Federal officials urge Canadians to dramatically limit their contacts as COVID-19 cases rise, holidays begin
Public health officials are urging Canadians to dramatically limit their contacts with other people as the country continues on what they describe as a “rapid growth trajectory” for COVID-19 cases and the holiday season begins.
This week’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine has led to a groundswell of public optimism — but public health officials are warning the pandemic is a long way from over.
Releasing new modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) today, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that if Canadians maintain their current contact levels, more than 12,000 new cases will be recorded daily by January. If people increase their level of contacts, however, that number could surge to more than 30,000 cases daily by January, according to the modelling sheets.
PHAC modelling suggests combined efforts are “urgently needed” to bend the curve as outbreaks continue in long-term care facilities and First Nation communities, putting a strain on hospitals and regional health-care systems.
About 100,000 new cases have been reported across the country in just the last three weeks, with growth being driven primarily by the six provinces west of the Atlantic region. In recent weeks, each of these provinces has recorded its highest daily case count, and several also have seen their highest daily number of deaths to date.
“We have yet to see the kind of sustained decline in daily case counts that would indicate we are bringing the pandemic under control,” Tam said.
Friday’s projections are particularly grim for First Nations, where the number of active cases has doubled in the last month. The current number of active cases is more than 20 times higher than the peak number during the first wave of the pandemic for First Nations on reserve.
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Ontario moves two more regions into lockdown
Ontario has announced York Region and Windsor-Essex are moving into lockdown effective 12:01 a.m. on Monday for a minimum of 28 days, as the province tries to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Five other regions are also moving from their current level in Ontario’s COVID-19 framework to a higher level of restrictions.
Earlier this week, three York Region hospitals issued a joint statement about the “significant increase” in COVID-19 admissions, saying their facilities have reached a “tipping point.”
The province’s move comes three weeks after Toronto and Peel Region, the other hardest-hit parts of the province, were placed into the “grey” or lockdown-level zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 framework. The case counts in those regions have continued to climb steadily since.
Ontario reported another 1,848 cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 45 more deaths linked to the illness, the most on a single day since June. The new cases include 469 in Toronto, 386 in Peel Region, 205 in York Region and 106 in Windsor-Essex.
P.E.I. may end COVID-19 ‘circuit break’ early
Prince Edward Island may be able to come out of a two-week “circuit break” period earlier than expected given that there are no new cases of COVID-19 in the province for the fourth straight day, according to the province’s chief public health officer.
There are now 12 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, down one from Thursday, and those people are self-isolating and doing well, Dr. Heather Morrison said at a unscheduled briefing Friday.
The province is managing its latest COVID-19 outbreak better than expected after “an unsettling week for many Islanders,” P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said at the briefing. “We aren’t out of the woods here yet, but we sit here before you knowing we are in a much better place today than we even could have thought last Sunday,” he said.
King applauded the efforts of all the 20- to 29-year-olds who lined up for testing after being asked to do so because of an outbreak identified on the Dec. 5-6 weekend. That outbreak of 11 cases led King to institute a two-week set of “circuit breaker” measures to shut down gatherings throughout P.E.I. until at least Dec. 21.
Canada introduces national compensation program for vaccine injuries
People who are vaccinated to protect themselves against COVID-19 and experience an adverse event after the immunization will be eligible for compensation, the federal government says.
The announcement of the no-fault program for all vaccines approved by Health Canada is part of Canada’s preparations to roll out coronavirus vaccines, beginning with the Pfizer-BioNtech version that will start to be administered next week.
Health Canada says it approves vaccines after its thorough review of scientific evidence shows that the benefits outweigh the risks. “Canadians can have confidence in the rigour of the vaccine approvals system, however, in the rare event that a person experiences an adverse reaction, this program will help ensure they get the support they need,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement on Thursday.
All medications and vaccines can lead to side-effects and reactions. Common and mild ones such as fever, aches and pains are evidence of your immune system being activated as planned, infectious disease physicians say. In contrast, the federal government said that the chances of someone experiencing a truly serious adverse reaction are “extremely rare — less than one in a million.”
Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.
Pandemic leads to biggest drop ever in global emissions, but trend not expected to last
A locked-down pandemic-struck world cut its carbon dioxide emissions this year by seven per cent, the biggest drop ever, new preliminary figures show.
The Global Carbon Project, an authoritative group of dozens of international scientists who track emissions, calculated that the world will have put 34 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in the air in 2020. That’s down from 36.4 billion metric tonnes in 2019, according a study published Thursday in the journal Earth System Science Data.
Scientists say this drop is chiefly because people are staying home, travelling less by car and plane, and that emissions are expected to jump back up after the pandemic ends. Ground transportation makes up about one-fifth of emissions of carbon dioxide.
“Of course, lockdown is absolutely not the way to tackle climate change,” said study co-author Corinne Le Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia.
Emissions dropped 12 per cent in the United States and 11 per cent in Europe, but only 1.7 per cent in China. That’s because China had an earlier lockdown with less of a second wave. Also China’s emissions are more industrial-based than other countries and its industry was less affected than transportation, Le Quéré said.
While Canada’s emissions were not part of the study, Le Quéré told CBC News in an email that Canada’s emissions were calculated to have dropped seven per cent.
‘Not-Amazon’ website seeks to boost local businesses across Canada
With many small businesses taking a hit because of the pandemic, a Toronto woman is hoping to shift online shopping habits to local businesses across Canada during the holiday season by making the experience as convenient as Amazon.
“I feel small business is what makes Toronto a great city, and to let them fall by the wayside during a pandemic would be the worst,” said Ali Haberstroh.
On Nov. 22, the day before Toronto went into a second partial lockdown, the social media manager built a spreadsheet with categories and links to local shops to remind herself to shop locally. She then shared her spreadsheet on her Instagram account. “I thought 100 people would see it … but I had no idea it would blow up the way it has,” she said.
Haberstroh decided to turn it into a website, Not-Amazon.ca. In the three weeks since the site went live, it’s had 100,000 views, grown to 500 listings in the Toronto area and expanded to include 1,500 local businesses in Halifax, Vancouver and Calgary.
Haberstroh said she wanted to create a space that highlighted BIPOC-owned businesses and that she doesn’t profit from the website.
Some shop owners told CBC News they didn’t know they were on the site until they saw their online sales spike. Morgane Saba, who helps her mother run the French pastry store Douce France in Toronto, said 79 per cent of their traffic came from Not-Amazon on one day during the Black Friday weekend.
Saba said initiatives like Not-Amazon circulating across social media have helped small businesses spread the word without having to pay for costly advertising. “We’re all struggling with getting online and getting those orders in and still surviving the holiday season, because typically it’s one of the best times of the year for many small businesses,” she said.
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