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Ford addresses ‘disturbing’ anti-maskers at his home; Alberta sees lack of cooperation with contact tracers

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, Justin Trudeau announced that Canada has secured 28.4 million rapid COVID-19 tests, which can deliver results in less than 20 minutes.

The chief medical officer of health, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the tests will be deployed possibly by the end of the week or early next week to provinces and territories.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford asked people to support take-out initiatives at restaurants in the province’s three hotspots where new restrictions are in place. In addition, he pleaded with Uber Eats to reduce the commission rates it’s charging, in order to help restaurants amid the pandemic.

To finish his press conference, Ford called out those who are spreading disinformation about COVID-19, especially the “anti-maskers” who have been showing up at his house.

As COVID-19 continues to spread nationwide, Quebec announced more restrictions for three regions, Saskatchewan limited gathering sizes at households, and British Columbia health officials pleaded with citizens to get their flu shot amid influenza season. In Alberta, health officials said they’re seeing an increasing number of people who are refusing to share information with contact tracers.

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

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‘There’s no hidden agenda’: Doug Ford shares frustration over those discrediting the COVID-19 pandemic

As the second wave of COVID-19 makes its mark on Ontario, Premier Doug Ford addressed those who are trying to discredit the reality of the virus, such as by calling it fake. 

“There’s no hidden agenda … it’s sheer facts,” said Ford. “What I get from the chief medical officer, I will put it right on the table good, bad or ugly. …

“I’m going to repeat this again, there is no agenda. I’m the last guy in the world that would put up with that. I just, it just wouldn’t happen under my watch. I’m here to protect the people of Ontario, keep them safe.”

Ford credits the media, who he called “phenomenal,” for helping deliver the government’s message on protocols throughout the pandemic. 

It’s a contrast compared to what the premier describes has been occurring in front of his home. 

“We have the anti-maskers showing up to my house again,” said Ford.

“You know, flying the flag upside down. That’s disturbing to say the least. You don’t like our country, want to disrespect the people of this country and the flag; go on, take off, leave, find another place you can fly your flag upside down.”

Ford announcements funding for Ontario businesses impacted by latest restrictions, calls out Uber Eats

Ford announced $300 million to provide relief for local restaurants and other businesses that have been impacted by the province’s latest health measures. 

The news comes after Ford announced on Friday that indoor dining will have to close for restaurants and bars in the province’s three hotspots of Ontario, Peel and Ottawa. These venues will

Where did Victoria go so wrong with contact tracing and have they fixed it?

Victoria’s contact tracing system has faced criticism in the past for being inefficient, with officials flying to New South Wales in September to learn from that state.



a person in a car: Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Comparisons are difficult in a pandemic because each outbreak has its own unique characteristics. That said, there are some key features that underpin the differing responses of NSW and Victoria when it comes to contact tracing.

Fundamentally, NSW’s system of decentralised local area health districts meant when the second wave hit, that state was able to draw on teams embedded in their local communities to manage contact tracing. These teams worked independently but also in concert under the mothership of NSW Health.



a person in a car: ‘NSW’s system of decentralised local area health districts meant when the second wave hit, that state was able to draw on teams embedded in their local communities to manage contact tracing.’


© Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
‘NSW’s system of decentralised local area health districts meant when the second wave hit, that state was able to draw on teams embedded in their local communities to manage contact tracing.’

Related: Sun, sand and coronavirus: Australia aims to enforce a Covid-safe summer

In Victoria, a legacy of cuts left the Department of Health and Human Services under-resourced and highly centralised, meaning there was a smaller base upon which to build the surge contact tracing capacity (with some contact tracers coming from interstate).

This was further challenged with the rapid rise in daily new cases, from 65 to 288 in one week alone in July. Systems had to be developed quickly to manage large quantities of data and feed it back to a central hub. The state had to “build the aeroplane while flying”.

Much has changed since then, and for the better. Some hard lessons have been learned along the way but the contact tracing system in Victoria is now very comprehensive and increasingly robust.

Community engagement, local knowledge

Community engagement and local knowledge might seem like buzzwords but in a pandemic, they’re vital to ring-fencing a cluster.

NSW’s system of devolved public health units and teams meant when local outbreaks occurred, locally embedded health workers were at an advantage. They’re already linked with local area health providers for testing, they already have relationships with community members and community leaders, and they know the physical layout of the area.

If you’re doing a contact tracing interview with someone and they’re talking about a key landmark at a certain time of day, you can visualise it and understand what it means in terms of risk.

What’s crucial is a nuanced understanding of local, social, and cultural factors that may facilitate spread or affect how people understand self-isolation and what’s being asked of them. It can also make a critical difference in encouraging people to come forward for testing.

