Canada·Coronavirus brief

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Sept. 21

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Sept. 21.
Students learn about social distancing during a physical education class at the Florya Ugur College on Monday in Istanbul. For the first time since schools closed on March 16, kindergarten and first grade students were allowed to return for in-person classes at schools across Turkey. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

TSX joins global stock market sell-off as coronavirus fears persist

The TSX joined stock markets around the world in a new round of selling off Monday as surging cases of the coronavirus reignited concerns that the economic impact of the pandemic is still far from over. The S&P/TSX composite index was down by almost 400 points, or more than 2.5 per cent, nearing midday, as health-care, energy, mining, banks and even tech sectors were all lower.

Losses began in Asia as soon as trading opened for the week, and they accelerated in Europe on worries about the possibility of tougher restrictions there to stem rising coronavirus counts. In New York, the broad S&P 500 was down by 84 points, or 2.5 per cent, while the Dow Jones fared even worse, down almost 1,000 points, or 3.5 per cent. See the most recent numbers here.

Bank stocks had sharp losses Monday morning after a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists alleged that several of them continue to profit from illicit dealings with criminal networks despite being previously fined for similar actions.

Shares in technology companies have been on fire for the past six months, as pandemic lockdowns have caused booming demand for online services, such as Amazon, Netflix, Apple and Facebook. But tech companies have been selling off of late on fears that they have risen too far too fast. "Stock markets around the world are trading lower to start the week amid mounting uncertainty," said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist with SIA Wealth Management in Toronto. "Growing uncertainty and volatility in world markets has sparked a move of capital."

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Doctors answer viewer questions about COVID-19 testing in Canada, including how effective it is and who should be tested. 4:58

IN BRIEF

Pediatricians issue urgent call for help to get flu shot to more people this fall

Ontario pediatricians say their calls for the financial and logistical support needed to do more flu vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic have so far gone unheeded and an "imminent crisis" could lie ahead. "We … would like to express our urgent concerns regarding an imminent crisis in influenza vaccination," said an online petition launched on Change.org Saturday by the pediatrics section of the Ontario Medical Association. "Right now, Public Health seems to expect the status quo from years past, when individual doctor's offices and scattered flu clinics gave flu vaccines."

Public health officials and health-care experts have stressed the importance of getting the flu shot this year to avoid burdening the health-care system even more during the pandemic. Pediatricians say the coronavirus outbreak makes it more critical than ever for children to get flu shots, not only because influenza can make them very ill but also because they can easily spread the virus to vulnerable people, such as the elderly, for whom both flu and COVID-19 can be very dangerous.

But health-care providers won't be able to give nearly the normal number of flu vaccinations in their offices and clinics this year, they say, because of COVID-19 safety protocols, such as eliminating crowded waiting rooms, seeing patients by appointment only, and the time needed for rigorous cleaning and disinfecting of exam rooms between each vaccination. The solution, they say, is "planning large-scale, community-based provincewide flu vaccination clinics," which would be held in large venues that allow for physical distancing, as well as outdoor or drive-thru clinics. "These would ensure that we can safely administer flu vaccine universally throughout the province in large numbers, quickly and efficiently," the petition says.

People of colour make up 66% of Ottawa's COVID-19 cases

Race-based data is confirming what some on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic have been saying for months — that the novel coronavirus affects communities of colour at a disproportionate rate. According to early data from Ottawa Public Health (OPH), 66 per cent of people who've tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa are "racialized" — which OPH defines as those who are Black or of other non-white backgrounds. The term does not include people who identify as Indigenous. Only 25 per cent of Ottawa residents identified as being a visible minority in the 2016 census, according to Statistics Canada.

"We know that there are systemic inequities for these communities," said Naini Cloutier, executive director of the Somerset West Community Health Centre, in an interview with CBC. "With COVID, the cracks are becoming bigger, and you're seeing the very negative impact."

Cloutier revealed those numbers at a technical briefing last Wednesday with Ottawa councillors and public health officials. She also laid out the Ottawa Health Team's plan for minimizing the impact of COVID-19 in those communities. The strategy will address the specific health and socioeconomic factors that make people from non-white backgrounds, immigrants and newcomers more likely to catch COVID-19 and experience worse health outcomes. OPH started collecting race-based data in June to get a fuller picture of the impact of COVID-19 and the barriers some residents face accessing health care in Ottawa.

