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Canadians want serious progress on COVID 19 before returning to work: poll

LAURA OSMAN THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Apr 14th, 2020

OTTAWA — Most Canadians want to see significant progress in the fight against COVID-19 before they would feel comfortable with people being allowed to return to work, a new poll suggests.

The poll says 29 per cent of Canadians believe restrictions on workplace and leisure activities should only be lifted once the country is free of any new cases for at least two weeks.

One-quarter of respondents said they would want to see only sporadic cases being discovered before such restrictions are lifted, and assurance there is no pressure on the health system.

Just over 20 per cent think Canadians should continue to physically isolate and stay away from work until there is a vaccine to protect against the virus.

The poll, conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies between April 9 and 12, surveyed 1,508 adult Canadians and 1,012 adult Americans randomly recruited from its online panel. The internet-based survey cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered random samples.

“We wanted to look at that aspect because we’re now in that phase where people are starting to reconsider when are we going back to normal,” said Christian Bourque, executive vice-president of Leger.

“They seem to be favouring the mid- to long-term more than the short-term,” he said.

Recently released federal projections show that it could be mid-summer, or even late summer, before the first wave of Canada’s epidemic is over, and that is the best-case scenario.

As for a vaccine, that is likely still many months away.

Canadians seem highly dedicated to obeying the rules set out by public health, as 98 per cent of the poll respondents said they abide by social distancing.

Until current restrictions are lifted, 40 per cent say they would report someone whose is not obeying public health rules, with the largest number of would-be snitches in the Atlantic provinces, at 50 per cent, and Quebec, at 48 per cent.

“It’s as if Canadians are saying, not that we’re comfortable … but that we feel it’s the right thing for now and maybe a few weeks more” Bourque said.

Those results show a serious departure from Canada’s neighbours to the south, where 46 per cent say they would not report rule-breakers to the authorities.

The United States has become the new worldwide epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, and has now reported more deaths than any other country.

But attitudes there about physical distancing and public health measures appear more lax than in Canada, according to the poll results.

Pollsters offered a list of public health measures, including staying two meters away from others, and only going out for necessities.

They found the rate of non-compliance with at least one of those measures in the U.S. was 46 per cent, compared to 26 per cent in Canada.

“It probably explains in part why we’re doing so much better than our southern neighbour,” Bourque said.

Sixty-five per cent of Canadians polled were fearful about the impact our southern neighbours could have on the pandemic here.

Americans are decidedly less worried about how the Canadian epidemic is playing out, with only 19 per cent concerned that it will impact their country.

People in the states also appear far less satisfied with measures put in place by President Donald Trump, with only 44 per cent in support. In Canada, the federal government is enjoying 76 per cent support for the measures it’s institutes to right the virus.

Bourque said Canadians’ trust in institutions appears to be helping in Canada.

On Monday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada’s epidemic curve is starting to show positive signs, as the growth of cases begins to slow down.

It is also helping Canada’s Liberal party, which is enjoying growing support for its response to the pandemic, he said.

The pollsters asked who respondents would vote for if an election was held today, compared to responses from January 22, before the COVID-19 crisis hit Canada.

Opposition parties have seen a slight decline in support among decided voters, whereas Liberal support has climbed to 39 per cent from 31 per cent earlier this year.

‘A lifeboat in the ocean:’ Nurses on life inside a downtown Vancouver hospital

AMY SMART, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Apr 14th, 2020

VANCOUVER — As a registered nurse in the emergency department at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, Zoe Manarangi Bake-Paterson wonders whether she’ll be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

There’s palpable stress in the department, she says, as she and her colleagues prepare for a surge of cases that may or may not arrive.

“It feels like we’re in a lifeboat in the ocean waiting for the tsunami to arrive,” Manarangi Bake-Paterson says.

“I just wonder how this will change me or change my co-workers in our practice or in our personal lives, because I think it’s a lot that’s going to come our way. I just wonder, when we come through the other side, how different will we be?”

St. Paul’s has long been at the forefront of treating Vancouver’s most vulnerable.

In the 1980s, it was one of the few treatment centres for HIV-positive patients in British Columbia.  Today, many of its patients are residents of the Downtown Eastside, which has been the epicentre of an overdose crisis.

More than a dozen health workers at the hospital agreed to be interviewed by The Canadian Press and described how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting them and their work.

They shared feelings of uncertainty, fear, hopefulness and solidarity.

Even if B.C. is successful at slowing COVID-19’s spread, several nurses say they are bracing for a possible outbreak in the Downtown Eastside where so many are homeless and physical distancing is a challenge.

