Non-med­i­cal masks can be help­ful when phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing not pos­si­ble, Tam says

Top doc­tor urges peo­ple to re­mem­ber lessons learned dur­ing pan­demic

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World - MIA RABSON THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

OTTAWA—Canada’s chief pub­lic health doc­tor says Cana­di­ans in com­mu­ni­ties where COVID-19 is still spread­ing should wear non-med­i­cal masks when they can’t stay phys­i­cally dis­tant from oth­ers.

Dr. Theresa Tam is also urg­ing Cana­di­ans not to for­get how hard this pan­demic has hit vul­ner­a­ble se­niors in long-term­care homes and the need to en­sure that the stan­dards of care in se­niors res­i­dences are im­proved.

While Tam said al­most half the peo­ple con­firmed to have COVID-19 in Canada have now re­cov­ered, and most prov­inces re­ported ei­ther no or very few new cases Wed­nes­day, On­tario and Que­bec are still see­ing hun­dreds of new COVID-19 pa­tients ev­ery day. Long-term­care cen­tres ac­count for a large num­ber of them. Na­tion­ally, one-fifth of all cases, and more than four-fifths of all deaths from COVID-19, are con­nected to long-term care, with out­breaks in hun­dreds of fa­cil­i­ties.

On­tario, where out­breaks of COVID-19 have hit 40 per cent of the long-term-care homes, be­came the lat­est prov­ince to take steps to con­trol man­age­ment of pri­vately run longterm-care homes Wed­nes­day, en­act­ing an emer­gency or­der to give it­self that power. Premier Doug Ford said it will mean On­tario is bet­ter pre­pared to “im­me­di­ately swing into ac­tion if a home is strug­gling to con­tain this deadly virus.”

Que­bec, Al­berta and Bri­tish Columbia have all stepped in to take over man­age­ment of some pri­vately run homes af­ter out­breaks got out of con­trol.

Tam said there are many lessons to be learned from this “tragic char­ac­ter­is­tic” of the pan­demic in Canada, and said we can’t “let these lessons be for­got­ten.”

“I think im­prov­ing all those stan­dards and con­di­tions for our se­niors is very im­por­tant,” she said.

But dur­ing a House of Com­mons health com­mit­tee vir­tual meet­ing Wed­nes­day, sev­eral ad­vo­cates for se­niors were blis­ter­ing in their crit­i­cism of govern­ments’ man­age­ment of long-term care. Paul Brunet, the pres­i­dent of the Con­seil pour la pro­tec­tion des malades in Que­bec, said Canada and Que­bec both ig­nored warn­ings is­sued by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion in Fe­bru­ary and March about the risks COVID-19 was pos­ing to se­niors liv­ing in care homes.

Jodi Hall, the chair of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion for Long Term Care, said hun­dreds of fa­cil­i­ties in Canada sim­ply can­not do what the pub­lic health rec­om­men­da­tions say — namely iso­late res­i­dents from each other — be­cause they have only three- and four-bed rooms, nar­row hall­ways and one din­ing room.

Hall said the govern­ment needs to make some in­fra­struc­ture money avail­able to im­me­di­ately up­grade the more than 400 homes in Canada in that cat­e­gory.

PAUL CHIASSON THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Pier­rette Lalonde-Gos­selin, 88, watches as Mon­treal Alou­ettes cheer­lead­ers per­form for se­niors on the ter­race of the res­i­dence Au Fil de l'eau in Mon­treal on Wed­nes­day. Que­bec and On­tario are still see­ing hun­dreds of new COVID-19 cases ev­ery day.

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