Canada·Coronavirus brief

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Sept. 15

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Sept. 15.
A man walks past street art in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday. (Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Provinces try to increase COVID-19 testing as lineups grow in some places

Some provinces are scrambling to increase testing capacity as coronavirus infections spike across Canada and lineups at COVID-19 testing sites see a significant influx of people.

In London, Ont., a long line of cars was seen waiting outside the city's only open assessment centre on Sunday. Some were families getting checked because they wanted to ensure they were beginning the school year free of COVID-19, especially as their social bubbles were about to expand with the addition of their kids' classmates. Others said they were getting tested as a precaution as the university school year gets underway.

Testing issues have also been reported in St. John's, with local mother Flora Salvo saying she spent four days on the phone trying to book a COVID-19 test and that the reservation system needs to be revamped. She said the painfully slow process of getting tested — from her first call to when she received a negative result last Saturday — stretched over a full week.

In Ottawa, health authorities are hiring more staff and training them so that an assessment centre can accept patients over 12 hours per day, seven days a week — four more hours per day than it is normally open. And in B.C., the province was already expanding its COVID-19 testing capacity from 8,000 to 20,000 people a day. Adrian Dix said in August that the increase should help B.C. meet greater demand for testing as the province heads into the cold and flu season.

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Tuesday that the government is currently working closely with provincial microbiology labs to enhance test processing capacity. Tam told reporters that the current national capacity is "beyond 60,000 [tests per day]" at the national level. She said Canada needs to "augment the portfolio of testing capabilities in Canada" to include new technology like rapid saliva tests.


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A sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in Ontario is the latest in a national trend of rising infections and the fear is that the rise in cases mean more hospitalizations and even deaths in the weeks to come. 1:58

IN BRIEF

Canadian support for keeping U.S. border closed remains strong, survey suggests 

Canadians' support for keeping the border closed to Americans remains strong, despite a decline in new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and a decimated tourism industry, CBC's Sophia Harris reports. A new poll by Research Co. found that out of 1,000 Canadians surveyed online at the end of August, a whopping 90 per cent agreed with the current Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential traffic.

The survey comes at a time when several Canadian border cities are suffering economic losses because of the absence of U.S. tourists. Nevertheless, they're maintaining their support for the border closure to help stop the spread of COVID-19 from the country with the world's highest number of cases and deaths.

Global health specialist Steven Hoffman suggested that even with a decline in case numbers, many Canadians will continue to support the border closure because of concerns that politics is influencing the U.S. response to the virus. "It really starts to raise questions among people as to whether the response is being designed in a way to maximize its effectiveness, or is it being designed in a way to maximize or to influence the outcome of a forthcoming election," said Hoffman, a professor of global health, law and political science at Toronto's York University.

Toronto hospital employee feels 'worthless' after error forces 200 workers to return pandemic pay 

A Toronto hospital employee says she feels the sacrifices she and her colleagues have made during the pandemic aren't being valued after learning some of them have to give back the pandemic pay they were issued. The University Health Network (UHN) says about 200 physician secretaries and administrative assistants were "inadvertently" given pandemic pay ranging from $100 to $1,500 and averaging $700. The network has asked all affected employees to pay back the money.

CBC Toronto spoke with one UHN secretary who says the issue has upset colleagues in her department, leading to low morale during an already stressful time during the pandemic. "It makes you feel that coming in [to the hospital] and putting everyone at risk close to you, hoping you don't get it, it makes you feel worthless," she said. CBC News has agreed not to identify the employee.

UHN apologized to employees for the error and the upset it has caused. In a statement from spokesperson Gillian Howard, the health network says in an effort to ease the burden, employees will have up to March 31, 2021, to repay the money. Howard says the approximately 200 physician secretaries and administrative assistants were never supposed to receive the money because they are not eligible under provincial guidelines.

