COVID-19 Updates – November 2020
The second wave is upon us, but the light is at the end of a shorter tunnel.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020 — Back in September we reported that some parts of the country were starting to show an upward climb in transmissions after a relatively level spread over the summer months. Canada’s overall reproduction rate was at 1.4 but the outbreaks were regional in nature, often in and around major urban centres.
Fast forward two months and the upward climb has grown into a country-wide surge. Most provinces and territories are on some level of high alert or tightened safety measures. Masks are either mandated or highly recommended for indoor public spaces or where physical distancing is not possible. Social gatherings are either discouraged or prohibited and social bubbles have in many areas shrunk to single households only.
“…It is important for everyone to continue with individual precautions to protect ourselves, our families and our communities….The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 4,776 new cases (Nov 6-12) and over 58,400 are tested people daily, with 6.6% testing positive (Nov 8-14). Both community transmission and outbreaks are contributing to COVID-19 spread in Canada, including increased activity among vulnerable populations and settings,” said Canada’s chief public health office, Dr. Theresa Tam, in a statement on November 18.
On November 22nd, 54,455 active cases were recorded nationally. Locations that have fared fairly well throughout the pandemic are now experiencing an increase in cases severe enough to force a partial or complete shutdown, or the possibility of one in the near future. Nunavut reported 60 cases in mid-November and went into a finite lockdown on November 18 to try to mitigate the spread. Manitoba moved to a province-wide Provincial Response Level Red (Critical) on November 13, which was updated with further restrictions on November 20th. For example, retailers which are allowed to stay open may only sell essential items in-store, all non-essential items must be sold for curb-side pickup or delivery. Ontario implemented a colour coded alert level system and the number of health units in the red, orange and yellow alert levels is increasing quickly. The Toronto and Peel Region Health Units moved into the Grey (Lockdown) level as of 12:01am, Monday, November 23rd.
British Columbia implemented a province-wide mask mandate for all indoor public places and workplaces as part of a long list of new safety restrictions, including limiting social interaction to those in one’s household (with some exceptions). Saskatchewan invoked a province-wide mask mandate on November 19 while indoors in public spaces. Montreal and surrounding areas are at levels 3 and 4 with some areas of Quebec at level 2. As of November 23, restaurants and bars in Nova Scotia must maintain contact tracing records on all their patrons and additional gathering limits and safety restrictions were implemented for Halifax and Hants Counties. New Brunswick is mostly in alert level yellow, with two areas (Moncton and Saint John) in the red. Newfoundland and Labrador is currently at level 2 with guidelines on safe holiday celebrations and workplaces. It was reported on November 23rd that Newfoundland and Labrador, and PEI are leaving the Atlantic Bubble for a minimum two weeks.
In an interview with CBC News, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that Canada needs to focus on maintaining public safety measures until a vaccine is readily available. He also mentioned that the primary spread of the virus currently is in the smaller ‘household level’ gatherings by asymptomatic spreaders.
Relief is on the horizon
Moderna announced on November 17 that the test results of their COVID-19 vaccine show 94.5% effectiveness and capable of preventing severe disease in trial participants. Pfizer followed up with an announcement of their own on November 18 that their trial results show a 95% effectiveness with no serious side effects and proved to protect the elderly.
Discussing these vaccines during his CBC interview, Fauci said that he “would have been extremely happy if this were a 75 per cent effective vaccine…It’s extraordinary to have two vaccines using a novel platform that had never before been used in an approved vaccine to have an efficacy so high.”
Ontario’s health minister, Christine Elliott, announced at a press conference on November 17th that Canada is expected to receive four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and two million doses of the Moderna’s vaccine in early 2021. Although this will not cover every person initially, it brings hope that a return to life as we know it is possible.