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“ The lower limit of 10 people indoors or 25 outdoors applies to all unmonitored social gatherings including parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks & other recreational areas to reduce the spread of COVID-19

https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/58449/ontario-limits-the-size-of-unmonitored-and-private-social-gatherings-across-entire-province

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Sweden shows lockdowns were unnecessary. No wonder public health officials hate it

 

You know who isn’t worried about a second wave of COVID-19? Sweden. The stolid Scandinavian kingdom has just carried out a record number of COVID-19 tests and found a positive rate of just 1.2%, the lowest since the start of the pandemic. As Sweden’s case rate drops below Norway’s and Denmark’s, those commentators who spent April and May raging against what a  Washington Post  op-ed called its “experiment with national chauvinism” and predicting colossal fatalities have suddenly gone quiet. 

“Sweden has gone from being one of the countries with the most infection in Europe to one of those with the least infection in Europe, while many other countries have seen a rather dramatic increase,” says Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist. 

True, and it has happened not despite the absence of a lockdown but because of it. Sweden encouraged people to work from home, made university courses remote, and banned meetings of more than 50 people but otherwise trusted its citizens to use their common sense. The authorities judged that since hospitals could cope, there was no need to buy time by ordering people to stay indoors. That judgment has been amply vindicated. 

A cause for unalloyed joy, you might think. Here, after all, is proof that a country can contain the coronavirus without depriving children of an education, piling up backlogs of non-coronavirus medical conditions, or leaving a smoking crater where its economy used to be. 

But the rest of the world is far from pleased. Indeed, the tone of most foreign media coverage remains affronted, and you can see why. After all, if Sweden’s strategy was viable, the rest of us ruined ourselves for nothing. That is a disquieting thought, almost an unbearable one. But Sweden forces us to confront it. 

Imagine a world where Stockholm had caved to international pressure and fallen into line with everyone else. In such a world, politicians and public health officials could get away with claiming that but for their closures and crackdowns, things would have been unimaginably worse. The disease, they would tell us, would have spread exponentially. Millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, would have died. 

But they can’t make that claim when we can all see the control in the experiment. Stockholm’s streets are filled with relaxed people congregating in cafés without face masks. You and I might find those images uplifting, but to the epidemiologists and officials who staked everything on closing their economies, Sweden is the specter at the feast. There it sits, like Banquo’s ghost, silently rebuking them. 

The point is not that lockdowns achieved nothing at all. Obviously, if you confine an entire population, you will slow the spread of COVID-19 (and, indeed, of other diseases transmitted by human contact). The point, rather, is that lockdowns were disproportionate and were maintained for far too long. 

A new study by economists from the University of Chicago, Princeton, and the London School of Economics  finds that a lockdown of less than two months might be justifiable: The economic costs are limited, and the time can be used to build healthcare capacity. “After that,” says Professor Greg Kaplan, one of the authors, “all you're doing is delaying a second wave, so unless you can hold that lockdown in place all the way until a vaccine arrives, the marginal benefits get smaller and smaller.” 

It is amazing how many commentators refuse to understand this point. If you flatten the curve, you don’t reduce the area underneath the curve. Some countries have chosen to string things out for longer than others. But in the absence of a cure or a vaccine, the eventual number of deaths won’t vary much. 

That is not to say that it will be the same across different nations. All sorts of factors might affect the mortality rate: climate, geography, population density, age profile, genetics, openness to international travel, incidence of obesity, exposure to past coronaviruses, and, not least, different ways of counting. But the strictness of the lockdown is not high on that list. 

The infection and fatality graphs for Sweden and the United Kingdom look almost identical. You would be hard pushed, looking at them, to guess which nation closed its shops, schools, and offices and which did not. Nor is there much correlation when we look at different states in the United States — nor, indeed, in other parts of the world. Peru, which had an eye-wateringly strict lockdown, is faring far worse than neighboring Brazil, whose President Jair Bolsonaro was attacked around the world for his laissez-faire approach. 

When all this is over, we may well find that the biggest international variable isn’t the number of preventable deaths. It is the damage to the living.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/sweden-shows-lockdowns-were-unnecessary-no-wonder-public-health-officials-hate-it/ar-BB1904YN?ocid=sf&fbclid=IwAR2vUU8qW-T-9GDq2pyC1G-6EHXVVH4I16ZTjd5EWhD2T9IxQLyR_d1ZtcA

 

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Yet another reason why keeping the border between the US and Canada at restricted entry is a good idea.

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Manitoba’s neighbour to the south, North Dakota, has 10 times the coronavirus cases

joe-white-bg.jpg?quality=85&strip=all&w=
By Joe Scarpelli Global News
Posted September 22, 2020 8:38 am
 Updated September 22, 2020 8:48 am
 
North Dakota has recorded more than 16,000 coronavirus cases than Manitoba since March. AP Photo/Manish Swarup
 

Both Manitoba and its American neighbour North Dakota had seen few coronavirus cases last spring, but as of the first day of fall, the province and state are thousands of cases apart.

