Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world Wednesday

The latest: 

Canada’s chief public health officer says provinces and territories may take different approaches as the COVID-19 epidemic unfolds and governments look toward reopening — but Dr. Theresa Tam said steps taken by Canadians across the country to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus have prevented an explosion of cases. 

As of 10:45 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 38,932 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. The provinces and territories that provide public data about recovered cases listed 13,616 cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of coronvirus-related deaths based on provincial and local health data, as well as CBC reporting, listed 1,910 deaths in Canada. There have also been two reported COVID-19-linked deaths of Canadians abroad. 

Tam said Tuesday that health officials across the country are closely monitoring for “continued and stable slowing of the epidemic” as they plan for what comes next.

“But we are still a ways off and the path remains uncertain,” Tam said, adding that she knows questions around recovery and what comes next are on everyone’s mind. While there are a lot of unknowns about the path forward, Tam said the actions Canadians have taken in recent weeks have been critical to slowing the spread of the virus.

“There is no doubt that our sacrifices and every day inconveniences over the past weeks have prevented an explosive outbreak in Canada like the ones that have overwhelmed health-care systems in places like Italy, Spain and New York.”

The virus, which was first identified in China in late 2019, causes an illness called COVID-19. There’s no proven treatment or vaccine for the virus, though researchers around the world are searching for potential treatments. 

Strict public health measures meant to clamp down on the virus have led to huge financial strain for families and businesses, as well as for governments tasked with overseeing the response and assisting those who have lost income.

The federal government and provinces have launched a range of initiatives aimed at supporting families and businesses, but some critics argue that the funding has been both too narrow and too slow.

While some provinces are seeing positive signs in terms of efforts to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus, messages about what comes next remain cautious from both provincial and federal leaders and health officials. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said at her daily update Tuesday that the “temptation we need to resist is to think that because we haven’t yet seen the spread that our model predicted, that means the problem has gone away. That is not true.”

‘Hard truths’

At the federal briefing, Tam said that public health measures, including physical distancing and staying at home, are still vitally important. There are some “hard truths” that haven’t changed, Tam said, pointing to a need to “plan, pace ourselves and not take any sharp turns.”

The chief public health officer went on to note there are still many unknowns around COVID-19 and “no 100 per cent proven path” as the country moves forward.

Tam said the next phase will require cautious and careful navigation and will vary depending on the local context. One constant, she said, is the need to continue to protect the most vulnerable. Long-term care homes, many of which have struggled with staffing levels, are a particular area of concern.

Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. 

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories

Health officials in British Columbia say 28 employees at a chicken-processing plant in Vancouver have tested positive for COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta’s chief medical officer says even as the province sees positive signs around COVID-19, people need to remember the virus “is still with us, and we need to continue to take it very seriously, even as we start to think about reopening again.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta. 

WATCH | COVID-19 outbreak forces Alberta meat-processing plant to close:

A COVID-19 outbreak at the Cargill meat processing plant in High River, Alta., has forced the facility to temporarily close, raising concerns about beef prices and supply. 3:03

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is expected to address people in the province live Wednesday night, a day before officials are scheduled to release a plan on how the province will reopen. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

A Manitoba couple is urging people to stay home and take COVID-19 seriously after recovering from the virus. “It escalated very quickly,” said Kristie Walker, who tested positive after returning from the U.S. “It felt like you were in a car accident. Everything hurt. Absolutely everything.” Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Another Ontario long-term care home is reporting COVID-19-related deaths. Hawthorne Place Care Centre in northwest Toronto said Tuesday that five deaths of residents have been attributed to COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

WATCH | When will Ontario start easing restrictions? Hear what experts say:

Queen’s Park reporter Mike Crawley speaks to experts about three key things they think need to happen before Ontario pulls back on its restrictions. 2:07

Quebec Premier François Legault said the provincial government is working on a plan to reopen daycares and schoolsin the weeks and months ahead, though he cautioned “we still need some time to be sure that the pandemic is under control.” Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, including details around a recent outbreak at a Montreal hospital.

New Brunswick has launched a web portal where people can access results of their COVID-19 test. Read more about what’s happening in N.B., including details about what the province is planning around reopening.

A large shipment of protective gear — including masks and gowns — has arrived in Nova Scotia. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.

Prince Edward Island’s premier and top health official say they hope to lift some of the restrictions put in place to deal with COVID-19 by early May. “It’s going to involve a process with consultation and a risk assessment with industry, government departments, businesses and communities,” Chief Pubic Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I, including the latest on what’s happening with the lobster season.

WATCH | COVID-19 may trigger potentially deadly immune response:

Doctors working with COVID-19 patients say the virus may cause a deadly immune response called a cytokine storm in some patients. A team of Canadian scientists are leading research on how it could be treated. 2:01

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball says there’s no plan for major cost-cutting initiatives amid the double hit to provincial revenue of falling oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

The Northwest Territories is handing out $1.6 million in low-interest loans to businesses affected by COVID-19 and the rules in place to slow it. Read more about what’s happening across the North.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press, updated at 6:30 a.m. ET

The United States has by far the world’s largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 825,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. The database puts the U.S. coronavirus-related death toll at over 45,000.

