The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for June 2
- Doctor linked to New Brunswick COVID-19 cluster says he may have made 'an error in judgment.'
- Toronto-area hospitals failed to flag 700 positive COVID-19 tests to public health units.
- Changing of the guard at Bank of Canada adds to COVID-19 uncertainty, writes CBC's Don Pittis.
- Read more: R, a key metric to watch as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
How Winnipeg has largely avoided the hardships of COVID-19
Winnipeg is one of the largest cities in North America — if not the largest — that, so far, has gone through the COVID-19 pandemic with few cases of the disease, almost fully functional hospitals and an economy where only a handful of remaining businesses are not allowed to reopen. On Monday, Manitoba permitted restaurants to resume serving customers indoors, provided they operate at half capacity, gyms were permitted to invite patrons in and some children even went back to school — if only to meet their teachers.
And as if to underscore the rationale behind this second phase of Manitoba's reopening strategy, the province only reported two new COVID-19 cases today after not reporting any Monday, along with nobody in hospital with the disease and an active provincial caseload of 12. Seven Manitobans have died since the pandemic began and 278 have recovered as of today. This may seem like a parallel universe compared with Ontario, where nearly 4,000 cases remain active, the maximum outdoor gathering size remains five people and a manicure remains an illicit luxury. Ontario has nonetheless flattened the curve far more effectively than Quebec, Canada's undisputed COVID-19 hot spot, where the active case total on Monday was at 30,096.
Winnipeg has been spared the fate of Canada's largest cities, writes CBC's Bartley Kives, because of no fewer than five factors: Geography, timing, government action, collective behaviour and presumably, luck. Winnipeg received few COVID-19 cases during the earliest days of the pandemic. The Manitoba capital is not a major airline passenger hub, and Winnipeg lacks physical proximity to any major metropolitan area. The closest, Minneapolis-St. Paul, is seven hours by car and a (presently closed) international border away. Timing helped out Winnipeg, as few international travellers visited the city in late February and early March — when the pandemic was heating up. Spring break for students also occurred after the pandemic was declared, limiting the number of Manitobans who may have otherwise travelled and returned with the virus.
Manitoba's government, meanwhile, took relatively swift action when it came to mitigating the spread of the disease. The province locked down hospitals four days after the first case of the disease was reported in Manitoba. Within the next two weeks, maximum public gatherings were reduced to 10 people, schools were shuttered, non-essential businesses were ordered closed and all visitors and most returning travellers were required to self-isolate. Many Manitobans did their part by accepting public health advice to stay home whenever possible and washing their hands more frequently than they did before the pandemic. The role of luck cannot be overstated. The most vulnerable people in Manitoba have so far avoided the worst of the pandemic; Manitoba's personal care homes evaded all but one minor outbreak. No one living on a First Nation has been diagnosed with the virus, and there have been no outbreaks in Manitoba meat-processing plants or other factories.
At this point, the incidence of COVID-19 is so low in Manitoba that the greatest threat remains importing the disease from other parts of Canada and the rest of the world. The requirement to isolate for 14 days remains for anyone who isn't a long-distance trucker or someone returning from communities just inside the Ontario and Saskatchewan borders. Manitoba is nonetheless easing up on the soft checkpoints at interprovincial borders, where motorists were being stopped and advised of the need to isolate in this province. There is no reason to suggest Winnipeg or Manitoba will experience such good fortune in perpetuity, writes Kives. It only takes one COVID-19 superspreader to create a spike of infections. There's also no evidence many people in the city and province are immune to the disease. The knowledge that restrictions can be brought back is sobering, but for now, Winnipeggers can enjoy their relative freedoms that exist in a city that may be the envy of many others on the continent.
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Doctor linked to New Brunswick COVID-19 cluster says he may have made 'an error in judgment'
The doctor at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Campbellton, N.B., area says he's not sure whether he picked up the coronavirus during a trip to Quebec or from a patient in his office. Dr. Jean Robert Ngola made the comments to Radio-Canada this morning — his first media interview since the emergence of 13 new cases in the northern New Brunswick health region starting May 21. Before then, it had been two weeks since the province had an active case.
