Tag Archives: ‘needs

Scientists say noise pollution is harming sea life, needs to be prioritized

Far beneath the ocean surface, a cacophony of industrial noise is disrupting marine animals’ ability to mate, feed and even evade predators, scientists warn.
 
With rumbling ships, hammering oil drills and booming seismic survey blasts, humans have drastically altered the underwater soundscape — in some cases deafening or disorienting whales, dolphins and other marine mammals that rely on sound to navigate, researchers report in a metastudy to be published Friday by the journal Science that examines more than 500 research papers.
 
Even the cracking of glaciers calving into polar oceans and the rattle of rain falling on the water’s surface can be heard deep under the sea, said lead author Carlos Duarte, a marine scientist at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.
 
“It’s a chronic problem that certainly weakens the animals all the way from individuals to populations,” said Duarte in an interview. “This is a growing problem, one that is global in scope.”
 
These noises and their impacts need more attention from scientists and policymakers, particularly the effects on sea turtles and other reptiles, seabirds, seals, walruses and plant-eating mammals such as manatees, the study says.


A raft of California sea lions enjoys a swim. Sea lions call to each other both above and under the water. (Daniel Costa)

University of Victoria marine biologist Francis Juanes, one of the study’s co-authors, said that while much of the work on the effect of noise had been done on marine mammals, the researchers are seeing consistently negative effects that are pervasive among ocean-dwelling animals. 

“It’s not just whales,” said Juanes, adding that invertebrates and fish are also feeling the effects of noise pollution. “We’ve assumed that the ocean is silent for the most part. But it turns out that it isn’t, and the reason it isn’t is because sound travels very far under water.”

As such, the international team of researchers called for a global regulatory framework for measuring and managing ocean noise.

A composition of underwater recordings from the Arctic to tropical oceans of fish, mammals, crustacea, insects, ice, water, and human-caused sounds. 1:00

Much of the human-caused noise should be easy to reduce, said Duarte. For example, measures such as building quieter ship propellers and hulls and using drilling techniques that do not cause bubbles and water vibrations could cut noise pollution in half, he said.

Having the world use more renewable energy would lessen the need to drill for oil and gas.
 
Duarte said the benefits to marine life could be dramatic, noting a resurgence in marine activity during April 2020 when shipping noise, typically loudest near coastlines, died down as countries went into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But humans have not only added noise to the ocean; they have also eliminated natural sounds, the study found.
 
Whaling in the 1900s, for example, removed millions of whales from the world’s oceans — along with much of their whale song. And the chirp and chatter around coral reefs is growing quieter as more corals die from ocean warming, acidification and pollution.

Climate change has also changed the soundscape in parts of the ocean that are warming by altering the mix of animals living there, along with the noises they make.
 
Oceanographer Kate Stafford at the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory praised the timing of the metastudy, as the United Nations calls on governments to set aside 30 per cent of the world’s land and sea areas for conservation.
 
“The review makes it clear that, to actually reduce anthrophony (human noise) and aim for a well-managed future … we will need global cooperation among governments,” said Stafford.      

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CBC | World News

Indigenous leadership needs to be at heart of creating sports programming, says NAIG CEO

On a humid and rainy mid-July night in 2017, thousands of Indigenous athletes from across Turtle Island started gathering at the Aviva Centre in Toronto, preparing for the North American Indigenous Games opening ceremony.

The excitement and anticipation was palpable as a round dance broke out on the street and drums reverberated outside the stadium. Every athlete was carrying a Team 88 flag. Inside the stadium there were Team 88 flags on every seat for spectators. 

In the 200 level suites, which mostly included government leaders, stakeholders and policymakers, there were Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action pocketbooks waiting for every dignitary.

The number 88, in recognition of the TRC’s Calls to Action, became the rallying cry of the Games.

“We call upon all levels of government to take action to ensure long-term Aboriginal athlete development and growth, and continued support for the North American Indigenous Games, including funding to host the games and for provincial and territorial team preparation and travel.”

Chief Executive Officer of NAIG, Marcia Trudeau-Bomberry, remembers how inspired she was that evening — and believed that the policy makers and politicians in attendance were fully grasping what sport meant to Indigenous youth.

“We were trying to demonstrate through the opening ceremony the connection between culture and sport for the people who were there,” she told CBC Sports.

“We see the connection to overall health and well-being. From a First Nations lens and Anishinabek lens, we see the interconnectedness in all aspects of health and well-being.”

WATCH | Need for increased Indigenous access to sports:

Duncan McCue, who hosted CBC Sports’ panel on the TRC’s 5 calls to action regarding Indigenous sport, joined Heather Hiscox to discuss where those calls currently stand. 5:15

TRC released 5 years ago

Five years ago today the TRC’s results were released, including 94 “calls to action.” Nos. 87 to 91 called upon governments, national and international sporting officials to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples on several fronts. Those included:

  • Funding for community-based and professional sport initiatives.
  • Providing education on the history of Indigenous athletes.
  • Developing policies for cultural awareness and anti-racism training.

“Sport has the power to heal,” Chief Wilton Littlechild said that July evening. “It’s finally coming around. People are experiencing sport and traditional games as an avenue to heal.”

There was momentum and a spotlight being put on the importance of sports as an avenue for change within the Indigenous community during that athletic and Indigenous celebration in 2017.


Trudeau-Bomberry knows how the power of sport can impact Indigenous communities. (Submitted by Marcia Trudeau-Bomberry)

Trudeau-Bomberry knows all too well the power of sport within Indigenous communities. In fact, much of Trudeau-Bomberry’s life has revolved around sport, from her early days watching her parents curl, to playing lacrosse at Brock University, and now in her role as Chief Executive Officer for the Anishinabek Nation secretariat.

At home on the First Nation, a six-hour drive from Toronto on the eastern part of Manitoulin Island, Trudeau-Bomberry is with her husband and three young children. She’s now seeing in clear view of the gaps that exist in youth community sport programming on First Nations.

“Being at home in the community, having young daughters who you want to be involved in sport, and the opportunities aren’t necessarily there,” she said. 

“Community-based sport in First Nations is a challenge, especially in a pandemic. But I think now more than ever we need to find ways to continue to be active in our homes, yards and out on the land.”

Trudeau-Bomberry says she’s cautiously optimistic about the future, specifically pointing to Canada’s acknowledgement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

She says it’ll be crucial that Indigenous leadership and community members are at the heart of creating sporting programming in the future — one of the biggest concerns is around funding to sports programs as governments try to recover economically from the pandemic.

“The voices of the people in the community are what we need to be listening to in terms of making sure access and safe participation are being met,” Trudeau-Bomberry said.

WATCH | Where does Indigenous sports stand?:

It has been five years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended more access and education in sports for Indigenous people. CBC Sports and CBC Indigenous convened an expert panel to discuss the successes, shortfalls, and unfinished business of the five calls to action on sport. 40:48

Power of change

In June, CBC Sports and CBC Indigenous held a collaborative online panel discussion hosted by CBC’s Duncan McCue.

