Canada’s chief public health officer says without vaccines the third wave of COVID-19 in Canada would have been much deadlier.
Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday as vaccines began to roll out she was in awe of how well they began to ease the impact the pandemic was having on Canada’s elderly.
“We saw the numbers of cases, but also the serious outcomes declined very quickly in those populations,” said Tam.
A Canadian Press analysis of epidemiology data posted online by Health Canada shows in January, when the second wave of COVID-19 peaked, more than 4,000 Canadians over the age of 80 died from it.
In April, when the third wave peaked and most Canadians over 80 had at least one dose of vaccine, the number of deaths in that age group fell below 500.
The number of cases confirmed in people over 80 averaged more than 470 a day in January, and 122 in April.
While Canada’s slower than hoped vaccine rollout rankled throughout the winter, the emphasis was on getting vaccinations first to the people most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Less than one-tenth of Canadians over 80 had their first dose of vaccine by the end of January, but by the end of April almost 90 per cent had at least one dose and more than 15 per cent were fully vaccinated. In long-term care homes, where many of the worst outbreaks occurred, full vaccinations were largely completed by April.
That helped limit the outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care this spring.
As of June 19, only six per cent of people over 80 were not even partially vaccinated, and two-thirds are fully vaccinated.
“If you imagine this third wave without the vaccine, the mortality impact would have been much higher,” said Tam.
The death toll in the second wave averaged more than 150 deaths a day for part of January. In the third wave, the highest average death count was about one-third of that.
The lack of vaccinations among kids may also now be playing out in the spread of COVID-19.
Children and teenagers now account for the largest share of Canada’s total COVID-19 cases for the first time. Canadians in their 20s have accounted for the largest share of cases since last summer, but as of June 25, people under 19 now account for 19.3 per cent of the 1.4 million cases confirmed in Canada, slightly ahead of the 19.16 per cent for 20 to 29 year olds.
More than 60 per cent of teenagers now have at least one dose of vaccine, but children under 12 aren’t eligible for vaccinations yet. That fact, combined with the more transmissible Delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, is a conundrum for health policy-makers and politicians deciding what advice to give fully vaccinated adults.
New federal guidance issued by Tam’s office Friday suggests fully vaccinated people can take off their masks and socialize in close quarters with other people who are fully vaccinated. But families whose kids can’t be vaccinated were left wondering what that meant for them.
“More and more of us are asking when can we hug our loved ones, in particular grandparents, aunts and uncles are looking for advice for when they can share hugs with the kids in their lives,” Tam said.
“The answer is because children under 12 are not eligible for vaccinations yet, there is still a risk they can get infected with COVID-19 and pass the virus on to others. However, if you and everyone else around them are fully vaccinated, the risk is lower.”
Tam was less clear about what the new variants mean for lifting public masking requirements. Alberta intends to cancel its provincewide mask mandate on Canada Day. Saskatchewan will follow on July 11.
The World Health Organization said Friday fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks in public because the vaccines aren’t preventing infections entirely.
Tam said the Delta variant will mean more people need to get fully vaccinated to prevent a punishing fourth wave this fall. Federal modelling released Friday incorporate the data on Delta for the first time, including that it is 1.5 times as infectious as the Alpha variant now dominant in Canada, and twice as virulent.
But Tam said if 80 per cent of Canadians between 12 and 54 are fully vaccinated by the fall, it should prevent another surge in hospitalizations.
Nationally, COVID-19 hospitalizations are at an eight-month low, with about 900 people currently in hospital. The number of people in intensive care is below 500 for the first time since November.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
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COVID-19 in B.C.: Over 200 new cases and over 1000 active cases; Fraser Health shifts to vaccine hubs; and more – The Georgia Straight
Today’s total and new case numbers are provisional but they are concerning.
Both new and active cases continue to rise and hit new highs in recent weeks, with the bulk of both of them still in Interior Health—which continues to have more new and active cases than both Fraser and Vancovuer Coastal Health combined.
Meanwhile, like the last heat wave, some immunization clinics may be affected by the high temperatures and at least one is already being relocated.
According to the B.C. Health Ministry, the following numbers for total and new cases are provisional due to a delayed data refresh.
For now, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 204 new COVID-19 cases today.
Currently, there are 1,055 active cases, which is an increase of 146 cases since yesterday.
The new and active cases include:
- 107 new cases in Interior Health, with 600 total active cases (an increase of 97 cases since yesterday);
- 58 new cases in Fraser Health, with 241 total active cases (33 more cases than yesterday);
- 23 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 139 total active cases (three more cases than yesterday);
- 14 new cases in Island Health, with 51 total active cases (10 more cases than yesterday);
- two new cases in Northern Health, with 19 total active cases (three more cases than yesterday);
- no new cases of people from outside of Canada, with five total active cases (same number as yesterday).
At the moment, 51 individuals are in hospital (four more people than yesterday), and 20 of those patients are in intensive care units (same number as yesterday).
Thankfully, no new COVID-19-related deaths have been reported, which leaves the overall total at 1,771 people who have died during the pandemic.
With 54 recoveries since yesterday, a cumulative total of 146,810 people have now recovered.
During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 149,648 cases.
The forecast heat wave may cause some clinics to be relocated again, as they were during the previous heat wave in June.
In preparation for the expected high temperatures this weekend, Island Health announced today that it will move the Eagle Ridge immunization clinic to the air-conditioned Victoria Conference Centre (720 Douglas Street, Victoria) tomorrow (July 30).