Now's no time for complacency, COVID-19 'long-hauler' warns

An Ottawa woman who survived COVID-19 has a simple message for other families, especially as the city and other regions experience a resurgence of COVID-19: Don't become complacent. "Don't think it's over. That's my biggest thing, is that people are just getting super complacent," Brianne Quarrell told CBC News. "Being in the ICU, having that tube shoved down your throat, don't think that's a really pleasant feeling. It's not a pleasant place to be by yourself. It's horrible."

Quarrell, 40, is what doctors call a COVID-19 "long-hauler." She first tested positive on March 30, when her husband dropped her off at the ER after she became short of breath. She didn't test negative until 79 days later, on June 17. Quarrell still feels the effects of the disease, even now. Her sense of taste and smell hasn't returned, her hair is falling out and she's constantly short of breath.

And yet, she fears the health messaging around the pandemic isn't getting through to people. "I've gone to stores, people are wearing their masks under their nose. What's that going to do?" she said. "Stay vigilant. It's not gone. There's no vaccine. There's no sign it's slowing down."


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Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world.

THE SCIENCE

Hospitalizations steady despite rising COVID-19 cases. But this could change quickly, experts say

Canada's relatively stable hospitalization data should not provide too much comfort amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases, infectious diseases experts told CBC News. Cases of the coronavirus have begun to surge in Canada, as daily new infections for the entire country are now at over 600, compared to nearly 400 cases a day this time last month. But hospitalizations are still below 300, compared to a peak of over 2,000 in April.

Lower hospitalization rates support data that indicates a younger age group is bearing the brunt of new infections, Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, told CBC News. As a spike in cases is only becoming apparent in the last week or so — and it takes time for someone to show symptoms of COVID-19 — increased hospitalizations of younger people may become more visible if new infections within this demographic continue in the coming weeks, she said. "We saw something similar in the spring where we started to see an increase in cases and then in a week or two, we started seeing an increase in hospitalizations and then increases in ICU occupancy and then mortality," she said.

Tuite said it may take time for hospitalization data to be reflected in official public health records, which is why it's important to watch for a rise in hospitalizations, as it would be an indication to reimpose lockdown restrictions. "The challenge is you want to respond quickly if you start seeing increases in hospitalizations, because you don't want to be back at the point where we were in March," she said.

While it's encouraging that Canada isn't yet seeing the level of hospitalizations that was occurring in the spring, evidence from other countries shows that that could change quickly, said Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases specialist and associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. "I would point to someplace like Florida … where they had fairly sustained higher transmission in younger age groups, and then it started to spill over into more vulnerable populations in six to eight weeks," she said.

AND FINALLY...

World Series to be played entirely in Arlington, Texas, as MLB moves to bubbles for post-season 

Michael Hermosillo of the Los Angeles Angels catches a fly ball near empty stands during a game on July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The World Series will be played entirely at the Texas Rangers' new ballpark in Arlington, Texas, as part of a bubble agreement between Major League Baseball and the players' association, The Associated Press reports. It's the first time the sport's championship will be played entirely at one site since 1944.

As part of an agreement finalized Tuesday, the Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series will be part of a bubble designed to minimize exposure to the coronavirus, which decimated the regular season and limited it to a 60-game schedule for each club. The World Series will begin Oct. 20 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, a retractable roof stadium with artificial turf that opened this year adjacent to the Rangers' old ballpark. The American League Championship Series will be at San Diego's Petco Park, and the National League at Globe Life Park.

"In the view of our infectious disease experts, the biggest risk of exposure for players and staff is contact with family members and friends who have been exposed to COVID-19 in their communities," deputy commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a memo sent to teams Monday night. "Nearly all of the positive test results that have been reported for players and staff in the last month can be traced back to contact with an infected family member, domestic partner or friend outside of club facilities." Halem said MLB and the players' association were in the process of finalizing details of the agreement, which provides for players to be tested daily during the post-season.

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19's impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here's what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

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With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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