McCue was alongside Canadian Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller as well as: 

  • Spencer O’Brien, an Olympic snowboarder of the Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw Nations.
  • Trina Pauls, a fourth generation Arctic Winter Games athlete from the Tahltan and Tlingit Nations.
  • Serene Porter, the executive director of partnerships and marketing with the 2021 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).
  • Dr. Lynn Lavallée, an Anishinaabe/Métis instructor at Ryerson University, whose research focuses on Indigenous sport, health and fitness.

At the age of 14, Horn-Miller spent months on the front lines of resistance during the 1990 Oka Crisis and was stabbed in the chest by a soldier’s bayonet.

She won a gold medal at the 1999 Pan American Games and co-captained the first Canadian women’s water polo team in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

During the discussion, Horn-Miller said developing as an athlete was “a cornerstone” in rebuilding her self-confidence while facing discrimination in Canadian and international sport institutions.

Implementing the TRC’s calls to action can become a way to address systemic racism in other areas, she said. 

“I think sport has this incredible capacity to make change,” she said.

Trudeau-Bomberry overwhelmingly agrees with Horn-Miller and echoes her comments regarding the importance of sport in the lives of Indigenous youth.

“It saves lives,” she said.

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CBC | Sports News

Why some say Canada needs to do more to protect essential workers until COVID-19 vaccine arrives

As Canadians await the rollout of the first round of COVID-19 vaccines, experts say Canada needs to double down on protecting essential workers most at risk of exposure to the coronavirus in the coming months. 

Canada will only have a limited supply of vaccines to start, with just 3 million expected to be vaccinated in the first few months of 2021, but the news of COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon could not come at a more critical time.

Over 400,000 Canadians have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began and the situation in our hardest-hit provinces shows no signs of slowing down. 

The percentage of COVID-19 tests across the country that have come back positive during the past week has skyrocketed to 7.4 per cent — up from 1.4 per cent in mid-September and 4.7 per cent in early November. A rising positivity rate can signal that cases are being missed and more people could unwittingly be spreading the virus.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have to get through the tunnel to get there,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont.  

“You also don’t want to be in a situation where you have a raging fire that’s going on and when you’re trying to roll out a vaccine, you’re doing it in a setting where the hospital is overwhelmed and health-care workers are getting sick.”


While much of the focus on public health messaging throughout the pandemic has been focused on individual actions, experts say Canada isn’t doing enough to protect those most in need of support in the coming months. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Alberta positivity rate tops 10 per cent

Of all the COVID hotspots, Alberta has the biggest fire to put out at the moment, and this week asked the federal government and the Red Cross to supply field hospitals to help offset the strain COVID-19 is having on the health-care system.

There, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive hit an astonishing 10.5 per cent on Friday.

COVID-19 cases in Alberta are growing at such an explosive rate they’ve even outpaced Ontario, a province with 10 million more people, for the first time in the pandemic — with cases in Edmonton alone totalling more than those in Toronto and Peel Region combined

“If you think this is a hoax, talk to my friend in the ICU, fighting for his life,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said during a Facebook livestream Thursday.

“If you’re thinking of going to an anti-mask rally this weekend, how about instead send me an email, call me all the names you want, send me a letter, organize an online rally.” 

Yet while much of the focus on public health messaging throughout the pandemic has been focused on individual actions, experts say Canada isn’t doing enough to protect those most in need of support in the coming months. 

Ontario, Quebec see surge in workplace outbreaks

While elderly Canadians are most at risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19, totalling close to 90 per cent of all deaths, essential workers on the front lines are facing a worsening situation.

For the first time in the pandemic, active outbreaks in workplaces in Canada’s biggest provinces have outpaced those in long-term care facilities — accounting for 30 per cent of the outbreaks in Ontario and 40 per cent in Quebec, as first reported by The Globe and Mail

While limited information is available on exactly where the spread of COVID-19 is occurring, Ontario’s ministry of health said in a statement to CBC News the hardest-hit industries include construction, manufacturing, mining, warehousing and transportation.  

WATCH | Essential workers talk about being on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic

Essential workers — from grocery store employees to truck drivers — talk about their experiences on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic share how it has affected them and why they do it. 11:43

Because of the disproportionate risk of exposure they face, the union for workers in food retail, manufacturing, long-term care, home care and security said Friday that frontline workers should also be among the first recipients of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Workplaces are a big deal,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University. 

“There are people that need to go to work, unfortunately, for us to support society, and again we have to be willing and able to give them at least some measures of safety in their workplace.”

Paid sick leave key to stopping spread of COVID-19

Chakrabarti says one area that could help address rising transmission rates in workplaces is more paid sick leave for those who are unable to miss work due to COVID-19. 

Unlike policing people’s contacts in their own homes, it’s a problem policy could tackle, he said.

“Workplaces are things that are really important because you can only do so much to keep things safe.” 

If people are going to decide between putting food on their table … or going into isolation … they’re going to show up to work sick.– Dr. Zain Chagla

Chakrabarti says mask wearing and physical distancing aren’t always possible in certain situations in workplaces, especially those that involve workers in close quarters indoors — as evidenced by outbreaks in meatpacking plants, warehouses, and mines.

“Many people are financially unstable and they’re scared because if they do have to go off work, they’ll end up losing income,” he said. Undocumented workers may also be hesitant to speak up about symptoms for fear of being deported

“So you have a lot of these kinds of factors that I think are barriers for people getting tested.”

Chagla says more targeted education, oversight and internal audits to control COVID-19 transmission are needed in high-risk workplaces, in order to ensure compliance and accountability. 

“There’s certainly tons of essential workplaces that will continue to have issues unless people actually intervene and do this type of stuff,” he said. 

Last month, the federal government created Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit to give up to $ 1,000 of support to workers with COVID-19 over two weeks, but Chagla said more could be done. 

“You have to incentivize people to get tested,” Chagla said. “If people are going to decide between putting food on their table and paying their rent, going to work or going into isolation … they’re going to show up to work sick.”

Isolating, outreach better than ‘finger wagging’

Chakrabarti says another way to protect essential workers is through the creation of more dedicated isolation facilities for those recovering from COVID-19. 

“One big place that amplification is happening is in large families,” he said. “So if you have a place for people to have their meals covered and they can isolate away from their family, that’s going to really help to reduce amplification of the cases that we’re seeing in workplaces.” 

Chakrabarti says the “condescension and finger wagging” in public health messaging across the country against individual actions isn’t always effective — especially nine months into the pandemic.

“Community outreach often helps,” said Chakrabati, who is also a member of a recently formed South Asian task force to connect with and inform people in Peel Region.

