Canada·Coronavirus Brief

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for March 10

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for March 10.
Relatives of Luiz Alves, 63, who died from coronavirus disease (COVID-19), react at her burial at Inhauma cemetery in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday. The previous day, Brazil saw nearly 2,000 virus-related deaths, a new single-day record. (Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

More racially diverse areas reported much higher COVID-19 death rates: StatsCan

Statistics Canada on Wednesday released its Year in Review, laying bare the uneven effects of this pandemic on Canadians of different racial backgrounds, while also looking at how life during COVID-19 has affected a whole host of societal trends, from crime statistics to mental health reporting.

The most racially diverse neighbourhoods in Canada reported COVID-19 mortality rates more than twice as high as those reported by districts that are overwhelmingly white, according to the report. In areas where a quarter of the population or more identified as "visible minorities" — the term the government uses for non-white and non-Indigenous people — the mortality rate averaged 35 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to an average of 16 deaths per 100,000 people in regions where less than one per cent of the population was composed of racial minorities.

But those effects were not always felt uniformly. Women from areas where racial minorities are most prevalent reported mortality rates nearly three times higher than women from predominantly white areas. Meanwhile, with respect to geographic location, British Columbia and Montreal saw particularly stark racial contrasts in COVID-19 mortality rates.

The data included a potentially troubling prospect for public health officials: Black Canadians were the group most likely to say they are reluctant to take a COVID-19 vaccine. Based on data collected in September 2020, at a time when comparatively little was known about the prospects of a COVID-19 vaccine, 77 per cent of Black respondents to a StatsCan survey said they were "not very likely to take a vaccine" — a rate nearly 20 points higher than similar responses from white, Chinese and South Asian populations.

One poll released this week found that there is less vaccine hesitancy among Canadians overall now that the inoculation campaign has begun, though a demographic breakdown was not clear.

Because a number of elective procedures and screening appointments have been cancelled or postponed, the statistics agency said Canada should brace for a spike in cancer diagnoses.

A cancer simulation model, OncoSim, shows a "surge" of projected cancer cases when screening resumes, the agency said. A six-month suspension of screening for colorectal cancers, for example, could lead to an increase in the cancer incidence rate by 2,200 cases, with 960 more deaths.

From The National

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout: A National Town Hall

8 months ago
1:15:12
CBC News The National brings Canadians and health experts together for a virtual town hall to get answers to some of the biggest questions about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Hosted by The National’s Adrienne Arsenault and Andrew Chang. 1:15:12

IN BRIEF

With testing blitz deemed a success, lockdown loosens in Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador will loosen some public health restrictions after almost a month in lockdown, the province's chief medical officer of health said Wednesday.

There have been no new cases found since Tuesday, for the first time since Feb. 2. At the height of its recent wave, marked by the presence of a variant first detected in Britain, Newfoundland and Labrador had a pandemic-high 434 active cases.

With 74 active cases now and three hospitalizations, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald is crediting widespread asymptomatic testing for alert level downgrades that will now go into effect throughout the province.

"Cases with no identifiable epidemiological link … cause the most concern, as they represent undetected community transmission," Fitzgerald said, noting public health hasn't seen unknown sources of infection among positive cases.

Officials in Eastern Health, where the majority of provincial residents live, uncovered no positive cases out of about 3,000 swabs during this week's asymptomatic clinics to probe for pockets of the virus not yet detected.

As restrictions relax, travel within the province is now permitted, but Fitzgerald urged caution, warning that non-essential travel should be "infrequent," with interactions limited.

"We understand that there are activities that are beneficial to mental health, such as going to your cabin or snowmobiling," she said.

The province is also promising that all eligible and interested residents should receive at least one dose of a vaccine by the end of June or early July, as supply from the federal government is expected to stabilize.

Read more about the pandemic in Newfoundland and Labrador

Ontario rejected proposals to protect LTC residents, deeming them 'too expensive,' commission hears

A commission examining the impact of COVID-19 on Ontario's long-term care system has heard the government rejected proposals that could have helped protect vulnerable residents during the second wave of the pandemic because they were deemed too expensive.

An infectious disease specialist and member of the province's science advisory group told the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission that the proposals included mechanisms for hospitals to support the long-term care sector and to ensure seniors wouldn't be housed three or four to a room during the second wave.

Dr. Allison McGeer said the plans were presented by doctors largely to the Ministry of Health, though some may have gone before the Ministry of Long-Term Care.

"A number of proposals went to the ministry about what could be done; and all of them were deemed by the ministry to be too expensive," the panel heard from McGeer, one of several doctors to testify before the commission on March 4.

In a recently released transcript, the doctors said the province "chose" not to hire thousands of additional long-term care staff, or place infection-control practitioners in homes, as officials in Quebec did.

Staffing was already an issue in long-term care before the pandemic, but it grew worse after the first wave as many lost faith in the system and left the sector, Dr. Samir Sinha testified.

Even homes with the money to hire more staff were struggling to do so, he said. What differed in Quebec was that the province took away the barriers to training more personal support workers, in part by paying people to undergo the training, according to Sinha, who is director of geriatrics for the Sinai Health System and the University Health Network in Toronto.