As of Tuesday morning, North Dakota, which has a population of about 760,000, has 3,210 active cases, bumping the state’s total to 18,244 since the pandemic began.

In Manitoba, which has a population of about 1.3 million, there are currently 363 active cases, bringing the province’s total to 1,608.

Dr. Joshua Wynne, University of North Dakota’s vice president of health affairs and chief health strategist for the state, said there are a number of reasons for the dramatic spike in new cases over the past few weeks.

For one, Wynne said the virus is simply making its way to the centre of the country.

“Both coasts of the United States had significant early outbreaks, so part of what’s happening is just the natural evolution of what happened on the coasts moving to the centre,” Wynne said.

5:14Is Canada in a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic? A doctor answers our questions

Is Canada in a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic? A doctor answers our questions

The state increased testing and saw university students arrive on campus in August, both of which contributed to the outbreak, according to Wynne.

 

He also said residents began to let their guards down.

“We got lulled into a false sense of security and I don’t think all of us have been practising the physical distancing, hand washing, masks and so forth,” Wynne said.

 

Since March, Manitoba recorded 18 COVID-19-related deaths, while North Dakota is reporting 193 deaths due to the virus.

Similar to Manitoba, people in the 20-29 age group make up most of North Dakota’s current cases.

“While I’m not happy that we’ve seen this significant uptick in cases, the fact that it’s in younger people gives us some hope that if we can keep them isolated, so it doesn’t spread to the more vulnerable populations, that the impact of the increase in the number of cases will be less,” Wynne said.

While university campuses and some businesses require face coverings, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has rejected the idea of issuing a mask mandate for the state.

In Manitoba, with the exception of the Prairie Mountain Health Region, masks haven’t been mandated, either.

The province’s chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, had previously said no restrictions are off the table and masks could be mandated if necessary.

Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Calgary, believes behaviour is the number one reason North Dakota is seeing far more positive cases than Manitoba.

“When we even compare, for example, the two countries as a whole, there’s a massive difference between COVID-19 rates in the United States and in Canada,” Jenne said.

“The people in the United States are no more susceptible to this disease than we are, yet their viral rates are so high because they’re no longer following these very basic restrictions that we tend to follow here in Canada.”

While Canada’s case count might be lower than south of the border, Jenne said province’s like Manitoba, where cases are among the lowest, can’t become complacent.

“When we let our guard down, there’s nothing protecting us and we will see ourselves in a similar situation to what we’re observing in a number of U.S. states.”

The U.S. and Canada border has been closed since March and won’t reopen until at least Oct. 21.

 

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16 hours ago, Amelia said:

What is this in the ratio of amount of testing? Has the number of tests increased?

Down near the bottom is a graph on testing. Take from it what you will.

https://covid-19.ontario.ca/data

 

On a world wide scale the virus is still on the first wave according to the graph on this site. Various countries depending on their responses have seen hills and valleys along the way which can be checked by clicking on an individual country name. If you go back to the beginning of this thread you can read several posts of denial this was really something to worry about. My replies then and now still are, the "rate of increase" was scary.

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries

Edited by Jaydee
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14 hours ago, boestar said:

so we are still looking at 0.8% of the TESTED population being infected.  Still pretty low.

 

In the world of statistics, does that not make it statistically irrelevant ??

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Alternate text

AP MORNING WIRE

Good morning. In today's AP Morning Wire:

 

  • Worldwide grief: Death toll from coronavirus tops 1 million people.
  • Biden, Trump prepare to debate at a time of mounting US crises.
  • National security concern seen by ethics experts in Trump's debt.
  • Lebanon faces dark days ahead as series of catastrophes bite. 
     

TAMER FAKAHANY
DEPUTY DIRECTOR - GLOBAL NEWS COORDINATION, LONDON

 

 

 

The Rundown

Alternate text

 

AP PHOTO/ANDRE PENNER

 

Worldwide grief: Deaths from virus surpass 1 million; A viral march across the planet, tracked by a map in motion

 

The global death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed 1 million.

 

The bleak milestone, recorded by Johns Hopkins University, comes nine months into a crisis that has devastated the global economy, tested world leaders’ resolve, pitted science against politics and forced multitudes to change the way they live, learn and work, Adam Geller and Rishabh R. Jain report. 

 

The virus has also spread untold misery. One million is greater than the population of Jerusalem or Austin, Texas. It is more than four times the number of people killed by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

 

Even then, the toll is almost certainly a vast undercount because of inadequate or inconsistent testing and reporting. And more people are dying daily, shrouding families and communities in grief in almost every corner of the world. 

