#Alberta; #Covid19; #MostAtRiskAlbertans
Alberta, Jun 28 (Canadian-Media): Alberta Government continues to provide unprecedented support for vulnerable groups due to COVID-19 pandemic, media reports said.
Image credit: Facebook Page
Although any one can be hit by COVID-19, older Albertans and those with heart disease, diabetes or other underlying medical conditions are the most at risk of experiencing severe health outcomes.
To date, of 154 deaths reported in Alberta. 139 were individuals over the age of 70, and almost 90 percent of those who died from COVID-19 had two or more underlying conditions.
“Our government will continue providing unprecedented support for vulnerable groups, but we need everyone to act responsibly and encourage others to do the same. Simple actions save lives, so let’s all keep doing our part,” said Jason Kenney, Alberta Premier.
Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health, Alberta said that the government " includes provincewide funding to help cover costs arising from COVID-19 protective measures and help seniors to remain safe at home.”
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health said that by taking simple, everyday actions, we can help limit the spread, particularly to those most at risk of COVID-19.
The support extended by Alberta government during the spring to protect at-risk Albertans includes $14.2 million a month, and more than $170 million total, in additional funding to help long-term care staff and residents, designated supportive living facilities and seniors lodges. Funding is being distributed in coordination with Alberta Health Services and Seniors and Housing and will continue until the orders from Alberta's chief medical officer of health are lifted.
Long-term care and designated supportive living operators have already received $38.7 million.
The wage top-up of an additional $2 per hour for health-care aides at contracting continuing care facilities will also continue, along with funds to increase staffing levels, at a cost of $7.3 million a month.
Other recent investments for at-risk Albertans include: $500 million in additional funding for Budget 2020 to support Alberta’s health system during the pandemic; $30 million to charities, not-for-profits, food banks and civil society organizations; $25 million to expand shelter space across the province to protect Albertans experiencing homelessness; $21.6 million to expand online resources and virtual supports for Albertans seeking help for mental health and addiction challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic; $5 million for women’s emergency shelters to support women and children fleeing violence to ensure they are protected and have access to safe isolation with supports.
A number of other targeted measures will also continue until further notice, including: Asymptomatic testing for all Albertans, including at all locations with outbreaks and all continuing care facilities; Mandatory protections for staff and residents at continuing care facilities, including continuous staff masking, staff screening, and restrictions on staff working at more than one facility; Enhanced outbreak protocols and infection prevention and control measures for all continuing care facilities and independent seniors living facilities; screening protocols and enhanced cleaning for residents and staff at residential addiction treatment facilitie; almost 20 million free non-medical masks distributed to Albertans in June, with another 20 million to be released in July; Expanded monitoring of licensed supportive living and long-term care settings to ensure compliance to protocols and standards.
Government is now engaging with those most at risk of severe outcomes, seniors, senior-serving organizations, and disability groups to hear their ideas on what restrictions can be safely relaxed while still protecting them from infection
Quick facts about at-risk populations in Alberta
#Ottawa; #Ontario; #StatisticsCanada; #MentalHealthOfCanadians; Covid19Pandemic
Ottawa, Jun 25 (Canadian-Media): It was revealed by Statistics Canada's study devoted to exploring the relationships between mental health and concerns of pandemic released on June 24 that just over half of Canadians aged 15 and older (54%) reported excellent or very good mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Statistics Canada. Image credit: Twitter handle
Headquartered in Ottawa, Statistics Canada formed in 1971, is the Canadian government agency and ensures Canadians have the key information on Canada's economy, society, population, culture. and environment that they require to function effectively as citizens and help them in informed decision making.
Based on data from the Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1 – Impacts of COVID-19 -- designed to collect information on impacts of COVID-19 on the labour market and on the behaviors and health of the Canadian population 15 years of age or older living in the 10 provinces, this study aims to provide Canadians' mental health based on socioeconomic and health characteristics, and specific concerns that may be related to mental health.
