35 cardiac patients have died while waiting for surgeries Ontario to detail sector-specific reopening guidelines this week

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5:15 pm COVID-19 spread slows in Canada as mortality rate goes up

The latest modelling data for Canada’s COVID-19 outbreak anticipates between 53,196 and 66,835 cases and between 3,277 and 3,883 deaths by May 5, according the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Presently, there are just over 49,000 cases nation-wide and 2,766 people have died.

Chief public health officer Theresa Tam said today that public health measures are working to slow spread overall but the mortality rate among residents of long-term care and seniors homes – particularly in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia – is higher than expected.

On April 9, Canada’s mortality rate was 2.2 per cent. That number has gone up 5.5 per cent due to the spike in cases in long-term care settings.

Adults over age 60 account for 95 per cent of the country’s COVID-19 deaths.

Overall, Canada’s epidemic slope is bending as the rate of spread slows and total case counts increase slowly.

Tam said new cases were doubling every three to five days the last time the federal government shared modelling data on April 9. Now, new cases are doubling at a rate of every 16 days.

Previously, federal health officials estimated each person with COVID-19 passed virus on to just over two people. Today, the average number of people each case infects is “just about one” thanks to public health measures, Tam said.

Tam said that a degree of public health must remain in place as provinces and territories relax lockdown measures.

“We expect that only a small proportion of the population will be immune,” she said. “So until the population has developed a high level of immunity to the virus, or we have a vaccine in place, we have to plan to live with a manageable level of COVID-19 activity. Therefore, we anticipate that some public health measures will need to remain in place to prevent the sparking and growth of future epidemic waves.”

4:09 pm Canada releases economy reopening criteria

The Canadian government has released the set of jointly agreed-upon common principles with the provinces and territories for reopening local economies. Similar to the three-pronged plan Ontario unveiled yesterday, the federal steps are broad and outline a gradual process based on science and data. There are no specific dates set as each province and territory has a different situation.

The criteria and measures that need to be in place in order to begin reopening the economy are:

  • COVID-19 transmission is controlled, so new cases are contained at a level the health-care system can manage.
  • Sufficient public health capacity is in place to test, trace, isolate, and control the spread of the virus.
  • Expanded health-care capacity exists to support all needs, including COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
  • Supports are in place for vulnerable groups, communities and key populations. This includes the protection of seniors, residents of group living facilities, workers in close quarters, homeless people and Indigenous people and those living in remote locations, health-care workers and other essential workers and inmates.
  • Support and monitoring of workplace protocols are in place to keep Canadians safe at their jobs and prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19.
  • Restrictions on non-essential travel are eased and managed in a coordinated manner.
  • Communities are supported in managing local disease activity, including in child care, schools, and public transportation, and industry and economic sectors are engaged to support the health of Canadians, reduced viral activity, and protection of the economy as it restarts.

Read the full statement here.

4 pm Toronto to provide free internet to low-income residents

Toronto is providing free temporary internet access for residents in low-income neighbourhoods, seniors in long-term care homes and clients in city-run shelters, Mayor John Tory said today. 

Twenty-five residential apartment buildings in low-income areas will receive free internet beginning next month. The city is also expanding free 24/7 wifi access in long-term care homes for seniors. Rogers is donating free wife for three months to four permanent city-run shelters and has installed free wifi in five temporary shelters.

Eligible Torontonians will also receive a cellphone and data plan for free, Tory said.

3:55 pm Toronto has more than 5,000 cases of COVID-19

As of 11 am today, there are 5,128 people with COVID-19 in Toronto, including 4,647 confirmed and 481 probable cases, the city’s medical officer of health Eileen de Villa said today. There are also 319 people in hospital, with 109 in intensive care. In total, 305 people have died in the city.

1:32 pm 35 cardiac patients have died while waiting for surgery: Elliott

Citing a University Health Network report, Ontario’s health minister Christine Elliott said today that 35 cardiac care patients may have died after heart surgeries were cancelled to free up beds for an anticipated surge in COVID-19 patients.

“That’s not something any of us want to hear,” she said during the province’s daily press briefing.  “I don’t want to call it collateral damage because they are deaths and that is very concerning and sad to all of us.”

Asked about the backlog of medically necessary surgeries that will need to be cleared when the province reopens, Elliott said “cardiac care and cancer care at the top of the list.”

She added those surgeries will be among the first things to be considered as Ontario eases up lockdown measures, but public health officials have be sure the peak in COVID-19 cases has passed.

“That is among the first things we’re going to be considering as we look at easing up the economy, but we do have to see that downward trend in cases before we can do that,” she said.

Over the previous three days, Ontario had decrease in the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported but today the number of new cases went up by 101 – from 424 to 525.

