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A look at COVID-19 reopening plans across the country – 95.7 News

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As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase, the provinces and territories have been releasing their reopening plans for businesses, events and recreational facilities.

Most of the plans are based on each jurisdiction reaching vaccination targets at certain dates, while also keeping the number of cases and hospitalizations down. 

Here’s a look at what reopening plans look like across the country:

National:

Canada is once again allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents back into the country, provided they’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The 17-month long ban on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border was eased Aug. 9, although the Americans have yet to lift their own limits on Canadian travellers. 

Eligible visitors must live in the U.S. and have allowed 14 days to pass since receiving a full course of a Health Canada-approved vaccine. 

They are also required to show proof of a negative molecular test for COVID-19 that’s no more than 72 hours old and to use the ArriveCAN app or online web portal to upload their vaccination details.

Newfoundland and Labrador:

Newfoundland and Labrador is in the second step of its reopening plan.

Fully and partially vaccinated travellers from Canada no longer need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, nor do they have to self-isolate.

With more than 60 per cent of residents aged 12 and over now fully vaccinated, the province says masks are no longer mandatory in most places.

They are, however, still required in health facilities and in congregate living centres for seniors. 

Meanwhile, limits on indoor gatherings have risen to 500 people as long as social distancing is maintained.

There are now no capacity restrictions at restaurants and lounges, as long as physical distancing is maintained. 

Dancing is now permitted, but buffets remain closed.

Nova Scotia:

Nova Scotia has further reduced COVID-19 public health orders after entering the fourth phase of its reopening.

Retail stores can now operate at full capacity, churches and other venues can operate at half capacity or with a maximum of 150 people, and up to 50 people can attend outdoor family gatherings.

Capacity limits for dance classes, music lessons and indoor play spaces have also been lifted.

Organized sports practices, games, league play, competitions and recreation programs can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors without physical distancing.

Day camps can operate with 30 campers per group plus staff and volunteers, following the day camp guidelines. In addition, professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors without physical distancing.

Meanwhile, fully vaccinated residents of long-term care homes can now have visitors in their rooms and visit their family’s homes, including for overnight stays.

New Brunswick:

The province has lifted all public health orders and its mask mandate has also expired. 

All limits on gatherings are now removed, including in theatres and stores. 

Restaurants, gyms and salons can also operate at full capacity, as long as customer contact lists are kept.

New Brunswick had earlier moved into the second phase of its reopening plan, which opened travel without the need to isolate to all of Nova Scotia after earlier opening to P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Travellers from elsewhere in Canada who’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can enter the province without the need to isolate, while those who haven’t had a shot must still isolate and produce a negative test before being released from quarantine.

Prince Edward Island: 

Prince Edward Island has dropped its requirement that non-medical masks be worn in public indoor spaces.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says masks are still encouraged to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and businesses are free to adopt stricter rules.

Officials say those who serve the public, such as in restaurants, retail stores and hair salons, should continue to wear a mask.

All health-care facilities will continue to require masks until 80 per cent of eligible P.E.I. residents are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the province has allowed personal gatherings to increase so that up to 20 people can get together indoors and outdoors. Restaurants are allowed to have tables of up to 20. Special occasion events like backyard weddings and anniversary parties of up to 50 people hosted by individuals are permitted with a reviewed operational plan.

Organized gatherings hosted by a business or other organization are permitted with groups of up to 200 people outdoors or 100 people indoors.

On Sept. 12, the province expects physical distancing measures to be eased, as well as allowing personal and organized gatherings to go ahead without limits. 

Quebec: 

The Quebec government has cancelled two concerts that were intended to be experiments examining the impact  of COVID-19 on large gatherings.

Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx said in a news release that rising COVID-19 cases in the province make conditions too difficult to hold the two events that were to host a total of up to 25,000 people.

The concerts had been scheduled for the Quebec City area in September in collaboration with researchers at Universite Laval.

The province is testing a smartphone app that will run the vaccine passport system the government plans to impose across the province on Sept. 1.

