A hearse leaves with another casualty of COVID-19 at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario on Tuesday March 31, 2020. The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has said the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon is believed to be the largest in the province.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Thornhill

A hearse leaves with another casualty of COVID-19 at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario on Tuesday March 31, 2020. The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has said the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon is believed to be the largest in the province.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Thornhill

Officials warn of COVID-19’s impact on vulnerable people, restriction extensions

Dr. Theresa Tam said she was worried about outbreaks in care homes, cases in First Nations, Inuit communities

Officials across Canada took further steps to help the country’s most vulnerable people on Tuesday as signs emerged that COVID-19 will continue to affect daily life for months.

On a day school shutdowns were extended in three provinces and city-led events in Toronto were banned through June 30, British Columbia’s top health official said residents should expect restrictions to remain in effect until at least the summer.

“We are going to be in some form of having to monitor and prevent transmission of this virus until we have a vaccine or until enough of the population is immune to it that it’s no longer infecting people,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a news conference.

“I do think it’s more and more less likely that we’re going to be able to get back to full normal life, which I miss a lot, before at least the summer. Then we need to start preparing ourselves for the potential of a second wave in the fall.”

READ MORE: B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples and Canadians involved in the correctional system were all singled out as groups facing higher risk of severe impacts from the novel coronavirus.

Quebec, the province at the epicentre of the Canadian outbreak, cautioned that key supplies such as gowns, gloves and masks could be depleted by week’s end if not replenished soon. The federal government announced $2 billion and new arrangements with private companies to address the shortfall in Quebec and across Canada.

The country’s top doctor, meanwhile, sounded the alarm about the presence of COVID-19 in facilities and communities that are home to some of Canada’s most marginalized people.

“Of greatest concern at the moment relates to the introduction and spread of the virus in enclosed settings where vulnerable people reside,” said Dr. Theresa Tam. “We currently have a number of ongoing outbreaks in long-term care homes, cases in First Nations and Inuit communities, and in corrections facilities.”

READ MORE: 10% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are 40 or younger: Canada’s top doctor

Officials in Ontario said COVID-19 has been detected in nearly two dozen of the province’s nursing homes to date, including a facility at the centre of one of the country’s most devastating clusters.

The doctor overseeing the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., confirmed the virus has killed 12 residents and the spouse of another in recent weeks. At least two dozen employees of the central Ontario facility have also tested positive, according to the local health authority.

The provincial government said the virus has surfaced in at least 23 long-term care homes, with the Deputy Medical Officer of Health saying full-fledged outbreaks have been identified at 10 of those facilities.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland flagged another outbreak among health-care workers who live in Ontario but work in the United States. She referenced cases in the border city of Windsor, Ont., but few details were immediately available.

Medical workers are currently among the few people permitted to cross the border after Canada and the U.S. reached a mutual agreement to severely curtail traffic between the two countries.

But such workers also face a growing threat of supply shortfalls on both sides of the border — particularly in the province that remains home to the bulk of Canada’s COVID-19 cases.

The Quebec government said it’s at risk of running out of personal protective equipment in three to seven days without help, noting health-care workers are using supplies at an unprecedented rate.

“We’re using 10 times more medical equipment as normal,” said Health Minister Danielle McCann. “So what we used in one year, we’re using in four weeks.”

READ MORE: John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Word of the shortage came as Quebec reported 732 new cases of COVID-19 for a total case load of more than 4,100, accounting for nearly half of Canada’s nearly 8,500 cases to date. At least 101 people have died as a result of the virus across the country.

The federal government announced further steps to address equipment shortfalls, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing that Ottawa had secured agreements with more private-sector organizations to produce the much-needed supplies.

The government said upwards of 60 million N95 masks, a crucial piece of protection for health care workers, are expected to be delivered this week, and at least 500 ventilators are to be added to the national supply.

The $2 billion in additional funding for protective equipment, Trudeau said, was part of an effort to prepare Canada’s health-care systems for a worst-case scenario.

He said Canadians could play a role in forestalling that outcome by staying home as much as possible and practising the sort of physical distancing measures public health officials have been touting for weeks.

“We will need more masks, ventilators and testing kits, but how many more we need depends entirely on you,” Trudeau said.

“If you stay home and follow public health recommendations, you can slow the spread.”

Cries for help also came from Canada’s correctional system, with guards at one Ontario jail refusing to work one of their scheduled shifts due to what they describe as a lack of screening.

Ryan Graham, a spokesman for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said no one is being screened for COVID-19 symptoms when entering the province’s jails. He said failure to do so puts staff and inmates at risk.

“Everyone is taking precautions everywhere, yet we come to the correctional institutions and we’re not taking any precautions,” he said.

The province’s Ministry of the Solicitor General did not immediately respond to questions, but did say it ”takes every possible step to ensure a safe workplace for employees and works to address any safety issues raised.”

The federal public safety minister also appeared to recognize an imminent threat to inmates, formally asking the federal prison service and the national parole board to look at early release for some offenders. At least one outbreak has been identified at a maximum-security prison in Quebec, where at least two inmates and nine staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

While there was no immediate word on whether Bill Blair’s request would be granted, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said the focus should be on increasing physical distancing behind bars rather than releasing inmates.

Meanwhile, several provinces showed signs of settling in for longer periods of isolation than originally planned, particularly for students.

Ontario announced that schools would remain closed at least until May 4, while Prince Edward Island said it would keep classrooms shuttered until May 11 at the earliest.

Manitoba went one step further. Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced classes would be suspended indefinitely unless public health officials advise they can safely resume.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

Lori Jantz snapped this picture of a fight between a bald eagle and an osprey above Osoyoos Lake on Friday. (Lori Jantz photo)
Battle in the sky erupts above South Okanagan lake

Bald eagle and osprey fight mid-air in Osoyoos

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

Royal LePage Arena was an addition to West Kelowna championed by Len Novakowski. (File photo)
West Kelowna community leader Novakowski dies

Former Westside regional district director Len Novakowski dies after lengthy health battle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Most Read