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In today's Morning Brief, some intensive care physicians and nurses share their concerns as they brace for an influx of patients that threatens to overwhelm hospitals due to the resurgence of the coronavirus and the flu.

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Canadian ICUs brace for COVID-19 resurgence on top of the flu

When Canadians successfully flattened epidemic curves during the summer, the goal was to prevent hospitals and intensive care units from facing a crush of patients with COVID-19 all at once. Health officials wanted to avoid what happened in hospitals in New York City, where refrigerated trailers were used as temporary morgues.

But the recent surge of new coronavirus cases in all provinces beyond Atlantic Canada has already thwarted surgery plans and led to the cancellation of surgeries such as hip replacements at one hospital in Toronto and postponements in Edmonton.

Dr. Bram Rochwerg, an associate professor at McMaster University and critical care lead at the Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, anticipates a surge of patients with COVID-19, and he worries hospitals won't be able to accommodate them all as more surgeries resume.

Traditionally, autumn in hospitals also means scrambling for health-care workers such as nurses and respiratory therapists to backfill those sick with the cold and flu or who need to stay home to care for sick children.

"We're all worried about it," Rochwerg said. "You see the provincial [COVID-19] numbers creep up day by day. We see that critical care numbers [of ICU patients] creep up."

Patty Tamlin, a registered nurse working in critical care at a hospital in Toronto's east end, said she's also concerned about the coming cold-and-flu season.

"One of the biggest concerns is you may be overrun by patients," Tamlin said. Her message to Canadians? "Tell everyone to get their flu shot." Read more on this story here.

Looking unimpressed

(Vincent Thian/The Associated Press)

A doctor collects a sample from a baby for a coronavirus test in Subang on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday. Malaysia extended restricted movements in its biggest city, Kuala Lumpur, neighbouring Selangor state and the administrative capital of Putrajaya Wednesday in an attempt to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

In brief

The president of U.S. operations for global shipping giant UPS was granted a special ministerial exemption from Canada's mandatory 14-day COVID-19 quarantine, a CBC News investigation has learned, which he used to lobby Ontario employees to accept the company's new contract offer. Nando Cesarone travelled from Atlanta to Toronto for three days of meetings starting Oct. 19. The company says Cesarone sought and received an authorization for a conditional exemption from mandatory quarantine from Global Affairs Canada. "We don't understand why Mr. Cesarone was allowed to come into Canada and why the government waived his 14-day quarantine requirement," said Christopher Monette, public affairs director for Teamsters Canada, the union representing UPS workers in Canada. Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has granted 191 such quarantine exemptions on "business mobility" grounds since the pandemic began — 138 of them over the past six weeks, a spokesperson said. Global Affairs refused to discuss Cesarone's exemption, citing the federal Privacy Act. Cesarone declined interview requests, and UPS did not respond to written questions about the exact reasons for his trip or why the meetings couldn't be conducted remotely. Read more on the U.S. executive granted a quarantine exemption.

Canadians who lost loved ones when Iran shot down Flight PS752 earlier this year have been reporting an increasing number of threats warning them against criticizing Iran's response to the disaster. Former MP Ralph Goodale, who is acting as Canada's special adviser to the government on the incident, said two cases of intimidation and harassment were reported to police in the spring. The number of such incidents of which authorities are aware has now increased to 11, he said. RCMP, local police and security organizations are working with Canada's allies around the world and taking the threats seriously, Goodale added. Hamed Esmaeilion lost his daughter Reera and wife Parisa when PS752 was shot down by the Iranian military on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people aboard. He's the spokesperson representing an association of victims' families in Canada seeking justice and he said he has been receiving hateful messages for months. But the situation escalated after a rally he held on Parliament Hill on Oct. 5, he said. Since then, he's received a suspicious phone call and a threat through his Instagram account, he said. Read more on this story here.

