Concerns are being raised that not enough is being done to protect Canada’s most vulnerable population as cases of COVID-19 resurface inside long-term care facilities.
In Ontario, personal support workers and their unions are calling on the province to fix problems in long-term care homes now.
Representatives of CUPE Ontario, SEIU Healthcare and Unifor said yesterday that the homes need adequate funding, increases in staffing to ensure there are “realistic” ratios of workers to residents and sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment.
Candace Rennick, secretary-treasurer of CUPE Ontario that represents nearly 35,000 workers, told reporters in an online news conference that the provincial government must “step up.”
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The homes are not equipped to deal with an expected second wave of the novel coronavirus, and residents and staff members are at risk of losing their lives, she said.
“The situation at the bedside is only going to get worse until we see concrete measures to address it. You cannot pretend that care levels will increase without a comprehensive staffing strategy and funding commitment,” Rennick said.
Meanwhile as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Quebec, several private seniors’ residences are grappling with outbreaks, a trend that provincial officials are monitoring closely.
After a relatively stable summer, the number of COVID-19 cases in résidences pour aînés (RPA), or private seniors’ residences, has steadily crept upward from just 37 at the beginning of September to 157 on Sunday.
This comes as Quebec’s top public health official said Monday that a second wave of COVID-19 infections is underway and joined authorities in Montreal and Quebec City in urging people to reduce their social activities as much as possible in the weeks ahead.
The province reported 586 new cases on Monday, the highest daily increase since late May, when the first wave of infections began to taper off.
“With today’s numbers, I’m still very, very, very concerned about the situation, to the point that I consider that we are now at the start of the second wave,” said provincial Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda at a news conference in Quebec City.
Of the 35 RPA residences reporting cases, four — all located in outlying regions of Quebec— are considered critical, with more than a quarter of the residents confirmed positive.
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One RPA in the Quebec City area has more than two dozen cases. Another in Beauport, which is under close watch, has 30 cases.
“We are very concerned about the RPAs,” said Health Minister Christian Dubé last week.
RPAs currently have nearly four times as many reported cases as long-term care homes better known as CHSLDs in Quebec, where the virus decimated elderly patients during the first wave.
Yesterday, another outbreak was reported at an RPA in Laval, Que. So far, 20 residents are infected, but the cases have not yet been added to the latest government statistics.
Also experiencing an outbreak is Winnipeg’s Parkview Place personal care home where seven residents have tested positive for COVID-19, after one staff member tested positive for the disease last week.
Two residents of the downtown care home tested positive over the weekend, and five residents tested positive on Monday, according to a letter signed by Dr. Rhonda Collins, chief medical officer of Revera Inc., the company that oversees the home.
What’s happening around the rest of Canada
As of 5 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had 145,415 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 125,714 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,268.
A student from H.B. Beal Secondary School in London, Ont., has tested positive for COVID-19.
While the Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) said it won’t be disclosing any details about the case due to privacy, including if the person is a student or a staff member, CBC News has confirmed the case involves a student.
The province keeps a list of schools where there are active cases of the virus, detailing the number of students and staff infected. As of Monday evening, the provincial database had not been updated to include the London case.
MLHU said members of the school community who have been identified as close contacts to the confirmed case will be notified directly by the health unit and will be directed to get tested for the coronavirus.
The University of Ottawa has notified students and faculty that its 2021 winter semester will be composed “primarily of remote learning, with only a few exceptions.”
The school has been adapting to teaching remotely, according to Jill Scott, the provost and vice-president of academic affairs, but the university also needs to look ahead as the public health risk COVID-19 poses persists.
“Due to the ongoing pandemic, it is now clear that there will be no large-scale return to campus soon,” wrote Scott in a memo sent to students and staff late Monday afternoon.
“This is not a decision that has been taken lightly. Nonetheless, after extensive research consultations with faculty and staff, and with public health officials, I am confident that this is the responsible choice for uOttawa.”
St. John’s International Airport will begin screening all departing passengers this week, an announcement that comes as Newfoundland and Labrador records no new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.
The province currently has one active case of the virus. The total caseload is 272, with 268 people recovered and three deaths.
Starting Wednesday, all people flying out of YYT will have their temperature taken and so will non-passengers who are entering the secure area of the airport.
The measures are already in place at the four biggest Canadian airports — Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
What’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 31.3 million. More than 965,000 people have died, while over 21.5 million have recovered.
Indonesia reported on Tuesday its biggest daily rise in coronavirus deaths with 160 fatalities, data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed.
The nation has 9,837 deaths overall, the highest death toll in Asia outside India. It also reported 4,071 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 252,923.
Health officials in Israel fear that a three-week lockdown, imposed on Friday to curb a new spike of COVID-19 cases, may not be long or restrictive enough to slow the daily toll and relieve hospitals that they warn could soon reach capacity.
New cases have reached daily highs of more than 5,000 among the nation’s nine million population, sharply rebounding from single-digit lows following a relatively stricter initial lockdown from March to May.
On the front lines of Israel’s second COVID-19 wave are doctors and nurses working around the clock at Ichilov hospital, where half of 60 COVID-19 patients are in serious condition and require ventilation, according to a hospital spokesperson.
Australia’s virus hot spot of Victoria on Tuesday reported a more than doubling in new COVID-19 infections likely as a result of increased testing, while states elsewhere in the country said border restrictions would be relaxed as case numbers dwindled.
Officials said the northeastern state of Queensland would open its borders to parts of neighbouring New South Wales (NSW), the country’s most populous state, amid growing confidence that Australia’s second wave of infections has been contained.
NSW has maintained new daily infections in the single digits since Sept. 11, reporting only two cases in the past 24 hours, both of which were overseas travellers already in quarantine.