The hospital is closed to anyone except patients and staff now.

Beds have been vacated and triage has been overhauled so that patients with respiratory symptoms can be isolated immediately.

Staff receive updated directions — sometimes hourly — as new evidence about the outbreak emerges. They rehearse urgent intubations after their shifts and adjust to working in zero pressure rooms.

Potential COVID-19 cases appear in the emergency department in many different ways.

“It kind of looks like pneumonia. They’re short of breath, usually pretty high fevers and they tend to deteriorate pretty quickly, the people who are really not doing well,” says registered nurse Duncan McTavish.

Other patients seem OK, so it’s hard to tell, he says.

In some ways, the novel coronavirus is like a phantom in the emergency department.

Staff don’t typically find out if a patient has COVID-19 after taking swabs. Patients may be sent home with instructions to manage their symptoms or be in intensive care by the time the test results come in.

The spectre that anyone could carry the virus has changed the way nurses think about everything they do.

“Every single action I take I have to think about,” McTavish says. “What kind of mask I need and if I enter the room, swab this person, leave again — I have to make sure I’ve changed my gloves and washed my hands between every single step.

“We do that all the time, but certainly the awareness of that right now is really heightened.”

Nurses wear goggles, suffocating surgical masks and other gear all through their shifts.

“People have been joking about how their skin is already feeling abrasions because of this constant friction with the masks,” says Manarangi Bake-Paterson.

Registered nurse Rachel Mrdeza says she had never really thought about the gear she wears as protection, but now she’s keenly aware that it’s her shield.

Feelings in the hospital swing like a pendulum, she says.

On one side, staff are worried for patients and loved ones. On the other, they’re uplifted by the roaring cheers for health workers that ripple through the city at the same time every night and by the donations of food and other supplies that have been dropped off.

“At those times it feels so incredibly joyous to experience that,” Mrdeza says.

There’s also a feeling of unity among staff.

“Even in the masks where you can’t see people’s smiles and glasses are fogged up and … there is this physical disconnect, it feels like we’re in this together,” Manarangi Bake-Paterson says.

Many have had to make personal sacrifices or have had tough conversations with their families about what would happen if they got sick.

Registered nurse Leah Ventura says she waved hello outside her parents’ window the other day because she couldn’t go in.

Amanda Hickey, a clinical nurse leader, says her mother recently moved to a care home and Hickey hasn’t been able to see her in more than a month.

“That’s been really tough.”

Registered nurse Maria Alonzo says her heart sank when she woke up one day with a body ache, fever and dry throat. One of the physicians she works with contracted the coronavirus and she’s in contact with potential cases every day.

As a single mom who lives with her 73-year-old mother, Alonzo had trouble expressing the relief she felt when she tested negative.

“I actually cried when I got my result,” she says. “Every time I go to work my fear is 200 per cent, because I always think of my son, my mom who lives with me. What would happen if I got sick?”

Still, Alonzo says she’ll continue to work every day alongside thousands of other health workers.

In many ways, the emergency department nurses’ jobs haven’t changed at all. They are still responsible for providing the best care they can and they have a system in place to do so.

Registered nurse Erica Wong urges everyone to keep following public health protocols that will give nurses the best chance at success.

“So far we’re doing OK, but that can change any second. Just continue to be cautiously optimistic. We are all in this together,” she said.

“We just need to keep going.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2020

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Federal officials to provide COVID-19 update focused on seniors, foreign workers

Kyle Mack | posted Monday, Apr 13th, 2020

Federal officials are due to provide an update Monday on measures for seniors, home care and temporary foreign workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Prime Minister’s Office says the news will come from public health officials and cabinet ministers — not Justin Trudeau, who’s taking the day off from public appearances.

The expected update comes after a weekend that saw Quebec’s premier rebuke a long-term care home where 31 residents have died in less than a month.

Francois Legault says there was “gross negligence” at Residence Herron, where five of the deaths are definitively linked to COVID-19.

Authorities first inspected Residence Herron on March 29, three days after word of the first death, and found the residence “deserted” as staff had walked off the job.

The province’s coroner will investigate, as will police.

Numerous other long-term care homes across the country are experiencing outbreaks of the novel coronavirus, including Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., which has seen 29 of its residents die in recent weeks.

And on Saturday, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet raised concern about temporary foreign workers arriving in Canada to work on farms.

The federal government has exempted migrant workers from COVID-19 travel restrictions because of their importance to the economy. Officials have said they’ll face health screening before travelling to Canada and will isolate for 14 days once they get here.

