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Canada’s COVID case count set to hit 1 million next week as variants spread

After two months of relative stability, Canada’s COVID-19 case count is expected to rise rapidly in the coming weeks as virus variants take hold.

Canada is projected to hit roughly 1 million total cases next week, according to data released today by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

While the vaccination campaign has ramped up after a period of scarcity, the rollout can’t keep pace with the spread of the virus, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. Tam today urged Canadians to reduce their contacts in the medium-term while provinces and territories deploy more shots in the months to come.

“COVID-19 still has a few tricks in store and we need to hold on together a bit stronger and longer until vaccines have us protected,” Tam said.

While the setback is “discouraging,” she said, better days are ahead. “We are closer now than ever, but it’s still too soon to relax measures.”

Asked today when things might return to a pre-pandemic “normal,” Tam said that day is not imminent. With the caseload curve trending up, variants accelerating and vaccine distribution still quite low, a post-COVID-19 Canada is still months away, she said.

“It’s not going to be, ‘Here’s a date and after that date all is going to be good.’ It’s data, not dates,” she said. “By the fall — that’s what I think we should be aiming for.”

WATCH: Tam is asked when life will return to a pre-pandemic normal

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, responds to a question about the pandemic’s likely end date. 3:37

COVID-19 variants like B117, which is thought to have originated in the U.K., now account for a high proportion of new cases and make up half of all new cases in some areas. There are roughly 3,000 new cases being reported each day nationwide, up from about 2,000 a month ago.

Case count could rise to 12,000 a day

With variants now circulating widely, PHAC said the case count could rise to 12,000 a day if Canadians maintain or increase the number of people they are in contact with daily. The public health measures in place in most jurisdictions will be “insufficient” to keep cases at bay, the agency said.

Alberta, B.C. and Ontario are projected to see the biggest spike in daily cases — early data suggest variants are particularly widespread in these provinces. PHAC predicts Ontario alone could record as many as 10,000 cases a day if public health measures are relaxed or maintained at their current level.

While an increase in the number of new cases is almost certain over the coming weeks in the six provinces west of Atlantic Canada, PHAC says that the country will be able to hold the line at 5,000 cases a day if Canadians reduce their contacts.

PHAC is projecting the death rate will be relatively lower than it was with past caseload spikes because some of the most vulnerable people — long term care home residents, seniors, Indigenous adults — have been vaccinated.

Tam warned, however, that the B117 variant may lead to more severe cases and could prove to be more deadly.

The public health agency said it expects many of the new cases to come from people aged 20 to 39. While death is less likely in this demographic, younger patients still face the prospect of severe health outcomes.

“The younger people, you’re going to get some people who are going to end up in hospital,” Tam said.

PHAC is predicting the cumulative case count — the number of cases reported since this pandemic began — will jump over the next week from 951,000 to between 973,000 and 1,005,000.

The spread of the variants — which are more transmissible than the strain first discovered in Wuhan — has also resulted in an increase in hospitalizations. There are now some 2,200 people in hospitals — 600 of them in intensive care units.

But the vaccination campaign is starting to bear fruit, with case counts among the 80-plus age cohort declining dramatically.

While there were 35 cases per 100,000 people aged 80 or older in January, the case rate has dropped to less than 5 per 100,000.

Most provinces and territories have been directing the early supply of mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna to seniors. About 60 per cent of all people over the age of 80 have received at least one shot, PHAC said.

The number of outbreaks in long-term care homes is also much lower than it was just three months ago. There were as many as 500 long-term care home outbreaks at any one time in December, while there have been fewer than 100 reported throughout March.

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CBC | Health News

This Winnipeg lab confirmed Canada’s 1st case of COVID-19. Then it set to work helping manage the crisis

On Jan. 23, 2020, doctors at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre admitted a 56-year-old man with what appeared to be mild pneumonia. Two days later, he was “Patient Zero” — the first COVID-19 case in Canada.

Four days late, it was senior research scientist Nathalie Bastien’s team at the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg that confirmed the case.

“When you want to become a scientist, when you’re a young kid, this is what you dream of, to be part of helping people and saving lives in a way by stopping the spread of the virus,” Bastien said in a recent interview from her lab. “It’s rewarding.”


Senior research scientist Nathalie Bastien and spent years after the SARS epidemic developing a universal test that could detect any type of coronavirus, but they weren’t sure it would work on the new virus, known as SARS-CoV-2 until they got the sample last January. (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Bastien’s work is one example of 150 different COVID-19 projects at the national lab, which is is the only Level 4 lab in Canada, capable of handling the world’s deadliest pathogens. 

Many of those projects are done in collaboration with academia, industry and public health partners, and more than 50 of them are related to pre-clinical research, including clinical trials in animals, testing of antibody-based therapeutics and vaccine collaborations.

It’s all part of nearly $ 2 billion in funding the lab has received in the last year as part of Ottawa’s COVID-19 pandemic response, although the lab would not give a breakdown of how that money is spent.

“Obviously, collaborating in an environment that is fast-moving, like a pandemic response, has its challenges but the willingness to work together to achieve that common goal, which is, ultimately, to protect Canadians, has been really rewarding to see,” acting scientific general Dr. Guillaume Poliquin said in a recent interview with CBC News.


Dr. Guillaume Poliquin, centre, is the acting scientific director general of the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. (Warren Kay/CBC)

For Bastien, an expert on respiratory viruses such as the flu, SARS and H1N1, Canada’s first presumed positive case of this pandemic was an opportunity to see if years of work would pay off.

After the SARS epidemic, her team had developed a universal molecular PCR lab test that they hoped would be able to detect any coronavirus.

