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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for April 1

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  • Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
  • Alberta premier says lockdown not in the cards, citing ‘broader cost’ to residents.
  • Federal officials say nearly 15% of eligible adult Canadians have begun vaccination process.
  • B.C. residents with loved ones in long-term care facilities rejoice as visiting rules are relaxed.

Read more: Sources tell CBC News the murder investigation implicating an Ottawa-area doctor involves some COVID-19 patients; B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has a message for those thinking about filing a complaint over having to wear a mask as a customer.

Note to our readers: The next edition of the CBC News Coronavirus Brief will be published on Monday, April 5.

Apr 1, 2021; Bronx, New York, USA; The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays observe a moment of silence for late owner Hank Steinbrenner before an opening day game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (USA TODAY Sports)

Ontario government announces ’emergency brake’ to last at least 1 month

The Ontario government is imposing a provincewide “emergency brake” for at least four weeks starting Saturday, but stopped short of a stay-at-home order, despite modelling showing such a measure could significantly curb the surge in COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations.

The prohibitions announced Thursday include a ban on organized public events and capacity limits on both food and pharmacy outlets, as well as all other retail. Outdoor dining, which was only recently allowed under strict conditions, will be stopped for the foreseeable future, while personal care businesses — which had been suggested as a possibility to reopen in a limited way on April 12 — will stay closed.

Premier Doug Ford said the measures were necessary as the pace of vaccination cannot yet outpace the transmission of cases, most of which now feature the newer, more transmissible variants of concern.

“The new variants are far more dangerous than before. They spread faster and do more harm than the virus we were fighting last year,” Ford said.

The restrictions are unlikely to satisfy a group of 153 ICU physicians, who issued an open letter to the government Thursday urging stricter public health measures.

The letter warns that the doctors are seeing younger patients — including parents of school-aged children — and entire families sickened by the more contagious coronavirus variants of concern.

“Even if we had unlimited ICU capacity, allowing these [variants of concern] to spread exponentially is unethical,” the letter says.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said that the province did not issue a stay-at-home order like the one from the start of the year, because the last time officials saw that it had “tremendous ill effect on children and adults.”

The premier also said keeping the province’s schools open is a “top priority,” adding that officials will “closely monitor the situation” and “not hesitate to act.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce tweeted Thursday morning that schools will remain open, as they are “critical for students’ mental health & learning.”

At the news conference to lay out provincial modelling scenarios earlier in the day, Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said there had been a 41.7 per cent jump in overall hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 in the last two weeks. The spillover effect is considerable, he said, with a surgical backlog now numbering over 245,000 cases.

The officials recommended a four-week stay-at-home order, and Brown said in an ideal world he’d like to see more vaccinations in the highest-risk communities as soon as possible.

From The National

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The pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, especially how we sleep. Psychologists and sleep scientists tell Adrienne Arsenault how the brain makes sense of this bizarre time and why many people are having such vivid dreams. 5:42

IN BRIEF

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney not contemplating any kind of lockdown

Ontario and Quebec have taken measures in the face of more transmissible coronavirus variants that are accounting for increases in hospitalizations, but Alberta’s premier said he does not foresee his province having to follow suit.

Alberta reported 871 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest single-day total in 11 weeks — for an active total of 8,350 cases and 301 hospitalizations. With Easter and spring holidays coming up, Premier Jason Kenney asked people stay at home over the Easter weekend.

Alberta’s medical officer of health said the province was at “another turning point in the pandemic,” but Kenney said Alberta won’t aim to drive COVID-19 infections to zero with curfews, stay-at-home orders or widespread business closures.

“The broader cost to peoples’ lives, to their livelihoods, to our social and economic health, would be massive if we were to pursue true lockdown policies,” he said.

Dr. Darren Markland, in an interview Thursday with CBC News Network, said personal responsibility can only take the province so far in combatting the virus, as he’s seeing patients that have no choice but to work in settings in which they come into contact with other people.

Markland, an intensive care physician and nephrologist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, wants the province to shut down restaurants and bars and look into income supports for front-line employees who are afraid to take time off from work. He fears that the province is headed for “[pandemic] wave 2, but worse.”

“We know when we look to the East that is our future in two weeks to 10 days,” Markland said.

Read more about the pandemic in Edmonton and Alberta

Nearly 15% of eligible Canadians have received one vaccine dose, federal health officials say

As the country’s largest provinces introduce stricter lockdown measures ahead of the Easter long weekend in the face of rising caseloads and increased ICU stays, federal officials provided some light at a technical briefing in Ottawa on Thursday with respect to the vaccine rollout.

About 14.6 per cent of Canada’s adult population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to new figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada. It’s a pace that has picked up and has Canada ahead of developed nations like Italy, France and Germany, though well behind the United Kingdom and the United States.

“Please hang in there a while longer. We have come too far to let our guard down now,” said Dr. Howard Njoo.

Another 590,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are now on their way to Canada after being delayed last week due to a backlog in the European manufacturer’s quality assurance process. As well, Maj.-Gen Dany Fortin said the 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine received from the United States got authorization from Health Canada on Wednesday and are being delivered to provinces already.

