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More than 150,000 people in Canada experience ‘long COVID’ symptoms: report

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 15th, 2021

More research is needed to understand the so-called “long COVID” condition and the burden it poses on the health-care system, a science advisory group said in a report Tuesday.

The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, a group that provides guidance to the province on the pandemic, said the post-COVID-19 symptoms affect about 10 per cent of those infected and can last from weeks to months.

“There is under-recognition both for the public but also among clinicians of this condition because it is hard to define and quantify and because we don’t have a lot of information around it,” said Fahad Razak, the lead author of the report.

A conservative estimate suggests about 150,000 Canadians who contract the novel coronavirus experience long COVID-19 symptoms, Razak said. In Ontario, between 57,000 and 78,000 people are affected.

The most common of more than 200 different symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, general pain or discomfort, anxiety and depression.

Razak said individuals experiencing such symptoms have difficulty performing daily activities and require increased health-care resources.

“The burden will not only be on the health system, it will also be on other parts of society because a lot of the disabilities are not just about medical care, it’s about the fact that individuals can’t go back to work, it’s that they need a supportive home, it’s difficulty with work and family life,” he added.

The World Health Organization has reported that approximately one in four individuals who were infected with the virus experience symptoms of long COVID for at least one month. Meanwhile, one in 10 people experience symptoms that last beyond 12 weeks.

The Ontario science advisory group said more research is needed on risk factors for long COVID. Vaccination reduces the chance of developing the post-COVID-19 condition, Razak said.

To date, nearly 84.5 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 12 have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 78.2 per cent have two doses.

Razak said the latest report from the science advisory group looked at data from the earlier waves of the pandemic and did not take variants of the virus — like Delta and Alpha — into account.

“We don’t have the data yet to know the impact,” he said. “The worry is that those variants are clearly more infectious so we’re potentially running into a problem where we’re going to see even higher rates of the post-COVID condition.”

There is limited Canadian data on health-care use patterns for patients with long COVID, including emergency department visits and hospital admissions, the science group said. A pan-Canadian study is currently being done to examine these patterns for long COVID-19 patients.

BC proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in effect, Toronto workplaces with similar mandates

JAIME PULFER, MICHELLE MORTON | posted Tuesday, Sep 14th, 2021

To stop the spread of COVID-19 during the fourth wave of the pandemic, more workplaces are stepping up in Toronto.

The Toronto Police Service is now policing the vaccination status of all employees, including in uniform and civilian, who now have to show proof of COVID vaccination as of Monday. The force announced the mandatory vaccination policy for officers and staff last month.

It’s the same for City of Toronto employees, all staff are required to be fully vaccinated by October 30th, but are required to tell the City if they’ve been vaccinated by September 13th.

Those municipal employees who choose not to disclose their vaccination status, or are not vaccinated by Monday, will be required to attend mandatory education on vaccines.

On September 20th, this will be the reality for all TTC employees.

All TTC employees must report their vaccination status a week Monday, and must have their first dose by September 30th, and be fully vaccinated by October 30th.

But, the City and TTC said employees who can provide proof of a medical reason for not being immunized would be exempt from the vaccine policy.

Starting Monday the 13th in B.C., you have to show proof you’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to get into any non-essential business. Premier John Horgan says double doses will be mandatory starting October 24th.

This move is something that is gaining traction across the country.

Next Wednesday, Ontario’s proof of vaccination program takes effect, which is already happening in Quebec and Manitoba.

Justin Trudeau, Erin O’Toole tied as election campaign hits final bend

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Sep 14th, 2021

OTTAWA – A new poll shows a complete deadlock between Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives with less than one week left in the federal election.

The poll conducted by Leger in collaboration with The Canadian Press shows both parties tied with the support of 32 per cent of decided voters, with the NDP in third place with 20 per cent.

A similar poll conducted two weeks ago had the Conservatives ahead with 34 per cent compared with 30 per cent for the Liberals and 24 per cent for the NDP.

The polls cannot be given a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

The leaders are back on the campaign trail today after spending yesterday sharpening their attacks, with O’Toole painting his opponent as privileged and entitled — saying while Trudeau was “partying,” he was doing search-and-rescue missions in the military.

Trudeau accused O’Toole of engaging in “personal attacks,” and insisted his own actions could not be compared to the Tory leader’s, even while arguing O’Toole has “proxies” in the anti-vaxxer movement, without providing concrete evidence.

Leaders in Ontario and B.C. as campaign enters final week

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Sep 13th, 2021

OTTAWA – The three main federal party leaders are focused on Ontario and British Columbia today as the election campaign heads into its final week.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is returning to Vancouver to make an announcement this morning.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, will open the day in the rural Ottawa suburb of Carp.

Later in the day, he’ll hold a pair of virtual town halls with residents of Ontario and B.C. at the Ottawa hotel he’s adopted as his headquarters during the campaign.

The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, will be in northern Ontario for the second day in a row.

He’ll open the day in the northwestern community of Sioux Lookout before moving on to Neskantaga First Nation.