Quebec hired thousands of new personal support workers trained in infection control by October.

Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath pounced on the commission testimony at Queen's Park and on social media.

"Quebec hired 10,000 PSWs," she tweeted. "That saved lives. [Premier] Doug Ford could have saved lives by spending the money to staff up last summer."

Read more on the situation 

Cultural and language schools keep classes in session amid pandemic

From revising teaching methods to implementing a host of new processes, these educators for school-aged children and teens tell CBC News how they've kept class in session amid COVID-19.

Maximum class sizes of 10 pupils, spaced desks and masked students are among the host of measures that Greek Community of Toronto educators have introduced to go "above and beyond what Toronto Public Health is asking us," said Kostas Flegas, the community group's director of education.

"We wanted to let the families know, [and] we want to reassure them that it is a safe environment," said Flegas.

The drawback is being relegated to one geographic location, contrary to the pre-pandemic state of affairs. To combat that, the team created an online version of its curriculum with about 150 students logging in from around the city and as far away as Sudbury.

Being open to new technology and being flexible for families are among the ways Imam Fayaz Tilly and colleagues have kept educational programming going at the Akram Jomaa Islamic Centre in Calgary. After the pandemic hit, the team shifted to virtual lessons in a variety of ways.

"Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Classroom — and we were able to initially get about 70 per cent of the students to come back to the regular scheduled programming and classes until the summer," said Tilly, who said he also connects with community members via social media such as Instagram.

Read more about the pandemic-related changes

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

Is it safe for vaccinated grandparents to see their grandkids?

Despite mass vaccination campaigns underway across the country, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is still recommending that we all "avoid or keep exposure very brief" with people outside of our immediate households.

"We know the vaccines are going to reduce those grandparents' risk of death and disability if they do get COVID-19," said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician and medical director of infection control at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, in a recent CBC News Network interview.

While vaccines "probably" reduce the risk of the grandparents transmitting it to their grandchildren, Chagla warned it's not entirely risk-free, especially because children cannot yet be immunized.

"When you start mixing crowds with different degrees of vaccination, where those people can go into other settings, it is a whole lot trickier," he said.

Even if people have both doses, they may still be at risk of potentially catching the virus, explained Maria Sundaram, an infectious disease epidemiologist who studies vaccines.

"It's likely that if you were, you might not notice it or you might have a milder illness," Sundaram said in a recent CBC News Network interview. "So I'd say still try to take some precautions ... that you've been taking."

Health Canada's Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Supriya Sharma said waiting until both parties are vaccinated offers the best level of protection.

We don't want to give people the sense that as soon as you've got your vaccine, you've got this cloak of invincibility and you can never get [COVID-19]," said Sharma. "They're excellent, but there still is a potential risk."

People should assess their individual risk tolerance, she said.

"Each situation is a little bit different, but we're not at a place, unfortunately, yet that we can say as soon as somebody has got a vaccine, that they can go back ... and do all of those things that they were doing before."

We're answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca, and we'll answer as many as we can. We publish a selection of answers online and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network. So far, we've received more than 69,800 emails from all over the country.

AND FINALLY...

COVID-era school design takes lessons from Indigenous educators

The Sweetgrass First Nation school being designed by Wallace Klypak Architects and Tawaw Architecture Collective will include an outdoor classroom and a teaching garden. A shed-type building will allow students to do hide tanning and process game. (Submitted by Wallace Klypak Architects & Tawaw Architecture Collective)

A Saskatchewan architect is already applying lessons learned from the pandemic to the schools he is designing, and said the First Nations clients he works with are providing him with directions for the future.

The First Nations clients Andrew Wallace works with use the natural world to educate, a principle that is built into their schools. Designing the school also involves the entire community.

"When coronavirus goes away, as I am sure it will, I hope the buildings we design will be good places for people to meet and live their lives in a social way, and also that they have the flexibility to allow people to live in a way that is a little bit different when a pandemic comes along, one that requires a different way of acting," said Wallace, of Wallace Klypak Architects.

A new school Wallace Klypak Architects is designing with Sweetgrass First Nation west of North Battleford, Sask., takes into account their land-based learning approach, which is rooted in their traditional ways of life. The school will include an outdoor classroom and a teaching garden, with other specially designed rooms and culturally appropriate spaces for teachings.

Aside from land-based learning elements and community-informed designs, Wallace's newly opened firm is focusing on COVID-era solutions it can implement now, including sinks in common spaces instead of just inside washrooms.

"It's a few steps less and it's highly visible," he said. "It will increase the opportunities to wash your hands."

Patrick Stewart of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada's Indigenous task force thinks these changes are something school boards across Canada will need to consider.

"At all levels, at the community level, the teachers and up to people that fund schools, there needs to be more of a conversation of what education looks like going forward and how safety can be a consideration more than it has been," said Stewart.

The federal government's COVID-19 guidance for schools recommended increasing ventilation and dedicated $75 million to making upgrades to facilities across Canada, but there have been few specifics offered in terms of contemplating how to redesign schools.

Read more about school design

Find out more about COVID-19

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