COVID-19: A timeline of Canada’s first-wave response

Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | June 12, 2020

June 12: Canada requires temperature checks for air travelers

  • The federal government will require air travelers to undergo screening for fever before they can board flights to Canada starting at the end of June. Domestic air travelers will also undergo temperature checks at Canada’s four largest airports beginning in July, and 11 more airports in September. Canada’s chief public health officer previously questioned the effectiveness of temperature checks to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the measure is just one part of a “multipronged” strategy.

June 12: Nova Scotia extends state of emergency 

  • Nova Scotia will remain in a state of emergency until June 28, despite recording only four active cases of COVID-19 and no new infections. Long-term care facilities in the province will allow visitors starting next week, and childcare centres will also reopen.

June 12: Some U.S. states see spikes in new infections, hospitalizations 

  • Texas and Arizona have reported record numbers of hospital admissions due to COVID-19 in recent days. And in North Carolina all but 13% of the state’s intensive care beds are full. New cases of COVID-19 in Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico have all surged by more than 30% in the past week, partly due to increased testing. According to top infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci, “the number of cases makes one pause and be a little bit concerned.”

June 12: Hospitals overwhelmed as India’s COVID-19 case count rises

June 12: Only one in three authors of COVID-19 research are women

  • An analysis in BMJ Global Health found that women made up only a third of all authors of COVID-19 research published since January, and just 29% of first authors. Studies looking at gender imbalance in research authorship before the pandemic reported higher proportions of senior female authors, suggesting that lockdown measures may have worsened existing inequalities because of increased family demands on female researchers.

June 12: Self-swabbing for COVID-19 as accurate as swabbing by health workers

  • Researchers found that 29 of 30 people with COVID-19 received the same test results when they swabbed their own nasal passages as when a health worker collected the sample. The findings suggest the potential to expand testing capacity with self-sample kits.

June 11: Ontario to ease restrictions on visits to long-term care

  • Ontario will allow visitors to long-term care and retirement homes that do not have active cases of COVID-19 starting June 18. Visitors must complete a health questionnaire and test negative for SARS-CoV-2 before their visit and wear a face mask and maintain physical distance during the visit.

June 11: Manitoba prepares for third phase of reopening

  • A draft third phase of Manitoba’s reopening will allow public gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, so long as they stay two metres apart. The province may also allow childcare facilities to run at regular capacity, lift occupancy limits on retail businesses, and no longer require travellers from Western Canada and Northern Ontario to quarantine. Manitoba may implement the plan as soon as June 21.

June 11: Montreal COVID-19 cases linked to poorer areas with more black residents

  • Lower-income neighbourhoods with higher numbers of black residents have registered the most cases of COVID-19 in Montreal, according to the CBC. Montréal-Nord, home to a large Haitian community, has the highest per capita case count in the city, with 2,911 cases per 100,000 people as of June 9. Other hard-hit areas like Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles and LaSalle also have sizeable black communities. Quebec’s public health director promised in early May that the government would begin collecting race-based health data. Still, health officials later acknowledged there is no immediate plan to do so.

June 11: Doctor refutes allegations that he was “patient zero” in Campbelltown outbreak 

  • A doctor blamed for an outbreak of COVID-19 in Campbelltown, New Brunswick, is seeking a public apology from Premier Blaine Higgs after private investigators found that he was not the source of the outbreak. During an overnight trip to Quebec, Dr. Jean Robert Ngola interacted with only a few people, all of whom have since tested negative for COVID-19, suggesting he contracted the virus back home in New Brunswick. After the premier identified an “irresponsible” medical professional as the source of the outbreak, Ngola says he has suffered a “barrage of threats.”

June 11: Potential vaccines against COVID-19 near late-stage trials

  • Chinese biotech company Sinovac will begin late-stage trials of its experimental vaccine in 9,000 volunteers in Brazil next month.
  • China is also offering two candidate vaccines for COVID-19 to employees of state-owned companies travelling overseas in a bid to speed research efforts. More than 1000 people will receive the two unidentified vaccines, chosen from the five candidates China is currently testing.
  • American biotech firm Moderna is on track to begin the third and final stage of clinical trials of an experimental vaccine against COVID-19 in July. Some 30,000 volunteers will participate in the trial, pending the results of smaller, earlier-stage studies.

June 11: Growing concern over potential second waves of COVID-19 in Iran and South Korea

  • Iran has seen a surge in new cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks. On average, the country confirmed more than 3,000 new cases a day in the first week of June, up 50% from the previous week and close to the peak recorded in late-March. Officials attributed the surge in new cases to increased testing, as daily deaths due to COVID-19 in Iran have remained flat. However, the government toll only captures deaths in hospitals, and recent polls suggest the number of people practicing social distancing has dropped.
  • Outbreaks of COVID-19 in Seoul are threatening South Korea’s success in managing its epidemic. The country has reported about 45 new cases a day since late May, with clusters linked to a warehouse, night clubs, churches and door-to-door sellers. Health officials warned they are struggling to track transmissions as people resume activities and practice less physical distancing.

June 11: Outbreaks in Africa escalating

  • The World Health Organization warned the spread of COVID-19 in Africa is accelerating, even though confirmed cases on the continent account for less than 3% of the global total. Community transmission has been recorded in more than half of Africa’s 54 countries. South Africa has recorded the most cases, with more than 58,500 confirmed infections and some 1,200 deaths. Testing shortages remain a challenge, yet some countries, such as Senegal, are moving to reopen.

June 11: European Union urges members to lift internal travel bans

  • The European Union urged all member countries to reopen their common borders starting next week. According to the European Commission, internal border restrictions are “not an effective measure” to curb the spread of COVID-19. The 26-nation Schengen travel zone, where people and goods move freely without border checks, must function normally before Europe’s external border can reopen, the commission said.

June 11: Global study to investigate sleep problems during the pandemic

  • An international group of neuroscientists led by researchers at the University of Oxford will examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sleep. Anecdotally, many people have reported sleep difficulties during the crisis. The study will combine research from Canada, Austria, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Norway and the United States to examine how lockdown measures, self-isolation and risk of exposure to the virus affect sleep.

 June 11: Near-miss incident in Missouri highlights the importance of wearing masks

  • Two Missouri hairstylists who continued working while symptomatic with COVID-19 did not infect any of their clients and coworkers. The hairstylists had contact with more than 140 people at the same Springfield salon, where both clients and stylists wore face coverings and followed some physical distancing measures. County health officials said the outcome of the incident underscores the importance of masks in curbing the spread of COIVD-19.

June 10: Young people make up more than a third of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario

  • People under age 30 account for a rising percentage of new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario. Roughly 39% of new cases reported on June 7 were among people younger than 30, compared to nearly 15% on April 26. Meanwhile, the percentage of new cases among those aged 60 or older dropped from 41% to 15% over the same period. Many cases among young people may have gone undetected earlier in Ontario’s outbreak because the province had strict testing criteria that excluded people with mild illness.

June 10: Common COVID-19 test produces false-negative results 20% of the time

  • A study of the accuracy of RT-PCR testing for COVID-19, the most common type used in Canada, found the test did not detect the virus on day one of infection and produced false-negative results 38% of the time on day five and at least 20% of the time after day eight. The authors of the study, a systematic review of pre-print and peer reviewed publications, urged physicians and health officials to consider the test’s limitations when informing patients about negative results and lifting quarantines.

June 10: Antibody study sheds light on immunity

  • A Quebec study that has not been peer-reviewed found that three in five people infected with SARS-CoV-2 developed antibodies against the virus two weeks after they first showed symptoms. However, the ability of those antibodies to neutralize the virus decreased after six weeks. These findings suggest that a few booster shots may be necessary for long-term protection when a vaccine becomes available in the future.

June 10: Regional reopening raises concerns in Ontario

  • Ontario’s plan to allow some parts of the province to begin the next reopening phase has sparked concerns about a potential exodus of people from closed regions to more open ones, potentially spreading SARS-CoV-2 to lower prevalence areas. The government indicated there would be no travel restrictions within the province.

June 10: Air conditioning systems unlikely to spread COVID-19

June 10: Remdesivir reduces lung damage in monkeys with COVID-19

  • A study of 12 monkeys infected with SARS-CoV-2 found that those treated with remdesivir did not show signs of respiratory disease and had reduced lung damage compared to those that did not receive the antiviral drug. However, researchers found no reduction in the amount of virus shed by remdesivir-treated monkeys, suggesting that milder symptoms may not indicate a lack of infectiousness.

June 10: Population-wide masking could prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 cases 

  • Routine face mask use by half the population could keep the average number of people infected by each person with COVID-19, known as the reproduction rate of the virus, to less than one. According to Cambridge and Greenwich University researchers, their findings support the universal adoption of face masks by the public to prevent future waves of COVID-19.

June 10: Brazil’s top court orders government to publish COVID-19 data

  • Brazil resumed publishing cumulative data on COVID-19 after the country’s Supreme Court ordered the government to release the figures. Previously, Brazil’s ministry of health said it would only report cases and deaths that had occurred in the past 24 hours, raising concerns about censorship. President Jair Bolsonaro has opposed lockdown measures imposed by state and city officials attempting to curb the country’s epidemic. So far, Brazil has recorded more than 700,000 cases of COVID-19, second only to the United States, and 37,000 deaths, the third-highest toll in the world.

June 10: Confirmed cases of COVID-19 surge in Mexico

  • Mexican officials confirmed 4,199 new cases of COVID-19 and 596 deaths in the past 24 hours. About one-fifth of confirmed cases in the country are among health professionals, 385 of whom have died. The actual toll is likely much higher, given low rates of testing.

June 9: Legault apologizes as Quebec COVID-19 deaths top 5,000

  • Quebec Premier François Legault apologized publicly after the province’s death toll from COVID-19 passed 5,000. Outbreaks in long-term care facilities accounted for about 4,500 of the deaths. “I’m sorry for the decisions that have been taken or not taken for the last 10, 20 years,” Legault said, referring to the state of elder care in the province. According to Legault, the government “must do better in the future.”

June 9: Uptick in elective surgeries draining Canada’s blood supply

  • Demand on Canada’s blood supply has increased as provinces have resumed elective operations. So far, Canadian Blood Services is keeping up with demand. However, the national blood inventory has 2,000 to 6,000 fewer units than usual, and physical distancing restrictions have limited donations at blood clinics.

June 9: Quebec long-term care outbreaks of COVID-19 on the decline

  • Nearly a quarter of Quebec’s 412 long-term care facilities were dealing with at least one active case of COVID-19 at the start of this week, down from almost half in mid-May. Since that time, there has been a 60% decrease in active cases of COVID-19 linked to long-term care facilities in the province. The situation has also improved in private seniors’ residences. The number of active cases in seniors’ homes dropped from 1,091 on May 18 to 414 on June 7.

June 9: Thousands of workers file complaints about COVID-19

  • Workers in Ontario and Quebec filed more than 5,700 complaints about unsafe working conditions related to COVID-19 between March and the end of May, up from 33 in the first two months of 2020. Three-quarters of the complaints came from Ontario. Both provinces have legislation requiring employers to protect workers from injury and illness, including infectious diseases. At least 265 workers in Ontario have tried to exercise their right to refuse work, but the province accepted only one of those requests.

June 9: Ontario won’t identify COVID-19 advisors 

  • Infectious disease experts raised questions about the identities and credentials of the members of Ontario’s COVID-19 Command Table, the Ford government’s pandemic response advisory body. Besides Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer, it’s unclear if any other members have a specialized background in infectious diseases and outbreaks. The group’s co-leaders have vast experience in healthcare administration but no scientific credentials. Meanwhile, the government has not disclosed the names of the other members, although a flow chart detailing Ontario’s response indicates they may be bureaucrats.

June 9: Quebec pediatricians recommend lifting pandemic restrictions affecting kids

  • Twelve pediatricians in Quebec called on the province to ease infection control measures they claim shouldn’t apply to children, including staying two metres apart from others, wearing face masks, and disinfecting shared toys after each use. The doctors raised concerns about the feasibility and psychological impact of such measures. More than 2,500 people signed an online petition supporting the call.

June 9: WHO backtracks on asymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 

  • The World Health Organization officials said they are “absolutely convinced” that asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 is occurring, noting that some models estimate as many as 40% of cases may be spread by people with no symptoms. The statement came days after WHO’s technical lead on the pandemic said that it was “very rare” for asymptomatic people to transmit the virus.

June 9: COVID-19 may have been spreading in Wuhan in August 

  • An increase in the volume of cars in hospital parking lots in Wuhan may indicate that SARS-CoV-2 was circulating in China as early as August, according to a preprint study. Harvard researchers found that the uptick in traffic outside five hospitals coincided with a rise in online searches for COVID-19 symptoms like “cough” and “diarrhea.” Chinese authorities dismissed the findings as “ridiculous.”

June 9: More than half of U.S. states may be underreporting COVID-19

  • At least 28 states in America, including California, Florida, New York and Texas, are not reporting probable cases of COVID-19 as recommended by federal guidelines. As such, the current U.S. toll of more than 1.9 million infected, and 111,000 dead, is likely an undercount.

June 9: U.S. Navy tests sailors for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies

  • An investigation into an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard a United States Navy aircraft carrier found that 60% of roughly 400 sailors tested had antibodies for the virus. Previously, about a quarter of all 4,800 sailors on the aircraft carrier tested positive for the virus. The results could indicate a higher rate of infection on the vessel than previously captured. However, the findings cannot be generalized because the study did not encompass the entire crew.

June 8: COVID-19 pandemic worsens globally 

  • Countries reported more than 136,000 cases of COVID-19 to the World Health Organization on Sunday – the highest daily case count so far. Nearly 75% of the new cases came from 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned the pandemic is worsening globally and has yet to peak in central America. WHO is also seeing increasing numbers of cases reported in Africa, parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

June 7: Canada allows families of citizens to cross border

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to visit Canada from abroad so long as they quarantine for 14 days after their arrival. The exception is aimed at reuniting families divided by the closure of the border with the United States.

June 7: Ontario outlines second phase of reopening

  • Twenty-four of Ontario’s 34 public health units will start the second phase of easing pandemic restrictions, while 10 others in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and near the U.S. border must wait until new daily cases in those areas consistently decrease. The second phase of the province’s reopening plan increases the limit on gatherings to 10 people and allows select personal care services, outdoor dining, and some outdoor recreational facilities to resume operations.
  • Ontario reported 243 new cases of COVID-19, its lowest daily case count since March.

June 7: Alberta drive-thru restaurants handing out masks

  • Alberta is distributing some 20 million non-medical masks at almost 600 drive-thru locations across the province, including fast food restaurants. Mask use is not mandatory, but the province’s chief medical officer or health has recommended people wear a non-medical mask when physical distancing isn’t possible, such as on public transit. Calgary and Edmonton will distribute an additional 500,000 masks mainly through the transit system.

June 7: Pandemic lockdowns may have saved millions of lives

  • A modelling study of the impact of pandemic lockdowns in 11 European nations estimated the restrictions averted 3.1 million deaths related to COVID-19. A similar study by scientists in the United States found that public health measures in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France and the United States prevented or delayed around   of COVID-19.

June 7: Public health response to protests must be anti-racist

  • More than 1,200 public health professionals in the United States called for an anti-racist public health response to international protests against police brutality. They urged against disbanding protests under the guise of public health, arresting and holding protesters in confined spaces, and the use of tear gas or other respiratory irritants by police. Twenty-two states are seeing upward trends in daily cases of COVID-19, while 20 are seeing declining case counts and eight have seen outbreaks plateau.

June 7: New Zealand eradicates COVID-19

  • Health officials in New Zealand reported that the last known case of COVID-19 in the country has recovered. New Zealand’s government lifted almost all pandemic restrictions, but the country’s border remains closed.

June 7: Blood type may be linked to lower risk of COVID-19

June 7: Schools in Philippines will stay closed until COVID-19 vaccine is available

  • While Canada, France and South Korea have started reopening schools, authorities in the Philippines said face-to-face classes will not resume until a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is available. In the meantime, schools will offer distance learning via the internet or TV broadcasts.

June 5: Lancet retracts hydroxychloroquine study 

  • Three of the authors of a controversial Lancet study that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in patients with COVID-19 retracted the paper, citing concerns about the quality of data. According to the authors, Surgisphere, the company that provided the data, would not share the dataset for independent review. Dr. Sapan Desai, chief executive of Surgisphere and fourth author of the study, declined to comment on the retraction.

June 5: SARS-CoV-2 not mutating in a dangerous way

  • According to a World Health Organization briefing, scientists around the world have identified more than 40,000 full genome sequences of SARS-CoV-2. However, none of these mutations have made the virus more virulent or more likely to cause severe disease.

June 5: Most Canadians support universal testing for COVID-19

  • More than three in five Canadians said they support or somewhat support testing everyone in the country for COVID-19, according to a survey of 1,009 people conducted between May 26 and May 28. One in three respondents opposed the idea. Residents of Atlantic Canada and Ontario voice higher support for universal testing than those of Western Canada.

June 5: Alberta saving samples of COVID-19 for research 

  • The Alberta government is building a $300,000 biorepository to store samples of SARS-CoV-2 for long-term research. More than 30 research projects across the province will need the samples to support investigations into point-of-care testing, drugs, antibody testing and genome sequencing.

June 5: Saskatchewan likely won’t allow big crowds until 2021

  • Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer said restrictions on large gatherings would probably stay in place until next year. Next week, the province will increase the limit on smaller crowds to 15 people indoors and 30 people outdoors.

June 5: Blood pressure medicines linked to lower risk of death from COVID-19 

  • A study of nearly 2,900 patients with COVID-19 hospitalized in Wuhan, China, found that patients with hypertension had twice the risk of death and were more likely to need mechanical ventilation than those without hypertension. However, patients taking blood pressure medicines had a lower risk of death than those not treated for their hypertension, suggesting that patients with hypertension should not change their treatment unless instructed by a physician.

June 5: Harvard physicians suggest wearing a mask during sex

  • According to a commentary by Harvard University physicians, people should wear masks and avoid kissing when having sex with someone they’re not living with to reduce the risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2. All in-person sexual contact likely carries a risk of transmitting the virus, but health providers should counsel patients on ways to reduce their risk, the authors wrote.

June 4: Ontario appoints interim manager at Vaughn care home

  • Ontario appointed William Osler Health System as an interim manager of a Vaughn long-term care facility. According to the provincial government, Woodbridge Vista Care Community has been unable to contain the spread of COVID-19, despite receiving hospital support. The announcement came the same day that the company operating Woodbridge Vista Care Community terminated a vice president after he allegedly made disparaging comments towards the families of residents during a telephone town hall about COVID-19.

June 4: NDP urges end to blood donation ban for gay men

  • A New Democrat member of parliament called on the federal government to end the ban on blood donation by gay men and some other LGBTQ people, given shortages of blood and plasma donations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. British Columbia MP Randall Garrison says Health Canada and Hema-Quebec are missing out on blood and plasma donations to support COVID-19 research “for no reason founded in science.”

 

June 4: Hydroxychloroquine not effective at preventing COVID-19

  • A study of 821 people in the United States and Canada found that taking hydroxychloroquine within four days of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 did not prevent COVID-19or similar illness. Nearly 12% of patients who received the anti-malarial drug after exposure to the virus fell ill, compared to 14% of people who took a placebo. Side effects were also more common in patients who received hydroxychloroquine. The Canada-U.S. study is the first double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of hydroxychloroquine. The findings come as the World Health Organization announced it was resuming a clinical trial testing the drug as a treatment for COVID-19.

June 4: Tam warns against reopening “too much, too soon.”

  • Canada could see “explosive growth” in new cases of COVID-19 if provinces lift pandemic restrictions too quickly, according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam. She urged officials to keep a close eye on cases in the coming weeks to avoid a second wave of infections in the fall.
  • According to updated national modelling, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Canada could rise to 107,454 by June 15. Meanwhile, the country’s death toll could rise to 9,400. Ontario and Quebec have accounted for more than 90% of national COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days. There has been no community transmission on Prince Edward Island, or in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and Nunavut has yet to report any cases. Nearly one in five cases of COVID-19 in Canada, and four in five deaths, have been linked to long-term care and retirement homes. To date, 94% of all deaths and 71% of hospital admissions related to COVID-19 in Canada have been among people aged 60 or older.

June 4: Canadian labs tracking COVID-19 mutations

  • A network of Canadian laboratories led by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Genome Canada is studying genetic mutationsin SARS-CoV-2 to track transmission patterns across the country and internationally. Most mutations in the virus do not modify its function or make it more dangerous, but these “silent” genetic difference may be used in the future to identify the source of new cases of COVID-19 when contact tracing is not possible.

June 4: Thousands volunteer to participate in vaccine trials

  • More than 28,000 people from over 100 countries have indicated their willingness tobe exposed to COVID-19 as part of a global campaign to speed up vaccine research. More than 1,000 Canadians have signed on to the 1 Day Sooner campaign, which is compiling a database of volunteers willing to participate in “challenge trials” in which they would be exposed to infection.

June 4: High unemployment due to pandemic could drive up suicides

  • University of Toronto researchers estimate that Canada could see as many as 2,114 additional suicidesabove the national average by the end of 2021 due to economic upheaval caused by the pandemic. They analyzed suicide rates from 2000 to 2018 and found that every percentage point increase in unemployment was linked with a 1% increase in suicide deaths. Crisis Service Canada has seen a 90% increase in calls to distress hotlines during the pandemic, including a 200% rise in calls where the person was in imminent danger.

June 4: Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll and Iran’s case count spike

  • Brazil reporteda record 2,600 deaths in 48 hours. The Pan American Health Organization warned that Brazil could see 88,000 deaths from COVID-19 by August unless the country takes drastic containment measures.
  • Meanwhile, Iran reported 3,574 new confirmedcases over the past 24 hours, raising concerns that the country is seeing a second wave of infections. It’s the third consecutive day the country had recorded more than 3,000 new infections.

June 4: U.S. picks five companies most likely to produce COVID-19 vaccine

  • The United States government has identified five drug companiesas the most likely to create a successful vaccine against SARS-CoV-2: Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca Plc, Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co Inc. According to the New York Times, the selected companies will receive additional government funding, help running clinical trials and other financial and logistical support. The U.S. is planning massive clinical trials involving 100,000 to 150,000 volunteers to start in July.

June 4: Half of U.K. has struggled with sleep 

  • A study of 2,254 residents of the United Kingdom found that more than half reported trouble sleepingduring the country’s COVID-19 lockdown. Two in five said they had more vivid dreams than usual. However, a quarter of participants reported sleeping more than usual and feeling better for it.

June 4: CDC director urges protesters to get tested for COVID-19

  • Anyone who has participated in recent mass protests against anti-black racism and police brutality should “highly consider” getting testedfor COVID-19, according to Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Redfield noted that the use of tear gas by police might spread the virus by causing people to cough.

June 3: Lancet commissions data audit of hydroxychloroquine study 

  • The Lancet acknowledged concerns about the integrity of a recent study published in the journal that found hydroxychloroquine increased risk of death in patients with COVID-19. After dozens of scientists raise concerns about the study’s methods and data integrity, the editors of the journal issued an “expression of concern,” noting they had commissioned an independent audit of the data.

June 3: Quebec long-term care recruitment drive draws 55,000 applicants

  • Some 55,000 people have applied to work in Quebec long-term care homes during the pandemic, as part of a sweeping recruitment campaign to train and employ workers to address staffing shortages in the sector. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and in good health. They must also have a Grade 9 education and no criminal record. Once they have completed their training, they will receive a starting annual salary of $49,000.

June 3: Privacy concerns over Ontario emergency orders

  • Privacy advocates and public health workers warned that Ontario’s pandemic emergency orders are too broad and violate privacy. Under the current emergency orders, first responders can access the personal health information of Ontarians who have tested positive for COVID-19, which some fear will lead to discrimination. In one recent case, Toronto transit officials told drivers not to pick up a black, homeless woman because she had COVID-19.

June 3: Mass testing in Wuhan uncovers asymptomatic cases

  • The Chinese city of Wuhan identified just 300 SARS-CoV-2-positive people in a 19-day campaign to test nearly 10 million people. None of the people who tested positive had symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, and none of their close contacts tested positive, easing concerns about asymptomatic cases spreading the virus.

June 3: U.S. prepares for final trials of a potential vaccine against COVID-19

  • The United States should have 100 million doses of a candidate vaccine against COVID-19 by the end of the year, according to the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Preparations are underway for a Phase III trial of an experimental vaccine developed by Moderna in partnership with the U.S. government.

June 3: Brazil to test Oxford vaccine candidate 

  • As COVID-19 wanes in Europe, vaccine developers and researchers are turning to countries in Latin America and Africa, where case counts continue to rise, to test experimental vaccines against the virus. Brazil authorized a clinical trial of a vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. Some 2,000 people will participate in the trial.

