Calls grow for more testing as Canada braces for a 2nd wave of COVID-19 cases

The latest:

Health officials in Saskatchewan are opening up coronavirus testing, saying as of Monday anyone who works outside the home will be able to get a COVID-19 test — even if they aren’t showing symptoms.

“We have fairly low COVID activity and that’s where we want to keep it,” Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said Wednesday as officials released an extensive list of who can be tested, including people being admitted to health-care facilities, people who are immunocompromised and the homeless.

Saskatchewan has reported seven deaths to date. The province has reported 620 coronavirus cases, with 494 of those cases considered recovered, with most new cases in the north and far north regions.

The shift in Saskatchewan comes as hard-hit Ontario and Quebec continue to face questions about ramping up testing. 

When asked about a potential second wave of infection in the fall or winter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said looking ahead, his government is focused on how quickly a resurgence could be contained and controlled.

“That’s why the federal government has stepped up in its offer to provinces to support them in massively scaling up testing capacity and … contract tracing capacity,” he said Thursday during his daily briefing outside Rideau Cottage.

Trudeau said he will talk with premiers Thursday night about testing and how Ottawa can help scale up capacity where needed.

“We don’t want logistical or financial limitations to keep anywhere in this country held back from doing all the testing that is necessary.” 

At his briefing on Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford he’s shocked by the recent drop in COVID-19 tests in the province. The number of tests completed Wednesday was 7,382. On Tuesday, it was 5,813, and it was 9,155 on Monday. The previous week, the number of tests ranged from about 14,000 to more than 18,000 per day.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said testing criteria for members of the public have been expanded so that anyone with symptoms can get tested, and the province is now looking to focus on retirement homes and other group-living settings.

“We’re looking at solutions for that and how we can get teams in there quickly and do that testing to make sure that we really understand what’s happening in the community,” she said.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, recommended on Wednesday that people in areas with COVID-19 wear masks when they are in spaces that don’t allow for proper physical distancing. The mask guidance is meant to supplement existing public health measures like handwashing, cough etiquette and physical distancing, Tam said, as she explained the shift.

As of 12:50 p.m. ET on Thursday, there were 80,557 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases in Canada, with 41,111 of those cases considered recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial coronavirus reports, regional health data and CBC’s reporting stood at 6,137.

The novel virus, SARS-CoV-2, first emerged in China in late 2019 and has since spread around the world, causing devastating outbreaks, straining health systems and causing massive economic disruptions. The virus causes an illness called COVID-19, and while researchers are searching, to date there are no proven treatments or vaccines.

Here’s what’s happening in provinces and territories

British Columbia’s premier says he wants the federal government to take the lead on the issue of paid sick leaveso workers can stay home if they are sick — but he added that the province is “prepared to go it alone if need be.” Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Health officials in Alberta reported three more coronavirus outbreaks in Calgary, as the city waits to see when restrictions on restaurants and salons there will be lifted. Premier Jason Kenney said that Calgary and Brooks, which are on a delayed reopening schedule because of higher case numbers, will learn Friday about when they can take the next step in reopening. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan reported another death in a COVID-19-positive patient on Wednesday, bringing the province’s death toll to seven. Health officials announced 21 more cases, with all but one in the far north and north regions. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba will allow outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people and indoor gatherings of up to 25 as of Friday, health officials said, though physical distancing measures will need to be in place. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Ontario reported 413 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 24,187, with 18,509 of those cases listed as recovered or resolved. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

Quebec is loosening up some of its public health guidance, saying as of Friday people will be able to gather outside in groups of up to 10 people, provided they are following physical distancing guidelines. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick’s extended stretch with no new coronavirus cases ended on Thursday as health officials announced one new case. The news comes a day after the premier said he was considering easing the province’s ban on temporary foreign workers as employers face a labour shortage. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

WATCH | Travel bubbles considered for regions with low COVID-19 cases:

Some regions with low COVID-19 cases, including some Canadian provinces, are considering creating so-called travel bubbles to allow people to move freely within those areas, but experts say the concept has many flaws. 1:59

In Nova Scotia, Dalhousie University announced it is moving most classes online for the fallThe university president said programs like medicine, dentistry and agriculture will still happen offline, but with public health measures in place. The province reported one new coronavirus case and one new death on Thursday, bringing the provincial death toll to 58. The vast majority of coronavirus deaths in the province have been linked to the Northwood care home in Halifax. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.

Prince Edward Island’s premier said Wednesday that seasonal residents will be allowed to start coming into the province beginning June 1. They will have to provide a written plan of how they will self-isolate for 14 days, Dennis King said. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador has now gone two weeks without any new reported cases of coronavirus, officials said Thursday. Read more about what’s happening in Newfoundland, where the leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District is saying it’s too early to say whether students will be back in their classrooms in September.

WATCH | Epidemiologist offers advice on prominent issues related to COVID-19:

Dr. David Fisman lauds Saskatchewan’s broad new testing regime and answers the question, “Can masks be helpful?”   8:55

Yukon is extending a program that offers relief for businesses that have seen revenue drop by 30 per cent or more during the coronavirus pandemic. Read more about what’s happening across the North.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

WATCH | Bolsonaro minimizes COVID-19 surge in Brazil, promotes hydroxychloroquine:

The number of coronavirus cases is surging in Brazil, but President Jair Bolsonaro continues to minimize the situation. Bolsonaro is also advocating the use of hydroxychloroquine, an unproven treatment also promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump. 2:01

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