Non-medical masks can be helpful when physical distancing not possible, Tam says
Top doctor urges people to remember lessons learned during pandemic
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.
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.