However, they weren’t certain it would work on SARS-CoV-2 until that first sample arrived at their Winnipeg lab.

It did work. And since then, the lab has made that first-generation test even more sensitive. Those efforts have led to the standardized PCR test now used in labs across Canada.

During the early days of the pandemic, all samples were sent to the NML from provincial and territorial public health labs to confirm the presumptive results.

The NML still helps provinces and territories if their labs are overwhelmed and also supports the PCR molecular laboratory tests being done at the border to confirm or rule out active COVID-19 infections.

As well, it’s constantly doing surveillance for variants of concern.

“We’re still working like crazy,” Bastien said.

Made-in-Canada supply chain

Scientists at the lab also stepped in to solve one of the early stumbling blocks of the pandemic, a global shortage in lab supplies and equipment needed to test swabs from possible COVID-19 patients. 

This was especially true for reagents, the chemicals needed to extract the genetic material from samples.

As backlogs for testing grew, the need for a “Made in Canada” solution became apparent.

“Half jokingly, we thought: ‘Well, if we can’t buy it, can we make it?'” Poliquin said.


Allen Grolla, pictured in West Africa in 2014. Grolla has analyzed lethal pathogens such as Ebola and Marburg where outbreaks of the deadly viruses occur, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Kenya, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Guandong, China. (SYLVAIN CHERKAOUI/Doctors Without Borders)

So NML managers called up biologist Allen Grolla, known as a problem-solving MacGyver. 

Grolla was enjoying his first month of retirement but agreed to return to work. 

His task was to find the right chemical cocktail to create a reagent that public health labs across the country could use to diagnose COVID-19. By April 2020, the reagent was being manufactured at New Brunswick-based LuminUltra Technologies Ltd. and shipped to public health labs across Canada.

“When we started down the pandemic road, there was a capacity to do a few thousand tests [a day]. In Canada, the latest capacity figures are over 200,000 tests per day,” Poliquin said. “Sometimes, the crisis averted is not as glamorous as the crisis solved. But at the end of the day, that’s the one that’s most important.”  

Developing vaccines

NML scientists were the ones who developed the world’s first approved Ebola vaccine, which helped save lives in Africa. So when the coronavirus pandemic emerged last year, NML scientists started developing in-house SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates.


Health Canada has approved four COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. (CBC)

There are currently four approved vaccines in Canada, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford and Johnson & Johnson, but NML is focused on developing ones that could be effective against some of the variants of concern. There is one promising candidate that has started pre-clinical trials in animal model testing, Poliquin said.

The lab is also conducting animal tests of vaccine candidates being developed at Canadian university and industry labs to see if they’re ready for human trials.

Early warning system

Another project the lab is working on is a study with the Canadian Water Network that monitors the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. The NML is providing technical guidance to labs across the country and helping them make reliable comparisons of data across communities.

Poliquin said that work made a difference in the Northwest Territories last December, when the lab alerted public health officials to community spread.

“They were seeing an increase in the amount of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in their wastewater in the community, where they knew of a single case that was isolated,” Poliquin said. 

“That really didn’t jibe with what we were observing. The Northwest Territories, in response, did some proactive testing and identified another five individuals that were then isolated. And from there, the signal intensity decreased. So I think that’s compelling evidence that using wastewater as an early warning system can, in fact, help avert larger outbreaks.”


The NML is providing technical guidance to communities testing their wastewater for the coronavirus. Here, researchers at the University of Ottawa test that city’s wastewater. (Pierre-Paul Couture/CBC News )

Quick investment is key

Dr. David Butler-Jones has been watching to see how his former colleagues are managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was Canada’s first chief public health officer between 2004 and 2014 and co-ordinated the response during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, which resulted in 428 confirmed deaths in Canada. An estimated 40 per cent of Canadians were immunized in a national vaccination campaign that began in October 2009. 

Butler-Jones also led the Public Health Agency of Canada from its creation and directed PHAC’s efforts to build up and co-ordinate provincial public health systems.  


Dr. David Butler-Jones was Canada’s first chief public health officer from 2004 to 2014. He says Canada learned from the SARS epidemic that funnelling money quickly into research is key when a crisis hits. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

While he says he’s seen a “diminishment in funding” in PHAC and NML’s budgets since 2012, Butler-Jones is pleased one of the big recommendations after SARS has been followed — funnelling money quickly into research where and when it’s needed.

Often, it can take more than a year between concept and development to writing proposals and receiving funding.

“When you’re in the midst of a pandemic or a crisis, you need that money now and you need to do the research,” Butler-Jones said.

Not the time to celebrate

Back in Toronto, public health officials have set up a field hospital in the parking lot of Sunnybrook Hospital’s Bayview campus with 100 beds to take the stress off the intensive-care wards as they prepare for a possible third wave of the pandemic.


A mobile field hospital, pictured March 10, 2021, is being assembled in an empty parking lot at the Bayview campus of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto amid fears of a third wave of COVID-19. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Poliquin knows his own teams have been working full-out for more than a year. He hopes they eventually get a break and the thanks they deserve.

“We’ve all been so busy,” he said. “It’s been less of a time to sit back and reflect on our successes and more of a time to put our heads down and get the work done.

“I think there will be a time and a need to celebrate everything that was achieved.… But the work isn’t done yet.”

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CBC | Health News

Bujold, teammates in isolation after boxing camp cut short due to COVID-19 case

Eleven-time national boxing champion Mandy Bujold is in isolation in Kitchener, Ont., after the Canadian team training camp in Montreal was cut short due to a positive COVID-19 case.

