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

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

A map released by the BCCDC on Jan. 15 shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported for each local health area between Jan. 3 and 9. (BCCDC Image)
Salmon Arm and Vernon see increase in new COVID cases, curve flattening elsewhere

The rate of new cases is levelling off in Kelowna, Penticton and Revelstoke.

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project is on track, despite COVID-19 and the recent provincial election. (Government of BC photo)
Kicking Horse Canyon Phase 4 closures announced

The first major closures are expected to occur starting on April 12 until May 14

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

One of the renovated VWs that has served as the inspiration for Wood's idea for a VW village to redefine camping. (Jeremiah Woods photo)
Golden entrpreneau walks away with a deal from Dragon’s Den

Camping in the Woods combines a love of the outdoors and for classic VW vehicles

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

Half of the most expensive homes are on 2080 Mackenzie Crt, which is across the street from Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
The 10 most valuable homes in Revelstoke for 2020

Combined, the properties are worth more than $35M

Lake Country native Evan-Riley Brown is in the cast for the new film Journey To Royal: A WW II Rescue Mission to be released on video on demand and streaming services on Feb. 2. (Contributed)
Okanagan actor lands role in WW II movie

Evan-Riley Brown, from Lake Country, cast in production labelled as hybrid of a feature film and documentary called Journey To Royal: a WW II Rescue Mission.

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
More than 20 days have passed since the last case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Lakeside Manor. (File photo)
Salmon Arm retirement facility reopens social areas after COVID-19

More than 20 days have passed since last confirmed case at Lakeside Manor

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Most Read