 

The Spread: A new AP interactive map of the virus’ spread — represented by the lives it has claimed — blends data and geography in a way that forces us to see what has happened to the world. And what is still happening to it. Like so many things in the world, it started small. At first, the map shows only one splash of color: China, the place where the coronavirus silently began its march.

 

As it began to move around, the map evolved. Month by month, week by week, day by day, the coronavirus spread. Pandemic was declared. Hospitals girded. Cities and countries, shut down. The world changed so fast that its people could barely keep up,

reports AP National Writer Ted Anthony.

 https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-china-archive-pandemics-ffe83eaeeeb9c154c423facc8c97b347?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=AP Morning Wire&utm_term=Morning Wire Subscribers

 

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How Quebec went from COVID-19 success story to hot spot in 30 days
 CBC/Radio-Canada 5 hrs ago
Player's Own Voice podcast: Ted-Jan Bloemen's unique path
S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller: US home prices rise 3.9% in July

A little over a month ago, Health Minister Christian Dubé congratulated Quebecers for their hard work at containing the spread of the coronavirus.

It was a Tuesday, Aug. 25, and the province had registered just 94 new cases of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. 

"We have really succeeded at controlling the transmission of COVID," Dubé said at a news conference in Montreal. 

It was a statement of fact, but the ground had already started to shift. In the intervening weeks, transmission increased. At first it grew slowly, then exponentially. 

On Monday, the government implicitly acknowledged it has again lost control of the virus. The province is reimposing lockdown measures on Quebec's two biggest cities, starting Oct. 1. 

Until Oct. 28, Quebecers won't be able to entertain friends or families at home. Bars, restaurant dining rooms, theatres and cinemas will also be closed.   

"The situation has become critical" Premier François Legault said Monday evening. "If we don't want our hospitals to be submerged, if we want to limit the number of deaths, we must take strong action."

The new measures will bring abrupt changes to the lives of millions of Quebecers. They will also prompt questions about how the public health situation could have deteriorated so quickly.

This story tries to trace how Quebec again lost control of the spread of COVID-19.

At first, a stern warning
As Dubé addressed reporters on that Tuesday in late August, public health officials in Quebec City were busy trying to track down patrons of Bar Kirouac, a watering hole in the working-class Saint-Sauveur neighbourhood.

A karaoke night at the bar ultimately led to 72 cases and the activity being banned in the province.

There were also numerous reports by then of young people holding massive house parties and flouting physical distancing recommendations. One of them, in Laval, led to a small outbreak.

WATCH | Legault explains why harsh measures are necessary:

On Aug. 31, as Quebec's daily average of new cases neared 152 cases, Legault delivered a stern warning. 

"There has been a general slackening in Quebec," Legault said. "It's important to exercise more discipline."

Legault and his health minister threatened stiffer punishments for those who disobeyed public-health rules, but stopped short of imposing new restrictions.

Private gatherings identified as the culprit
In late August, public health officials were attributing the rise in infections to Quebecers returning home from vacations around the province, as opposed to the start of school. 

Though Quebec's back-to-school plan wasn't met with widespread criticism, some experts expressed concern about the large class sizes and the lack of physical distancing guidelines for students. 

The government also ignored advice that it should make masks mandatory inside the classroom.

a group of people standing in front of a building: A teacher wearing protective equipment greets her students in the school yard at the Philippe-Labarre Elementary School in Montreal on Aug. 27.© Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press A teacher wearing protective equipment greets her students in the school yard at the Philippe-Labarre Elementary School in Montreal on Aug. 27.
But the first weeks of the school year went relatively smoothly. By the start of Labour Day weekend, only 46 out of the province's 3,100 schools had reported a case of COVID-19. Importantly, there were no major outbreaks.

The problem was elsewhere. Outside schools, in the community at large, cases continued to rise. On Sept. 8, the province was averaging 228 cases per day.

By now public health officials had identified private gatherings as the main culprit behind the increase.

Montreal's regional director of public health, Dr. Mylène Drouin, was among those who urged more caution when hanging out with friends and family. 

"Yes, we can have social activities, but we have to reduce contacts to be able to reduce secondary transmission," Drouin said on Sept. 9.

Warning signs
In an effort to spell out the consequences of the increase in cases, the Quebec government unveiled a series of colour-coded alert levels. 

Areas coded green would see few restrictions; yellow zones would see more enforcement of existing rules; orange zones would be the target of added restrictions; and red zones would see more widespread closures of non-essential activities.

When the scheme was announced on Sept. 8, Quebec City was classified yellow. Montreal was classified green.

At this point, though, health experts were already concerned that more needed to curb the spread of the virus.

"It is important to intensify these measures," Dr. Cécile Tremblay, an infectious disease specialist with the Université de Montréal hospital network, said after the alert levels were announced.

