FILE – Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam listens to questions at a press conference on COVID-19 at West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

14-day quarantine is key, but hospitals preparing for potential COVID-19 ‘surge’: Tam

Influx of snowbirds, March break travellers expected

Although the Canadian government is doing what it can to prepare for snowbirds and spring break travellers returning to the country, its chief medical health officer said hospitals are preparing for a “surge” in COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Theresa Tam answered questions Sunday about health care systems throughout the provinces that are readying community centres, arenas and other buildings as make-shift COVID-19 treatment facilities.

“Of course, given the various influxes, like the March break returnees that are still coming back or snowbirds, hospitals are trying to prepare for that surge,” Tam said.

She said the most “fundamental public health measure” was to ensure returning travellers remained in quarantine for 14 days.

“The penalties are substantial if you do not.”

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said travellers who return to Canada as of March 25 will have their contact information collected and authorities will follow-up to make sure they are following instructions. Canada shut its borders earlier this month to slow the spread of COVID-19, but repatriation flights have brought hundreds home.

READ MORE: Canada now mandating all returning travellers to quarantine: Freeland

Under the Quarantine Act, any person who causes “a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening this act” could be subject to a max fine of up $1 million and a three-year prison term, or a fine of $300,000 and a six-month prison term, for an indictment conviction or a summary conviction, respectfully.

Tam said many hospitals have decreased their ICU occupancy rates by 50 per cent as they prepare for more COVID-19 patients.

Many hospitals, including B.C., have discharged patients and cancelled elective procedures, hoping to be ready for any possible influx of patients. As of Sunday, Canada had recorded 5,866 positive cases of the virus, and 63 deaths. The death rate is about one per cent, Tam said, and three per cent of patients have ended up in intensive care. More than 205,000 people have been tested for COVID-19.

Tam said she was cautiously optimistic after seeing the modelling released by B.C. within the past few days. Health officials there say 45 per cent of COVID-19 patients have recovered, but despite the good news, Tam said the next week will be critical in determining where Canada’s situation goes.

COVID-19: Canadian cases, by province

Speaking on Tuesday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said hospital bed occupancy was at 66 per cent across the province, down from an average of 103.5 per cent. He said the critical care bed occupancy rate is at 55 per cent. At a press conference later that week, Dix said the province has now cleared more than 3,900 beds, 371 of them critical care beds.

B.C. health authorities have identified 17 “primary COVID” hospital care sites, and is planning to use all hospital sites as needed to meet demand. Total ventilator-capable beds currently are at 705, including beds and equipment usually used for surgical patients.

On Sunday, Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, said the feds are working on a Canada-wide inventory of ventilators, but acknowledged that an earlier estimate that 5,000 will be needed is likely now out-of-date.

“It’s difficult to say what number of ventilators is needed because what we’re planning to do is prepare the systems so we never have that peak requirement,” Njoo said. The government has ordered an additional 600 ventilators, Tam said.

“We’re pulling out all the stops to try and get access to whatever we have,” she said, noting there are “supply issues, globally” for masks and other personal protective equipment.

READ MORE: No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine, Trudeau says

READ MORE: B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

– With files from Tom Fletcher/Black Press Media


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mercer Celgar announces 30 days of downtime at Castlegar mill in July

Sawlog stumpage charges on pulpwood and complex stumpage rules some reasons for downtime

Evacuation orders for Duhamel, Salmo-Ymir and Crawford Creek rescinded

RDCK warns public that streams are still dangerous

UPDATE: Flooding prompts evacuation order for part of Broadwater Road in Robson

Evacuation area expanded to include 3966-4019 Broadwater Road

Portion of Broadwater Road in Robson closed due to flooding

Glade Ferry is also experiencing delays due to debris

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

189 homes in Grand Forks area given evacuation orders

Homes are in the Nursery, Grand Forks Airport, Gilpin Rd., Johnson Flats and Granby Rd. areas

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Trans Mountain starts B.C. leg of pipeline twinning project

Mostly finished in Alberta, Burnaby terminal expanding

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson says he’s heard no concerns from public

Most Read