The passport would be used in settings with a high degree of contact, such as festivals, bars, restaurants and gyms.

Health Minister Christian Dube says the government wants to have the smartphone app ready for use across the province by September.

Dube says it will read the QR code sent to people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, adding that both businesses and clients will need to download the software.

Quebecers are currently allowed to drink alcohol in bars and restaurants until 1 a.m., gaining an additional hour from the previous restrictions. 

Indoor venues and stadiums can now seat 7,500 people, and outdoor festivals can have up to 15,000 with pre-assigned seats. 

Indoor public events can have up to 250 people while 500 people are permitted at outdoor public gatherings. 

Quebec is, however, maintaining mandatory masks and social distancing in enclosed public spaces and transit.

Students returning to school in the coming weeks will be required to wear a procedural mask but not in the classroom.

Masks will be required on the bus, when entering school and in common areas inside, but not in class, the schoolyard or in after school care.

The province earlier removed capacity restrictions in retail stores and reduced the two-metre physical distancing health order to one metre.

It permitted gyms and restaurant dining rooms to reopen in June, ended its nightly curfew on May 28, and also lifted travel bans between regions.

Ontario:

Ontario will stay in Step 3 of its reopening plan for now, maintaining capacity limits on businesses, gatherings and other settings. 

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health said reopening needs to be paused to allow time for the new policies to take effect, adding that Ontario’s vaccination rates need to be higher. 

Social gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Religious services and other ceremonies are allowed indoors with larger groups of people who are physically distanced.

Nightclubs and similar establishments are open to 25 per cent capacity. Crowd limits have expanded for retail stores and salons, which can offer services that require masks to be removed.

Spectators are permitted at sporting events, concert venues, cinemas and theatres, with larger limits on crowds for outdoor events. 

Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, bingo halls and amusement parks are also open with larger crowd limits on outdoor attractions. 

Masking and physical distancing rules, however, remain in place.

Fully vaccinated Ontarians considered close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 no longer have to isolate unless they develop symptoms or are directed to do so by public health.

In its school-specific guidance, the province says fully immunized high-risk contacts of positive or likely COVID-19 cases don’t have to isolate or be dismissed from classes unless they have symptoms.

Vaccinated individuals with symptoms who receive a negative COVID-19 test result can return to school if their symptoms improve over 24 hours, or after 48 hours if they had gastrointestinal symptoms.

Unvaccinated, high-risk contacts of positive or likely cases need to isolate for 10 days and it’s recommended that they take a COVID-19 test seven days into their isolation.

The province says household members of those who are close contacts of positive cases have to abide by similar rules.

Returning students will be allowed to play on sports teams and with friends from other classes during recess, share materials such as toys in kindergarten, use instruments in music class, go on field trips and ditch masks outdoors.

Students will be attending in person for full days, five days a week – unless they have opted for remote learning – and high school students will have timetables with no more than two courses at a time.

Manitoba:

Manitoba has loosened more COVID-19 restrictions, including removing its mask mandate.

All restrictions are now removed for private gatherings and businesses, including hair salons, libraries, retail stores, malls and gyms.

The rules around capacity have been loosened for religious services, weddings and funerals. Museums, galleries and movie theatres can still only have 50 per cent capacity but can open up to unvaccinated people.

Sporting events and casinos can open to full capacity but are restricted only to those who are fully vaccinated.

Restaurants and bars no longer need to restrict the space between tables and people dining are not required to eat with only those in their household.

Masks are no longer required but are strongly recommended for people who are unvaccinated. And they are still necessary when going into a hospital or care home.

Meanwhile, the province says masks will be strongly recommended, but not mandatory, when students return to class on September 7th.

Manitoba’s back-to-school plan also recommends physical distancing “to the greatest extent possible”.

Students will return to in-class learning full-time, except for those who are immunocompromised or have family members that are.

Extracurricular activities such as sports teams and field trips will also return, and kids from kindergarten to Grade 6 will be grouped in cohorts to minimize contacts.

