By Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press on October 16, 2020.
Ontario, Manitoba and parts of Quebec are looking to ramp up COVID-19 restrictions as Canada’s caseload inches closer to the 200,000 mark.
Canada’s chief public health officer says the national count has climbed by an average of 2,300 cases per day over the past seven days, while an average of 20 people per day die from the illness.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 193,575 confirmed cases in Canada.
Ontario tightened restrictions on long-term care homes in three hotspots Friday, as the premier also made the reluctant decision to reinstate stricter rules on a fourth region north of Toronto.
Premier Doug Ford said the York Region will revert back to a modified stage 2 of the province’s pandemic plan Monday in an effort to curb an “alarming” surge in COVID-19 cases.
“We’re seeing a rapid increase in the rate of infection, with the positivity rate of 2.77 per cent, above the high-alert threshold of 2.5 per cent,” Ford said of York.
“Most concerning of all, critical care admissions are reaching alarming levels.”
The new measures for the region, which will be in place for 28 days, prohibit indoor service at restaurants and close gyms, among other services.
The majority of Ontario’s cases are concentrated in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa. As of Friday, residents of long-term care homes in those regions are not allowed to leave for social or personal reasons.
The Ontario Long-Term Care Association told an independent commission last month that many facilities face severe staffing shortages that could leave them unprepared for the pandemic’s second wave.
Meanwhile, Quebec’s public health institute urged Quebecers to shrink their social circles even further as the province reported an increase of 1,055 new COVID-19 cases and one new virus-related death in the past 24 hours.
The Listuguj First Nation, which is near the province’s New Brunswick border, also announced it was shutting down most government operations after reporting its first COVID-19 case.
Manitoba reported 75 new cases Friday, and saw a record-high 173 cases a day earlier. The government is expected to unveil stricter measures in the Winnipeg area, as the province’s per-capita number of active cases is higher than any other province except Quebec.
Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19, while the Northwest Territories says three people have received presumptive positive test results for the virus.
As hospitals admit a weekly average of 870 patients per day, Dr. Theresa Tam urged Canadians to do their part to reduce the burden on the health-care system by getting their flu shot as the seasonal virus converges with the second wave of the pandemic.
While the flu shot doesn’t protect against the virus that causes COVID-19, Tam said getting vaccinated reduces one’s risk of back-to-back or simultaneous infections that can lead to more severe health outcomes.
“Our best bet to keep everyone safer is to layer on all the protections we have available,” Tam said at a news conference Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that the federal government is prepared to step in to ensure provincial authorities are protecting older Canadians from the outbreaks that ravaged long-term homes in several regions last spring.
Some provinces handled the crisis better than others, Trudeau said. And while health policy falls under provincial purview, Trudeau said all levels of government share a responsibility to keep seniors safe during the second wave.
That’s why Trudeau said he’s calling for “national norms” to address chronic gaps in the long-term care system.
“Obviously, I respect provincial jurisdiction in running those institutions. But we’ve seen that those institutions haven’t done a good enough job in this pandemic,” he said.
“To not take the moment of this crisis to reflect on how we can improve outcomes for everyone would be completely irresponsible.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2020.