June 3: Saskatchewan’s Synchrotron focusing on COVID-19 research

  • The Canadian Light Source Synchrotron at the University of Saskatchewan is dedicating its resources entirely to COVID-19 research, with 13 new projects in the pipeline. Typically, health research makes up about 20% of the facility’s operations. One of the projects will use the particle accelerator to examine the molecular structure of the virus.

June 3: Study examines using ibuprofen to treat a complication of COVID-19

  • Researchers in the United Kingdom are studying the use of a lipid capsule form of ibuprofen to treat breathing difficulties in people with COVID-19. Studies in animals suggest the anti-inflammatory drug might treat acute respiratory distress syndrome – a complication of severe COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, France’s health minister raised concerns about the safety of using ibuprofen to treat COVID-19, but a review later concluded it was safe.

June 2: Canada reports lowest COVID-19 death toll in months

  • Health officials across Canada reported 31 new deaths due to COVID-19, the lowest daily death toll the country has seen in two months. Every province and territory in Canada have now relaxed some pandemic restrictions.

June 2: Feds orders syringes to prepare for mass vaccinations

  • The federal government has ordered 37 million syringes looking forward to the day when a successful vaccine against COVID-19 becomes available. Supply chains for essential medical equipment have stabilized, according to Procurement Minister Anita Anand. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the government is also planning how to prioritize who will get priority access to a successful vaccine.

June 2: Mass protests spark public health warnings

June 2: Chinese government delayed releasing information on COVID-19

  • China delayed releasing the genetic map of SARS-CoV-2 for more than a week after three government labs had decoded the genome of the virus, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press. The Chinese government also stalled at least two weeks before providing detailed data about cases of COVID-19, according to recordings of internal meetings held by the World Health Organization. International law obliges countries to report information to the WHO that could have an impact on public health, but the agency has no enforcement powers and cannot independently investigate epidemics.

June 2: Proteins in blood could predict severity of COVID-19

  • Researchers from England and Germany identified 27 proteins that were present in the blood of patients with COVID-19 and varied with the severity of symptoms. The researchers said it might be possible to use these markers in the future to predict which patients will become seriously ill with COVID-19. Three of the proteins were linked with interleukin IL-6, a protein known to cause inflammation.

June 2: Risk of death from COVID-19 higher for ethnic minorities in England

  • Ethnic minorities in England had a 10-50% higher risk of death from COVID-19 compared to white Britons, but the reasons why remain unclear, according to a report by Public Health England. Death rates were highest among people of Black and Asian ethnic groups, with people of Bangladeshi ethnicity facing twice the risk of death compared to white Britons.

June 1: Physical distancing, masks reduce risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection

  • Physical distancing and wearing a mask and eye protection can reduce a person’s risk of becoming infected with SARS-Cov-2, according to a meta-analysis published in the Lancet. Standing at least one metre away from others was found to reduce the likelihood of infection from 12.8% to 2.6%. Wearing a mask reduced the chance of infection from 17.4% to 3.1%, while wearing eye protection reduced the risk from 16% to 5.5%.

June 1: Hundreds of cases of COVID-19 missing from Ontario’s count

  • Two Toronto hospitals did not report hundreds of cases of COVID-19 because each thought the other was responsible for notifying public health officials. Most of the cases have now been counted but an extra 430 will be added to Ontario’s public health database in the coming days.

June 1: Diabetes linked with COVID-19 deaths

  • A French study of 1,300 patients with diabetes who were hospitalized with COVID-19, most of whom had Type 2 diabetes, found that 1 in 5 needed a ventilator and 1 in 10 died within a week of hospitalization. The average age of the patients was 70 and most of the patients were men. Similar research in the United Kingdom has found that both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are “independently associated with a significant increased risk of in-hospital death with COVID-19.”

June 1: Provinces reopening as cities face funding shortfall

  • Schools reopened in British Columbia on a part-time basis and daycares in Montreal reopened at reduced capacity. Manitoba and Prince Edward Island lifted bans on visiting residents at care homes and reopened recreational venues and dine-in restaurants.
  • Meanwhile, Ontario reopened provincial parks, drive-in movie theatres and batting cages. Premier Doug Ford is pushing to extend the province’s state of emergency until June 30, and will allow regions with fewer cases of COVID-19 to reopen earlier than the Greater Toronto Area, which is where two-thirds of the province’s deaths have occurred.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to fast-track $2.2 billion in funding for municipalities to support infrastructure projects as cities overhaul their services to safely reopen. However, municipalities argued they need additional emergency operating funding to cover $10-15 billion in lost revenue due to the pandemic.

June 1: Ontario reports COVID-19 cases among migrant workers

  • Eighty-five of 404 new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario are among migrant workers in Norfolk County. Premier Doug Ford said he would address the outbreak with public health officials to ensure the testing and safety of migrant workers on Ontario farms.

 June 1: Patients with COVID-19 face higher risk of death after surgery

  • A study of 1,100 patients with COVID-19 who underwent surgery found that half developed pulmonary complications within a month of the surgery and one in four died. Rates of death were much higher for patients with COVID-19 than for other patients across every surgical category. Typically, less than 1% of patients undergoing minor or elective operations die within a month of their procedures; for patients with COVID-19, the death rates for minor surgery and elective surgery were 16.3% and 18.9%, respectively.

June 1: Toronto antibody study to test 10,000 people

  • Toronto researchers will test more than 10,000 people for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 to get a better picture of immunity in the general public. In the first phase of the study, participants will complete an online questionnaire about their experience with COVID-19. In the second phase, a random group of those who agree to blood testing will receive an at-home blood collection kit and send samples for testing at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

June 1: Studies examine nitric oxide to treat COVID-19

  • Canadian researchers are studying the experimental use of nitric oxide nasal sprays and gargles to prevent and treat COVID-19. Research shows that the gas, produced naturally in the cells that line the blood vessels, can open airways in the lungs. A British Columbia trial studying the use of nitric oxide to treat people with mild COVID-19 is expanding to Quebec. Another study at University Health Network in Toronto is testing whether high dose inhaled nitric oxide can improve breathing for patients with COVID-19 on ventilators.

June 1: Uproar over doctor’s claim that virus “no longer exists” in Italy

  • The head of an Italian hospital sparked controversy by claiming that COVID-19 “clinically no longer exists in Italy,” saying recent tests show that patients have lower SARS-CoV-2 viral loads than earlier in the pandemic. However, Italian health officials warned there is no evidence that the virus has mutated or become less virulent, with some experts noting that the persistent number of daily new cases in Italy suggests that the virus is still circulating there.

May 31: Quebec reports sharp rise in deaths due to earlier technical glitch

  • Only 37 of 202 deaths due to COVID-19 reported by Quebec on Sunday were from the last 24 hours. The rest dated back several days but weren’t reported earlier due to technical issues. The province’s overall death toll stands at 7,295.

May 29: Trudeau announces extra $650M in COVID-19 aid for Indigenous communities  

  • The federal government committed an additional $650 million to support Indigenous communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, including $285 million to support rapid public health responses to outbreaks. Indigenous leaders said a previous commitment of $305million was inadequate to address their communities’ needs.

May 29: Feds looking at reuniting families separated by U.S. border closure

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is exploring ways to reunite families divided by the temporary closure of the border with the United States. Ontario and New Brunswick premiers have been outspoken against reopening the border to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Trudeau said any steps taken by the federal government will not impact the travel ban, which is currently set to expire in June but may be extended.

May 29: Ontario hits testing targets, considers regional reopening

  • Ontario started rolling out an expanded testing strategy for COVID-19 that includes “targeted campaigns” to test workers in key sectors and communities experiencing outbreaks. Provincial labs hit testing targets for the second day in a row, completing more than 16,000 tests a day. Two-thirds of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario are in the Greater Toronto Area, while other part of the province have no known cases. As testing capacity increases, Premier Doug Ford said he is considering a regional approach to reopening.

May 29: Nova Scotia eases limit on gatherings

  • Nova Scotians may now gather in groups of 10 or fewer people, provided they maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from each other. The announcement came as the province reported no new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since March.

May 29: Family gatherings linked to Saskatchewan COVID-19 cases

  • As many as four new cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan have been linked to 60 people who attended two large family gatherings, despite public health orders restricting gatherings to no more than 10 people. Close contacts of the people who took part in the gatherings are self-isolating and officials say no fines have been levied.

May 29: More than 40 COVID-19 cases linked to Quebec schools

  • Since reopening primary schools outside of Montreal on May 11, health officials in Quebec have identified 19 cases of COVID-19 among students and 22 cases among staff. Most of the cases were isolated, but at least two schools have reported more than one case. About half of 200,000 eligible children have returned to school across the province. According to Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda, “there will be other cases, but it is under control.”

May 29: Countries pledge to share COVID-19 research, treatments and vaccines

  • Thirty countries led by Costa Rica and the World Health Organization agreed to contribute to a “one-stop shop” for scientific knowledge, data and intellectual property to ensure equitable access to treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. “Vaccines, tests, diagnostics, treatments and other key tools in the coronavirus response must be made universally available as global public goods,” said Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado.

May 29: New Zealand has nearly eradicated COVID-19

  • New Zealand has only one known active case of COVID-19 and has reported no new cases in a week. Of the 1,504 cases confirmed in New Zealand so far, 22 have died and all but one have recovered. The country’s borders remain closed.

May 29: Scientists raise doubts over hydroxychloroquine study

  • Dozens of scientists questioned the methods of a study of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 that led the World Health Organization to suspend a global trial of the treatment. Among the concerns listed in an open letter response to the study published in the Lancet, scientists noted a lack of information about countries and hospitals that contributed data to the study, and discrepancies in the number of deaths reported in the study versus official figures. According to the Lancet, the authors of the study are working to address these issues.

May 29: Sewage may help communities monitor COVID-19 outbreaks

  • Changes in the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in municipal sewage predicted the progression of an outbreak of COVID-19 in New Haven, Connecticut by a week, according to a preprint study by Yale University scientists. The authors say their findings suggest that communities may be able to use raw wastewater and sludge to monitor outbreaks and provide additional basis for easing pandemic restrictions. Researchers at the University of Ottawa are conducting a similar study using sewage samples from Ottawa and Gatineau.

May 27: Trudeau urges businesses to rehire staff as daily cases of COVID-19 drop

  • Canada reported fewer than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time in nearly two months. Six provinces confirmed a combined 937 new cases, bringing Canada’s total case count to 86,636, more than half of whom have recovered.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadian businesses to rehire employees laid off due to the pandemic and avail themselves of a 75% wage subsidy as provinces gradually reopen. Uptake of the federal program continues to be lower than anticipated.

May 27: Greater Toronto Area driving Ontario outbreak as province extends restrictions 

  • Ontario extended pandemic restrictions to June 9 that would have expired on May 29. Under the extended orders, playgrounds and pools will remain closed, bars and restaurants may only provide takeout and delivery services, and people may not gather in groups larger than five people.
  • Toronto and its four surrounding regions account for more than three-quarters of active COVID-19 cases in Ontario, but only half the province’s population. In early April, the five regions of Toronto, Peel, York, Durham and Halton accounted for 52% of 5,000 confirmed cases in Ontario. Now, those regions account for 76% of roughly 6,600 cases.

May 27: Medical supply orders may not meet Canadian demand

  • Canada may need more than 3.3 billion disposable masks over the next year, according to some estimates. The federal government announced that General Motors would make 10 million masks, but the company will fill that order over the next year. Meanwhile, only 203 of nearly 30,000 ventilators ordered by Ottawa have arrived so far.

May 27: More clusters of rare inflammatory condition in kids

  • The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto reported a cluster of about 20 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children linked to COVID-19. The cases emerged about a month after the outbreak began in Toronto. Ontario has since listed the condition as a rare symptom of COVID-19 in children. Meanwhile, a doctor in Montreal has seen two or three cases of the inflammatory syndrome a week since first reporting a cluster of more than a dozen cases last month. British Columbia Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province is investigating at least half a dozen similar cases.

May 27: Alberta pauses hydroxychloroquine trial as European countries stop its use for COVID-19

  • Alberta researchers paused a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 after a paper in the Lancet suggested that the drug may cause heart problems and increase the risk of death. Some 150 patients with COVID-19 had received the drug as part of the Alberta trial, which excluded people with heart conditions. The researchers said there were no signs of safety issues in their trial, but the sample size was small.
  • France, Italy and Belgium stopped using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 due to the same safety concerns. France cancelled a decree allowing hospital doctors to dispense hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, while Italy and Belgium suspended use outside of clinical trials.

May 27: United States death toll nears 100,000

  • The United States has reported more than 98,900 deaths linked to COVID-19 in four months – more than the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined. Experts warn that the actual death toll may be higher, as many people with COVID-19 may have died without being tested. Federal scientists predict as many as 240,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 before the outbreak is over. Only half of Americans said they would be willing to receive a successful vaccine against the virus, according to a recent poll.

May 27: South Korea and India record spikes in cases of COVID-19

  • South Korea reported 40 new cases of COVID-19, its biggest daily increase in nearly 50 days. All but four of the new cases were in Seoul, where officials are struggling to contain outbreaks linked to nightclubs, karaoke rooms and an e-commerce warehouse.
  • India reported a record single-day increase of 6,387 new confirmed cases as the government prepared new guidelines for the next phase of a two-month national lockdown that is due to end on May 31.

May 27: Vaccine approved for trials in Canada found to be safe in Chinese study

  • Preliminary results from a Chinese trial of Ad5-nCoV, a potential vaccine against COVID-19 developed by CanSino Biologics, indicate the vaccine candidate is safe for humans, with some mild and moderate side effects. The Canadian Center for Vaccinology in Halifax will soon launch a Canadian safety trial of Ad5-nCoV involving 100 volunteers.

May 27: Oxford vaccine researchers under fire

  • University of Oxford scientists faced criticism over their rosy predictions about their COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Members of the team have stated that they are “80% confident” their vaccine would work and could finish Phase 3 trials by the end of July – statements that some physicians and ethicists say are overly optimistic. One virologist accused the team of overstating the success of their vaccine research in monkeys, noting that all the vaccinated monkeys became infected with COVID-19, even if they didn’t develop pneumonia.

May 26: Military reports “deeply disturbing” conditions in Ontario long-term care

  • Soldiers dispatched to five Ontario long-term care homes during the pandemic raised concerns about the standards of careat the facilities. Military members reported seeing cockroaches, workers reusing contaminated equipment between sick and healthy residents, and residents left in dirty diapers or going unbathed for weeks. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the allegations “deeply disturbing.” The Ontario government launched an investigation based on the report, and Premier Doug Ford said he is looking into the possibility of criminal charges.

May 26: Pandemic complicates heat relief in cities 

  • A heatwave in Ontario and Quebec is forcing cities to rethink heat relief plansas libraries, pools and other places typically used as cooling centres remain closed due to COVID-19. Toronto will open six emergency cooling centres, down from hundreds last year.

May 26: Canadians doubt government transparency on COVID-19 as experts warn of foreign misinformation 

  • Fifty percent of 1,510 Canadians polled between May 22 and May 25 said they believed governments were deliberately withholding informationabout the pandemic. However, about three-quarters said they were satisfied with the federal and provincial responses to COVID-19.
  • Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute in the United Kingdom have seen an increase in online misinformation and disinformationrelated to COVID-19 spread by sources linked to foreign governments, particularly Russia and China. According to Philip Howard, who heads the Oxford Internet Institute, sources connected to Russia and China appear to be promoting conspiracy theories about the origins of the virus.

May 26: Study finds COVID-19 infectious for eight days after symptoms start

  • COVID-19 appears to be infectious for only the first eight daysafter patients experience symptoms, according to a study of 90 Manitobans who tested positive for the virus from mid-March to early April. Researchers from the National Microbiology Laboratory, Cadham Provincial Laboratory and the University of Manitoba were unable to grow the virus in cell cultures from samples taken from patients more than eight days after they became symptomatic. A smaller German study published in Nature last month reached a similar conclusion.

May 26: Wuhan completes 6.5 million tests in nine days

  • After six new cases of COVID-19 emerged in a residential community in Wuhan, China, health authorities completed more than 5 million testsin just nine days. The mass testing identified 198 asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. In some cases, health authorities combined samples taken from multiple people and tested them together in a method known as “pool testing.” Early this year, German scientists proposed pool testing as a strategy to boost testing capacity when screening large numbers of people.

May 26: United Kingdom authorizes remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 

  • The United Kingdom approved the use of the anti-viral medicine remdesivirin selected hospital patients with COVID-19. The United States and Japan have also authorized the drug for the treatment of COVID-19, and early data from clinical trials suggest it can cut recovery time by about four days.

May 26: Nearly half of COVID-19 research funding opportunities remain open 

  • According to an international database of COVID-19 research fundingopportunities, 84 public calls for research applications with fixed deadlines remain open, and another 49 funding calls will close when the money runs out. The database lists more than 270 funding calls from 44 countries, 139 of which closed by May 22.

May 26: French hospital staff with mild COVID-19 developed antibodies 

  • A study of 160 French hospital workers who had mild cases of COVID-19 found that, within 41 days of showing symptoms, 98% had developed antibodiesthat could prevent reinfection. According to the study authors, the finding supports the use of blood testing to identify people who have recovered from COVID-19.

May 26: Genealogy companies launch COVID-19 surveys 

  • Two direct-to-consumer genealogy companiesare asking customers who have already submitted DNA samples to answer questions about their experiences with COVID-19, in order to identify potential genetic factors that may contribute to a person’s risk of infection and severity of illness. So far, 500,000 people have taken an online survey run by Ancestry.com, while 600,000 have opted into a study by 23andMe.

May 25: Feds to push paid sick leave 

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government would work with the provinces to ensure all workers can access ten days of paid sick leave a year to support Canada’s pandemic recovery. Implementing paid leave programs will fall to the provinces.

May 25: Weekend crowds at Toronto park could drive a resurgence of COVID-19

  • Infectious disease experts warned that Toronto could see a spike in cases of COVID-19 after thousands gathered in a downtown park over the weekend. Toronto’s chief medical officer of health called the gatherings “selfish and dangerous behaviour that could set us back.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford directed those who visited the park to “do us all a favour and go get tested now.” Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province had been considering allowing groups of more than five people to gather, but will now delay lifting restrictions because of the incident. More than 10,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Toronto, and the city continues to report hundreds of new cases every day.

May 25: Quebec reopening retail businesses    

  • Quebec allowed Montreal-area retail businesses to reopen, and shopping malls outside of the Greater Montreal Area will open on June 1. Quebec Premier François Legault urged people to maintain physical distance and wear masks in public. The provincial government is redeploying 1,000 public servants to visit workplaces and retail businesses to educate employers about physical distancing.

May 25: Manitoba goes three days without new COVID-19 cases

  • Manitoba has 17 active cases of COVID-19 and has reported no new cases in the past three days. Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the province would further relax pandemic restrictions soon, with more details to come later this week.

May 25: WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19

  • The World Health Organization said it would temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine from its global study of experimental treatments for COVID-19 after research in the Lancet showed that patients taking the drug were at higher risk of death and heart problems than those who were not. Hydroxychloroquine remains an accepted treatment for malaria and auto-immune diseases.

May 25: Researchers uncover social media misinformation campaigns

  • Carnegie Mellon University researchers analyzed more than 200 million tweets about the COVID-19 pandemic. They found that nearly half the accounts discussing “reopening America” were likely bots – that is, software that automates tweets and retweets. According to the researchers, the bot activity commonly referenced debunked conspiracy theories about the pandemic and appeared to be orchestrated.

May 25: Japan and the Czech Republic return to new normal

  • Japan lifted a coronavirus emergency declaration in Tokyo and four other areas that were still under restrictions. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged people to continue avoiding closed spaces, crowded places and close contact. The number of daily new infections in Japan has fallen below 50.
  • The Czech Republic, one of the first countries in Europe to close its borders and order an economic lockdown in response to COVID-19, is in its final phase of easing lockdown restrictions. Restaurants, hotels and museums are fully reopening, and people are no longer required to wear face masks in public.

May 25: India reports its biggest single-day spike in COVID-19 

  • India reported 6,977 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the country’s total confirmed count to 138,845 and overtaking Iran to become one of the ten worst-hit nations. The rise in new cases came as India lifted some business and travel restrictions.

May 25: Robots assist Rwandan coronavirus response

  • Rwanda is using five robots to conduct mass temperature screening as part of its coronavirus response. The robots can also capture sound and visual data and will be used to alert workers at treatment centers when patients walk in not wearing a mask.

May 25: United States bans travelers from Brazil

  • The United States suspended entry for foreign nationals who have visited Brazil in the past 14 days. Brazil has reported more than 347,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the second-largest national outbreak after the United States itself.

May 22: Experts warn some provinces reopening without adequate contact tracing

May 22: New Brunswick lifting more restrictions

  • With only one active case of COVID-19 in the province, New Brunswick is lifting more pandemic restrictions. People can now socialize outside their “family bubbles,” although indoor gatherings should be limited to 10 or fewer people. Hair salons, tattoo parlors, spas and non-regulated health services can reopen. Additional restrictions will lift next week, and regional health authorities will start increasing elective surgeries.

May22: Nova Scotia expands symptom list to encourage testing

  • Anyone with just one symptom of COVID-19 is now eligible for testing in Nova Scotia. All provinces and territories are adopting an expanded symptom list, says Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. In addition to fever, cough, sore throat and headache, Nova Scotia’s list includes loss of sense of smell or taste, hoarse voice and red, purple or bluish lesions on the feet, toes or fingers that do not have a clear cause.

May 22: Too few COVID-19 patients will delay results of a convalescent plasma study

  • A large Canadian trial studying the effectiveness of plasma from recovered patients for treating COVID-19 has slow recruitment because of a shortage of active cases to enroll. So far, researchers have only enrolled 1,000 of the 1,200 patients needed to run the study.

May 22: British researchers expanding vaccine trial

  • Researchers at the University of Oxford are expanding their trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine to 10,260 people across Britain, including older adults and children. The Oxford Vaccine Group has already vaccinated more than 1,000 volunteers but the results of that preliminary study aren’t available yet.

May 22: Pandemic continues to threaten childhood immunization campaigns

  • More than 80 million children under age 1 are at risk because the pandemic is disrupting immunization campaigns for polio, measles and cholera in 65 countries, the World Health Organization reported. Delays in immunizations threaten to “unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable deaths,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. WHO and UNICEF are urging countries to resume immunization campaigns.

May 22: Children half as likely as adults to be infected with coronavirus  

  • Children and young adults under age 20 appear to be 56% less likely to test positive for COVID-19 than adults older than 20, according to a review of contact tracing and population screening reports. The unpublished review by University College London researchers did not find enough data to confirm whether children spread the infection more or less readily than adults.

 

 

May 21: Second wave of COVID-19 is inevitable says B.C. top doctor

  • British Columbia’s provincial health officer said a second wave of COVID-19 in Canada is inevitable. “We’ve never had a pandemic in recorded history that has not had a second wave,” says Dr. Bonnie Henry. “Now is our time to regroup, learn as much as we can over the coming weeks and months, and prepare.” According to Henry, the provincial government is looking at which restrictions to reinstate to slow a second wave without shutting down the economy again.

May 21: Feds offer help as Ontario continues to lag on testing

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is prepared to provide financial and logistical support to help Ontario and other provinces “scale up testing immediately.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised to “ramp up testing like this province has never seen” in the next three to four weeks, but the province is still only completing about half its target of 16,000 tests per day.

May 21: Ottawa tops up COVID-19 assistance for Indigenous communities 

  • The federal government will add $75 million to a $305-million Indigenous Community Support Fund. The new money will support community-based projects providing food, transportation, educational materials or mental health services to Indigenous people living off-reserve. The Congress of Aboriginal People recently filed a federal court application alleging that the government’s COVID-19 assistance for Indigenous people living off-reserve has been “inadequate and discriminatory” compared to other groups.

May 21: Maritime provinces consider “travel bubble” for residents

  • New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are considering forming a regional “travel bubble,” allowing healthy people living in either jurisdiction to freely visit the other without having to self-isolate for 14 days. Both provinces haven’t reported any new cases in at least a week. New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said a travel bubble policy could be in place by the end of June or July. In Europe, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania recently adopted a similar arrangement.

May 21: Latin American outbreaks escalate as global coronavirus cases top five million 

  • With more than five million confirmed cases worldwide, SARS-CoV-2 has infected more people in six months than the annual total of severe flu cases, which the World Health Organization estimates at three to five million globally. Latin American outbreaks accounted for a third of 91,000 cases tallied in the past week, with outbreaks in Europe and the United States accounting for 20% each. Reported cases in Brazil, home to the third-largest outbreak after the United States and Russia, are rising daily at a rate second only to the U.S.

May 21: U.S. secures 300 million doses of Oxford vaccine candidate

  • The United States will receive almost a third of the first one billion doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate, developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. The U.S. is providing up to $1.2 billion to accelerate the vaccine’s development and secure 300 million doses for Americans. The company has also agreed to deliver an additional 100 million doses to Britain. Clinical trials to test the safety, side effects and best dose of the vaccine began in England last month.

