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2 Nova Scotians die at home due to COVID-19 complications, province reports 153 new cases –



Two Nova Scotians with COVID-19 died at home due to complications related to the virus, provincial officials said Tuesday.

Both the people, a woman in her 50s and a man in his 70s, lived in the central zone, which includes the Halifax area.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said in one of the cases, health officials only learned the person had contracted COVID-19 after they died. He did not say when the two people died.

“This is indeed a very sad day,” Strang said at an afternoon briefing with Premier Iain Rankin.

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The province is waiving any ambulance fees for people with the virus who need to get to hospital in an emergency.

“Do not struggle at home,” Rankin said.

There are currently 37 people with COVID-19 in hospital, including eight in intensive care.

Nova Scotia’s intensive care units are treating more COVID-19 patients now than at any other point since the pandemic started, and the head of the provincial health authority has said hospitals are preparing to get busier yet.

Strang agreed the province is at a critical point. Not only are more people entering hospital with the virus, but patients with chronic issues are having surgeries delayed.

“We have a path, we’re at a crossroads. We put things in place — now, what path we end up on actually depends on how people comply with that,” Strang said.

While cases continue to remain high, Strang noted there’s usually a two- to three-week delay before a spike in hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths.

He said the Nova Scotia health-care system is now planning for that and figuring out how to deal with any fallout.

153 new cases Tuesday

There have now been 69 COVID-related deaths in Nova Scotia since the pandemic began, 53 of them at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax last spring.

The province reported 153 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. There are 139 cases in central zone, 10 in eastern zone, three in northern zone and one in western Zone.

There are 1,060 active cases in the province. Cases range in age from under 10 to over 90

Nova Scotia health authority labs completed 19,174 tests on Monday, the highest daily number yet.

People line up for rapid testing at the convention centre in downtown Halifax. (Robert Short/CBC)

Current lockdown measures include the closure of all schools, and orders to not leave the municipality in which you live and, except in a few exceptional circumstances, to not gather with anyone outside your household.

Strang said officials will assess things next week, but it’s a “safe assumption” restrictions will be extended.

Police have handed out dozens of fines, which now start at $2,000 per person, in just the past few days alone. Since the start of the pandemic last year nearly 800 tickets have been issued for violations of the Health Protection Act.

At a COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Strang said the new daily cases are still somewhat skewed by a backlog in processing tests and entering data at the health authority’s microbiology labs. On Tuesday, he said the backlog has been cleared. 

Testing options

Lab testing guidelines were modified last week when the backlog was announced. Previously available to all Nova Scotians 16 and up, lab tests are now limited to: 

  • Anyone with symptoms.
  • Anyone who has been notified that they are a contact of a known case, even if they are asymptomatic.
  • Anyone who has been at a publicly listed exposure location, or has been directly notified by Public Health they have been to an exposure site. This includes anyone who is asymptomatic, and those classified as a low-risk exposure. 
  • Anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, even if they are asymptomatic.
  • Anyone who has been scheduled to undergo testing before surgery.

Rapid testing is still available to everyone else at pop-up sites across the province. This week, rapid testing is scheduled in Halifax, Sydney, Bridgewater and Membertou.

Vaccine progress

As of Monday, 325,218 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Nova Scotia, including 36,687 second doses. That means about 33 per cent of the population has received at least one dose, and about 3.7 per cent have received both doses.

Vaccine eligibility is opening up by age and the province plans to open access to everyone 16 and up by the end of June, contingent on supply.

Currently, those 50 or older are eligible to book an appointment for any of the approved shots — Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna or AstraZeneca-Oxford — while those 40-49 are eligible for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, only.

Appointments are being booked online and by phone at 1-833-797-7772.

Atlantic Canada case numbers

  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, at least three of them related to travel. There are still 56 active cases in the province.
  • New Brunswick reported four new cases Tuesday, and 850 people across the province in self-isolation. There are 141 active cases.
  • P.E.I. announced one new case Tuesday and the number of active cases has fallen to seven.

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As COVID-19 vaccines for kids get closer, experts weigh up how to reassure parents –



Read Story Transcript

As Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech say they’ve moved a step closer to providing their COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, one mother says she’s keen to have her eldest vaccinated, but hears some hesitation among other parents.

“As parents, you’re nervous and you’re apprehensive, obviously, about any risks,” said Fallon Jones, who lives in Halifax with a five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

“But we have to weigh the pros and the cons here, and I think that this is a good opportunity to protect them against a potentially deadly virus,” she told The Current’s Matt Galloway.

Pfizer-BioNTech said Monday that a clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine recorded a robust immune response in five- to 11-year-olds, and the company plans to seek regulatory approval as soon as possible. Children received two shots, each one-third the dose size given to adults. The findings have not been peer-reviewed, nor published.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine appears safe, effective in younger kids, expert says

3 days ago

Although he cautions Pfizer-BioNTech has yet to release the raw data supporting the claim that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective in kids aged 5-11, it’s ‘reasonable’ to assume that’s accurate, says Dr. Christopher Labos, a cardiologist with a degree in epidemiology. 2:35

For any vaccine to be approved by Health Canada, the manufacturers supply the necessary clinical trial data for review. If the regulator grants approval, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make a recommendation on their use, but the final decision to deploy the vaccines rests with provincial authorities.

In a statement to The Current, Health Canada said the makers of all COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada are conducting or planning studies in adolescents and younger children, but it has so far not received any submission for the approval of any COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12.

In her work at a vaccine hesitancy clinic in Calgary, Dr. Cora Constantinescu meets parents who are experiencing “a lot of fear and anxiety” around their children potentially getting the vaccine.