In a post on her website, Bujold said she was in isolation in a friend’s empty house in Kitchener, after driving home Wednesday from Montreal.

“It’s not fun but I guess it’s part of the process,” Bujold said in the post. “It’s unfortunate the camp ended early. We didn’t get to do the test matches and the things we went there to do.

“But . . . it’s actually a pretty important lesson for us. We now realize how hard it is to manage a group of that size and what each person is doing individually, while you’re in that environment. It’s a lesson that’s better for us to learn right now before we get too close to our qualifiers.”

WATCH | Mandy Bujold’s fight for more than medals: 

After a disappointing result in Rio, Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold took a step back from competition to start a family. Now she has a new fire ready to take on the world in Tokyo. 3:42

Nineteen athletes were in camp in Montreal, working in small groups. The identity of the boxer who tested positive hasn’t been revealed.

The 33-year-old Bujold said she was in close contact with the athlete on Monday. She has since tested negative but is following quarantine protocols.

Boxing Canada said in a release that it was informed of a potential COVID-19 case within its training camp on Monday.

“There is an ongoing investigation and Boxing Canada has immediately taken necessary actions to protect everyone, including an interruption of all activities, preventive isolation and further testing,” the organization said.

“The collective health, well-being and safety of all our members remains our top priority and the measures are in place to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19.”

Latest setback in attempt to qualify for Olympics

Bujold said the positive test “could have happened to any one of us.” The worst part, she added, was being unable to see her husband Reid or daughter Kate Olympia.

It’s the latest setback for Bujold and her Canadian teammates, who have yet to clinch spots in the Tokyo Olympics. The continental qualifiers, scrapped last year due to the global pandemic, have finally been rescheduled to May 10-16 in Argentina. But being forced to isolate makes training difficult.

Bujold, a two-time Pan American Games champion, hopes to be the first female to box for Canada at consecutive Olympics.

An illness derailed Bujold’s dreams at the 2016 Rio Games. Hours before her quarterfinal loss to China’s Ren Cancan, she was in hospital on an I.V.

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CBC | Sports News

Case dropped against NYC woman who called 911 on Black birdwatcher in Central Park

Amy Cooper, the white woman arrested last year for calling 911 on a Black birdwatcher in New York’s Central Park, had her criminal case thrown out Tuesday after she completed a diversionary counselling program that prosecutors said was meant to educate her on the harm of her actions.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said Manhattan prosecutors were satisfied with Cooper’s participation in the program — described as an alternative, restorative justice solution — and were not seeking to pursue the case any further. Such outcomes are standard for first-time offenders facing misdemeanour charges, Illuzzi-Orbon said.

Judge Anne Swern, presiding over the matter by video because of the coronavirus pandemic, agreed to dismiss the charge of filing a false police report and said she would seal Cooper’s case file, in accordance with state law.

The confrontation, captured on video the same day Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, drew worldwide attention and was seen by many as a stark example of everyday racism.

Christian Cooper, the birdwatcher who recorded the video and was the subject of Amy Cooper’s 911 call, said he was caught off guard and learned of the dismissal only when the Associated Press called him shortly thereafter. Illuzzi-Orbon said he declined to participate in the matter. (There is no relation between Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper). 

Christian Cooper later issued a statement highlighting what he said was another racial injustice, saying he was “far more outraged” by the U.S. Congress denying statehood to the mostly non-white District of Columbia “than by anything Amy Cooper did.”

“That gross racial injustice could be fixed by Congress now, today, and that’s what people should be focused on — not last year’s events in Central Park.” 

Amy Cooper’s lawyer, Robert Barnes, praised prosecutors for a “thorough and honest inquiry” into the allegations and said he agreed with the decision to dismiss the case.

“We thank them for their integrity, and agree with the outcome,” Barnes said. “Many others rushed to the wrong conclusion based on inadequate investigation, and for some, there may be legal consequences coming.” 

Fired from job

Amy Cooper, 41, drew widespread condemnation after frantically calling 911 on May 25 to claim she was being threatened by “an African American man” who had confronted her for walking her dog without a leash.

When police called Amy Cooper back in an attempt to locate her in the park, she falsely claimed the man, Christian Cooper, had “tried to assault her,” Illuzzi-Orbon said. The second call was not recorded on video, Illuzzi-Orbon said. It was previously reported incorrectly that Cooper was the one who called 911 again.

Illuzzi-Orbon said that when officers arrived, Christian Cooper was gone and Amy Cooper admitted he hadn’t tried to assault her. Illuzzi-Orbon said Amy Cooper’s false claim could have led to a physical confrontation between police and Christian Cooper if they had gotten to him first.

“The simple principle is: One cannot use the police to threaten another and, in this case, in a racially offensive and charged manner,” Illuzzi-Orbon said.

After the incident, Amy Cooper was fired from her job as a portfolio manager at investment firm Franklin Templeton. Her actions were also condemned by the University of Waterloo, which she attended, in a statement on Twitter.

Court’s dismissal criticized

Amy Cooper’s diversionary program, run through a wing of the Center for Court Innovation and a Manhattan psychotherapy provider, included education about racial equality and five therapy sessions focused on making her appreciate that racial identities shape our lives, but that they shouldn’t be used to cause harm, Illuzzi-Orbon said.

The prosecutor said Amy Cooper’s therapist described it as a “moving experience” and that she learned “a lot in their sessions together.”

To some, the dismissal of Amy Cooper’s case after a series of counselling sessions felt like just a slap on the wrist.