May 20: Alarm over ethnic minority doctor deaths in the U.K.

May 20: Canadians should wear masks when unable to physically distance 

  • Canadians should wear non-medical masks whenever they are unable to maintain a safe physical distance in public, according to Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam. Wearing a mask provides an “added layer of protection” by preventing transmission to others, Tam said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will wear a mask when working on Parliament Hill if he is unable to maintain two metres from others.
  • Ontario is recommending that anyone over age two should wear a face covering when riding public transit unless they have trouble breathing or removing a mask. Provincial officials also said that transit agencies should erect plexiglass barriers on vehicles, make hand sanitizer available and clear high- touch areas.

May 20: Police across Canada conduct quarantine checks

  • Police officers have visited nearly 2,200 homes to ensure that Canadians returning from outside the country are complying with their quarantine plans. More than a million travellers have returned to Canada since the beginning of the pandemic, and returning travellers must self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival. No arrests resulted from the checks, although one person in British Columbia was fined $1000.

May 20: Almost half of Manitoba COVID-19 cases are travel-related

  • A weekly surveillance report on Manitoba’s 289 COVID-19 cases indicated that 47% were linked to travel outside the province, while 42% were related to close contact with known cases. The source of transmission was unknown in 11% of cases. One in 10 people who were living with someone with COVID-19 became infected themselves. Health workers accounted for 12% of cases.

May 20: Brits with diabetes are more likely to die of coronavirus 

  • People with type 1 diabetes are three-and-a-half times more likely to die if they fall ill with COVID-19 than people without diabetes, and those with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to die, according to data from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. People with diabetes accounted for nearly a third of the 24,739 COVID-19 deaths recorded in hospitals in England up to May 17; 7,466 had type 2 diabetes, and 365 had type 1.

May 20: Reopening of South Korean schools thwarted by new COVID-19 cases 

May 19: Canada-U.S. border to remain closed until June 21

  • The border between Canada and the United States will remain closed to all non-essential travel until June 21. Previously, the border was set to reopen on May 21. According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, provincial governments expressed a “clear desire” to extend the closure to curb the spread of COVID-19 from the U.S. More than 5 million Americans have tested positive for the virus and more than 91,000 have died. Meanwhile, Canada has reported more than 79,000 confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 and more than 5,900 deaths.

May 19: Ontario investigating long-term care response

  • Ontario will launch an independent commission in September to investigate how the province’s long-term care system responded to the pandemic. The commission will also look for ways to improve the system and protect residents from future outbreaks. Local health authorities have reported more than 1,400 deaths linked to outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care homes in Ontario. Opposition leader Andrea Horwath called for a full public inquiry, noting that a government commission may not be as transparent.

May 19: Patients who test positive after recovering from COVID-19 may not be infectious

  • Scientists from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 285 people who tested positive for COVID-19 after appearing to recover from the illness were not infectious. The researchers tracked 790 contacts of the 285 patients and found no evidence that the virus had spread, and virus samples collected from the patients couldn’t be grown in culture, indicating that they were inactive. South Korea will no longer consider patients to be infectious if they test positive after recovering from COVID-19.

May 19: WHO to hold inquiry into pandemic response

  • The World Health Organization agreed to hold an inquiry into the global response to the pandemic, after the European Union and Australia led calls for an investigation. Several countries, including the United States, have accused China of withholding information about the virus. Chinese President Xi Jinping supported the investigation but said any inquiry should wait until after the virus is contained.

May 19: Sweden leads Europe in per capita deaths during the last week

  • Sweden, which has kept most schools and businesses open during the pandemic, reported 6.25 deaths per million people in a rolling seven-day average from May 12 to 19. That’s the highest per capita death toll in Europe, just above the United Kingdom, which reported 5.75 deaths per million people during the same period.

May 19: China seals off Shulan

May 18: Early data suggests Moderna vaccine produces antibodies

  • Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine produced protective antibodies in eight healthy people who volunteered to be vaccinated during Phase I clinical trials. Infectious disease experts cautioned that the results should not be overstated because the trial was designed to demonstrate safety, not efficacy. Moderna plans to conduct a Phase III trial in July.

May 15: Ottawa announces $450 million for health researchers, labs

  • The federal government will provide $450 million in wage subsidies to universities and health research institutes to retain employees ineligible for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy, which does not cover public sector workers. Institutions will also receive block grants through the federal granting agencies worth 75% of costs to retain or restart research-related activities. Two months ago, the government ordered the closure of all research and clinical trials unrelated to COVID-19.

May 15: Five members of Canadian Armed Forces test positive for coronavirus

May 15: Infection among Ontario healthcare workers on the rise

  • Healthcare workers make up 17% of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Ontario, up from 10% of cases in early April. At least 714 nurses, 76 doctors, 70 first responders, 41 lab workers and more than 2,700 personal support workers, respiratory therapists, hospital cleaners and others have tested positive. Experts urged hospitals and long-term care facilities to stagger shift times and ensure that people follow infection protocols. A nurse, two hospital cleaners, and six personal support workers in the province have died.

May 15: Almost half of U.S. outbreaks linked to meat processing plants

  • At least 12 of 25 COVID-19 hotspots in the United States originated in meat factories where employees work side-by-side in cramped conditions. At least 30 workers in meat processing plants have died and 10,000 have COVID-19, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Four inspectors with the U.S. Agriculture Department have also died. Last month, President Donald Trump declared meat processing plants to be critical infrastructure, exempt from state lockdown orders.

May 15: WHO predicts a quarter of a billion COVID-19 cases in Africa

  • World Health Organization modelling predicts nearly a quarter of a billion people across 47 African countries will be infected with SARS-CoV-2. As many as 190,000 people could die, according to a study published in BMJ Global Health. African countries may experience fewer severe cases and deaths per capita because of their younger populations and lower rates of obesity compared to the United States and European countries. However, overwhelmed health care systems and disruptions in maternal care and immunization programs could lead to additional deaths.

May 15: US jurisdictions without physical distancing have 35 times more cases

  • Areas in the United States with no physical distancing policies had 35 times more cases of COVID-19 than areas with those measures, according to a study published in Health Affairs. The authors found that the rate of new infections dropped the longer a physical distancing policy was in place. They warned that their findings illustrate “the potential danger of exponential spread in the absence of interventions.”

May 14: Canada will reopen national parks 

May 14: Ontario to start reopening May 19

  • Ontario will ease pandemic restrictions beginning May 19, gradually resuming scheduled surgeries and reopening some businesses and services, including retail stores with street entrances, construction, library pickups and some outdoor sporting competitions. Workplaces can also gradually reopen, but people should work from home as much as possible. The province also expanded eligibility for testing to include anyone with symptoms of COVID-19. Previously, the province limited testing to priority groups, including health care workers and seniors.

May 14: Vaccine delivery a long way off, experts warn 

  • Drug companies have reported that a successful vaccine for COVID-19 may be available as early as the fall this year. However, experts cautioned that manufacturing and delivery issues could further delay the global rollout of such a vaccine by many months or possibly longer after its development.
  • French pharmaceutical company Sanofi promised make its COVID-19 vaccine accessible in all countries, if it proves to be safe and effective, after the company’s CEO controversially stated that the United States would get priority access because the country invested in the vaccine’s development. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe tweeted that “equal access for all to the vaccine is not negotiable.”

May 14: Kidney injury seen in more than a third of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in NYC

  • – More than a third of people with COVID-19 hospitalized in New York City developed acute kidney injury, and 14.3% required dialysis, according to a study published in Kidney International. A team at Northwell Health in metropolitan New York reviewed the charts of 5,449 patients admitted to 13 hospitals. Of the 36.6% of patients who developed acute kidney injury, nearly two in five either arrived at the hospital with the condition or developed it within the first 24 hours of admission.

May 14: COVID-19 fight contributing to superbug threat

  • Heavy use of disinfectants, and prescribing of antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections in people with COVID-19, could foster antimicrobial-resistant organisms, researchers warn. In 2018, 5,400 people died due to so-called superbugs in Canada. The federal government was due to release a pan-Canadian action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance this year.

May 14: COVID-19 detected in the world’s largest refugee camp

  • – Two people have tested positive for COVID-19 in a densely packed refugee camp in Bangladesh, where one million Rohingya people reside. The United Nations and other aid organizations have warned of a pending humanitarian disaster if the virus reaches the crowded camp, where there are 40,000 to 70,000 people per square kilometre.

May 13: Quebec records 2000 extra deaths in April

  • Quebec recorded 7,662 deaths this April, or 35.5% above the average for the month in the previous three years. The additional 2,008 deaths may be attributable to COVID-19 or health issues exacerbated by the pandemic. Last month, the province reported 214 extra deaths or 3.5% more than the average for 2017 to 2019.
  • The province is conducting just 9,000 tests for COVID-19 per day, far short of its daily target of 14,000. Public health and municipal officials disagree about the reasons why testing is lagging.

May 13: Emergency order gives Ontario power to run long-term care homes 

  • Ontario passed an emergency order giving the province the power to appoint temporary managers to any long-term care homes struggling to control outbreaks of COVID-19. There are 245 long-term care facilities in Ontario with cases of COVID-19, many privately owned and managed. Outbreaks in long-term care account for most of the province’s 1,669 deaths.

May 13: United States to get Sanofi vaccine first if it’s successful

  • Americans will get priority access if a vaccine developed by Sanofi proves to be safe and effective because the United States invested $30 million in the company’s research program. According to Sanofi’s chief executive officer, “the U.S. government has the right to the largest pre-order.” Sanofi expects to have a vaccine available by the second half of 2021. Another vaccine candidate developed by Oxford University researchers will go to the United Kingdom first, according to the chief executive officer of AstraZeneca. The company will produce the vaccine if it is successful.

May 13: Lessons from Slovakia

May 13: Tanzanian hospitals overwhelmed as country hides COVID-19 data

  • The American embassy in Tanzania is warning of “exponential growth” in COVID-19 cases in the East African country, despite the government’s refusal since April 29 to issue any official statistics. According to the embassy, hospitals are overwhelmed, and there are life-threatening delays to access medical care. As of late April, Tanzania had conducted 652 tests, 480 of which were positive.

May 12: Health Canada approves blood test to detect COVID-19 antibodies

  • Health Canada authorized the LIASON serological test, developed by Italian biotech company DiaSorin, for use in labs to detect antibodies specific to COVID-19. According to Health Canada, the federal government will use blood testing to track the virus and levels of immunity in the general population and groups at high risk of infection over the next two years.

May 12: Canada’s COVID-19 death toll doubled since April

  • The number of Canadians who have died from COVID-19 has doubled to more than 5,000 since the last weekend in April. More than 90% of the deaths have occurred in Quebec and Ontario, where infection rates have slowed only slightly since peaking in recent weeks.

May 12: Ontario may begin phased reopening despite testing delays

  • Premier Doug Ford said Ontario might begin reopening some seasonal businesses, low-risk workplaces and other services on May 14. However, the province still isn’t meeting testing targets and has a backlog of 10,811 tests to process. Health Minister Christine Elliott blamed the delay on a lack of transportation to deliver test samples to labs.

May 12: Trudeau promises long-term solutions for long-term care

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government would work with the provinces to find “lasting solutions” to improve long-term care facilities. About 80% of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada have occurred in these facilities. Trudeau also announced that people who qualify for Old Age Security would be eligible for a one-time, tax-free payment of $300 to help offset increased costs due to the pandemic. People eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement will get an extra $200.

May 12: Canada’s “archaic” system of recording deaths delays vital data

  • Canada’s antiquated system of recording deaths makes it difficult to know the full impact of COVID-19, warned public health experts. The current method of doctors filling out and faxing paper death certificates to the provincial bodies responsible for collecting mortality data means that it can take years to get a complete picture of deaths. Hospitals and coroners may also report deaths using different methods. According to Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, the federal government is working with the provinces “to see if we can address those gaps.”

May 12: Dozens of medical worker deaths reported in Iran 

  • Shortages of protective equipment in Iran and the government’s slow response to COVID-19 led to the deaths of dozens of medical workers. Iranian doctors have counted 126 deaths among medical staff related to COVID-19. The Associated Press verified 100 deaths independently. According to some doctors, government officials discouraged medical workers from using protective equipment in the early days of the country’s outbreak.

May 12: Concern over countries reopening without robust contact tracing and testing 

  • The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan warned that some nations exiting lockdowns have not effectively employed contact tracing. However, Ryan declined to name specific countries. “Certain countries are setting themselves up for some seriously blind driving over the next few months,” he said. Britain abandoned contact tracing in March but is now recruiting 18,000 people to trace contacts of known cases. France has promised robust contact tracing, but progress remains unclear as the nation’s highest court ordered the government to take extreme care in protecting citizens’ privacy.
  • The United States’ top public health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the Senate that reopening without robust testing and contact tracing could “trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control.” Fauci cautioned that the country’s official death toll of about 80,000 is likely an undercount. He also confirmed a report that President Donald Trump rebuffed recommendations to begin physical distancing for more than a month.

May 12: Researchers testing vaccine in China apply for trial in Canada

  • A Chinese and Canadian research team conducting clinical trials on a COVID-19 vaccine in China has asked to test the vaccine in CanadaThe National Research Council is scaling up its vaccine production capacity in anticipation that Health Canada will approve the trial.

May 12: Three-drug combination reduces the duration of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 

  • Patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 treated with a combination of three antiviral drugs – interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir and ribavirin – recovered five days sooner and shed the virus for a shorter period than those treated with lopinavir-ritonavir alone, according to a study published in The Lancet. The open level Phase II randomized trial enrolled 127 patients in Hong Kong hospitals. Side effects in both groups included nausea and diarrhea.

May 11: Alberta leads provinces in per capita testing

  • Provinces and territories will need to test more liberally for COVID-19 and increase contact tracing to prevent recurring outbreaks of COVID-19, according to infectious disease experts. Alberta has led the rest of Canada in per capita testing, conducting 3,950 per 100,000 people since January, compared to 3,173 in Quebec and 2,700 in Ontario, the two hardest-hit provinces. Alberta has also performed six times the number of tests per death related to COVID-19 as Ontario. Meanwhile, more than 13% of tests in Quebec are coming back positive, indicating the virus is still spreading in the community.

May 11: Statistics Canada to analyze ‘excess deaths’ during the pandemic

  • Statistics Canada plans to release a report next month analyzing how many extra deaths have occurred during the pandemic compared to historical averages to get a better sense of the actual toll of COVID-19. Beyond deaths officially attributed to COVID-19, examining extra deaths from any cause can help capture people who died without being diagnosed, as well as those who died due to delays in other health services because of the pandemic. British Columbia, for example, has reported 170 extra deaths in March and April, but only 111 officially linked to COVID-19.

May 11: Quebec death toll passes 3,000 as schools reopen

  • Quebec Premier François Legault may further delay the reopening of schools and businesses in Montreal, given a “very worrying” spike in deaths in the city. Montreal accounted for 82 of 85 recent deaths, bringing the province’s death toll to 3,013. According to Legault, “the situation is not under control.” Elsewhere in Quebec, elementary schools, daycares, and some retail stores are gradually reopening.

May 11: Newfoundland and Labrador latest province to ease restrictions

May 11: Kids seriously ill with COVID-19 had underlying conditions, study finds

  • A small study of 48 children with COVID-19 hospitalized in the United States and Canada found that the virus can cause serious illness in children, but far less frequently than in adults. Forty of the children, including two who died, had preexisting conditions. Nearly half of those patients had complex developmental or genetic disorders and were dependent on feeding tubes or other technological supports.

May 11: Two global studies tracking patients who lose their sense of smell 

  • Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia have created an online questionnaire in 28 languages to record how COVID-19 and other respiratory infections affect patients’ sense of smell. Participants pick household items from a list and rate the strength of their odour and taste over time. A neurobiologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel has developed a similar survey called the SmellTracker, which asks participants to report how pleasant and how intense items like peanut butter and vinegar smell.

May 11: Restrictions easing in Europe amid fears of a second wave in Asia

  • Children began returning to school in the Netherlands, beauty salons reopened in France, shoppers returned to some stores in Greece, and gyms reopened in Germany as European nations continued easing pandemic lockdowns. Leaders warned that restrictions could return, however, as South Korea delayed school openings and reinstated restrictions on nightclubs and bars after a spike in new infections.
  • The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Singapore jumped to more than 23,800 from 226 in mid-March after an outbreak in crowded dormitories housing foreign workers. Despite warnings from human rights activists that conditions in the dormitories made physical distancing impossible, Singapore did not move people to safer housing until infections escalated last month.
  • A month after lifting the lockdown in Wuhan, China reported a new cluster of five cases of COVID-19 in a residential compound among people previously classified as asymptomatic. The government is monitoring hundreds of asymptomatic cases in Wuhan and plans to increase testing, particularly in older, densely populated residential buildings. Seven Chinese provinces have reported new, locally transmitted cases in the last week.

May 8: Google data suggests Canadians maintaining physical distancing

  • Aggregate location data released by Google show Canadians still mostly stayed home between Mar. 19 and Apr. 30, compared to earlier this year. Across the country, retail visits were down about 47%, workplace visits dropped 57%, and transit use was down 65%. However, as the weather has improved, Canadians seem to be returning to parks and public spaces, with British Columbia and Saskatchewan reporting the biggest spikes in traffic (65% and 89%, respectively).

May 8: Ontario rejects regional reopening

  • Ontario has ruled out a region-by-region approach to easing pandemic restrictions, as has British Columbia. Infection rates in Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor-Essex, and the Peel and York regions are all five to six times higher than in other parts of the province. According to Premier Doug Ford, the province will reopen “as one unit.”

May 8: Warmer weather doesn’t slow COVID-19 spread

  • A global analysis published in CMAJ found social distancing measures such as closing schools slowed the spread of COVID-19, while warmer weather and higher humidity had negligible effects. The researchers studied the pandemic’s progression in 144 countries and found no evidence that those experiencing warmer weather in March had any advantage over countries with colder climates.

May 8: Study finds coronavirus in men’s semen

  • A small study of 38 patients treated for COVID-19 in China found that 16% had evidence of the virus in their semen. Nearly 9% were recovering, suggesting the virus may persist in the male reproductive system longer than the rest of the body. The authors concluded that more research is needed to determine if the virus can be transmitted sexually.

May 8: Fifth personal support worker in Ontario dies of COVID-19

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford expressed frustration over ongoing shortages of personal protective equipment for frontline workers after a union reported a fifth personal support worker had died from COVID-19. Ontario also reported nine new long-term care outbreaks, for a total of 234. The province, which has been struggling to meet its testing goals, needs to process 20,000 tests a day as it considers reopening, Ford said.

May 8: Montreal transit workers to hand out masks

  • Public transit workers in Montreal will hand out masks to commuters as schools and workplaces reopen May 25. The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) is asking people to stay home if they are sick and to maintain physical distancing on transit.

May 8: EU research commissioner expects a vaccine by the end of the year

  • European Union Research Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said she is “quite confident that by the end of the year we’ll have a vaccine,” referencing two German-based companies starting clinical trials of possible candidates. BioNTech, based in Mainz, has begun tests and expects to report first data in June, while CureVac in Tübingen will begin testing in June. French drug company Sanofi will start trials of two other vaccine candidates later this year, and researchers at Oxford University in the United Kingdom hope to complete phase III trials by September.

May 8: Brazilian death toll under scrutiny

  • Data from public notaries suggest that Brazilians are dying from COVID-19 at much higher rates than official counts, particularly in remote regions of the Amazon. Officially, more than 9,100 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil, but public notaries in Amazonas, the country’s largest state, registered another 999 deaths possibly linked to COVID-19.

May 8: Mexico City hospitals overwhelmed

May 7: Sweden’s chief epidemiologist horrified at country’s death toll

May 7: Federal-province deal will top up wages for essential workers

  • The federal government, provinces and territories reached a $4-billion deal to top up the wages of essential workers earning less than $2,500 a month. Each province or territory decides which workers receive higher wages, such as people working in long-term care homes, and some have already announced wage top-ups. Saskatchewan’s long-term care, daycare and shelter staff will receive an extra $400 per month for four months, Quebec is paying long-term care workers an extra $4 per hour and offering $24.28 per hour for new staff, and Nova Scotia announced a $2,000 bonus after four months for up to 43,000 healthcare workers including cleaning staff.

May 7: Ontario unveils plan to resume scheduled surgeries

  • Ontario’s Ministry of Heath says hospitals can begin planning the “gradual resumption” of scheduled surgeries and other procedures that have been postponed due to COVID-19. In order to resume scheduled procedures each hospital must have a stable number of COVID-19 cases, stable supplies of personal protective equipment and medications, adequate inpatient and intensive care bed, adequate human resources, and availability of post-acute care outside the hospital to support patients after discharge.

May 7: Researchers adapt dialysis for trial to treat COVID-19 patients

May 7: U.K. to review racial disparities in COVID-19 deaths

  • The United Kingdom is launching a review after the Office of National Statistics reported that black people in England and Wales were nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as white people, even after adjusting for age, location, and some measures of disadvantage and prior health. People from Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities had a 30-80% higher risk of dying.

May 7: Recovered patients in China test positive for COVID-19

  • Between 5% and 15% of Chinese patients who recovered from COVID-19 may have tested positive for the virus again, according to figures disclosed during a press conference held by China’s National Health Commission. Most of the patients who tested positive again have yet to show any symptoms and it’s unclear if the phenomenon is attributable to faulty testing.

May 6: Outbreak in Northern Saskatchewan concerning as two Indigenous elders die

  • A COVID-19 outbreak in the Dene village of La Loche in northern Saskatchewan has public health officials worried because of the vulnerability of Indigenous residents, says Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. Two elders living in a long-term care facility have died and the community is locked down to all but essential travel. Two other nearby First Nations are reporting cases. Health workers are going door to door to check for people with symptoms.

May 6: Hospitals grapple with outbreaks affecting dialysis, cancer patients

  • Dozens of people undergoing dialysis and cancer treatment at hospitals in Ontario and Quebec have fallen ill with COVID-19, challenging the healthcare institutions trying to protect patients. Thirty outpatient patients receiving dialysis at Montreal’s Sacré-Coeur Hospital have developed COVID-19 and nine have died. Twenty-five patients with cancer at the hospital also tested positive, five of whom died. In Ontario, four patients receiving dialysis at the Ottawa Hospital and 11 at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital have tested positive. Dialysis units appear to be particularly vulnerable because many outpatients live in long-term care where outbreaks are ongoing.

May 6: British Columbia eases lockdown restrictions

  • Two months after putting strict public health measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, British Columbia began to reopen its economy, easing lockdown restrictions on some summer sports activities, retail businesses and hair salons.

May 6: Alberta releases problematic app for contact tracing

  • Albertans have been slow to download a contact tracing app launched by the province to identify and notify people who had close contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19. Less than 3% of the province’s population have downloaded the app since it launched last week, which may not work properly when other applications are running.

May 6: Saskatchewan using expired N95 masks

May 6: Virologists dispute evidence of new strains of coronavirus

May 6: Obesity linked to more severe illness among COVID-19 patients

  • Preliminary data suggest that people with obesity may face increased risk of severe COVID-19, according to a review published in Nature Reviews Endocrinology. In one study of 4,103 patients with COVID-19 in New York City, morbid obesity was the second strongest predictor of hospitalization after older age.

May 6: Gaps in data on COVID-19 in Indigenous communities

  • A research fellow at the Yellowhead Institute, a First Nation-led think tank, says official reports of COVID-19 cases and deaths among Indigenous people are not matching up with community reports. According to Indigenous Services Canada, 161 people living on reserves have tested positive for COVID-19; two have died and 17 have been hospitalized. But that tally does not include people living off-reserve or in long-term care.

May 6: Coronavirus lockdown may contribute to global spike in TB

  • Globally, as many as 3 million people could develop tuberculosis by 2025 and 1.4 million could die as cases go undiagnosed and untreated during the coronavirus pandemic, according to modelling predictions commissioned by the Stop TB Partnership. The predictions were based on a three-month lockdown and 10-month period of gradual reopening.

May 6: Italy’s largest nursing home had 300 deaths

  • From January through April, 300 residents of Milan’s Pio Albergo Trivulzio nursing home died, prompting prosecutors and family members to gather evidence for potential criminal charges. The Trivulzio only received COVID-19 test kits in early April and was “left outside the priority flow” of personal protective equipment, says the facility’s lawyer.

May 5: Ontario premier blasts public health officials over testing delays

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford blamed testing delays on half of the province’s 34 regional medical officers, warning them to “start picking up your socks.” However, Ontario’s chief medical health officer said some areas are facing shortages of swabs. The number of daily tests conducted in Ontario has fallen to 12,961 from a high of 17 000 on May 1.