But Blanchet says he believes those rules don’t go far enough.

Why some ignore coronavirus distancing rules: a psychologist weighs in

Kyle Mack | posted Monday, Apr 13th, 2020

Despite coronavirus shutdowns and public health appeals to stay home, Toronto’s parks have remained busy. The city says it’s still having the same conversation every day with hundreds of people who are not taking physical distancing seriously. But that comes as no surprise to Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman.

“What we’re asking people to do is a very large task,” says Abdulrehman, a clinical and consulting psychologist based in Winnipeg. “We’re not just staying indoors, we’re cutting out every single element that makes us human, that ties us to one another.”

While Toronto’s normally busting, now empty and eerily quiet streets show us that behaviours can change. Our new COVID-19 reality also makes it glaringly apparent we have simply never experienced anything like this before.

“That uncertainty can both make people increasingly anxious or increasingly complacent,” Abdulrehman says.

You can still go for a walk through the city’s parks. But amenities like playgrounds and park benches are off-limits. And from officials, the message remains: if you are going out, you’re supposed to keep at least two metres away from anyone you don’t live with. It’s the kind of close contact the city is trying to eliminate to reduce the chances of spreading the virus.

Getting caught breaking those rules could cost you up to $1,000. But with no frame of reference for this pandemic, our new normal becomes harder to enforce.

“The whole uncertainty of not knowing what we’re dealing with is really contributing to that,” says Abdulrehman. “Add to that…public health messages take a while to enforce.”

Take for instance smoking rates in Canada. Approximately half of Canadians smoked in 1965 according to the University of Waterloo, compared to about 15 per cent in 2017. Driving down those rates has taken years of messaging from public health experts. “We don’t have that luxury of time,” Abdulrehman says.

Bylaw officers have handed out more than one hundred tickets since April 4, all involving people mingling in groups and in closed areas.

“It makes sense that people are having a hard time with it. The dilemma is where people might take a complacent point of view that this is not going to impact them.” Abdulrehman suggests changing that point of view may take more than a fine.

“One of the things we could do is be very clear and very specific. If we’re not interpreting things in the correct way,” he says, “it’s definitely going to impact our emotions which will impact our behavioural choices.”

Health Canada approves Ottawa company’s rapid COVID-19 test kits

Kyle Mack | posted Monday, Apr 13th, 2020

A rapid, portable testing device for COVID-19 developed by an Ottawa company has received approval from Health Canada.

The device, which was developed by Spartan Bioscience, is a handheld DNA analyzer that allows hospitals and other institutions to independently test patients and receive results without having to send the samples away to a provincial or national lab.

The device comes with its own test cartridges and proprietary swabs, which are manufactured in Ottawa.

The test can be administered by “non-laboratory personnel” in places such as airports, border crossings, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, clinics, and remote communities.

In a release, the company said the tests can now be shipped to “Spartan’s federal and provincial government partners starting immediately.”

“We are grateful to the Government of Canada for working closely with us to expedite the review and approval process,” Paul Lem, CEO of Spartan Bioscience, said in a release.

“We are ready to start shipping our portable COVID-19 test to the federal and provincial governments, and to make them widely available to Canadians.”

A worldwide shortage of medical swabs has slowed down the traditional testing, which is especially being felt in Ontario. Until recently, the province has had the lowest testing rate for COVID-19 in Canada.

Julia Grieve’s DIY Egg Dyeing + Butter Tart Recipes

Julia Grieve | posted Friday, Apr 10th, 2020

No-Waste Eggs:

You can dye these hardboiled eggs, and they’ll keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. If you’re using them as decorations, don’t leave them out of the fridge longer than 2 hours.

MIX: Litre of water + 2 tablespoons of white vinegar

Dye with Beets (pink)

boil a litre of water with 2 table spoons of white vinegar

4 cups chopped beets

Let simmer for 30 mins, then strain, let mixture cool and place eggs in mixture for 30 mins, or longer for deeper tones

Dye with Cabbage (light blue)

Boil litre of water with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar

Add 3 cups of purple or red cabbage and simmer for 30 mins, let mixture cool and add eggs

Allow eggs to soak overnight (in the fridge) for the brightest blue

Dye with Tumeric (yellow)

Boil litre of water with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar

Add 3 tablespoons of turmeric, let simmer for 30 minutes. Let mixture cool and add eggs. Let it soak until the desired colour is reached.

Julia and Mimi’s Plant-Based Butter Tarts:

Plant-based meets patriotic with this Canadian classic. Rich, flaky, perfectly sweet – a dozen may not be enough.