“I think that a lot of the focus right now is on people. ‘Hey, you stay home, stay home, stop partying,’ that kind of stuff. Whereas we don’t hear a lot of what’s happening in these workplaces.” 

“This is going to be a problem throughout the entire pandemic,” said Chagla. “Because they have to stay open.” 

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CBC | Health News

Calgary’s emergency management chief says Alberta needs a 28-day ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown to battle COVID-19

The chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency says the province has hit a turning point in the COVID-19 battle.

From outside of his home on Sunday, Tom Sampson told CBC he feels defeated — the daily virus numbers are filling up hospitals, hurting mental health and the economy. Sampson says the time to act is now and there is no time for half measures.

The CEMA chief called for a 28-day “circuit breaker” lockdown, adding it should happen now to salvage the holiday season. 

A circuit breaker lockdown is a short period of more stringent restrictions with a defined end point where non-essential services are shut down in order to reduce spread, allowing the system to catch up to the number of cases.

WATCH | CEMA Chief Tom Sampson talks about the need for a circuit breaker lockdown

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson spoke to CBC on Nov. 15, 2020, about the need for a circuit breaker lockdown. 0:52

While it’s not ideal for the economy now, nor is it ideal to pull kids from school, Sampson said waiting could take a worse toll.

“A circuit breaker, in my opinion, is required — a hard one,” Sampson said. “I think people can do anything that you ask them to do if they know there’s a defined period to it, also. And in that sense, I don’t think we should delude ourselves. 14 days is one cycle. You know, you need two cycles to really break COVID, in my opinion.”

Sampson said he realizes a complete lock down is controversial, and added it’s the last thing he wanted to have to say.

“We can’t get people to hear us — simply not having people over and keeping your distance, washing your hands, wearing a mask and those sorts of things — it’s just not cool to violate those,” Sampson said. “You put others in danger and we can’t seem to get it right now. Maybe our government-mandated shutdown is the way to go.”

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Sampson described the rising infections as an incoming tsunami. 

“I implore you to listen to our learned physicians who are sounding the alarm,” he wrote. 


Alberta reported 991 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, after reporting a record of more than 1,000 cases Saturday. The province has continued to break records for active cases and hospitalizations over the past few weeks.

There are 9,618 people who currently have COVID-19 in the province, 262 of whom are in hospital. As of Friday, more than 3,500 of those cases were in Calgary. 

On Thursday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney introduced some new restrictions for cities in the province including a two-week ban on indoor sports and fitness classes and earlier closing times for restaurants and bars. 

The premier has continued to urge citizens exercise “personal responsibility” ahead of mandatory constraints. The new restrictions will not be monitored by law enforcement, Kenney said. 

A spokesperson for the premier said Sunday that the government has been clear that its “priority is protecting both lives and livelihoods,” and pointed to the series of new measures announced by Kenney on Thursday. 

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said the city has “essentially zero” power to enforce restrictions when citizens disregard the rules, and has asked the province to reinstate public health enforcement powers and boost contact tracing. 

Sampson said the province’s latest round of measures don’t go far enough, but the City of Calgary can’t fight the pandemic with its State of Local Emergency alone.

“States of local emergency are very, very powerful,” Sampson said. “You can do almost anything you want. You can even conscript people. But they don’t deal with saying: I’m going to shut down this business or that piece of our infrastructure for a period of time, it doesn’t deal with it. And so that’s a provincial call.”

Economy depends on controlling the spread

Trevor Tombe, an associate professor of economics and research fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said countries that have experienced the greatest economic contraction are the ones with the highest case counts. 

“For the benefit not just of our own health and our lives, but for our livelihood as well, the focus needs to be on controlling the spread, bringing case counts down,” Tombe said. 

Despite the freedom Albertans have to go to restaurants, bars and shopping centres, some are choosing not to participate in the economy for their own health and safety. 

“Independent of what the government chooses to do, there’s going to be an increasing number of people who choose to stay home and not engage or not go and frequent different businesses,” Tombe said. “Our own behaviour imposes costs on others when we transmit the virus. This is what economists refer to as an externality. So even folks behaving in a way that just minimizes their own risk may not be going far enough.” 

Many businesses won’t have the reserves to pull through another lockdown, he said. The federal government may need to step in and renew supports.

Amir Atteran, a professor of law and public health at the University of Ottawa, said provinces that are seeing surges in COVID-19 cases are failing in their response — and it’s time for federal action.

“We can’t have individual provinces deciding not to act, selfishly, and I do apply that word to Jason Kenney, such that the rest of us have to bail them out. We’re in this together,” he said. 

Atteran said the federal government could set minimum standards, like a mask mandate, that provinces can implement.

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CBC | Health News

Why COVID-19 cases are surging across Canada and what needs to be done

This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


Six weeks ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country was at a “crossroads” in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, with cases spiking in regions that were practically untouched by the virus in the first wave, it appears we’ve taken a wrong turn. 

There have been more than 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 and over 1,000 more deaths in this country since Trudeau made those comments.

The percentage of COVID-19 tests across the country that have come back positive has also grown by more than 235 per cent — from 1.4 per cent in mid-September to 4.7 per cent in the past week. 

So where did Canada go wrong? 

Experts say a mix of insufficient public health measures and complacency brought us to where we are today and we need to act quickly to turn things around — or at the very least prevent them from getting worse. 

Canada ‘failed’ to follow lessons 

South Korea taught us that by building up a robust test, trace and isolate system, it’s possible to control the spread of the coronavirus without subjecting your population to large scale lock downs. 

New Zealand locked down quickly, then shifted to a South Korean model focused on building up testing, tracing and isolating cases.  

But Australia learned the hard way in the second wave that, if you let the coronavirus spread unchecked for too long, tough action is needed to keep it under control through further lockdowns and strict public health measures.  

“The lesson across all of the world is that the places that do the best are the ones that act hard and early,” said Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa. 

“That’s where we failed.”

Experts say Canada, comparatively, has seemingly not yet learned these lessons. 

“In Canada, we never set clear goals and so we opened up without having built a solid test, trace isolate strategy,” said Dr. Irfan Dhalla, vice-president of physician quality at Unity Health in Toronto. 

“We didn’t follow the indicators closely enough and now we’re paying the price. The good news is we’re not paying nearly as bad a price as people in some other countries are paying, but it would be a big mistake to compare ourselves to the worst countries in the world.”

Ontario ‘highly unstable’ 

In Ontario, there are currently almost 150 outbreaks in long-term care homes, the seven-day average of cases has grown to nearly 1,000 and the largest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day happened this week. 

“The situation we find ourselves in right now is highly unstable,” said Dhalla, who is also an associate professor at the University of Toronto who sits on provincial and federal committees related to the COVID-19 response. 

“It wouldn’t take much to put us on a path towards the kinds of outcomes we’re seeing in Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, many American states.” 