Ngola has been suspended by the Vitalité Health Network, one of the province's two regional health authorities, and the province has asked the RCMP to investigate to determine whether charges are warranted. He said he decided to speak out because he's become the target of racist verbal attacks daily and false reports to police, and he feels abandoned by public health officials. He said he did not self-isolate after returning from an overnight return trip to Quebec to pick up his four-year-old daughter. Her mother had to travel to Africa for her father's funeral. "What was I supposed to do?" he said in French. "Leave her there alone?" Ngola said he drove straight there and back with no stops and had no contact with anyone. He said none of his family members had any COVID-19 symptoms at the time. He returned to work at the Campbellton Regional Hospital the next day. "Maybe it was an error in judgment," said Ngola, pointing out that workers, including nurses who live in Quebec, cross the border each day with no 14-day isolation period required.
Twelve of the province's 13 cases have been linked to the travel-related case to date, according to public health officials. The policy for any health-care workers who travel outside the province for any reason is to self-isolate for 14 days, New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell has said. "It is mandatory." Ngola did not say during the morning interview what he told officials at the New Brunswick border about his reason for travel or what they told him about requirements to self-isolate upon entering the province. Nor did he indicate what, if any, followup he had from border officials. When reached by phone later to clarify, Ngola said he was on the other line with his lawyer and hung up. Repeated calls since then have gone straight to voicemail. Gilles Lanteigne, the chief executive officer of the Vitalité Health Network, said he was aware of Ngola's public statements, but could not comment on human resources matters, citing privacy. "I would like to appeal to everyone to remain calm in these difficult times," he said in an emailed statement.
Read more about what's happening in New Brunswick
Toronto-area hospitals failed to flag 700 positive COVID-19 tests to public health units
Hundreds of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Toronto area were not flagged to public health officials because of a mixup between two hospitals, CBC News has learned. The positive tests were completed as far back as April but the 12 public health units involved were only notified about the oversight in the past few days. The bulk of the cases involve people living in Toronto, Peel Region and York Region. The oversight means thousands of contacts of the confirmed cases were not traced by public health workers, potentially contributing to wider spread of the coronavirus in recent weeks.
The tests were conducted by the William Osler Health System, which has hospital sites in Etobicoke and Brampton, as well as a drive-thru COVID-19 assessment centre. The test samples were processed by the laboratory at Mount Sinai Hospital in downtown Toronto. Staff at each hospital thought that notifying the public health units about the approximately 700 positive tests was the responsibility of the other hospital, according to a source informed about the mixup. The actual responsibility lay with William Osler, said provincial officials. In an email Monday, a spokesperson for William Osler Health System declined to comment on what happened and referred all questions to Ontario Health, the provincial agency that oversees hospitals and the COVID-19 lab system.
Ontario's testing and lab system has faced repeated challenges and criticism since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Public health units, the hospital and the province are now trying to figure out exactly how many cases were missed. "We were notified of this matter over the weekend," said Toronto Public Health's director of media relations Lenore Bromley in an email to CBC News. She said the public health unit has been asked to direct all media requests to Ontario Health, which did not say how many positive tests were not reported to public health units but did not dispute the figure of roughly 700. Many of the positive test results have now been added to Ontario's public health database but about 430 will be added to the count in the coming days, a senior provincial official told CBC News on Monday evening.
Changing of the guard at Bank of Canada adds to COVID-19 uncertainty: Don Pittis
In a time of ultimate economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and the lockdown to fight it, the change Wednesday at the top of Canada's central bank will only add to the confusion, according to CBC's Don Pittis. That's not to say that the newly appointed governor of the Bank of Canada, Tiff Macklem, who takes over from Stephen Poloz, will do a bad job. But just as when Poloz replaced Mark Carney — who set off to a job at the Bank of England only to be replaced by a relative unknown — changes of leadership style at the top matter.
