Canada Prepares To Tackle COVID-19 City By City As Epidemic Diverges

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The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was initially conceived in terms of war, like a national fight. We then split along provincial lines as the virus settled in Quebec and Ontario, leaving places like Manitoba and New Brunswick virtually intact.

Today, cities are preparing to fight their own outbreaks as the first wave of infections turns into a series of localized eruptions.

Take the situation in Kingston, Ontario, where the city of approximately 137,000 people has seen 63 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

By Tuesday, 62 of those cases had been resolved, leaving only one confirmed case in the community. There have been no deaths or outbreaks in long-term care homes, but residents of Kingston continue to live under restrictive home support orders issued across the province.

“A unique approach is becoming increasingly difficult,” said Kingston mayor Bryan Paterson in an interview with the National Post.

To put the numbers into context, Ontario announced 446 new cases on Tuesday, seven times more than what Kingston has experienced since the first case of COVID-19 arrived in Canada.

“I speak with mayors in the Toronto area to tell them that things are moving too fast for them. And then you have situations in Eastern Ontario like us where we hear from our own public health officials that we are ready to take the next step. This shows that there is a real interest in a regional approach, “said Paterson.

It’s a similar situation in Ottawa, where the city has reported new single-digit cases in the past week and, although there are 18 institutional outbreaks in the city, only 187 confirmed cases out of 1,969 have been acquired in the community. The people of Ottawa have endured provincial mandates and city rules against persistence in the parks, as well as some of the most zealous laws in the country.

Kingston, Ontario Mayor Bryan Paterson: “There are real arguments for a regional approach.”


Ian MacAlpine / Postmedia / File

After resisting a local approach to the crisis, the Ontario government appears to have changed its mind.

“We need a plan that recognizes the differences on the ground in different parts of our province,” said Premier Doug Ford on Tuesday afternoon. Ford announced on Friday that the opening plan would continue on a regional basis, but little details on its appearance have been revealed. It could go city by city or allow regional health authorities to set guidelines. In Quebec, for example, the province is shared between Montreal and everywhere else.

A kind of regional approach is already underway in much of Canada and the United States. New York rules are different from the rest of the state, and Montreal opens on a slower timeline than the rest of Quebec. An outbreak at a Calgary meat packing plant forced her to work under house arrest orders longer than the rest of Alberta.

Although the outbreak in Ontario was fairly consistent across the province at the onset of the crisis, a recent analysis of active cases by the CBC found that 76% of them were in the Toronto area.

We need a plan that recognizes differences on the ground in different parts of our province

Paterson said he didn’t know why Ontario had resisted the regional approach until Friday when most of North America was evolving this way, but said he was happy to see change of direction. This new approach, however, poses new challenges.

On the one hand, how do you get people to introduce the virus in newly reopened cities?

“We can do things differently at the regional level if we have a way to monitor movement. At the borders between the provinces, we can at least speak to people who cross that border. We can provide information, we can require people to stay away for two weeks upon arrival, “said Colleen Davison, social epidemiologist and global health researcher at Queen’s University. “We can also take the cell phone number or contact information for these people, and that allows for different rules or different approaches in different places. “

Aside from harsh warnings from public health officials and politicians, there is little to stop people in hot cities from driving on the highway to get their hair cut or visit their members. of their family. There are no borders, and setting up checkpoints would be difficult in cities with as many entry points.

But Davison said residents of cities where there was virtually no trace of the virus would not defend the restrictive measures any longer.

“It’s a difficult balance to find. Fatigue is real. In this case, it starts to become more of a burden. And it’s a burden for many people, ”she said. “In areas where there are very few cases currently and where they are able to keep track of who is traveling and entering, it might be wise to soften some of the physical distancing measures. “

Public health officials see resurgence of virus less as nationwide wave, but series of local hotspots and experts recommend countries prepare to tackle potential second wave of COVID-19 infections at local level.

“The argument for a regional approach is driven more by what lies ahead for the next year than by what lies ahead in the past two months,” said Paterson.

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