Mental Health Commission of Canada. Image credit: Twitter handle
Of the 7,242 individuals who were invited to complete the survey, 4,627 people responded, yielding a 63.9% response rate, which represented 31 million Canadians.
Several factors of the COVID-19 pandemic which contributed to greater anxiety, loneliness and stress for many Canadians include physical distancing challenge, the reduced ability to work or contribute to society, taking care of the family in lockdown, etc.
Canadians, already at risk for worse mental health, are more prone to mental health problems.
Results of the study revealed that women, youth, individuals with a physical health condition, and those who were very or extremely concerned about family stress from confinement were more likely to report mental health concerns.
The factor which contributed most to poor mental health is the ability to meet financial obligations.
The reports' results showed that of the Canadians who felt that COVID-19 either had minor or no impact on their ability to meet financial obligations, 76 percent reported excellent or very good mental health.
In comparison, the Canadians who reported a moderate or major impact on their ability to meet financial obligations, 25% reported excellent or very good mental health.
Individuals with a compromised immune system and those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, a chronic condition affecting their lungs, heart, or kidneys were also less likely to report better mental health.
The study's findings also suggest approximately four in five individuals were extremely or very concerned about overloading the health system and about vulnerable people's health.
Individuals with better mental health had different concerns about the impact of COVID-19 than individuals with worse mental health.
For example, individuals who reported better mental health were less likely to be extremely concerned about a member of their household's health, civil disorder, or family stress from confinement than those with worse mental health.
#Alberta; #AlbertaHealth; #SerologyTesting; #Covid19Spread
Alberta, Jun 25 (Canadian-Media): An investment of $10 million was announced on June 23 by Alberta for targeted serology testing that will help track the spread of COVID-19 across the province, media reports said.
Alberta Health Services. Image credit. Facebook Page
Serology testing -- differs from the robust polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, the most effective way of treatment for the current virus infection, accessible to all Albertans at present -- detects the presence of antibodies in a person’s blood and reveals if a person has been exposed to the COVID-19 virus in the past.
Four voluntary public health studies would be funded by Alberta Health, which will serologically test specific groups of Albertans for the virus.
Serology testing would also be made available by Alberta Health Services (AHS) for specific clinical purposes where testing can inform treatment decisions.
“We anticipate that there are people in the province who have been infected with COVID-19 and either were not tested or were unaware that they had the virus. Investing in these representative public health studies will help us understand what percentage of Albertans have a history of infection, and how to improve our health response," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health during a news conference on June 23.
"Alberta is the first province in Canada to invest in serology testing to expand our testing capacity and help us track the spread of the virus...We are well in stage 2 of relaunching our economy and relaunching our health system but as Dr. Hinshaw has said the COVID virus is still with us...Alberta continues to be the world leader in testing. In fact, we now have completed more than 4,000 tests and will be going to keep on leading Canada and the world. That is why I am pleased to announce that our government is investing $10 million into targetted serological testing to help track the spread of COVID-19", said Tyler Shandro, Alberta Minister of Health during a news conference on June 23.
Tyler Shandro. Image credit: Twitter handle
“Albertans’ collective efforts to follow public health guidelines have helped to significantly slow the spread of COVID-19 in our province. In addition to our robust testing efforts to detect positive cases, antibody testing is one more tool that will provide the critical data we need to monitor and track the virus within our communities,” said Dr. Verna Yiu, president, and CEO, Alberta Health Services in a news release.
Two pediatric studies would be funded by the $10-million investment to measure COVID-19 antibody prevalence among groups of Calgary and Edmonton children until 2022.
A third study will be aimed to test blood samples collected for other purposes across the province.
A fourth study would be devoted to regular testing of select Albertans over the age of 45 to help officials better estimate the number of people exposed to COVID-19.
This investment in serology studies would enable Alberta to better estimate the number of people who have previously contracted COVID-19 as well as to learn about the spread of virus over time.
In addition to this, serology testing would be offered by Alberta Precision Laboratories for specific clinical purposes and research studies for funded population-level.
#Manitoba; #NewDiagnosticTool; #ImproveAccessToCare
Manitoba, Jun 23 (Canadian-Media): Cameron Friesen, Manitoba's Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living announced June 23 that Manitoba government has invested in new diagnostic equipment to be installed at sites throughout the province to enhance availability of care at health-care facilities across the province, media reports said.
Cameron Friesen. Image credit: Official website
“Improving patient access and quality of care is largely dependent on being able to quickly determine what care is required and where it can best be delivered,” said Friesen in today's news release. “Investing in diagnostic equipment for facilities throughout the province not only ensures Manitobans are able to access specialized services and care when they need it, in many cases it will allow them to seek that care closer to home.”
This investment supports new or replacement equipment at sites both within and outside Winnipeg. Six pieces of diagnostic equipment in total have been approved and will be tendered in the near future or are already in the process of being installed. They include: a linear accelerator for radiation treatment at CancerCare Manitoba, a general duty X-ray machine and a liquid chromatography system at HSC Winnipeg, CT scanners at Brandon Regional Health Centre and Victoria General Hospital, and a new interventional radiology unit at St. Boniface Hospital.
The total investment in these projects is subject to the tendering process, the minister said.
An additionally investment of approximately $720,000 has been made by the Manitoba government to purchase and install two general duty X-ray machines at the Bethesda Regional Health Centre in Steinbach and the Altona Community Memorial Health Centre. Both pieces of equipment are now operational.
“Investments in this vital equipment will ensure we continue to meet the needs of Manitoba’s growing and aging population,” said Petr Kresta, chief operating officer of diagnostic services, Shared Health in today's news release.
Diagnostic services in the province of Manitoba has significantly improved since 2016 including the recent launch of echocardiography services at the Selkirk Regional Health Centre, addition of MRI services in Selkirk and at the Dauphin Regional Health Centre to handle increasing patient volumes.
“Our government has responded to the growing demands of an aging population with increasing health-care needs by expanding diagnostic services and bringing them closer to home,” said Friesen. “These new pieces of clinical equipment are aligned with Manitoba’s Clinical and Preventive Services Plan and will ensure more patients get the care they need, when they need it.”
#B.C.; #Covid19RelatedDeaths; #FlatteningOfCurve; #ON; #Quebec
British Columbia, Jun 23 (Canadian-Media): British Columbia (B.C.) has been praised by officials and health experts in its flattening the curve of COVID-19 related death ahead of other regions, media reports said.
Provincial Health care Authorities of BC. Twitter handle
During mid-March, there had been a rapid surge in the COVID-19 outbreak in multiple long-term care homes, and there was a probability of B.C. being hit particularly hard by the global pandemic.
However, in the months that followed, the province was able to achieve flattening of the curve ahead of other regions.
As a result, B.C. reported COVID-19 related death rates of approximately 33 deaths per million people, which is one of the lowest among Jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S. and western Europe with populations of five million or more.
The current COVID death rate in the province is approximately 33 deaths per million people — one of the lowest among large jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S., and western Europe.
Officials and health experts credit their success to a combination of sound decision-making and good fortune.
B.C.'s timely and sound decisions and good fortune have been credited by B.C.'s officials and health experts.
For example, B.C. was fortunate in its timing of March break, which began on March 16.
Quebec announced its spring break at the start of the month.
B.C. health officials at that time were already advising Canadians to cancel all non-essential trips out of the country.
But such measures were not taken in Quebec and thousands of Quebeckers drove into the United States and flew to Europe and the Caribbean on holiday.
Florida had declared a public health emergency on March 1 while Quebeckers were away and on March 7 New York also declared a public health emergency as Quebeckers started to head home.
On March 11, when Quebec students had already been back at school for two days, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. On March 13, after four days of classes, the province closed schools and the federal government advised against non-essential travel outside Canada.
But by this time the outbreak of Coronavirus has increased in Quebec.
Ontario, which had a March break at the same time as B.C. presented a different scenario.
Premier Doug Ford on March 12 told a press conference: "I just want the families and their children to have a good time. Go away, have a good time, enjoy yourselves, and we're going to be monitoring the situation."
