When it comes to preventing the spread of the coronavirus, we are all in the same boat.
However, as far as Canada is concerned, each province and territory is a little lonely.
Everyone is struggling with their own combination of geography and modes of travel – and reacted with their own public health measures – all of which have shaped the spread of the virus.
While British Columbia was the first province to realize the deadly consequences of COVID-19, Quebec has become the epicenter of the Canadian epidemic, with long-term care homes on the front line.
Meanwhile, Nunavut, the only Canadian jurisdiction free from coronavirus, is struggling to remain so, as the pressure the disease would place on the territory’s limited health care resources could be catastrophic.
Each provincial government struggles to strike a balance between the need to distance themselves from society and the effects on the economy, and as the virus continues to spread in spring and summer, the effects will be felt very differently in every corner of the world. Canada.
Here’s where things stand right now.
BC. was the first province to face the deadly consequences of COVID-19 – and was also the first to show signs of slowing the spread of the virus.
Long before the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, the specter of coronavirus hung over British Columbia. in the form of the neighboring state of Washington – the first jurisdiction in North America where the deadly virus was detected.
By the second week of March, COVID-19 cases had not only spread to British Columbia. at a rate beyond other provinces, but long-term care homes had become deadly epicenters in the province’s fight against the virus, just as they had done in British Columbia’s neighbor to the south.
The first death from coronavirus in Canada was recorded at the Lynn Valley Care Center in North Vancouver on March 9.
Partly because of the early detection of coronavirus in British Columbia, the province quickly implemented large-scale screening and containment strategies. Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said this week that the timing, along with a bit of luck, has helped to ensure that the most serious isolation and distancing rules in place since the coronavirus began declared a global pandemic on March 12 have had a big impact.
The daily number of new positive coronavirus tests in British Columbia. has declined over the past week, so authorities are beginning to speak out about a future phase-out of removal restrictions.
Hospitals, which generally operate at 100% or more, are currently operating below 60% due to widespread cancellation of elective surgeries and reduced emergency visits.
But Henry warned that the province is still there for the long haul, and that any relaxation of the restrictions ahead would not be a complete return to normal.
In remote Yukon communities such as Old Crow in the far north, the consequences of overwhelming the health care system with a pandemic would be simply catastrophic. In the Arctic community of about 280 people, there is only one nursing station and a doctor who flies once every two months.
This is why, when a Quebec couple flew to Old Crow with the intention of hiding from COVID-19, the reaction was scandalous and immediate expulsion of the couple.
With three hospitals and a population of 35,874 spread over nearly 500,000 square kilometers, the Government of Yukon takes little risk with the virus. Out of 775 tests performed there, seven returned positive for the coronavirus.
On April 2, they imposed extensive travel restrictions, including a restriction that non-residents must leave the Yukon upon entry within 24 hours. He placed officers at the border and at Whitehorse Airport to enforce the rules.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver has signed agreements with British Columbia. Premier John Horgan will transfer patients to British Columbia if the territorial system is overwhelmed. The territory also agreed to the opening of a border with British Columbia. for the communities bordering Atlin Fire Side, Pleasant Camp, Fraser and Jade City.
A first look at Alberta’s projections this week found cautious indicators that the province could be decently prepared – relatively speaking – for the fight against coronaviruses. But while modeling shows progress in avoiding the worst-case scenario – many questions remain about what comes next.
Although it has the second highest per capita rate after Quebec, the province has done aggressive testing and kept hospitalizations relatively low. Prime Minister Jason Kenney has spoken optimistically about protective equipment stores for doctors and plans to increase hospital beds and ventilators.
According to the modeling, a “likely” scenario will see between 400 and 3,100 Albertans die from the disease before the end of the summer. This is a tragic number, but it appears that the social distancing measures implemented in March have already reduced the number of total infections.
But as serious as the coronavirus is, Alberta faces a battle on two fronts. The pandemic has brutalized economies around the world, but when combined with the collapse in world oil prices, the effects on the oil-dependent province are likely to be longer and more severe.
“We cannot focus on the pandemic or the economy. The two are inextricably linked, “Kenney said in a TV address to Albertans on Tuesday.
