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As Delta variant surges, Fauci and Walensky say vaccines, not masks, are the solution – Yahoo News Canada

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WASHINGTON — Top science officials in the Biden administration sought on Thursday to allay concerns about the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has prompted renewed calls for mask wearing in some places.

Compounding the alarm was an announcement last week from the World Health Organization that even vaccinated people should continue to wear masks. “Vaccine alone won’t stop community transmission,” a top WHO deputy explained in justifying the move, which appeared to cause some confusion.

But as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top science adviser to the Biden administration, explained during a Thursday briefing of the White House pandemic response team, the global situation cannot be compared to that in the United States. Those vaccination rates are “dramatically different,” he said, showing a chart that made the vast gap vividly apparent: While only about 11 percent of the world has been vaccinated, 47 percent of the American population is immunized against the coronavirus.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Dr. Anthony Fauci at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in May. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Delta variant also appears to puncture the protection offered by the first dose of a two-dose mRNA vaccine. Partially vaccinated people appear to be better protected against other versions of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. Those other variants, however, are far less concerning to most public health officials than Delta.

As Fauci noted, studies have shown the Pfizer vaccine — one of the two mRNA vaccines most widely used in the United States, alongside Moderna’s — to be 96 percent effective in preventing illness from the Delta variant serious enough to require hospitalization. (There is less evidence regarding the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but Fauci said “one could anticipate” that its efficacy would turn out to be “at least similar, perhaps even better” than that of its mRNA relatives.)

The Delta variant is believed to be about 60 percent more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, but that does not mean it is necessarily more lethal. So, for example, while that strain is becoming more prevalent in Israel, and infections are indeed rising there, that nation’s highest-in-the-world vaccination status has offered consistent protection. Only one person in Israel died from the coronavirus during the second half of June.

Although many Americans discarded masks in May, some believe it is time for them to return. That, at least, is the position of Los Angeles County public health officials, who advised even vaccinated people to mask up in indoor settings.

Nurse practitioner Tara Biller administers a COVID-19 vaccination during the Joints4Jabs COVID-19 vaccination clinic, hosted by Pliable, at the Uncle Ikes White Center cannabis shop on June 16, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (David Ryder/Getty Images)Nurse practitioner Tara Biller administers a COVID-19 vaccination during the Joints4Jabs COVID-19 vaccination clinic, hosted by Pliable, at the Uncle Ikes White Center cannabis shop on June 16, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Nurse practitioner Tara Biller administers a COVID-19 vaccination in Seattle on June 16. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

But how concerning is the Delta variant to Los Angeles, which is 60 percent vaccinated? The county, which is home to 10 million people, has averaged only five new coronavirus deaths per day over the last week, even though infection rates have risen slightly since the arrival of the Delta variant several weeks ago.

The Biden administration is obviously uninterested in litigating the mask culture wars, given how fraught that issue has been from the very start. To be sure, masks are highly effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but vaccines provide what is for many people a more lasting, more convenient and possibly less contentious solution.

“If you are vaccinated, you have a high degree of protection,” Fauci said at Thursday’s briefing. “So you need not wear a mask, either indoor or outdoor.”

The day before, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky made the same point in a television interview. “If you are vaccinated, you are safe from the variants that are circulating here in the United States,” she said. Unvaccinated people still need to wear masks, according to CDC guidelines.

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Interior Health will make COVID-19 vaccinations available in downtown Kelowna starting Friday – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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Interior Health will hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in downtown Kelowna for the next several days.

In conjunction with the Downtown Kelowna Association, the clinic will be held in the lobby of the Kelowna Yacht Club beginning Friday.

The pop-up clinic will be held from 3 p.m. to 7p.m. for five consecutive days, and will be re-evaluated after that time to determine whether it will continue.

Anyone who has not yet received a first vaccination, or those 28 days past their first shot in welcome to drop in. No appointments are necessary.

Access to the clinic is from the boardwalk entrance.