The warning signs were starting to multiply.

Officials in Montreal were investigating 20 outbreaks at workplaces on Sept. 9; a week later that number had risen to 30. Long lines were also forming outside testing centres, filled with anxious parents and their children.

And more stories were circulating of private gatherings where the 10-person limit was ignored, angering the health minister.

He told reporters about a dinner with 17 people at a restaurant in Montérégie, which led to 31 cases. A corn roast in the Lower St. Lawrence, he said, resulted in 30 cases.

"To me, that's unacceptable," Dubé said on Sept. 15  "If people won't understand from these examples then, I'm sorry, but they'll never understand."

He moved Montreal, and four other regions, into the yellow zones and banned bars from serving food after midnight. The province was averaging 338 new cases per day.

WATCH | Infectious disease specialist explains why Quebec is so hard hit:

Second wave arrives
The warnings from the government did not curb the spread of the virus. By mid-September, authorities were reporting more cases in closed settings.

On Sept. 17, Herzliah High School in Montreal became the first school in the province to say it was shutting down for two weeks to deal with an outbreak. At least 400 other schools were also dealing with active cases of COVID-19. 

Cases accumulated too in private seniors homes (known as RPAs), a major source of concern for public officials given the vulnerability of the residents to COVID-19. 

There were only 39 cases in RPAs at the start of the month, and 157 by Sept. 20.

On that day the government announced it was moving Montreal, Quebec City and the Chaudière-Appalaches region into the orange zone, the second-highest alert level. Private gatherings were capped at six people.

The province was by then averaging 501 new cases per day. The second wave had begun, according Quebec's public health director, Horacio Arruda. 

Red zone
Over the last week, Quebec's health system has shown signs of strain as authorities race to contain the spread of the virus. 

Drouin, the Montreal public health director, admitted on Sept. 21 that her contact-tracing teams were swamped by the demand.

Until now, the increase in cases had not been accompanied by a corresponding surge in hospitalizations. Most of the new cases were concentrated in younger people.

But the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Quebec has increased by 45 per cent in the last seven days. Hospital staff are starting to get stretched. Several thousand health-care workers are in preventive isolation. 

"We're feeling the second wave," Dr François Marquis, the head of intensive care at Montreal's Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital. "We were apprehensive about it, but now it's a reality."

On Monday, Quebec reported 750 new cases of COVID-19. Montreal and Quebec City were classified as red zones later that evening.

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Health Canada approves rapid coronavirus test after feds put 7.9M on order

Health Canada has approved a rapid novel coronavirus test that can detect the respiratory illness in as little as 13 minutes.

The news comes one day after the federal government announced it had signed a deal securing up to 7.9 million Abbot ID Now COVID-19 rapid tests once they were approved by Canadian health officials.

https://globalnews.ca/news/7369046/health-canada-approves-rapid-coronavirus-test/

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As per usual, ANOTHER Trudeau failure !!!!!


" Ottawa turned off "wrong tap" on Pandemic surveillance former intelligence adviser says "

 

Ottawa turned its back on critical sources of intelligence when it decided to shut down much of its pandemic surveillance capacity last year, focusing instead on official information supplied by foreign governments, a former federal intelligence adviser says.

As the government launches an independent review into the decisions that crippled Canada’s pandemic surveillance unit in early 2019, the situation has exposed a critical lack of understanding among Public Health officials about what constitutes intelligence, according to Greg Fyffe, a former director of the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat.

“I think the wrong tap was turned off," said Mr. Fyffe, who headed the secretariat, which is responsible for strategic intelligence reporting across the government, from 2000 to 2008. “It’s almost incomprehensible."

His comments reflect a growing frustration inside Canada’s intelligence community that senior Public Health officials did not appreciate the value of advance warning and surveillance before curtailing operations of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, or GPHIN. For decades, the unit was relied upon to detect problems early, and provide continuing surveillance of outbreaks as they worsened, to help speed up government decision-making.

In cases where foreign governments are inclined to hide or play down an outbreak, analyzing signals from social media, internet blogs, local news, hospital data, people on the ground, and other sources, becomes essential to assess the real threat. However, GPHIN’s operations were restructured several months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

 

GPHIN is now the subject of two federal investigations. Health Minister Patty Hajdu ordered an independent review into the oversight of the highly specialized unit after a Globe investigation that detailed how its alert functions were silenced in MAY 2019 The Auditor-General is also conducting a probe.

With the minister’s office expected to announce soon who will lead the independent review, that decision is under heightened scrutiny. To understand the value of operations like GPHIN, the department must understand the importance of proper intelligence gathering, and how it works, Mr. Fyffe said.