The Alberta budget released just over a month ago was based on an oil price of $ 58 per barrel, but a supply feud between Saudi Arabia and Russia, combined with a drop in demand for coronavirus, at prices hovering at less than half, a change will cost Alberta billions.
The United Conservatives in Kenney were elected on a balanced budget plan, a mission that continued during the pandemic. Although Kenney said the province will spare nothing to protect the health of Albertans, they have drawn circles to have continued the cuts – including cutting funding to 25,000 education support workers – and the increase in the ranks of the unemployed.
Remarkable given the current pressure on healthcare workers, many Alberta doctors say they are simultaneously preparing for the coronavirus and facing a government that does not listen. In particular, forced changes in the way they are paid that started in early April have started to get worse – many doctors say they are now earning less money, and some have closed clinics or cut back. the services they offer, even if the pandemic is raging.
In a public letter released Tuesday, Dr. Christine Molnar, director of the Alberta Medical Association, called the coronavirus “the greatest challenge of our lives,” but one that Alberta doctors face “without the confidence that our government appreciates us. “
“But we don’t serve government, we serve Albertans.”
Nunavut is the only Canadian territory free of coronavirus cases.
His government is taking no chances as long as the pandemic continues. Only residents and critical workers are allowed to enter and must isolate themselves for 14 days before entering the territory.
The challenges facing the coronavirus entering a community in Nunavut, where the population of nearly 40,000 is spread over a large Arctic archipelago, could be catastrophic. The territory has only one 35-bed hospital. It’s in the capital, Iqaluit.
With five confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Northwest Territories has implemented some of the most stringent isolation requirements among Canadian jurisdictions.
After a public health emergency was declared on the territory on March 18, all travel to the region was prohibited, including travel from elsewhere in Canada.
Residents are still allowed to return to the territory, but they must self-isolate for 14 days in one of the four regional centers upon their return, in order to avoid a situation where a truly isolated community is affected by the virus .
Although Saskatchewan remains slightly behind its western prairie neighbor, Alberta, in terms of the spread of the coronavirus, government projections show the province could see as many deaths by the end of the pandemic.
Government projects released Wednesday predict that 3,000 to 8,300 people could die in the province of COVID-19. It’s about the same – or a little more than Alberta – despite the fact that Saskatchewan has about a quarter of the population.
But spread has been slower in Saskatchewan, one of the least densely populated places in southern Canada. The total number of cases in the province is still less than 300, compared to almost 1,500 cases in Alberta.
“Fortunately, we are at the start right now. It remains stable for the time being and we remain cautiously optimistic about what we hope will continue, ”said Dr. Susan Shaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “However, we have a responsibility to plan what will happen if. “
Representatives of Aboriginal communities noted that existing problems in some First Nations, such as overcrowding or lack of health resources, compound the challenge posed by the coronavirus.
Northern Saskatchewan is predominantly indigenous, and according to Global News, the northern First Nations health authority is concerned that front-line workers will not be equipped to deal with the pandemic.
The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority said that a February order for personal protective equipment had only been partially enforced, and had asked for more from the federal and provincial governments.
The chair of the authority’s board of directors has stated that she recognizes the global shortage of items such as masks and gloves, but is concerned that the province has not reached out to First Nations to ask what they are. their needs as a result of the federal government’s response.
“The impact of this disease would be devastating and we ask the provincial and federal governments to communicate clearly that our populations in our member communities will not be excluded from the process in terms of the amount of PPE required in northern Saskatchewan, “Said Chef Carolyn Bernard to Global.
Despite having just over 200 confirmed cases of coronavirus this week and three deaths, fear of the COVID-19 pandemic in Manitoba is high.
Part of the reason is that officials believe there has been a community-wide spread of the virus in Winnipeg, which means the numbers may increase.
The Manitoba nurses’ union has spoken out on how best to protect workers who may come in contact with the virus – especially since three hospital workers were infected in March.
Nurses want all healthcare workers to have access to N95 respirators, which offer more protection than surgical masks.
Ontario has come a long and tragic way since January 25, when the province’s first confirmed case of coronavirus was a traveler who returned to Toronto on a China Southern Airlines flight.