But with over half of Ontario’s cases with no known link to previous cases and community transmission running rampant, experts say the province doesn’t have a clear enough view of the situation. 

“We don’t understand how many people are infected. We know that it’s a lot, but we really don’t know the magnitude,” said Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network. 

“If this were an iceberg, we don’t know how much is above or below water.” 

Despite this, Ontario is moving to ease restrictions on much of the province, even without hitting its full testing capacity and contact tracing and isolation of cases not functioning in hot spots like Toronto due to the sheer volume. 

“We know in Ontario that 1,000 cases per day is not a sustainable situation. We have too many outbreaks in hospitals, we have too many outbreaks in long-term care homes,” he said. 

“We have to bring the number of cases down from 1,000 a day back down to something like 50 or 100 per day. And when we get back down there, we need to have a test, trace, isolate strategy that works.” 

WATCH | Ontario’s restrictions system under fire:

Ontario has announced a new tiered system for triggering COVID-19 restriction, but critics say the sky-high thresholds won’t stop the virus from spreading across the province. 1:59

Manitoba suffered from ‘complacency’

Manitoba went from one of Canada’s shining examples of how to successfully manage the spread of the coronavirus, to facing its single worst outbreak

“Some of us lost our way, and now COVID is beating us,” Premier Brian Pallister said Monday. “Perhaps we were cursed by our early success.”

It was that early success that caused the province to let its guard down, leaving it vulnerable to a surge in cases when the virus re-entered the community. 

“We had a very good proactive response in early spring. We shut things down very quickly, everybody seemed to be quite on board and cases receded,” said Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and Canada Research Chair of emerging viruses.

“And that, probably, in some ways, fed a complacency across all levels.”

Kindrachuk said that because Manitoba didn’t bear the brunt of COVID-19 that other regions of the country had, it lost focus on the need to prepare for the future. 

“Then everything hit at the perfect time — we had exponential growth, we had community transmission, we likely had superspreading events, we had outbreaks that occurred in long-term care facilities,” he said. 

“The worst of the worst that could have happened, did happen.” 

Alberta faces ‘tipping point’ 

Alberta shattered COVID-19 records on Thursday, recording what health officials described as “about 800” new cases after specific numbers were unavailable due to technical problems with the province’s reporting system. 

It’s another province that saw low case numbers slowly rise after a lull in the summer, but waited to act on imposing stricter restrictions and now faces the prospect of a worsening second wave. 

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases specialist and an associate professor at the University of Alberta’s faculty of medicine, called the situation “profoundly disturbing.” 

“You can have things simmering along, and then it just starts to boil over — there’s a tipping point, and it starts to change,” she said. 

“And when that happens, what we’ve seen across the world, is the actions in that early phase make a really big difference.” 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney rejected the call for stricter public health restrictions this week, the same time a record 171 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 33 of them in ICU, and nine more people died. 

“We’ve seen other jurisdictions implement sweeping lockdowns, indiscriminately violating people’s rights and destroying livelihoods,” Kenney said Friday, rejecting the call for further measures to curb the spread of the virus.

“Nobody wants that to happen here in Alberta.”

Saxinger said Alberta should look at emulating a “circuit breaker” model of controlling the virus from the U.K., focused on brief lockdowns that can interrupt transmission and reverse rising case numbers quickly if rolled out successfully. 

WATCH | Stop gatherings in homes, Kenney urges Albertans:

Premier Jason Kenney is calling on Albertans to not host parties or large family dinners and is expanding the 15-person limit on social gatherings to all communities on the province’s COVID-19 watch list. 2:42

“There’s a certain part of the population that’s just not really paying attention as much anymore,” she said. “So you might need to have that short, sharp, lockdown that’s visible to actually really get the whole population re-engaged.” 

Saxinger said she’s worried Alberta is past the point of “targeted” restrictions due to rising community transmission and inadequate contact tracing and is being “surged under” by new cases and hospitalizations

“I’m really afraid that it could take off in a really bad way,” she said. “A lot of us are very anxious right now and the hospitals are already stressed.”

Record numbers in B.C.

British Columbia was praised for its vigorous test, trace and isolate approach and became a global model for how to effectively control the spread of the virus, but could risk jeopardizing the progress it’s made if it doesn’t regain control of a surge in cases. 

The province hit a record high COVID-19 case numbers two days in a row this week, with 425 on Thursday and 589 on Friday adding to the 3,741 active cases in the province currently. 

Unlike Quebec, which saw its cases surge a month after school started and has been struggling to regain control, B.C. has largely seen outbreaks in community settings.

“Most of the transmissions are through gatherings … superspreader-type events that happen with lots of people in a room,” said Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease specialist and clinical associate professor in pediatrics at the University of British Columbia.

“I think our lack of attention to that, and how we can target where we know those large-scale transmission events happen, was probably not as rigorous as it could have been.” 

Murthy said new public health restrictions focused on limiting the size of gatherings, mandating masks in health-care facilities and threatening businesses with closures for not following guidelines will hopefully drive down the numbers and avoid lockdowns — but it will take time. 

“So far we’ve been able to, with pretty rigorous data collection, follow up and trace and isolate most of the cases in the superspreading events that have happened,” he said. 

“But if there is an increased, unlinked case number in the community that’s unable to be traced and isolated — then obviously large-scale social distancing would be probably the next step.”

Atlantic bubble needs vigilance

The Atlantic bubble, a success story for curbing COVID-19 spread, is another model that other parts of the country can learn from. 

The four Atlantic provinces imposed tight restrictions on points of entry, moved quickly to clamp down on new outbreaks of COVID-19 and focused on aggressive contact tracing and isolating.  

But epidemiologist Susan Kirkland said the recent surge in cases in parts of Canada that weren’t hit as hard in the first wave is a stark reminder of the need for the region to avoid letting its guard down. 

“We have to be constantly vigilant,” said Kirkland, head of public health and epidemiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “As long as COVID isn’t introduced, we’re OK. But the minute it is, the environment is rife for it to spread very, very quickly.” 

The Atlantic provinces have so far avoided rampant community spread of the virus with unknown origins, but Kirkland says rising numbers across the country show it could happen anywhere — even the North. 

Nunavut confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Friday and while health officials say contact tracing is currently underway in the community, the territory’s rapid response team is “on standby to help manage the situation should it become necessary.”

WATCH | No sign of bubble bursting:

Like an extended family, the four Atlantic provinces have walled themselves in, creating measures to restrict outsiders and COVID-19 cases. So far, it’s worked and there doesn’t seem to be much of a rush to burst the Atlantic bubble. 5:09

Kirkland said Atlantic Canada has much more in common with the North than it does with more populous provinces like Ontario and both regions face an uncertain future. 

“Part of the reason that we’ve done so well is because we are isolated,” she said, adding that they have also benefited from strong public health messaging and a compliant public. 