Eliza Orlins, a public defender who is running to replace Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., tweeted: “This isn’t surprising. This is how the system was designed to function — to protect the privileged from accountability.”

Ernest Owens, a prominent Black journalist, tweeted: “White privilege, 2021.” He also called out the “irony” of the case being dropped following the counselling program. 


Case inspired new law

In the video posted on social media, Christian Cooper claimed Amy Cooper’s cocker spaniel was “tearing through the plantings” in the Ramble, a secluded section of Central Park popular with birdwatchers, and told her she should go to another part of the park. When she refused, he pulled out dog treats, causing her to scream at him to not come near her dog.

Amy Cooper also warned him she would summon police unless he stopped recording.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Amy Cooper is heard saying in the video as she pulls down her face mask and struggles to control her dog.

“Please call the cops,” said Christian Cooper.

“There’s an African American man, I’m in Central Park, he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog. … Please send the cops immediately!” she said during the 911 call before the recording stops.

Amy Cooper’s 911 call inspired New York lawmakers to pass a law making it easier to sue a person who calls police on someone “without reason” because of their background, including race and national origin. San Francisco lawmakers passed a similar law.

Amid the backlash, Amy Cooper released an apology through a public relations service, saying she “reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions.”

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Trump’s defence begins making the case for acquittal on inciting U.S. Capitol riot

Donald Trump’s defence lawyers will make their case on Friday why the former U.S. president is not guilty of inciting last month’s deadly riot at the Capitol, as the Senate races toward a final vote in his second impeachment trial as soon as Saturday.

Trump’s lawyer, David Schoen, said the defence team would take “three to four hours” on Friday to lay out its arguments against convicting Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 riot, which sent lawmakers scrambling for safety and resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer.

Schoen did not discuss the defence strategy, but Trump’s lawyers have argued his rhetoric was protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and that prosecutors had not directly connected the actions of the rioters to Trump.

Democratic prosecutors on Thursday wrapped up two days of arguments for Trump’s conviction, saying the Republican knew what would happen when he exhorted supporters to march on the Capitol as Congress gathered to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election win, and that he should be held accountable.

WATCH | House prosecutors wrap up impeachment case:

House prosecutors wrapped up their impeachment case against Donald Trump on Thursday insisting the Capitol invaders believed they were acting on ‘the president’s orders’ to stop Joe Biden’s election and warning that he would do it again if not convicted. 2:44

“If he gets back into office and it happens again, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves,” lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin told senators.

Senate conviction unlikely

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives charged Trump on Jan. 13 with inciting the insurrection, but Democrats are unlikely to gain a Senate conviction and bar Trump from running for office again.

Conviction requires a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate, which means at least 17 Republicans would have to defy Trump despite his continued popularity among Republican voters.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted largely along party lines to move ahead with the impeachment trial even though Trump’s term ended on Jan. 20. Six of 50 Republican senators broke with their caucus to side with Democrats.

In their arguments, the Democratic prosecutors provided numerous examples of Trump’s actions prior to the rampage to illustrate what he intended when he told supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” as lawmakers convened for the election certification.

Trump falsely claimed his Nov. 3 election loss was the result of widespread fraud.

“He knew that egged on by his tweets, his lies and his promise of a ‘wild’ time in Washington to guarantee his grip on power, his most extreme followers would show up bright and early, ready to attack, ready to engage in violence, ready to ‘fight like hell’ for their hero,” Raskin said.

WATCH | Several Republicans criticized Trump in immediate riot aftermath:

House manager Joe Neguse used Republicans’ video statements about Trump’s involvement in encouraging the riot to further the Democrats’ argument that he incited violence. 2:08 

Several Republican senators praised the presentation of the Democratic House prosecutors, although they questioned whether it had changed any minds.

“There was a lot of useful information presented today and the Democrats certainly presented an emotionally jarring and powerful argument, but it doesn’t change my opinion that removing a former president from an office he no longer holds is unconstitutional,” Republican Sen. Mike Braun tweeted.

Republican senators met with defence lawyers

Three Republican senators who are sitting as jurors at the trial — Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee — met with the Trump defence team on Thursday night to discuss its legal approach, a source familiar with the meeting said.

“We were discussing their strategy for tomorrow and we were sharing our thoughts in terms of where the argument was and where it should go,” Cruz told reporters.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy told reporters he wanted to hear the defence respond to the timeline laid out by House prosecutors detailing Trump’s inaction as the riot developed and his call to a senator even as lawmakers were being evacuated.

“Now, presumably since we were at that point being evacuated I think … there was some awareness of the events,” Cassidy said. “And so what I hope the defence does is explain that.”

Neither side has so far announced an intention to call witnesses, leaving senators on track for final arguments and a vote as soon as Saturday.

Trump is the first U.S. president to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office. His first impeachment trial, which stemmed from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden, ended in an acquittal a year ago in what was then a Republican-controlled Senate.

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Jan. 6 rioters acted on Trump’s direct orders, prosecutors say as they wrap their case for impeachment

House prosecutors concluded two days of emotional arguments in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial  late Thursday, insisting the Capitol invaders believed they were acting on “the president’s orders” to stop Joe Biden’s election

The prosecutors argued the defeated president’s pattern of spreading false and violent rhetoric will continue to vex American politics if left unchecked.

The prosecutors described in stark, personal terms the horror they faced that day, some of it in the very Senate chamber where Trump’s trial is underway. They displayed the many public and explicit instructions Trump gave his supporters — long before the White House rally that unleashed the deadly Capitol attack as Congress was certifying Biden’s victory.

Five people died in the chaos and its aftermath, a domestic attack unparalleled in U.S. history.