There have been calls for a downtown clinic as positive COVID-19 cases swell in the Central Okanagan.

Interior Health declared an outbreak in the Central Okanagan Wednesday after it was revealed 240 positive cases had been recorded over the past seven days.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry brought back a mask mandate for the region from Peachland to Lake Country, making the wearing of masks mandatory indoors.

That mandate is expected to run for at least 14 days.

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Alberta's top doctor came up with plan to lift all COVID-19 orders: health minister – The Record (New Westminster)

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CALGARY — Alberta’s health minister says it was the idea of the province’s chief medical health officer to end isolation requirements for those who test positive for COVID-19 or who have been in close contact with someone who has.

Tyler Shandro said Dr. Deena Hinshaw came to the government with the plan. He said the government agreed with science and data supporting it and wanted to respect the independence of her position. 

“It came from Dr. Hinshaw,” Shandro said Thursday when asked about the province’s strategy. “This is work that was developed by those who are in public health.”

He acknowledged concerns about moving forward so quickly. “We have many different opinions in the medical community and that’s to be expected and that’s encouraged.”

He also said that while Alberta is alone in Canada in the approach, others will eventually follow suit. 

“We are leading the way in moving to the endemic (phase of the COVID-19) response. We’ve led the way throughout in the response to the pandemic quite frankly.”

Hinshaw has always said she presents scientific evidence, numbers and trends, but the final decision on how to respond to pandemic developments lies with the government.

Close contacts of positive cases are no longer notified of exposure by contact tracers, nor are they required to isolate. The government has also ended asymptomatic testing.

As of Aug. 16, individuals who test positive won’t be legally required to isolate either — although it will still be recommended. Isolation hotels will close and quarantine supports will end. 

Reaction to Hinshaw’s announcement Wednesday was swift and critical — much of it on Twitter. Opposition politicians, the medical community and private citizens all weighed in.

On Thursday, Dr. Daniel Gregson, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Calgary, said the government’s decision to end mandated isolation is irresponsible. 

“The message we’re sending is that if you have an infection with COVID, or think you might have an infection with COVID, you can do whatever you want,” said Gregson. “I would not agree with that.”

He said a fourth wave is inevitable, primarily among young and healthy individuals. “We are going to see a bump in our hospitalizations. The question is how much?” 

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it’s inconceivable Alberta is eliminating almost all of its remaining COVID-19 public health orders as cases climb in the province.

“It is the height of insanity,” Nenshi said.

“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.”

Nenshi said if he were in another jurisdiction he would contemplate travel restrictions on Albertans starting Aug. 16. 

“I’m aware of no science that backs this up,” he said. “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 the decision to lift the orders is politically motivated and has nothing to do with science.

Rida Abboud also questioned the province’s motives. 

Abboud, who teaches at Calgary’s Mount Royal University and has a child starting kindergarten in the fall, said the United Conservatives are taking a gamble and the odds aren’t in their favour.

“I feel like I’m sending my child into the COVID Wild Wild West,” said Abboud. “It really feels like this government has no interest whatsoever in supporting families in … diminishing the risks to anyone under the age of 12 who can’t get vaccinated.”

She’s also worried about returning to the classroom come September. Abboud said poorly ventilated rooms and teaching an age cohort with lower vaccination rates is concerning, especially as it will be unknown who’s infected. 

“This government likes to gamble on a lot of different approaches. They’ve lost in many ways and this is, I think, unfortunately, another one,” she said. “It’s just so shocking and saddening that it’s on the backs of parents and women, in particular.” 

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley urged the government to reverse course with necessary resources.

“This isn’t fair to Albertans. It’s not fair for them to be exposed and not know,” Notley said. “It’s also quite reasonable to keep asking Albertans who are infected to stay home until they are no longer contagious.”

She said the changes will do little to encourage uptake of vaccines.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton

Bill Graveland and Alanna Smith, 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

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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).

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