“The thing you’re trying to do here is to use every possible means to get as much information as early as you can,” he said. “In the case of a pandemic, you need every possible aerial up in the sky."

GPHIN was created in the 1990s to detect and track outbreaks so that Canada could better prepare for a pandemic. It became world-renowned for its ability to gather information on outbreaks such as H1N1, Zika and Ebola. But several people inside Public Health, whom The Globe is not identifying because they are not authorized to speak publicly, have said that a shift within the department in late 2018 and early 2019 changed how the unit operated.

Analysts were told to focus on official information, instead of working with “informal” information.

When it came to the novel coronavirus, this meant prioritizing information provided by the Chinese government and the World Health Organization over potentially valuable clues from “informal” sources that might better indicate how aggressively the virus was spreading, and what steps are needed contain it. Such information, known as open-source intelligence, was dismissed within the department as merely “rumours,” the analysts said.

“To call it informal [information] I think is extremely derogatory and extremely inaccurate," said Mr. Fyffe, who said open-source intelligence is critical in tracking other threats to national security, such as terrorism. “It’s a very highly sophisticated form of information gathering, and it’s extremely effective in getting at types of information that is not available through other means."

GPHIN had become known internationally for its ability to use open-source data, and at one point was credited with supplying the WHO with 20 per cent of its epidemiological intelligence.

“I saw [past] examples of things that GPHIN in fact had picked up – unusual orders for medicines that are only useful in certain cases, indications of shortages of certain kinds of meats, which indicates sickness among animals,” Mr. Fyffe said. “Some of the stuff is conclusive, and some of it is just – ‘Hmm. There’s something funny going on, I wonder if we can find out more.’”

A Globe investigation in July reported that GPHIN analysts were told they could no longer issue alerts about international health threats they detected without first getting senior management approval. The alerts had been a crucial part of the operation’s speed, and were used to inject urgency into government decision-making, both in Canada and among many of its allies.

As a result of the new edict, the alert system went silent, which had a cascading effect inside the department. Soon after, international surveillance and intelligence-gathering activities were also cut back. Analysts were told to focus on domestic issues that were deemed more valuable to the department.

 

Canada’s response to the pandemic has been criticized for underestimating the danger of the outbreak. Throughout January, February and much of March, the federal government listed the danger posed by the virus as “low” in its official risk assessments. Even after the WHO warned that the risk was high in late January, and urged countries to prepare, the government continued reporting the risk was “low” for another seven weeks, and didn’t implement strong mitigation measures until late March.

“With a pandemic, the way the geometric progression of fatalities goes, the earlier the warning by days or weeks makes a huge difference in the death rate,” Mr. Fyffe said.

The GPHIN situation may be further investigated from an intelligence standpoint, amid growing concerns that the country’s ability to identify, prepare for and monitor health threats is a matter of national security.

The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA), which normally assesses how the country’s intelligence agencies operate, has signalled it may look into pandemic intelligence as well, to see what could be done better in the future.

“NSIRA’s role with respect to pandemics is primarily that we can review how the Government of Canada collects, safeguards, shares and actions intelligence,” NSIRA spokeswoman Tahera Mufti said. “We can review how pandemic prevention and response interplays with other national-security activities and priorities.”

Any investigation would likely begin after the pandemic subsides – though NSIRA could be called into assist other probes in the meantime, such as the Auditor-General’s investigation of GPHIN. “Our review work is done after events have occurred – not during,” Ms. Mufti said.

 

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ottawa-failed-to-recognize-value-of-pandemic-surveillance-former/

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Yet again, Trudeau virtue signals that he is different from mean old Harper but the reality fails to provide evidence:

Quote

From Torontosun.com

OTTAWA -- If Stephen Harper muzzled federal government scientists, then Justin Trudeau has failed to lift the muzzle, a federal public sector union says in a memo obtained by Postmedia Network.

Mind you, data quietly tabled in the House of Commons earlier this summer suggests that Harper's "muzzle" appeared to be ineffective. That data shows that federal government scientists gave nearly 1,500 media interviews in the 12 months prior to last October's election.

Nonetheless, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) -- the union that represents tens of thousands of federal government scientists -- says the Trudeau government is continuing a Harper government communications policy that prevents scientists from participating in conferences.

Moreover, "a communications policy was issued by (the Trudeau government) with the intention to end 'muzzling' but its implementation remains uneven across science-based departments," PIPSC says in a submission to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.


The Sun has also learned that McKenna is on track this year to make the biggest-ever year-over-year cut in the number of scientists her department employs. She'll finish this fiscal year as the boss of 3,386 scientists, a far cry from the all-time high of 3,830 scientists employed at Environment Canada just two years ago under the Harper regime.

The dismissal of early warnings from the GPHIN and the military briefings by the trudeau government shows a blatant disregard for the welfare of the country.