Videos of rioters, some posted to social medial by themselves, talked about how they were doing it all for Trump.

The House of Representatives has charged Trump, a Republican, with inciting an insurrection.

WATCH | Democrats use Republican officials’ own words condemning Trump’s complicity to make their case:

House manager Joe Neguse used Republicans’ video statements about Trump’s involvement in encouraging the riot to further the Democrats’ argument that he incited violence. 2:08

“We were invited here,” said one rioter. “Trump sent us,” said another. “He’ll be happy. We’re fighting for Trump.” Five people died.

“They truly believed that the whole intrusion was at the president’s orders,” said Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado. “The president told them to be there.”

She went on to say, “This was not a hidden crime. The president told them to be there, so they actually believed they would face no punishment.”


U.S. House impeachment manager Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado quotes the words of the insurrectionists and rioters at the U.S. Capitol about their motivations at former president Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Thursday. (U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters)

The prosecutors drew a direct line from his repeated comments condoning and even celebrating violence — praising “both sides” after the 2017 outbreak at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia — and urging his rally crowd last month to go to the Capitol and fight for his presidency. He spread false claims about election fraud, even there has been no evidence of it, and urged his supporters to “stop the steal” of the presidency.

Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin said that the litany of examples showed “obvious intent” as Trump told his supporters to come to Washington, and then to “fight like hell” just before they laid siege to the U.S. Capitol.

Raskin showed clips of Trump encouraging violence and also sanctioning violence afterward — including his telling a crowd to “knock the crap out of” a protester at one of his speeches. He told the crowd that he would pay their legal fees if they did. Another clip showed him saying it was “very, very appropriate” when some of his supporters attacked a protester at a Trump event. “That’s what we need a little bit more of,” Trump said.

‘Trump would do it again’

And, said Raskin, Trump would do it again if he were elected in the future. “Is there any politician leader in this room who believes if he’s ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way?” he asked.

“Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that? Would you bet the safety of your family on that? Would you bet the future of your democracy on that?”

In urging senators to convict Trump, Raskin said Trump knew that if he egged them on, “his most extreme followers would show up bright and early, ready to attack, ready to engage in violence, ready to fight like hell for their hero.”

WATCH | Capitol staffers describe hiding amid gunfire:

House impeachment manager Rep. David Cicilline plays video at Trump’s impeachment trial of two staffers who recount what it was like to be hiding in the U.S. Capitol as rioters gained access and shots were fired on Jan. 6. 1:19

Raskin implored senators in his closing speech Thursday to exercise “common sense about what just took place in our country” and find Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection.  

He said senators have the power under the Constitution to find Trump guilty of having betrayed the oath of office the nation’s founders wrote into the Constitution.

Another impeachment manager warned senators that acquitting Trump could have lasting consequences for the country. Rep. Joe Neguse said that “if we pretend this didn’t happen, or worse, if we let it go unanswered, who’s to say it won’t happen again.”

Trump team arguments begin tomorrow

Trump’s lawyers will launch their defence on Friday. They are expected to argue that his words were protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment and just a figure of speech.

According to Trump senior adviser Jason Miller, they are planning to begin and wrap up their defence in his impeachment trial in less than a day, using far fewer than their allotted argument hours.

The House managers spent much of Wednesday recounting the events that led to the riot and highlighting the threat to former vice-president Mike Pence.

‘Hang Mike Pence’

Senators on Wednesday were shown searing security footage the pro-Trump mob stalking the Capitol hallways chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” and searching for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Previously unseen videos showed the view from inside the Capitol as rioters smashed windows and fought with police, coming within 30 metres of the room where Pence was sheltering with his family. The mob had set up a gallows outside.

WATCH | A recap of Wednsday’s presentation by the impeachment managers:

The Democrats used never-before-seen footage of the Capitol Hill riots as they laid out their case that the attackers were incited by the former president. 3:34

The footage, which also included body-camera views of brutal attacks on Capitol police, showed Pence and lawmakers being hustled to safety steps ahead of an advancing mob. Five people who were at the Capitol died that day, including a police officer and a woman who was fatally shot by Capitol Police.

Trump had repeatedly said Pence had the power to stop the certification of the election results, even though he did not.

“The mob was looking for Vice-President Pence,” Representative Stacey Plaskett said, narrating footage that showed the crowd threatening Pence and searching for Pelosi.

Trump singled out targets

“President Trump put a target on their backs and then his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down,” she said.

Democrats face a difficult task in securing a Senate conviction and barring Trump from ever again seeking public office. A two-thirds majority in the Senate must vote to convict, which means at least 17 Republicans would have to defy Trump and his continued popularity among Republican voters.


“I am holding out hope that the forcefulness of this argument will still sway some. I believe there are more Republicans that are open to conviction than is publicly clear at this point,” said Democratic Senator Chris Coons.

But while several Republican senators said the footage showed on Wednesday was emotional, many added it did not change their minds.

“I didn’t see a case there that a prosecutor can make in court against the president,” Republican Senator Roy Blunt said.

“Today’s presentation was powerful and emotional, reliving a terrorist attack on our nation’s capital, but there was very little said about how specific conduct of the president satisfies a legal standard,” added Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

By Thursday, senators sitting through a second full day of arguments appeared somewhat fatigued, slouching in their chairs, crossing their arms and walking around to stretch.

Republican, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, said during a break: “To me, they’re losing credibility the longer they talk.”

Trump is the first U.S. president to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office. His first impeachment trial, which stemmed from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden, ended in an acquittal a year ago in what was then a Republican-controlled Senate.