May 5: Ottawa provides $77 million to food processors for worker safety

  • The federal government announced $77 million for food processors to outfit workers with personal protective equipment and reconfigure plants to ensure physical distancing. The news comes after the reopening of the Cargill meat packing plant in Alberta, the site of Canada’s largest single outbreak of COVID-19. Workers have called for the plant to remain closed warning that safety issues that contributed to the outbreak have not been resolved.

May 5: Canada has a lower COVID-19 death rate than the United States

  • The United States has reported 30% more deaths per capita from COVID-19 than Canada. Some experts attributed Canada’s lower death rate to the country’s quick pandemic response, coordination across levels of government and public cooperation with physical distancing measures.

May 5: Quebec easing restrictions at seniors’ facilities

  • Residents of private seniors’ residences in Quebec may now take unaccompanied walks so long as they wear a mask and can meet with their families outdoors while maintaining physical distance, as the province eases restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. The changes do not apply to people living in long-term care homes or facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

May 5: Death toll at Nova Scotia seniors’ home rises to 35

  • Three more residents of the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax have died, bringing the facility’s total deaths to 35. The persistent Northwood outbreak is responsible for 85% of Nova Scotia’s 41 COVID-19 deaths, and is one of 11 long-term care facilities in the province experiencing outbreaks.

May 5: U.K. has highest death toll in Europe

  • More than 32,300 people in the United Kingdom have died after testing positive for COVID-19 as of May 2, exceeding Italy’s toll of 29,029. An additional 3,000 deaths that were not attributed to COVID-19 could have been caused by disruptions in health services because of the pandemic lockdown.

May 5: Central and Eastern Europe appear to fare better in pandemic than wealthier West

  • Central and Eastern European countries including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Greece have reported much lower infections and deaths per capita than countries in Western Europe. Slovakia, for example, recorded just 1,413 cases and 25 deaths, while neighboring Austria with less than double the population recorded more than 10 times as many infections and 20 times as many deaths. Lower life expectancy, population density, and testing rates in Eastern and Central European countries may all contribute to the difference. Most Eastern European countries also locked down early, some before they reported any COVID-19 deaths.

May 5: Pfizer begins vaccine trial in U.S.

  • Pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotech company BioNTech started human trials of a mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 in 360 volunteers in the United States. Some participants have already received the vaccine and Pfizer is preparing to scale up its manufacturing capacity. This is the third vaccine candidate, and the second based on mRNA technology, being tested in human trials in the United States.

May 5: Welsh researchers studying sewage to predict virus outbreaks

May 5: COVID-19 may have spread in France weeks before first official cases recorded

May 4: Canada pledges $850 million to global COVID-19 research

  • Meeting via videoconference, world leaders, organizations and banks agreed to contribute more than $11 billion to develop vaccines, treatment and testing kits for COVID-19. Canada pledged $850 million towards the international effort. The United States and Russia did not participate in the meeting, which was hosted by the European Union.
  • Any tools developed to fight the pandemic should be treated as “global public goods” and distributed equitably at affordable costs, said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres.

May 4: Canadian cases of COVID-19 surpass 60,000

May 4: Ontario meets testing targets, faces lawsuit over long-term care deaths

  • Ontario is now exceeding its target of conducting 16,000 tests a day, with priority being given to long-term care residents and staff, according to Premier Doug Ford. Three-quarters of the province’s 1,300 deaths related to COVID-19 have been linked to outbreaks in long-term care. Applications for class-action lawsuits have been filed against the operators of some facilities in Ontario and Quebec. One lawsuit filed by a Toronto law firm alleges that the Ontario government’s failures in overseeing facilities have resulted in avoidable illness and death during the pandemic.

May 4: CHEO opens virtual pediatric ER

  • The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario opened a virtual emergency room to provide families an alternative way to access care as fears about COVID-19 have led many to avoid hospitals. Parents can fill out a triage form to request one of 24 virtual appointments offered between 9am and 9pm every day.

May 4: Australia reports virus transmission low among school children

  • Australian researchers who traced the contacts of the only 18 children with COVID-19 at 15 schools that remained open during the pandemic’s peak reported that children may not be “super-spreaders.” According to preliminary data that has not yet been peer reviewed, only 2 of 735 students in close contact with those initial cases went on to develop COVID-19, and none of 128 staff in close contact with the students fell ill. Canadian health officials are reviewing the Australian data as Quebec prepares to reopen schools.

May 4:  European outbreaks ease as those in India and Russia worsen

  • France, Italy and Spain reported their lowest daily death tolls in weeks, with Italy reporting a two-month low of 174 deaths related to COVID-19. Millions of Italians returned to work as the country, mourning nearly 30,000 dead, emerged from some pandemic restrictions. Italians are now permitted to visit relatives, provided they wear a mask and maintain physical distancing.
  • New infections have been rising rapidly in India, which has reported a total 42,000 confirmed cases and nearly 1,400 deaths related to COVID-19. The country extended its lockdown by two weeks but will allow some workers, including those who are self-employed, to return to work.
  • Russia confirmed 10,000 new cases bringing the country’s total to 135,000 with nearly 1,300 deaths. The deaths of three frontline workers who mysteriously fell from hospital windows have raised questions about working conditions for medical professionals. In one case, an ambulance driver died after publicly posting, then retracting, criticism of Russia’s pandemic response.

May 1: Federal stockpile of PPE was inadequate

  • Despite recommendations for governments to stockpile personal protective equipment following the SARS outbreak in 2003, the Public Health Agency of Canada did not have a target for the level of supplies it should maintain and did not advise the provinces and territories about how much should be stockpiled. As of February, Canada’s emergency stockpile was inadequate to respond to COVID-19. Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the stockpile was “never meant” for a pandemic of this extent.

 

 

 

 

May 1: Official counts of cases, deaths may underestimate Canada’s outbreak

  • A study by researchers at Université de Montréal suggests that nearly half a million people in Ontario and Quebec have potentially had COVID-19, about 14 times the official case count. The researchers warned that governments may be greatly underestimating the scope of Canada’s outbreak because large numbers of people with mild symptoms or no symptoms are not being tested.
  • Health officials may also be missing some deaths related to COVID-19 in their count because of delays in the release of mortality data. In other countries, increases in overall deaths have outpaced the rise in deaths officially attributed to COVID-19, revealing gaps in reporting. In Canada, however, all-cause mortality data isn’t released for a year or more, making it difficult to assess the accuracy of the official death toll.

May 1: More provinces ease pandemic restrictions

  • Alberta is slowly reopening provincial parks and golf courses and will resume elective surgeries and other non-urgent medical services next week. Despite 908 cases of COVID-19 and one death among workers, and an outcry from a labour organization, the Cargill meat-processing plant will reopen on May 4.
  • With only three active cases of COVID-19, Prince Edward Island will reopen designated schools on May 11 for students who receive support from educational assistants and youth service workers. The service is intended to provide respite for parents. PEI is also allowing elective surgeries and other medical services and outdoor activities to resume, although physical distancing must be maintained.
  • Nova Scotia reopened parks, trails, community gardens and golf driving ranges, and allowed people to visit their cottages and resume sportfishing. Garden centres and nurseries were also reopened. Premier Stephen McNeil stressed the importance of outdoor activities but told people to maintain physical distancing and said that the reopening of beaches and golf courses will be contingent on public behaviour.

May 1: Blood pressure drugs do not increase COVID-19 risk

  • People who take ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers to treat high blood pressure are not at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and do not experience more severe forms of the illness, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study follows concerning reports from China that COVID-19 patients with hypertension and diabetes had an increased risk of respiratory failure. A recent commentary in CMAJ highlighted that those studies may have been subject to biases and unmeasured confounding and warned against stopping the medications.

May 1: Ramping up vaccine production requires key supplies

May 1: Children with COVID-19 may be as infectious as adults

  • German scientists studying COVID-19 say children’s viral load differs little from that of adults, meaning children may be just as infectious. Reopening schools and playgrounds is ill-advised, according to Christian Drosten, Germany’s leading coronavirus expert. He studied viral loads in 3,721 people, including 100 children.

May 1: How Vietnam contained the coronavirus

  • Early action, aggressive infection control and open communication helped Vietnam contain its coronavirus outbreak. Beginning Jan. 28, Vietnam imposed restrictions including mandatory face masks and international travel bans, while pursuing mass testing and contact tracing. By April 30, the country of more than 95 million had just 270 cases and no deaths.

Apr. 30: Canada may use digital tracking to trace contacts

  • The federal government is considering proposals for using digital tracking to trace contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that any decision on the matter must balance Canadians’ needs for privacy and security. Some provinces are considering launching voluntary digital tracing programs. Countries such as South Korea and Singapore have used digital technology to track people’s movements and slow the spread of the virus, but Canada’s chief public health officer cautioned that the technology remains unproven and will need to be refined.

Apr. 30: Early COVID-19 cases in Ontario and Quebec came from U.S., not China

Apr. 30: Nunavut reports first COVID-19 case

  • Nunavut’s first reported case of COVID-19 is in Pond Inlet, a remote community on the northern tip of Baffin Island, according to the territory’s chief public health officer. The territory’s rapid response team has been deployed to the community to assist with contact tracing. Nunavut is the last province or territory to report a case of COVID-19.

Apr. 30: Quebec hospitals struggling to contain COVID-19

  • Montreal’s Lakeshore Hospital is the sixth hospital in Quebec to report an outbreak of COVID-19. Fifteen patients admitted for other causes have fallen ill with COVID-19 at Lakeshore, despite isolation measures in the hospital. The Verdun, Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Santa-Cabrini and Sacré-Coeur hospitals in Montreal have also reported outbreaks, as has the long-term care wing at the Jeffrey Hale Hospital in Quebec City.

Apr. 30: United Kingdom “past the peak” of outbreak

  • The number of people infected by each person with COVID-19 has dropped below 1 in the United Kingdom. Admissions to hospital and ICU have fallen and deaths are increasing more slowly than in early April. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. is “past the peak” of its outbreak and will release a plan for easing restrictions next week.
  • Meanwhile, an analysis of National Health Service data revealed that a disproportionate number of black people have died from COVID-19 in London. Black people make up 13% of London’s population but account for 16% of the city’s COVID-19 deaths.

Apr. 30: Russia’s outbreak may be worse than it appears

  • Russia has officially reported some 100,000 cases of COVID-19 and at least 900 deaths – relatively low numbers compared with the experience of Western European nations. But doctors warned that tests are returning an unusually high number of false negatives and the outbreak is worse than official accounts suggest, driven partly by a lack of protective equipment.

Apr. 29: Mixed results from remdesivir studies

  • Preliminary results of a United States government-run study indicate that patients with COVID-19 who were treated with the antiviral remdesivir recovered four days more quickly than those who received usual care, according to the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the NIAID, expressed cautious optimism about the findings. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may issue an emergency use authorization for remdesivir to allow doctors to prescribe the drug as part of COVID-19 treatment.
  • However, a Chinese randomized controlled trial published in the Lancet, found that remdesivir did not improve recovery time compared to placebo in patients with more severe COVID-19. The treatment was stopped early in 18 patients because of adverse events.

Apr. 29: Ontario to boost pay for frontline workers and testing at childcare centres

  • Ontario expanded the list of frontline workers eligible to receive a temporary pay increase of $4/ hour to include paramedics, public health nurses, respiratory therapists and mental health and addictions workers. The province also expanded the list of workers eligible for childcare during the pandemic to include people working in retirement homes and pharmacies, among others.
  • Premier Doug Ford said Ontario will increase testing at childcare centres for the children of essential workers after four staff at a Toronto facility tested positive for COVID-19. The province reported fewer than 400 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since April 7, but Ford said he’s not yet ready to “roll the dice” by reopening the economy.

Apr. 29: Manitoba begins phased reopening May 4

  • Elective surgeries, diagnostic procedures and medical services can resume in Manitoba beginning May 4, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced. A variety of other businesses and venues may also resume operations under strict controls, including retail businesses, restaurants with patios and walk-up services, hair salons, museums, galleries, libraries, seasonal day camps, outdoor recreation and campgrounds. Public gatherings including weddings and funerals will be limited to a maximum of 10 people.
  • Manitoba continues to report no new cases of COVID-19 and 209 of 272 people who have tested positive are now recovered.

Apr. 29: Debate over Quebec’s decision to reopen schools

Apr. 29: U.K. death toll spikes to more than 26,000 after community deaths counted

  • The official toll from COVID-19 in the United Kingdom rose to 26,000 after officials added the number of people who died in the community, including long-term care homes. As many as 70% of deaths related to COVID-19 in the U.K. have been linked to care homes and other community settings. The U.K.’s Foreign Secretary, Domenic Raab, acknowledged “a distribution issue” that prevented early, wide-scale testing of staff and residents in care homes.

Apr. 29: Men twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as women: study

  • A study based on three sets of data from China found that men are 2.4 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than women. The study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, theorizes that higher levels of the protein receptor ACE2 in men might play a role in the difference.

Apr. 28: Pandemic measures working but still necessary

  • The number of new cases of COVID-19 in Canada is now doubling every 16 days instead of every 3, but strict physical distancing is still required, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “We are in the middle of the most serious public health emergency Canada has ever seen, and if we lift measures too quickly, we could lose the progress we’ve made,” he said.
  • Canada has reported more than 2,700 deaths related to COVID-19 and more than 49,000 people have tested positive for the illness. According to updated federal modelling predictions, Canada’s COVID-19 death toll could increase to 3,883 by May 5.

Apr. 28: Infectious disease experts warn Canada is not ready to reopen its economy

Apr. 28: Manitoba expands testing to anyone with symptoms

Apr. 28: Parents, doctors warned to check for “COVID toes” in children

  • The Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program is warning that bluish-red and purple lesions resembling frostbite on children’s toes and fingers could be a sign of COVID-19. There is no treatment for the lesions, but children may need to be tested and isolated to prevent transmission to other family members or the community.

Apr. 28: Germany’s infection rate edges up as economy reopens

  • Germany’s COVID-19 infection rate has edged up to 1.0 from 0.7 earlier this month, prompting one infectious disease expert to warn people to stay home despite an easing of pandemic restrictions. Last week, Germany began slowly reopening schools and some businesses.

Apr. 28: Brazil may be next coronavirus hot spot

  • Scientists believe more than a million people in Brazil likely have COVID-19. Many are dying at home and officials in four major cities warn that their hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. The country’s president has refused to enact restrictions that have helped to slow the spread of the virus in other countries, insisting COVID-19 is just a “little flu.”

Apr. 27:  Crisis hotlines report decline in volunteers despite surge in calls

  • Crisis Services Canada, which runs the only national suicide-specific hotline, has received 30% to 50% more calls since the pandemic began. But donations and volunteer support have dropped among the 100 community distress centres answering the calls. Crisis Services Canada has asked the federal government for $15 million in emergency funding so the organizations can keep operating.

Apr. 27:  CDC expands list of COVID-19 symptoms

Apr. 27: Ontario releases plan for phased reopening

  • Ontario released a three-stage plan to reopen the economy, but will only do so once there is a consistent decline in new cases of COVID-19 for two to four weeks. Ontario Premier Doug Ford did not attach any dates to the plan. In the first phase, the province will reopen some outdoor spaces and allow for larger gatherings for some events like funerals, and hospitals will begin to offer some non-urgent surgeries and services. Physical distancing will be maintained in all three phases until a vaccine becomes available.
  • The province reported another 57 deaths related to COVID-19, the highest death toll in a single day since the pandemic began. In total, nearly 900 people have died from COVID-19 in Ontario, including 671 long-term care residents.

Apr. 27: Schools to reopen in Quebec in May

– Quebec elementary schools outside of Montreal will reopen on May 11 and primary students in Montreal will return to school on May 19. High schools, post-secondary colleges and universities will remain closed until late August. “Life must go on,” said Premier François Legault, citing “serious, long-term risks” to children if schools don’t reopen. However, attendance will not be mandatory.

Apr. 27: UK warns of serious illness in children potentially linked to coronavirus

  • More than 12 children have fallen ill in the United Kingdom with a toxic shock-like illness apparently linked to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Most of these children have Kawasaki disease and some have tested positive for COVID-19. The National Health Service advised doctors to urgently refer to hospital children presenting with a sore stomach and heart problems.

Apr. 26: Global COVID-19 deaths could be much higher than official tallies

  • An analysis of mortality statistics in 14 countries suggests that the actual death toll related to COVID-19 may be almost 60% higher than official counts, according to the Financial Times. In March and April, there were 122,000 more deaths than historical averages in the European and Scandinavian countries analyzed, yet the countries officially counted only 77,000 deaths related to COVID-19 during that period.

Apr. 24:  New Brunswick slowly reopening 

  • With no deaths and no new cases of COVID-19 reported for six days, New Brunswick is gradually reopening. Effective immediately, households can spend time with one other household, parks and beaches are open, practical programs that have hands-on requirements can operate under strict controls, and faith groups can hold outdoor services. Premier Blaine Higgs reminded people to maintain physical distance from others and wear masks in public.

Apr. 24: Virus creates “two separate worlds” in Quebec

  • Describing the creation of “two separate worlds” in Quebec, one inside long-term care and one outside, Premier François Legault called for more workers to close gaps in the healthcare system. Quebec reported another 97 deaths, bringing the province’s overall toll to 1,340. Eighty percent of deaths related to COVID-19 in the province have been linked to outbreaks in long-term care.

Apr. 24:  One in five NYC residents infected

  • Preliminary results from New York’s first antibody study indicate that 21% New York City residents – an estimated 2.7 million people – have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 and recovered. That number is more than 10 times the official count of confirmed cases, said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Apr. 24: Wealthy countries outbidding African nations for critical supplies

Apr. 24: Military deployed to Ontario long term care homes

  • Members of the Canadian military are backing up staff at five institutions in Ontario with outbreaks of COVID-19. In total, 573 people have died in connection with outbreaks in long-term care facilities, and 131 facilities are currently experiencing outbreaks. Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford is preparing to announce a plan next week to reopen the province’s economy.

Apr. 23: Outbreaks at poultry plants spike BC’s caseload

  • Two poultry processing plants in British Columbia are experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19 after employees came to work while ill, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. There have been 94 deaths in British Columbia, most linked to long-term care facilities, and 1,824 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Apr. 24: Concern over link between COVID-19 hospitalizations and hypertension  

  • Data showing that 72% of seniors hospitalized with COVID-19 also had hypertension sparked debate about medications used to treat high blood pressure. Some researchers and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ leading infectious disease expert, are concerned that ACE inhibitors and other hypertension drugs may accelerate the virus’ progression, but stopping the medications also poses risks. The National Institutes of Health in the U.S. is seeking proposals for studies into the issue.

Apr. 23: Ottawa announces $1.1-billion COVID-19 research strategy

  • As part of a scientific strategy to fight COVID-19, the federal government will invest $115 million in vaccine and treatment research, $662 million for clinical trials in Canada, and $350 million for expanded testing and modelling. A new immunity task force focusing on serology testing will work to determine how many people in Canada have had COVID-19, whether they have immunity and how long that immunity might last. Dr. David Naylor, former chair of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, will sit on the new task force.

Apr. 23: Saskatchewan to begin phased reopening May 4

  • Saskatchewan plans to lift some pandemic restrictions in five phases, beginning May 4. In the first phase, the province will allow some outdoor activities and reopen dentistry, optometry, physical therapy, podiatry, and occupational therapy services. Daily case numbers will dictate the province’s future response, said Premier Scott Moe.

Apr. 23: Iran hopes downturn in cases means peak has passed

  • A reduction in the number of daily COVID-19 cases recorded in Iran has raised hopes that the country’s outbreak has peaked. A reported 5,500 people have died, but the state-run news agency says there has been a 30% reduction in Iran’s death toll and a 53% reduction in new cases over the past 18 days.

Apr. 23: Nearly 90% of COVID-19 patients on ventilators in New York City died

  • A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that examined the outcomes for more than 2,600 patients admitted to 12 hospitals in New York City and Long Island found that among the 12% of patients who needed mechanical ventilation, 88% died. Men had a higher mortality rate than women and only 3% of ventilated patients who were over age 65 survived.

Apr. 23: Coronavirus likely circulated in U.S. long before first cases detected

  • In early February, almost a month before the first cases of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were confirmed in the United States, thousands of cases were likely spreading undetected in five major cities, according to Northwestern University researchers’ modelling data. They estimate that there may have been closer to 28,000 cases in the United States by March 1, when only 23 cases had been confirmed officially.

Apr. 23: Global public health emergency turning into human rights crisis: UN

  • The United Nations is warning nations to keep their emergency measures time-limited and proportionate, cautioning the pandemic is resulting in a human rights crisis as some governments over-reach. A new report on COVID-19 and human rights singles out China, India, Hungary, Turkey and South Africa for disproportionate actions, but cites the rise of racism and xenophobia, online surveillance, deportation of refugees and migrants, and curtailing of freedom of movement around the world.

Apr. 22: Early warning system needed update when COVID-19 broke out

  • Canada’s Global Public Health Intelligence Network, which Canada and the World Health Organization rely on for media monitoring for reports of infectious disease outbreaks, was undergoing an overdue technology upgrade when COVID-19 first began spreading in China. As of last fall, an algorithm crucial to the network’s ability to sort through as many as 7,000 online articles per day needed improvement and the network was still waiting on an upgrade to include scanning of social media feeds.

Apr. 22: Quebec parents worried for children’s mental health

  • Fifty-six percent of Quebec parents say their children’s mental health has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic, according to a survey of 1,408 people conducted by the Jasmin Roy Sophie Desmarais Foundation. Sixty-seven percent of parents reported feeling anxious about their children returning to school in the coming weeks. The survey also found that 83% of adults felt worried generally, 77% felt sad and 71% reported having trouble sleeping.

Apr. 22: Toronto Public Health will gather COVID-19 data by race

Apr. 22: UK death toll may be double official count

  • As many as 41,000 people may have died from COVID-19 in the United Kingdom – more than double the official figure of 17,337 – according to a Financial Times analysis. The official death toll only counts people who died in hospital after testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, but trends in excess deaths from all causes across the United Kingdom suggest the true toll is likely far higher.

Apr. 22: Developing AI to diagnose COVID-19

  • Radiologists at Vancouver General Hospital and researchers at the University of British Columbia are leading an international project to develop artificial intelligence to predict the presence, severity and complications of COVID-19 from CT scans. Researchers will collect thousands of CT scans from patients around the world to create an open source AI model to diagnose COVID-19 and flag patients who develop permanent lung damage or require intensive care.

Apr. 22: Australia and New Zealand easing some lockdown measures

  • Australia will restart elective surgeries, dental appointments and fertility procedures starting next week and will start reopening schools in May, as COVID-19 infection rates have fallen below 0.5% over the past few days, according to the Financial Times.
  • New Zealand will ease some restrictions on April 27, reopening elementary and middle schools, beaches, some industries such as construction and forestry, and restaurant takeout services. Like Australia, the country’s infection rate has dropped below 0.5%.

Apr. 21: Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 called into question

  • A preprint study of 368 veterans in the United States hospitalized with COVID-19 found that those treated with hydroxychloroquine were just as likely to need ventilation and more likely to die than those who did not receive the drug. According to the study authors, “these findings highlight the importance of waiting for the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies.”

Apr. 21:  Federal support for charities and businesses

  • National charities including the Canadian Red Cross and the United Way will receive $350 million from the federal government to disperse to community groups that serve seniors, people who are homeless and other vulnerable Canadians. Charities are reporting increasing demand for their services during the pandemic, even as donations and numbers of volunteers have declined.
  • Businesses, non-profit organizations and charities can begin applying for a 75% wage subsidy to avert job losses on April 27. The Canada Revenue Agency launched an online calculator that organizations can use to predict how much they could receive.

Apr. 21: Provinces responsible for ramping up testing, say feds

Apr. 21: Quebec medical regulators investigating long-term care

  • Spurred by deaths and the apparent abandonment of residents at the Maison Herron long-term care home during the pandemic, the Collège des médecins du Québec, l’Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec and l’Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers auxiliaires du Québec will investigate the care members provided in these institutions.
  • Some 850 of 1,041 deaths in Quebec related to COVID-19 have occurred in residents of long-term care facilities. According to Premier François Legault, there are 80 facilities in the province where the spread of the virus is not under control.

Apr. 21: Pediatricians collecting data on COVID-19 in kids

  • The Canadian Paediatric Society and the Public Health Agency of Canada launched a study to assess the impact of COVID-19 on children. Some 2,800 pediatricians involved in the study will report cases of COVID-19 among children with pre-existing medical conditions, as well as cases requiring hospitalization.

Apr. 21: Scientists concerned about quality of COVID-19 research

  • The hunger for information about COVID-19 is encouraging the publication of research findings without peer review, making results less reliable, some researchers fear. More than 1,600 papers were published on COVID-19 last week alone, including many preprints that have not undergone peer review.

