, mostly in Italy, France and Spain.
“We know that over 95 per cent of these deaths occurred in those older than 60 years,” he said, with more than half aged over 80. Kluge said more than four in five of those people had at least one other chronic underlying condition, like cardiovascular disease, hypertension or diabetes.
“On a positive note, there are reports of people over the age of 100 who were admitted to hospital for COVID-19 and have now — since — made a complete recovery,” he said.
Spain hit a new record Thursday in virus-related fatalities with 950 deaths in 24 hours, which came as the country is seeing the growth of contagion waning, health ministry data showed. The total number of deaths by Thursday was 10,003.
New coronavirus infections rose by nearly eight per cent overnight to 110,238, placing Spain neck and neck with Italy, the country that has had the worst outbreak in Europe. Health authorities have been saying that the pace of contagion has dropped from a daily average of 20 per cent until March 25 to less than 12 per cent after that date, more than 10 days after Spaniards were ordered to stay at home. The government has acknowledged that the real number of infections could be much higher because Spain only has the capacity to do between 15,000 and 20,000 tests per day.
Italy will extend lockdown restrictions to April 13, as data from this week suggests a slowdown of growth in total cases, though its national health institute says the official death toll could be underestimated.
Confirmed cases in Germany have risen to 73,522, while 872 people have died of the disease. Cases rose by 6,156, compared with the previous day, and the death toll climbed by 140.
France became the fourth country to pass the threshold of 4,000 coronavirus deaths. Britain said it would ramp up the number of tests amid widespread criticism that it was doing far too few.
And in the Netherlands, measures to limit the outbreak appear to have halved the rate of infection but need to be continued to be really effective, a top health official said.