“But the minute we have community spread, we’re again in that situation where we’re putting ourselves at big risk. So it’s hard to be complacent.”


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CBC | Health News

Godfall Needs an Internet Connection Even for Single-Player

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Sony and Microsoft are gearing up for a big holiday season. We’ll all still be stuck at home with time to kill thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that makes a shiny new gaming console even more appealing than usual. Sony is hoping its lineup of exclusive launch titles will tip the scales in its favor, but the action-RPG Godfall is losing some of its hype today. Sony and the developers have confirmed this title will only work with an active internet connection. Yes, even the single-player mode. 

PlayStation fans were tipped off about this odd restriction when Sony updated the Godfall landing page with a clarification that online play is “required.” A follow-up tweet from developer Counterplay Games confirmed that Godfall will need an internet connection. Both single-player and the “drop-in drop-out” cooperative mode will only work if you’ve got connectivity. However, they say that it won’t be a “service game.” 

We’ve seen restrictions like this before, but it’s usually a consequence of DRM. Some games need to maintain a connection to a licensing server to verify that your copy of the game is legitimate, which really only punishes people who bought the game and have poor connectivity — pirates usually have the wherewithal to crack DRM. In this case, the restriction is most likely a consequence of how Counterplay Games designed the game’s loot system. 

While there are no microtransactions in Godfall, the developer describes it as a “loot-slasher.” It’s third-person with a heavy focus on items and character upgrades, which require players to complete missions alone or as part of a group. When you combine loot and online play, the potential for cheating and hacks skyrockets. It would appear that Counterplay Games decided the best way to combat that is to make the entire game online, even if you’re playing alone. 

Godfall will be one of the launch titles for the PlayStation 5, and that means it’ll be one of the first games on the market at the new $ 70 AAA price. Some gamers might scoff at paying more for a game with online such requirements. Godfall will launch on November 12th on the PS5. While the Xbox won’t get a version of the game, the PC edition will launch on the Epic Games Store with the same always-on internet requirement. 

Now read:

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ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

Medal hopefuls again, Canada’s women’s soccer team still needs a head coach

The Canadian women’s soccer team will have a new head coach patrolling the sidelines as it chases a third consecutive Olympic medal next summer in Tokyo. As for who that might be? Well, that remains a mystery.  

Canada is not alone in the search for a head coach, however. More than half of FIFA’s current top-10 countries in the world rankings have either hired a new manager since the 2019 World Cup or are in the process of doing so.  

Canada’s head coaching position has been vacant since Kenneth Heiner-Møller officially departed at the end of August to rejoin the Danish Football Association as the head of coach education.

So why hasn’t a replacement been named already? What’s with all the coaching changes around the world? Who’s in the mix for Canada? Here are some of those questions, answered:   

What’s the hold up? The Olympics are 10 months away. Should Canadian soccer fans be worried?   

Not at all. Yes, the postponed Tokyo Olympics are less than a year away, but technically there’s no rush. International friendlies are on hold indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meantime, most of Canada’s players are staying sharp by playing in professional environments whether it be in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Fall Series, the FA Women’s Super League, France’s Division 1 Feminine or with NCAA schools. 

The fact that the organization is taking time to make the announcement can be seen as positive. 

The women’s team is ranked No. 8 and are the reigning back-to-back Olympic bronze medallists. The program has been the crown jewel of Canada Soccer in terms of success and it’s well supported from a financial and resources perspective. They won’t rush this decision. This team has faced its share of quick coaching transitions in the past. They want this appointment to stick around. 

The next coach will presumably lead the team through not only this Olympics but the next World Cup qualifying campaign and the 2024 Paris Olympics after that. Whether the person is an internal or external choice, there will be pressure to win now before some of its star core players hit retirement. 

Canada isn’t the only top 10 country making coaching changes. What’s the deal? 

To say there’s been a coaching carousel when it comes to women’s football since the 2019 FIFA World Cup, might be an understatement. Of the top 10 countries in FIFA’s world rankings, only four have not made a coaching change (Germany, France, Sweden and North Korea). 

The gap between the top nations in the world is narrowing. Teams are jockeying for every technical and tactical advantage they can get and finding the right manager to jive with their players, vision and goals is critical. 

► United States

Let’s start with the reigning World Cup champions and No. 1 team on the planet. Two-time World Cup winner Jill Ellis officially stepped down in October 2019 and Vlatko Andonovski (former OL Reign head coach) won the job. He has big boots to fill. Ellis is the most successful coach in the U.S. national team’s history with 106 wins and just seven losses. With the U.S.’s depth pool, he’ll have some tough personnel decisions to make ahead of Tokyo. 

► Australia

One of the co-hosts for the next World Cup, No. 7 Australia announced this week the hiring of Ellis’s former assistant, Tony Gustavsson. They’re hoping the Swede, who was a part of the American coaching staff in their previous two World Cup wins and their Olympic gold in London 2012, can jumpstart their program ahead of the 2023 tournament at home. He officially begins his new role with the Matildas in January.

► England 

The Lionesses made a bombshell announcement back in August when they named current Netherlands boss Sarina Wiegman as their new head coach, beginning after the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. So essentially she’ll be coaching her current country against her future country next summer in Japan. Just a tad awkward. She’ll take over from Phil Neville, whose contract is up next year. 

Needless to say, the fourth-ranked Dutch are in the market to replace Wiegman, who was the mastermind behind the Oranje winning Euro 2017 on home soil as well as a runner-up finish to the U.S. at the World Cup. Also worth noting, the Football Association is hosting the next European championship in 2022.   

► Brazil 

Pia Sundhage took over the Brazilian team after they were eliminated in the Round of 16 at the World Cup in France. The native of Sweden is the first non-Brazilian to coach the squad, whose stars like Marta, Cristiane and Formiga are nearing the end of their playing careers. With the Tokyo Olympics coming up, Sundhage is a bona fide winner, having guided the U.S. to Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 plus a silver medal as head coach of Sweden at Rio 2016.

Okay. Remind us. Who is in the mix to be Canada’s next head coach? 

There are several qualified internal candidates, but in a June interview with The Canadian Press, Peter Montopoli, Canada Soccer’s general secretary, also indicated there was “significant interest globally for the position,” which closed officially on June 30. 

► Rhian Wilkinson 

If they stick within the program and elevate an assistant, Wilkinson would be the likely choice. The veteran Canadian international has connections to both the Herdman and Heiner-Møller eras. She’s the head coach of the women’s youth programs and served as an assistant with the senior squad at the last World Cup. She’s rocketed up the coaching ranks thanks to the same smarts, leadership and work ethic she was known for in her 181-cap career. The rub is she’s relatively green as a head coach and is only three years removed from retirement. If she’s the coach of the future, the hiring committee might not want to throw her onto the hot seat without some more seasoning.