Apr. 21: Some U.S. governors, mayors clash over reopening states

  • The governors of South Carolina and Georgia are easing pandemic restrictions and reopening their states this week, despite those states not meeting the national guideline of a two-week decline in new cases. Concerned mayors are asking their residents to stay home anyway and are seeking exemptions to keep non-essential businesses closed.
  • According to two new reports from experts from the Rockefeller Foundation and Harvard University, the United States needs to be able to perform millions of tests for COVID-19 each week before restrictions can be lifted safely.

Apr. 21: Pandemic may be eroding anti-vaccination sentiment

  • The percentage of people who would reject a coronavirus vaccine in the United Kingdom dropped from 7% in mid-March to 5% in April, according to polling. Meanwhile, a survey conducted in France, where an estimated 1 in 3 people do not view vaccines as safe, found that fewer than 1 in 5 respondents would refuse a vaccine for COVID-19.

Apr. 20: Canada’s Parliament to resume regular sittings

  • Parliament is set to resume after the federal Liberals struck a deal with the New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois that will see a small number of MPs meet virtually twice a week and in-person once. The Conservatives opposed the plan, insisting that a reduced House should meet in-person three times a week, despite public health concerns.

Apr. 20: Community cases appear to have peaked in Ontario

  • The spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus appears to have peaked earlier than expected in the broader community in Ontario, but cases and deaths in long-term care facilities are still rising, according to public health officials. Updated modelling predicts fewer than 20,000 cases in this wave of the outbreak, however, Premier Doug Ford cautioned there could be more waves coming.

Apr. 20: With no deaths, New Brunswick optimistic

  • New Brunswick’s health care system is on track to cope with a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases, according to the province’s new modelling predictions. So far, none of the province’s 118 confirmed cases have died.

Apr. 20: Global second wave likely

  • Singapore, China and Germany have seen resurgences in infections as they’ve relaxed restrictions on their populations, raising concerns about the potential for a global second wave of the pandemic.

Apr. 20: Asymptomatic cases point to wider spread

  • A growing number of studies tallying asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 suggest official case counts substantially underestimate the spread of the virus. The head of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a quarter of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 might not have symptoms.

Apr. 20: New York to begin antibody testing

  • New York will begin testing people for antibodies this week to determine what proportion of its population may be immune to COVID-19, before deciding whether to reopen its economy. The blood antibody testing of a sample of New Yorker residents will be the largest study of its kind done of any population in the United States, according to state Governor Andrew Cuomo. At least 14,347 people have died from COVID-19 in the state.

Apr. 20: Rise in domestic violence linked to lockdown

  • Domestic violence hotlines in Latin America have seen a surge in calls and texts for help as governments have imposed lockdown orders due to COVID-19. Some aid organizations have closed their doors, meaning there are fewer places for people to go to escape abuse.

Apr. 17: Africa could see 300,000 deaths this year

  • The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa predicts that even with intense social distancing, Africa could see 300,000 deaths related to COVID-19 this year. With no public health interventions, some 3.3 million people could die. Under the best-case scenario, $44 billion would be needed to fund testing, personal protective equipment and treatment across the continent; in the worst case, $446 billion will be needed to shore up fragile and underfunded health systems.

Apr. 17: China revises Wuhan’s death toll

  • China raised the official death toll in Wuhan by 50%, attributing an additional 1,290 deaths to COVID-19 and bringing country’s overall toll to 4,632. According to health officials, the new figures include deaths that occurred outside of hospitals, and those that medical institutions missed or were late in reporting.

Apr. 17: Ottawa deploying Armed Forces to Quebec

  • The federal government is sending 125 members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have medical training to Quebec to assist with the response to COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Apr. 17: Ontario changes how it reports testing

  • Ontario reported a single-day high in fatalities and cases of COVID-19, logging an additional 55 deaths and 564 cases. The increase in cases may reflect increased testing, however, public health officials in the province have changed the way they are counting tests. Previously, Ontario counted how many people were being tested each day, but now it is counting the number of samples processed, making it difficult to tell whether more people are being tested.

Apr. 17: Drop in emergency visits for conditions unrelated to COVID-19

  • Emergency physicians raised concerns about the declining numbers of patients they’re seeing for urgent conditions unrelated to COVID-19, including stroke, overdoses, domestic violence and sexual assault. They believe people are delaying seeking care over fears of exposure to the coronavirus.

Apr. 17: Ecuador sees surge in deaths in April

  • Although Ecuador’s official death toll due to COVID-19 is 403, that is likely an undercount, as one province that normally sees a total 2,000 deaths per month has reported 14,561 deaths since the beginning of March. Footage obtained by the BBC showed that some residents have been storing bodies in their homes for days. In Guayaquil, the nation’s largest city, authorities have removed some 771 bodies from houses and distributed thousands of cardboard coffins.

Apr. 17: Oxford vaccine trial to report on efficacy by fall

  • Researchers at the University of Oxford have recruited 500 volunteers from the ages of 18 to 55 to participate in various stages of randomized controlled trials of a potential SARS-CoV-2 vaccine; efficacy results are expected by September. Currently, there are three other vaccine candidates undergoing human testing, and 70 in development around the world.

Apr. 16: Sneak peek at Remdesivir trial boosts Gilead stock

  • The value of Gilead Sciences’ stock spiked after a leaked video showed doctors discussing favourable results from a clinical trial of Remdesivir among 125 people with COVID-19 at a Chicago hospital. According to STAT, the online publication that obtained the footage, 113 of participants had severe disease, two died, and most were discharged in six days. However, experts cautioned against drawing any conclusions from the leaked information, given that the trial didn’t include a placebo group and the full results have not been released.

Apr. 16: Canada not seeing expected surge in hospitalizations

  • A slow, steady rise in hospitalizations and intensive care admissions may indicate that physical distancing efforts are working, according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam. She expressed “cautious optimism,” noting that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada is now doubling every 10 days, compared to every three days in late March.
  • However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cautioned that physical distancing restrictions will not be relaxed until measures are in place for “massive” testing and contact tracing, in addition to clear evidence of a decline in cases.

Apr. 16: Physicians, volunteers answer Quebec’s call for help in long-term care

  • Some 2,000 Quebec specialists have responded to Premier François Legault’s appeal for physicians to assist with nursing in understaffed long-term care facilities.
  • Quebec’s health network will also authorize some residents’ family members who do not test positive for COVID-19 to assist with care-giving. Prior to the pandemic, about 10% of residents received help with feeding and bathing from family caregivers.
  • The federal government is finalizing a plan to mobilize the military, the Canadian Red Cross and specialized volunteers to provide additional support to long-term care facilities in Quebec.

Apr. 16: British Columbians shouldn’t avoid medical care

Apr. 16: Recovered patients testing positive in South Korea

Apr. 16: Asthma, COPD underrepresented in COVID-19 deaths

  • Health officials in New York said asthma was an underlying medical condition in 5% of people who have died COVID-19, a smaller percentage than expected given the prevalence of asthma in the population. A commentary in the Lancet also noted the under-representation of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among the comorbidities reported for patients with COVID-19, potentially reflecting under-diagnosis among these patients or the possibility that therapies for chronic respiratory disease or the conditions themselves provide some protection.

Apr. 15: United States to halt funding to WHO

  • World leaders condemned United States President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend funding to the World Health Organization. The United States is the organization’s biggest donor and contributed roughly 15% of WHO’s budget in 2019. Trump, who has faced increasing criticism over his administration’s slow response to the coronavirus pandemic, accused the WHO of failing to investigate early reports about the spread of the virus that contradicted official accounts from Beijing. The decision to halt funding comes as WHO has been appealing for an additional $1 billion to help coordinate the pandemic response.

Apr. 15: Emergency benefits expanded

  • Seasonal, part-time and contract workers can now apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit of $2000 per month. The federal government will also top up the wages of essential workers, including those who care for older adults, if they earn less than $2500 a month. Details of the wage boost are being finalized.

Apr. 15: Quebec long-term care in crisis

  • Forty-one Quebec long-term care homes are in a “critical situation” due to outbreaks of COVID-19 and staffing shortages, according to the province’s ministry of health. Quebec released a list of 142 facilities with outbreaks, including 25 where a quarter or more of the residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19. According to Premier Francois Legault, the province needs to find 2,000 healthcare workers to make up for staffing shortages in long-term care. He appealed to specialist physicians to volunteer to do work normally performed by nurses and other staff.

Apr. 15: Ontario steps up support for long-term care

  • Ontario will focus its infection-control efforts on long-term care facilities and increase testing at these “hot-spots,” said Premier Doug Ford. All symptomatic staff and residents will now be screened, and staff are no longer allowed to work in more than one home. The province will also use emergency funding to hire more staff and will provide personal protective equipment to any long-term care facility that requests it within 24 hours.

Apr. 15: Saskatchewan considers re-opening economy

  • Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he could present a plan next week to reopen segments of the economy, but national polling suggests Canadians want substantial improvements in COVID-19 caseloads before restrictions are eased anywhere.

Apr. 15: China delayed revealing existence of novel virus for six days

  • Chinese leaders knew they faced a likely pandemic but delayed telling their own citizens and the world for six critical days from Jan. 14 to Jan. 20, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press. The delay allowed the SARS-CoV-2 virus to spread at a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people and globally, as millions travelled for Lunar New Year celebrations.
  • Chinese researchers must now also get permission from the government before publishing or publicizing research results related to the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Apr. 15: Pandemic threatens Africa’s food supply

  • Lockdowns to stop the pandemic’s spread in at least 33 African countries are threatening the delivery of food aid and stopping farmers from getting food to markets. This indirect effect of COVID-19 could result in a major food security crisis that jeopardizes the fight against poverty, international experts warn.

Apr. 14: Emergency federal aid

  • Nearly 5.4 million Canadians are receiving emergency aid to replace lost income due to the pandemic. And over the weekend, Parliament approved a $73 billion wage subsidy program to support businesses to keep employees on the payroll. The bill authorizes the government to pay companies 75% of the first $58,700 earned by each employee, up to $874 per week for up to 12 weeks retroactive to March 15.
  • Northern communities will get an additional $130 million to shore up supply chains and social services. The funds include $25 million to extend basic food subsidies through Nutrition North and $17.3 million to support northern airlines.

Apr. 14:  Tougher rules for returning travellers

  • Anyone returning to Canada from abroad without a “credible” quarantine plan will be required to quarantine in a hotel. A plan will be considered inadequate, for example, if a traveller doesn’t have a set destination or intends to stay with elderly relatives or someone with a pre-existing condition.

Apr. 14: Quebec redefines “essential” services

  • Quebec’s government added new industries to its list of essential services and businesses that can remain open during the provinces lockdown. Some residential construction, mines, auto mechanics, and gardening centres will be allowed to reopen this week.

Apr. 14:  Some doctors isolating to protect their families

  • A Nova Scotia emergency physician who has moved out of his home to protect his family from COVID-19 is among many physicians across the country who are living apart from their partners and children during the pandemic. Some short-term rental companies are offering discounts or waiving fees for health care workers.

Apr. 14: Measles immunizations delayed

  • UNICEF warned of a potential resurgence of measles as some 117 million children may not get immunized on time due to COVID-19. Twenty-four countries, including several already dealing with large measles outbreaks, have delayed immunization campaigns because of the pandemic.

Apr. 14: Drug companies join forces to develop vaccine

Apr. 14: China begins human trials of coronavirus vaccines

Apr. 13: Long-term care deaths, PPE shortages

  • Nearly half of all deaths related to COVID-19 in Canada have been linked to long-term care facilities, according to chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam. The Public Health Agency of Canada released guidelines to prevent further spread in long-term care facilities, including recommendations to restrict visitors and requiring staff and others to wear masks.
  • The association representing seniors’ care workers in British Columbia said 70% of nearly 500 workers it surveyed expect to run out of masks by the end of the week.

Apr. 13: Alberta specialists buying their own PPE

  • According to Premier Jason Kenny, Alberta has enough ventilators and personal protective equipment to make it through the pandemic and will send surplus supplies to British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. However, some specialists in Alberta said they have been overlooked by the government and have had to procure supplies for themselves from the open market.

Apr. 9:  Canadian officials project up to 22,000 deaths from COVID-19

  • Federal health officials released models projecting there could be 500 to 700 deaths related to COVID-19 across Canada by mid-April, and 11,000 to 22,000 deaths by the time the pandemic has run its course. Physical distancing measures may remain in place for months. “This will be the new normal until a vaccine is developed,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Physical distancing is buying time and reducing strain on the health care system, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. “We can’t prevent every death, but we must prevent every death that we can.”

Apr. 9: Volunteers collect personal protective equipment

  • A group of 75 private-sector volunteers in Newfoundland and Labrador collected and donated 1.5 million pieces of personal protective equipment for use by frontline healthcare workers. Taskforce NL is urging the public to register their unused supplies for donation via a website.

Apr. 9: B.C. cracks down on returning travellers

  • All British Columbians returning home from abroad will now have to submit detailed quarantine plans or be taken to a federal quarantine site. The plans must describe how they will self-quarantine, their route home from the airport, how they will get groceries and other supplies, and plans for child and pet care.

Apr. 9: Ontario widens testing criteria

  • Ontario broadened its criteria for testing people with symptoms of COVID-19 to include all hospital inpatients and long-term care residents, healthcare workers and caregivers, first responders, and residents of remote or Indigenous communities.
  • Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams also directed that all staff and essential visitors to long-term care homes must wear personal protective equipment for the entirety of their shift or visit, regardless of whether the home is experiencing an outbreak.

Apr. 9: Researchers track genetic mutations of SARS-CoV-2

  • Scientists from the United Kingdom and Germany have published a paper tracking the mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as it moved around the world. Their analysis of the first 160 virus genomes sequenced from COVID-19 patients found three distinct variants. They also found their genetic networking technique accurately traced established infection routes between known cases, suggesting the technique may be useful in predicting where future hotspots will emerge.

Apr. 9: Team identifies six drugs that could fight COVID-19

  • Using high throughput screening, an international research team led by ShanghaiTech University tested more than 10,000 approved drugs and found six that appear potentially effective in blocking the main enzyme that allows the SARS-COv-2 virus to replicate in the body. They published their paper in Nature.

Apr. 9: European nations consider easing of physical distancing

  • Italy and Spain’s leaders are considering the gradual lifting of some physical distancing measures as new deaths have plateaued. Spanish officials say that country will progressively return to “normal life” from April 26. Denmark and Norway have also suggested they will begin easing restrictions later this month.
  • Meanwhile, the Czech Republic and Austria will reopen some businesses in the next week.

Apr. 8: Physical distancing measures likely to last for months

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians can expect to stay home with businesses closed for months, rather than weeks. Any return to work will be gradual once the pandemic appears to have peaked, to avoid further spikes in infection and deaths, Trudeau said.

Apr. 8: Twenty-three people in federal quarantine facilities

Apr. 8: Enforcement issues delayed quarantine order

  • Documents shared with the parliamentary health committee showed that the federal government agreed not to order the quarantine of travelers returning from China in February because, at the time, public health officials warned that they lacked the resources to enforce a mandatory quarantine. A month later, the federal government’s emergency order required all returning travelers to quarantine. In response to questions about the decision, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government “did as best we could.”

Apr. 8: Canadian-led team investigates atypical COVID-19 symptoms

  • A Canadian neurologist is leading a team of doctors with the United States-based Neurocritical Care Society to investigate neurological symptoms linked with COVID-19, including a loss of sense of smell, disorientation and seizures. It’s unclear how the virus affects the neurological system, either directly or as a result of low oxygen levels in the blood.

Apr. 8: Close to 13,000 U.S. deaths but modelling predicts fewer cases than expected 

  • The United States is mid-way through a deadly week, with almost 13,000 COVID-19 fatalities reported. If social distancing measures stay in place, however, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests there will be 60,000 deaths, rather than its original projection of 82,000.

Apr. 8: Coronavirus spreading across Africa, but testing limited

Apr. 7: Quebec and Alberta release modelling predictions

  • Quebec released projections of the potential impact of COVID-19, suggesting there will be between 1,263 and 8,860 deaths in the province by April 30. So far, actual fatalities in the province are tracking with best-case estimates.
  • Meanwhile, Alberta officials predicted the province will probably see between 400 and 3,100 deaths related to COVID-19 by the end of the summer, and the outbreak will likely peak in mid-May. In the worst-case, between 500 and 6,600 people will die and the outbreak will peak in the beginning of May. In either case, restrictions on public life probably won’t be relaxed until the end of May at the earliest.

Apr. 7: Progress on securing critical supplies

  • The federal government is working with a Nobel-winning astrophysicist and a group of Canadian companiesto produce up to 30,000 ventilators. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada currently has 5,000 ventilators. He did not say when the additional ventilators will be ready.
  • American manufacturer 3M struck a deal with the United States to continue exporting US-made N95 respirators to Canada. It remains unclear what the deal means for the export of other critically needed equipment.
  • Public Services Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada received eight million surgical masks from China and roughly 20,000 litres of hand sanitizer. More deliveries are due this week.

Apr. 7: Provinces turn to rapid testing to expand diagnostic capacity 

  • Facing criticism over testing backlogs, some provinces are turning to rapid testing kits that have not yet been approved by Health Canada. Despite concerns about the reliability of rapid testing, Ontario has ordered over 900,000 rapid test kits from Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience Inc., while Alberta Health Services has ordered 250 handheld DNA analyzers and 100,000 test kits. The first shipments are expected to arrive next month.
  • The number of tests Ontario has completed daily has dropped steadily over the past week, from 6,200 tests on April 1 to just 2,568 on April 7. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said Ontario has the lab capacity to run 13,000 tests per day, but COVID-19 assessment centres are only submitting about 3,500 tests daily.

Apr. 7: Nova Scotia reports first death, ramps up testing

  • Nova Scotia reported the first COVID-19 death in the Maritimes, a woman in her 70s with underlying medical conditions. The province’s microbiology lab is now operating 24 hours a day and has tested almost 11,000 people, with 310 positive test results.

Apr. 7: Health workers account for 1 in 10 Ontario cases

  • More than 500 health workers in Ontario have tested positive for COVID-19, accounting for about 11% of all confirmed cases in the province. That’s up from 229 confirmed cases, or 9.6% of the province’s total cases, last week.

Apr. 7: Small plasma studies show benefit for severely ill patients

  • Two Chinese studies which were not randomized and studied 5 and 10 patients reported improvements in severely ill patients who received transfusions of plasma containing antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients. However, the researchers cautioned that large randomized trials are needed to confirm the findings. Canadian researchers are now planning a trial which will involve 1,000 patients and at least 40 hospitals.

Apr. 7: McGill researchers expand hydroxychloroquine trial

  • Researchers at the McGill University Health Centre are expanding a trial of hydroxychloroquine versus placebo to see if the drug prevents people from developing symptoms of COVID-19 or decreases related complications and deaths. The trial, which is taking place in Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and the United States, previously only included healthcare professionals exposed to the virus, but will now include people with confirmed COVID-19 whose symptoms started in the past three or four days and people with recent high-risk exposure to confirmed cases who do not yet have symptoms.

Apr. 7: Air pollution linked to higher rates of COVID-19 deaths

  • A study from Harvard University found that even a single-unit increase in particle pollution levels in American cities in the years before the pandemic was associated with a 15% increase in COVID-19 death rates. The study accounted for a range of other factors that might have influenced death rates, including poverty levels, smoking, obesity, the availability of hospital beds and testing capacity for COVID-19. The results are consistent with previous research that found exposure to air pollution dramatically increased the risk of death from SARS during the 2003 outbreak.

Apr. 7: US cities report racial disparities in COVID-19 deaths

  • Black Americans account for more than 70% of deaths related to COVID-19 in Chicago, despite making up only 30% of the population. The disparity is reflected across the state and in other large cities in the United States. Officials attributed the difference to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness and poverty among black populations making them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Apr. 7: Denmark plans to lift lockdown

  • Denmark is preparing to re-open schools and daycares on April 15 as the country’s hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 stabilize. The Scandinavian country was one of the first nations outside China to institute a lockdown and has so far reported under 200 deaths.

Apr. 7: China reports first day with no deaths from COVID-19 since January

  • Despite continuing outbreaks of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China reported no deaths due to the SARS-COv-2 virus for the first time since January. China is now shifting the focus of its response to identifying asymptomatic cases.

Apr. 6: Canadians advised to wear masks to stop asymptomatic spread

  • Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer advised Canadians to wear “non-medical” masks to reduce the risk that asymptomatic people will spread SARS-CoV-2. The change in advice comes amid increasing evidence of transmission by people unaware they have the virus, said Dr. Theresa Tam. Physical distancing and handwashing are still critical to reduce transmission, she cautioned.
  • New research published in Nature indicated that surgical masks may help to reduce emission of coronavirus into the environment via respiratory droplets and aerosols.

Apr. 6: COVID-19 spreads to remote First Nations

Apr. 6: Ontario could run out of protective equipment in a week

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province could run out of personal protective equipment for frontline health care workers by April 13. He accused the United States of seizing, and then releasing, a shipment of 500,000 N-95 masks bound for Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his cabinet is having “productive” discussions with senior U.S. officials to resolve equipment seizures.

Apr. 6: Some Ontario hospitals ban cross-border work by employees

  • Hospitals in Windsor and Sault St. Marie have asked employees who work in both Ontario and Michigan, which has rising numbers of people with COVID-19, to choose one country in which to work during the pandemic.

Apr. 6: Italy, France and Spain report lower daily death tolls  

  • Hopes are rising that strict social distancing measures in Europe are paying off, as Italy, France and Spain all reported drops in daily deaths related to COVID-19. Meanwhile, in the United States, officials warned Americans to brace for a “Pearl Harbor moment,” as the country prepared for unprecedented numbers of deaths in the next week.

Apr. 6: Three in four U.S. hospitals treating COVID-19 patients

  • Three-quarters of hospitals in the United States are treating patients with COVID-19, according to a report by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. The report details a vicious cycle of problems, from equipment shortages to staff burnout to insufficient testing, that are exacerbating the situation.

Apr. 6: US expands trial of potential treatment originally designed for Ebola

  • The United State National Institutes of Health is expanding a clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of remdesivir in treating COVID-19. The experimental drug, originally designed by Gilead Science to treat Ebola, has shown promise in animal tests as a treatment for SARS and MERS, diseases caused by coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2.

Apr. 6: China reports more asymptomatic cases

  • Mainland China reported 78 new asymptomatic cases, up from 47 the day before. Almost half the new cases are in Hubei province, where the pandemic originated. The state locked down 45 residential compounds previously declared “epidemic-free” in Wuhan and promised tougher border controls.

Apr. 3: Canada warns US against blocking shipments of medical supplies

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned the Trump Administration against blocking trade of essential goods to Canada, after Minneapolis-based medical manufacturer 3M said the White House had ordered it to stop exporting N95 respirators to Canada and Latin America. At a news conference, Trudeau said blocking trade could “end up hurting Americans as much as it hurts anyone else,” noting that the US receives essential supplies and health care professionals from Canada.
  • Trudeau also announced that the government has signed an agreement with Amazon Canada to distribute medical equipment to the provinces and territories, and will provide $100 million to food banks, including in Indigenous and northern communities.

Apr. 3: Military deployed to assist Quebec

Apr. 3: Ontario releases pandemic predictions

  • Ontario could see between 3,000 to 15,000 deaths related to COVID-19, according to provincial modelling. Without government intervention to order people to stay at home, the toll could have been 100,000 deaths. According to Dr. Peter Donnelly of Public Health Ontario, the outbreak will likely continue for 18 months to two years, and the province is “some way off” from lifting physical distancing measures, especially in densely populated areas.

Apr. 3:  Mounting deaths as global confirmed cases pass one million

  • More than one million cases of COVID-19 and more than 58,000 related deaths have been confirmed globally since the disease first emerged in China three months ago. The World Health Organization warned that countries in the Middle East must act quickly to limit spread of the virus, citing a “worrying spike” in cases. Confirmed cases in the region have doubled in the past week to nearly 60,000.
  • The United States reported more than 1,100 deaths in the past 24 hours – the highest daily toll of any country so far.
  • Meanwhile, outbreaks in Italy and Spain, the worst-hit countries in terms of deaths, appear to be peaking as the rate of growth in new cases and deaths have plateaued.

Apr. 3: Google location data reveals impact of lockdowns

  • Google published analyses of location data from billions of users’ phones to help health authorities assess if people are abiding by physical distancing policies. The company released reports for 131 countries with charts comparing traffic from Feb. 16 to Mar. 29 with a five-week period earlier this year. Italy and Spain both saw visits to retail and recreation locations drop 94%, while the United Kingdom, France, and the Philippines saw decreases of more than 80%. In contrast, the United States and Australia, which were slower to enforce social distancing, saw declines in visits to recreational locations of under 50%.

Apr. 3: Study to test using survivors’ antibodies to treat COVID-19

Apr. 2: Outbreaks among health workers

  • A total 274 health workers in various institutions across Ontario, including long-term care homes and hospitals, have tested positive for COVID-19. Four hospitals in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region declared outbreaks of COVID-19 after 33 health workers were confirmed to have the disease.