“Our distribution tempo will keep on increasing, with over 40 million doses scheduled by end June and more than 100 million doses by end September,” said Fortin, the military commander in charge of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

The corollary of an approach that has generally seen a focus on getting as many first shots into as many arms as possible is the fact that just three per cent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, according to the CBC News vaccine tracker.

Read more about the vaccination rollout

Loved ones set to take advantage of loosening of visitor restrictions at B.C. long-term care facilities

Beginning Thursday, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has relaxed the rules for long-term care visitors, including one that banned any contact with residents.

Now family and friends can touch their loved ones, while taking health precautions like wearing a mask and sanitizing their hands.

For LTC operators, the new rules are a welcome change.

“It’s going to make a huge difference to the workers, the people that live here, and of course the family members,” said Dan Levitt, executive director of Tabor Village in Abbotsford and adjunct professor in gerontology at SFU.

“Finally someone comes into your room and touches you for a reason that isn’t a medical or clinical reason,” he said.

Tabor Village was among the hardest hit long-term care homes, with an outbreak that left 150 residents and staff with COVID-19. Twenty-six people died.

But, of course, it’s the family members and relatives who are doing the most rejoicing. Family members such as Peg Montgomery.

The rule changes mean Montgomery can more easily book visits and spend time with her 92-year-old father after only seeing him twice during the pandemic.

“It could be one of the last times I’ll see him, but just seeing him and being with him will be wonderful,” she said, adding that she booked the earliest visiting slot available.

Under the new rules, two adults and a child can visit at the same time and there are no longer restrictions on the frequency or duration of visits.

Read more about the pandemic in British Columbia

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

National study looks to better understand the plight of long-haul COVID-19 sufferers

As provincial and federal governments focus on urgent pandemic priorities — from prevention and vaccination to caring for acutely ill patients in hospitals — at least one initiative seeks to better understand people suffering debilitating symptoms long after COVID-19 infections, so this group can be part of pandemic-related planning and spending in the future.

Researchers have estimated that about 10 per cent of people who contract COVID-19 develop long-haul symptoms, but they still don’t understand why.

Dr. Nadia Alam, a family physician in Georgetown, Ont., calls long COVID “a challenging constellation of symptoms.”

“When patients come to me with symptoms of fatigue, of decreased stamina, of decreased exercise tolerance … vague symptoms that are found in many, many illnesses, if I don’t know that the patient had COVID-19, long COVID would not even be on my list of possibilities,” said Alam, a past president of the Ontario Medical Association.

Patients spoke to CBC News and reported having to navigate a series of appointments with cardiologists, neurologists and rheumatologists to try to get help for their diverse post-COVID symptoms.

Angela Cheung, senior clinician-scientist at the University Health Network in Toronto, is advocating for government funding to establish specialized clinics like those that exist in the U.K.

Cheung is a co-lead investigator for the Canadian COVID-19 Prospective Cohort Study (CANCOV), which is looking at one-year outcomes in patients with COVID-19. There are about 900 participants so far, with a goal to provide different types of treatment and rehabilitation in health-care centres in Ontario, Quebec, B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba while collecting data to learn what works to help sufferers improve their quality of life.

“It’s not going to disappear when the pandemic settles,” Cheung said. “So we better start thinking about it now.”

In an emailed response to CBC News, a spokesperson for federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said there is currently not enough data to determine how common long-lasting health effects of COVID-19 might be, but that the Public Health Agency of Canada is “monitoring the latest research in this space.”

AND FINALLY…

Nathaniel Sinclair, 11, will be performing healing dances for his community until the number of known active COVID-19 cases reaches zero, he said. (Submitted by Leo Sinclair)

11-year-old boy performs healing dances as his Cree community in Manitoba battles outbreak

An 11-year-old boy is dancing for people battling COVID-19 in his northern Manitoba First Nation and to force the illness out of his community.

Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Pukatawagan, has been receiving aid from the Canadian Armed Forces, Red Cross and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak for a COVID-19 outbreak since mid-March.

“I’m praying for the sick ones and the emergency responders,” said Nathaniel Sinclair.

Neither of Nathaniel’s parents participated in traditional dancing when they grew up. He has been teaching himself by watching men’s traditional dancers at powwows and on YouTube videos.

Powwow dancing is an expression of spirituality, history and culture. There are various forms of powwow dances, some with regional variations and others that are specific to certain First Nations, or events or elements of nature.

The dances Nathaniel said he performs include the Sneak-Up, Footslide, Crow Hop, Duck and Dive and regular traditional.

Nathaniel performed his third dance Wednesday and said he plans to continue dancing “until there are no more [COVID-19] cases and they’re all recovered.”

Meanwhile, Nadine Sinclair is beaming with pride for her son.

“He makes me very proud that he’s doing these dances,” she said. “He inspires me a lot with whatever dances he can come up with.”

Here’s hoping Nathaniel can soon dance for other reasons. While the military is still present and the community remains under lockdown, there are now 50 known active cases, a drop of about 230 in a period of two weeks.

Read more about Nathaniel’s dancing 

Find out more about COVID-19

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

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See the answers to COVID-19 questions asked by CBC viewers and readers.

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Reach out to us at [email protected] if you have any questions.


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bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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