Watch | Families of Flight 752 victims report more threats from Iran:

Families of Flight 752 victims report more threats from Iran


1 month agoVideo

At some point over the next six weeks, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will table a fiscal and economic update that might include an updated tally of how much the pandemic and federal emergency measures have cost to date — and an estimate of how much the Liberal government proposes to spend in the years ahead as part of its plan to "build back better." The potential for sticker shock looms and the deficit hawks are already circling, writes CBC parliamentary reporter Aaron Wherry. So Freeland is getting an early start on making the case for spending — and for not worrying too much about the debt. She insisted Wednesday that the Liberal government's approach is not based solely on "heart" — on concern for vulnerable Canadians — but is also grounded in "prudent, dispassionate economic calculus." For however long the pandemic is with us, she said, the federal government has to support Canadian citizens and businesses — because it's the "compassionate" thing to do and it's also the "pragmatic" thing to do. Read more analysis of Freeland's comments here

Canada's chief central banker, Tiff Macklem, has warned of a long, slow recovery as successive rounds of COVID-19 lead to a "scarring" of the domestic and world economy. After what some see as a false dawn this summer as the economy resurged, Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, and his senior deputy, Carolyn Wilkins, offered a gloomy outlook for an economy that they say is unlikely to get back on track until 2023. Not only that, but jobs — hit harder in this recession than the last one — are disproportionately affecting Canadians with the lowest wages. While 425,000 jobs disappeared following the 2008 credit crisis, this time around employment has been cut by 700,000. And Macklem said some of those jobs may never come back. "We're going to get through this, but it's going to be a long slog," he said at a virtual meeting with financial reporters on Wednesday. Read more analysis from CBC business columnist Don Pittis.

While a record number of Black women and LGTBQ candidates are running in this U.S. election cycle, gains still need to be made in order to reach reflective representation, advocates say.  "We currently know of 1,006 LGBTQ candidates running in 2020, with 574 on the ballot this November," said Sarah LeDonne, a spokesperson for advocacy group The Victory Fund. While the 2020 numbers show a significant increase of out LGBTQ candidates, the organization says thousands more members of the community need to run for public office, and win, for there to be representation that is reflective of U.S. society. Black women running for office face a similar gap. "Black women are only 4.3 per cent of Congress. Black women are eight per cent of the U.S. population," said Glynda Carr, president of Higher Heights for America, a political advocacy group. She said voters have only elected two Black women to ever serve in the U.S. Senate: Carol Moseley Braun in 1992 and Kamala Harris in 2016. Read more on this story from CBC Washington correspondent Katie Simpson.

Watch | Delaware state senate candidate on what her run for office means for the LGBTQ community:

Delaware state senate candidate on what her run for office means for the LGBTQ community

1 month agoVideo

Now for some good news to start your Thursday: As Dr. Stephanie Hiebert prepared to transplant a man's liver a few months ago in Halifax, she realized she needed to add a task to her preparation — taking a photo. Hiebert's seven-person surgical team on that day was made up of women. The only man in the room was the patient. The Nova Scotia Health Authority says the all-female transplant team was a first for the province. It is believed to be a first for the country. "To my knowledge there's either two or three female liver transplant surgeons in Canada," said Hiebert, the surgeon. Working alongside during the transplant were a general surgery resident, two anesthesiologists and three nurses. She said women who work in surgery constantly face gender stereotypes, but things are beginning to change. Hiebert and anesthesiologist Dr. Adrienne Carr — who was part of the transplant team — say that the number of women in medical school is making a big difference in creating a more diverse hospital staff. Read more about the surgical team here.

Front Burner: What voter suppression looks like in the U.S. election

Hours-long lines, polling-place closures and voter roll purges are just a few of the ways that the upcoming U.S. election is challenging voting rights in the country.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is also an unprecedented demand for mail-in ballots, adding many logistical challenges and complications to vote counting. Many voters are also concerned about the effectiveness of the post office.

Today on Front Burner, we explain voter suppression in this election and who is disproportionately affected by it, with CBC Washington correspondent Alex Panetta and CBC New York correspondent Steven D'Souza.

Today in history: October 29

1929: Share prices collapse on the New York stock market on what is known as Black Tuesday. The Toronto Stock Exchange also suffered huge losses. Amid the Great Depression that followed, Canada was particularly affected by the ensuing collapse in world trade because one-third of its economy depended on exports. 

1958: Rescue workers in Springhill, N.S., find 12 coal miners alive six days after they were trapped in a cave-in. A rescue tunnel was dug and the miners were reached the following day.

1999: 16 years after their fight began, federal public servants win a pay equity deal. The Chrétien government agrees to pay more than 200,000 mostly female, former and current employees between $3.3 and $3.6 billion.

2013: Sears Canada announces it is closing its flagship location in Toronto's Eaton Centre, as well as four other stores.

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

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