Apr. 2:  Trudeau promises to share pandemic projections

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to criticism that the federal government has not released internal analyses of the potential impact of the pandemic on Canadians by promising that he will work with the provinces to improve sharing of data. Trudeau said they will also discuss the distribution of medical equipment, including a recently received order of one million medical masks.

Apr. 2: Alberta modelling predicts peak in early May

  • Alberta will likely need 250 intensive care beds by the time cases of COVID-19 peak in that province in early May, Premier Jason Kenney told the legislature. However, Alberta Health Services is preparing for a potential worst-case scenario that would require 1,200 intensive care beds and 925 ventilators. Delayed surgeries and other measures have freed up 1,300 hospital beds across the province, and 509 ventilators were available at last count, Kenney said.

Apr. 2:  Manitoba researchers investigate reusing masks

  • Five Manitoba researchers who tested different types of N95 masks say preliminary results suggest some masks can be sterilized and re-used without affecting their filtering ability. The researchers found that vaporized hydrogen peroxide effectively decontaminated all the masks they studied, while pleated fabric masks can be sterilized up to 10 times in autoclaving machines.

Apr. 2: WHO to reassess advice on face masks

  • The World Health Organization will review who should wear face masks considering new evidence that suggests coughs and sneezes may project the virus further than previously thought. Currently, the organization recommends that only people who are sick or caring for sick people should wear masks.

Apr. 2: New evidence of asymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2

  • The United States issued new guidance warning that anyone exposed to COVID-19 can be considered a carrier, whether the person has symptoms or not, based on the findings of a recent study of 243 cases reported in Singapore. Researchers found that “pre-symptomatic” people triggered seven clusters of cases, accounting for about six percent of locally acquired cases. In one case, a 52-year-old woman was infected after sitting in a seat that had been occupied earlier in the day by two tourists who showed no symptoms but later fell ill.

Apr. 2:  Ethical guidelines for COVID-19

  • The British Medical Association released guidelines addressing the main ethical challenges health workers may face during the pandemic, including deciding how to allocate limited resources such as ventilators.

Apr. 2: Australian scientists begin animal testing of vaccines

  • Australia’s national science agency has begun animal testing of two potential vaccines selected by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global consortium that is financing and coordinating the development of vaccines for COVID-19. The tests will be the first comprehensive pre-clinical trials of the vaccines to use an animal model. Results from the studies could be available by June.

Apr. 2: US authorizes coronavirus antibody test

  • The United States Food and Drugs Administration authorized emergency use of a blood test that identifies antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The test, manufactured by Cellex Inc., could help identify people who were previously infected but showed no symptoms, although it may be less effective at identifying recent infections.

Apr. 1:  Nursing and retirement home outbreaks

  • At least 75 people have died as a result of outbreaks of COVID-19 in some 600 nursing and retirement homes across Canada, according to a Globe and Mail The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Canada was 114 on April 1. Frontline caregivers are overwhelmed, and many long-term care facilities are struggling to protect residents and staff.

Apr. 1: More than 100 deaths in Canada linked to COVID-19

  •  
    • Canada reported 105 deaths related to COVID-19 and more than 9,000 confirmed cases. Quebec has the most cases in Canada, with 4,162 infections and 31 deaths.
    • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to answer how many more deaths are expected based on federal modelling, or how long physical distancing measures will remain in place, saying there are various scenarios.
    • Companies that help people with advance planning reported that unprecedented numbers of Canadians made wills and signed powers of attorney in the past two weeks.

Apr. 1: Looming drug shortages

  • Global supply chain problems related to COVID-19 will probably lead to shortages of drugs and medical devices, according to deputy health minister Stephen Lucas. Health Canada is working with regulators in the United States, Australia and Europe to spot where disruptions may occur and find substitute products, Lucas told the House of Commons health committee.

Apr. 1: Provinces building makeshift hospitals

  • Three provinces announced plans to set up makeshift hospitals in repurposed buildings. British Columbia is outfitting a Vancouver convention centre, while Ontario is allowing hospitals to temporarily lease space in hotels and retirement homes and Quebec has identified 4,000 hotel rooms that could be used.

Apr. 1: Researchers face layoffs as non-essential trials shut down

  • Research programs are unsure if and how they can use federal grant money to continue paying employees while studies unrelated to COVID-19 are on hold. University Health Network in Toronto is preparing to lose a projected $6 million a month as a result of the shutdown. However, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research confirmed that staff pay is an eligible grant expense given the “exceptional” circumstances.

Apr. 1: Many COVID-19 cases may be asymptomatic

  • A quarter of people with COVID-19 may not show symptoms but still spread the virus, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Iceland, one screening program that has tested about 9,000 self-selected people reported that about half of those who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic.

Apr. 1: Growing debate over face masks

  • Some health experts argued Western countries have made a mistake by discouraging healthy people from wearing face masks, given that asymptomatic people can spread the virus. Health officials in some Asian countries point to pro-mask policies as key to controlling the pandemic, and this week Austria banned members of the public from entering supermarkets without wearing one.

Mar. 31: White House predicts as many as 240,000 coronavirus deaths in US

  • In a reversal of his earlier desire to reopen the country by Easter, United States President Donald Trump warned Americans to prepare for a “hell of a bad two weeks” as health officials projected the country may see 100,000 to 240,000 deaths related to COVID-19, even if social distancing guidelines are maintained.

Mar. 31: Canada signs deals to produce protective equipment

  • Canada signed agreements with three Canadian companies to produce medical supplies, including ventilators, face masks and testing kits for COVID-19, with some shipments expected to arrive this week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said similar deals are in the works with five other companies to produce additional testing kits, hand sanitizer, masks and gowns. The federal government is allocating $2 billion to bulk purchase protective personal equipment with the provinces and territories.
  • Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the government has ordered 60 million N95 masks, more than 1,500 ventilators and more than a million test kits.

Mar. 31: PPE shortages and police checkpoints in Quebec

  • There have been 286 hospitalizations and 31 related to COVID-19 in Quebec and shortages of personal protective equipment are becoming dire. According to Quebec Premier François Legault, the province’s supply of PPE for frontline medical workers will run out in three to seven days.
  • Some First Nations in Quebec are welcoming police checkpoints to restrict access to their communities in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19. Quebec is restricting access to eight regions considered “at risk” because of their isolation or older population, including the Nunavik and Cree territories around James Bay.

Mar. 31: British Columbia prepares for peak in cases

  • British Columbia’s outbreak has not yet peaked, and the province is approaching the point of shutting down non-essential businesses, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. More than half of the province’s cases have recovered, she said.
  • The town of Stewart, BC, committed to deliver groceries, gas and other essential items to aid neighboring Hyder, Alaska. The situation in Hyder, which is geographically cut off from the rest of the state and depends on Stewart for supplies, highlighted the complications of recent border closures.

Mar. 30: Ontario warns people over 70 years of age to self-isolate

  • Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is “strongly recommending” that all people over 70 and those with compromised immune systems stop going out and rely on friends, family and neighbours for help with essential errands. Everyone else in the province should stay home as much as possible to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Mar. 31: US reports more deaths than China

  • The United States reported more than 3,500 deaths related to COVID-19, surpassing China’s reported death toll of 3,300. New York state has been hit hardest, recording about 1,550 deaths, most of them in New York City.

Mar. 31: New infections plateau in Italy but deaths continue to rise

  • New cases of COVID-19 appear to be levelling off in Italy, with the country reporting a two-week low of 4,050 new cases on Mar. 30 and about the same again on Mar. 31. However, the number of deaths reported each day continues to rise; Italy reported 837 deaths on Mar. 31, up from 812 the day before, bringing the country’s toll to 12,428.

Mar. 30: Canada mobilizes industry, military

  • Canadian companies are stepping up to begin producing personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, said Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces are ready to assist with Canada’s COVID-19 response, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Some 24,000 members, reservists and Canadian Rangers are on standby, although no provinces or territories have asked for their help yet.

Mar. 30: 1 in 4 patients in critical care in Ontario may have COVID-19

  • A quarter of patients in Ontario intensive care units have confirmed or suspected COVID-19, according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario. Ninety-two patients in critical care wards have tested positive for COVID-19, while another 342 patients are suspected to have the disease.
  • Ontario’s online assessment tool for COVID-19 has directed more than 100,000 people with severe difficulty breathing or severe chest pain to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

Mar. 30: Ten people dead in Ontario nursing home outbreak

  • Nine residents and one volunteer at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., have died from complications of COVID-19, while 34 staff members have symptoms or have tested positive.

Mar. 30: Newfoundland reports first death, community transmissions

Mar. 30: Mixed messages on wearing masks

  • Conflicting messages about whether healthy people should wear face masks have led to confusion and culture clashes for Asians living in the West. Canadian officials have urged people not to wear masks unless they’re sick, but in many Asian countries, everyone is encouraged to wear masks as a precaution.

Mar. 30: Alberta doctors protest payment changes

  • More than 800 Alberta doctors asked the province to suspend planned changes to the way they are paid. According to Alberta Health, the provincial government has cancelled proposed changes to billing modifiers for complex visits and suspended reductions in stipends paid to physicians.

Mar. 30: More than 1,200 dead in New York

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reported that 1,218 people in the state have died from COVID-19. A United States Navy hospital ship docked in Manhattan to relieve the overcrowded hospitals in New York City, which has most of the state’s cases.

Mar. 30: Explaining Germany’s low death rate

  • Germany’s death rate for COVID-19 is just 0.8%, much lower than the tolls reported in China (4%) and Italy (11%), according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Widespread testing in Germany has led to the detection of many mild and asymptomatic cases, providing a fuller picture of the outbreak there.

Mar. 30: US approves limited use of anti-malaria drugs

Mar. 30: Indigenous populations in South America barricade communities

Mar. 27: Medical regulators warn against stockpiling untested treatments

  • The Canadian Pharmacists Association and provincial medical regulatory colleges are warning physicians against stockpiling or prescribing drugs not yet proven effective in treatment of COVID-19. There is now a shortage of hydroxychloroquine in Ontario, which is affecting people with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis who require this medication, says the Ontario Medical Association.

Mar. 27: BC to provide safe supply of treatments for substance use disorders

  • Changes to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and prescribing guidelines in British Columbia now allow patients receiving treatment for substance use disorders to take home supplies of regulated substances such as hydromorphone and methadone. Previously, regulators restricted the provision of these drugs to clinical settings, which posed a major obstacle to treatment under social distancing restrictions.

Mar. 27: Manitoba to deliver online cognitive behavioural training for pandemic anxiety

  • Manitobans experiencing anxiety because of the pandemic crisis will soon be able to access a 12-week cognitive behavioural counselling course online. According to Premier Brian Pallister, people won’t need a referral from a doctor to access the course.
  • Manitoba also announced its first death from COVID-19, a woman in her 60s.

Mar. 27: Quebec warns against travel to Montreal, Eastern Townships as deaths increase 

Mar. 27: Retired respirologist posts his ventilator design, free for everyone

  • A London, Ont. respirologist who developed a low-cost ventilator to respond to the COVID-19 crisis has posted the design on an open-source website so anyone can use it. John Strupat says he’s making his design available because hospitals are experiencing critical ventilator shortages.

Mar. 27: Ottawa announces wage subsidy for small, medium businesses

  • Canada’s unemployment rate could rise to 15% by the end of the year, according to a federal forecast based on the possibility of physical distancing lasting until August.
  • The federal government increased a subsidy to small and medium-sized businesses to cover 75% of wages paid to employees in isolation during the pandemic. The federal government will also make $40,000 loans available, interest-free for the first year.

Mar. 27: Italy reports highest single-day fatalities, likely to extend lockdown

  • Although new case numbers declined, Italy reported 969 deaths, the country’s highest number in a 24-hour period during this outbreak. Officials warned that the outbreak has yet to peak and the country’s lockdown will likely extend beyond April 3, which may be a window into the future of other jurisdictions.

Mar. 27: Refugees among the most vulnerable during pandemic

  • Aid workers and international health workers are worried about the potential spread of the SARS-Cov-2 virus in refugee camps and other temporary shelters with few health care workers and supplies.

Mar. 26: Trump considering placing troops near Canada-US border during pandemic

  • United States President Donald Trump is considering placing soldiers along its border with Canada to prevent irregular crossings during the COVID-19 crisis, but Canada is resisting the move. According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “Canada and the United States have the longest un-militarized border in the world, and it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way.” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa has made it clear to U.S. cabinet ministers that there is “no public health justification” for the move.

Mar. 26: BC bans resale of food, medical equipment, cleaning supplies

Mar. 26: Testing delays and mask rationing in Ontario

Mar. 26: More than 100 Quebecers hospitalized

Mar. 26: Cases in Italy, US set to surpass China

  • More than 480,000 people around the world have tested positive for COVID-19, and cases in both Italy and the United States are close to surpassing the total number in China, where the virus originated. The number of deaths in Italy has considerably passed those in China.

Mar. 26 Researchers investigating gender differences in pandemic

  • Despite various hypotheses concerning differences in smoking rates and hand-washing practices, researchers are still unsure why more men than women are dying of COVID-19. More data and investigations into innate biological differences are required.

Mar. 25: Alberta medical students assist contact tracing

  • Alberta quadrupled its contact tracing capacity by enlisting the help of medical students and residents. At least 150 medical trainees are now trained to trace close contacts of people with COVID-19.

Mar. 25: Parliament passes emergency spending bill

  • Parliament passed emergency legislation giving the federal government the authority for all spending required to address the COVID-19 public health emergency for the next six months, without requiring Parliamentary approval. The new law, which received royal assent, includes an $82-billion stimulus and a $2,000-a-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit. The benefit, from Mar. 15 until Oct. 3, is for anyone who can’t work because of unemployment, sickness, childcare duties or care-giving due to the pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said money should begin flowing by the week of April 6 or sooner.
  • Canada also invoked the Quarantine Act, mandating all returning travellers to isolate themselves for 14 days, with the exception of essential workers. Anyone arriving in Canada with symptoms of COVID-19 will also be banned from using public transit, said Health Minister Patti Hajdu.

Mar. 25: Shortage of reagents barrier to scaling up testing

  • Health officials and politicians at all levels of government acknowledged the importance of scaling up testing, but shortages of the chemical reagents necessary to conduct the tests continues to be a barrier because all countries are seeking the same supplies.

Mar. 25: Transplants, orthopaedic surgeries and routine testing delayed

  • Lung transplants are delayed except in cases of critical deterioration, which will affect patients across Canada. Orthopaedic surgeries are also postponed in Nova Scotia and some cancer treatment may be affected, health officials reported. In Manitoba, routine diagnostic testing is on hold as well.

Mar. 25:  India bans export of malaria drug being trialled for treatment for COVID-19

  • India will fulfill existing contracts but is banning export of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug touted as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Humanitarian exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis, the Indian government said. The country is home to the world’s largest manufacturers of the drug and its component ingredients.

Mar. 24: Leaked document shows Saskatchewan preparing for 15,000 deaths

  • The Saskatchewan Health Authority forecast earlier this month the pandemic would overwhelm the healthcare system and could cause 9,000 to 15,000 deaths. A leaked internal document outlining province’s strategy predicted there “will almost certainly be pronounced loss of life and health.”

Mar. 24: British Columbia offering drive-through testing to health workers

  • Doctors, nurses and other health care workers in Vancouver can now get drive-through testing to see if they have COVID-19. A single site is open as part of British Columbia’s attempt to stop the spread of the virus by health care workers, particularly among long-term care facilities.

Mar. 24: Tensions rise over social distancing in Canada and internationally

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned again that the federal government will put “much more stringent” measures in place if people do not abide by social distancing recommendations. He urged Canadians to stay home to protect others, especially “the health care workers we can’t afford to lose during the biggest public health crisis our country has ever seen.”
  • Despite the World Health Organization’s warning that the United States could become the new epicentre of the pandemic, President Donald Trump said he’d like to see the country reopened by Easter because of the economic harm the shutdown is causing.
  • A day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shut down Britain, Londoners continued to ride the Underground with commuters posting images of packed tube trains on social media. Transport for London faced criticism for reducing services to discourage commuters, which led to people being forced closer together. Meanwhile, the British government has drafted emergency legislation to strengthen enforcement and allow border closures.
  • Italian mayors used video to angrily call out people for breaching quarantine via social media. One mayor posted an expletive-filled rant against people who hire hairdressers to visit them at home.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave his citizens just four hours’ notice before shuttering the country, banning everyone from leaving their homes for 21 days. He declared “every district, every lane, every village” was under lockdown, leaving it unclear how people were to get food or work in essential services.

Mar. 24: Canadians returning home

  • More than a million Canadians and permanent residents returned home from abroad last week, according to the Canadian Border Services Agency. All people returning to Canada are being told to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said many people are still having troubling finding flights home because of lockdowns and travel restrictions. The federal government has scheduled at least one more flight from Morocco and is working on flights from Panama, Tunisia and Ukraine.

Mar. 24: China begins to lift lockdown in Hubei province

  • China will begin lifting the lockdown in Hubei province on March 25, although most residents of Wuhan, the city at the centre of the country’s outbreak, will have to wait until April 8 to move about freely. China cancelled all travel in Wuhan and ordered most people to stay home on January 23.

Mar. 24: New York demands more ventilators as cases soar

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lashed out at the Trump administration over a lack of support as cases in the state are doubling every three days. The state has only 7,000 of the 30,000 ventilators it needs and some are already occupied. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators,” Cuomo told Washington. In response, Vice-President Mike Pence said the federal government had shipped 2,000 ventilators to New York on Mar. 24 and would ship another 2,000 on Mar. 25.

Mar. 23: Nearly half of Canadian COVID-19 cases due to community spread

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed that nearly half of all COVID-19 cases in Canada have been acquired through community spread. The remaining cases can be traced to infected travellers returning to Canada or to close contact with those travellers. Canadians could therefore get the virus from anyone, making social distancing critical to slow the spread of the virus.

Mar. 23: Ottawa invests in $192 million in vaccines, treatment  

  • The federal government is providing $192 million to directly support the development and production of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 in Canada. The money will be divided among Vancouver-based AbCellera to support their work on drug treatments, Quebec City-based Medicago for vaccine testing and production, the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization for development and clinical trials, and the National Research Council in Montreal to prepare for the roll-out of vaccines.

Mar. 23: Social distancing enforcement and non-essential workplace closures

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also urged all Canadians to “go home and stay home” and abide by social distancing instructions. The federal government launched an advertising campaign to educate people about the risks and will enforce the rules, if necessary.
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford ordered all non-essential workplaces to close for two weeks as of Mar. 24, and Quebec Premier Francois Legault did the same for three weeks. According to Ford, business can continue so long as workplaces are shut down. Ontario schools will also not reopen on April 6.

Mar. 23: New COVID-19 cases, deaths, and recoveries

  • Nova Scotia, which on Mar. 22 declared a state of emergency, reported 41 new cases, including in a child under 10. Cases in children have been rarely reported in Canada. The province is stopping cars crossing its border and ordering people to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • BC’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, reported that the province is now conducting between 3,300-3,600 tests per day. BC reported three new deaths, but 100 people are officially recovered from COVID-19 in the province.

Mar. 23: Thirteen healthcare workers test positive in Toronto

Mar. 22: WHO launches global trial of promising COVID-19 treatments

  • The World Health Organization is organizing a global trial called SOLIDARITY to test four promising treatments for COVID-19: the antiviral remdesivir, malaria medications hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, and a combination of the HIV drugs ritonavir and lopinavir. Physicians can enter patients into the trial via a website, which will randomize patients to one of the treatments or to the local standard of care. The trial is not double-blind, but WHO said it had to balance rigor against speed.

Mar. 23: Twenty-three Italian doctors dead

  • Italy’s Istituto Superiore di Sanità is reporting 23 doctors have died, according to CNN, and 4,824 health workers are infected with COVID-19. According to the Italian federation of doctors, many have died suddenly, even if the cause of death was not directly attributable to the virus.

Mar. 23: New York orders hospitals to increase capacity

  • As New York state becomes the focus of American efforts to suppress COVID-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered hospitals to increase their capacity by 50%. Cases across the state surged 38% overnight to 20,875, and Cuomo predicted that 80% of residents will likely be infected.

Mar. 20: Canada will turn back asylum seekers

  • Canada will turn away asylum seekers coming from the United States; the countries will mutually close their borders at midnight on Mar. 20. Previously, the government planned to isolate incoming asylum seekers for two weeks at unspecified facilities.

Mar. 20: Addressing Canada’s medical supply shortage

  • Doctors called for a “war-like effort” to prevent medical supply shortages, warning that hospitals are facing dire shortages of ventilators, masks, gloves, gowns and other supplies.
  • The federal government has secured more than 11 million N95 respirator masks and will begin delivery immediately as guided by public health officials. The government is also working on a strategy to scale up production of protective equipment, including by helping auto parts manufacturers switch to making medical supplies.

Mar. 20: EI applications and cannabis sales surge

  • More than 500,000 Canadians have filed for employment insurance in the past week, compared to under 27,000 during the same week last year.
  • Cannabis stores are seeing increased traffic, with Ontario’s cannabis store reporting an 80% to 100% increase in sales volumes from last weekend.

Mar. 20: Medical students take care of frontline workers’ kids

  • More than 100 University of Alberta medical students are volunteering to care for the children of frontline health care workers after the province cancelled in-person post-secondary classes. The students will offer the service until Mar. 27, when they may be reassigned to clinical duties. So far, about 150 frontline workers have signed up.
  • Quebec schools are likely to remain closed until May, said Premier François Legault.

Mar. 20: Global death toll passes 10,000

  • Worldwide, the death toll related to COVID-19 passed 10,000 and recorded infections exceeded 255,000. Italy’s reported death toll surged by 627 to a total 4,032 – the country’s largest daily increase yet. 

Mar. 20: Confusion over ibuprofen

  • The World Health Organization backtracked on an earlier warning against using ibuprofen to relieve symptoms of COVID-19, tweeting that it “does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen.” The controversy stemmed from a letter in the Lancet that hypothesized that ibuprofen may make people more vulnerable to infection because the virus attaches to lung cells by way of an enzyme (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE 2) and ibuprofen might increase the number of ACE2 receptors on a cell. However, according to the European Medicines Agency, there’s “currently no scientific evidence” to back this theory.

Mar. 19: NB declares emergency as cases climb across Canada

  • New Brunswick declared a public health emergency. There are no new cases in the province, but Premier Blaine Higgs said too many people were not following restrictions recommended by the chief medical officer. The province is now mandating that all non-essential businesses closes and premises cap gatherings to no more than 10 people. Grocery stories, pharmacies, the province’s liquor and cannabis stores, automotive repair businesses, post offices, gas stations and hardware stores remain open.
  • Alberta recorded its first death related to COVID-19, an Edmonton man in his 60s who was infected in the community and had a preexisting condition. The province confirmed 27 new cases, bringing its total to 146.
  • Ontario announced 43 news cases and it’s second COVID-19 death, a Milton man in his 50s who had no recent travel history or contact with other known cases. Associate medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe says 22 people in the province with the virus are now hospitalized. Information about whether people are self-isolating or hospitalized, and how they were infected is listed as pending in more than half the new cases.
  • Toronto’s medical officer of health urged the closure of all non-essential businesses, including hair salons and clothing stores.
  • Quebec reported a total of 121 cases, up from 94 the day before. Seven are hospitalized. The province advised people not to travel from one region of the province to another, and to avoid gathering for meals, even in groups as small as six or seven people.
  • British Columbia announced 45 new cases, bringing the province’s total to 231. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it’s unclear when life will get back to normal and social distancing may extend “through the next weeks to months.”

Mar. 19: Trudeau calls on Canadians to donate blood

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to donate blood, after Canadian Blood Services reported a spike in appointment cancellations by donors. The organization said Canada’s inventory is strong, but blood shortages are being reported in other countries affected by COVID-19.
  • Canada and the United States are still working out the details of the closure of their shared border, but the closure will likely come into effect sometime on Mar. 20 or 21, Trudeau said.

Mar. 19: Italy’s death toll surpasses China as Wuhan reports no new cases

  • Italy has now recorded 3,405 deaths related to COVID-19, up 425 deaths from the day before, overtaking China’s total of 3,245. The total number of cases in the country increased 14.5% to 41,035.
  • France reported 108 new deaths, increasing the country’s toll by 41% to a total 372; 1,222 people are on life support, up 20.5% compare to the day before.
  • Meanwhile, there were no new infections in Wuhan, China – a promising sign that the city’s lockdown has helped to curb the outbreak.

Mar. 19: US data highlights risks to younger people

  • Nearly 40% of the 508 people hospitalized in the United States for COVID-19 have been younger than 55, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 20% were aged 20 to 44 and 18% were aged 45-54. The new data comes amid reports of spring breakers ignoring social distancing recommendations at popular party destinations in Florida.

