After several weeks of consistently increasing COVID-19 infections in Alberta, new daily case numbers have started to plateau in recent days, but that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet when it comes to the second wave of the pandemic.
Since late November, the province broke record after record when it came to daily case counts, but since confirming 1,887 new infections on Dec. 14, the trend has turned downward slightly with numbers as low as 1,270 later this week, though that doesn’t mean Alberta is bending the curve.
Dr. Stephanie Smith said it’s “a bit too soon” to know if the dips are a result of new, strict health measures.
“Given the amount of community transmission that we’ve seen in the province — but especially in Edmonton and to a degree in Calgary — I think it is going to take a bit more time before we would really see the impact of those restrictions more on a sustained basis,” the associate professor in the University of Alberta’s faculty of medicine said.
Dr. Hinshaw reminds young Albertans they are not immune to COVID-19
Smith said while it’s encouraging to see cases dipped over a 48-hour period, the increase back up to 1,571 new infections on Thursday shows Albertans shouldn’t rely on a brief decline as evidence the situation as a whole is improving.
“Hopefully people are adhering to the restrictions. And I think that we’re all hopeful that those will actually result in a decrease in community spread and therefore decreasing hospital admissions, et cetera,” she said. “But it is a bit early to say.
“We really do need to kind of push on with the messaging that we all really need to do our part in terms of trying to stay home and not socialize.”
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Monday that while cases and the province’s R-value — or rate of transmission — appeared to be plateauing over the week, it’s “not enough” to show a trend.
“We also need to look at our new daily case numbers, which remain high. What we need to achieve together is several weeks of an R value well below one, with a corresponding decrease in new case numbers,” Hinshaw said.
“At present, even with this single-week plateau, we are continuing to see growing hospitalizations and ICU admissions, which are straining our health system.”
With Christmas around the corner, blind optimism about the recent decline in cases is something many doctors are concerned about, warning that “a brief plateau doesn’t mean [cases] can’t go back up.”
Case numbers are rising at an alarming rate in Ontario this week, after roughly a week of declining infections, and Dr. Craig Jenne, infectious disease expert with the University of Calgary, said that’s “something we definitely have to guard against here in Alberta.”
“The people being admitted to the hospital are the people that are already showing up in the daily infection numbers. So the hospitalizations tend to follow behind identification of infection by two or three weeks,” he said.
“We can expect hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions to continue to go up for the next several weeks in Alberta, even if the daily numbers begin to plateau.”
He said the Christmas holiday season is “probably the biggest challenge we’re going to face” when it comes to curbing viral transmission.
“We have seen, without exception, following long weekends, following holidays with family gatherings — be it Labour Day, Thanksgiving — we have seen dramatic spikes in COVID numbers,” Jenne said.
“Despite the fact there are restrictions, people will likely still be gathering with family and friends over the holidays. These are the environments the virus will use to spread and then following Christmas, we will, unfortunately, expect to see an uptick in viral numbers again. The question is how big and how long that will last.”
More Albertans have died of COVID in 2020 than of influenza over the past decade: Hinshaw
Dr. Noel Gibney, who works in the department of critical care medicine at the University of Alberta, said it’s likely we’ll see a surge in cases linked to Christmas gatherings early in the New Year.
“The situation in Alberta is extremely serious,” Gibney said.
“I sincerely hope that those case numbers that have been coming down will continue to come down but, people being people, this being the Christmas holidays, I really worry that what we’re looking at is the start of a superspreading event that will become apparent in the New Year, first week of January.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Mayor Tory discusses stay-at-home order enforcement, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine delay – CityNews Toronto
Trudeau speaks to Pfizer CEO as delays to vaccine shipments get worse – BNN
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla by phone Thursday, the same day the company informed Canada delays to its shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are going to be even worse than previously thought.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander now overseeing the vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said last week a factory expansion at Pfizer’s Belgium plant was going to slow production, cutting Canada’s deliveries over four weeks in half.
In exchange, Pfizer expects to be able to ship hundreds of millions more doses worldwide over the rest of 2021.
Tuesday, Fortin said Canada would receive 80 per cent of the previously expected doses this week, nothing at all next week, and about half the promised deliveries in the first two weeks of February.
Today, I spoke with the CEO of Pfizer Global, Dr. Bourla, about the timely delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada. He assured me that we’ll receive 4 million doses by the end of March. We’ll keep working together to ensure Canadians can get a vaccine as soon as possible.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 22, 2021
Thursday, he said the doses delivered in the first week of February will only be 79,000, one one-fifth of what was once expected. Fortin doesn’t know yet what will come the week after, but overall, Canada’s doses over three weeks are going to be just one-third of what had been planned.
Trudeau has been under pressure to call Bourla, as the delayed doses force provinces to cancel vaccination appointments and reconsider timing for second doses.
