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In-depth contact tracing casts doubt on N.B. doctor as source of spring COVID-19 outbreak
Within an hour of finding out he had tested positive for coronavirus in May, Dr. Jean Robert Ngola was being blamed as the source of a COVID-19 outbreak in Campbellton, N.B., after his confidential health information was leaked on social media.
But an investigation by CBC’s The Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada reveals new contact tracing information that casts doubt on the certainty with which Ngola was identified as “patient zero” in the outbreak that resulted in more than 40 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. The probe points to dozens of other people in the northern New Brunswick community who could have brought the virus into the area.
Ngola’s legal team showed CBC documents that indicate some of the people with whom Ngola came in contact during a trip to Quebec did not have the virus. Ngola had travelled to the neighbouring province in early May to pick up his four-year-old daughter without informing the hospital where he worked and did not self-isolate upon his return.
Watch | N.B. doctor linked to COVID-19 outbreak describes fallout, racist attacks:
The Congolese-Canadian doctor found out on the morning of May 27 that he had tested positive for COVID-19. One hour later, his clinic staff informed him that his positive virus result was leaked on Facebook and he was being called “patient zero.”
Later that day, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs confirmed three COVID-19 cases in the province, including a child, a man in his 90s and an “irresponsible medical professional.” Higgs didn’t name Ngola but publicly accused the “medical professional” of hiding his reasons for travel and breaking the rules by not self-isolating after his trip. Two hours later, Ngola’s employer, the Vitalité Health Network, suspended him without pay over email. Another public health nurse later called Ngola and informed him his daughter was also COVID-19-positive.
On May 30, the provincial government and Vitalité asked the RCMP to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing by him. After a six-week investigation, police decided against laying criminal charges, but Ngola could still face a hefty provincial fine for violating the Emergency Services Act by not self-isolating for 14 days after travel. He is set to appear in provincial court in Campbellton on Oct. 26.
Ngola left the town after enduring weeks of threats that he says drove him from the place he called home for seven years. He had more than 2,000 patients at his family clinic and also worked shifts at the Campbellton Regional Hospital emergency room. Read more on this story here.
(Andrew Medichini/The Associated Press)
Pope Francis doffs his skullcap as he tours the crowd at the start of his first general audience since February in the Vatican’s San Damaso courtyard on Wednesday. The Pope’s audiences had been on hold for six months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Canada has announced that it has signed deals with four U.S. companies to reserve millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines under development in an effort to make sure Canadians are at “the front of the line” when a vaccine becomes available. Canada will receive 20 million to 76 million doses of each vaccine, should any of them successfully make it through clinical trials and be approved by Health Canada. While they have shown promising results in small-scale, early-stage clinical trials, even those most advanced candidates have only recently begun Phase 3 clinical trials to determine their effectiveness. That’s the crucial large-scale human trial that must demonstrate that the vaccine prevents the disease, and it’s the final stage before government approval. “What we don’t know, of course, is which vaccines are going to be effective,” Dr. Michael Gardam, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, said in an interview with CBC’s As It Happens. Read more here for a closer look at the four vaccine candidates.
Watch | Ottawa secures access to 2 more potential COVID-19 vaccines:
Premier Doug Ford is defending Ontario’s chief medical officer of health amid growing calls for new leadership as the province enters a critical new stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I have all the confidence in the world in Dr. Williams and his whole entire team,” Ford said during his Tuesday afternoon COVID-19 briefing. Health Minister Christine Elliott said that Williams has “done his best to keep Ontarians safe” during the crisis. Ford and Elliott’s votes of support come on the heels of Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, calling for Williams to be taken off the job immediately. “We are in for a difficult time and that’s why we’re saying we need strong leadership at the top and we need that to happen now,” said Grinspun. She said a need for change has become increasingly urgent with Ontario schools now just days away from widely reopening and a possible second wave of the novel coronavirus looming. Read more about Ford’s defence of the province’s chief medical officer here.