Also tomorrow, Island Health will hold a pop-up clinic from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Starlight Stadium (1089 Langford Parkway) in Langford, during the game between Victoria’s Pacific FC and Calgary’s Cavalry FC.
Meanwhile, Fraser Health announced today that it has now administered over two million vaccine doses—80 percent of eligible people in the region have received at least one dose, and over 60 percent have received their second dose.
Consequently, as of tomorrow (July 29), Fraser Health is transitioning from a network of immunization clinics to establishing four main hubs at existing clinics at:
- Ag-Rec Centre (32470 Haida Drive) in Abbotsford (for both COVID-19 testing and immunizations);
- Poirier Forum (618 Poirier Street) in Coqutilam;
- Guildford Rec Centre (15105 105th Avenue) in Surrey;
- North Delta Rec Centre (11415 84th Avenue) in Delta.
Immunization will also continue to be available at COVID-19 testing and immunization centres in Hope, Chilliwack, Mission, Langley, South Delta, South Surrey, Surrey 66, Coquitlam, and Burnaby. In addition, Fraser Health will continue to hold pop-up and mobile clinics, outreach clinics, and community initiatives (such as beachside clinics) to ensure easy access to immunizations.
The following clinics, however, will be closed on the dates listed below:
- July 28: South Surrey Rec Centre and Chuck Bailey Rec Centre;
- August 1: Abbotsford test collection centre at the University of the Fraser Valley will close and testing will relocate to Abbotsford Ag Rec;
- August 7: Agassiz Agricultural Hall, Langley Events Centre, Anvil Centre, and Christine Sinclair Community Centre;
- August 14: Chilliwack Mall, Hope Legion, Cloverdale Rec Centre, Surrey North, and Haney Place Mall;
- August 30: Mamele’awt Community Indigenous Centre, Stó:lō Service Agency, Fraser River Indigenous Society, Mission Friendship Centre, Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre.
As part of its effort to increase vaccinations amid the recently declared outbreak in the Central Okanagan, Interior Health will hold pop-up immunization clinics from 3 to 7 p.m. from Friday (July 30) to Wednesday (August 4) at the Kelowna Yacht Club (1370 Water Street) in Kelowna, and vaccinations are available for eligible drop-in visitors.
In the ongoing provincial immunization program so far, B.C. has administered 6,732,309 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.
As of today, 81 percent (3,753,057) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose and 64.1 percent (2,971,793) have received their second dose.
In addition, 81.9 percent (3,543,503) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 66.8 percent (2,890,948) have received their second dose.
None of the five regional health authorities declared any new healthcare or community outbreaks, or listed any new business closures or public exposure events.
Currently, there are two active healthcare outbreaks, both in longterm care facilities: Holyrood Manor (Fraser Health) and Nelson Jubilee Manor (Interior Health).
No changes expected as COVID-19 cases surge in Central Okanagan: Kelowna airport – Revelstoke Review – Revelstoke Review
With new restrictions announced specifically for the Central Okanagan today (July 28), the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) said they are not expecting any changes to their operations.
Senior manager of airport operations Phillip Elchitz said that with the COVID-19 safety plan already in place at YLW, they don’t expect much more to change.
Elchitz also said that they’re not expecting much impact on passenger numbers because of the new restrictions.
“YLW is not anticipating a reduction in commercial scheduled flights as a result of the new provincial health guidelines specific to the Central Okanagan,” he said.
“YLW currently has a mandatory mask policy in place for all areas of the Air Terminal Building and on aircrafts due to Transport Canada requirements.”
Individual passenger temperature is also checked just before they go through security as an added safety measure.
Earlier in the afternoon on July 28, the province announced that masks will be mandatory again in indoor public spaces throughout the Central Okanagan, which includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country.
The province is also discouraging non-essential travel to and from the Central Okanagan, especially for those who are not vaccinated or who don’t have both doses yet.
Nenshi says lifting Alberta’s remaining COVID-19 health orders is the ‘height of insanity’ – Global News
The mayor of Calgary says it’s the “height of insanity” that Alberta is moving ahead with removing almost all of its remaining COVID-19 public health orders, even as cases climb in the province.
Alberta has ended isolation requirements for close contacts of people who test positive and contact tracers will no longer notify them of their exposure. The province has also ended asymptomatic testing.
Further measures are to be eliminated Aug. 16. People who test positive will no longer be required to isolate. Isolation hotels will close as quarantine supports end.
“It is inconceivable to me. It is the height of insanity to say we don’t even know what’s happening,” Nenshi said Thursday.
“It is putting the health of Albertans at risk. To stop contact tracing, to stop testing people for the coronavirus and to become one of the first _ if not the first — jurisdictions in the world to say that people who have tested positive, who are infectious, can just go about their lives.”
Majority of Canadians worried about lingering COVID-19 threat, according to poll
Naheed Nenshi, who was making an announcement at the Calgary airport, said if he were in another jurisdiction he would be thinking hard whether to put travel restrictions on Albertans starting Aug. 16.
“I’m aware of no science that backs this up. It is clear for the last month or so on this file (that) our government has been grasping and struggling, just trying to get some good news out of something,” he said.
“To say we don’t want to know who has the coronavirus, we don’t want to track outbreaks. Even the most fervent of the anti-maskers wouldn’t say (to) unleash people who are actually infectious into the population.”
Nenshi said he worries that the decision to lift the health orders is politically motivated and has nothing to do with science at all.
“The only possible explanation here is a political one. It might be that they’ve run out of money, but you know what? Don’t spend $1.5 billion on a pipeline you know isn’t going to get built if you’re running out of money.”
© 2021 The Canadian Press
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