The government announced the same day that schools would be closed for two weeks following the break.
Beyond the timing of holiday travel, public-health experts say the close co-ordination between the B.C.'s health authorities, as well as its management of long-term care homes, were factors in reducing transmission.
In the beginning, health-care workers were on the lookout for the typical cough and fever, but Schwandt said that by mid-March, the health region's testing strategy for care facilities was much broader and included testing people who were dizzy, confused and had unexplained falls.
On March 27, the province issued an order to limit the movement of staff between care homes and announced that wages would be standardized so workers who typically do shifts at multiple facilities wouldn't face financial hardship. The province estimates that move is costing about $10 million a month.
While B.C.'s order came about three weeks ahead of Ontario's decision to restrict staff movement, it still took months to implement as care-homes had to sort out staffing schedules and wage structures.
This fact had led to the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic from one long term care to another.
Gradually over the past two and a half months, B.C's 501 care facilities have moved to single-site staffing, with the process completed June 18.
B.C. was also among the provinces that weren't dependent on the federal procurement program for personal protective equipment but were able to source and import gloves, masks, gowns, and respirators through its own supply-chain management system.
Throughout the public-health emergency, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer has been out front, updating the public on provincial transmission, as well as closures, restrictions, and other safety precautions.
Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto. said that it has helped instill confidence and credibility in B.C.
"If I could put us in a time machine, and I could send Ontario back to early March, I would have an effective expert owning the podium and doing the communication,'' he said, referring to the fact that Ontario's premier has handled the majority of the briefings in his province, reported by CBC on June 22.
#Canada; #StatisticsCanada; #ExcessDeaths; #BC; #Alberta; #Quebec
Ottawa, Jun 20 (Canadian-Media): The number of Canadians dying from all causes during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that British Columbia (B.C.), Alberta and Quebec suffered more than 2,200 excess deaths when compared to five-year historical maximums, according to an updated Statistics Canada (StatsCan) report released June 19, media reports said.
Image credit: Twitter handle
Based in Ottawa, Statistics Canada is the national statistical office responsible for providing Canadians key information on Canada's economy, society, and environment that they require to function effectively as citizens and help in informed decision-making.
StatsCan defines excess deaths as the number of deaths that are more than expected during a specific period of time when considering past trends.
The first 18 weeks of 2020, ending May 2 for 11 provinces and territories are covered in StatsCan's June 19 reports.
Although Ontario was the second-hardest hit province behind Quebec, with more than 2,600 COVID-19 related deaths, it was excluded from the report as it did not provide relevant mortality deaths during that period, including COVID-19.
Statistics Canada says that's partly because death registration is still "a paper-based process" in eight of the 13 provinces and territories, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, including Ontario.
Yukon was not included in the report either, because it also had not provided any death statistics since 2017.
Updated StatCan analysis says that there was a lack of evidence of excess mortality over the first 18 weeks of 2020 for 8 of the 11 reporting provinces and territories.
“That is to say that the number of reported weekly deaths, in those jurisdictions, is within the range of previous annual figures,” StatCan stated.
Three things stood out in StatCan’s May interim report: a gaping data hole left by Ontario’s exclusion; British Columbia and Alberta' s the pandemic results were larger than first acknowledged, and COVID-19’s potential death toll hidden due to the preliminary nature of the data StatCan had to work with.
The most recent official StatCan mortality statistics are from 2018.
B.C recorded 372 more deaths than in any of the previous five years for those same weeks between March 15 and April 25, with only 99 COVID-19 related deaths.
Albert also followed a similar trend by recording consistently higher death counts of 402 than the historical baseline for seven weeks, but only 40 deaths were coronavirus-related.
The excess deaths applied to both sexes and appeared to "disproportionately affect those over the age of 85," said the report.
Similar studies, conducted in countries such as the U.S. and U.K. have also revealed hundreds and sometimes thousands of excess deaths amid the pandemic.