As it turned out, Poloz, appointed seven years ago in place of heir apparent Macklem, was, in Pittis's view, an excellent choice as he rode the shockwaves radiating from the 2008 financial crisis with aplomb. "I think he's been solid and that's what you want in a central banker," said Joe Martin, director of Canadian business history at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. As with Poloz, the judgment of Macklem's fitness will be how he responds to crises that are by definition unpredictable. If anything, the Bank of Canada under the incoming governor is facing even more uncertainty in an already uncertain time, not least because Macklem — who was senior deputy governor from July 2010 until May 2014 — remains an unknown quantity, said Martin, who has watched the new appointee in his role as dean at Rotman.
Martin said other unknowns that could lead to conflict include Macklem's climate change-fighting stance, his uncertain ability to "read the room" and perhaps most significantly, his independence from Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who appointed him. When the bank was founded by the Conservative government of R.B. Bennett in the 1930s, amid considerable rancour, it was a private institution divorced from government. Since then, it has grown closer, and in the current crisis, Martin says even closer co-operation between fiscal and monetary policy may not be a bad thing. But as the Canadian economy plunges into the unknown, there is enough that could go wrong to turn the job into a poisoned chalice, writes Pittis. "Clearly, Macklem faces a pretty massive challenge," said Jacqueline Best, a University of Ottawa professor specializing in economic crises.
Read more about the Bank of Canad's new governor
Your COVID-19 testing questions answered
CBC News readers, viewers and listeners have sent in countless questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a question of your own, reach out at email@example.com. Many readers are confused about the testing process and the results, so we took your most common questions to the experts. Here are some responses to those questions:
How soon after exposure and infection can you reliably expect a positive nasal swab test? Unfortunately, there isn't a set number of days and you can only really count on a positive test if you have symptoms, according Dr. Matthew Cheng, a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at the McGill University Health Centre. If you have symptoms, there is a 70 per cent the disease will be detected with a positive result, said Cheng, who recently wrote a scientific article summarizing research so far on COVID-19 testing. On average, symptoms develop five to six days after exposure, but it can take two to 14 days.
If I'm asymptomatic, will I still test positive? If the person is asymptomatic, the chance that they will test positive drops significantly, Cheng said, but researchers don't know by how much. According to the World Health Organization, presymptomatic people can test positive one to three days before symptoms start.
Isn't it risky to line up at an assessment centre with people who might have COVID-19? Cheng doesn't think so. Health-care workers at assessment and testing centres are well trained and wear appropriate personal protective equipment to protect the patient and themselves, Cheng said. "These are experienced professionals." He noted that there are no reports of outbreaks at testing centres. For a better idea of what procedures are in place to protect those getting tested, you can read a first-hand account by CBC's Farrah Merali.
Quebec City diner brings back drive-in trays amid pandemic
It's like a pandemic-themed episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives ...
Quebec City's Buffet Royal has brought back a drive-in classic — eat-in-your-car dinner trays — to serve customers amid COVID-19 restrictions. The idea came to third-generation owner Éric Sanfaçon after he started noticing customers were eating their meals in their cars or on the sidewalk after the diner was forced to rely on takeout and delivery because of dining room closures in the province.
That's when he thought back to the hooked trays his grandfather Lorenzo used for decades that were just sitting in the restaurant's basement. Sanfaçon thought he would bring the old trays out for a few days to have a laugh with his regular customers, but the regulars quickly convinced him to bring back the service in full. "It really makes people smile," he said. "People are patient and grateful."
Customers pick a parking space, call the number posted on the front window of the restaurant to place their order — making sure to specify the colour and model of their car. The food arrives minutes later and sits on the small metal surface, hooked onto the car window. "Two honks when you're done and we come out to pick everything up," Sanfaçon said, limiting contact as much as possible.
Read the full story about the return of drive-in dining
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With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters