The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for April 28


  • Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
  • Rapid COVID-19 tests are rarely being deployed to track, monitor for possible infections.
  • Saskatoon coronavirus case rise being eyed warily by province
  • Month-long effort in Montreal focuses on vaccinating the urban Indigenous.

Read more: Find out why the Department of Defence isn’t providing details about a virus outbreak at the Petawawa base; on the history of Canadian vaccine production and attempts since COVID-19 to spur homegrown efforts.

Customers sit on a terrace in Amsterdam on Wednesday as the Netherlands government eased some restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. (François Walschaerts/AFP/Getty Images) (Francois Walschaerts/AFP/Getty Images)

Auditor general slams Ontario’s level of pandemic preparedness in long-term care

A highly anticipated report on pandemic readiness in Ontario’s long-term care homes was publicly released on Wednesday.

As of April 28, 3,756 residents and 11 staff members in the province’s long-term care system have died. The report issued by Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk says three main issues have led the sector down such a tragic path.

First, despite specific recommendations made by an expert panel after the SARS outbreak in 2003, not enough action was taken to prepare for “next time.”

As well, Lysyk said, ongoing concerns raised for well over a decade about systemic weaknesses in the sector have not been addressed.

Finally, the sector’s lack of integration with the health-care sector did not enable long-term care homes to fully benefit from needed lifesaving expertise, the auditor general said.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton repeatedly blamed previous governments for the state of disrepair.

“Our government is fixing a broken system,” said Fullerton. “I take responsibility for the wellbeing of residents in long-term care and accountability of fixing the disaster of the last 15 years.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was to hold a news conference later in the day, in which she was expected to tee off on the report.

Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, which represents some health-care workers in long-term care, said the report was unsurprising but necessary.

“For decades, workers have been telling governments about the crisis in Ontario’s long-term care sector,” said Dias. “I welcome this report, but to be honest, workers, residents and families all knew that the sector was on the brink of collapse.”

From The National

IN BRIEF

Provinces have been slow to deploy rapid COVID tests, data indicates

Newly published data this week is revealing that barely four per cent of rapid COVID-19 tests delivered to the provinces from Ottawa are being used.

The federal government has distributed 41,852,454 rapid tests to date, according to the data provided by Health Canada. The provinces have received 25,319,957 of those test kits, while 16,532,497 have been retained by the federal government and distributed to the Department of National Defence, the Correctional Service of Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and northern and remote Indigenous communities.

Of the 41,852,454 tests distributed, only 1,731,673 have actually been used — a little less than 4.2 per cent of the total. The numbers on test deployment are not complete because Manitoba, Yukon and Nunavut have not yet informed the federal government of the number of tests they have used, while P.E.I and Nova Scotia have provided only partial numbers.

While Ontario is one of the provinces with a relatively high use rate, the province has only used 1,315,596 of the 11,084,092 tests it has received. Back in September, Ontario Premier Doug Ford called on Health Canada to make approval of rapid tests its “No. 1 priority.”

To the extent that they’ve been used, they’ve been deployed at workplaces, schools and at border points.

Rapid COVID-19 tests are less accurate and more susceptible to false positives than the lab-processed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that have formed the backbone of COVID-19 testing in Canada.

While there have been concerns about the accuracy level of the so-called lateral flow rapid tests, others insist they will need to be part of the solution going forward to as a first-step test for the asymptomatic or those in proximity to recent positive cases, to alleviate the burden on public labs and to fill in the gaps between an increasingly vaccinated public whose immunity may eventually require booster shots.

“Even in the midst of recurring cases and some variants, we might be able to see those schools be able to remain open, see the workplaces remain open, even if spread is ongoing in the community,” Dr. Michael Mina of Harvard, a rapid test advocate, told NBC News on Tuesday.

Both the United States and Britain are now offering off-the-shelf rapid test kits at pharmacies that can be used to check for symptoms, with White House COVID-19 Response Team member Andy Slavitt calling at-home testing “one of the key steps to getting back to normal life.”

Read more about the situation

No new COVID-19 measures yet for ‘red alert’ Saskatoon

Regina has led all areas of Saskatchewan in new infections since variants of concern began dominating during the third wave, but that changed this week.

Officials recorded 70 new cases in Saskatoon on Tuesday, compared to 30 in Regina. That report came a day after University of Saskatchewan researchers flagged a significant spike in viral load in Saskatoon’s wastewater — a finding they said potentially augurs an increase of COVID-19 cases in the city.

The province did not announce new restrictions for Saskatoon, although those who can work from home are being encouraged to do so.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, said the province is prepared to act if necessary.

“I think Saskatoon is on red alert status and if required, specific measures may be needed,” Shahab said. “But at the end of the day, it is [about] the individual actions, especially care when we’re out and about. Minimize unnecessary visits to public indoor places, order more takeout, use curbside pickup whenever you can.”

Also Tuesday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority indicated that the province has seen more COVID-19 hospitalizations in the first three months of 2021 than it did in all of 2020.

It’s not a welcome development for people like 66-year-old Regina native Peter Gebert, who is awaiting esophageal surgery first prioritized last fall.

Gebert is both a citizen of Canada and the U.S. He said he will discuss options with his surgeon about getting the help he needs south of the border.

“Yeah, that’s going to cost a lot of money, but that’s life. I want life. I’ve got another good gig in me,” he said.

Read more about the pandemic in Saskatchewan

Montreal organizations offer COVID-19 vaccine to urban Indigenous population 

Indigenous people are prioritized in the national vaccine rollout, but the emphasis has often been those who reside in remote settings where state-of-the art hospitals are more scarce and outbreaks can spread quickly.

Off-reserve and urban populations haven’t received as much priority, including in Quebec’s plan. It’s why Philippe Meilleur, executive director of Native Montreal, has spent the last few months advocating and working to make vaccination clinics in his city a reality.

“I knew I was going to get the vaccine at some point through my community and I felt kind of ashamed, as a director and local leader, I wasn’t able to convince the government at first to change those strict criteria, that if you’re urban Indigenous, you’re treated the same as the general population,” said Meilleur.

There are three clinics set up until May 10 to serve First Nations, Inuit, and Métis living in and around Montreal, organized by Indigenous organizations and Montreal’s public health team. Meilleur said 730 people have registered so far, with about 300 already vaccinated since they opened on April 23.

Carole Brazeau, a member of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, was among the first to take advantage of the opportunity.

“We’re a vulnerable population, it was important that we receive our vaccination as soon as possible,” she said. “We’re the same person whether we’re in our [Indigenous] community or out of our community. It was about time we got vaccinated.”

Read more about the initiative 

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

Does the AstraZeneca vaccine cause more common side-effects than others?

We’re answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to [email protected], and we’ll answer as many as we can. We publish a selection of answers online and also put some questions to the experts during CBC’s The National and on CBC News Network.

After the age limit for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine was lowered from 55 to 40 across several provinces — to give regulators time to look into reports of severe but rare blood clot occurrences — many more GenXers have received their first dose and reported feeling lousy afterward.

Social media has been flooded with people reporting the non-serious side-effects they felt, and several readers have asked CBC News if the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is more pernicious when it comes to general side-effects.

According to the AstraZeneca product monograph, more than one in 10 people will experience some of these very common side-effects, including, pain or itching at the injection site, fatigue, chills, muscle and joint aches or nausea.

These are similar to the possible outcomes after taking vaccines produced by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen doses.

“There’s no evidence per se to support that AstraZeneca has any additional or more severe [general] side-effects than either of the mRNA vaccines,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Alex Wong in a recent interview on CBC’s The National.

If you experience these effects, Wong suggests taking a bit of Tylenol or ibuprofen to help make them go away a bit quicker.

Separately, Dr. Raj Bhardwaj told CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener there is no one reason why there are so many different reactions when a person’s immune system gets riled up by a vaccine.

“Things like genetics and age and sex and hormone levels and stress levels and your previous viral or bacterial exposures all make a difference,” he said.

Symptoms such as “swelling of your face or difficulty breathing or lots of belly pain or chest pain,” would provide cause to consult a health-care professional, said Bhardwaj.

AND FINALLY…

Tokyo Olympics organizers lay out more details about athlete testing

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, shown on a screen, listens to the opening speech of Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee president Seiko Hashimoto during a meeting in Tokyo, on Wednesday. (Franck Robichon/Associated Press)

Olympic athletes will be given daily tests for the coronavirus during their time in Tokyo for the delayed 2020 Games, organizers said on Wednesday, introducing a number of tighter countermeasures to show the event was still on track despite great uncertainty.

With less than three months to go to the Games, and the Japanese public increasingly skeptical about their viability, according to public opinion polls, the organizers were finalizing a second edition of the “playbooks” that will set the rules for the staging of the event.

The organizers — who include the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Japanese government and the International Paralympic Committee — said in a joint statement that they would “deploy all possible countermeasures and place the highest priority on safety.”

More important than public ambivalence, parts of Japan including the capital were put under a new state of emergency last weekend.

“We are in a very tense situation,” Tokyo organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said after an online meeting with the IOC. “A full stadium is possible depending on the situation. So is 50 per cent, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000 and no spectators. Those are the ranges.”

Athletes are not required to be vaccinated, and to this date, Canadian health officials and governments have not separated our Olympic athletes from the general queuing of the adult population. Australia, France and New Zealand are taking steps to prioritize athletes, longtime Olympic broadcast host Scott Russell of CBC Sports said Wednesday.

Sport officials in Canada are now calling for Canadians headed to Japan for the Olympics or Paralympics to get priority access in the vaccination program and receive two doses prior to leaving for Tokyo.

“If most Canadians are going to be vaccinated by Canada Day, at least a first shot, then why wouldn’t we take care of these, not just athletes but coaches and support staff, that are going into a potential petri dish?” David Bedford, CEO of Athletics Canada, told CBC Sports.

Read reaction from Canadian athletes, officials on latest Olympic plans

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.

To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here.

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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