New outbreaks of COVID-19 among young adults across the country are sparking concern about the impact these clusters of new cases could have on the ongoing easing of pandemic restrictions.
Ontario is reporting its largest daily number of confirmed COVID-19 infections since the end of June with 203 new cases Tuesday, prompting provincial Health Minister Christine Elliott to urge citizens to follow physical distancing rules.
Alberta and British Columbia have also seen surges in new COVID-19 infections over the last two days. Manitoba has seen an outbreak on a few Hutterite colonies in recent days and a couple of positive tests among international travellers.
Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, says while the recent increase in infections was expected as the economy reopens, the uptick in new cases nationally is giving public health authorities cause for concern.
Canada’s daily new case numbers had slowed to an average of about 300 new cases a day, but this has increased to an average of 460 new cases per day for the last four days.
WATCH | Dr. Howard Njoo talks about why more young people are getting COVID-19:
The majority of the newly infected are young adults, many of whom have contracted the coronavirus by going to bars, restaurants and attending indoor parties, Njoo told reporters Tuesday at a briefing in Ottawa.
“I think everyone’s been tired after spending the winter cooped up,” he said. “And now with the nicer weather and the summer I think people just want to get out, so I think there is a fatigue factor in terms of trying to maintain all of those good public health measures.”
Njoo said he believes there is an “invincibility factor” also playing into the outbreaks among young people, which is being fanned by scientific evidence emerging that shows youth who contract COVID-19 are less likely to become seriously ill.
“I think at a certain age you think you can get away with anything … That’s where I think the challenge is, because even if they have only mild symptoms or they are asymptomatic, the fact is they’re part of our society.”
Njoo said it’s up to local authorities to decide whether bars and restaurants should be allowed to remain open.
WATCH | Doug Ford’s message to young people — Don’t go to parties:
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he was especially concerned by data showing 57 per cent of Tuesday’s cases in his province were in people aged 39 or younger and that some of the outbreaks have been linked to people attending indoor parties.
“I just ask people to hold off on these parties, I don’t know why everyone wants to party so bad but — enough. We have to keep this in control and we will.”
Trump resumes coronavirus briefings
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump warned Tuesday at a coronavirus briefing — his first in months — that the pandemic there will probably “get worse before it gets better.”
He also said health experts “know who the vulnerable are,” adding the median age of those who succumb to the respiratory illness is 78 with roughly half of all deaths from COVID-19 being individuals in long-term care homes. He promised they will be protected, while the U.S. continues to build a “very powerful strategy” to fight the virus.
Trump had pulled the plug on his freewheeling daily coronavirus briefings when they turned into a political liability this spring, but he resumed the task on Tuesday, looking to halt a campaign-season erosion of support as new cases spike across the country.
The White House briefing rolled out as the next stage of Washington’s response to the pandemic was being crafted on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers and White House officials were opening negotiations on a trillion-dollar-or-more “phase four” rescue package.
Congress has so far committed $3 trillion US to the crisis. In the more than 12 weeks since Trump signed the last bill into law, the number of U.S. coronavirus cases has more than tripled to more than 3.8 million. The virus has killed more than 141,000 people in the United States. Both figures lead the world.
Although Trump announced on Monday that he would resume his regular coronavirus briefings, he did not share the stage on Tuesday with members of his coronavirus task force, including top public health experts, doctors Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx.
U.S. government data published Tuesday, meanwhile, suggests reported coronavirus cases vastly underestimate the true number of infections, echoing results from a smaller study last month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study says true COVID-19 rates were more than 10 times higher than reported cases in most U.S. regions from late March to early May. It is based on COVID-19 antibody tests performed on routine blood samples in 16,000 people in 10 U.S. regions.
The study likely detected infections in people who may have had no symptoms or only mild illness, and who never got coronavirus tests. Infection rates were from six times higher than reported cases in Connecticut to 24 times higher in Missouri.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada has seen 111,699 coronavirus infections. Provinces and territories listed 97,757 of those as recovered or resolved, with a total of 5,048 still active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,894.
In Ottawa, legislation introduced by the Liberal government to change the federal wage subsidy and provide relief to people with disabilities passed the House of Commons on Tuesday by unanimous consent.
The legislation, Bill C-20, expands the number of companies that qualify for the wage subsidy, changes the amount companies can put toward their workers’ wages and extends the wage subsidy program to the end of the year.