E-commerce giants Amazon and eBay continue to offer thousands of products for sale that promote QAnon, even as social media companies crack down on the dangerous and baseless conspiracy theory. A search for “QAnon” on Amazon’s Canadian retail site Tuesday returned more than 6,000 results, including T-shirts, hats and stickers. The same query on eBay.ca offered 15,367 items. It’s unclear how many sales actually take place and how much profit the third-party sellers are making from them, but an expert worries their availability on prominent, mainstream websites is only helping to legitimize the cult-like conspiracy theory. QAnon “is radicalizing people,” said Alison Meek, a King’s University College history professor whose focus includes cults and conspiracy theories. “For companies like Amazon and eBay to be selling this stuff is just absolutely mind-boggling.” Read more on this story here.
The Second World War formally ended 75 years ago today with a surrender ceremony aboard a U.S. battleship in Tokyo Bay. But once the shooting stopped, weary Canadians were eager to forget the war — or at least to move on from it, says historian Tim Cook. That act of collective forgetting bothers him. It’s reflected in the title of his latest book: The Fight for History: 75 Years of Forgetting, Remembering and Remaking Canada’s Second World War. “It’s not easy to talk about our history,” Cook told CBC News. “History often divides us.” Cook — one of the country’s leading military historians and authors — said he’s baffled by Canadians’ apparent reluctance to come to grips with the war’s legacy. Read more on Cook’s view here.
A working group in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday recommended renaming, removing or recontextualizing a variety of monuments in the city, including a gargantuan one destined to grab attention: the Washington Monument. That’s the 74,000-tonne obelisk, 169 metres tall, that towers over the skyline of a world capital — a world capital, it so happens, named for George Washington. The first American president was not just a revolutionary hero who later established a centuries-long tradition of peacefully relinquishing democratic power. He also owned slaves. He even paid slaves for their teeth. Tuesday’s report came weeks after Mayor Muriel Bowser asked the working group to study government-owned facilities and determine whether their names reflected the city’s modern values. Read more on this story from CBC Washington correspondent Alexander Panetta.
Now for some good news to start your Wednesday: Michael Vita, a nine-year-old from Thunder Bay, Ont., pedalled more than 1,000 kilometres on his bike this summer, all in an effort to raise money for the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation. Vita finished his four-month-long journey, dubbed “Michael’s 1,000 km Ride,” at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre on Monday, a day ahead of his goal. “I can’t believe it’s over,” said Vita. “Back when we started in May, I knew that 1,000 kilometres was a big goal, but I don’t think I realized quite how big … This past month has been so much fun as I got to ride with family, friends and some special guests and I could see my goal getting closer and closer.” As of Aug. 31, the ride has raised over $11,550 and Vita’s team said the grand total is expected to be announced in several weeks once final donations are tallied. Read more about Michael’s fundraising ride, and how a broken wrist didn’t stop him from reaching his goal. If you want some more good news, check out CBC News’ daily good news video compilation here.
Front Burner: Schools reopen in Quebec amid rise in COVID-19 cases
While most Canadian students head back to school next week, classes in Quebec have already resumed. But, just a few days in, there are already COVID-19 cases being recorded in schools, and teachers and parents are voicing frustrations and fears about the province’s back-to-school plans. All this comes against the backdrop of rising coronavirus cases in the province.
Today, host Josh Bloch talks to Allison Hanes, city columnist with the Montreal Gazette, as we explore what Quebec’s experience so far might tell us about back-to-school challenges ahead for the rest of the country.
Listen to today’s episode
Today in history: September 2
1904: The voyage of Capt. John Claus Voss of Victoria, B.C., from Canada to England in a Nootka dugout canoe, ends. Voss took three years, three months and 12 days to cover 64,000 kilometres under sail, almost circumnavigating the globe. His canoe, The Tilicum, is on display in Victoria.
1912: The first Calgary Stampede begins. It was instigated by Guy Weadick, an American trick roper who thought Calgary would be a prime location for a big rodeo. The Stampede, which usually takes place every July, is one of the largest rodeos in the world.
1972: The Soviet Union beats Canada 7-3 in Montreal to open their eight-game Summit Series.
1973: Novelist J.R.R. Tolkien dies at age 81. His works include The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.