Mar. 18: France to expand testing of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19

  • The French Minister of Health approved expanded trials of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria and autoimmune drug, as a potential treatment for COVID-19 after a small trial showed promising results. The unpublished trial of 36 patients with COVID-19 found that 70% of those treated with the drug tested negative for the virus within six days compared to 12.5% of those who didn’t receive the treatment. Previously, Chinese scientists reported the drug was effective at killing the virus in laboratory experiments.

Mar. 18: PM announces $82 billion in economic aid

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an additional $82 billion in relief measures to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, including $27 billion in direct support for workers and businesses. The relief package represents more than 3% of Canada’s GDP.
  • For Canadians without paid sick leave who must self-isolate or care for family members or children, the government is introducing an Emergency Care Benefit that will provide up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks. Ottawa will also provide up to $5 billion for unemployed workers without access to employment insurance and may subsidize businesses up to 10% of employee wages to help prevent layoffs.
  • The federal government will postpone the tax-filing deadline to June 1 for individuals and up to August 31 for people who owe taxes. Ottawa will also double the maximum Goods and Services Tax credit, increase the Canada Child Benefit by an extra $300 per child, and increase the tax credits available to businesses.
  • Canada’s six big banks will allow mortgage deferrals for up to six months, in addition to the opportunity for relief on other credit products. The banks will also reduce hours and close some branches in keeping with social distancing recommendations.
  • The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation announced it would bring back a revised version of the Insured Mortgage Purchase Program it used during the 2008-09 financial crisis that would see the government purchase up to $50 billion worth of insured mortgage pools to ensure banks and mortgages continue lending to Canadians.

Mar. 18: Canada-US border closes 

  • Canada and the United States mutually agreed to temporarily close their shared border. According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “these measures will last in place as long as we feel they need to last.” The border closure will not affect cross-border trade or citizens who cross the border every day to do essential work. International students, workers on visas and temporary foreign workers will still be able to enter Canada and are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Canadian citizens will be able to return home, although those with symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to board flights. Canada Border Services will stop deporting people with the exception of “seriously criminal cases” that will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Trudeau also said he “looking at all options” for containing the virus, including potentially limiting travel within Canada.

Mar. 18: WestJet warns of potential COVID-19 exposures

  • WestJet released a list of 14 recent flights between Feb. 28 and Mar. 12 that had passengers who later tested positive for COVID-19. The airline identified rows of passengers who should self-isolate and monitor their symptoms. Other passengers are advised to contact local health authorities if they have signs of fever, cough or respiratory symptoms within 14 days.

Mar. 18: How long can the virus survive on surfaces?

  • The novel coronavirus can survive on some surfaces for days or in the air for several hours, according to research from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found that the virus was detectable for up to four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The team also used a nebulizer to simulate a person coughing and found that the virus remained suspended in the air for almost three hours. Some critics questioned whether a nebulizer accurately mimicked a human cough. The researchers performed similar tests on the SARS virus and found that both viruses had similar levels of viability outside the body, suggesting that other factors like asymptomatic transmission may be contributing to the greater spread of COVID-19.

Mar. 18: No evidence COVID-19 was engineered

  • An analysis of the public genome sequence data for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered, as has some have speculated online. Based on comparisons of the genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, “we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes,” said Kristian Andersen of Scripps Research, one of the authors of the paper. The researchers focused on features of the spike proteins on the outside of the virus that it uses to grab and penetrate the outer walls of host cells. They found the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which behaves like grappling hook allowing the virus to grip on to host cells, was so effective at binding human cells that it could only be the result of natural selection. And had the virus been engineered, its overall molecular structure likely would have mimicked pathogens known to cause illness in humans; instead, the scientists found that it mostly resembled viruses found in bats and pangolins.

Mar. 18: Japanese flu drug shows promise for COVID-19

  • Chinese medical authorities reported that a Japanese-made flu drug, Avigan or favipiravir, has shown to be safe and effective in reducing the duration of COVID-19 in clinical trials involving 340 patients. Patients with COVID-19 who received the drug in Shenzhen tested negative for the virus after a median of four days versus 11 for those who did not receive the treatment. X-rays also showed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of patients treated with the drug versus 62% of those who did not receive it. Doctors in Japan are using the same drug in clinical studies of patients with mild to moderate symptoms, but an official there said it was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms.

 Mar. 17: Alberta, BC declare emergencies

  • Alberta declared a public health emergency and banned gatherings of more than 50 people, including weddings and funerals. Grocery stores, shopping centres, health care facilities, airports and the legislature are exempt from the ban.
  • British Columbia also declared an emergency and closed all schools indefinitely after reporting three more deaths related to COVID-19. Two of the deaths were linked to the outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver. The third person who died was a man in his 80s in the Fraser Health region.

Mar. 17: Trudeau may enact federal Emergency Act

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may recall Parliament to pass legislation to support Canada’s response to COVID-19, including changes to employment insurance and potentially enacting some parts of the federal Emergencies Act. The act allows the government to take special temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies and to amend other laws. Unlike the former War Measures Act, which the Emergencies Act replaced in 1988, the declaration of a national emergency must still be reviewed by Parliament and any temporary laws made under the act are still subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Trudeau also announced that Parks Canada will be suspending visitor services at all national parks and historic sites.

Mar. 17: Ontario, PEI declare emergencies

  • Ontario confirmed its first death related to COVID-19, a 77-year-old man who tested positive for the virus after close contact with another positive case.
  • Earlier in the day, the province declared a state of emergency and banned public events with over 50 people until March 31. The Ontario government ordered the closure of all indoor recreation facilities, libraries, private schools, daycares, theatres and concert venues, as well as all bars and restaurants, except those that offer takeout or delivery. Premier Doug Ford said most businesses won’t be affected by the order and essential services such as grocery stores will continue to operate. Ontario’s liquor, beer and cannabis stores will also remain open for now.
  • Cases in Ontario increased rapidly over the weekend, suggesting the province may be seeing community transmission, said associate chief medical officer Dr. Barbara Yaffe. According to Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, some cases “do not seem to have a travel history or a contact case at this stage.” Ontario confirmed eight new cases on Mar. 17, only one of which was linked to recent travel, bringing the total of active cases in the province 180.
  • The provincial government is drafting legislation to ensure that people who self-isolate or care for others do not lose their jobs and to ban employers from requiring sick notes for those in self-isolation.
  • Hospitals in British Columbia and Ontario are cancelling elective surgeries to prepare for an influx of patients. At Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, cataract surgeries and cosmetic surgeries have been cancelled, as have some cancer surgeries. Several hospitals across Canada have set up screening facilities offsite to assess people who may have the virus. Some are also training nurses and physicians from other departments in intensive care.
  • PEI declared a public health emergency and announced a $25-million emergency contingency fund for Islanders affected by the pandemic. The province closed all schools and daycares and directed all public employees who can work from home to do so for the next two weeks. Most provinces and territories have now ordered school closures and the shutdown of some recreational facilities.
  • Following official recommendations to cancel gatherings of 50 or more people, Cineplex Inc. and Landmark Cinemas, Canada’s largest movie theatre operators, closed all theatres across the country. GoodLife Fitness closed all locations across Canada and froze membership payments.

Mar. 17: Europe plans full border closure

  • The European Commission is preparing to ban all non-essential travel through the Schengen free-travel zone. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats would be exempt as well as healthcare workers and people transporting goods.
  • France has ordered people to stay at home and only go out for essential duties. The country will close all land borders on Tuesday.
  • Germany has closed recreational facilities, churches and schools, and restaurants must enforce a minimum distance between patrons.
  • Spain, one of the worst affected country outside of China, has nationalized all private hospitals, declared a national emergency, and closed all schools and public spaces. People may only leave their homes to go to work or to buy essentials like food, and authorities are using drones to monitor the movement of citizens.

Mar. 17: Human trials of vaccine and treatments underway  

  • The first human trial of a potential vaccine developed by Moderna Therapeutics started in the United States. The vaccine, mRNA-1273, is not made from the virus that causes COVID-19. Instead it contains a short segment of genetic code copied from the virus.
  • Therapeutics Drug manufacturers Sanofi and Regeneron launched a clinical trial of the arthritis drug Kevzara to treat the severe immune response that can occur in patients with COVID-19. The drug works by inhibiting the interleukin-6 pathway, which regulates the body’s immune and inflammatory response, which may play a role in the acute respiratory distress seen in some patients with COVID-19.
  • The companies are also developing new therapies in response to the pandemic. Sanofi is investigating potential vaccine candidates , while Regeneron announced it aims to have doses of a potential treatment for COVID-19 ready to start human trials by early summer.
  • In addition, five clinical trials of Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir are underway to assess its potential as a treatment for mild to moderate and severe cases of COVID-19.

Mar. 16: WHO calls on countries to ramp up testing

  • World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to increases testing for COVID-19, suggesting they screen everyone suspected of having the disease. Canada is screening for COVID-19 more widely than some other countries. As of Monday, 34,000 Canadians have been tested for the virus, compared to 23,000 people in the United States, which has 10 times the population. However, testing criteria vary across Canada and still tend to exclude people who haven’t travelled or had contact with a known case.

Mar. 16: US warns against gatherings of 10 or more people

  • United States President Donald Trump urged Americans to avoid groups of more than 10 people as part of new guidelines on slowing the spread of COVID-19. He also recommended school closures and urged people to avoid non-essential travel and going out to bars, restaurants and food courts. Public health officials said they expect to see a surge in cases as the government ramps up testing, starting with health providers, first responders and people over 65 with respiratory symptoms and fever.

Mar. 16: Canada closes borders

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will close its borders to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Trudeau said some exceptions will be made, including for air crews, diplomats and citizens of the United States. Airlines will ban anyone who is showing symptoms of the virus from getting on a plane and only four airports will receive international flights – Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, Montreal Trudeau Airport and Calgary International Airport. Domestic flights and those from the United States and Mexico will not be affected, and the measures do not apply to trade.
  • Trudeau urged Canadians travelling abroad to return home while they still can and those recently returned to self-isolate for 14 days. Assistance will be made available for Canadians travelling abroad while they wait to come back to Canada.
  • Trudeau also reminded all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel, stay at home and buy only what they need from stores. The government will make available $10 billion in support for Canadian businesses to offset the impact of the pandemic. “It’s time to take every precaution to keep people safe,” he said.

Mar. 15: First cases in PEI, NL, NS

  • Prince Edward Island reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19, a woman in her 50s who recently travelled on a cruise ship. She is recovering at home with mild symptoms. Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador announced its first presumptive case, another woman who recently travelled on a cruise.
  • Nova Scotia reported three presumptive cases, the first in the province, all of whom had recently returned from travel abroad. The province immediately closed public schools, childcare centres and casinos. Nova Scotia also banned visits to long-term care facilities and gatherings over 150 people, and mandated businesses to keep patrons six feet apart.

Mar. 14: Quebec, Ontario limit visits to seniors

  • Quebec’s Premier Francois Legault declared a provincial health emergency and asked people over age 70 to stay home until further notice. The province banned all visits to seniors’ residences, long-term care facilities and hospitals, and will open 19 specialized assessment clinics to test people who may have the virus.
  • Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams urged long-term care residences to bar all but “essential visitors,” such as the relatives of people who are dying or gravely ill.

Mar. 14: Prisons prepare for COVID-19 spread

  • Canadian prison officials are adapting an existing flu-outbreak plan to prepare for the spread of the novel coronavirus in correctional facilities. According to Correctional Services Canada, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canadian prisons. Ontario banned personal visits to inmates in provincial jails, and offenders serving sentences on weekend will see their restrictions loosened.

Mar. 14: Kijiji cracks down on price-gouging

  • Online marketplace Kijiji banned listings for surgical masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and toilet paper to curb price-gouging. Some people are reselling the supplies at marked up prices as stores across the country struggle to keep up with demand. While many Costco, Superstore and Walmart locations have sold out of toilet paper, online resellers are listing single rolls for $4-$10, and up to $1,000 for a 12-pack.

Mar. 13: Royal College exams cancelled

  • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada announced on Twitter it is postponing all exams, “including written exams in March and April, which will have have an impact on oral exams this spring.” The College said it is working with local university partners and resident groups to deliver the exams as soon as feasible at no additional cost, and it will provide an update on progress “no later than April 1.”
  • Trainees and others questioned why the announcement was made on Twitter, instead of informing examinees directly. Many noted that the exams could be written locally under supervision and with proper social distancing. Earlier this week, an Edmonton physician warned that testing delays will disrupt the lives of doctors who may have planned pregnancies, fellowships and office leases around the completion of their residencies.

Mar. 13: Medical regulators ready to grant emergency licenses

  • Provincial medical regulators are ready to issue emergency licenses to allow physicians to combat COVID-19 in different jurisdictions across Canada if necessary, according to the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FMRAC). Doctors would need to show that they have medical liability insurance and a certificate in good standing from their provincial college in order to obtain the license. FMRAC President Dr. Linda Inkpen said licenses could be available in as little as minutes or hours, depending on the physician. “We’re not talking a week or a month or anything of that sort,” she said.

Mar. 13: United States declares national emergency

  • United States President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, unlocking up to $50 billion for state and local response efforts. Trump said he would also give the Secretary of Health and Human Services emergency authority to waive laws and regulations to give US doctors and hospitals “flexibility” in treating patients.

Mar. 13: Trudeau in isolation, working from home

  • Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife,  tested positive for COVID-19. She and the Prime Minister will remain in isolation for 14 days. The Prime Minister remains in good health with no symptoms and will continue his duties from home.

Mar. 13: Provinces ramp up response

  • Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba health officials recommended the immediate cancellation of all events over 250 people and urged against travel outside of Canada. In a memo, Ontario’s Dr. David Williams advised organizers of smaller events to consult with local public health units. Meanwhile, some of Ontario’s largest universities, including the University of Toronto and McMaster University, are moving classes online.
  • Following Ontario’s lead, Manitoba will also close all public schools in the province for three weeks, effective March 23.
  • Nova Scotia discouraged all gatherings over 150 people, and directed public employees and students returning from travel outside of Canada to self-isolate for 14 days. The province has also asked the federal government to delay the beginning of cruise ship season.
  • New Brunswick is suspending jury trials until May 12 and recommending that all non-essential gatherings of 150 people or more be cancelled.
  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia is asking retired doctors of all specialties to consider coming back to work to back up colleagues as the province’s COVID-19 outbreak worsens. Quebec health authorities are similarly calling on retired nurses to help screen calls to the province’s 811 line.
  • Quebec officials asked the public to stop calling 811 if they have symptoms of the coronavirus after the service was overwhelmed by calls. Instead, people with flu-like symptoms are asked to call a new COVID-19 hotline before heading to a special testing clinic. Provincial 811 services in Alberta and Nova Scotia also experienced extremely high call volumes and long delays.
  • In Newfoundland and Labrador, Eastern Health has established an emergency operations centre and will have a COVID-19 assessment clinic running by next week.

Mar. 13: Shortages of protective equipment

  • Some Vancouver doctors are turning away patients because of a shortage of personal protective equipment for physicians and support staff. According to Doctors of BC, physicians across the provinces are concerned that protective supplies are running short and there is no timeline for their replacement. One doctor with depleted supplies directed 20 patients who called with possible COVID-10 symptoms to call the provincial 811 health line instead or go to the emergency department.

Mar. 12: Doctors call for expanded testing criteria

  • Some Canadian physicians reported difficulties getting patients tested due to a lack of consistent communication about who qualifies for testing. Federal, provincial and local public health officials have relied on a narrow list of countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, but it doesn’t include places like Germany, France or the United States. The Public Health Agency of Canada now directs clinicians to use the World Health Organization’s list of countries reporting COVID-19 cases as a guide, but provincial and local advice still varies.

Mar. 12: Trump address sows confusion

  • United States President Donald Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel to the United States from European countries and restrictions on cargo, but he later clarified on Twitter that he was only stopping travel and the plan did not apply to Americans or US permanent residents. Confusion over the announcement caused panic abroad as Americans sought to arrange last-minute flights home. European Union leaders criticized the ban and lack of consultation.
  • US stocks sold off sharply after Trump’s announcement and the Dow Futures plunged more than 1,000 points, despite the President reassurances that the economy will emerge from the crisis unscathed.
  • The United States government also faced criticism over continued difficulties related to COVID-19 testing. Health providers across the country reported difficulties obtaining tests and conflicting advice from authorities. Meanwhile, there are shortages of key chemicals needed to run the tests. As of early March, the United States had tested just 7,000 people, falling far behind other developed countries. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease scientist, called the testing situation a “failing.”

Mar. 12: New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan report first presumptive cases

  • Manitoba’s first presumptive case of COVID-19 was reported in Winnipeg. Asked about a rumoured COVID-19 risk at a city fire hall, officials confirmed “an incident” happened in the fire paramedic community and the city has a contingency plan should it be necessary to quarantine first responder units.
  • Saskatchewan also announced its first presumptive case, a person who recently travelled to Egypt, while New Brunswick reported the first presumptive case in Atlantic Canada, a woman who returned from travelling in France.
  • Earlier this week, New Brunswick banned international travellers from schools for two weeks.

Mar. 12: Ontario closing public schools

  • The Ontario government ordered all public schools in the province to close between March 14 and April 5. The announcement impacts about two million elementary and high school students. Previously, Premier Dough Ford had told families to go ahead with March Break travel plans despite the pandemic, conflicting with advice from the federal health minister Patty Hajdu that Canadians should consider staying home during the break.

Mar. 12: Quebec asks sick people, returning travellers to self-isolate

  • Quebec is asking all people returning from abroad or who experience flu-like symptoms to self-isolate for 14 days. Government workers, including teachers, are required to stay home for that period. The province is also banning indoor events of more than 250 people and has asked employers to be understanding if workers need to stay home.

Mar. 11: WHO declares global pandemic

  • The World Health Organization declared the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. As of Wednesday, 114 countries have confirmed 118,000 cases. “We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” said Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He explained that the situation is likely to worsen. “We expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” he said.
  • Earlier, the organization published a guideline on handling the mental health toll of stress related to the new coronavirus, including specific advice for health-care worker, caretakers of children and older adults, and people in isolation.
  • As of Mar. 11, there are more than 100 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, with 41 in Ontario, 39 in British Columbia, 14 in Alberta and seven in Quebec. Most cases are related to travel, and a handful to close contact with other confirmed cases. However, two of BC’s latest cases appear to have been acquired in the community, indicating the virus may be circulating more widely.
  • Outbreaks in China and South Korea appear to be stabilizing. Japan saw an uptick of cases on Mar. 10, reporting 54 more cases for a total of 581. Italy reported 168 deaths – the highest toll in a single day since the country’s outbreak began. Nearby European nations have also seen alarming spikes in cases this week; as of Mar. 11, there were 2,173 cases in Spain, 1,784 cases in France and 1,629 in Germany.
  • The United States issued guidelines for the general public, schools, businesses, and community organizations on mitigating community transmission of COVID-19. The advice includes staying home when sick, disinfecting surfaces and opening windows, reconsidering travel and rearranging large activities and events.

Mar. 11: Canada creates $1-billion response fund

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $1-billion fund for the domestic and global response to COVID-19. The fund includes $500 million for the provinces and territories, including money for buying protective equipment, public education, surveillance and monitoring, and access to testing.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada issued guidelines on when to cancel mass gatherings to delay the spread of COVID-19; these urge organizers to assess risk, including factors like the age of attendees, and whether they are likely to be travelling from areas affected by COVID-19. However, the guideline doesn’t dictate under what conditions events should be cancelled.

Mar. 10: Can people be held liable for knowingly spreading COVID-19?

  • While there is no official legislation, people who knowingly spread COVID-19 could be charged with criminal negligence causing death or bodily harm under the Criminal Code, according to the Department of Justice Canada. The offences could apply to doing anything that shows a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other people. However, to meet that definition, a person’s behavior would have to differ substantially from the typical behavior of a reasonable person.

Mar. 10: COVID-19 could markedly affect Canadians

  • A disease-transmission model developed by University of Toronto researchers predicts that the novel coronavirus could infect 35% of Canadians with modest controls, including finding and isolating about half of mild cases. Reducing that burden further will require aggressive social distancing and large-scale quarantines, said Dr. David Fisman, one of the model’s creators.
  • Ontario’s former chief medical officer of health Dr. Richard Schabas cautioned that COVID-19 does not register as a dire global crisis, based on the number of cases and deaths reported so far. He noted that the daily number of new cases peaked at 4,083 in February, as the outbreak in Hubei began to wind down. “Over the past month, the geography of COVID-19 has changed, but the global numbers have, if anything, become smaller,” Schabas explained. It is still possible that outbreak may become a pandemic, “but as the days pass and the global patterns stay the same, this becomes less and less likely,” he said.

Mar. 10: EU states ban travel, mass events

  • In the wake of Italy’s national lockdown, other European countries announced travel bans and cancelled mass gatherings.
    • Austria will deny entry to people arriving from Italy, except for medical emergencies, and has cancelled university lectures, indoor events for more than 100 people and outdoor events for more than 500 people.
    • Denmark cancelled all flights from northern Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • Spain, where the number of cases doubled to more than 1,000 on Mar. 9, suspended flights from Italy and shut schools in several regions.
    • Greece and the Czech Republic announced nationwide school closures and cancelled mass events.
    • Belgium and Romania banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people, while Slovenia banned gatherings of more than 100 people.

Mar. 10: Research supports 14-day quarantine

  • On average, people infected with COVID-19 start to show symptoms in 5.1 days, and 97.5% of those who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days, according to a study of 181 confirmed cases published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. According to the study authors, the findings support current recommendations to quarantine people for 14 days after potential exposure to the virus.

Mar. 10: Iran’s death toll rises

  • Iran reported 54 deaths related to COVID-19, the highest toll in a single day since the outbreak started in the country.

Mar. 10: American universities move classes online

  • Universities across the United States, including Harvard, Princeton and Stanford, are closing their premises to students and transitioning to virtual classes to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus on campuses. Universities also warned students to avoid travel to COVID-19 hotspots over spring break.

Mar. 9: Italy expands unprecedented restrictions

  • Movement will be restricted all over Italy, as the government expands an unprecedented lock-down to contain COVID-19. The country’s prime minister warned that people should not move other than for work and emergencies, and otherwise stay at home. All public gatherings will be banned, including sporting events, and schools and universities across the country will be closed.

Mar. 9: First Canadian death related to COVID-19

  • British Columbia announced Canada’s first death related to COVID-19. The patient, a man in his 80s with underlying health conditions, was one of two people diagnosed last week at a North Vancouver care home.

Mar. 9: Public Health Agency of Canada warns against cruises

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada recommended that Canadian avoid all travel on cruise ships due to COVID-19. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the disease can spread quickly on board due to close contact between passenger. Several Canadian cases, including three from Alberta, stemmed from a Grand Princess cruise to Mexico in mid-February.

Mar. 9: CNN calls new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic

  • CNN started using the term “pandemic” to describe the COVID-19 outbreak, even though the World Health Organization has not yet declared a pandemic. CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explained that numerous epidemiologists, public health leaders and clinicians agree the outbreak meets the definition of a pandemic. The virus has spread to every continent on earth except Antarctica, new cases outside of China now outnumber those inside the country, and several countries have reported sustained community transmission.

Mar. 8: Italy quarantines northern provinces

  • Italy imposed strict limits on travel in 15 regions after a spike in new infections and deaths. People will need permission to travel in and out of those regions and could face fines or jail time for violating the restrictions. The government has shutdown schools, theatres, and other public gathering places and events. Officials are advising people to stay at least one meter away from others at bars, cafes and supermarkets. The measures affect more than 16 million people, nearly a quarter of Italy’s population, and could remain in place until April.
  • The plan leaked early and thousands of people tried to leave the affected areas. Regions in southern Italy are screening people coming from the north and some have asked northerners to self-quarantine.
  • Violent protests broke out in 27 Italian prisons over coronavirus restrictions, including a ban on visits from relatives. Six people died in one protest. Many inmates are calling for amnesty due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Mar. 6: Doctors raise concern about preparedness

  • A group of 1,600 Edmonton doctors criticized Alberta’s handling of COVID-19 an hour before the province announced its first presumptive case. In a press release, the doctors warned the government’s lack of readiness was putting Albertans at risk. Key among their concerns was the lack of communication about emergency plans and difficulties accessing protective equipment.
  • Canada needs to urgently establish the capacity to assess and test people with COVID-19 symptoms in their homes or in special clinics outside of acute care hospitals, warned physicians from eight Toronto hospitals in an analysis published in CMAJ.
  • Infectious disease experts in Ontario warned the province’s cautious policies may make it difficult for the health system to respond in an outbreak. The province is advising health workers to take “airborne precautions” when treating suspected cases, including isolating patients in negative pressure rooms and wearing N95 masks. However, infectious disease experts say these precautions are not supported by evidence that suggests the virus spread via droplets, which would only require health professionals to use gowns, eye guards, gloves and regular surgical masks to protect themselves.
  • In Japan, supplies of protective equipment are running so low that one hospital is allocating only one surgical mask per staff per day. The Tokyo hospital said it only had enough stock to last for another month, so staff should use the same mask throughout the day.
  • In Australia, primary care physicians have warned the federal government that the country’s primary care system is unprepared to test and see suspected cases. The government said it will establish dedicated coronavirus clinics so that emergency hospital beds can be reserved for the sickest patients, but it’s unclear when those will be established.

