The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Nov. 19
- Coronavirus tracker: Follow the spread of COVID-19 as case numbers remain high in most of Canada.
- Ontario is reaching a critical threshold for intensive care beds.
- Saskatchewan doctors question decision to leave bars, nightclubs open.
- Nunavut outbreak highlights longstanding health inequities in Canada's North.
- Read more: Quebec and British Columbia expected to roll out new restrictions to combat virus spread; the White House has been criticized for its pandemic response in the U.S., but Operation Warp Speed is receiving praise.
Manitoba bans visitors to homes, in-store sales of non-essential items
Manitoba, dealing with the highest per capita daily COVID-19 case numbers among Canadian provinces, is enacting new orders effective Friday to limit the spread of the virus.
The public health orders will forbid people from having anyone inside their home who doesn't live there, with limited exceptions, and prohibit businesses from selling non-essential items in stores. In addition, large retailers are to restrict capacity at a given time to 25 per cent of their normal limit or a maximum of 250 people, whichever is lower.
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said previous, less strict measures clearly hadn't proven effective, and he pleaded with Manitobans to stay home in the near future and only go out for essential items.
There were 475 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths in the province on Thursday, with a significant five-day test positivity rate at 14 per cent.
A record 263 patients are in hospital, up 14 from the previous day, and 43 people are in intensive care as a result of COVID-19, also a new high.
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Ontario reaching ICU threshold, which could leave surgical patients waiting again
There are now 150 patients in Ontario intensive care units being treated for COVID-19, according to a report Thursday morning to critical care stakeholders, which means the province has hit a key threshold that makes it harder for hospitals to support other patients and procedures.
The metric comes from a Critical Care Services Ontario report, obtained by CBC News, which is based on an end-of-day Wednesday tally of adults in ICUs with COVID-19-related critical illness.
Provincial modelling, released in September by the Ministry of Health, noted that with fewer than 150 COVID-19 patients in ICUs, Ontario would be able to maintain non-COVID capacity and all scheduled surgeries.
Dr. Brooks Fallis, medical director and critical care physician at a hospital in Peel region, warns the prospect of more surgery cancellations is a real concern with COVID-19 cases spiking.
"Inevitably, resources have to be diverted to COVID," Fallis tells CBC's Lauren Pelley. "And that will inevitably mean that other things can't get done, such as elective surgeries."
Toronto resident Rochelle Roberts finally had surgery to remove non-cancerous tumours on Wednesday after a delay of months for a procedure date, but other patients may have to wait.
Sask. doctors question decision to leave bars, nightclubs open
Doctors in Saskatchewan say the provincial government's refusal to temporarily close bars and other high-risk venues will cause COVID-19 to spread unnecessarily.
"If we can only have a few people at home, and there's a good reason for that, I'm not sure why we would gather in much larger groups in other settings, especially without masks," Saskatoon trauma specialist Dr. Brent Thomas said in an interview with CBC News this week.
Currently, there is a 10 p.m. curfew for restaurant and bar alcohol sales. But patrons of bars, nightclubs and restaurants don't have to wear a mask when seated.
Last week, more than 400 doctors signed a letter saying the COVID-19 restrictions announced by the province to that point needed to be stricter. The doctors called for a 28-day closure of bars, bingo halls, gyms and places of worship.
There was mixed news Thursday in the daily provincial report: There were 34 more virus recoveries than new cases, but seven additional COVID-19 hospitalizations pushed the current total to 83.
Nunavut outbreak highlights longstanding health inequities in Canada's North
Nunavut has entered a two-week lockdown in an effort to get a handle on its first serious outbreak — which stands at 74 cases on Thursday — and to avoid overwhelming Nunavut's small, isolated health-care centres.
None of the Nunavut communities with COVID-19 infections has a hospital. The only hospital in the territory, in Iqaluit, is more than 1,000 kilometres east of Arviat — the community with the most infections — and doesn't have an intensive care unit.
"The thing that everyone is worried about is the fact that medical infrastructure to care for people who are severely ill is really quite limited in some places," says Barry Pakes, a University of Toronto professor who was previously Nunavut's medical health officer.
Hospitalizations have yet to occur, but sending seriously ill patients to Manitoba in the south may not be an option as that province is also dealing with limited capacity.
So far, Nunavut has not asked for help from the federal government. But Nunavut Health Minister Lorne Kusugak says the territory is in constant communication with Ottawa, and the federal government is able to send the military as a last resort.
Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.
AstraZeneca vaccine shows promise in elderly patients
AstraZeneca and Oxford University's potential COVID-19 vaccine produced a strong immune response in older adults, data published on Thursday in the Lancet medical journal showed, with researchers expecting to release late-stage trial results by Christmas.
The data thus far suggests that those aged over 70, who are at higher risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19, could build robust immunity. Late-stage, or Phase 3, trials are ongoing to confirm the findings, researchers say.
The first two sets of interim data from vaccine trials from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have previously been released, with promising results so far but several issues still unknown.
Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots, both of which use new technology known as messenger RNA (mRNA), AstraZeneca's is a viral vector vaccine made from a weakened version of a common cold virus found in chimpanzees.
Canada has struck deals to access the vaccines of Pfizer, Moderna and Astra Zeneca, among others, should they gain regulatory approval.
Fisher River Cree Nation students get free laptops and internet access for online learning
Manitoba high schooler Koby Wilson says school has been stressful at times this fall, a sentiment no doubt shared by students across the country amid the pandemic.
But now Wilson is one of 470 students who attend the two schools in Fisher River Cree Nation to receive a laptop to keep and a connection device from the local school authority, which made the change after a positive coronavirus test and inefficiencies with sending out and receiving bulky homework packages.
"It's a great thing … because not every family actually has the money to afford a laptop," the Grade 12 student says.
According to Kelly Selkirk, the Fisher River post-secondary co-ordinator, the online education that students are receiving is "leaps and bounds above the pen and paper homework that they were getting."
While the Grades 5-12 students in Fisher River have received laptops, those up to Grade 4 will soon be receiving their own iPad to connect with their teachers and fellow students.
Find out more about COVID-19
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With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters