Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Oct. 29

The latest:

  • Canada’s ICU doctors brace for increased COVID-19, flu patients.
  • France prepares for new COVID-19 restrictions, German chancellor warns of ‘difficult’ winter.
  • U.S. economy notches record growth in 3rd quarter.
  • Ontario projects slower growth, but a continued climb in cases.
  • Outbreak at Blenheim, Ont., church linked to 30 cases.
  • Manitoba announces new daily high of 193 infections. 
  • 453,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to be sent to Quebec, which reports 1,030 new cases.
  • P.E.I. has no active cases, province’s top doctor says.
  • New record set in Alberta with 4,921 active cases.
  • B.C. announces cases due to private gatherings, death of 80-year-old who attended small birthday party.
  • UPS executive granted special ministerial exemption from Canada’s COVID-19 quarantine.
  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca.

As cases continue to rise in several provinces, intensive care doctors are expressing alarm as they prepare for an increase in patients being admitted due to COVID-19 and the flu. Many are repeating the message to get the flu shot immediately to keep as many people out of a hospital setting as possible.

There’s been a surge in most provinces outside of Atlantic Canada in the fall months, and while many hospitals are not yet reporting being overwhelmed, there’s a fear units could be “overrun” with patients. 

British Columbia reported 234 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday along with one new death, an 80 year-old woman who had attended a small birthday party. 

Most of those who attended the party ended up testing positive, said Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer.

WATCH | ICU units will have difficulties handling more than a small surge: 

Intensive care physician Dr. Bram Rochwerg says he is concerned about the trend in intensive care unit admissions, and although hospitals may be able to handle a small surge, anything beyond that will become challenging. 3:24

The case emphasizes how many of B.C.’s new infections are directly linked to social gatherings including ones hosted in private homes, said Henry. She urged residents not to hold Halloween parties and for trick-or-treating to be done in small groups outside. 

She reminded the public that homes do not have the same safety requirements as restaurants or workplaces, including Plexiglas barriers and one-way pathways. Meeting somewhere — with no more than six close contacts — that has a clear COVID-19 safety plan is preferrable to meeting in a private home, she said. 

Meanwhile, new data for Ontario shows virus transmission has slowed and the province is experiencing a “more gentle curve” than what was initially prepared for, public health officials said at a news conference Thursday. 

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, the province’s adviser on the pandemic response, said the data does not mean Ontario is in the clear.

“This disease … can dramatically turn, and you can have rapid, rapid growth, quite quickly,” Brown said.

WATCH | Officials say Ontario residents are working to slow the transmision of COVID-19:

After Premier Doug Ford promised a “positive” projection report on COVID-19 numbers in Ontario, public health officials say the province is seeing a “more gentle curve” than it was initially preparing for. Dr. Dirk Huyer, coordinator of Ontario’s Provincial Outbreak Response, said the slowing of growth in case numbers “speaks to the efforts that everybody is making.” 1:15

He said Ontario is seeing a “little bit of a decline” in numbers but emphasized this is not a reason for residents to let down their guard. 

The data also showed that about 65 per cent of cases in Toronto have no epidemiological link determined by public health, meaning that officials do not know how most people became sick.

While there is also slowed growth in hospitals, an increase is still occurring and the average age of people who are newly infected has increased to 40 years old, Brown said. That’s a concern, as cases in older people likely lead to the most strain on public health systems, he said. 

Health Canada has also issued a recall notice for a Daily Shield-branded sanitizer sold at Dollarama and other retailers. The agency says the product was found to contain methanol, an unauthorized ingredient that can cause serious health problems. 

Testing also found there is not enough ethanol in the sanitizer to be effective at killing germs. The manufacturer, Bio Life, has also violated a number of codes and the agency has suspended its product licences. 


What’s happening in the rest of Canada 

As of 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 228,542 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases, with 27,259 of those active. Provinces and territories listed 191,209 as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 10,074.

WATCH | COVID-19: What’s working in schools and what’s not?

Two infectious disease specialists answer questions about COVID-19 and what’s been done to keep schools safe, whether the protocols are working or if the restrictions have gone too far. 5:56

Ontario reported 934 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with 420 in Toronto, 169 in Peel Region, 95 in York Region and 58 in Ottawa. The province said there were 322 people in hospital, compared with 312 on Wednesday, with 77 in ICUs, compared with 71 a day prior. 

In the Chatham-Kent region, an outbreak at a Blenheim, Ont., church has been linked to around 30 cases of COVID-19 and at least 230 people have been told to isolate as a result. Public health officials say the infections are connected to a person who went to a blood donor clinic at the church earlier this month. 

