Sask. medical health officers plead with health minister for increased COVID-19 restrictions
Saskatchewan officials were scheduled to provide a COVID-19 update on Tuesday as the province tries to climb its way out of the worst of a fourth wave that has seen it become the per-capita case leader in Canada for much of the fall.
In a recent letter to Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman obtained by CBC News, medical health officers across the province say the delay in implementing some of the recommendations they called for in August has “resulted in a much larger fourth wave” and stronger restrictions are needed to bring it under control.
“Our calls for provincewide action have not been answered,” read the letter, which was dated Oct. 21.
“In our current context, reported positive cases do not tell the full story. Without further action, it is highly likely that we will face even higher rates of hospitalization in coming weeks and risk health system collapse, as well as many more preventable deaths.”
A full list of recommendations from the group for “stop-gap measures” can be viewed here, but in general they are urging for smaller-sized gathering limits, a stronger vaccine-proof system to access businesses, expanded testing, clearer government communications and, if necessary, remote work for much of the province.
The doctors said these restrictions, on top of the already-in-place masking mandate, are needed until at least the new year. Their removal should be tied, the letter added, to when 85 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population is fully immunized and the health-care system is stabilized.
As of Monday there were 293 people with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan hospitals, with 71 of them in intensive care units.
The capacity strain has seen some patients transferred out of province. An internal memo prepared by the Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre and obtained by CBC News indicates that four patients were expected to be transferred between the provinces on Tuesday, with three more scheduled for Wednesday, bringing the total number to 19 being treated in Ontario.
The scenario playing out in Saskatchewan seems to have confirmed some of the worst-case modelling provided to the Saskatchewan government in June by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), writes Guy Quenneville of CBC News.
From The National
Ontario hiring to bolster long-term care inspections
The Ontario government announced Tuesday that it is spending $20 million this year to hire 193 new inspections staff and launch a proactive inspections program in the province’s long-term care homes.
The long-term care sector was devastated by COVID-19, with a Canadian Armed Forces report revealing major problems in facilities meant to care for some of the province’s most vulnerable residents. Nearly 40 per cent of the province’s 9,839 deaths attributed to the coronavirus have occurred in long-term care facilities, a total of 3,824 residents and 13 staff, according to Ontario government records.
Proactive inspections had all but stopped by the province before the pandemic, a CBC News investigation revealed, showing that only nine out of 626 homes in Ontario actually received so-called “resident quality inspections” in 2019. The CBC Marketplace investigation looking at thousands of provincial inspection reports revealed that 85 per cent of homes had broken the same section of the act repeatedly in a five-year period. Most faced no repercussions.
The province says this new spending will double the number of long-term care inspectors in Ontario by the fall of 2022, with a ratio of one inspector for every two homes. That means, according to a news release, that there will be enough inspectors to proactively visit each home every year, while also continuing inspections through complaint-based avenues.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips said this step will give Ontario the “best inspections regime” in Canada.
“We’re acting on the advice received from the long-term care commission, the auditor general and Ontarians who have seen first-hand the problems in long-term care.”
The announcement came on the same day it was learned, through the Ontario Nurses Association, that the Ministry of Labour was reportedly laying three charges against Kensington Village long-term care home in London under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Several residents and one employee died as a result of a spring 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. Registered nurse Brian Beattie, 57, was remembered for his dedication to Kensington Village residents as well as his sense of humour.
“This tragedy was preventable,” said Vicki McKenna, president of the Ontario Nurses Association. “There were glaring violations at Kensington Village and ONA sincerely hopes that the mistakes this employer made are a lesson to other facilities to take occupational health and safety and infection prevention and control seriously.”
U.S. lays out new rules for international tourists arriving by air
President Joe Biden’s administration provided more details on international COVID-19 air travel polices, two weeks before new requirements kick in for foreign travellers arriving in the U.S.
The U.S. on Nov. 8 will move from broader country-based travel restrictions and bans toward what it terms a “vaccinations-based” system focused on a traveller’s individual risk. Under the policy, those who are unvaccinated will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within a day of travel, while those who are vaccinated will be allowed to present a test taken within three days of travel.
The administration announced limited exceptions to the vaccination requirement, including children, persons who participated in COVID-19 clinical trials, individuals who have medical reasons for not getting vaccinated or those who are from a country where shots are not widely available.
Children under 18 will not be required to be fully vaccinated because of the inconsistency in the global rollout of shots for their age cohort, but those aged two and over will be subjected to the same COVID-19 testing policy as their parent or guardian.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s quarantine officers will spot-check passengers after arrival in the U.S. for compliance, an administration official told The Associated Press. Airlines that don’t enforce the requirements could be subject to penalties of up to nearly $35,000 US per violation.
While the U.S. has only authorized three vaccines for use domestically — Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen shot and Moderna — arrivals will be considered vaccinated if their doses are among those on World Health Organization’s approved list. Recently, it was announced that persons from countries like Canada who received different brands for their two doses will be allowed, provided those vaccines are on the WHO list.
Canadians until very recently have been discouraged from nonessential travel, although thousands have headed to American destinations and dealt with quarantine or testing requirements.
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