Ontario reports highest number of new cases in more than 3 months; Quebec has most new cases since May 

Ontario reported an additional 425 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the most on any single day in the past three-and-a-half months. Consistent with recent trends, the majority of new infections were concentrated in three public health units. Toronto saw 175 while Peel confirmed 84 and Ottawa 60.

​​Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a series of tweets that about 67 per cent of cases in Monday's update are people under the age of 40. Further, 18 of the newly confirmed cases are what the province classifies as "school-related." There have now been a cumulative total of 90 student-related cases reported across Ontario since the new school year began.

In Quebec, the province is seeing the start of a "second wave" of COVID-19 infections, according to public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda. Quebec reported 586 new cases, the highest daily increase since late May, when the first wave of infections began to taper off.

At a news conference in Quebec City, Arruda said the increases in recent days have convinced him that the province has entered dangerous territory. "The [epidemiological] curve is not like it was in spring, but I think it is the start of a second wave," Arruda said. "If we want to have a normal Christmas, people need to co-operate. It's important."

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

THE SCIENCE

Hospitalizations, deaths will follow Ontario's COVID-19 surge, but how many remains unclear 

The fresh spike in new COVID-19 cases in Ontario is not yet bringing an equivalent spike in hospitalizations or deaths from the coronavirus, but experts say it's too early to draw conclusions. Over the past week, as Premier Doug Ford and his government slapped new restrictions on private gatherings, Ontario reported an average of 335 new confirmed COVID-19 infections daily, about two-thirds of them in people under 40. That's triple the pace of the last week of August.

So far, the rise in hospitalizations is nowhere near as steep. There were 65 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals as of Monday. The hospitalization rate hit its low ebb in the third week of August, with a daily average of 38 patients in beds around the province. However, hospitalizations and deaths are what epidemiologists call "lagging indicators" of the impact of a pandemic: you don't see those numbers rising until well after the infections were transmitted.

But that's no reason to take the current spike in cases casually, according to the experts. "The issue with this infection is that it's really, really contagious," said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital.

"It doesn't stay restricted to a single age cohort for long," he said. "Unfortunately, I think we're starting to see some early trends of this spreading beyond the 20-year-old age group and into older age groups."

Ontario's surging number of new coronavirus cases is not just a function of increased testing, as some skeptics have claimed. The province completed an average of around 25,600 tests per day in August. Over the past week, that average daily testing number was up by 32 per cent. The average number of confirmed new COVID-19 cases has accelerated far more quickly. On Sept. 1, the daily number of new cases (based on a five-day average) was running at 121. That doubled by Sept. 12. It tripled by Sept. 18.

Another sign that has the medical community worried about what's to come is Ontario's rising test positivity rate. That's the percentage of people tested whose results show a confirmed case of COVID-19. Over the past week, the positivity rate was 0.99 per cent. That's double the rate of late August, and triple the rate of early August.

AND FINALLY...

Struck by loneliness of seniors in pandemic, N.B. student launches program that pairs university students with seniors 

Brenda Trafford, left, was paired with student Hannah Crouse through the matchmaking program Crouse created to address isolation and loneliness seniors in New Brunswick were feeling during the pandemic. (Submitted by Hannah Crouse) (Submitted by Hannah Crouse)

At 85, Brenda Trafford is well known along the southeastern part of New Brunswick for her colourful outfits, yellow car and bright jewelry. She is a tireless volunteer and a prolific maker of crafts. But even for a self-described "active senior," COVID-19 restrictions have been tough. "I do have my days when I'm at home and have been there for too long and haven't seen a single soul, and it does get gloomy," said Trafford.

Enter Hannah Crouse, a third-year student at Mount Allison University in Sackville, whose eyes were opened in the spring to the needs of seniors like Trafford. Crouse was working with community groups, and one of her first assignments was delivering food to seniors in and around Port Elgin. Crouse found loneliness at every stop. "It was every senior that I visited, and I mean every single senior that I visited," she told CBC News.

That night, Crouse came up with the idea for her program that pairs university students with seniors. The goal is for the students to visit their seniors once a week and share a meal while remaining physically distanced. Crouse put out a call on social media for student volunteers from Mount Allison, then invited the seniors and students to a garden party earlier this summer. She played the role of matchmaker and paired 18 seniors with 20 students. Crouse said many friendships have blossomed, including her own friendship with Trafford.

"We chatted a lot; we compared tattoos," Trafford said. "I was hers, and she was mine, and that was it." The feeling was mutual. Crouse said she immediately decided, "Oh my gosh, I'm stealing Brenda."

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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