The disease was not even named COVID-19 at the time, but has since become a household language in a province that is largely closed, with confirmed cases doubling last week to more than 6,000 or more. 200 deaths.
The school closings were announced on March 12 for three weeks and extended thereafter until early May, but many parents doubt the children will be back in class.
And while March break was about to start, the chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, urged Ontarians not to leave the province for trips that had been booked for weeks and months.
While many stayed away and enjoyed their vacation, some broke off their sunny vacation and returned after a few days to isolate themselves as a precaution at home, awaiting possible symptoms.
With two-thirds of known COVID-19 cases in the densely populated and often blocked Greater Toronto Area, GO commuter train service has declined dramatically and trams often run on empty streets while thousands work from home. The traffic is light.
Almost half of the deaths occurred in long-term care homes, the hardest hit being the Pinecrest nursing home, a 90-minute drive northeast of Toronto in the rural town of Bobcaygeon. The home has lost at least 28 residents to the virus and more than two dozen workers have been infected.
Premier Doug Ford has worked with other provincial and federal leaders to source new masks, face shields and other personal protective equipment for doctors, nurses and other health care workers.
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He denounced the lack of tests in Canada’s most populous province, ordering officials to check more seniors, health workers, first responders and others at high risk to better understand the speed of spread highly contagious virus.
“My patience has faltered,” he said bluntly this week, noting that less than a third of the province’s laboratory testing capacity has been used daily in recent days.
“I’m going to be like a dog on a bone on this point.” “
Ford admitted on Thursday that he was simply “frustrated” that a highly industrialized country could miss so many essentials despite planning for a pandemic.
“Unfortunately, it takes a crisis to see where many areas have been broken in government and in the private sector. You really see the systems that work and don’t work. ”
Quebec has become the epicenter of the coronavirus in Canada.
The struggle is horrible, but it is not the hospitals that suffer the greatest impact: it is the long-term care homes.
On Wednesday, the province crossed the dark milestone of 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and a total of 175 deaths from the disease.
More than half of the deaths were recorded in long-term care homes, which have caused some of the deadliest coronavirus epidemics in North America.
A long-term care residence north of Montreal, the Sainte-Dorothée Accommodation Center in Laval, has reported more than 115 cases of COVID-19 and 13 deaths since Wednesday afternoon, and the province was looking for ways to redeploy its hospital health staff in hard-hit nursing homes.
Part of the reason why Quebec sees more coronavirus spread than the other provinces may have to do with the spring break.
While most provinces started a one or two week break from public schools on or after March 16, Quebec and New Brunswick both took their break a week earlier.
BC. provincial health worker Dr. Bonnie Henry said this week that more people were leaving and returning to Quebec during the crucial period when the coronavirus was spreading and travel restrictions were not yet in place in place.
Quebec Premier François Legault said Wednesday that a silver lining may be on the way, with hospitalizations due to COVID-19 appearing to be stabilizing in the province.
Hindered by an initial round of poor data collection, the New Brunswick government had to reset in early April and try to collect the results of their coronavirus tests.
In its first series of 3,234 tests, a sixth had missing location information, making it difficult to track the spread of the virus in the province. The province also found that a disproportionate amount of its testing was done in the Moncton area.
Since that first misstep, the province’s database has been strengthened with location information from its assessment centers, and testing for the virus has been more evenly distributed across the province.
With a more rigorous set of test criteria, the test rate in New Brunswick was proportionately lower than that of neighboring provinces. On Tuesday, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, for the first time expanded the screening criteria to include people with coronavirus symptoms who had not traveled outside of the province.
This came shortly after the province received 5,000 test kits from the federal government.
However, even taking into account the low levels of screening, the infection rate in New Brunswick has been relatively low. One in 58 tests in New Brunswick gives a positive result, compared to the rate of one in 35 in Nova Scotia. The province’s total now stands at 111, with no deaths as of April 9.
This lower rate is attributed in part to a higher proportion of New Brunswick’s population living in sparsely populated rural areas.
The epidemic has also taken its toll on the province’s fisheries. After being struck by the rapid drop in lobster prices, fishermen in the Bay of Fundy asked the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to delay the opening of their lobster season by one month, from March 31 to 30 April.
