More than 500 COVID-19 infections in Canada linked to exposures in public places, new data shows

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TORONTO – New data suggests more than 500 COVID-19 infections in Canada have been linked to public places including stores, bars, restaurants, daycares and schools since the start of July, as more and more businesses continue to reopen and restrictions are relaxed. New figures released on Monday by Project Pandemic report that at least 148 different stores, restaurants, bars, schools, daycares and other public spaces have issued warnings about potential exposure to the virus.

As of July 4, data has revealed that 505 individual coronavirus infections have been reported in connection with these public places in 61 cities in seven provinces.

Project Pandemic is a collaborative mapping effort led by the Institute for Investigative Journalism at Concordia University in Montreal. The project employs reporters from journalism schools across Canada as well as traditional news outlets such as CTV News to collect data on the coronavirus pandemic and use analytical tools to allow a clearer picture of the place where COVID-19 disease has spread.

While more than 500 infections may seem like a lot, infectious disease specialist Dr Isaac Bogoch told CTVNews.ca those numbers are expected.

“These numbers are not really surprising. We are seeing a few epidemics associated with restaurants and bars. There have been a few, but very few, transmissions in other places such as grocery stores or liquor stores, ”Bogoch said in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s a good reflection of where some viruses, but not all, are transmitted in Canada.

According to the new data, more than half of recent infections involved food sales, with potential exposure to the virus reported in 85 grocery stores, liquor stores and restaurants. There have also been at least eight reports of infections and exposures in day camps, eight in schools and daycares and three in parks and swimming pools.

Project Pandemic noted that the figures are not a complete data set and said in a press release that there are likely more warnings of exposure and subsequent infection than reported.

The data revealed that places most affected by potential exposure and infection include Loblaw grocery chains such as No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore and Shoppers Drug Mart in cities across Ontario and Alberta. Exposure warnings have also been issued for some of Loblaw’s Provigo stores in Montreal.

In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, Loblaw said it continues to follow public health guidelines on COVID-19 and that its teams are “working around the clock” to monitor the needs of customers and employees. “As the situation continues to evolve”.

“With the community spread of COVID-19, it is unfortunate but likely that some stores will be affected. This is why we have invested heavily since the start of the pandemic to improve our sanitation and protections, as well as to enforce social distancing practices in stores since, “read the statement.

Other affected grocery stores include Walmart and IGA.

Despite recording a number of infections, Bogoch said the risk associated with transmitting the virus in grocery stores remains low.

“When you think about the number of people who go to these stores on a daily basis, there are really very few cases related to these contexts. Grocery stores are very careful [in] making sure people are physically away, grocery store workers wear masks and many places have plexiglass to separate cashiers from customers, ”Bogoch explained.

“As long as people adhere to good public health measures, I think we will continue to see very few cases transmitted in these settings. ”

Another retailer that saw in a number of exposure warnings was various SAQ liquor stores across Quebec with exposures reported in at least 10 different stores and depots.

In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, a spokesperson for the SAQ said its locations followed the protocol required for confirmed cases of COVID-19, including quarantine and self-isolation for those who may have been in close contact with the infected employee.

“Since the start of the pandemic, our priority has been to ensure the health and safety of our employees and customers. The SAQ strictly complied with all the recommendations issued by public health authorities, ”the email indicates.

Bogoch said the main concern with virus transmission remains restaurants and bars.

“We know that in indoor environments like restaurants, when there are several people close to each other for long periods of time, these are perfect environments for the transmission of this virus and certainly if the virus is introduced into an environment like that one would not come to anyone. surprised that we will see later cases, ”said Bogoch.

Project Pandemic has reported that various restaurants have reported outbreaks across Canada, but several restaurants in Calgary have made the list with warnings of potential exposure issued for several locations of Cactus Club Cafe, The Keg, Fire N Ice Lounge and Village. Brewery.

To see less outbreaks in these settings, Bogoch said it’s up to restaurant owners and customers to make sure everyone follows public safety measures. However, it can be easier said than done.

“If restaurants and bars really take the initiative to make sure people can stay at their tables and disperse, that will be fine, but the likelihood of that happening, we know it’s not that high.” , Bogoch said. “We’ve seen cases in Canada and around the world of people going to bars to consume alcohol and of course it’s just more difficult to respect physical distancing in those contexts.

Bogoch said that doesn’t mean Canadians should avoid restaurants, but that customers and employees should remain vigilant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Companies really have to be created to be successful. It means protecting their employees and protecting their customers. It means creating a safe environment for people to eat and drink. You can have the best plans prepared, but if they are not followed. , they don’t make sense, ”he says.

In restaurants, Bogoch said the key to limiting possible exposure is customer compliance with safety measures, but the onus is on the company to enforce those measures. However, he added that following public health guidelines is what makes restaurants a difficult environment.

“If the restaurant or bar is set up in a more secure manner and really makes sure that customers are adhering to the right policies and that customers are vigilant… then you’ll be fine. But of course when we put that in in real world contexts we see that a lot of places do it, but some don’t, ”Bogoch said.

“And in places that don’t adhere to these measures, we see epidemics. ”

This map from Project Pandemic tracks known cases of COVID-19 across the country. If you can’t see the map on your device, head here for the full experience.

Using Esri ArcGIS technology

Past:

“Project Pandemic: Canada Reports on COVID-19” is a national collaboration bringing together journalists and journalism students from news organizations and universities across Canada to gather information as a public service.

The consortium draws on data collected by government health authorities, journalists and the non-profit platform Flatten.ca. This project is coordinated by the Institute for Investigative Journalism at Concordia University, with support from the Canadian Association of Journalists. For the full list of credits, please visit concordia.ca/projectpandemic.

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