Alberta and Quebec released grim projections on Tuesday for the human cost the coronavirus outbreak could exact on each province, with Premier Jason Kenney suggesting Alberta won’t be able to start relaxing physical distancing measures until the end of May.
Public health officials in Quebec projected that between 1,200 and 9,000 people there could die from COVID-19 by the end of the month. Following an afternoon announcement, the officials hastened to add that the projections were based on countries which were slow to act, and that the province is trending toward the lower end of projections.
The province released the figures amid increasing public pressure for transparency — and despite the reluctance of some public officials.
“I don’t want people to be alarmed by the pessimistic scenario,” Premier François Legault said earlier in the day. “Obviously, when you see the number of deaths projected, that can appear worrying.”
Later Tuesday evening, Kenney said his province’s “probable scenario” modelling showed the virus could kill between 400 and 3,100 people in Alberta by the end of summer, while the “elevated” numbers suggested as many as 6,600 could die in the same time frame. The premier warned the province could see as many as 800,000 infections during that period.
But he added, “These numbers are not a done deal.” Instead, Kenney said he wants Albertans to see them as a challenge to work harder to slow the rate of infection.
Calling it “perhaps the greatest challenge of our generation,” he laid out a plan to deal with saving lives and rebuilding the economy.
Canada to produce 30,000 ventilators
Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Ottawa is working with companies to try to produce 30,000 ventilators.
Trudeau said the country’s hospitals’ ability to treat COVID-19 depends directly on a “sustainable, stable supply,” of critical products.
Speaking outside Rideau Cottage, Trudeau said Canada will partner with manufacturers, including Thornhill Medical, CAE and a group led by StarFish Medical, to produce 30,000 of the machines, which are critical for those suffering from the worst effects of the illness.
Procurement of equipment and personal protective gear has been a challenge for Canada and countries around the world, as health systems compete for a limited supply.
WATCH | Trudeau says other countries lacked sufficient stocks of protective gear:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says countries around the world lacked sufficient stocks of personal protective equipment to handle the COVID-19 crisis. 0:46
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday that Canada received eight million surgical masks from China yesterday, and orders made directly by Nova Scotia and Quebec were on board. Canada expects more deliveries from China in the days to come.
Canada has sourced more than 230 million surgical masks, and more than 16 million have been delivered to date, she said.
Exactly when the ventilators would be available to hospitals, which are facing increasing caseloads, was not immediately clear, though Trudeau suggested they could be ready in the weeks and months ahead.
Trudeau also wished U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson well in his news briefing. Johnson is currently set to spend a second night in intensive care in his fight against a coronavirus infection, as his designated deputy said he would pull through because “he’s a fighter.”
Johnson is receiving oxygen support but is stable, in good spirits and breathing without assistance, said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is standing in for the PM, adding that he had not needed mechanical ventilation.
“He has not required any mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support. He remains in good spirits and, in keeping with usual clinical practice, his progress continues to be monitored in critical care,” Raab said at a Tuesday news conference.
The 55-year-old Conservative leader was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19, the first major world leader to be confirmed to have the coronavirus. He was moved to intensive care after his condition deteriorated Monday.
The coronavirus crisis in the United Kingdom is deepening as its case numbers rise. The government said Monday that 55,242 people had been confirmed to have the coronavirus in Britain, 6,159 of whom have died.
1st COVID-19-related death in N.S.
In Canada, all provinces and territories except Nunavut have cases of COVID-19, with the total known case count surpassing 17,000. Quebec and Ontario have been hardest hit, followed by Alberta and British Columbia.
Nova Scotia on Tuesday reported its first COVID-19-related death. Health officials in the province said a woman in her 70s with underlying health issues died of complications related to COVID-19.
“I had hoped this day would never come, and I’m deeply saddened that a Nova Scotia family is going through this,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a statement.
The virus, formally known as SARS CoV-2, causes an illness called COVID-19. In most cases, it causes mild to moderate symptoms, but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe disease and lead to death.
Health officials around the world have urgently called on people to stay physically apart and practise proper hand hygiene in a push to slow the spread — or flatten the curve — of the disease. Masks, and the role they might play in protecting the general public, have been the subject of debate, but on Monday Canada’s chief public health officer updated her position.
WATCH | Tam, Hajdu now say they’d wear masks in public:
Canada’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and Health Minister Patty Hajdu say they’d wear masks when in public in cases where they’re unable to maintain physical distancing to protect others. 1:41
Canada’s chief public health officer and the federal health minister both said Tuesday that they would wear non-medical face masks in public when physical distancing isn’t possible. Theresa Tam, the country’s top doctor, had previously downplayed the effectiveness of such masks, as had Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
“That’s one option,” Tam said of wearing a mask on Tuesday. “It is an added layer of prevention and protecting the spreading to others.”