WATCH | Previously unseen Jan. 6 footage shown at Senate trial:

Security video played Wednesday during Donald Trump’s impeachment trial shows a Capitol Police officer directing Sen. Mitt Romney away from the rioters who had breached the building. 0:45

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First case of South African variant confirmed in Ontario as province reports 1,969 cases of COVID-19

The province is reporting its first case of the South African variant of the novel coronavirus, also known as B1351, in Peel Region.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says the person infected had no history of travel and had no contact with a person who has been out of the country. 

“With the variant, it just tells you, we have to maintain strong vigilance in our measures, strong adherence to our case contact management,” he said Monday during a provincial COVID-19 briefing. But he also said the province is seeing some positive trends.

“We’re encouraged by the data right now; we’re encouraged that maybe our stay-at-home directions and our measures are holding the U.K. variants, and may be some of these other variants, at bay,” Williams said.

Williams says the province has seen a total of 69 confirmed cases of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the U.K. He says the cases are spread out over a number of health units. 

Average case numbers dropping

In her update Monday, the province’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe told reporters the seven day rolling average stands at 1,889 daily cases, which is a drop from previous weeks. 

“Overall, there is reason for some optimism. We are seeing some impacts of this lockdown.”

Ontario is reporting 1,969 cases of COVID-19 Monday and 36 deaths after completing just 30,359 tests in the previous day.

The new cases include 961 in Toronto — which may be an overcount due to a data entry issue, the province noted — 330 in Peel and 128 in York Region.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province has now administered 341,900 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

The province’s latest data shows 1,158 people are hospitalized with the virus, with 354 people in intensive care units. Of those patients, 260 are on ventilators. 

Another 2,132 cases of COVID-19 have been marked as resolved. 

A provincewide stay-at-home order remains in place.

230 LTC homes in outbreak

A total of 230 long-term care homes remain in outbreak, according to the province, with 14,616 resident cases, and 6,020 staff cases. The province says 14 more residents have died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 3,543 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Roberta Place says 63 people at the home have now died of the virus. There are a 49 active resident cases and 69 active staff cases, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit confirmed on Monday. 

The home is now facing a proposed class-action lawsuit from residents’ families who allege their loved ones were neglected by those charged with keeping them safe.

The unproven statement of claim filed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice alleges Roberta Place, a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., failed to take basic precautionary measures to protect against the novel coronavirus 10 months after the pandemic took hold in Canada.

School return dates to be announced Wednesday

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he will announce on Wednesday the dates on which schools will reopen in the province.

“We want all students in all regions back to class,” Lecce said in a tweet on Monday.


Lecce said the chief medical officer of health for Ontario has confirmed to the minister and Premier Doug Ford that he will finalize his advice on the matter on Wednesday.

“The Government will provide certainty parents deserve by announcing on Wednesday the dates for reopening,” Lecce said.

Earlier Monday at a Queen’s Park news conference, Lecce also announced that Ontario is expanding targeted COVID-19 testing and will allow boards to tap into student teachers to fill supply roles as more schools reopen amid the second wave of the pandemic. 

Provincial officials said earlier that the targeted testing will be available in all public health units where students have returned to class. They said they expect that Ontario could be doing up to 25,000 laboratory processed and 25,000 on-site, rapid antigen tests per week. 

The testing will be voluntary and an option for both students and staff, officials said.

In his announcement, Lecce also said he is hopeful but not certain that remaining schools will re-open on February 10. He said local medical officers of health will have a say in whether a given region moves ahead with reopening schools. 

Testing of international travellers begins today at Pearson

International travellers will have to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival in Ontario starting today in a bid to stop contagious new variants of the virus from further infiltrating the province.

The provincial government announced the plan on Friday, the same day the federal government announced a similar program that’s to take effect in the coming weeks.

Premier Doug Ford praised the prime minister for announcing the new federal testing plan, but said Ontario would conduct its own traveller testing until Ottawa’s program begins.

The testing order comes into effect today at Toronto’s Pearson International airport, and will also eventually apply to the province’s land border crossings to the United States.

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Lab tech who found B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 recalls ‘sheer terror’ of discovery

In the early days of the pandemic, Rebecca Hickman would carefully watch each sample being tested for the novel coronavirus in her lab at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

“I was so afraid of getting a positive,” the public health laboratory technologist told CBC this week.

That meant she was paying close attention as the first test came back positive at about 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2020.

“I actually started to see it get positive within a few seconds,” Hickman recalled. “My first feeling was sheer terror, from a personal point of view.”

The co-designer of B.C.’s test, medical laboratory technologist Tracy Lee, was in a meeting as the results were coming in. She remembers getting a call from Hickman and rushing to the lab to watch the test complete.

Lee felt “both fear and relief” as the test came back positive — fear for what this meant for the people of B.C., but relief that the test was working as planned.

Hickman shared those mixed emotions.

“To design, validate and implement a molecular laboratory test usually takes months if not years, and so to do that in the span of days is a huge achievement,” Hickman said.

There was also some excitement. She said she “felt like I was a part of something huge.”

Hickman spent the rest of that first afternoon sequencing a portion of the genome from the positive sample, and by midnight the lab had confirmed it was SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.


B.C. CDC laboratory technologists Tracy Lee and Rebecca Hickman worked together to design the initial COVID-19 test to detect the virus in B.C. It is still being used today. (Michael Donoghue/BCCDC)

It had been a 16-hour workday.

“I went home and slept for five hours, then came back,” she recalls.

The next day, British Columbians watched as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed the inevitable. The virus was here in B.C.

