MONTREAL — Surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across several provinces prompted warnings on Monday from public health experts, who said stricter measures and adherence to guidelines are needed in the days and weeks ahead.
Ontario reported 3,270 new cases of COVID-19 and 29 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Monday, while officials in Quebec reported 2,546 new infections and 32 more deaths.
One expert in Quebec said the province should impose a curfew to ensure people are in their homes at a certain hour — a move that was recently imposed in France. “The government bet on a partial lockdown to reduce the number of cases. It didn’t work,” Roxane Borges Da Silva, a professor at Universite de Montreal’s school of public health, said in an interview Monday.
She said the stricter measures could also include the closure of the manufacturing sector, which accounts for many COVID-19 outbreaks. “We don’t have room to manoeuvre. We have no choice but to put in place strict measures that will really work. We can’t afford to do more trial and error,” Borges Da Silva said.
Quebec and Ontario imposed partial lockdown rules over the holiday period in an effort to get the pandemic under control and ease pressure on their strained health-care networks. But health-care workers and public health experts continue to raise concerns over rates of infections and hospitalizations in both provinces.
Quebec reported 1,294 hospitalizations on Monday, including 188 patients in intensive care, while Ontario said 1,190 people were currently hospitalized, including 333 in intensive care.
Dr. Nadia Alam, a family doctor in Georgetown, Ont., northwest of Toronto, and past president of the Ontario Medical Association, said many people are feeling “pandemic fatigue.”
Alam said many Ontarians are following public health directives, but some, she said, do not have the social support they need to adhere to the regulations. Others, she said, are bucking the rules because they do not take the pandemic seriously.
The result is “a crisis in health care” and the exhaustion of health-care workers, particularly in long-term care homes and hospitals in Ontario, Alam said in an interview. “We’re stretched so thin. It’s a bit of a nightmare. The vaccine gave us all hope — and it is giving us hope — but right now are very difficult times.”
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported 17 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the highest number of single-day infections in the province since Nov. 21.
Nova Scotia reported six new cases — two from Sunday and four on Monday — while Newfoundland and Labrador reported its first new COVID-19 infection of 2021.
Video: Alberta long-term care residents to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine (Global News)
Alberta long-term care residents to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in the coming weeks, residents in long-term care facilities will begin to be immunized by Alberta Health Services in their homes as shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrive in the province. Shandro urged Albertans to continue following distancing rules so we can all put the pandemic behind us.
Alberta working with ethicists, advisory committee to determine who gets COVID-19 vaccine next
Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province is working with the National Advisory Committee, ethicists and its own teams of consultants to determine who will get the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 2 of the rollout, which will happen after the vaccine is given to those who are at risk of the most severe outcomes.
More than 1,000 Albertans have died of COVID-19
In her Monday update, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said fewer people were tested for COVID-19 over the holidays, however the hospitalization and ICU numbers have not gone down. As of Monday, there were 878 people in hospital, including 148 in intensive care. There were also 112 deaths between Dec. 23 and Dec. 27, pushing the province’s death toll past 1,000.
Health authorities in Saskatchewan reported 286 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and two more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. The province said 180 people were in hospital, including 35 receiving intensive care.
Meanwhile, Canadian politicians at the federal and provincial levels are facing criticism for taking trips abroad despite advice to avoid non-essential travel. Frustrations have been especially high in Alberta, where at least six members of the province’s United Conservative government travelled outside the country during the holiday period.
On Monday afternoon, Premier Jason Kenney said he had accepted the resignation of the province’s municipal affairs minister and asked his chief of staff to step down. Four other party members also lost their committee and other parliamentary responsibilities.
“By travelling abroad over the holidays, these individuals demonstrated extremely poor judgment,” Kenney said in a Facebook post.
Dr. Alika Lafontaine, an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alta., and past president of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada, said it was “disheartening” to see politicians ignore travel advice. “I’m actually quite concerned that Albertans will take that as a signal that maybe the pandemic isn’t … as bad as it really is,” Lafontaine said in an interview Monday.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Sunday an estimated 400 new COVID-19 cases had been identified in the province on Jan. 2. Hospitalizations and intensive care admissions were stable, she said in a tweet.
Lafontaine said, however, that ICU admissions are not decreasing fast enough, adding that he feared the health-care system as a whole — and regional hospitals like where he works, in particular — could be overwhelmed. “At the stage that we’re at right now with hospitalizations, I think our system is on the verge of being overwhelmed if it does get worse,” he said.
That’s why public health guidelines need to be followed closely, Lafontaine said, adding that politicians should be setting an example. “We all have to treat this pandemic as the health crisis that it actually is, and that starts at the top.”
That was echoed by Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, who said COVID-19 infections will only decrease if everyone follows public health measures.
“Collectively, we need to bend this curve down and we need to do it through intense adherence to public health measures, consistently, everywhere, by everyone,” Vinh said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2020.
— With files from Sarah Smellie in St. John’s and Stephanie Taylor in Regina.
Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Canadian Press
Edmonton businesses left scrambling following announcement of COVID-19 restrictions loosening – Edmonton Journal
Article content continued
“I know I can’t make money right now even if I’m opened,” she said. “It’s just (about) keeping my business. (That’s) the priority right now.”
Matthew Smith is the co-founder of Modern Gravity, a company that has offered Edmontonians a chance to float in sensory deprivation tanks for the past six years.
He said he wasn’t anticipating reopening so soon as the plan was originally to aim for closer to Jan. 20. He said he and his business partner are still deciding what to do as opening on Monday would be tough.