Saskatchewan:

Saskatchewan has removed all public health orders — including the province-wide mandatory masking order, as well as capacity limits on events and gathering sizes.

Premier Scott Moe says the province decided to go ahead with full implementation of Step 3 of its Reopening Roadmap because more than 70 per cent of residents over the age of 18 and 76 per cent of those over 12 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Despite the lifting of the health orders, Regina and Saskatoon say they will still keep up extra cleaning in municipal facilities.

Alberta: 

Most remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on July 1.

There are no longer limits on weddings, funerals or bans on indoor social gatherings. In addition, there are no more limits on gyms, sports or fitness activities, no more capacity limits at restaurants, in retail stores or in places of worship.

However, anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 must still self-isolate and protective measures at continuing care centres may remain.

Alberta is also walking back its decision to eliminate isolation requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19 after weeks of pressure from local leaders, physicians and families.

Chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw has announced that Alberta is also extending a masking mandate for public transit and will continue testing for any symptomatic individuals as cases spike.

All remaining public health restrictions were to lift Aug. 16, but will now remain in place for another six weeks until Sept 27.

Hinshaw said an unexpected rise in hospitalizations and emerging data from the United States on pediatric cases linked to the highly contagious Delta variant are behind the pause.

The overall requirement for masks in public indoor spaces ended on July 1, and some remaining COVID-19 health restrictions in continuing-care centres have also been eased.

The province is no longer limiting the number of visitors, however, visitors still need to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure, and masks are still required in common areas.

The province recommends people wear a mask at all times when visiting a care home if they have not been fully vaccinated, including children under 12.

Limits on dining and recreation activities have been eliminated, and residents are not required to be screened if they are re-entering the building or go into quarantine if they have gone off site.

Unvaccinated students and staff at Edmonton’s University of Alberta, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge will have to get regular COVID-19 rapid tests to attend campus this fall.

The three research schools said they won’t mandate vaccinations but anyone who refuses to disclose vaccination status or who is not fully immunized will need to regularly test negative to attend campus.

Face masks will be required in all public areas of the universities.

British Columbia:

The province took the next step in its reopening plan on Canada Day when most COVID-19 restrictions were removed and outdoor gatherings of up to 5,000 people got the go ahead.

However, a surge in COVID-19 cases spurred by the Delta variant has prompted B-C’s health officials to enact mandatory vaccine requirements for all staff and volunteers at long-term care and assisted living sites. The deadline for workers to get vaccinated is October 12th.

Meanwhile, most restaurants and pubs no longer have limits on the number of diners, but people are still not allowed to mingle with those at other tables. Masks are no longer mandatory in most places and recreational travel outside the province can resume.

Most casinos and nightclubs are also open again, though some barriers remain in place and socializing between tables is not allowed.

The exception to the new rules is the central Okanagan region where some restrictions have been reinstated following a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Outdoor gatherings are once again limited to 50 individuals, while indoor get-togethers are reduced to five extra people, plus those in the household.

Nightclubs and bars are closed and liquor is now cutoff at 10 p.m. at restaurants. 

High intensity indoor fitness classes are cancelled, though low intensity exercise at fitness centres is still permitted.

Masks are also mandatory in all indoor public places in central Okanagan communities including Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Lake Country and West Bank First Nations lands.

Health officials are asking people who intended to travel to the central Okanagan to try to change their plans.

Nunavut:

Nunavut has closed its travel bubble with the Northwest Territories after an increase in cases of COVID-19 over the last few days.

That means unvaccinated travellers must isolate for 14 days in a Yellowknife isolation hotel before coming to Nunavut.

Travellers with a same-ticket layover, vaccinated people travelling with unvaccinated dependants 12 years old or younger, and critical workers are exempt from the isolation requirement.

The government has released a long-term plan that will work toward treating COVID-19 like any other vaccine-preventable disease.

The plan, which is called Nunavut’s Path: Living with COVID-19, will move Nunavut from restrictions to what it calls “baseline measures,” which it says are the lowest level of restrictions still needed in the territory to reduce the risk of introduction of the virus. The measures will be assessed every two to four weeks.