As of 6:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported a total of 17,897 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases. The provinces and territories that provide information on recovered cases listed 4,054 cases as resolved. CBC News has recorded 405 COVID-19-related deaths in Canada and two coronavirus-linked deaths of Canadians abroad.
Public health officials caution that the numbers don’t tell the full story, as they don’t capture information on people who haven’t been tested or cases that are still under investigation. Tam has urged people to behave as though COVID-19 is in their community, even if there are no documented cases.
Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the United States and other hard-hit countries around the world.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
Even as the infection curve in British Columbia appears to flatten, officials are warning people against ignoring physical distancing measures. The number of hospitalized patients in the province fell to 140 on Monday, from 149 Saturday, while the daily rate of new confirmed cases also appears to have slowed. Still, Health Minister Adrian Dix is cautioning against easing up on strict physical distancing, and the province has introduced new measures like banning cars in Stanley Park and screening ferry passengers for COVID-19 symptoms. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta’s premier said the province is on track to hit a staggering 25 per cent unemployment rate due to the pandemic. Jason Kenney made the prediction on Tuesday, as businesses continue to shed jobs and oil prices hit historically low prices. He said it will be the province’s most challenging economic period since the Great Depression. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
WATCH | Quebec public health director responds to questions about testing in seniors’ residences:
Dr. Horacio Arruda says his strategy is to see how widespread the virus is in each home and decide whether everyone should be tested. 0:30
A total of 150 people have died in Quebec, though Premier Legault says the small increase in hospitalizations is a positive sign. Later in the day, the government released projections saying that between 1,200 and 9,000 people could die in the province this month, despite Quebec’s public health director’s reluctance to do so. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
Testing in New Brunswick will be ramped up, as the province has caught up on a “backlog” of people who need to be tested. Travel outside of New Brunswick will no longer be the “key determinant for referral for testing,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell told reporters during the daily news conference in Fredericton. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
No new cases were identified in P.E.I. on Tuesday, the fifth day in a row without an increase. The province does have a backlog of tests though, which Premier Dennis King said could be masking the disease’s spread. “We feel that this may be luring Islanders into a false sense of belief that we have flattened the curve so to speak,” King said Tuesday. “And we haven’t.” Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador saw its smallest single-day increase since March 21, with just two new cases in the last 24 hours. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald asked the public not to read too deeply into the reprieve, as they could be an anomaly. “There are going to be days like this that we only have a few cases, and then there are going to be days where we have more,” she said. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 7:30 p.m. ET
U.S. President Donald Trump announced 110,000 ventilators will be made in the coming weeks, while there are currently 8,675 in a national stockpile. Trump also announced the U.S. will “put a hold” on funding to the World Health Organization, saying “they missed the call” on the pandemic and seem to be “very China-centric.”
Earlier in the day, Trump removed Glenn Fine, the inspector general in charge of overseeing the United States’ $ 2.2 trillion coronavirus response. The removal has set the stage for a major clash between Trump, government watchdogs and Democrats who are demanding oversight of the vast funds being pumped into the American economy.
Fine, acting inspector general for the Department of Defence, was named last week to chair a committee acting as a sort of overarching watchdog of the response, including health policy and the massive economic relief package, the largest in U.S. history.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Fine’s abrupt removal “part of a disturbing pattern of retaliation by the president against independent overseers.” Trump, she said, is attempting to “disregard critical oversight provisions that hold the administration accountable to the law.”
A day earlier, Trump had asserted without evidence that an inspector general report warning of shortages of coronavirus testing in hospitals was “just wrong” and skewed by political bias. On Friday, he fired Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who drew his disdain for notifying Congress of an anonymous whistleblower complaint about Ukraine. The complaint led to Trump’s impeachment.
On Tuesday, New York state recorded 731 new coronavirus deaths, its biggest one-day jump of deaths yet, for a statewide toll of nearly 5,500. But in an encouraging sign, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported that the average number of people newly hospitalized each day dropped over the past three days.
Across the U.S., the death toll surpassed 12,000, with around 386,000 confirmed infections.
Also tempering Cuomo’s hopeful notes was early data showing black Americans are hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic. Data from Chicago officials on Monday showed that black residents make up 52 per cent of coronavirus infections and 72 per cent of deaths from COVID-19, despite making up around 30 per cent of the city’s population.
“Those numbers take your breath away. This is a call to action moment for all of us,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Louisiana and Michigan have also reported coronavirus death rates among African Americans that are far greater than their representation in the overall state population.
WATCH | Fauci: ‘Unfortunately … nothing we can do about it right now’
Top health official says minorities in the U.S. may be hit by the virus in greater numbers due to exacerbating health disparities 0:50
Here’s a look at some other hard-hit areas around the world
From The Associated Press, updated at 9 p.m. ET
Japan’s prime minister on Tuesday declared a month-long state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures after a spike in infections there, but it came in the form of a stay-at-home request — not an order — and violators will not be penalized.