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said Thursday that the city’s daily case count of 447 is not a record high and is the result of, among other things, a high amount of data being inputted after staff illnesses. The “batching of data entry” accounts for 100 of the new infections, she said. 

Word of Life Church has this sign on its front door. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Quebec on Thursday reported more than 1,000 new cases and 25 deaths, eight of which occurred in the last 24 hours. The province said there were 509 people in hospital, compared with 526 on Wednesday, with 78 in ICU, compared with 89 a day prior.

The province is also receiving its first order of rapid COVID-19 tests on Thursday. The federal government is sending the tests across the country, and Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late Thursday afternoon that Quebec will receive 453,000 of them, much higher than the 30,000 that was previously expected.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, also told CBC News on Thursday that he expects at-risk residents to have access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the first few months of 2021. 

A group of gym owners in the hard-hit province who had threatened earlier this week to defy lockdown orders and open their doors backed off that plan after officials said clients could also be fined. 

“If we have to be severe with people who go to the gym when it is not allowed, we will be ready to do so,” Quebec deputy premier Geneviève Guilbault said.

Teachers in the province also told CBC News that students are highly anxious, and they are seeing more students having panic attacks and in distress while they are in class. They have had to modify or change how they approach lesson planning as students’ mental health has declined due to issues around the pandemic. 

WATCH | Gym owners, patrons frustrated by renewed COVID-19 closures:

Despite Manitoba’s surge in COVID-19 cases, gyms remain open in most of the province even though the facilities are closed in Ontario and Quebec. Gym owners and patrons are increasingly frustrated and want to know why they’re paying more to contain the pandemic than other jurisdictions. 1:57

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported no new cases on Thursday.  

In Prince Edward Island, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison told CBC’s Louise Martin on Thursday that the province has no active cases of COVID-19. There were no new cases reported in Newfoundland and Labrador for the third day in a row

New Brunswick saw four new COVID-19 cases on Thursday along with an outbreak at a special care home in Balmoral. Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, also announced that people who work outside of the Atlantic bubble will be under new isolation rules that could see their quarantine time reduced through the use of voluntary testing. 

In Alberta, a new record was set with 4,921 active cases on Thursday, when health officials also announced 477 new infections.

For more than a week, the province has averaged around 450 new infections per day, except for Oct 23. when it dipped below 400. 

Starting Monday, runny nose and sore throat will be removed from the sympton list for those under age 18, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, at a news conference. 

Testing data from the last week has shown those who report only those symptoms are unlikely to have COVID-19, meaning they are a “poor indicator” of whether a youth has the virus, based on the information they have, she said. 

This change is only for children who have not had close contact with an infected person in the previous 14 days, she emphasized. In those cases, minors who have a runny nose, sore throat, or both should be tested. 

She also said there are outbreaks in 249 schools which amounts to about 10 per cent of all the schools in the province. 

Saskatchewan reported a new record high of 82 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. 

Drinking alcohol is being restricted at Saskatoon nightclubs after multiple COVID-19 outbreaks at some locations in the city. The Saskatchewan Health Authority is putting a cork in the consumption of alcohol between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. as of Friday.

There’s been some confusion in Saskatoon around the new rules. Some establishments that have dance floors are remaining open because they aren’t registered nightclubs, one owner told CBC News. 

Manitoba announced 193 new cases and 97 hospitalizations on Thursday, which marked the second time in three days that the province has set a record for the most cases in a single day. 

Earlier this week, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brett Roussin said Manitoba is not seeing the results it expected from restrictions in the Winnipeg region, so tighter rules could be on the way.

Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Yukon and Nunavut. In the Northwest Territories, health officials said a presumptive positive COVID-19 case announced earlier this week was confirmed positive.


What’s happening around the world

A database maintained by Johns Hopkins University put the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases reported around the world since the pandemic began at more than 44.5 million as of Thursday morning, with more than 30 million of those listed as recovered. The death toll reported by the U.S.-based university stood at more than 1.1 million.

French doctors expressed relief, but business owners were in despair as France prepared Thursday to shut down again for a month to try to put the brakes on a fast-moving fall outbreak.

The new lockdown is gentler than what France saw in the spring but still a shock to restaurants and other non-essential businesses that have been ordered to close their doors in one of the world’s biggest economies. French schools will stay open this time, to reduce learning gaps and allow parents to keep working. Farmers markets, parks and factories can also continue operating, officials said.

French lawmakers are voting Thursday on the new restrictions announced by President Emmanuel Macron, which are set to come into effect at midnight. The lower house of parliament is dominated by Macron’s centrist party, so approval is virtually guaranteed. The prime minister will lay out details of the virus-fighting plan Thursday evening.