Right now, baseline measures include limiting household gatherings to 15 people and opening restaurants and bars at 75 per cent capacity. Masks are no longer mandatory in Nunavut but their use is still strongly encouraged.

The plan says the ultimate goal is to end the territory’s public health emergency, which has been in place for more than a year, and eliminate all public health restrictions.

For now, all schools in Nunavut also plan to reopen at full capacity for in-class learning this fall.

Northwest Territories:

Up to 25 people are allowed in a business that is following an approved COVID-19 plan. Households can have up to 10 people with a maximum of five guests from another household.

Non-essential travel outside the territory is not recommended, and leisure travel into the territory is not permitted.

The territory is no longer requiring masks to be worn in public places in Yellowknife and three other communities.

But chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola says it’s still a good idea to wear a mask indoors when there is a crowd, poor ventilation, or shouting or singing.

Yukon:

The Yukon government has lifted a series of public health restrictions.

The territory says masks are no longer required in indoor spaces but are strongly recommended when it’s difficult to practise physical distancing.

Shops, grocers, bars, restaurants, recreational centres and transit operators should be respected if they ask clients to wear masks.

Self-isolation after domestic travel is no longer required for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, while bars and restaurants may return to full capacity.

Certain public health restrictions remain in place, including limits on the number of people who can gather at gyms and recreation centres. Social gatherings are still limited to 20 people indoors and to 100 outdoors. Organized events of any kind are capped at 200 people, with physical distancing required at all children’s gatherings.

Unvaccinated people should stick to six people and keep their circle small, the territory said in a statement.

Schools will return to “near-normal” operations this fall, offering full-time, in-class instruction.

Students won’t have to wear masks in class, but masks will be required for adults and kids aged five and up in common areas.

School buses are set to resume normal operations with masks required for drivers and children five and up.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Chris Rock says he has COVID-19, urges vaccination – San Francisco Chronicle

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Sep. 19, 2021Updated: Sep. 19, 2021 11:45 a.m.

FILE – In this March 30, 2019 file photo, Chris Rock presents the award for outstanding comedy series at the 50th annual NAACP Image Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Chris Rock on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021 said he has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and sent a message to anyone still on the fence: “Get vaccinated.” (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)Chris Pizzello/Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

NEW YORK (AP) — Chris Rock on Sunday said he has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and sent a message to anyone still on the fence: “Get vaccinated.”

The 56-year-old comedian wrote on Twitter: “Hey guys I just found out I have COVID, trust me you don’t want this. Get vaccinated.”

Rock has previously said he was vaccinated. Appearing on “The Tonight Show” in May, he called himself “Two-shots Rock” before clarifying that he received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“You know, I skipped the line. I didn’t care. I used my celebrity, Jimmy,” he told host Jimmy Fallon. “I was like, ‘Step aside, Betty White. Step aside, old people. … I did ‘Pootie Tang.’ Let me on the front of the line.'”

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'Waning immunity?': Experts say term leads to false understanding of COVID-19 vaccines – CHEK

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The idea of waning immunity has picked up steam in recent weeks, with some countries using it to justify rolling out third-dose COVID-19 vaccine boosters to their populations.

But immunologists say the concept has been largely misunderstood.

While antibodies — proteins created after infection or vaccination that help prevent future invasions from the pathogen — do level off over time, experts say that’s supposed to happen.

And it doesn’t mean we’re not protected against COVID-19.

Jennifer Gommerman, an immunologist with the University of Toronto, said the term “waning immunity” has given people a false understanding of how the immune system works.

“Waning has this connotation that something’s wrong and there isn’t,” she said. “It’s very normal for the immune system to mount a response where a ton of antibodies are made and lots of immune cells expand. And for the moment, that kind of takes over.

“But it has to contract, otherwise you wouldn’t have room for subsequent immune responses.”