“This is the first time in my life I’ve ever found things out before I read it in the news,” Hickman said.

‘Instability and craziness’

A year later, B.C. has confirmed 66,779 cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,189 people have died.

Hickman has gone from anxiously checking the totals after the daily afternoon update from health officials to barely noticing as B.C. records hundreds of cases each day. She says COVID fatigue is real.

There have been difficult times, like in the spring when lab supplies and personal protective equipment began to run out.

“The instability and craziness of it all has been the hardest part,” Hickman said.

Watch: Rebecca Hickman recalls finding B.C.’s first case of COVID-19

Rebecca Hickman was just nine months into her new job at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control when she confirmed B.C.’s first case of the novel coronavirus. 1:11

Today, much of her time is spent doing whole genome sequencing for about 15 to 20 per cent of COVID-19 cases.

That work helps health officials track the new, more infectious variants that have popped up in different parts of the world. It’s also used for outbreak response — scientists can determine how the virus is spreading through a community or health-care facility and whether cases are being introduced from new sources.

Hickman was just nine months into her job at the B.C. CDC when she discovered the first case.

She said she’s proud to have played a part in such a major moment in history.

“It has been easily the most difficult year of my life but also the most fulfilling. What we have achieved here over the last year is huge,” Hickman said.

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1 year after Canada’s first coronavirus case, the COVID-19 pandemic rages on

Monday marks one year since the first case of the virus that causes COVID-19 was confirmed in Canada, in a patient who came to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital after returning from Wuhan, China. 

While many of the lessons learned from the early days of the novel coronavirus are being applied in the pandemic’s second wave, concerns remain about inadequate protections in long-term care and the disproportionate impact of the virus on people of colour. 

Among both long-term care residents and the general public, more people have now died of COVID-19 in Ontario during the second wave than in the six months after the global pandemic was declared in March.

“These are all preventable deaths,” said Dr. Nitin Mohan, an assistant professor at Western University in London, Ont., and a physician epidemiologist with the public health consulting firm ETIO.  

Long-term care crisis continues 

“The fact that we’re this far along in the pandemic and we’re still seeing the outbreaks and deaths in long-term care homes, it’s almost embarrassing that this is happening,” Mohan said in an interview. 


Dr. Zain Chagla is an infectious disease specialist in Hamilton, Ont. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch of Toronto’s University Health Network calls what happened in Ontario’s long-term care homes last spring tragic.  

“What’s more tragic is how it’s unfolding in the second wave, because there certainly could have been steps taken between wave one and wave two to significantly protect the most vulnerable population among us,” said Bogoch in an interview.

“What we’re seeing in the long-term care facilities just demonstrates, unfortunately, years and years of neglect,” he said. “It was awful to watch this unfold, but sadly, it was predictable.”

Uncertainties characterized early days

In the first two months of 2020, predictions varied about how Canada would be affected by the novel coronavirus first identified in China. 

Public health officials and political leaders seemed to tilt more toward calming fears about COVID-19 than sounding the alarm.

There were repeated assurances that the risk in Ontario was low, that the general public should refrain from wearing masks. Well into March, officials were saying that no evidence could be found of community spread. 


At a news conference inside the Ontario legislature on Jan. 25, 2020, officials announced Canada’s first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

“Those uncertainties in the early part of the pandemic were real because we just didn’t know,” said Bogoch.

Although he acknowledged that public health messaging adapted over time, Bogoch said it didn’t do so as fast as they would have liked. 

The system was slow to acknowledge that the virus was not just being imported by travellers returning from a handful of distant countries, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician in Hamilton and an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University.

“I think the pivot from this being a travel disease to this being an endemic disease was done relatively late,” Chagla told CBC in an interview.

“There’s something to be said about understanding the evidence has changed and recognizing it quickly and making those changes quickly.” 

Chagla said a crucial point came in late February when community transmission was identified in the U.S. and doctors in Canada were seeing people returning from the U.S. with COVID-19. 

“There was no hope that this was not going to (spread in) Canada at that point,” he said. “I think probably that was the turning point to say, ‘OK, there is a risk here to us. We need to start invoking public health measures.’ ” 

Ontario declared its state of emergency on March 17, and the federal government halted non-essential travel across the land border with the U.S. on March 20. 

Mohan believes governments acted decisively to impose lockdown measures in the spring.

“We were dealing with something that was relatively new and unknown, getting data and making decisions in real time,” he said. 


During the first two months of the pandemic, Ontario had limited capacity to test for COVID-19. Except for people who had travelled out of the country, most of the general public couldn’t get tested unless they were sick enough to go to hospital. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Lack of testing hampered tracking

When experts look back to the early months of 2020, there’s a general consensus that Ontario’s hospital sector mobilized quickly to face COVID-19, readying for a potential surge of patients even as supplies of personal protective equipment were tight. 

However there’s also strong agreement that Ontario’s limited capacity to test for the coronavirus hampered the ability to track its spread. 

Until May, Ontarians couldn’t get a test for COVID-19 unless they met a strict range of criteria that excluded much of the general public.

Given the death rates in the first wave, scientists believe the actual number of infections in the spring was far higher than the officially reported case counts. 

“There were some clear limitations in our testing capacities that are a result of poor funding models of public health,” said Mohan.

“In a once in a generation pandemic, when we need to act quickly and decisively, it’s hard to do that when you’re sort of building a plane in the sky.”

The ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to be transmitted by people before they showed any symptoms also confounded the experts. 

Early on, officials put a big emphasis on screening people for symptoms such as fever and cough. Although that helped identify a significant proportion of cases, it sent an inaccurate message that people couldn’t spread the virus before showing symptoms.