“Chances are we’re going to be opening up later in the week,” Smith said.
Shane Turgeon, the owner of Shades of Grey Tattoo, said he too wasn’t expecting to reopen so quickly as he was mentally preparing for later in the month.
He said the biggest challenge will be coordinating appointments with his tattoo artists as they all book individually but he was already stocking up on supplies well ahead of when he thought he was going to reopen.
“There’s certainly scrambling on my end to make sure that the shop is fully prepared to open,” Turgeon said. “(A week’s notice) certainly would have helped for booking and scheduling in terms of supplies and stuff like that (but) I’m super proactive. I was ordering from suppliers a week and a half ago. I don’t really trust the province. I don’t trust what they say.”
Pfizer cutting back vaccine deliveries to Canada due to production issues – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Cassandra Szklarski , The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 15, 2021 10:13AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 15, 2021 2:47PM EST
OTTAWA – Only half of Canada’s promised COVID-19 vaccine doses by Pfizer-BioNTech will arrive in the next month, federal officials revealed Friday, blaming production issues in Belgium that will affect immediate vaccination plans.
Procurement minister Anita Anand said Canada faces an “unfortunate” delay that is nonetheless expected to be made up by the end of March, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted most Canadians will still be vaccinated by the fall.
News of the Pfizer delay drew immediate concern from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe who said the province’s strategy for the two-dose regime depends on steady shipments.
“We have been planning our vaccine rollout based on this schedule, including second dosages,” said Moe, noting he expected 11,700 doses a week in February.
“If this has changed, they need to advise us immediately.”
In British Columbia, where all available doses are being deployed as they arrive, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the delay will have “some significant effect” on when priority groups get their shot.
“Obviously, when you receive fewer doses you immunize fewer people,” said Dix.
The delay could also affect the wait time between each shot of the two-dose regime, he said.
Although Pfizer-BioNTech suggests a second dose 21 days after the first, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that could be extended to 35 days.
A spokeswoman for Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said the temporary slowdown reinforced the province’s decision to wait up to 90 days to administer the vaccine’s second dose.
“The strategy remains the same: we must give a boost now and vaccinate as many vulnerable people and health workers as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Marjaurie Cote-Boileau.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province was evaluating the impact of the delay and “will adjust as necessary.”
Maj-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the national vaccine distribution, said Pfizer’s production delays would reduce deliveries by an average of 50 per cent over the coming weeks.
He said that won’t be felt until after next week because Canada’s upcoming shipment has already been prepared. But the final week of January will bring “about a quarter of what we expected.”
“The numbers will pick right back up after that to about half of what we had expected (and) progressively grow into the rest of February,” said Fortin.
“Pfizer is telling us it will impact us for four weeks.”
According to the government’s website, more than 200,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were expected in each of the next two weeks and 1.4 million doses were expected in February.
Trudeau said Ottawa was “working day in and day out to get vaccines delivered as quickly as possible” but acknowledged that Pfizer-BioNTech doses have been derailed in the short-term.
Trudeau said this is why Canada has one of the most diverse vaccine portfolios in the world, pointing to seven bilateral agreements he says ensure “flexibility when it comes to supply chains.”
“I want to be very clear: this does not impact our goal to have enough vaccines available by September for every Canadian who wants one,” Trudeau said from outside Rideau Cottage.
Anand said all countries that receive vaccines from Pfizer’s European facility have been affected but that Canada has been assured it will receive four million doses by the end of March.
“This is unfortunate. However such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” Anand said at a news conference.
“It’s not a stoppage.”
Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said the production facility in Puurs, Belgium is undergoing modifications in the coming weeks to increase the number of doses it can pump out.
Pfizer hopes to double its 2021 production to two billion doses.
“Pfizer Canada will continue to pursue its efforts in anticipation that by the end of March, we will be able to catch up to be on track for the total committed doses for Q1,” Antoniou said.
The news came as Ottawa released federal projections that suggested the pandemic may soon exceed levels seen in the first wave, rising to 19,630 cumulative deaths and 10,000 daily infections in a little over a week.
The modelling shows total cases could grow to nearly 796,630 from about 694,000, and that another 2,000 people could die by Jan. 24.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam urged sustained vigilance as a long-range forecast suggested rapid growth would continue without “quick, strong and sustained” measures.
Tam said that’s especially so in national hot spots of Quebec and Ontario, where a steady increase in hospitalizations has strained the health system’s ability to keep up with critical care demands. The post-holiday projections do not take into account Quebec’s recently implemented four-week curfew or Ontario’s new stay-at-home orders.
Tam emphasized the need to reduce community spread to help relieve some of the pressure on hospitals and long-term care homes.
“The vaccine alone is not going to make a dent in some of that,” she said.
Ontario reported 100 deaths linked to COVID-19, although that took into account a difference in database reporting between one of its health units and the province.
The province’s newly resolved tally added 46 deaths from Middlesex-London that occurred earlier in the pandemic.
Ontario also reported 2,998 new cases of COVID-19 with 800 of those new cases in Toronto, 618 in Peel Region and 250 in York Region.
Quebec reported 1,918 new COVID-19 cases and 62 more deaths, including nine that occurred in the past 24 hours.
Concern also remained in Atlantic Canada’s hot spot of New Brunswick, which reported 25 new cases and remains at the province’s second-highest pandemic alert level.
with files from Catherine Levesque and Mia Rabson in Ottawa, Shawn Jeffords in Toronto, Stephanie Taylor in Regina, and Hina Alam in Vancouver.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021.
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