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Ottawa turned off "wrong tap" on Pandemic surveillance

 

Ottawa turned its back on critical sources of intelligence when it decided to shut down much of its pandemic surveillance capacity last year, focusing instead on official information supplied by foreign governments, a former federal intelligence adviser says.

As the government launches an independent review into the decisions that crippled Canada’s pandemic surveillance unit in early 2019, the situation has exposed a critical lack of understanding among Public Health officials about what constitutes intelligence, according to Greg Fyffe, a former director of the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat.

“I think the wrong tap was turned off," said Mr. Fyffe, who headed the secretariat, which is responsible for strategic intelligence reporting across the government, from 2000 to 2008. “It’s almost incomprehensible."

His comments reflect a growing frustration inside Canada’s intelligence community that senior Public Health officials did not appreciate the value of advance warning and surveillance before curtailing operations of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, or GPHIN. For decades, the unit was relied upon to detect problems early, and provide continuing surveillance of outbreaks as they worsened, to help speed up government decision-making.

In cases where foreign governments are inclined to hide or play down an outbreak, analyzing signals from social media, internet blogs, local news, hospital data, people on the ground, and other sources, becomes essential to assess the real threat. However, GPHIN’s operations were restructured several months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

 

GPHIN is now the subject of two federal investigations. Health Minister Patty Hajdu ordered an independent review into the oversight of the highly specialized unit after a Globe investigation that detailed how its alert functions were silenced in May, 2019. The Auditor-General is also conducting a probe.

With the minister’s office expected to announce soon who will lead the independent review, that decision is under heightened scrutiny. To understand the value of operations like GPHIN, the department must understand the importance of proper intelligence gathering, and how it works, Mr. Fyffe said.

“The thing you’re trying to do here is to use every possible means to get as much information as early as you can,” he said. “In the case of a pandemic, you need every possible aerial up in the sky."

GPHIN was created in the 1990s to detect and track outbreaks so that Canada could better prepare for a pandemic. It became world-renowned for its ability to gather information on outbreaks such as H1N1, Zika and Ebola. But several people inside Public Health, whom The Globe is not identifying because they are not authorized to speak publicly, have said that a shift within the department in late 2018 and early 2019 changed how the unit operated.

Analysts were told to focus on official information, instead of working with “informal” information.

When it came to the novel coronavirus, this meant prioritizing information provided by the Chinese government and the World Health Organization over potentially valuable clues from “informal” sources that might better indicate how aggressively the virus was spreading, and what steps are needed contain it. Such information, known as open-source intelligence, was dismissed within the department as merely “rumours,” the analysts said.

“To call it informal [information] I think is extremely derogatory and extremely inaccurate," said Mr. Fyffe, who said open-source intelligence is critical in tracking other threats to national security, such as terrorism. “It’s a very highly sophisticated form of information gathering, and it’s extremely effective in getting at types of information that is not available through other means."

GPHIN had become known internationally for its ability to use open-source data, and at one point was credited with supplying the WHO with 20 per cent of its epidemiological intelligence.

“I saw [past] examples of things that GPHIN in fact had picked up – unusual orders for medicines that are only useful in certain cases, indications of shortages of certain kinds of meats, which indicates sickness among animals,” Mr. Fyffe said. “Some of the stuff is conclusive, and some of it is just – ‘Hmm. There’s something funny going on, I wonder if we can find out more.’”

A Globe investigation in July reported that GPHIN analysts were told they could no longer issue alerts about international health threats they detected without first getting senior management approval. The alerts had been a crucial part of the operation’s speed, and were used to inject urgency into government decision-making, both in Canada and among many of its allies.

As a result of the new edict, the alert system went silent, which had a cascading effect inside the department. Soon after, international surveillance and intelligence-gathering activities were also cut back. Analysts were told to focus on domestic issues that were deemed more valuable to the department.

 

Canada’s response to the pandemic has been criticized for underestimating the danger of the outbreak. Throughout January, February and much of March, the federal government listed the danger posed by the virus as “low” in its official risk assessments. Even after the WHO warned that the risk was high in late January, and urged countries to prepare, the government continued reporting the risk was “low” for another seven weeks, and didn’t implement strong mitigation measures until late March.

“With a pandemic, the way the geometric progression of fatalities goes, the earlier the warning by days or weeks makes a huge difference in the death rate,” Mr. Fyffe said.

The GPHIN situation may be further investigated from an intelligence standpoint, amid growing concerns that the country’s ability to identify, prepare for and monitor health threats is a matter of national security.

The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA), which normally assesses how the country’s intelligence agencies operate, has signalled it may look into pandemic intelligence as well, to see what could be done better in the future.

“NSIRA’s role with respect to pandemics is primarily that we can review how the Government of Canada collects, safeguards, shares and actions intelligence,” NSIRA spokeswoman Tahera Mufti said. “We can review how pandemic prevention and response interplays with other national-security activities and priorities.”