It’s not just about making sure you have materials

White House now has two CDC epidemiologists helping with contact tracing

President Trump and at least 34 White House staff members and other contacts have tested positive for the virus, according to Wednesday’s senior leadership brief on the covid-19 response prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Some of those people are suspected of having become infected at White House and Republican National Committee events.

The White House by Tuesday completed contact tracing related to the president’s infection and cases involving several other people, a senior White House official said, raising concerns among infectious-disease experts about whether a thorough investigation could be completed so quickly. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, said anyone meeting the CDC’s definition of “close contact” with someone who tested positive had been notified and given health recommendations.

It remains unclear when the White House began contact tracing. If the effort did not begin right away, or go far back enough, infections may have been missed, experts said.

If the White House had started immediately, “then early control could have held back numbers of infections and further need for ongoing tracking,” said Jeanne Marrazzo, an infectious-diseases expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Several White House staffers and administration officials expressed anger and bewilderment that the White House had not undertaken a more robust contact-tracing effort sooner. They said many people — including White House residence staff who do not have the stature of a lawmaker or a top political aide — had not been contacted despite possible exposures, putting them and others at risk in a still-growing outbreak. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The CDC began offering help last Friday, after President Trump announced he had tested positive, only to be repeatedly spurned, according to a CDC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. On Wednesday, an arrangement was made for “some limited CDC involvement,” the official said.

White House officials rejected the assertion they have turned down help, pointing to the CDC epidemiologist already detailed to the White House Medical Unit. That epidemiologist is leading the White House investigation and has been in communication with agency officials, according to a senior White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

White House officials said they have completed their investigation of the Rose Garden event celebrating the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett that was attended by nearly 200 people, based on photos.

The White House Medical Unit, with a staff of more than 50, has been in touch with the D.C. Department of Health and mayor’s office to report confirmed cases, the official added.

“Any positive case is taken very seriously, which is why the White House Medical Unit leads a robust contact-tracing program with CDC personnel and guidance to stop ongoing transmission,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

White House officials said their investigation is unlikely to find the outbreak’s source.

“There were a number of guests who

Spam calls are hindering efforts to contact trace and track Covid-19

Nine months into a pandemic that has killed 210,000 people in the United States, health officials are imploring residents to answer their phones. The caller may be a disease tracker trying to save you from the deadly coronavirus.



a man talking on a cell phone: Joseph Ortiz, a contact tracer in New York City, gathers information as he heads to a potential patient's home.


© John Minchillo/AP
Joseph Ortiz, a contact tracer in New York City, gathers information as he heads to a potential patient’s home.

Contract tracing involves identifying sick people, isolating them and then tracing everyone with whom they’ve been in contact and putting those people into quarantine.

But many people wary of spam calls and phishing scams are not answering calls from unknown numbers, undermining efforts by contact tracers to reach people exposed to Covid-19. And some states such as Louisiana are sending letters to those people who don’t answer — not the most effective way when time is of the essence.

Without a federal contact tracing program, health departments have set up a patchwork of procedures. Some have worked with phone companies to ensure the name of the health department shows up on caller ID. For example, in Washington, DC, it shows up as DC Covid 19 Team.

Still, others appear as unknown numbers and are getting mistaken for spam calls. And even when they show up with the specific departments, some are still going unanswered.

“Hello? Yes, it’s you we’re looking for,” Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted, echoing the Lionel Richie song. “Contact tracing is a critical tool in getting our city back on its feet. Answer the call.”

The governor of Ohio is voicing the same message. State health officials say while they have 113 health jurisdictions and don’t collect the percentage of calls answered on a state level, local jurisdictions have reported less cooperation with tracers now than they did earlier in the pandemic.

“If you receive a call from a contact tracer — answer the call,” Gov. Mike DeWine said. “Contact tracing is incredibly important as we work to stop the spread of Covid 19.”

Robocalls have made things more complicated

In the age of identity theft, many Americans are rightly suspicious about sharing their personal information with strangers. And robocalls have not made things easier.

The number of robocalls received in the United States dipped in the early months of the pandemic, then ticked back up as call centers reopened.

In September alone, there were 3.8 billion robocalls recorded nationwide by tracking service YouMail. That’s about 127 million per day and an average 12 calls per person. With the desperate wait for coronavirus treatments and vaccines, scammers preying on pandemic fears are using such calls to offer bogus testing or seek personal information.



a group of people sitting at a desk in front of a television: Workers conduct coronavirus contact tracing from an office at the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County.


© Lynne Sladky/AP
Workers conduct coronavirus contact tracing from an office at the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County.

That has made people even more reluctant to share personal details by phone. For example, 45% of New Jersey residents with coronavirus reached by contact tracers refused to provide information for various reasons.

