COVID-19 in Canada: B.C. urges social gatherings be limited to 6 people after record-high spike in cases

Elisabetta Bianchini
·8 min read

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B.C.’s top doctor warns of COVID-19 spread through social gatherings, asks people to limit themselves to their ‘safe six’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, expressed significant concern about COVID-19 transmission through social gatherings, as the province reported a recording breaking 274 new cases on Thursday.

“Social gatherings are where we are seeing significant transmission of COVID-19 in our province and the impact is far reaching,” Dr. Henry said. “Social gatherings, especially recently, wedding and other celebrations, are proving to be high risk for all of us.”

She added that these exposures and resulting cases have “spilled over” into the B.C. health system through healthcare workers and people working in long-term care facilities, and other workplaces, and are spreading across the province.

“People are not sticking with their COVID-19 safety plans for social gatherings, particularly ones like gathering and funerals,” Dr. Henry said. “We may have the best intentions to keep them small, to make sure that we aren’t having buffets,...that people are keeping their physical and social distance, but it is hard and right now it is not working for many reasons.”

“Every gathering needs to be our own household only and at maximum, our safe six.”

B.C.’s provincial health officer said additional public health measures can and will be put in place if they are needed, like conditions tied to wedding licenses, more restrictions to gatherings and other measures.

“We are also seeing that people are having one event with a smaller number and another event with a different group of people, and that again introduces more risk,” Dr. Henry said.

When asked about Thanksgiving gatherings, B.C.’s provincial health officer said she knows of “at least one or two” that are related “quite large” family gatherings to celebrate the holiday.

Dr. Henry indicated that most recently, COVID-19 cases related to social gathering have not been disproportionally in the younger age group, like it was in the summer.

More details on first school outbreak

On Wednesday, B.C. reported its first school outbreak in Kelowna at at École de l’Anse-au-sabe. Dr. Henry has confirmed up to five COVID-19 cases are related to this school community and there are 160 people isolating.

She added that there have been 213 exposure events related to schools and six clusters of more than one person being infected with the virus.

“We are not seeing return to school cause amplification in our communities but it does, as we’ve been expecting, reflect what is going on in our communities,” Dr. Henry said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer said as the public health investigation is conducted, another cohort may have to be isolated or the school may need to be closed if other exposures come to light. Dr. Henry added that she thinks a school closure, based on her knowledge of this particular situation, is “unlikely” at this point.

Ontario premier ‘open’ to piloting a shorter quarantine requirement for travellers

Ontario Premier Doug Ford responded to Alberta piloting a new program to reduce the quarantine requirement for travellers returning to the province by adding a voluntary testing option upon arrival.

Ford said he’s keeping a “sharp eye” on what happens with the program, adding that he would be “open” to implementing something similar in Ontario, depending on Alberta’s results.

“Toronto is much different than Calgary,” the premier said. “It doesn’t get the volume, number one, but [also] doesn’t get the diversification around the world.”

Ford added that he believes travellers should be tested “as soon as they get off that plane.”

The premier also called out insurance companies in Ontario, hearing from businesses like banquet halls who can’t get insurance or are being changed hundreds of thousands of dollars for coverage.

“I’ve just had it with these insurance companies,” Ford said. “They need to come to the table, start supporting people...they’re absolutely just refusing to insure people.”

“We don’t play that game.”

Alberta to launch COVID-19 testing pilot to reduce isolation requirements for travellers

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Thursday, while in isolation at home after a COVID-19 exposure, that the province is piloting a reduced quarantine period for travellers returning to the province, beginning Nov. 2.

“Returning travellers entering Alberta from outside the country will be offered a chance to participate,” Kenney explained. “They’ll receive a COVID-19 test if they choose to...upon entry into Canada, before proceeding into quarantine.”

“Once their test comes back negative, they’ll be allowed to leave quarantine, provided they get another test between day six and seven”

The premier stressed this secondary test is required as the virus can takes some time to be detectable, and each person who volunteers for this pilot program will have to participate in daily check ins. They also need wear a mask in public spaces and avoid crowded spaces, among the other public health measures in place in Alberta.

This program will be launched at the Coutts Port of Entry, which accounts for about 95 per cent of land border crossings between Alberta and the U.S., as well as the Calgary International Airport. The program is also expected to expand to the Edmonton airport at a later date.

“We really hope that this pilot will help in reducing and one day eliminating the 14-day self-isolation requirement that have so crippled our nation,” Bob Sartor, president and CEO of Calgary Airport Authority said on Thursday.

Premier says Alberta has ‘done well’ managing COVID-19

Premier Kenney also commented more generally on the COVID-19 situation in Alberta, saying the province has “done well.”

“We’ve done well, not perfectly, but we’ve done well with a less restrictive approach and I believe we can continue to protect he healthcare system without widespread disruptions and lockdowns that have massive broader consequences,” the premier said. “There is less support for lockdown-style policies in this province and I think the intuition of Albertans who are skeptical about lockdowns is pretty correct.”

“The virus is here to stay unless or until there is widespread immunity, either through natural infection or through the widespread use of a vaccine, we have to cope with it and we have to carry on with life.”

Kenney went on to highlight that COVID-19 fatalities have decreased by 70 per cent since the spring.

More than 800 new COVID-19 cases reported in Ontario, new hospital outbreak declared

Ontario has reported 841 new COVID-19 cases — the second highest daily increase in the province — with 335 cases in Toronto, 162 in Peel, 106 in York Region and 72 in Ottawa.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, indicated Wednesday that cases are “creeping up” in older age groups. He said the number of cases in the over 80 years old group is surpassing the 60 to 70 group, as well as the under 20s.

“That shows you that the numbers and the contacts within clusters and community groups, and outbreaks, is occurring and exposing these people either directly or through people visiting or coming into long-term care facilities,” Dr. Williams said.

He added that provincial officials have seen clusters of cases reported around weddings, sports settings, and household and neighbourhood transmission.

Nine more deaths were reported on Wednesday, bringing the total to 3,071 deaths in Ontario.

The province completed 38,860 in the last day with 34,784 tests currently under investigation.

There are currently 270 people with COVID-19 in hospitals, 74 people are in ICU.

Toronto’s Scarborough Health Network has now reported an outbreak with six patients infected in one unit at the group’s general hospital.

There are now 80 long-term care homes with a COVID-19 outbreak, 203 active resident infections and 243 active staff infections.

The province identified 74 new school-related outbreaks, 49 new school-related student cases, five staff cases and 20 new cases from unidentified individuals.

Dr. Williams said there has still been a “remarkably low” number of cases of in-school transmission in Ontario.

There are currently 501 schools with a reported COVID-19 case and five schools have closed.

Ontario's chief medical officer of health said he would like to see the province’s daily COVID-19 cases come down but highlighted that Ontario is still “well below” that the most recent modelling projections, which would have resulted in 1,000 to 1,200 cases a day.

Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner and executive lead of the province’s COVID-19 Testing Approach, said the recent daily case numbers are “alarming” and “distressing” to see but stressed the trend and the pattern is more important, while recognizing “it’s very difficult to continue to not focus on a single number.”

Quebec continues to see more than 1,000 COVID-19 a day, 20 more COVID-19 deaths confirmed

Quebec reported 1,033 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. Eight coronavirus deaths occurred in the last 24 hours and another 12 deaths were confirmed to have occurred between Oct. 15 and Oct. 20.

The province has confirmed 298 cases in Montreal, 168 in the Quebec City region and 138 in Montérégie.

There are now 553 people in hospitals with COVID-19, 12 less than the day before. There are 101 people in ICU, seven more than yesterday’s report

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