Ontario health officials project up to 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases within weeks
Health authorities say that new daily cases of COVID-19 in Ontario could top 1,000 in the first half of October, as the province confirmed another 625 infections of the novel coronavirus. The stark new forecasting comes in updated modelling released Wednesday by the provincial government.
The number of new cases reported daily are doubling every 10 to 12 days, said Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. That means the province could see a “remarkably high surge” in coming weeks.
The growth in infections was initially limited primarily to the 20-39 age group, he said, but now cases are climbing in every age group. “Although we see a large amount of infections among younger people right now, this is likely starting to spill over into older age groups, which is where we see the most tragic and most challenging consequences for health and for the health-care system,” said Brown.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the modelling doesn’t take into account new rules introduced by the government in recent days, such as closing strip clubs and limiting hours of operation for bars and restaurants. Williams said residents must again strictly follow public health rules. “We need to pull up our socks,” he said. “We can impact the curve.”
The modelling also warns about the risks of increasing occupancy in hospital intensive care units, which Matthew Anderson, president and CEO of Ontario Health, said is just one measure of the virus’s impact on the health-care system. The province is trying to avoid ordering a total stop to most surgeries as was done earlier in the pandemic, creating a significant backlog. But normal hospital operations cannot be maintained if more than 350 patients are in ICUs across the province, the projections state. As of Wednesday, 35 people were being treated for COVID-19 in ICUs in different parts of Ontario.
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Health Canada approves rapid COVID testing device as Canada braces for caseload spikes
Health Canada regulators Wednesday approved the ID NOW rapid COVID-19 testing device for use in this country — a move that could result in millions more tests for communities across the country grappling with a surge in coronavirus cases. The Abbott Laboratories-backed point-of-care devices can be administered by trained professionals at places like pharmacies, walk-in clinics and doctors’ offices without the need for a laboratory to determine if someone is infected with the virus.
The approval comes only a day after the federal government announced that it would buy some 7.9 million ID NOW tests from the U.S.-based firm for distribution in Canada. The molecular devices can produce COVID results in 15 minutes. To date, the vast majority of tests have been done at public health clinics, with samples then sent to laboratories for analysis — a process that can take days.
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday that the purchase was designed to help the provinces and territories offer more testing options as some cities face hours-long lines at public health testing centres.
The United States Food and Drug Administration first issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Abbott for the ID NOW device in March — just one of 248 such authorizations the U.S. has issued for testing devices since the onset of the pandemic. Some researchers have said this Abbott device has led to false positives in a small number of cases. The FDA reissued a revised EUA on Sept. 18, saying that the test should be administered within the first seven days of the onset of symptoms.
O’Toole, Blanchet return to Commons after COVID-19 isolation
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet are back on Parliament Hill Wednesday after self-isolating for two weeks due to positive COVID-19 tests.
Blanchet said his personal experience should serve as a warning to everyone to take public health guidance seriously. “Some people go through it much more painfully than I did. I was very, very, very lucky. Some people die of that thing,” he told a news conference. “There is no absolute protection. There [are] only ways to reduce the probability of catching the thing and giving it to someone who might be more vulnerable to it.”
O’Toole will take his seat in the House of Commons on Wednesday for the first time since winning the Conservative leadership race, giving him his first opportunity to go head-to-head with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His wife, Rebecca, who also had tested positive, tweeted that it was a “big day” for him in his new role as leader of the Official Opposition.
Arriving on Parliament Hill, O’Toole said it felt great to be back. “There is a second wave, particularly here in Ontario, so please be well, social distance, download the app and be part of the solution,” he said.
Months after having their babies, some parents are still waiting to receive benefits from Canada’s employment insurance program, which has been overloaded during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s been a complete financial change and strain for us,” said Alanna Los of Brandon, Man., who had her second child July 1. “I’ve been literally on the phone every day almost for the past three months.”
Normally, people applying for parental benefits should expect to wait only about one month for their first payment, according to the federal government’s website. But with millions of Canadians unemployed or under-employed during the pandemic, strain on the employment insurance (EI) system is likely causing delays.
When Los posted about her issues on a Facebook group, several mothers shared similar stories, she said. “This is a system you’re supposed to be dependent on, but it’s not there for moms right now,” she said.
CBC News reached out to Service Canada, but the agency declined to answer questions about ongoing service delays. “The department understands the difficulties that any delay in benefit payments can cause to claimants and their families, and is working to address the issue as soon as possible,” spokesperson Marie-Eve Sigouin-Campeau said.
Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world.
Why the positivity rate — a key metric for charting COVID-19’s spread — is giving reason for hope in B.C.
A key COVID-19 statistic that you won’t hear about during B.C.’s daily health briefings could indicate residents are slowing transmission of the virus. The number of COVID-19 cases detected in a day divided by the number of tests completed that day gives what is called the positivity rate — a number that was as high as seven per cent in the early days of the pandemic, and less than one per cent for most of June.
The positivity rate can be determined when the daily testing numbers are reported. Over the last week, that number has declined consistently to below two per cent — a level not seen on a regular basis since early July.
“Per cent positive is something we watch,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “It’s one of those metrics that if it’s above five per cent … that tells us there’s transmission in the community that is concerning.”
Because testing in B.C. continues to go up — the average weekly number has doubled since early August — the daily number of new cases hasn’t been decreasing. In addition, the number of tests done a day vacillates wildly. That makes tracking “success” based on the number of daily new cases difficult — but experts say there have been encouraging signs in B.C.’s containment of the virus since nightclubs and banquet halls were shut down after Labour Day.
“We can never really know exactly why change happens, but it does look like … there’s signs of a downturn, which I think is great,” said Simon Fraser University researcher Caroline Colijn, who studies the mathematics of infections. Colijn says the positivity rate doesn’t show everything, and could be misleading if the province was inefficiently testing thousands of people who didn’t have symptoms.
At the same time, the lower rate could indicate that B.C.’s surge of cases has subsided, at least temporarily. And it shows community transmission is quite low. “It doesn’t seem to be continuing that exponential growth trend. So I think there could be signs of slowing down, which would be amazing.”
Can’t find a patio heater? Or a freezer? Blame COVID-19 (again)
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, you couldn’t find toilet paper, Lysol wipes, flour or yeast.
Now, six months later, autumn has begun and people are preparing for winter. That means there’s a whole new list of must-have items you just cannot find on store shelves.
Cost of Living producer Tracy Fuller took a closer look at some of the seasonal shortages Canadians are encountering this fall. Among her discoveries were a Mason jar shortage on P.E.I. and in rural B.C. and a lack of freezers in Ontario. Meanwhile, the Retail Council of Canada says outdoor space heaters are in short supply due to restaurants and homeowners seeking to extend patio season.
Kim Green of Kays Wholesale in Charlottetown said she’s already looking to the future. “Now I’m starting to think, OK, what’s going to happen for Christmas. There has to be some new — everyone will start to bake shortbread or something, and there’ll be a shortage of that. You can sort of see it coming.”
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