Canada·Coronavirus Brief

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for May 4

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for May 4.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, right, bumps elbows with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at a bilateral meeting in London on Tuesday. It was a part of the larger G7 meeting, the first in-person gathering of the ministers since the pandemic began. (Eddie Mulholland/Reuters)

Trudeau, Tam try to assure Canadians all vaccines are safe after advisory committee flap

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reassure Canadians Tuesday that all coronavirus vaccines approved for use in this country are safe and effective, including the AstraZeneca product and the soon-to-be-available Johnson & Johnson single-shot dose produced with Janssen.

Trudeau said it is prudent for people to get the first shot offered to them to help drive down COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations.

"Make sure you get your shot when it's your turn. We are continuing to recommend to everyone to get vaccinated as quickly as possible so we can get through this," Trudeau said.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), an independent body composed of volunteer experts, said Monday that Canadians who are less likely to contract COVID-19 may want to wait until an mRNA shot from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna is available because those products have not been associated with the possibility of developing vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) — low platelet counts combined with blood clots.

"What we've said all along is that the mRNA vaccines are the preferred vaccine," said Dr. Shelley Deeks, the vice-chair of NACI.

Scientists, doctors, journalists and expressed confusion or frustration on social media over the apparent shift from a "take the first shot available" mantra that's generally been expressed by federal health officials since December. Some everyday Canadians who've already received a dose of AstraZeneca expressed feelings of being underappreciated in the mass inoculation campaign.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, the party's health critic, also pounced over what she called "mixed messages."

"What Canadians need is clear, concise and constant communications when it comes to vaccine use. Conservatives have been calling for this for weeks. The buck stops with the health minister. She must immediately fix this problem of her creation. Lives are at stake," Rempel Garner said of Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said Tuesday she can "sympathize with people who find it difficult to follow the evolving advice."

She said Canadians should do a risk-benefit analysis before rolling up their sleeves for a shot and that in jurisdictions with significant case counts, it's logical to go for the vaccine that's available immediately.

From The National

Returning travellers say at-home COVID-19 test system ‘dysfunctional’

The National

1 month ago
The federal program in place for at-home COVID-19 tests for returning travellers is being described as slow and dysfunctional. And some travellers say the wait for results, if they show up, was longer than the mandated quarantine period. 2:01


Albertans express anger, if not common views, on how to deal with current wave

Premier Jason Kenney has warned that further restrictions were coming Tuesday in the face of high coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations, which numbered 2,012 and 658, respectively, in the last Alberta report.

Kenney on Monday said he was angered to see that a large group of people gathered over the weekend to protest public-health restrictions while flagrantly violating them at a rodeo event in Bowden, Alta.

But some have accused the premier of a confused message after both promising new measures while opining that the province has had very stringent health measures in place. He also put the onus on the residents of the province.

"We can have," said Kenney, "the hardest lockdown imaginable, and if a critical percentage of the population — a large share of the population — isn't following that, it doesn't matter."

Dr. James Talbot, a former chief medical officer of health in the province, is one of those critical of the government. Talbot said it's past time for more restrictive measures to control the spread of COVID-19.

"I don't think we can count on the system being able to bend and not break," he told CBC News.

Kenney's government decided on Monday to suspend the spring legislative assembly session for at least two weeks, a decision that NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she found unacceptable "while servers are still working on patios and people are still crowding into malls."

"He's a coward," Notley charged. "This premier has locked the people out of their own legislature at a time when they are likely looking more than ever to that very building, and the people running the government inside of it, for leadership."

While Kenney unsurprisingly has critics to his left, he also has to corral his own caucus. Several United Conservative Party members in recent weeks went on record with their disappointment over COVID-related restrictions.

In another pandemic development, the premier announced that all teachers and school support staff and all child-care workers will able to book appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday. Kenney said the provincial government estimates that more than 60 per cent of teachers and child-care workers and support staff workers have already been able to get the vaccine because of an age-based rollout.

Read more about the pandemic in Edmonton and the province

Now comes the hard part: Ontario pharmacies have to stay on top of 2nd dose schedules

Ontario residents who schedule their COVID-19 vaccine appointments through the provincial booking portal are required to book both first and second dose appointments at the same time.

But Ontario pharmacies, which can administer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people 40 and older, are forced to navigate a complicated process largely because they are not allowed to schedule appointments through the provincial booking portal.

Instead, each of them have been operating with up to three separate scheduling, tracking and invoicing programs, instead of in a centralized system.

Ontario's largest pharmacy operators, Loblaw and Rexall, have both said they will send notifications to recipients when they become eligible for a second dose, which is currently set at up to 16 weeks after the initial dose.

