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14 COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba as hospitalizations hit new high – CBC.ca

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There are 277 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba on Wednesday and 14 more people have died from the illness, Manitoba’s top doctor says.

While Manitoba’s daily new COVID-19 cases have started to stabilize, they’re still at a number too high for the province’s health-care system to sustain, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We can’t rest at these numbers, even though we’ve seen some minor improvements,” Roussin said. “We still have too much strain on our ICUs and hospitals and too much strain on our health-care professionals.”

There are now 351 people in hospital with the illness, Roussin said, a new high in the province. Of those people, 51 are in intensive care.

As of Wednesday morning, Manitoba’s critical care program was working at 147 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity, Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said at the news conference.

Patients with COVID-19 made up just under half of the 106 patients in critical care units, Siragusa said. Of the 78 on ventilators, 44 have the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, she said.

The deaths announced Wednesday include a woman in her 40s from the Winnipeg health region and seven others linked to outbreaks across the province, Roussin said.

Five are connected to sites in Winnipeg: two women in their 80s at the St. Norbert Personal Care Home, a woman in her 80s at the Golden Links Lodge, a woman in her 90s at the Bethania Mennonite Personal Care Home and a woman in her 90s at the Charleswood Care Centre.

The other two — women in their 80s and 90s — are linked to Rest Haven Nursing Home in Steinbach.

The remaining deaths announced Wednesday are two men in their 60s (in the Southern and Winnipeg health regions), two men in their 70s (in the Southern and Winnipeg health regions) and two women in their 80s (in the Southern and Winnipeg health regions).

The latest fatalities bring Manitoba’s total deaths linked to COVID-19 to 342.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is now 13.2 per cent. In Winnipeg, the rate is 14.5 per cent, Roussin said.

The latest cases bring the total number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Manitoba to 17,384. Of those, 8,072 have recovered and 8,970 are considered still active — though Roussin has previously said that number is inflated due to a data entry backlog.

Outbreaks have been declared at three more sites in Manitoba: the Morris General Hospital, the Rosewood Lodge Personal Care Home in Stonewall and Carpathia Children’s Centre in Winnipeg, Roussin said.

Outbreaks previously declared at St. Paul’s Personal Care Home in Dauphin and the Kekinan Centre in Winnipeg have been declared over.

Nearly three-quarters of the cases announced Wednesday (200) are in the Winnipeg health region. There are 28 new cases in the Northern Health region, 24 in the Southern Health region, 15 in the Interlake-Eastern health region and 10 in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

Sites where there were possible COVID-19 exposures are listed by region on the province’s website.

It has now been three weeks since all of Manitoba moved to the critical red level of the province’s pandemic response system.

Code red restrictions that went into effect on Nov. 12 included new rules limiting gatherings and closing non-essential businesses. Even tighter restrictions, banning gatherings in private homes and barring sales of non-essential goods even in businesses deemed essential services, were brought in on Nov. 20.

Premier Brian Pallister said on Tuesday his “gut feeling” was that those restrictions would likely be extended past the expiry date of Dec. 11 — though he said he would defer to Roussin, who said again on Wednesday that it’s still too early to say.

“We’re seeing our ICUs over capacity, our health-care system very strained, and Dec. 11 is coming up quite quickly,” he said. 

“I can’t advise on the specifics, but we’re going to have some restrictions in place for the near future, for the foreseeable future, because we just, we can’t sustain numbers like we’re seeing right now.”

Meanwhile, accused COVID-19 rule breakers were fined more than $180,000 in the last week, the province said on Tuesday.

About one-fifth of those tickets were related to gatherings larger than five people. Springs Church in Winnipeg was handed four fines totalling $20,000 for holding a drive-in service last weekend, data from the province says.

A new benefit announced Wednesday morning will allow Manitoba doctors who are forced to self-isolate because of COVID-19 to be compensated for their sick time away from work. The province has also signed a pay agreement that will allow nurses to be shifted to priority areas during the pandemic.

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen is expected to give an update about the province’s plans for the winter school break at a news conference at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Health officials previously acknowledged Manitoba was considering extending that break, in anticipation of a rise in COVID-19 cases over the holidays.