Prince Edward Island
We can predict that the smallest province of the country has the fewest cases of coronavirus with 25, as of April 9.
But it is also facing a dark economic period ahead. Tourism, fishing and agriculture are the three largest industries and at least the first two have been hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic.
The province’s recent economic outlook report for 2020 predicts 20,200 job losses by May, which represents about a quarter of Prince Edward Island’s workforce.
Most of these job cuts will occur in the accommodation and food services sectors, which will bear the brunt of the loss of tourism, which accounts for 3% of the island’s GDP.
The province has restricted cruise ship docking until July 2020, which will cut cruise ship visits by 17%, the report said.
The province will face a tough decision as to whether to open the island to tourism after July 1 as it tries to balance tourism revenues and the spread of the disease.
At the same time, the P.E.I. The Fisherman’s Association and its members are considering whether to postpone the spring lobster season to start on April 30. While this debate focuses primarily on the safety concerns of coronaviruses, the fact is that the drastically diminished lobster market means a profitable lobster season seems unlikely.
The Economic Outlook report suggested that the agricultural sector – barring weather-related problems – would not be too affected by the pandemic and would continue to make a significant contribution to the economy of Prince Edward Island.
Nova Scotia reported its first death from coronavirus on April 6, a woman in her 60s from Cape Breton with an underlying medical condition. A 90-year-old woman, also from Cape Breton, became the second person in the province to die from the disease on April 8.
Nova Scotia was the first of the Atlantic provinces to adopt many of the restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but this has yet to prevent a significant portion of the population from ignoring social distancing protocols. .
On Wednesday, Parks Canada closed the entire park area around Citadel Hill – the site of the iconic Halifax Citadel National Historic Site that overlooks downtown Halifax – in response to the number of people still using the park. terrain and do not meet the physical distance recommendations. Parcs had closed the fort itself on March 25.
Two weeks ago, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Strang, closed the province’s borders, ordering anyone from outside the province to avoid public spaces and to s isolate immediately for 14 days. On Monday in Amherst, Nova Scotia, police issued tickets to three New Brunswickers who had crossed the border and visited hardware and grocery stores. These tickets were subject to a fine of $ 1,000.
The province has also been hit hard by lobster prices, which have dropped sharply since the coronavirus epidemic stifled demand from China, its biggest customer. During the month of February, lobster prices fell by almost 50 percent, prompting some in the industry to request a postponement of the season.
With the largest population in the Atlantic provinces, Nova Scotia also has the highest number of cases with 373, with two deaths on April 9, mainly in the eastern area of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, which includes Halifax.
On Wednesday, the province expanded its list of symptoms indicating coronavirus testing after determining that about 10% of its cases were the result of community transmission.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Police in Newfoundland arrested the same woman twice in three days in late March for failing to follow the province’s guidelines for self-isolation against coronaviruses.
It was an extreme but representative example, in the minds of some, of what was initially a cavalier attitude among some in the most eastern province of Canada with regard to the coronavirus and the health protocols that ‘he advises.
On more than one occasion, Premier Dwight Ball and Minister of Health John Haggie took time out of their daily briefings to scold those who did not take the restriction of coronavirus seriously.
This attitude may have changed since the province saw the death toll rise in other parts of the country – and the impact is now felt closer to home. The province reported 236 cases and 3 deaths as of April 9.
An outbreak linked to a single funeral home over a three-day period resulted in 167 cases of virus – including the first death – as well as a total ban on funerals. He was nicknamed the Caul Cluster after the Caul funeral home in St. John’s, where he was born.
The COVID-19 crisis also posed an economic threat to Newfoundland, which prompted the Prime Minister to write an alarming letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month that said the province was on the verge of being unable to pay. his employees.
In response, the federal government has committed to buying short-term bonds from the provinces, avoiding a fiscal disaster for the time being.
One factor in Newfoundland’s financial imbalance is that 21% of its population is 65 years of age or older, and 84% of them have at least one chronic disease. In general, this indicates that the population of Newfoundland will suffer greatly when the inevitable outbreak of coronavirus occurs. And with an indefinite end to the crisis, funding for health care will be severely overwhelmed.
With files from The Canadian Press