Fortin said some provinces may be hit even harder than others because of limits on the way the Pfizer doses can be split up for shipping. The vaccine is delicate and must be kept ultra frozen until shortly before injecting it. The company packs and ships specialized coolers, with GPS thermal trackers, directly to provincial vaccine sites.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said earlier this week he doesn’t blame the federal government for the dose delays but wanted Trudeau to do more to push back about it.
“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives.
Trudeau informed Ford and other premiers of the call with Bourla during a regular teleconference to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Until Thursday, all calls between the federal cabinet and Pfizer had been handled by Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Ford also spoke to Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow Wednesday.
Trudeau didn’t suggest the call with Bourla made any difference to the delays, and noted Canada is not the only country affected.
Europe, which on the weekend thought its delayed doses would only be for one week after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to Bourla, now seems poised to be affected longer. Italy is so angry it is threatening to sue the U.S.-based drugmaker for the delays.
Mexico said this week it is only getting half its expected shipment this week and nothing at all for the next three weeks. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also reported delays getting doses. Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said more countries were affected but wouldn’t say which ones.
Fortin said Pfizer has promised to deliver four million doses to Canada by the end of March and that is not going to change with the delay. With the current known delivery schedule, the company will have to ship more than 3.1 million doses over 7 1/2 weeks to meet that commitment.
Deliveries from Moderna, the other company that has a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada, are not affected. Canada has received about 176,000 doses from Moderna to date, with deliveries arriving every three weeks.
Moderna has promised two million doses by the end of March.
Both vaccines require first doses and then boosters several weeks later for full effectiveness. Together Pfizer and Moderna intend to ship 20 million doses to Canada in the spring, and 46 million between July and September. With no other vaccines approved, that means Canada will get enough doses to vaccinate the entire population with two doses by the end of September.
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine delays worsen, deliveries see more than 60-per-cent cut so far – The Globe and Mail
Provinces will not get a per-capita share of COVID-19 vaccine doses while the country grapples with a dramatic slowdown in shipments from Pfizer-BioNTech that continues to worsen.
Major-General Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s vaccine logistics, told reporters Thursday the delivery from Pfizer for the week of Feb. 1 will be cut to just 79,000 doses, amounting to a 79-per-cent drop. On Tuesday, he said Canada will get none of the 208,650 doses originally expected next week.
Last week, Maj.-Gen. Fortin said the country’s shipments from Pfizer would drop by 50 per cent over a four-week period and the company would make up the missed deliveries by the end of March. On Thursday, he said Pfizer has not yet disclosed what Canada’s shipment will be the week of Feb. 8, but so far the drop in deliveries amounts to a more than 60-per-cent cut.
“Despite this bump on the road, Pfizer continues to assure us that they’re on track to meet the total allocation of four million doses to Canada by the end of March,” Maj.-Gen. Fortin said.
Experts say the slowdown will have a double impact: in the short term, risking the ability of provinces to deliver the second shot on time, and in the long term, forcing a more cautious approach in the vaccine rollout as they hold back more vaccine to create a buffer against future delivery interruptions.
Last week Pfizer said it needed to slow production to retool its Belgian manufacturing plant. The company said the temporary slowdown would allow it to nearly double production capacity. The federal government initially said all countries would be equally affected by the slowdown, but Pfizer announced later that the supply to the European Union would return to normal on Jan. 25.
Late Thursday, the Prime Minister announced on Twitter that he had spoken with Albert Bourla, the chief executive officer of the American multinational. He said he spoke about the “timely delivery” of vaccines.
Other world leaders have said they are in direct contact with him.
Last week, the Public Health Agency of Canada told The Globe and Mail the slowdown would hit Canada between Jan. 25 and Feb. 21. On Thursday, it said it would instead affect Canada’s shipments between Jan. 18 and Feb. 14.
This week Canada had a 9 per cent cut to its deliveries, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Maj.-Gen. Fortin said the overall drop is minimal, but due to “shipping decisions made by the manufacturer,” some provinces would have a more severe impact.
Its on-the-ground implications have not yet been communicated to provinces. In an e-mailed statement, a spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Ivana Yelich, said the province needs the details “sooner rather than later so we can make further adjustments to our vaccine rollout plan after multiple changes to distribution numbers over a few short days.”
Mr. Ford told reporters Thursday he had spoken with the CEO of Pfizer Canada and told him, “Pfizer has let us down.” The Premier is hoping Pfizer will ship some of the doses from its Michigan plant north, but the first 100 million doses from that plant have already been promised to the United States.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he has been in touch with Pfizer executives, but he wouldn’t disclose who and his office would only say they are outside the country.
With reports from Laura Stone, Jeff Gray and Oliver Moore
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