Although statistics on COVID-19 deaths are updated daily, Statistics Canada takes up to a year to gather data about other causes of death.
Prabhat Jha, professor of epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. says it is crucial for Canada to understand these excess deaths before a second wave of the pandemic, but Canada's archaic and decentralized data collection process prohibits appropriate answers.
"The whole of Canada and the provinces should really move to get a real-time system. In the U.K., the data are released every two weeks, including the cause of death information so you can get into these details," he said.
Jha said he was also concerned about the discrepancy shown in the StatisticsCanada reports
For example, Statistics Canada's death count for Quebec, the hardest hit province by the pandemic was 25,185 in the first four months of 2020, which is a lot less than the 28,140 the provincial statistics agency compiled
Jha added that Quebec's provincial data is more reliable.
"Quebec data are the ones that I think are the most robust because they release them directly and they seem to show that almost all of the excess seems to be accounted for by COVID," he said.
#Ontario; #CaseManagementStrategy; #StopSpredOfVirus; #EarlyDetection&Invesitigation; #CovidAlert; #OLIS; #iPHIS
Ottawa, Jun 18 (Canadian-Media): Details were provided June 18 by Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Ontario Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Dr. David Williams, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health on enhancement of case and contact management strategy in Ontario to quickly test, trace and isolate cases of COVID-19 to stop the spread of the virus and prepare for any potential future waves, media reports said.
Covid Alert app. Image credit: Twitter handle
Ontario in partnership with the federal government developed a new made-in-Ontario national app called COVID Alert, which through its case and contact management strategy, Protecting Ontarians through Enhanced Case and Contact Management focuses on strengthening and standardizing case and contact management.
The government's enhanced measures for this includes early identification of all new cases and their close contacts are investigated thoroughly and are followed up with daily for up to 14 days; up to 1,700 additional staff from Statistics Canada to supporting public health units with improving technology tools, modernizing the integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS) through the implementation of a new custom-built COVID-19 case and contact management system; and launching a privacy-first exposure notification app to alert Ontarians when they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Ford in today's news release said, "As we take our contact tracing strategy to the next level today, I want to thank the federal government for providing more boots on the ground and supporting a privacy-first app that will protect both Ontarians and Canadians alike."
"To support these efforts, we are dramatically expanding staffing levels and getting on with the long-overdue work of replacing outdated systems that no longer meet the needs of public health units," said Elliott.
Ontario is providing updated case and contact management guidance for all public health units to ensure consistency across the province. Public Health Ontario will continue overseeing the training and coordination of these additional resources.
Over the summer and into the fall, Ontario will continue to build a supplementary pool of contact tracers to allow public health units to perform their other critical functions, including inspections of food premises and water in recreational facilities, and vaccinations.
To help Ontarians stay safe as the province reopens and social interactions increase, Ontario will be partnering with the federal government to launch COVID Alert, developed by the Ontario Digital Service (ODS) and a group of volunteers from Shopify, within the next two weeks.
To ensure the privacy and security for all users, the government will leverage BlackBerry volunteer expertise to audit the security and privacy of the application, in addition to the province's internal security reviews.
Users will be able to voluntarily download the app and be notified anonymously if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
In Ontario, the app will also provide users with quick access to Ontario's public health advice and resources, and recommend any necessary actions, such as monitoring for symptoms, self-isolation or appropriate next steps on getting tested.
Using a national application will help ensure that Ontarians are notified, regardless of which province they are in, helping us towards the goal of ensuring we can all move more freely and safely.
Ontario is also implementing a new user-friendly case and contact management system that will integrate with COVID-19 laboratory results from the Ontario Laboratory Information System (OLIS) data, making current processes significantly more efficient and reducing the administrative burden for public health unit staff.
A single central system will enable the province to identify provincewide regional trends and hotspots, while protecting personal health information. Custom-built on the Salesforce platform, the new system will also allow for a remote workforce, enabling contact tracing to be quickly ramped up when required.
Everyone should continue to follow public health guidelines to stay safe, including physical distancing with people not in your social circle, wearing a face covering if physical distancing is a challenge, washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, and, if you think you have COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, getting tested.