Japan has the world’s oldest population, a worrying target for a virus that has been killing the elderly at much higher rates than other age groups.
WATCH | State of emergency in parts of Japan as COVID-19 cases rise:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resists complete lockdown of the country but plans a massive economic stimulus program. 2:29
Mainland China‘s new coronavirus cases doubled in 24 hours as the number of infected overseas travellers surged, and new asymptomatic infections more than quadrupled, pressuring authorities to tighten measures to stem local transmissions. The news came as authorities ended the 11-week lockdown of Wuhan, the city where the pandemic started. To stem infections from outside its borders, China has slashed the number of international flights and denied entry to virtually all foreigners.
Denmark is also easing restrictions, as officials said they plan to reopen schools next week for students up to age 11 — a development that feels impossibly distant elsewhere in the world.
In Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries, new deaths Tuesday rose to 743 and infections climbed by 5,400 after five days of declines, but the increases were believed to reflect a weekend backlog. Authorities said slowing the contagion will be a long process and were confident in the downward trend.
Ecuador is preparing an emergency burial ground on land donated by a private cemetery in Guayaquil, the country’s largest city. The government, which last week began storing the bodies of coronavirus victims in giant refrigerated containers until graves were prepared, is aiming to bury some 100 people a day at the cemetery, which has the capacity for some 2,000 plots.
WATCH| Ecuadorian health system collapses in Guayaquil region:
COVID-19 has infected 1,600 doctors, nurses and other health-care workers. 1:10
France had registered more than 10,000 deaths from coronavirus infections on Tuesday, becoming the fourth country to go beyond that threshold after Italy, Spain and the U.S. The rate of increase in fatalities was up for the second day running.
Italy’s commissioner for fighting the COVID-19 virus appealed to Italians ahead of Easter weekend not to lower their guard and to abide by a lockdown now in its fifth week, even though pressure on intensive care wards is easing.
“Don’t ever forget even for an instant that this invisible, strong and unknown virus has taken 16,523 lives through yesterday,” Domenico Arucuri said, reciting the figure repeatedly. “I beg you, in the next hours and days, do not cancel this number from your memory.” Reuters later reported that Italy’s death toll had topped 17,000.
On Tuesday, Italy reported 3,039 new cases of COVID-19 in a 24-hour period. The country has not seen such a low daily number since the early weeks of the outbreak.
Worldwide, more than 1.4 million people have been confirmed infected and more than 81,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University, which maintains a live database of reported cases. The true numbers are certainly much higher because of limited testing, different ways nations count the dead and deliberate underreporting by some governments.
The Indonesian government has been forecasting that the coronavirus might infect about 95,000 people in the country by next month as the virus continues to spread rapidly.
Indonesia marked the biggest daily increase in COVID-19 cases since the country announced its two first cases early last month: 247 people tested positive on Tuesday, bringing the country caseload to 2,738.
Turkey’s health minister on Tuesday reported 76 deaths from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, raising the death toll in the country to 725.
South Korea, meanwhile, said it will soon announce a guideline for hospitals on experimental coronavirus treatments using donated blood from patients who survived. Kwon Jun-wook, an official from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the guideline will draw from the country’s experience with similar treatments on patients, who contracted the MERS virus during an outbreak in 2015.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, discovered in 2012, is caused by a coronavirus in the same family as the common cold, SARS and the novel virus that’s causing the COVID-19 illness. The 2015 outbreak killed 36 people and sickened nearly 200 in South Korea.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the African continent now has more than 10,000 coronavirus cases. Fifty-two of Africa’s 54 countries now have the virus, with island nation Sao Tome e Principe the latest to confirm cases.
Only the small kingdom of Lesotho and the island nation of Comoros have not confirmed cases. South Africa has the most cases on the continent with more than 1,600. The shortage of testing capabilities across the continent has raised concerns that the number of actual cases in Africa could be higher.
South Africa’s health minister says 66 people at Durban’s St. Augustine’s Hospital have tested positive for the virus in the past few days, including 48 staff members. Zweli Mkhize says fewer than 100 people across the country are currently hospitalized with the infection.
The total number of cases in Iran has risen to more than 62,000, and the death toll is nearing 4,000, according to health ministry data announced on Tuesday, but a senior official suggested the true number of infections might be far higher. Health Ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpur told state television that a further 133 people had died from the virus overnight, bringing Iran’s death toll to 3,872. Nearly 4,000 infected people are in critical condition, he said.
The total number of coronavirus cases has reached 62,589, with 2,089 new infections, Jahanpur said. However, a member of Iran’s National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, Hamid Souri, has put the number of cases in the nation of 83 million at “around 500,000,” the state news agency IRNA reported.
WATCH| Can COVID-19 be spread by talking?
We know COVID-19 can be spread by someone coughing or sneezing, but what about by simply talking? Andrew Chang explains how it can happen. 0:57