“This is about public health. No one is on a

White House not contact tracing Rose Garden event considered possible ‘superspreader’: report

The White House is not contact tracing guests and staff who attended a Rose Garden event for the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, despite many viewing it as a possible spreader of the coronavirus, The New York Times reported on Monday.

The celebration, which took place 10 days ago, is viewed by some as the potential epicenter or “superspreader” of the White House’s coronavirus outbreak because it has been followed by at least 11 attendees testing positive for COVID-19, including President TrumpDonald John TrumpQuestions remain unanswered as White House casts upbeat outlook on Trump’s COVID-19 fight White House staffers get email saying to stay home if they experience coronavirus symptoms White House says ‘appropriate precautions’ were taken for Trump’s outing to see supporters MORE, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpGOP lawmaker calls on Pelosi to apologize for response to Trump contracting coronavirus White House gave New Jersey officials list of 206 people at Trump’s Thursday fundraiser events Photo of Mark Meadows rubbing his head during update on Trump’s health goes viral MORE, adviser Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayBarr reverses, will quarantine for several days after potential coronavirus exposure White House gave New Jersey officials list of 206 people at Trump’s Thursday fundraiser events Pence tests negative for COVID-19 for third time since Trump’s diagnosis MORE, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, at least three Republican senators and other White House staff.

An unnamed White House official told the Times on Monday that officials were not contact tracing those connected to the event.

Contact tracing includes public health workers trying to stop COVID-19 transmission by reaching out to people who have tested positive for the disease and asking them to both self-isolate and provide a list of people they had contact with 48 hours before becoming sick, who will, in turn, also get a call. In this way, health officials are able to stop the potential spread of the virus before it can be passed on to someone else.

The White House is still technically following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that require contact tracing for the 48 hours leading up to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, the official told the Times. 

Public health experts have criticized the decision not to contact trace the Rose Garden event, however.

“This is a total abdication of responsibility by the Trump administration,” Boston University public health expert Joshua Barocas told the Times. 

Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday, shortly after it was revealed his close aide Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksWhite House staffers get email saying to stay home if they experience coronavirus symptoms Trump sought to keep COVID-19 diagnosis secret Thursday as he awaited second test result: WSJ What we know and don’t know about the president’s health MORE had tested positive. In the following days, several others announced positive diagnoses. 

On Monday, Trump returned to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after three days of treatment.

The White House Is Failing to Contact Trace Its Own COVID Outbreak: Report

In the wake of the president’s positive coronavirus test on Thursday night, the administration has claimed that it has initiated a “full contact tracing” program that is “consistent with CDC guidelines.” But according to a new CNN report, the White House that failed to protect a non-compliant president from the pandemic is failing to trace its own outbreak, a crucial, post-infection step that can significantly limit the spread of the virus if properly executed.



a clock tower lit up at night: Getty Images


© Getty Images
Getty Images

Similar to White House staffers’ negligence prior to Trump’s positive test — he went to an indoor buffet with donors on Thursday hours after officials reportedly learned of Hope Hicks’s diagnosis — the administration has not provided guidance to those exposed or infected by the president and his inner circle. Chris Christie, the president’s debate coach who tested positive this weekend, said that the administration gave no formal directions on contact tracing. And another source admitted that “the scale of the potential contagion at the White House has made it difficult to mount the type of contact tracing that will be required in the coming days,” according to CNN.

The White House Medical Unit, the 30-person team responsible for the health needs of the president and close advisors, was already overworked attempting to keep Trump healthy despite his pandemic carelessness. To engage in contact tracing on top of their previous workload would be a major addition, and according to the report “a person familiar with the matter said a full CDC contact tracing team hadn’t yet been mobilized.” Another federal official told the New York Times that a Centers for Disease Control team was on standby to help, but the White House had yet to call them in. Meanwhile, the White House is doing little to aid local health agencies. The Washington Post reported Saturday that public-health officials in Minnesota, Ohio, and New Jersey had yet to hear from the administration

regarding the information of those in attendance, leaving them on their own to find out who may have been exposed to the virus.

Rather than mobilize the resources of the CDC, the administration — which exposed hundreds of people between the debate on Tuesday, the rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, and the indoor buffet on Thursday — is reportedly going for a fast-and-loose that mimics their initial pandemic response. According to one source who spoke with CNN, the White House is relying on the president’s celebrity as a fallback for contact tracing. “People would know if they come into contact with Trump,” the person said.

However, the scale of the problem — and the fact that infected people can infect family members while asymptomatic — frustrates this effort to allow the news cycle to do the contact tracing. (Over 200 people attended his campaign fundraiser at his golf club in New Jersey on Thursday.) While contact tracing is a laborious effort, it is not impossible: Benjy Renton, a Middlebury senior and digital director at the school’s newspaper, has set

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