On Tuesday, the province’s largest school division rehearsed for a switch to remote learning if schools are forced to shut down again because of COVID-19.

There were 2,182 more COVID-19 tests completed in Manitoba on Tuesday, bringing the total done in the province since early February to 360,039.

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As vaccinations ramp up, when will B.C. ease restrictions? Health officials weigh in – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
Big parties and international travel will likely remain unsafe for British Columbians this summer, despite the province’s plans to administer millions of COVID-19 doses over the coming months.

That’s the latest forecast from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who was asked Friday when B.C.’s dramatically ramped up immunization program might pave the way for residents to remove their masks and begin gathering again.

The short answer is that it’s still too soon to say, though Henry did offer a few predictions for the year ahead.

She suggested this summer will probably look like last year, at least when it comes to vacations and big gatherings.

“I absolutely think there’s opportunities for us to travel within B.C. this summer,” Henry said. “It’s not realistic to think there’s going to be a lot of safe international travel by this summer, just because of the situation around the world.”

Henry also expects the kinds of “big parties” that led to widespread COVID-19 transmission last July and August will remain off-limits. But much of the province’s most at-risk populations should be vaccinated by then, if everything goes according to plan, and Henry noted the virus doesn’t appear to spread as easily in the warmer months as it does in fall and winter.

With that in mind, she expects “increased social interactions” will be allowed this summer.

“I do believe we’ll be able to get together in smaller groups, responsibly,” Henry said.

It’s unclear whether that means bigger social bubbles in 2021 than 2020. The provincial health officer noted there are “a whole lot of unknowns” in the province’s calculations, and that the government’s plans are prone to change as necessary.

As for the current restrictions that have been in place since early November, Henry said lifting those will depend on the public’s ability to slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s too early in the immunization program to expect the vaccine to do the heavy lifting there.

“We need to really focus on reducing the transmission risk in our community as low as possible, because that’s what drives outbreaks in long-term care, that’s what drives exposure events in schools, and that’s what drives the risk in our social gatherings,” Henry said.

“If we can do that, we can start having increased … social connection again.”

She also suggested the faster-spreading COVID-19 variants that have arrived in B.C. could impact the timeline if they lead to another rapid surge in cases.

The current restrictions, which generally do not allow for in-person socializing between different households, are scheduled to remain in place until at least Feb. 5. While Henry said health officials will be looking at potentially revising the public health orders at that time, she strongly discouraged British Columbians from making travel plans over the Family Day long weekend.

“Stay local,” she said. “We won’t be at a place where we can travel.”

And getting life back to normal, at least in terms of social interactions and gatherings, isn’t likely until the fall, according to Henry.

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Province rolls out plan to vaccinate 4.3M people against COVID-19 before October – Times Colonist

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The province has unveiled its plan to vaccinate 4.3 million people against COVID-19 between April and the end of September.

Herd immunity to COVID-19 can be reached if the majority of people in B.C. choose to be vaccinated, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. Until then, restrictions on gathering will remain in place, and the need to maintain a physical distance from one another, wear masks in public places and practise infection-prevention remains critical.

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“We have a plan,” Henry said. “We know it’s going to take a few months but we have an end in sight and now is our time to stay committed to doing what we need to do to stop the transmission of COVID-19 here in British Columbia.”

The mass vaccination program, the largest in the province’s history, will be rolled out based on age in four phases, starting with those age 80 and older living in the community and ending with young adults. There are no approved COVID-19 vaccines for minors with the exception of some older teens with high-risk conditions.

“Age is the most important risk factor for hospitalization and mortality — that is the underlying driving factor,” Henry said.

Seniors 80 years of age and older and Indigenous seniors 65 and older can expect more information — via advertisements, public health notifications and media reports — in mid to late February about online and phone registration and vaccination clinics starting in March.

The province expects it will likely start vaccinating the 75-79 age group in the second half of March.

“Everyone in British Columbia has been affected by the pandemic,” said Premier John Horgan. “We are not equally vulnerable to the virus, and the science is very clear, the single biggest factor of death of severe illness is age — someone over the age of 60 is five times more likely to be seriously ill or die than someone under 45.”