#Alberta; #AlbertaHealth; #Radicava; #ALS
Alberta, Jun 18 (Canadian-Media): Radicava, the second medication approved to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, is now available to Albertans with government-sponsored drug coverage.
For the past 20 years, individuals with ALS have only had one approved drug treatment option.
“With only one medication available for this progressive neurodegenerative disease, providing Albertans with another treatment option is vital. June is ALS Awareness Month and providing access to this new drug is the best way to demonstrate our support for those living with ALS,” said Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health.
Tyler Shandro. Image credit: Twitter handle
ALS is an illness involving progressive paralysis of an individual’s voluntary muscles. Its cause is unknown. Symptoms of ALS often include loss of motor control, muscle weakness, fatigue, stiffness, muscle cramping and twitching.
Drug treatment may help to slow a patient’s loss of function and mobility, enabling them to better manage the disease and improve their quality of life.
“We applaud the Alberta government for providing Albertans with access to Radicava through government-sponsored drug coverage. The availability of new drug therapies is critical for people living with this terminal disease and gives hope for new treatments. This is a significant milestone for Albertans affected by ALS, ” said Karen Caughey, Executive Director, ALS Society of Alberta
Ottawa, Jun 17 (Canadian-Media): Ontario Government has extended the emergency orders, currently in force under s.7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, until June 30, 2020 to ensure safe and gradual reopening of the province, while supporting frontline health care workers and protecting vulnerable populations from COVID-19, media reports said.
"Even though we're seeing decreasing infection rates with increased testing levels, we can't let our guard down just yet. We need to keep these emergency measures in place to support our frontline heroes and we must all continue following the public health advice, so we can reopen more of the province safely and gradually."
While current emergency orders will remain in place until the end of the month, the government will continue to review each one on an ongoing, case-by-case basis to determine when and if they can safely be adjusted or lifted, as part of the province's framework to safely reopen the province.
Over the past week, the government announced 31 public health unit regions across the province may proceed to Stage 2 of its Framework for Reopening the Province. This will allow additional businesses and services to reopen and more people to return to work.
In addition, larger social gatherings of up to 10 people are now allowed in all parts of the province, and people are encouraged to create or join a social circle. Social circles are different from social gatherings. Social gatherings of people from outside your household are limited to 10 people. A social circle is voluntary, but if adopted should include all household members, and can include family and friends outside the household up to a maximum of 10 people in the social circle, who can interact and come into close contact with one another without physical distancing. To learn how to create a social circle, please see the step-by-step guide.
To help stop the spread, people should continue to follow public health guidelines, including practising physical distancing, wearing a face covering where physical distancing is a challenge and washing their hands thoroughly and frequently. Anyone who is worried they may have COVID-19, or who may have been exposed to the virus, is encouraged to go for testing.
A full list of emergency orders can be found on the e-Laws website under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and at Ontario.ca/alert.
#Ontario; #NewCases; #Covid19; #Under20MoreInfections;
Ottawa, Jun 16 (Canadian-Media): A study conducted by the researchers at the University of Guelph looking at the COVID-19 caseload impact on the medical system in Canada has revealed a continued surge in Ontario's numbers of new cases among people under the age of 20, media reports said.
Covid-19 pandemic. Image credit: Twitter handle
The federal funding for this study was provided last month from the Alliance COVID-19 grant program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
The lead researcher of the study and a professor, Ed McBean, said as of mid-May, in spite of the flattening of the infection curve for other age groups in the province, there was a rise in the numbers of daily new cases for people under 20 years old, especially in Toronto and Peel regions.
But for people between the ages of 20 and 29, public health units outside of Toronto and Peel recorded a rapid increase in cases through early March, reaching nearly 30 per day by mid-April followed by the drop of daily cases about 20 by the end of May.
McBean says he hopes to analyze similar data from other provinces.
McBean says he suspects rising frustration over lockdown measures may have been the main cause of the under-20 results to differ.