► Daniel Worthington 

Worthington is another assistant coach within the program who’s stretched over both Herdman and Heiner-Møller’s tenures. He’s also the leader of the EXCEL development program and served as head coach for Canada at the 2015 Pan Am Games, where they placed fourth. 

► Bev Priestman 

Priestman is a familiar face to the Canadian team. She held several positions during her six years with the program, including director of the EXCEL developmental program and head coach of the women’s under-17 and under-20 teams where she helped develop the next generation of Canadian stars. Currently an assistant with the Lionesses under Phil Neville, if Priestman wants to make a leap to a head coaching position, this might be it. Especially given that Wiegman is taking over the England program in 2021. Priestman only left two years ago so her knowledge of the Canadian pipeline would be an asset. 

► Laura Harvey

Many soccer pundits believed Harvey was next in line to succeed Ellis for the top job on the U.S. team. As coach of the American under-20 team, she probably has the second-best job in the country, but if a head coaching opportunity is beckoning, then why not Canada? Along with her work in the U.S. system, she also served as an assistant with her native England’s youth teams. Professionally, she’s won titles while running Arsenal and won two NWSL shields with Seattle Reign (now OL). 

► Dark horses 

Isn’t there always a few? In taking a scan through the staffs of the top pro leagues in the world — the NWSL, the FA Women’s Super League and Division 1 Féminin — there are several interesting choices, that is if they wanted to leave to run a national team in another country. Like Harvey, there are candidates coaching at the youth level in Germany, France, England, etc., waiting for a big break. Would Canada take a chance on promoting a foreign under-20 coach or senior assistant when they have one of their own (Wilkinson) domestically? We shall see.

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CBC | Soccer News

COVID-19 poses big challenges for day camps, programs catering to those with special needs

Parents across the country are trying to fill the empty days this summer for their kids, after many camps and programs were cancelled due to the pandemic. The scramble for playdates, day trips and other activities is a daily preoccupation, but for those with children who are among society’s most vulnerable, the need for daily structure is even more crucial.

“Our parents were at their breaking points,” says Yaffi Scheinberg, executive director of Kayla’s Children Centre (KCC) which operates a day camp in Thornhill, Ont., for children with special needs.

Kathy Laszlo, co-founder and director of Developing and Nurturing Independence (DANI), says it was a similar situation for the families of the adults in its programs, many of whom have been without access to support during the pandemic lockdown. “When there is no respite, there is no health worker coming to your house, there is no one taking out your kid. So you’ve had to do this 24/7 in the last 18 weeks, and it was a great toll on the families.”

KCC and DANI are the only special needs programs of their kind that have reopened in Ontario so far during the COVID-19 pandemic.

KCC runs a school and a variety of programs for children with disabilities and complex medical issues. The organizers were debating whether or not to open this year, due to the risks posed by COVID-19 and the complexity of making sure the campers would be safe. However, they really wanted to support parents of high-needs kids who were looking at a summer without the break the camp provides them with.

“We feel like we’re literally saving lives by having this camp open and giving these kids this opportunity, and giving their parents the chance to recuperate from the trauma that they went through in the last couple of months,” Scheinberg says.


The programs at Kayla’s Children Centre give campers and their families a break from the stresses of months of COVID-19 isolation, says executive director Yaffi Scheinberg. (Perlita Stroh/CBC)

Julie Higgins is one of those parents. Her six-year-old daughter Emily has attended the camp for three years. Emily suffers from Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder that robs her of control over her body. She also experiences strong, painful muscle spasms.

After being isolated at home for four months with her daughter, Higgins admits the toll the situation was taking on the family was severe.

“It was awful,” says Higgins. “We were in crisis and desperate for anything, it was quite a few months of just survival and just day by day, hour by hour.”

When Higgins heard KCC camp was opening, she decided Emily needed the respite as much as the rest of her family.

“We knew they would take every precaution to make sure it was safe. And obviously you know you’re taking a bit of a risk, but we also took into consideration what it was doing to Emily not being around other people, and that was really hard on her.”


Julie Higgins, left, says that at the KCC camp her daughter Emily gets the structure and therapy she needs to thrive. (Perlita Stroh/CBC)

Also hard on Emily was the loss of skills she was experiencing due to the interruption in her therapies. At KCC she receives physiotherapy and occupational therapy, as well as taking part in recreational activities. All that structure is what Higgins says makes her thrive.

“Even though we tried to do as much as we could at home, it’s not the same. So, she’s getting all that now. She loves it. We can see her strength is back.”

KCC has more than 80 campers this summer and runs the full months of July and August.

Emily’s favourite activities at camp include music class and water play. Higgins, who drives her an hour each way to get to and from the camp each day, says her daughter’s overall mood has improved dramatically since she’s been there.

“She’s happy, so we’re happy.”


Julie Higgins says until the KCC camp was able to open, the stress of isolation during the pandemic was taking a toll on her daughter Emily and the rest of the family. ‘We were in crisis and desperate for anything.’ (Perlita Stroh/CBC)

Delicate decisions

Opening the camp during a pandemic was not easy. KCC consulted with public health officials as well as Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children when considering how it could open.

The organizers are using a large building where they can space children out, and they’re keeping campers in cohorts of five that do not mix. They take everyone’s temperatures at the door, and ensure all counselors and staff wear masks.

They started planning for the possibility of opening in March and remained in constant touch with parents about their intentions.


Emily’s favourite activities at the KCC camp include music class and water play. (Perlita Stroh/CBC)

Scheinberg knew the decision parents were weighing about sending their kids was a delicate one. Many of the children have underlying health conditions that make them high-risk if they contract COVID-19. But on the first day of camp she knew her staff had made the right decision.

“Lots of our parents dropped off their kids that first week and sat in their cars and sobbed. They had a flood of emotion as everything they’d gone through over the past four months just hit them,” says Scheinberg.

“That was really emotional for us, as a staff, to witness.”

Recreational therapies for adults

Special needs children and their families aren’t the only ones who’ve suffered as a result of the isolation COVID-19 created. Adults with developmental and physical disabilities were also left without the structure of their day programs and specialized therapies.

DANI, also based in Thornhill, has provided these adults with recreational therapies, vocational training and a day program since 2006. When it closed in March due to the pandemic, many of its families were left without care.

Even though DANI did transition to online programming, not all of its clients could participate. That didn’t sit well with Kathy Laszlo, who co-founded the centre after her own special-needs son aged out of programs for children with disabilities.

“I personally feel that even if one person is left behind because they cannot be part of this online learning, it’s one too many,” says Laszlo.

“We always want to put the participants first. We knew it was going to be a major undertaking, but it’s their need and the families’ need.”


Kathy Laszlo says reopening the DANI camp and making sure everyone would be safe was a huge undertaking, but it was well worth the effort. (Perlita Stroh/CBC)

Laszlo was right, reopening DANI was a huge undertaking. The centre fundraised and spent upwards of $ 25,000 installing plexiglass barriers, investing in personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitation stations, and hiring a consultant to help them meet government protocols.