The vaccines require two doses and the province plans to give residents the same product for both doses unless Health Canada advises otherwise.

After receiving their first dose, people will received a physical card as well as automated reminder of the date and place for their second vaccine. Once completed, they will receive a digital proof of immunization that can be viewed or printed.

The vaccine passport is for a person’s own health record, Henry said: “People will not be denied services based on vaccination status in B.C.”

To see as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, later phases will include mass immunization clinics in local arenas, convention and community halls and school gymnasiums, mobile clinics, and residential visits for the housebound. Non-profit groups and the private sector will also offer vaccinations.

The province is on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise on behalf of the Canadian government that every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 can be by the end of September 2021.

Canada has secured six million doses of vaccine for the first quarter of the year and expects to receive a further 20 million doses in the second quarter and 45 million in the third quarter.

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are approved for use in Canada. It is expected that the AstraZeneca vaccine will likely be approved in coming months, and there are also other vaccines not as far along in the approval process.

B.C.’s plan, however, is based on only approved vaccines. If more are approved, it will allow for flexibility to target other populations, the government said.

Provincial health officials say they will adjust the plan if there are disruptions to the expected supply and delivery. Dr. Penny Ballem, chair of Vancouver Coastal Health and a former deputy health minister, is leading the province’s COVID-19 immunization plan and says the province is ready to adjust depending on the flow of vaccine.

Vaccinations for high-priority populations such as residents of long-term care homes began in December. All residents and staff in care homes throughout the province should have received a first dose in the “next few days,” Henry said.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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All eligible British Columbians who want the COVID-19 vaccine to be immunized by September, say health officials – CHEK

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Anyone in B.C. who wants the COVID-19 vaccine and is eligible for it can expect to get the shot by the end of September at the latest, according to the largest immunization plan in the province’s history.

On Friday, Premier John Horgan, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem – who is in charge of B.C.’s vaccine rollout plan – provided a detailed timeline of when and how the vaccine will be distributed.

Dr. Henry says there are approximately 5.3 million British Columbians, 900,000 of whom are children, making them ineligible for the vaccine.

She says the remaining 4.3 million B.C. residents can all be vaccinated by September of this year.

There are four phases of the rollout plan. Phases 1 and 2 include the most vulnerable populations, with 3 and 4 including the broad public.

“The single biggest factor for death or severe illness is age,” said Horgan. “Someone over the age of 60 is five times more likely to become seriously ill or die than someone younger than 45.”

This is why the Province says the order of who will get the COVID-19 is dependant upon age, starting with the most elderly, all the way down to young adults.

In March, vaccine clinics will pop up in 172 communities around B.C., but for those more rural areas, mobile vaccine units will be deployed.

When those clinics are set up, Dr. Henry says anyone can pre-register and sign up for appointments based on age either online or over the phone.

“This is going to be and needs to be, an all of B.C. effort to make sure we can protect those most vulnerable, and everyone else,” said Dr. Henry.

From January to February, B.C. is expecting to receive a total of 800,000 doses. From April to June, 2.6 million doses are expected to land in the province and from June to September, an additional 6 million doses.

The current rollout plan is based on having the two approved vaccines in Canada, from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. B.C.’s top doctor says if another brand is approved, the rollout plan could move even faster.

Both of these vaccines require two doses per person, meaning 8.6 million injections are needed.

B.C. received early access to the vaccine in December and those doses are counted in phase 1.

By March, the province expects to have vaccinated 600,000 people, leaving approximately 4 million still needing to be immunized.

Between April and September, Dr. Henry expects 7.4 million doses to be administered.

She says there are nearly 250,000 people in B.C. who are over the age of 80 — these residents will be given the first priority.

A delay in the production of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has meant a delay in shots here in B.C. and the PHO says she hopes to start the immunization of all seniors by the end of February, despite wishing they could start earlier.

As of Friday, January 22, more than 100,000 British Columbians have been given the COVID-19 vaccine, with thousands already receiving their second dose.

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