BC proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in effect, Toronto workplaces with similar mandates

JAIME PULFER, MICHELLE MORTON | posted Monday, Sep 13th, 2021

To stop the spread of COVID-19 during the fourth wave of the pandemic, more workplaces are stepping up in Toronto.

The Toronto Police Service is now policing the vaccination status of all employees, including in uniform and civilian, who now have to show proof of COVID vaccination as of Monday. The force announced the mandatory vaccination policy for officers and staff last month.

It’s the same for City of Toronto employees, all staff are required to be fully vaccinated by October 30th, but are required to tell the City if they’ve been vaccinated by September 13th.

Those municipal employees who choose not to disclose their vaccination status, or are not vaccinated by Monday, will be required to attend mandatory education on vaccines.

On September 20th, this will be the reality for all TTC employees.

All TTC employees must report their vaccination status a week Monday, and must have their first dose by September 30th, and be fully vaccinated by October 30th.

But, the City and TTC said employees who can provide proof of a medical reason for not being immunized would be exempt from the vaccine policy.

Starting Monday the 13th in B.C., you have to show proof you’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to get into any non-essential business. Premier John Horgan says double doses will be mandatory starting October 24th.

This move is something that is gaining traction across the country.

Next Wednesday, Ontario’s proof of vaccination program takes effect, which is already happening in Quebec and Manitoba.

Health-care workers face ‘moral injury’ from work stress, protests, says expert

CAMILLE BAINS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 10th, 2021

Emergency room nurse Jaime Gallaher recalls the emotional toll of a verbal attack she recently faced from a woman at a grocery store after another gruelling workday.

“I was still red-eyed from crying from the past two hours and she just swore at me,” Gallaher said following protests outside Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, B.C. “I just broke down in tears, put my carton of milk down and left the grocery store.”

Experts are raising concern over “moral injury” among health-care workers suddenly targeted after several provinces brought in vaccine passports.

Gallaher said she had spent two extra hours at work to avoid protesters on the same day last week when other hospitals in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada were grappling with rallies.

“We were making some life-and-death decisions around bed allocations. On that specific day, of all days, we had two young patients in our department who were waiting for ICU beds for two days, but they couldn’t get them because the ICU was full of unvaccinated COVID patients,” said.

“One of our patients actually passed away in emerge, behind a curtain with his family, which was gut-wrenching because that should never, ever happen. They had no privacy to mourn.”

Gallaher said while protesters are entitled to their opinions, the demonstration could be heard in the ER and was a “slap in the face.” They could have protested at a park or other public place, she added.

Staff at the hospital were already reeling from treating a seriously ill unvaccinated mother in her 30s with two young children before she was transferred to intensive care.

“She deteriorated quite rapidly in our department over the course of a couple of hours. And the fear in her eyes and the questions about ‘What will happen to my kids?’ The fear was like nothing I’ve ever seen,” she said, adding that the woman expressed remorse about not getting vaccinated.

Gallaher said nurses who try and care for themselves by booking massage or physiotherapy appointments have been turned away because they have been in contact with COVID-19 patients. They have had to rely on support from each other as many are leaving the profession, she said.

Elizabeth Peter, a nursing professor at the University of Toronto, said nurses on the front lines of the pandemic are suffering from “moral injury,” a term also used by the Ontario Hospital Association after several protests outside hospitals in the province.

The military term describes the plight of soldiers experiencing an extreme violation of their moral values, but Peter said it’s fitting for exhausted health-care workers who are trying to save lives against the backdrop of protesters opposed to scientifically proven COVID-19 vaccines.

The anger of many health-care professionals has turned to moral outrage at this point in the pandemic, Peter said.

“Virtually everyone in health care would want to help other people,” she said. “But when they get the protesters actually telling them they’re harmful, horrible humans, that’s deeply distressing.”

Peter is writing two studies on the moral impact of the pandemic, one on registered nurses and the other on licensed practical nurses working in long-term care homes based on interviews that were finished last spring. A separate study is needed on later effects on the front-line workers to include the anti-vaccination protests and yet another wave of sickness, Peter added.

Earlier this week, the Alberta government withdrew a proposed three per cent salary cut for nurses in the province. The nurses union has said the province still wants concessions like ending lump-sum payments, which amount to a two per cent reduction in their take-home pay.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said the “new proposal acknowledges the hard work and dedication of Alberta’s nurses while respecting the tough fiscal situation the province is in.”

Dr. Rod Lim, a pediatric emergency room physician in London, Ont., said health-care workers around the country already feel “under siege” but Alberta’s contract proposal and the negativity of the protest indicate health workers are unvalued 18 months into the pandemic.

“The protests are demoralizing,” he said. “There’s a lack of common decency, to protest in front of a hospital, to delay people who are trying to get the care that they deserve. They have nothing to do with the protests, nothing to do with government policy, and they’re being adversely affected. This is absolutely maddening and brings out all kinds of emotions.”

Lim, who chairs the wellness committee of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, said a shortage of nurses and other staff in emergency departments has led to parts of some emergency rooms being closed when the number of COVID-19 patients is rising.