“Had we known clearly that there was pre-symptomatic transmission, I think the way we would have handled things would have been much different,” said Chagla. 


Dr. Isaac Bogoch is an infectious disease specialist at the University Health Network in Toronto. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

He said quarantines would have been imposed on travellers sooner and the way public health officials traced cases would have changed significantly.  

Chagla, Bogoch and Mohan all say too little was done to protect people in racialized and low-income communities.

Even this deep into the pandemic, people of Black and South Asian descent are over-represented among the COVID-19 caseload

2nd wave shows signs of receding 

The one-year anniversary of the virus in Canada comes amid signs that the second wave is starting to recede, albeit with warnings that new case numbers will only continue to drop if public health restrictions stay in place. 

There are also fears that highly contagious variants of the coronavirus could either prolong the second wave or drive an even more widespread third wave before the bulk of the population gets vaccinated.  

Thousands of new infections are still being reported every day across the country, and the average daily number of deaths is not expected to decrease for weeks.

About 200,000 Canadians have contracted COVID-19 in the past month alone. The case fatality rates among different age demographics suggest that hundreds of those will die. 

“It’s hard for me to reconcile with the mistakes being made in the second wave,” said Mohan.

“We can’t get back these lives lost.”  

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Canada’s COVID-19 case numbers show early positive signs

Cases of COVID-19 are declining in many parts of Canada, but experts say those early positive signs are dependent on widespread restrictions. 

Quebec, now under a province-wide curfew, has seen new cases declineOntario has showed 10 consecutive declines in its seven-day average, a metric that helps to spot long-term trends compared to daily numbers that can spike up and down.

Caroline Colijn, an infectious disease modeller at Simon Fraser University, said most of the provinces seem to be declining.

“Ontario’s kind of uncertain, Saskatchewan’s growing still or again, but the rest are kind of flat or declining,” said Colijn, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in mathematics for evolution, infection and public health.

“That’s the first decline we’ve seen in Quebec and Ontario for quite a while,” she said. “In our models, it looks like a genuine decline.”

More tools needed

In B.C., for example, Colijn said the epidemic is stabilizing with strict measures such as telling people not to socialize outside their household.

But Colijn fears Ontario’s stay-at-home order, Quebec’s curfew and restrictions in other provinces aren’t solutions that people can sustain for months.

If people don’t limit their number of contacts with others then cases will start to climb again until vaccinations reach the general population. 

“Unless we want to do this for six months, we do need to be thinking about throwing other tools that we have available at this problem.”

WATCH | Researchers test new tools for COVID-19 surveillance:

Researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax are working on a 3D-printed ball that can collect a building’s sewage and test the water for coronavirus. They say the tool could be used to trace outbreaks and to test the effectiveness of vaccines. 4:05

Colijn said widespread restrictions, symptomatic testing and contact tracing remain cornerstone tools. But those tools should be supplemented with wider rapid testing technologies coming to the fore, which Colijn believes could support re-opening the economy.

Federal and provincial scientists are validating rapid tests, currently used at remote mines as well as the film and airline industries, for more widespread use. 

Sask. heading in the wrong direction

Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, divides the country’s into three main groups based on per-capita case counts:

  • The top: Atlantic Canada, which has the fewest cases.
  • The middle: Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., which have showed month-long improvements in COVID-19 activity following lockdowns. If trends in Ontario and Quebec continue, then they could be added to the middle group. 
  • The bottom: Saskatchewan, which Muhajarine said isn’t even heading in the right direction, with an average of 300 new cases daily.

Muhajarine is concerned about the steep climb in COVID-19 deaths in the Prairie province.

“On Dec. 1, we had 51 deaths and by Jan. 1 it tripled to 155,” he noted.

In the first 21 days of the month, another 84 people have died in Saskatchewan.

“We really need to reverse course,” Muhajarine said. “To do that, we need very strict measures with a stay-at-home order and enforcement of orders. When we see the case numbers reverse course, we have to get our testing, tracing and isolation regime back up.”

Restrictions on retail stores, restaurants and bars could help bring cases, hospitalizations and deaths down given how Saskatchewan is “stretched to the limit,” he said.

Even places with early signs of decline, like Ontario, will see hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb for a period because of the lag time from new infections in December, health experts say. 

Essential workplaces key for Ontario

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician with Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said the province’s seven-day averages are encouraging.


A worker at the Gateway Postal facility, in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday. Canada Post confirms a major outbreak of COVID-19 at the plant — the largest mail facility in the country that reflects how cases continue to occur among essential workers. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“We’re now more than two weeks past what would be the New Year’s surge,” Chakrabarti said, referencing people socializing over the holidays despite advice from public health officials and politicians to stay at home. 

Now that the holiday peak in new cases is over, regular winter transmission of the virus is happening in the population, he said.

Chakrabarti recalls how during the province’s first wave in the spring, cases came down and then were stuck at a plateau for months, which he said could happen again.

Driving case counts down further would ease pressure on health-care systems and protect vulnerable residents of long-term care homes.

The key, he says, is to tackle where transmission is still happening: essential workplaces.

“We were seeing people getting infected at work and then bringing it home to their family, where it was being amplified,” he said of the first wave. “That’s still happening and something a lockdown doesn’t address.”

It’s why Chakrabarti and others advocate for:

“Yes, there are some people who are breaking the rules,” Chakrabarti said. “But we also need to look at the very different industrial setups because these factors are huge, right? This is one of the reasons why things haven’t ever really turned quickly in Ontario.”

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