12 tarts

Prep Time: 20 minutes Chill Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Stand Time: 2 minutes

375 mL 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 mL 1/4 tsp. salt

125 mL 4 oz plus 2 Tbsp. Becel® unsalted plant-based bricks, divided

45 mL 3 Tbsp. iced water

10 mL 2 tsp. white vinegar, divided

125 mL 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

60 mL 1/4 cup corn syrup

30 mL 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

1 egg

5 mL 1 tsp. vanilla extract

125 mL 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Grease 12 nonstick muffin cups; set aside. Combine flour with salt in medium bowl.

Cut in Becel® with pastry blender or fingertips, just until large crumbs begin to form.

Whisk water with 1 tsp. (5 mL) vinegar. Add just enough water mixture to flour mixture to form dough, while stirring flour mixture with fork.

Shape into a ball, then cover with plastic wrap; flatten dough into a disc.

Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Whisk brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, egg, remaining 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) melted Becel, vanilla and remaining tsp (5 mL) vinegar.

Roll dough on lightly floured surface about 0.5 cm thick. Cut out 12 (4-in/10 cm) circles, using a lightly floured glass or circle cutter. Press circles into prepared muffin cups.

Fill cups evenly with pecans, then brown sugar mixture. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375°F (190°C). Bake an additional 10 minutes or until deep golden.

Let stand in pan 2 minutes, then remove to wire rack and cool completely.

People needing addiction services feeling ‘abandoned’ during pandemic

CAMILLE BAINS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Apr 9th, 2020

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s former provincial health officer says he has “grave concerns” about reduced services because of COVID-19 for people struggling with drug addiction, while the manager of a supervised consumption site in Toronto says people are feeling abandoned.

Dr. Perry Kendall declared an ongoing public health emergency in B.C. four years ago as the province led the country with a record number of overdose deaths fuelled by the opioid fentanyl.

Services were ramped up through more overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites in B.C. as was distribution of take-home kits of naloxone, a medication used to reverse overdoses.

“We were making steps and strides in addressing stigma and creating access to a continuum of care, from harm reduction to medication assistance or to recovery, if that was your goal,” said Kendall, who is co-interim executive director of the BC Centre on Substance Use.

He said widespread job losses and more homelessness due to physical distancing at shelters have created even greater challenges for those battling substance use.

“Hopefully we’ll have the courage and the political will and the money to try and address it when we come through the other side of this. There are very, very, very vulnerable people out there and stigma is still raging.”

Kendall said recent amendments to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act were a positive move for illicit drug users as doctors can now prescribe a broader range of safer substances, such as stimulants, benzodiazepines and hydromorphone, for those with an addiction to opioids.

However, there aren’t enough prescribers despite a BC Centre on Substance Use program that has offered online training since 2017 in addiction medicine, nor adequate linkages to care, he said.

The province is trying to increase access to addiction care through a phone line of experts, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

“We’re working now to set that up as quickly as we can because of this double challenge of the COVID pandemic on top of the opioid overdose epidemic,” said Kendall, who recently returned from retirement to serve on a COVID-19 advisory committee to the  provincial health officer.

Jen Ko, program manager of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre in Toronto, said some of the nine overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites in the city have seen their hours cut, including one run by Toronto Public Health after an outbreak of COVID-19 among staff in late March.

“Folks are really isolated, really abandoned,” Ko said, adding that drop-in and meal programs have been suspended for the most vulnerable people, who can no longer make their usual social connection with employees wearing personal protective equipment.

“A lot of the things that people come to the service for are the human services, the connection to the staff, the conversation and support but being in PPE (means) nobody can tell who is who.”

Dr. Rita Shahin, associate medical health officer for Toronto Public Health, said one supervised injection site was closed temporarily on March 18 because of lineups and large groups gathered outside the building.

She said in an email the number of booths where drug users inject their own substances has also been reduced to two from six to maintain physical distancing.

There have also been cases of COVID-19 among staff, including those at the site, Shahin said.

Toronto had its highest number of overdose fatalities in a year last month, when 19 people died, she said.

“We want to encourage people not to use drugs alone, have a naloxone kit on hand and use a supervised consumption service if possible.”

Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, deputy chief medical health officer for the Vancouver Coastal Health authority, said some overdose prevention sites were temporarily closed due to concerns over physical distancing. But others, including the supervised injection facility Insite, continued operating as essential services that don’t require such measures.

Lysyshyn is concerned that visits to the sites have dropped by half in recent weeks.