Any investigation would likely begin after the pandemic subsides – though NSIRA could be called into assist other probes in the meantime, such as the Auditor-General’s investigation of GPHIN. “Our review work is done after events have occurred – not during,” Ms. Mufti said.

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Florida lifts coronavirus restrictions despite resurgence in cases

By Adriana Gomez Licon And Kelli Kennedy The Associated Press
Posted October 3, 2020 8:24 am
As the summer coronavirus spike in Sunbelt states subsides, Florida has gone the furthest in lifting restrictions, especially on restaurants where the burden of ensuring safety has shifted to business owners and residents — raising concerns of a resurgence.

In his drive to return the state to normalcy, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted limits on indoor seating at restaurants, saying they can operate at 100 per cent in municipalities with no restrictions and that other local governments can’t restrict indoor seating by more than 50 per cent.

In some of Florida’s touristy neighbourhoods, patrons have since been flocking to bars and restaurants, filling terraces, defying mask orders — drawing mixed reactions from business owners and other customers.

“We’re generally concerned that we’re going to find ourselves on the other side of an inverted curve and erasing all the progress we’ve made,” said Albert Garcia, chairman of the Wynwood Business improvement district, which represents 50 blocks of restaurants and bars in Miami’s trendy arts district.

Other Sunbelt states that have been COVID-19 hot spots over the summer haven’t gone as far. In Texas, bars have been closed since June under Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders, and restaurants can hold up to 75 per cent of their capacity, while face covers are required throughout the state. And in Arizona, restaurants and bars must run at half-capacity.

Though Florida’s governor generally wears a mask when arriving at public appearances and has allowed municipalities to impose mask rules, he has declined to impose a statewide mandate. And on Sept. 25, as the state entered a Phase 3 reopening, he barred municipalities from collecting fines for mask violations.

DeSantis says contact tracing has not shown restaurants to be substantial sources of spread.

 COVID-19 cases in Florida is declining

Coronavirus: Trump says rate of positive COVID-19 cases in Florida is declining

“I am confident that these restaurants want to have safe environments,” he said earlier this week. “And I’m also confident that as a consumer, if you don’t go and you don’t think they’re taking precautions, then obviously you’re going to take your business elsewhere.”

 
 

Craig O’Keefe, managing partner for Johnnie Brown’s and Lionfish in Delray Beach, said they’re now accommodating as many people as they did before the pandemic began and he’s hired eight people in the past few days. Demand surged last weekend.

 
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“It was like someone turned the light on,” O’Keefe said. “It was great to see people out smiling, having fun getting to see each other. It’s been a really nice thing to get people back to work.”

Shutdowns and restrictions have battered Florida’s economy, leaving hundreds of thousands unemployed in the tourist-dependent state.

Earlier this week, The Walt Disney Co. announced it would lay off 28,000 workers in its theme parks division even after the Florida parks were allowed to reopen this summer.

Florida has had more than 14,500 deaths from the pandemic, ranking 12th per capita among states. Its outbreak peaked in the summer, seeing as many as 12,000-15,000 cases added per day. New cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths have been on a downward trend for several weeks. Still, the state has added 2,000 to 3,000 cases per day over the past couple of weeks.

Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist at the Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, said that loosening restrictions in Florida is a “mistake” that could increase community transmission at a time when teachers are being summoned back to school.

 

“It really sends the message either implicitly or explicitly that it’s OK. It’s back to normal now, and it’s not the case. We are still in a very serious situation,” Dr. Hotez told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this week.

helms Florida hospitals

COVID-19 surge overwhelms Florida hospitals

In South Florida, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Friday that he was concerned over a slight uptick in county hospitalizations in recent days and warned people not to let their guard down, using President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis as an example that the virus is highly contagious.

Gimenez has been consulting with attorneys and staff on what rules local governments could continue to enforce without violating new state orders. The county plans to limit many restaurants to 50 per cent indoor capacity and continue requiring masks in public.

An 11 p.m. curfew is keeping a lid on nightlife, and the county even restricts loud music at venues so people don’t have to shout, which is believed to spread the virus more easily.

 

“I think there’s a lot of confusion because people thought that was it — everything is open,” Gimenez told reporters. “We are still not out of the woods.”

 

Omer Horev co-owns Pura Vida, a Miami chain of coffee shops with locations in iconic South Beach, the Design District near downtown and at the University of Miami. Horev said he isn’t relaxing any rules at his businesses. Store managers told him some customers have been defying their mask rules after DeSantis’ new order and he hasn’t seen any local enforcement in the past week.

“We are in this gray area where you don’t know what is enforced,” he said. “I feel safe; I am OK with it, as long as restaurant operators such as us and others do the right thing in keeping the employees and guests safe.”