He said there needs to be a national mental health strategy for doctors dealing with the emotional fallout of the pandemic, in co-ordination with the provinces.

“Never before has the mental health of a workforce, especially among physicians, especially among emergency and ICU physicians across Canada, been really at the forefront that it is now.”

Advance polls start Friday and continue until Monday for federal election

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Sep 10th, 2021

The federal election is on Sept. 20, but if you’ve already made up your mind, you can vote early starting Friday.

Advance polls will open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (local time) and stretch over four days, until Monday.

Elections Canada says if you are registered to vote, you should receive a voter information card in the mail by Friday. The card has the location of your polling station.

“If the name and address on your card are correct and you meet the eligibility criteria stated on the card, you’re ready to vote. Bring this card with you, along with accepted ID, to make the voting process easier when you go to vote,” Elections Canada states on its website.

Click here for a list of acceptable ID.

If you didn’t get a voter card, or the information on the voter card is incorrect, use the Online Voter Registration Service to check your registration, register or update your address information, or call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 or 1-800-361-8935 (TTY) for assistance.

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Click here for FAQs about the voter information card

Click here for FAQs about the voting process

Fake calls alleging school shootings in the U.S. traced to Manitoba home

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Sep 9th, 2021

WINNIPEG ─ A Manitoba teen has been arrested after an investigation into multiple threats of school shootings in the United States.

Mounties say police departments in Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, requested their help to investigate four 911 calls.

RCMP say the American police agencies received the calls on separate days from a person saying he was inside a school with a firearm and was going to start shooting.

The U.S. police tracked the fake calls to a number in Manitoba.

RCMP say they determined the calls came from a home on the Fisher River Cree Nation, about 190 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

An 18-year-old man from the home was taken into custody last month and is to appear in court in December.

Mounties say two of the “swatting” incidents were in Tennessee and two others in North Carolina. Swatting is when someone makes a phone call to describe a life-threatening situation in order to provoke an armed police response.

RCMP say the schools were placed in lockdown as a large number of officers searched for a culprit. But all the calls were found to be false.

“These situations created dangerous circumstances for the public and responding emergency response personnel,” RCMP said Wednesday in a news release.

Report says $50K cost for COVID-19 patients but expert says factor in other costs

CAMILLE BAINS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Sep 9th, 2021

The average cost of treating a COVID-19 patient who needs intensive care in Canada is estimated at over $50,000 compared with $8,400 for someone who’s had a heart attack, a new report says.

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show the average cost for patients being treated for the virus is more than $23,000, which is four times higher than a patient with influenza.

Ann Chapman, interim director of health spending and primary care at the agency, said the report reinforces the economic consequences of a serious illness, though it does not include the cost for doctors.

The report released Thursday says those with COVID-19 remain in hospital for about 15 days, twice as long as the typical pneumonia patient whose treatment cost is about $8,000, and that more of those sick with the virus are admitted to ICU and ventilated. One out of every five of them dies in intensive care.

The agency estimated the cost of COVID-19-related hospitalization in Canada, excluding Quebec, at nearly $1 billion between January 2020 and March 2021, the period covered by the report. It says the cost tripled between November 2020 and March.

Chapman said data on costs from the fourth wave of the pandemic, up to September, is expected to be released in December.

She said the average COVID-19 patient who spends time in the ICU stays in hospital for 21 days and is much sicker than most other patients.

Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine, said costs spiral quickly for any patient receiving intensive care.

“The one major distinction about COVID patients in the ICU is they stay a long time. They take a long time to recover, if they recover at all,” he said.

It’s not unusual for patients who’ve contracted the virus to remain in ICU on a ventilator for over a month as they’re treated by multiple personnel including physiotherapists and respiratory therapists, he said.

Indirect costs are another economic consequence of the pandemic because some patients are reluctant to seek care in emergency rooms and others, including cancer patients, have had their treatment delayed due to backlogs, noted Redelmeier, who is also a staff doctor at Sunnybrook Hospital.

Walter Wodchis, a health economist at the University of Toronto’s Dana Lana School of Public Health, said treating COVID-19 patients is just one aspect of the pandemic’s overall cost to society.

“There are more hospitalizations among youth for mental health-related reasons than in prior years. And we’ve lost a lot of life years from people who’ve ended up on opioids. I don’t think the increase in opioids was independent of the COVID crisis.”

In British Columbia alone, 1,011 people died of suspected illicit overdoses between January and June, the highest-ever death toll in the province for the first six months of a year.

Wodchis said isolation during the pandemic has caused others to leave the workforce, and layers of costs are associated with those decisions.

Hospital costs for those with COVID-19 who later recover may be lower in the end compared with perhaps $80,000 over a decade of care for patients with cardiovascular diseases based on years of poor eating habits, for example, he said.

Wodchis also noted the report was based on data up until March 2021 when vaccines were less readily available.

“I think we need to have a more generic, general discussion about how do we allocate the scarce health-care resources, as opposed to singling out one population.”

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