Antibody levels ramp up in the “primary response” phase after vaccination or infection, “when your immune system is charged up and ready to attack,” said Steven Kerfoot, an associate professor of immunology at Western University.

They then decrease from that “emergency phase,” he added. But the memory of the pathogen and the body’s ability to respond to it remains.

Kerfoot said B-cells, which make the antibodies, and T-cells, which limit the virus’s ability to cause serious damage, continue to work together to stave off severe disease long after a vaccine is administered. While T-cells can’t recognize the virus directly, they determine which cells are infected and kill them off quickly.

Recent studies have suggested the T-cell response is still robust several months following a COVID-19 vaccination.

“You might get a minor infection … (but) all of those cells are still there, which is why we’re still seeing very stable effectiveness when it comes to preventing severe disease,” Kerfoot said.

A pre-print study released this week by Public Health England suggested protection against hospitalization and death remains much higher than protection against infection, even among older adults.

So the concept of waning immunity depends on whether you’re measuring protection against infection or against severe disease, Kerfoot said.

Ontario reported 43 hospitalized breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated on Friday, compared to 256 unvaccinated hospitalized infections. There were 795 total new cases in the province that day, 582 among those who weren’t fully vaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status.

British Columbia, meanwhile, saw 53 fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients hospitalized over the last two weeks, compared to 318 unvaccinated patients.

“You’ll hear people say that vaccines aren’t designed to protect infection, they’re designed to prevent severe disease,” Kerfoot said. “I wouldn’t say necessarily it’s the vaccine that’s designed to do one or another … that’s just how the immune system works.”

Moderna released real-world data this week suggesting its vaccine was 96 per cent effective at preventing hospitalization, even amidst the more transmissible Delta variant, and 87 per cent effective at preventing infection — down from the 94 per cent efficacy seen in the clinical trials last year.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said that dip “illustrates the impact of waning immunity and supports the need for a booster to maintain high levels of protection.”

Pfizer-BioNTech has argued the same with its own data, and an advisory panel to the U.S.-based Food and Drug Administration voted Friday to endorse third doses for those aged 65 and older, or at high risk for severe disease.

However, the panel rejected boosters for the general population, saying the pharmaceutical company had provided little safety data on extra jabs.

Gommerman said the efficacy data presented by Moderna doesn’t signal the need for a third dose.

“The fact it protects 87 per cent against infection, that’s incredible,” she said. “Most vaccines can’t achieve that.”

Bancel said Moderna’s research, which has yet to be peer reviewed, suggested a booster dose could also extend the duration of the immune response by reupping neutralizing antibody levels.

But Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious physician in Mississauga, Ont., said looking solely at the antibody response is misleading, and could be falsely used as justification for an infinite number of boosters.

Israel, which has opened third doses for its citizens, recently talked about administering fourth doses in the near future.

“This idea of waning immunity is being exploited and it’s really concerning to see,” Chakrabarti said. “There’s this idea that antibodies mean immunity, and that’s true … but the background level of immunity, the durable T-cell stuff, hasn’t been stressed enough.”

While some experts maintain boosters for the general population are premature, they agree some individuals would benefit from a third jab.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended boosters for the immunocompromised, who don’t mount a robust immune response from a two-dose series.

Other experts have argued residents of long-term care, who were prioritized when the rollout began last December, may also soon need a third dose. The English study suggests immunity could be waning in older groups but not much — if at all — among those under age 65.

Chakrabarti said a decrease in protection among older populations could be due more to “overlapping factors,” including their generally weaker immune systems and congregate-living situations for those in long-term care.

“These are people at the highest risk of hospitalization,” he said. “Could (the length of time that’s passed following their doses) be playing a role? Yeah, maybe.”

While we still don’t know the duration of the immune response to COVID-19 vaccination, Gommerman said immune cells typically continue to live within bone marrow and make small amounts of antibodies for “decades.”

“And they can be quickly mobilized if they encounter a pathogen,” she said.

Melissa Couto Zuber/The Canadian Press

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Chris Rock gets COVID, urges vaccine – South Coast Register

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