As of April 22, up to 52,700 hospital procedures have been cancelled or avoided in Ontario due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO).

1:18 pm Ontario to unveil “sector-specific” reopening guidelines this week

After outlining broad reopening plan for the province, premier Doug Ford said the next step will be detailing “sector-specific” labour guidelines later this week.

The criteria and guidelines will be based on medical advice and scientific evidence, he added.

11:42 am Canada readying vaccine production capacity: Trudeau

Asked about Canada’s vaccination protocol, prime minister Justin Trudeau said today the world is far off from having a vaccine for COVID-19 but added the government is ensuring the country will have sufficient production capacity when one is ready.

A vaccine for the virus could take six months to a year to be developed and made available. A protocol around who would be vaccinated first has yet to be decided, Trudeau said. He noted that there is still a lot of time for the government to make those decisions.

11:38 am Canada to share updated modelling data, reopening framework today

The federal government will share updated COVID-19 data projections for the country during a virtual sitting of parliament that will take place via video conferencing app Zoom today.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said he will share a “framework” for reopening the economy that he has agreed upon with the provinces and territories during the House of Commons session. Similar to the framework Ontario released yesterday, the “shared principles” do not include specific dates or which industries will go back to work first.

“The bottom line is the measures we’ve taken so far are working. In many parts of the country the curve has flattened but we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

Other notes from today’s presser:

  • Canada is shipping over 6 million surgical masks to provinces and more than 100,000 face shields 
  • Trudeau said more than 44,000 businesses have already applied online for the wage subsidy since applications went live yesterday morning

10:53 am Ontario has more than 15,000 COVID-19 cases

Public health officials in Ontario reported 15,381 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, an increase of 525 – or 3.5 per cent – since the previous report. There have been 951 deaths, up by 59.

To date, 476 residents/patients in long-term care homes have died, an increase of 21 deaths from the previous report. Six more outbreaks have been reported in long-term care homes, bringing the total to 176.

There are 8,964 resolved cases – nearly 60 per cent of the province’s total COVID-19 cases.

The number of patients in hospital are 957, including 239 in intensive care and 187 in intensive care on ventilators.

In terms of testing, there were 10,852 tests carried out in Ontario since the previous day and 6,282 cases are under investigation. A total of 253,040 tests have been conducted.

10:20 am More than 52,000 hospital procedures cancelled since outbreak

As of April 22, up to 52,700 hospital procedures have been cancelled or avoided in Ontario due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO). 

The preliminary review of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the province’s health sector, which was published on Tuesday, notes that every week the outbreak continues, up to 12,2000 more procedures are delayed.

The report explains that most of these procedures were medically required and the pandemic could leave Ontario saddled with a backlog that will take a long time to clear. One factor the province will need to consider when relaxing COVID-19 lockdown measures is the ability of hospitals to conduct these “normal” procedures again, the FAO says.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Ontario’s hospitals were overcrowded, with an average 96 per cent occupancy and only 906 unoccupied acute care beds. That is one of the highest occupancy rates among members of the intergovernmental Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Ontario’s number of per capita hospital beds is among the lowest in the OECD.

To free up space for COVID-19 patients, the province cancelled elective surgeries, funded new acute and critical care beds and relocated 1,000 hospital patients. The measures freed up 9,349 acute care beds, of which 2,077 were critical care beds. 

Hospital demand also decreased due to physical distancing measures, freeing up space further. The FAO notes that as of April 23, the province has a “significant” capacity to handle COVID-19 patients, with 9,000 unoccupied acute care hospital beds (including more than 2,000 critical care beds).

The freed-up beds can now be occupied by long-term care home patients, allowing homes hard-hit by the outbreak to better manage spread in their facilities.

The FAO estimates that between April 13 and 23, over 30 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario came from long-term care homes. 

In March, the province the increased public health funding by $85 million for 2020-21 and reversed a planned $114 million funding cut. 

Other facts from the report:

  • In 2019-20, Ontario had141 public hospitals, with around 34,700 beds, including 22,400 acute care beds.
  • Health sector spending is projected to increase by 5.4 per cent to $67.8 billion in 2020-21, the largest year-over-year per cent increase since 2009-10. That includes $2.1 billion for COVID-19 response. 
  • If the state of emergency measures announced on March 17 had been implemented five days later, the number of concurrent critical care COVID-19 patients would have been over four times greater than the current number, the FAO estimates.

9 am Canada has over 48,000 cases of COVID-19

There are 48,500 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 2,707 people have died.

The outbreak is a serious public health threat though most people who contract the virus have not been hospitalized. 

Symptoms include cough, fever, difficulty breathing and pneumonia in both lungs and may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure. People age 65 and over and people with compromised immune systems and/or underlying medical conditions have a higher risk of contracting a severe case.


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