WATCH | Europe see renewed lockdowns:

With COVID-19 growing out of control in much of Europe, France announced a renewed lockdown after cases spiked to over 40,000 per day, while Germany moved to shut down restaurants, bars and theatres to regain control over the pandemic. 2:01

Dr. Eric Caumes, head of the infectious and tropical disease department at Paris’s Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, said Thursday on BFM television that the new restrictions are “an admission of failure” of the government’s prevention efforts. He urged tougher restrictions.

The head of France’s main business lobby MEDEF, Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, said on Europe-1 radio Thursday that “shutting businesses that are not responsible for contamination is a mistake” that could drive many into bankruptcy. He claimed it was a gift to internet retailer Amazon, “the big winner from confinement.”

COVID patients now fill 60 per cent of French intensive care units, and France is reporting tens of thousands of new cases daily.

Concern about a resurgent virus was mounting across Europe. Germany’s disease control agency said local health authorities reported 16,774 new positive tests for COVID-19 in the past day, pushing the country’s total since the start of the outbreak close to the half million-mark.

The Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, which has been tracking coronavirus cases in Germany, also recorded 89 additional deaths, taking the country’s total in the pandemic to 10,272, a number that is one-fourth the death toll in Britain, a country with about 16 million fewer people.

“The winter will be difficult, four long, difficult months. But it will end,” Merkel told lawmakers. “We have already seen over the past eight months how we can learn and help each other.”

Spain’s parliament on Thursday voted in favour of extending a nationwide state of emergency by six months, giving regional authorities extra powers to control a second wave of coronavirus.

The Vatican said Thursday that it is ending Pope Francis’s general audiences with the public as COVID-19 cases have continued to climb in Italy. Francis will be resuming his virtual catechism lessons from his library in the Apostolic Palace, as he did earlier in the year during the Vatican’s lockdown in the spring and summer.

In the Americas, Argentina’s COVID-19 fatalities rose above 30,000, another grim milestone for a country now battling one of the world’s highest daily death tolls.

An election worker delivers mail-in ballots on Wednesday to workers who will examine and verify the ballots to prepare them for tabulation at the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorders’ mail-in ballot processing center in Pomona, Calif. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House coronavirus task force warned of a persistent and broad spread of COVID-19 in the western half of the United States and urged aggressive mitigation measures.

“We are on a very difficult trajectory. We’re going in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the task force and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci noted that coronavirus cases are rising in 47 states, and patients are overwhelming hospitals across the country.

With less than a week before the U.S. election and with thin margins between the two presidential candidates in several battleground states, President Donald Trump held a pair of in-person campaign rallies in Arizona on Wednesday, despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and criticism he is prioritizing his re-election over the health of his supporters.

Meanwhile, two people who attended a Trump rally in Gastonia, N.C., have tested positive for COVID-19. The Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services said the cases are not thought to be an indication of the infection spreading at the rally, but it recommends anyone who attended to self-monitor for symptoms.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Taiwan has hit 200 days without any domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19, highlighting the island’s continued success at keeping the virus under control even as cases surge in other parts of the world.

Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control last reported a domestic case on April 12. CDC officials noted Thursday’s milestone and thanked the public, urging them to continue to wear masks and to wash their hands often.

Pakistani authorities have ordered all businesses, including restaurants, wedding halls and markets, to close after 10 p.m. to contain a coronavirus resurgence that began this month. The government on Thursday reported some of its highest single-day totals, more than 900 new cases and 16 deaths. The numbers are almost double those reported some days last month.

India surpassed eight million cases on Thursday but saw a dip in daily infections. The country is seeing the spread of infection slow down this month compared with September. However, Dr. T. Jacob John, a retired virologist, says the infection curve never flattened and those who were susceptible to the virus are now dead. 

People wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus shop at a market ahead of Hindu festivals in Jammu, India. (The Associated Press/Channi Anand)

He also warned that the upcoming Hindu festivals could result in more localized outbreaks and an increase in disease transmission.

In the Middle East, state television in Iran said on Wednesday that one person is dying from COVID-19 every three minutes, as the Health Ministry reported a record daily toll of 415 fatalities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also said Thursday that the pandemic has reached an “alarming juncture” in the eastern Mediterranean, which for the WHO comprises 21 states and the Palestinian territories, with a total population of more than 580 million.

Rana Hajjeh, the WHO’s director of program management, said at a virtual news conference in Cairo on Thursday that there are three million confirmed cases in the region and the number of deaths has surpassed 75,000.

She said the region has recently seen the highest weekly number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

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