Even then, it could only offer its participants two half-days per week to ensure proper social distancing. They are currently able to accommodate most of their 34 regular program participants, and plan to continue doing so as long as restrictions allow.

Laszlo says even this reduced program was worth the effort.

“The parents are overjoyed, they are so grateful. Anything we can do, even three hours twice a week, we see them when they drop off the participants and they can’t thank us enough.”

Gary and Rina Kogon’s daughter Tanya, 42, is one of those able to attend the DANI program. She suffers from cerebral palsy, a global development delay and a seizure disorder. The past four months at home were not easy for her, or her parents.

“She requires 24/7 care, someone nearby,” says Gary. “Unrelenting is a good word, because we don’t have that break … but like everything else with these special needs, you don’t have a choice, you just do it.”


Gary and Rina Kogon’s daughter Tanya requires 24/7 care. Gary says she was excited about the camp reopening, and ‘when she’s happy, we’re satisfied.’ (Perlita Stroh/CBC)

Rina adds that knowing her daughter is in good hands and receiving much-needed stimulation helped her make the decision to send Tanya back to DANI, even with the risk posed by COVID-19.

“When we saw how they were doing it, I felt relieved,” says Rina. “And, she was looking forward to it, she was so excited.”

“When she’s happy we’re satisfied,” adds Gary.


Tanya Kogon, left, walks with some of the staff at the DANI camp. (Perlita Stroh/CBC)

DANI hopes to ramp up its program to full time as remaining COVID-19 restrictions are loosened. The group is also looking for more space so they can bring back more participants, and applying for government grants to expand their online learning program for clients who can’t yet return physically.

Lazlo says her knowledge of what her own son needs drives her to keep going and helping others.

“People with disabilities need a good schedule,” she says. “Most of them don’t chit-chat on the phone, they don’t do Facebook and all those typical things a 20-something would do. They need a personal touch, to be together, to be heard, to talk or be listened to. Or even just to be there.”

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CBC | Health News

The world needs the WHO as imperfect as it is, says Dr. Anthony Fauci

One of the lead members of U.S. President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 advisory panel says the world still needs the World Health Organization, despite some of the flaws that have been exposed during this pandemic.

In an interview with CBC News, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he supports the WHO and is pushing for improvements so it can “correct some of the missteps of the past.”

“The WHO is an imperfect organization. It certainly has made some missteps but it has also done a lot of good,” Fauci told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton.

“I would hope that we could continue to benefit from what the WHO can do at the same time that they continue to improve themselves. I’ve had good relationships with the WHO and the world needs the WHO.”

Trump has been critical of the WHO’s performance. He’s accused the UN body of being too close to the Communist regime in Beijing, saying “China has total control” over the WHO.

At the end of May, Trump announced he was terminating the U.S. relationship with the WHO, an organization that was created after the Second World War to coordinate international health policy and monitor infectious diseases.

“We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, but they have refused to act because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms,” Trump said.

WATCH | Anthony Fauci says the world needs the WHO, ‘as imperfect as it is’

Speaking to CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton, U.S.’s top infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says he supports the World Health Organization — and is pushing for improvements to “correct some of the missteps of the past.” 1:23

Fauci said that, early on in the pandemic, some of the Chinese scientists working in infectious diseases were “not able to express” their concerns about the risk of human-to-human transmission in a transparent way.

The result was the WHO downplaying the risk of that disease vector spread for weeks. Citing WHO talking-points, Canadian public health officials questioned the accuracy of media reports out of the city of Wuhan, in China, suggesting that the virus was spreading through person-to-person contact.

“There may have been things that would have been done sooner both in China and outside China,” Fauci said. “The original reports were that this was a dominant animal-to-human spread.”

Trump’s decision to pull out of the WHO has serious financial consequences; the U.S. is, by far, the largest contributor to the agency’s budget.

In the last fiscal year, it sent nearly $ 900 million to support the WHO — double what the second-largest contributor, the United Kingdom, sent to the Geneva-based body.

The organization has helped to eradicate smallpox, cut the number of polio cases and was a critical part of the global effort to stamp out Ebola outbreaks in West Africa.

It has tried to provide global guidance on stopping the spread of COVID-19, but it has been forced to backtrack on some of its initial advice.

Asymptomatic transmission

Just this week, the WHO scrambled to clarify comments one of its top doctors made about asymptomatic transmission.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for coronavirus response, said it “seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual” — a statement that forced Fauci to say the WHO “was not correct.”

The WHO later said there are still many unknowns about how the virus is transmitted.

Fauci has said as many as 25 to 45 per cent of infected people likely don’t have symptoms.

Canadian and U.S. officials are in talks to extend the border closure beyond June 21, the date last scheduled for a potential re-opening to non-essential travel.

Fauci said he’s not “an expert on opening or closing of borders” but he said there needs to be a significant reduction in the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations in the U.S. before borders can be safely re-opened.

WATCH | Anthony Fauci is asked about how the U.S.-Canada border can reopen

As Canada-U.S. border restrictions continue and as Coronavirus cases spike in many parts of U.S., the country’s top infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton that it “makes one pause and be a little bit concerned.” 2:32

He said while there has been meaningful progress in flattening the curve in some areas, there have been troubling spikes in populous states like California, Florida and Texas in recent days.

“Some states are now having an increase in the number of cases (that) makes one pause and be a little bit concerned,” he said.

A big ‘if’

Fauci sounded a positive note on the prospect of a vaccine, saying Phase 3 trials — a crucial step in the vaccine-making process, when drugs are tested for efficacy and safety — are beginning in early July for a vaccine that his organization has developed.

“If we’re successful, and I have to underline ‘if’ … we’re cautiously optimistic that by the end of the year, the beginning of 2021, we could have a vaccine to deploy to the public,” he said.

A vaccine is seen as essential to ending the pandemic that has infected more than 7.2 million people and killed 410,000 globally.

Beyond a vaccine, Fauci said there’s an array of therapeutic treatments at various stages of development.

He added it’s still possible that the U.S. and Canada can avoid a deadly second wave of the virus if outbreaks can be contained through mass testing and contact tracing.

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Ontario needs to be more transparent with COVID-19 data, critics say

If information is power, Ontario seems to be experiencing a brownout.

Three months into the COVID-19 crisis, one of Canada’s hardest-hit provinces is still unable to share some basic details about the spread of the disease, including the number of tests being performed per region, statistics on the success of contact tracing, the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) or the location of outbreak “hot spots.”

The sort of data that is often readily available in other Canadian provinces and jurisdictions around the world.