The bill also sends a one-time payment of $600 to people with disabilities and extends some legal deadlines for court cases.
The original version of the wage subsidy covered 75 per cent of wages, up to a weekly maximum of $847, for eligible companies and non-profits. Companies had to show a 30 per cent drop in revenues.
The revised program pays out on a sliding scale based on revenue drops due to the pandemic, with the hardest-hit businesses eligible for a 25 per cent increase to the previous maximum payment.
The Bloc Québécois indicated early on that its MPs would support the bill, giving the Liberals the votes required to ensure its passage.
What’s happening in the rest of the world
In the United States, more than 500 women at a federal medical prison in Texas have tested positive for the coronavirus, in one of the largest confirmed outbreaks at a federal prison.
The Bureau of Prisons said the number of confirmed cases at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth jumped to 510 on Tuesday, just two days after the bureau reported that 200 women there had tested positive.
Only the federal prison in Seagoville, also located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had more infected inmates, with 1,156 cases as of Tuesday.
And in the world of sports, the NFL players’ union said 95 players have tested positive for the coronavirus, with rookies scheduled to report to their teams on Tuesday and training camps opening for all players from July 28.
Top players voiced their concern and anger on Sunday over a lack of COVID-19 safety protocols. The NFLPA and the league on Monday reportedly agreed to daily coronavirus testing for all players during the first two weeks of camp.
WATCH | Interferon appears to have some benefits, but more study is needed:
Mexico passed the 40,000-death mark Tuesday and reported near-record levels of newly confirmed coronavirus cases.
The Health Department reported that COVID-19 deaths rose by 915 to reach 40,400, the fourth highest total behind the United Kingdom at 45,507.
Mexico’s number of confirmed cases rose by 6,859 to 356,386, and the country now rivals Peru for the sixth-highest number of cases, but Mexico does so little testing that its number is considered vastly undercounted.
By Tuesday, Mexico had conducted just over 820,000 tests, or about one test for every 160 inhabitants.
In Brazil, authorities say the country’s Sao Paulo state has topped 20,000 deaths from COVID-19, while the nation as a whole has recorded more than 80,000 fatalities.
Sao Paulo is Brazil’s most populous state, with 46 million people, and is the epicentre of its coronavirus pandemic. It has been enforcing physical distancing measures since mid-March, but has never applied a full lockdown.
Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro says he has had a third test to see if he is still infected with the coronavirus and that the result will be released Wednesday. He announced on July 7 that he had COVID-19.
In Belgium, after four days of negotiations, EU leaders clinched an unprecedented 1.8-trillion euro ($2.78-trillion Cdn) budget and coronavirus recovery fund to confront the biggest recession in the history of the region.
A 750-billion euro ($1.16-trillion Cdn) coronavirus fund will finance loans and grants for countries hit hardest by the virus. That comes on top of the seven-year, one-trillion euro EU budget.
“We have laid the financial foundations for the EU for the next seven years and came up with a response to this arguably biggest crisis of the European Union,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The pandemic has killed about 135,000 people in EU countries.
WATCH | EU strikes unprecedented COVID-19 recovery deal:
Iran has seen a record 229 deaths in the past 24 hours from its outbreak of the novel coronavirus, health ministry figures showed on Tuesday.
Iran, the Middle East country hardest hit by the pandemic, began relaxing its lockdown in mid-April, at least partly to boost an economy battered by U.S. sanctions.
The Islamic Republic has recorded a total of 14,634 deaths from the coronavirus, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV, adding that the country has seen 278,827 infections and 242,351 recoveries.
Hospitals in Iran face acute shortages of medical personnel and beds as the country tackles a powerful second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Reza Jalili-Khoshnood, a senior official with Tehran’s anti-coronavirus task force, last week.
WATCH | Change of thinking needed on workers staying away when sick:
India added more than 37,000 new cases for a national total that now exceeds 1,155,000, the third most behind the U.S., with more than 3.8 million, and Brazil, with 2.1 million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
India’s new cases have hovered around 40,000 a day in recent days, with experts warning a series of peaks lie ahead as the virus spreads in rural areas where the health-care system is weak. The Indian Council for Medical Research, the top medical research body, was urging state governments to add more labs and improve testing capacity for the country of 1.4 billion people.
Worldwide, more than 611,000 people have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins, with more than 14.7 million people infected. Both numbers are widely acknowledged to be lower than the true toll of the disease.
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