Mar. 6: Hospitals report thefts of medical supplies

  • British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix condemned alleged thefts of medical supplies from hospitals. At least two hospitals in the province reported that workers have had to stop people from trying to steal boxes of masks.
  • BC Nurses’ Union President Christine Sorensen said supplies of protective equipment are being drained quickly as more people are requesting masks in health care facilities, even when they don’t need them.

Mar. 6: California cruise ship quarantined

  • Some 235 Canadians are among the 3,500 passengers quarantined on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California after a traveler from a previous voyage died from illness related to COVID-19 infection. Several other passengers from the earlier voyage, including two Canadians, have tested positive for the virus since returning home.

Mar. 5: Canada confirms first community case of COVID-19

  • British Columbia announced its first case of apparent local community transmission, a woman with no recent travel history and no known contact with anyone infected with the virus. Until now, all cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada involved people who had travelled to hotspots, such as China or Iran, or had close contact with travelers. According to BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, “there’s likely at least one other person out there who has either has this disease or had this disease, and we need to find them and find their contacts so we can stop any further transmission.”

Mar. 5: Alberta reports first presumptive case

  • Alberta’s chief medical officer confirms the province’s first presumptive case of COVID-19, a woman who travelled on the Grand Princess cruise ship that is now quarantined off the coast of California. The woman returned to Alberta on Feb. 21 but didn’t go into self-isolation until Feb. 28. Health officials are asking anyone in the province who has been on a Grand Princess cruise in the last two weeks to self-isolate and contact Health Link if they’re feeling unwell.

Mar. 5: Ontario expands testing

  • Ontario’s public health agency is expanding testing for missed cases of COVID-19 at hospitals in six cities. So far, no patients hospitalized with acute respiratory illness have tested positive for the virus. A similar expanded testing program helped catch the first community case in British Columbia. Ontario may also piggyback on an existing flu-monitoring program to proactively test patients who show up to doctors’ offices with flu-like symptoms.

Mar. 5: Universities facing financial crunch

  • Canadian schools and universities that rely on fees from international students are assessing the possible financial impacts of COVID-19. Immigration experts warn that the closures of some visa application centres abroad will make it difficult for students to attend school in Canada. Two private post-secondary schools in British Columbia have closed because of a case of COVID-19. The business school and an arts and design school at University Canada West will be closed three days for deep cleaning after a student received a visit from her father who later tested positive for COVID-19.

Mar. 5: What changes with community transmission?

  • Canada will likely see community transmission of the novel coronavirus, at which point tracing cases to a single source outside the community becomes impossible, according to Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu. At that point, officials will likely shift to social distancing strategies, such as discouraging mass gatherings and closing schools and workplaces. However, experts say Canadian officials are unlikely to cancel public transit or quarantine entire communities, as has happened in other countries.

Mar. 5: Canada warns against any travel to Iran

  • The federal government updated its travel advisory to urge Canadians to avoid all travel to Iran, citing the spread of COVID-19 and the volatile security situation in the country.

Mar. 5: Rising financial anxieties related to COVID-19

  • An Ipsos poll of 10,000 adults in Canada and nine other countries conducted between Feb. 28 and 29 found that 37% of Canadians believe the spread of COVID-19 will affect their personal finances, up from 20% two weeks earlier. Respondents from the other countries, which included Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, also reported higher levels of anxiety compared to two weeks earlier. Anxiety was highest in Japan, where 56% of respondents said they expected their personal finances to take a hit. The poll surveyed about 1,000 people from each of the 10 countries.

Mar. 4: Trudeau creates COVID-19 committee

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of a new Cabinet committee to focus on COVID-19. The committee will complement the work being done by the Public Health Agency of Canada and meet regularly to ensure “whole-of-government leadership, coordination and preparedness” in addressing the health and economic impacts of the outbreak.

Mar. 4: Military shifts to “pre-pandemic planning”

  • Canada’s military has shifted to “pre-pandemic planning” mode and is preparing for an absentee rate among its ranks of about 25%. Troops will only travel to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks if it is operationally essential, the military will increase protection to supply chains, and commanders have been warned to reconsider large gatherings among its forces.

Mar. 4: Study finds the new coronavirus has mutated at least once

  • A preliminary study by Chinese scientists identified two different strains of the new coronavirus. A more aggressive type accounts for roughly 70% of analyzed strains and a less aggressive type accounts for about 30%. Researchers found the more aggressive type was prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, but has become less so since January. The researchers cautioned that the data examined in the study were “very limited,” and studies of larger datasets are needed to better understand the evolution of the virus.

Mar. 4: Potential vaccine may soon undergo trials  

  • Trials of a potential vaccine by a company called Moderna may begin as early as April. However, completing trials and scaling up production of a successful vaccine would likely take until next year. Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson also announced new partnerships with the US government to work on potential treatments after the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases criticized large companies for not stepping up to produce vaccines.

 

Mar. 3: COVID-19 appears to be deadlier than flu

  • The mortality rate among people diagnosed with COVID-19 is 3.4%, according to the World Health Organization – higher than the seasonal flu fatality rate of less than 1% and the mortality rate of the Spanish flu, which killed 2.5% of people infected between 1918 and 1919. However, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than the flu, and therefore may still be contained. However, he also warned that the world’s supplies of protective gear such as face masks and gloves will run out unless production is increased by about 40% immediately.

Mar. 3: Canadians should prepare for disruptions to daily life

  • Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said communities should prepare for stronger public health measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, including closures of schools and workplaces and the suspension of large-scale gathering.
  • In the meantime, the Public Health Agency of Canada has advised schools to increase hand sanitizing stations, discourage food sharing, encourage sick students and staff to stay home, and separate those who develop symptoms while at school.

Mar. 3: More travel warnings and cancellations

  • The government of Canada issued a travel advisory for Iran, warning against non-essential travel due to the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Many airlines have suspended or reduced flights to and from Iran and most neighbouring countries have closed their borders.
  • Some Canadian companies, including Manulife Financial and Home Depot, are cancelling business travel and telling employees to self-quarantine on return from COVID-19 hotspots.

Mar. 3: Coronavirus poses “uncharted” challenge

  • Public health officials are operating in “uncharted territory” as they work to contain COVID-19, said World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a tweet. As of Mar. 2, there were more than 90,000 cases across 73 countries and territories, and the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica.

Mar. 3: UK warns outbreak could affect one in five workers at its peak

  • Up to a fifth of workers could be off sick at the peak of a COVID-19 epidemic, according to the United Kingdom’s coronavirus action plan. Some non-urgent hospital care may be delayed, and recently retired doctors and nurses may be called back to work. The UK may also close schools, ban large gatherings and encourage work from home.

Mar. 3: Handwashing dance challenge goes viral

  • A Vietnamese public health announcement sparked a global dance challenge demonstrating proper hand hygiene. The challenge was popularized by social media personality Qang Dang, who posted a video on TikTok performing a handwashing dance to a government-issued song describing how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Mar. 2: More Ontario cases linked to Iran, Egypt

Mar. 2: Canadians stockpiling supplies

  • Some stores have been cleared out of household disinfectants and personal hygiene products, in addition to face masks, as Canadians have begun preparing for potential quarantines.
  • The American Chemistry Council’s Center for Biocide Chemistries has compiled a list of disinfectants suitable for use against COVID-19.
  • Food banks have prepared pandemic plans to continue serving people who are unable to afford to stockpile a week’s worth of groceries as recommended by Health Canada.

Feb. 29: Nurses question protections for health workers

  • Nurses’ unions warned that Canada’s national guidelines on precautions health workers should take when assessing and treating possible cases of COVID-19 are less stringent than in other jurisdictions. For example, while the US Centers for Disease Control recommend that health workers wear respirators, Canada’s guidelines call for looser surgical masks in most cases.
  • Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the Public Health Agency of Canada will consider the unions’ concerns but being overly cautious may jeopardize limited supplies of protective equipment.

Feb. 28: Customs officers call for more nurses at airports

  • Canada’s Customs and Immigration Union urged Health Canada to deploy more nurses and quarantine officers to airports. Currently, there are two or three Health Canada employees, including one or two nurses, at each of the country’s three biggest airports in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. There are no on-site quarantine officers, but nurses can consult them by phone.

Feb. 28: WHO issues highest alert over COVID-19

  • The World Health Organization increased the risk assessment of COVID-19 across all countries to “very high” – it’s highest level of alert. According to Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the organization’s health emergencies program, “This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready.”
  • The organization hasn’t declared a pandemic because most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said the outbreak has “pandemic potential,” but noted that declaring a pandemic “has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems.”
  • There are now more positive cases outside of China than inside the country, with growing concern about outbreaks in Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan. Japan and Iraq have ordered schools closed, while Iran is limiting travel within the country and Italy has quarantined 11 towns. Meanwhile, the United States recorded its first confirmed case of unknown origin, a person in California who had no relevant travel history or exposure to other known patients, sparking worries about wider spread in the community.

Feb. 28: New Canadian cases linked to Iran

  • Quebec reported its first presumptive COVID-19 case, a woman who returned to Montreal from Iran. If confirmed, it will be the 14th case in Canada, and the first outside of Ontario and British Columbia.
  • Ontario reported three new cases linked to Iran this week: a woman in her 60s, her husband, and a man in his 50s.

Feb. 27: Canada preparing for possible pandemic

Feb. 27: Doctors urge stronger quarantine policy

  • A group of 23 Chinese-Canadian doctors signed an open letter urging a 14-day quarantine for everyone returning to Canada from China and other COVID-19 hotspots. Dr. Stanley Zheng, who drafted the letter, said the current policy of only quarantining people who have been in Wuhan, at the epicenter of China’s outbreak, won’t go far enough to contain the virus, given large outbreaks elsewhere.

Feb. 27: Stock markets plunge over coronavirus fears

  • International financial markets suffered seven consecutive days of losses driven by coronavirus fears in the worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis. Investors were spooked by warnings from major companies including Disney, Apple and Microsoft that the outbreak is hitting their business. Growth in China is expected to slow, and some economists warned of possible recessions in the United States and the eurozone if the outbreak becomes a global pandemic.

Feb. 21: More changes to China’s tally

  • China changed how it counts confirmed cases of COVID-19 again. A recent decision to count clinical diagnoses by physicians based on lung scans led to a spike in the number of confirmed cases. But officials have since changed how they count those cases; now, only patients with positive lab tests will be counted as “confirmed,” while those diagnosed clinically will be listed as “suspected.” Some epidemiologists say these changes are making it difficult to track trends in the outbreak.
  • China also confirmed more than 500 cases of COVID-19 in prisons across the country, with 230 cases in Wuhan’s women’s prison.

Feb. 21: FBI stockpiling hand sanitizers and masks

  • The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation ordered $40,000 of hand sanitizer and face masks “in case the coronavirus becomes a pandemic,” according to an acquisition document. The masks and disinfectants “are to be stored throughout the country for distribution in the event of a declared pandemic.”

Feb. 20: Iran cases point to wider spread

  • British Columbia reported a sixth case of COVID-19. Notably, the patient had recently travelled to Iran, and not to China or neighbouring countries that have seen the bulk of COVID-19 cases. The World Health Organization said that cases linked to Iran are a “worrisome” sign of more widespread transmission of the virus.

Feb. 20: Surge in cases in South Korea

  • Some 9,000 members of a religious group in South Korea were told to self-quarantine after a member spread COVID-19 to at least 37 people while attending services. There are more than 50 other suspected cases linked to the event. In total, South Korea has 204 cases, the largest cluster outside mainland China and the cruise ship docked off Japan.

Feb. 20: Amazon pulls products over coronavirus claims

  • Amazon is removing listings from its online marketplace that contain unapproved claims about treating, curing or preventing COVID-19. Several tech giants, including Amazon and Facebook, recently met with the World Health Organization to discuss how to curb misinformation on their platforms.

Feb. 19: China says most cases are mild

Feb. 19: Some deportations deferred

  • Canada is deferring deportations to Hubei province at the epicentre of China’s COVID-19 outbreak, but not to other parts of the country. A federal court rejected the appeal of an unsuccessful refugee claimant to delay his deportation to Guangzhou in southern China, ruling that his individual risk of infection is relatively low.

Feb. 19: Research sheds light on transmission

  • A review published in the Journal of Travel Medicine suggested that the basic reproduction number or R0 for COVID-19 (that is, the number that indicates how quickly the virus spreads) is higher than the World Health Organization previously estimated. The review looked at 12 studies published between Jan. 1 and Feb. 7, which estimated a basic R0 ranging from 1.4 from 6.49, for an average of 3.28 and a median of 2.79 – higher than previous estimates ranging from 1.4 to 2.5.
  • According to preliminary findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus appears to inhabit both the upper and lower respiratory tracts, making it capable of spreading more easily than SARS, which causes infections deep in the lower respiratory tract. Among 17 symptomatic patients, higher amounts of the virus were present in the nose than in the throat, adding to evidence that the virus may spread more like influenza.

Feb. 14: Cases among Chinese health workers declining

  • The World Health Organization reported that COVID-19 cases among health workers in China peaked in late January and have rapidly declined in the past two weeks. According to Chinese health officials, 1,700 health workers have been infected since the beginning of the outbreak, and six have died.

Feb. 14: Demand for masks remains high

  • Some Canadian pharmacies are having trouble keeping up with high demand for face masks, despite health officials advising that they won’t necessarily protect against COVID-19. According to the Canadian Pharmacist Association, some pharmacists are discouraging customers from purchasing the masks. At a recent briefing, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the masks are more useful for people who are “actually sick.” Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says that healthy people only need to wear a mask if they are caring for someone who is sick.

Feb. 14: Volunteers supporting people to self-quarantine

  • A group of 260 volunteers in Edmonton are helping travelers from China to self-quarantine. The volunteers pick up returning travelers from the airport, and deliver food and groceries. Some 50 people are currently under self-imposed quarantine in Edmonton.

Feb. 13: New coronavirus named

  • The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses named the new coronavirus “severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2,” or SARS-CoV-2, while the World Health Organization named the disease caused by the virus “coronavirus disease 2019,” or COVID-2019. The release of two names on the same day caused some confusion, and WHO clarified it will only use COVID-19 in communications to avoid the disease being mistaken for SARS.

Feb. 13: China reports largest one-day spike in cases

  • China reported 15,152 extra cases of COVID-19 and 254 additional deaths going back over an unknown number of days and weeks. WHO said the spike was due to a change in the way that Chinese authorities are counting cases; previously, they only counted lab-confirmed cases, but now they’re including clinical diagnoses based on lung imaging without requiring laboratory confirmation of coronavirus.

Feb. 13: Canadian hospitals unprepared for outbreak

  • Hospital overcrowding represents a potential critical weakness in Canada’s preparedness for an outbreak of the new coronavirus, warned a Perth, Ontario emergency physician. According to Dr. James Simpson, “There is no capacity in the system right now to manage a crisis. In fact, most hospitals currently have negative capacity as many are running with over 100% of their beds being filled.”

Feb. 13: Cruise passengers will finish quarantine on land

  • Twelve Canadians infected on board a quarantined cruise ship docked at Tokyo, Japan, have been moved to local health facilities, and three have been hospitalized. Japanese authorities will begin to allow passengers to leave the ship in phases and complete the quarantine on land.

Feb. 13: Faulty testing kits

  • Some of the testing kits sent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to laboratories across the United States were faulty. The agency has stopped shipments of the tests to 30 other countries until their accuracy can be confirmed.

Feb. 12: Ontario reports resolved case

  • Ontario confirmed the province’s third case of COVID-19 is now resolved. The other two patients have recovered but continue to test positive for the virus and remain in isolation at home.

Feb. 11: Canada may expand self-quarantine advice

  • Canadian health officials are weighing whether to ask all travelers from China to self-quarantine for 14 days. Federal and provincial officials already recommend that travelers from Hubei province self-isolate to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. About 70 to 80 people from Hubei area are arriving in Canada each day, according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

Feb. 10: WHO warns cases outside China may accelerate 

  • Countries should prepare for the spread of the new coronavirus to accelerate outside of China, warned WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The recent detection of cases with no link to China indicate “we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
  • So far, 99% of confirmed coronavirus cases are contained within China, and of those 80% are in Hubei. Developing nations could be at particular risk if quarantine efforts fail in China. Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Philippines have recorded cases. As of Feb. 3, only two African nations, Senegal and South Africa, had capacity to diagnose coronavirus.

Feb. 10: Canadians infected on quarantined cruise ship

  • About 3,700 people are quarantined on a cruise ship docked at Tokyo, Japan, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with 2019-nCoV. According to the cruise operator, 135 people have been infected on board, including eight Canadians.

Feb. 10: Conflicting reports on aerosol transmission

  • A Shanghai official reported that the virus can be spread through direct transmission, contact transmission and aerosol transmission, and as such, could linger in the air for long periods. However, other Chinese officials later told reporters there is no evidence that the virus can form aerosols and the most likely route of transmission appears to be via droplets coughed or sneezed by infected people.

Feb. 9: New spike in infections

  • China reported 3,062 new infections on Feb. 9, up 15% from Saturday, breaking a string of daily declines that some had hoped indicated the success of containment measures. The death toll in China also rose by 97 to 908 over the same 24-hour period.

Feb. 9: Canadian leading WHO investigation

  • Canadian epidemiologist Dr. Bruce Aylward is leading a team of international experts to investigate China’s outbreak for the WHO. It took nearly two weeks for the agency to receive permission for the mission from the Chinese government.

Feb. 9: Possible fecal transmission 

  • A study published in JAMA found that nearly half of the first 138 patients diagnosed at one hospital Wuhan were infected at the hospital. Data in the study indicate rapid person-to-person transmission, with each patient spreading the infection to 2.2 others, on average.
  • The study also raised questions about the potential for fecal transmission of the virus. About 10% of patients initially presented with diarrhea and nausea before developing fever and difficulty breathing, and 2019-nCoV has been found in the feces of patients with abdominal symptoms.

Feb. 6: Doctor who issued early warnings dies

  • A Chinese doctor who issued early warnings about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan died after becoming infected with the virus. Li Wenliang faced government censure for warning fellow doctors to wear protective clothing after noticing cases that he thought looked like SARS. Local authorities later apologized, and the news of his death triggered an outpouring of grief in China.

Feb. 6: Mass quarantines in Wuhan

  • The Chinese government has ordered authorities in Wuhan to round up all infected residents and place them in isolation, quarantine or designated hospitals. The order includes sending city investigators to the homes of infected patients to check the temperatures of all residents and interview close contacts. However, there is growing concern about the basic conditions in the makeshift mass quarantine shelters, with reports of power failures and shortages of medical staff and supplies.

Feb. 4: Rising tensions over travel

  • Thousands of medical workers in Hong Kong went on strike to compel the government to shut its borders with mainland China to prevent the spread of 2019-nCoV.
  • The WHO reaffirmed that there is no need to impose restrictions that “unnecessarily” interfere with travel and trade
  • China’s foreign ministry criticized the United States and other countries for overreacting to the outbreak. The US was the first to impose a travel ban on foreign nationals who have travelled in China within the past two weeks.

Feb. 4: Canadians with coronavirus won’t be evacuated

  • The federal government has a plane ready to evacuate Canadians from Hubei province in China, where the novel coronavirus is thought to have originated. Some 325 people have requested evacuation but those with respiratory symptoms will not be allowed to board the flight. On return to Canada, evacuees will be kept under observation for two weeks at a military base in Trenton, Ont.

Feb. 3: Human trials of potential treatments

  • Doctors in China are testing the efficacy of the antiviral drug Remdesivir as a potential treatment for 2019-nCoV in some 270 patients in Wuhan with mild and moderate pneumonia caused by the virus. The HIV medicine Kaletra is also set to undergo human trials.
  • Thailand’s health ministry reported dramatic improvements in a patient with coronavirus treated with a combination of the anti-viral drug oseltamivir and the HIV treatments lopinavir and ritonavir. The ministry is awaiting further research into the case.

Feb. 3: China builds hospital in 10 days

  • China’s government built a 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan in 10 days to increase capacity to respond to the outbreak in the city. The country deployed 1,400 doctors, nurses and other personnel from the military to staff the new hospital. A second 1,500-bed facility is due to open this week.

Feb 3: Could coronavirus be spread via imported goods?

  • According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence of transmission of 2019-nCoV associated with imported goods. In general, because of the poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.

Feb. 2: Death toll exceeds that of SARS outbreak

  • According to Chinese health officials, there were 361 deaths from 2019-nCoV in mainland China in the past month, exceeding the 346 deaths from SARS between 2002 and 2003.
  • Health officials in the Philippines reported the first death from 2019-nCoV outside of China, although the deceased, a 44-year-old man from Wuhan, harbored a mix of pathogens.

Jan. 31: How serious is the outbreak?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international public health emergency following a second emergency meeting about the 2019-nCoV outbreak. In a statement, WHO said it is still possible to interrupt the spread of the virus, so long as countries put in place strong measures to detect, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts and promote social distancing measures.
  • Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the risk to Canadians remains low and Canada’s response is fully in line with WHO recommendations.
  • The number of cases in China exceeds the number of worldwide SARS cases (8,098) during the 2003 outbreak.

Jan. 31: How does the virus spread?

  • According to the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this coronavirus strain is linked to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, which suggests that it was first spread from animal to person. However, there have since been cases of people who didn’t have contact with any animal markets, indicating that the virus is able to travel from person to person.
  • Symptoms appear within 2 to 14 days and people without symptoms may be infectious during that period, according to Chinese health officials.

Jan. 31: What are the symptoms?

  • According to Health Canada, typical coronavirus symptoms include headaches, coughing, a sore throat and fever. Milder cases may be indistinguishable from a cold or flu. More serious cases can lead to pneumonia, organ failure and death.
  • A Lancet study of 99 confirmed cases in Wuhan found that 83% had fevers, 81% experienced fits of coughing, and 31% experienced shortness of breath. Three-quarters showed signs of bilateral pneumonia. Eleven patients, most of whom had other underlying conditions, later died of multiple organ failure.

Jan. 31: How can people protect themselves?

  •  
      • Frequently clean hands using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
      • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough
      • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing with an elbow or a tissue, and immediately throw used tissues away and wash your hands
      • Avoid consuming raw or under-cooked animal products, and avoid contact with live animals in affected areas
      • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share travel history with your care provider
  • A diagnostic test is available to detect infection, but there is no vaccine yet.

Jan. 30: Evacuations, quarantine and travel advisories

  • Canada has warned citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to China, and avoid all travel to Hubei province, where the outbreak originated.
  • Many countries are evacuating citizens from China, including the United States, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India, and countries in the European Union. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the government is working out the logistics of evacuating Canadians and has a plane lined up to do so.
  • Italy is stopping air traffic with China, Russia is closing its far-east border, and numerous airlines including Air Canada are suspending flights to and from mainland China.
  • Some 60 million people in the city of Wuhan and across Hubei province are on some level of lockdown and travelers from the region have been ordered to self-quarantine.

Jan. 30: Misinformation and anti-Chinese racism on the rise

  • Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam urged a stop to racist acts and stigmatizing comments on social media against people of Chinese and Asian descent. Memes have spread on the internet blaming the outbreak on Chinese eating habits and hygiene. Chinese businesses in Canada also reported declines in customers.
  • Misinformation has spread online including false claims of tens of thousands of deaths and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories linking the outbreak to espionage and biological warfare. Three Canadian post-secondary schools have issued warnings about false information circulating on campuses.

Jan. 29: Global run on face masks  

  • A global run on surgical masks saw Amazon and Alibaba run out of stock. There were also reports of masks selling out at retailers in major cities in the United States and Canada, including Toronto and Montreal. But health professionals caution that masks are unlikely to protect people from the virus.

Jan. 28: When will the virus peak?

  • Speaking to Chinese state media on Jan. 28, respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan said he expected the number of cases to peak within 10 days. Researchers at Imperial College London estimated there may be anywhere between 20,000 and 100,000 cases in China, including those already confirmed.

Jan. 28: Real-time map shows spread of virus

  • Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering have developed an online dashboard showing the daily status of coronavirus infections worldwide. The dashboard culls data from major health organizations such as the WHO, CDC, China CDC, ECDC and others.

Jan. 28: Work on vaccine underway

  • The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations announced that it will give three companies a total of $12.5 million to develop 2019-CoV vaccines. Work started within hours after Chinese researchers posted a sequence of the virus in a public database, and two of the companies say they could have enough vaccine produced in one month to begin animal testing.
  • Canada’s chief public health officer says it will likely take at least a year before a vaccine is developed to protect people. In the meantime, people infected with the virus will be treated with supportive care.

 

Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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