On Wednesday, Toronto Public Health bowed to public pressure and released COVID case numbers for all of the city’s postal codes — information that may well spur more residents to get tested. This came just one day after Ontario Premier Doug Ford had rejected calls for a similar province-wide disclosure, saying he worried that the information could be “very stigmatizing” for people living in those areas.

Now, critics are calling for even more COVID transparency as Ontario struggles to flatten its curve and find a safe way to relax its lockdown.

“The province’s unwillingness and inability to collect the appropriate data, and in turn share it with the public, and public health units, is hindering our response to COVID-19,” said Joe Cressy, a Toronto city councillor and chair of the Board of Health.

Absence of information

Cressy cites not just the imprecise testing numbers but the absence of information on the race, occupation and living conditions of those who have fallen ill — details that might help authorities understand who is most at risk and how the disease is spreading.

WATCH | Toronto Coun. Joe Cressy says more COVID-19 data is crucial:

Toronto city councillor Joe Cressy disappointed in lack of provincial COVD-19 data. 0:19
He said this was especially crucial in the Greater Toronto Area, which currently accounts for 76 per cent of all new COVID infections in the province.

“In order to tackle a virus, you need to understand it,” said Cressy. “So for us to be able to tackle COVID-19, to test for it proactively, to respond with the appropriate protections in place, we need to know who it’s hurting and who it’s hurting most.”

It’s a call echoed by Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Sinai Health and University Health Network.

“Having data is really important for all aspects of tackling COVID-19. It lets us know where we’ve been. It lets us know where we’re going,” he said. “If we don’t have that information, we don’t really have a good idea of the best ways for us to approach it. And we also don’t have an understanding of where our blind spots are.”

Morris said that hospitals in the province are still operating in the dark when it comes to things like the availability of hand sanitizer and PPE or localized surges in positive tests — something that might allow them to plan for busy emergency rooms days in advance.

Last week, Ford vowed yet again to “ramp up” testing, to levels that “this province has never seen.”

“I’m going to be all over this testing,” said the premier.

Meanwhile, his health minister, Christine Elliott, has defended his government’s record to date. 

“Do we hit the targets every single day? No. There is an ebb and flow to this but we are increasing our capacity on a daily basis,” she said.

Complicated reporting systems 

Part of the problem, Morris said, are “archaic” systems that don’t allow hospitals, regional health authorities and the province to readily and easily share and analyze the data they have on hand.

“I think a lot of this relates to the chronic under-funding of public health in Ontario,” said Morris. “Many of the problems that we’re experiencing today were experienced during [the 2002-03] SARS crisis as well… Our public health infrastructure has really not ramped up to the level that we’ve needed to.”

Even the flow of basic information between the province and its 32 public health units is complicated. For example, Ontario’s daily COVID update pulls together information from four different databases — the provincial integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS), which dates back to the early 2000s, as well as newer, municipally run reporting systems in Toronto, Ottawa and Middlesex-London.

Meanwhile, in the hastily constructed testing system — which is administered by the province — samples travel all over Ontario to both public and private labs for analysis. As a result, many local health regions say they don’t know how many tests they have performed, and can only disclose how many positive results have come back.


Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto’s Sinai Health and University Health Network, said that having data is important for tracking all aspects of COVID-19. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

The way that news of positive tests is shared with public health officials depends on which lab or hospital has processed the swab. A Toronto Public Health spokesperson told CBC that it has been receiving lab reports through a variety of ways: electronically, by phone, fax, even through the mail. 

As of Wednesday, Peel, York, Ottawa, Durham, Waterloo and Windsor-Essex County followed Toronto as regions with the greatest number of COVID cases. 

Scattered data

CBC News canvassed these additional six public health units to determine recent counts of COVID-19 swab testing. The response was scattered. 

While each unit publishes detailed COVID-19 updates online, York Region Public Health Services, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and Ottawa Public Health are the only regions in the group that publish daily testing numbers. York’s website provides the most comprehensive daily counts, broken all the way down to specific testing centres. According to the data, the entire region tested 705 people on May 25.

All of this is a sharp contrast to British Columbia and Alberta, which have both managed to share regional testing numbers throughout the crisis. Or Quebec, which provides case numbers by district for its major urban centres. 

New York City, perhaps the hardest-hit spot in the worldwide pandemic, has a municipal website that tracks everything from hot spots to local testing levels to the distribution of PPE and free meals.


New York City’s public health authority shares extensive and comprehensive COVID-19 data, including daily testing counts, cases by zip code and the numbers of free meals that have been distributed so far during the pandemic. (NYC Health)

Then there’s South Korea, where the government has been providing the public with detailed information on where novel coronavirus patients reside, so they can steer clear of specific streets or neighbourhoods.

False impression of spread

The man quarterbacking Ontario’s COVID-19 response, Dr. David Williams, the chief medical officer of health, defended the provincial approach on Wednesday, suggesting that things like Toronto’s list of postal code hot spots might actually give a false impression of the spread of the disease. 

“You may find that you have a number of people in an area because you have the same postal code,” Williams said. “Does that mean that neighbourhood is the problem? Or that the people went and worked in different companies that happen to have outbreaks in those companies?”


Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams has defended the province’s decision to not disclose neighbourhood locations of COVID-19 outbreak ‘hot spots.’ (CBC)

Government transparency advocates say they don’t buy such claims.

“We feel that governments in general should be more open with the information that’s coming out,” said Ian Bron, a project co-ordinator with the newly formed Canadian COVID-19 Accountability Group.

“Many Canadians don’t know where the hot spots are. And that’s the kind of information that citizens should have in order to make informed decisions about where to go and where to go afterwards. For example, if you’re going to visit a loved one in a long-term care facility.”

Bron acknowledged that governments have been forced to improvise during the crisis but said that shouldn’t be an excuse for obscuring information that could be ultimately useful for public health.

“It’s a little too easy to say we’re in the middle of an emergency so we can’t do anything right now. That doesn’t mean you can’t start taking steps in the right direction,” he said. In a new report, his group is calling for measures like federal and provincial COVID ombudspersons to help improve transparency.

U.S. produces ‘much better data than we do’

Bron points to American jurisdictions as a positive example for Canadian governments.


Ian Bron is a project co-ordinator with the newly formed Canadian COVID-19 Accountability Group. (Courtesy of Carleton University )

“Although it seems like a terrible mess in the States, they produce much better data than we do. They go to much greater levels of granularity,” he said.

There are worries about the consequences of too little information as the COVID outbreak grinds on. Morris pointed to a recent mass gathering in a Toronto park as evidence that the public might be at risk of losing the COVID plot.

“Today, I’m not sure that the average citizen really understands why there’s a need to physically distance, self-isolate and [wear a] mask, and part of that relates to not having a clear [government] strategy,” he said. “I think if there were one overarching challenge that we haven’t overcome yet, it’s a clearer message.”

It’s an absence of illumination that threatens to leave an entire province groping around for a way forward.

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CBC | Health News