A nearly $500 billion US coronavirus aid package flew through the Senate on Tuesday after Congress and the White House reached a deal to replenish a small business payroll fund and provide new money for hospitals and testing. It now goes to the House.

Passage was swift and unanimous, despite opposition from conservative Republicans, and President Donald Trump tweeted his support pledging to sign it into law.

WATCH | Frustration over COVID-19 lockdown boils over at Pennsylvania protest:

Thousands of people frustrated by the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown protested in Harrisburg, Pa., on Tuesday. 2:02

Meanwhile, health officials in California said two people died with the virus in the state weeks before the first reported death in the United States from the disease.

Santa Clara County officials said Tuesday the people died at home Feb. 6 and Feb. 17. The first reported death in the nation from the virus was on Feb. 29 in Kirkland, Washington.

The Medical Examiner-Coroner received confirmation Tuesday that tissue samples sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested positive for the virus, officials said.

The announcement came after California Gov. Gavin Newsom promised a “deep dive” update Wednesday of the state’s ability to test for the coronavirus and to track and isolate people who have it. That is one of the six indicators he says is key to lifting a “stay-at-home” order that has slowed the spread of the disease while forcing millions of people to file for unemployment benefits.

“This will go to the obvious questions and queries that all of us are asking: When? … When do you see a little bit of a release in the valve so that we can let out a little of this pressure,” Newsom said Tuesday.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 10:15 a.m. ET

Spain, one of the world’s worst-hit countries, is planning to allow children out of their homes next week for the first time in nearly six weeks.

“I am aware of the tremendous effort that the confinement has demanded of our smallest ones and their families,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

The country’s death toll reached nearly 22,000, behind only the United States and Italy, after 435 more deaths were reported Wednesday. But the numbers reflected a plateauing of the outbreak.

A volunteer prepares to disinfect his town during the coronavirus pandemic on Monday in Zahara de la Sierra, Spain. Zahara has mostly cut itself off from the outside world since March 14, a decision broadly supported by its residents, many of whom are elderly. (Juan Carlos Toro/Getty Images)

In another hopeful sign, a large makeshift morgue at an ice rink closed, with all the bodies having been removed by Wednesday. The temporary morgue in Madrid’s Palacio de Hielo held a total of 1,145 bodies of coronavirus victims during its four weeks in operation.

“We were not able to save their lives, but let it be known that our armed forces have not left them alone for one minute,” Spain’s Defence Minister Margarita Robles said.

A total of 69 people who worked for Britain’s National Health Service have died of COVID-19, while the number of staff in care homes for the elderly who have died from the disease is not known, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said on Wednesday.

A food bank volunteer sweeps the floor at a temporary food bank at Kensington Olympia in west London on Wednesday. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

Singapore’s coronavirus infections surged past 10,000 after it reported 1,016 new cases Wednesday. The tiny city-state’s tally rose to 10,141, maintaining its position as the worst-hit nation in Southeast Asia. It marked a third day in a row of new cases above 1,000 but its death toll remained at 11.

The health ministry said the vast majority of the new cases are again linked to foreign workers’ dormitories, which have been locked down and where virus testing has been ramped up to curb transmission.

China on Wednesday again reported no new deaths from the coronavirus, but registered 30 more cases — 23 of them brought from abroad. Of the domestic cases, all seven were reported in Heilongjiang province near the Russian border, where a field hospital has been set up to deal with a new flare-up related to people coming home from abroad.

Just over 1,000 people are hospitalized for treatment, while about the same number are under isolation and monitoring as either suspected cases or after testing positive but showing no symptoms. China has reported a total of 4,632 deaths among 82,788 cases, the bulk of them in Wuhan where officials recently raised the death toll by 50 per cent after a review of records.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sought support for an international investigation into the coronavirus pandemic in phone calls with U.S. President Donald Trump, and the German and French leaders overnight.

The total death toll from the coronavirus in Bangladesh reached 120, while the number of total infections rose to 3,772 with another 390 positive cases on Wednesday, an official said. Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services, said another 10 people, including seven men and three women, died over the last 24 hours amid growing concern that the upward trend could continue over the next few weeks as community transmission has taken place across the country.

Reports say many positive cases are asymptomatic, which poses a serious threat to the community. A nationwide lockdown is in place until Saturday to help contain the virus’s spread.

Volunteers spray disinfectant on a motorist along a road during a government-imposed shutdown as a preventive measure on Sunday against COVID-19 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images)

The reported death toll from the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Iran rose by 94 in the past 24 hours to 5,391, Health Ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpur said Wednesday in a statement on state TV. The Islamic Republic has 85,996 diagnosed cases, Jahanpur said.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 500 billion-rand rescue package, equivalent to 10 per cent of the GDP of Africa’s most industrialized nation, to try to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday that his government will increase the budget for social programs and critical projects by $25.6 billion US in order to address the coronavirus crisis.

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