“We often have parents who are fully vaccinated themselves, who may be hesitant about their kids,” said Constantinescu, a pediatrician and infectious disease doctor at Alberta Children’s Hospital.

She said that parents talk to her about things they’ve seen online, including “anti-vaccine rhetoric and a lot of misconstrued science.”

In Halifax, Jones said she often hears other parents say they don’t know what’s in the vaccine, so they won’t give it to their kids. When she asks if they knew what was in the vaccines their kids received as babies, the response is usually no, she said.

“I completely respect and understand how there would be some fear associated with it,” she said. 

But ultimately, “we trusted our doctors then and we trusted the science then, and we need to do the same with this vaccine.” 

Dr. Cora Constantinescu said that as parents approach the decision, they should consider the negative impacts of COVID-19 on children. (Submitted by Dr. Cora Constantinescu)

How should parents approach vaccine question?

Constantinescu said many parents have seen misinformation on social media, where there is a “huge polarization of the pro-vaccine and the anti-vaccine crowd.”

“The parents are caught in the middle, scared and worried about their kids, trying to make the best decision they can,” she said.

As parents approach the decision, they should consider the dual impact of COVID-19 on children, she said.

“We’re seeing the direct effects of COVID on children, and we know that that can range from mild disease, to respiratory illness, to being hospitalized, having a multi-system inflammation, to ending up in ICU,” she said.

There is also an indirect cost, including mental health issues and issues around socialization, she said.

How a doctor discusses vaccine hesitancy with patients

10 months ago

Dr. Cora Constantinescu, an infectious disease specialist from the Vaccine Hesitancy Clinic in Calgary, discusses how she approaches conversations around vaccine hesitancy, the impact of those conversations and what’s needed in messaging around the COVID-19 vaccine. 3:44

The news from Pfizer-BioNTech gives her hope that those impacts can soon be addressed, but she warned that the data has not yet been made public, or reviewed by Health Canada.

If it is approved, she said parents should approach the vaccine as an issue of “personal protection first.”

“It’s about protecting their kids directly, looking out for them, and wanting to return them to a normal life,” she said.

‘Pull out all the stops’ to protect kids

Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency physician in Toronto, wants to see a safe vaccine for kids approved and available as quickly as possible.

“I’m calling for all of these processes to be speeded up and done very transparently,” said Pirzada, who is also a co-founder of Masks4Canada, a group that advocates for public health measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Dr. Kashif Pirzada said that when a vaccine is approved for younger children, ‘we should pull out all the stops and get these shots into little arms as quickly as possible.’ (Dr. Kashif Pirzada)

He added that more work should be done to reassure parents that the vaccines are safe. He warned that COVID-19 is not harmless to children, and the longer they remain unprotected, the more infections there will be.

In the meantime, vaccination sites and health-care workers could be prepared to ramp the vaccination campaign back up, he said.

“Once that approval comes, we should pull out all the stops and get these shots into little arms as quickly as possible.”

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin, Arianne Robinson and Joana Draghici.

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Gold price drops as Powell talks 'gradual' tapering, downplays Evergrande contagion concerns – Kitco NEWS



(Kitco News) The gold market saw its earlier gains reversed as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell talked about “gradual” tapering while downplaying China’s Evergrande contagion effect on the U.S. market.

On Wednesday, the Fed said it may soon start tapering its $120 billion in monthly asset purchases, with central bank officials showing growing support for raising interest rates in 2022. 

“If progress continues broadly as expected, the Committee judges that a moderation in the pace of asset purchases may soon be warranted. These asset purchases help foster smooth market functioning and accommodative financial conditions, thereby supporting the flow of credit to households and businesses,” the Fed said in a statement.

When clarifying the Fed’s stance at a press conference following the Fed statement, Powell indicated that it would be a “very gradual taper,” which could conclude in the middle of next year.

Powell also pointed out that the central bank has the freedom to speed up or slow down the tapering process as it sees fit. He added that markets should not expect a rate hike while the Fed is still tapering.

Tapering does depend on substantial further progress made by the U.S. economy. And if the economy continues to advance in line with expectations, the Fed could move ahead with tapering at the next meeting.

“For me, it wouldn’t take a knockout [August] employment report. It would take a reasonably good employment report for me to feel like that test is met,” Powell said. “I would say that in my own thinking, the test is all but met. I don’t personally need to see a very strong employment report. Again it’s not to be confused with the test for [rate] liftoff, which is so much higher.”

The Fed Chair was also asked about China’s Evergrande debt issue, which sparked a rout in the markets earlier this week.

“The Evergrande situation seems very particular to China, which has very high debt for an emerging economy,” Powell told reporters. “Corporate defaults in the U.S. are very low right now … You would worry that it would affect global financial conditions through confidence channels.”

When asked about the stock-trading policies for Fed officials, Powell replied that they are “not adequate” and the Fed “could do better.”

Powell noted that it is reasonable for Fed officials not to own the same assets as Fed buys. “We are going to be looking at all those things,” he said.

On the debt ceiling issue, Powell also urged Congress to raise the debt limit in a timely fashion. “It is critically important. Failure to do that is something that could result in severe damage to the economy and financial markets.”

He added that no one should assume Fed can protect the economy if the debt ceiling is not raised.

In response to Powell’s comments, gold saw some losses as markets interpreted Powell’s comments as upbeat when it came to the U.S. economy. At the time of writing, December Comex gold futures were trading at $1,767.20, down 0.62% on the day.

Live 24 hours gold chart [Kitco Inc.]

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China asks local governments to prep for Evergrande downfall: Report – CNBC Television



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