In Tallahassee, Denise Barber, a 65-year-old retired state worker, used to dine out almost every day before the pandemic. She’s now comfortable dining out again, but only at places being more cautious than required. She’ll check a restaurant’s Facebook page or call them to verify their rules.

“I want to go out to eat more. I can still do it, but I’m going to have to do a lot of research to find a place,” she said.

 
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Canada reports over 2,000 new coronavirus cases for first time since start of pandemic

 
 
 
David Lao
 
12 hrs ago
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Video: Coronavirus: Quebec reports nearly 700 new cases as infections continue to surge amid second wave (Global News)

 
 
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%7B© (Photo by Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images) GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Clinical support technician Douglas Condie extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analysed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on February 19, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Canada reported 2,122 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, of which 2,049 were diagnosed in the last 24 hours.

 

It was the highest daily case total Canada has seen, though 2,777 cases were recorded on May 3 due to Quebec adjusting its total by more than 1,300 because of a computer issue.

However, testing has increased dramatically since then, with Canada administering 101,985 tests on Friday compared to the 29,855 on May 3.

Read more: How many Canadians have the new coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

A total of 89 deaths were also reported by health authorities across the country, of which only eight had occurred in the last 24-hours.

The virus has now claimed the lives of 9,409 people in Canada, while a total of 162,490 infections have been identified across the country.

A total of 137,614 patients have since recovered from the virus as of Friday, and over 8.9 million tests have been administered.

In an update Friday, Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned of the country's continued increase in new COVID-19 cases, with Canada averaging 1,634 new cases every day over the past week.

"Accelerated epidemic growth, particularly in high-incidence areas of Quebec and Ontario, is driving the ongoing increase," said Tam at a press conference Friday.

"New cases reported from these provinces account for almost 80 per cent of the national case count. More recently, we are seeing an increase in severe outcomes of COVID-19, which we're keeping a really close eye on."

Quebec announced the highest increase in COVID-19 cases among all provinces Friday, with 1,052 newly confirmed infections. The new case data, which brings Quebec's total infections to 76,273, is the highest increase in lab-confirmed infections since the province reported an additional 1,110 cases on May 1.

Another seven deaths were also reported by authorities in the provinces, though they had occurred sometime in September. The province remains the hardest-hit area in Canada, and has seen a total of 5,857 fatalities to date.

Ontario added 732 new coronavirus cases and 76 more deaths on Friday, though 73 of the infections and 74 of the fatalities had occurred over the spring and summer and were added as a result of a data cleanup.

The data brings the province's total infections to 52,980, and its death toll from the virus to 2,927. A total of 44,850 patients have since recovered from the virus. in Ontario.

Manitoba announced 43 new cases on Friday. The province, which has to date seen 21 deaths from the virus, now has 2,072 COVID-19 cases — of which an unknown number are considered probable cases.

Alberta reported 122 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, bringing its total lab-confirmed cases to 18,357. Another three deaths were reported by health authorities Friday, raising the official death toll to 272.

Saskatchewan added 13 new cases during their daily update Friday, increasing its overall virus cases to 1,940. The province's death toll stands at 24. Friday marks the third day in a row the province recorded a double-digit increase of new cases.

Read more: Canada eases coronavirus border restrictions for siblings, grandparents, permanent residents

British Columbia announced 161 new cases on Friday. The cases include two that are considered "epidemiologically-linked," which are patients who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms and were in close proximity to people who tested for the virus, but were never diagnosed.

The province has seen a total of 9,212 lab-confirmed cases and another 169 that are considered "epi-linked." Another three deaths were reported Friday, raising the death toll to 238.

Nova Scotia reported one new case on Friday, raising its total COVID-19 infections to 1,089. No other provinces in Atlantic Canada reported additional infections on Friday, however.

Global deaths linked to the virus have since surpassed 1 million, according a running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Over 34.4 million have been diagnosed with the disease worldwide.

The U.S., India and Brazil continue to lead in both cases and deaths.

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Clear as mud !

 

" So, to sum up, if we listen to all the advice – don’t leave your home but maybe go to a restaurant but only with those in your household and on the way back, swing by the airport and pick up grandma from her six-hour flight to Canada."

https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/lilley-no-visitors-to-your-house-but-granny-can-fly-in-from-overseas?fbclid=IwAR1Cf2LV4kHTg6Gib3t7NGQk8rHYiOWqE8gBP4Dt8TkJUGxiCqK3Qjh6Cdg

 

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7 hours ago, Jaydee said:

Clear as mud !

Try to imagine the crazy rules at the gym. I don't even bother going now.... pushups and pull-ups at home are your friend. The Karens are out in full force and have pretty much taken over. 

Edited by Wolfhunter
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