Lisa Christensen, who was vaccinated at a Shoppers Drug Mart on March 12, said she was initially told that the provincial government would follow up with her to book a second appointment.

"This process seems to have been fuzzy wuzzy," the Toronto resident. "I'm a university- and college-educated person, whose first language is English, who is middle class, I read newspapers, try to keep up with information and I still find the process, at least in Toronto, the whole thing a little confusing."

Toronto pharmacist Kyro Maseh said he may have to hire a temporary employee to help follow up with the approximately 1,100 people vaccinated against COVID-19 at his location.

"This is an administrative nightmare," said Maseh, the owner of Lawlor Pharmasave, an independent pharmacy on a busy stretch of Kingston Road in Toronto's east end.

It's detail-oriented work, in a location where there is an abudance of customers and languages spoken, so Maseh is concerned about the potential for patients to miss out or forget about their second shots.

Read more about the situation

2 Nova Scotians die of COVID-19 complications, province announces 

Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, held a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday as the entire province completes its first week of lockdown with a sobering development to report.

A woman in her 50s and a man in his 70s, both in the central health region that includes Halifax, have died. According to CBC News tracking, it was the first time in almost exactly a year that the province has reported multiple deaths attributable to the virus on the same day.

The deaths bring the pandemic total to 69, with 53 of those tied to an outbreak at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax in the early weeks of the pandemic in 2020.

The province is encouraging those with serious virus symptoms or illness to get to hospital as soon as possible.

"Do not struggle at home," Rankin said.

The province reported 153 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. There are 139 cases in the central zone, 10 in the eastern zone, three in the northern zone and one in the western zone. It was the second time in four days with a pandemic-high new caseload, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 1,060.

The head of the provincial health authority told CBC Nova Scotia News in an interview Monday that the current wave is "a very different and in some ways much more worrisome picture this time."

Dr. Brendan Carr told the program, "we're seeing otherwise healthy people that are coming in contact with this virus and they're becoming dramatically ill very quickly and presenting to hospital."

Separately, the government announced new details for supports for businesses forced to close because of the recent shutdown ordered to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

Property tax rebates will be given to eligible businesses in tourism or small business owners affected by pandemic shutdowns such as gyms, hair salons, restaurants and bars.

An additional program will provide grants for businesses directly affected by this current shutdown.

Read more about the pandemic in Nova Scotia

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.


Medical residents learn to adapt on the fly during a pandemic

Residents Larissa Albino and Christopher Charles said there have been limited opportunities in some aspects of their residency because of the pandemic. (Submitted by Larissa Albino and Christopher Charles/CBC)

Residency provides new doctors the opportunity to work on and refine the skills taught in medical school in health-care settings with patients.

At the best of times, that can include learning bedside manner and other soft skills that are part of the job, but the pandemic has obviously not been the best of times.

Larissa Albino and other medical residents across the country have faced unprecedented challenges related to the pandemic. Some have had fewer mentoring opportunities with staff physicians busy battling coronavirus, and as in-person patient visits have migrated to phone and video calls, fewer opportunities to practise their bedside manner, too.

Albino's situation was made worse when she contracted COVID-19 in January while covering shifts in a nephrology ward with an outbreak.

"It opened my eyes to the things that can happen in the hospital and why it's so important to be careful," said Albino, who started a residency at the University of Alberta in July 2020.

As an anesthesia resident with knowledge of resuscitation and critical care — skills needed for COVID-19 patients — Christopher Charles was reassigned to help out on intensive care units.

Serving in a vital role has come at the cost of a disruption in his training to be an anesthesiologist.

"For myself, I've had a number of goals that I set out at the beginning of this year, things that I wanted to gain more experience doing in the operating room. That has really been strained," the fifth-year resident at the University of Toronto in anesthesiology and pain medicine, told CBC's White Coat, Black Art.

Virtual care, while a convenient and safe option during COVID-19, has presented new challenges for residents like Albino.

"Especially on the phone, you miss a lot of the visual cues that you tend to rely on, like seeing how a patient reacts to a question … and then ultimately laying your hands on the patient and really getting a good sense of what you hear, what you see and what can help direct what your investigations and plan going forward will be," she said.

Although there may be gaps in training that could take a while to overcome, said Charles, going through residency during such a trying time has been an exercise in resiliency.

"I know that for the next 30 years of my career, I will encounter things that I won't have seen — whether that's because of the pandemic or whether it's because just sheer luck that I never saw it in the past. I know that I have the skill set to find the right answers to provide the best care for that patient."

Read more about the situation 

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