“Some of this was because we had those temporary closures but it could also be that people are afraid to come to them because they’re worried that they will be exposed to COVID, so the alternative is to use drugs alone, which we know is a super dangerous activity.”

Two weeks ago, police in Vancouver responded to eight suspected overdose deaths, the highest number since August after a decline in fatalities over the past year, the city said.

Lysyshyn said access to illicit drugs has been more difficult for users with the Canada-U.S. border closed to non-essential travel, but the new prescribing guidelines have been positive.

“We may see that has helped people and that will move ahead the safe supply programs that were being proposed before the pandemic.”

Kirsten Duncan, a social worker in addiction medicine in acute care at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, said the resources discharged patients were referred to have mostly shut down though some have been offering online support.

“But the population we quite often deal with is street entrenched and quite often doesn’t have access to telephones and doesn’t have access to computers,” she said.

“These groups that have huge histories with trauma already, let alone the trauma of the fentanyl crisis, I can’t imagine what another crisis on top of things will do.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2020.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Researchers to study whether plasma of recovered patients can treat COVID-19

JEAN-BENOIT LEGAULT, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Apr 9th, 2020

MONTREAL — Researchers from across Canada will collaborate on a vast clinical trial to study whether the plasma of recovered patients can be used to treat COVID-19.

The study, the largest to date ever done on the subject, will include about 50 Canadian institutions, including 15 in Quebec.

“It’s a therapy to treat the illness,” said one of the lead researchers, Dr. Philippe Begin of Montreal’s CHU Ste-Justine hospital.

“We’re talking about passive immunizations, while with a vaccine we’re talking about active immunization.”

Passive immunization consists of transfusing plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 — called convalescent plasma — to patients in the early stages of the illness in order to provide protective antibodies and hopefully limit the severity of symptoms.

Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood that contains the antibodies that protect against illness.

Begin cited the proverb, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Teaching someone to fish, he said, would be the equivalent of a vaccine that prompts the body to make its own antibodies.

But with no vaccine available, convalescent plasma is the best alternative.

“But now we don’t have time, because we don’t yet know how to fish, so we can’t really teach it,” he said. “So the idea is that we just give the antibodies created by someone else.”

The approach was used before the development of vaccines to combat epidemics, and it’s not the first time the idea of using convalescent plasma has been raised in the fight against COVID-19. But thus far, the evidence in favour remains largely anecdotal and of poor scientific quality.

The study will include researchers from the Universite de Montreal, the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, Hema-Quebec, McMaster University, and Sunnybrook and SickKids hospitals in Toronto, among others.

Begin admitted researchers are running “a little blind” when it comes to the use of plasma.

“We don’t have a ton of studies that tell us, it takes this kind of antibody, or this amount of plasma,” he said.

The best way to get answers is to assemble as much data as possible, as quickly as possible, he said.

“We want to go fast, and the best way to go fast is have several of us following the same protocol to put all the data together,” he said.

“We have colleagues in other countries who are interested and with whom we share our protocols.”

Plasma will be collected about a month after a patient recovers, when antibody levels are at their highest. COVID-19 was first reported in Quebec in late February, and the number of potential donors in the province remains low, although it’s growing.

Therefore, the researchers have decided the convalescent plasma will be reserved for those who are suffering from the illness, although it’s not out of the question that it could be offered later to at-risk groups, such as health-care workers, as a preventive measure.

The study is expected to last about three months and involve more than 1,000 patients.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2020

Jean-Benoit Legault, The Canadian Press

WestJet to re-hire more than 6,000 employees

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Apr 9th, 2020

WestJet is going to tap into the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy program to re-hire more than 6,000 workers.

The Calgary-based airline announced last month that it was reducing its staff by 50 per cent with all its international flights grounded and its domestic schedule cut back drastically.

But the company can put those people back on the payroll with Ottawa offering to cover 75 per cent of wages under the federal government’s stimulus efforts.

WestJet CEO Ed Sims made the announcement over social media on Wednesday night.

“We are pleased to announce that, after substantial discussions with the federal government, that we’ll be bringing almost 6,400 employees back on the WestJet payroll once the government has approved the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program.”

However, Sims noted that it the move doesn’t mean people will be back on the job right away.

“This does not automatically mean that they will be coming back to work, as there may simply not be enough work there for them, but it will help them make ends meet.”

Sims added that he was grateful for the work by the Canadian government for implementing tools that will keep businesses running “through these most challenging of times.”

The announcement by WestJet comes after Air Canada announced it was also bringing more than 16,000 workers using the same program.

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