The Government of B.C. has fulfilled its goal of hiring more than 1,200 contact tracers over the past few months—but as the province continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, its recruitment efforts are not stopping there.
As of Thursday,1,235 people to date have been hired as part of the province’s contact tracing initiative.
“Our target was to hire 1,224 positions,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “100 per cent of this new target is now complete.”
In August, the government unveiled its initial plans to hire approximately 500 more individuals to join its existing team of “500 to 600 people who were involved in contact tracing before August,” before upping that number to 608 in October.
Contact tracers are tasked with following up with each person who has tested positive for the virus, in an effort to understand who their contacts may be and who else might be infected. Contact tracers can then follow up with those contacts, ideally to support people who may need to self-isolate, effectively stopping any potential transmission of the virus whenever possible. Though B.C. health authorities’ public health teams carried out contact tracing of communicable diseases as part of their regular work prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, “the scale of the response needed” in 2020 required the additional supports, the government said.
Dix said the province has also received “additional supports” aside from the new hires, including from Statistics Canada. B.C. officials are also “actively working with the Red Cross and others” to keep the operational centre of B.C.’s regional contact tracing hub at the Vancouver Convention Centre running smoothly, he said.
Despite reaching its goal, the province is looking to continue building its contact tracing capacity. As Dix explained during Thursday’s briefing, 385 candidates are currently in the interview stage, while 121 candidates are in the offer stage.
Broken down by health region, the new hires equate to 280 more contact tracers in the Vancouver Coastal Health authority, 579 in Fraser Health, 71 on Vancouver Island, 63 in the Interior Health region and 42 more contact tracers in Northern Heath. Two hundred of the new hires were assigned to the Provincial Health Services Authority, which includes the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
According to Dix, the province is also hiring 76 community health representative positions that will support culturally-safe contact tracing efforts within First Nations communities. Funding for those positions to be provided by B.C.’s Ministry of Health through the First Nations Health Authority.
Alberta company begins human clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate – Campbell River Mirror
Human clinical trials have begun in Toronto for a proposed COVID-19 vaccine made by a Canadian company.
Providence Therapeutics of Calgary says 60 subjects will be monitored for 13 months, with the first results expected next month.
The group of healthy volunteers aged 18 to 65 have been divided into four groups of 15. Three of the groups will get three different dose levels, while a fourth group gets a placebo.
Pending regulatory approval, the company’s CEO Brad Sorenson says a larger Phase 2 trial may start in May with seniors, younger subjects and pregnant people.
Providence uses messenger RNA technology for a product it calls PTX-COVID19-B.
Sorenson says if successful, the vaccine could be released by the end of the year.
“We are thrilled to begin human clinical trials of PTX-COVID19-B. Having a made-in-Canada solution to address the global COVID-19 pandemic will augment the reliability of vaccine supply for Canadians, contribute to the global vaccine supply and position a Canadian company on the global stage as a contributor to the solution,” Sorenson said Tuesday in a release.
The Canadian Press
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Alta. COVID-19 numbers back to early-Dec. levels, health-care system still under strain: Hinshaw – CTV News Edmonton
Although more than 11,000 Albertans have been fully immunized for COVID-19 and infection and hospitalization rates are falling, officials are warning the province’s health-care system is still stressed.
In total, the province has administered more than 101,000 shots since December, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Wednesday.
That afternoon, Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 459 new cases of COVID-19. On Tuesday, labs conducted some 12,800 tests, leaving Alberta with a positivity rate of 3.6 per cent.
Hospitalizations, too, have dropped – but, Hinshaw said, not enough to significantly reduce the strain on Alberta’s health care system or justify easing restrictions.
Of news that several more businesses were defying public health orders with support of their local community and leadership, Hinshaw said the action could jeopardize Alberta’s recent progress.
“What I would say to those leaders is to think about not just what they see in front of them in their own town but to look at the province, and to recognize that every action that we take as individuals has repercussions and connections to our own communities and to the communities around us. And unfortunately, what we saw in the fall is that when we did take early targeted steps to try to minimize risk but not have businesses close, we continued to see our cases climb,” Hinshaw said.
She reminded the public that on Dec. 30, Alberta’s COVID-19 hospitalizations peaked at 943 people. Of those, 155 were in ICUs.
On Wednesday, Hinshaw said, 604 Albertans were in hospitals with the disease, 110 of whom were in intensive care units.
But the numbers are only on par with those seen on Dec. 4.
“This is encouraging news, and a signal that we are making meaningful progress,” Hinshaw said.
“We saw our health-care system come very close to a tipping point. We want to avoid that and we need to make sure that we are taking slow measured steps.”
She added Alberta Health was working on a “framework” that would help Albertans keep track of the metrics that would trigger more reopenings.
VARIANT, VACCINE UPDATE
There are 8,203 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.
To date, more than 112,500 Albertans have recovered from the disease.
With the addition of 12 more deaths on Wednesday, the province’s death tally rose to 1,599.
Hinshaw had no update on Alberta’s so far single, unsourced B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant case, for which officials have found no transmission outside the person’s household.
“The knowledge that this particular variant of concern has been showing up in some other provinces and other countries around the world as a part of community transmission is concerning, and it does need to be factored into our decisions about timing of reopening,” Hinshaw told reporters. “Because if we do enable more activities, more opportunities for people to be in close contact with one another, we could potentially see quicker spreads if the variant is here in more locations than we currently are aware of.”
According to the latest data, reported at the beginning of the week, Alberta labs have confirmed 25 cases of the B.1.1.7 and 501Y-V2 strains first identified in the U.K. and South Africa. All but the one case have been linked to international travel.
Officials are calling immunization a key component of Alberta’s ability to prepare for any spread of two new strains, but say the work is hampered by vaccine supply delays.
Hinshaw said some Albertans who are eligible for a second dose may not yet have been given an appointment because the province is waiting to confirm its supplies arriving in two weeks.
However, she said the goal was to still administer all second shots within the maximum interval tested.
“While I can’t say with certainty at this point, what I can say is that everything possible will be done to provide that second dose to all who have had the first dose within that 42-day period.”
The top doctor asked for all those waiting to remain patient with the system and province.
'That’s about as un-Canadian as you can get': B.C. premier 'disappointed' at people travelling to jump the line for COVID-19 vaccine – Yahoo News Canada
Local Journalism Initiative
Regina– Three more weeks. That’s the length of the most recent extension of public health orders in Saskatchewan meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. Premier Scott Moe made the announcement from the Legislature in Regina on Jan. 26 with chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab. The announcement came on a day when Saskatchewan posted yet another record for COVID-19 related deaths, 14, but has seen a slow drop in new case counts. There are now 2,665 cases are considered active, and on that day, 607 recoveries were reported. Moe said. “The number of new cases in Saskatchewan continues to gradually decline. Today we are reporting 232 new cases, and our seven-day average for new cases is now 254. This is down about 20 per cent from its peak of 321 on Jan. 12. Our active cases are now down to 2,665, the lowest level since Nov. 21, and down over 40 per cent from a peak of 4,763 on Dec. 7. “This gradual decline means that our current public health orders and restrictions are working, but we need to leave them in place a little longer. Therefore, all the current public health orders are being extended for three weeks until Feb. 19.” “These measures are working, when we follow them, as the vast majority of Saskatchewan people and businesses are doing. There have been a small number of mainly bars and restaurants who may not have been following those putting their staff putting their customers and essentially putting their communities at risk. So, I have asked that we increase enforcement on those who choose to break the rules, and in recent days there has been three significant tickets.” Moe also said that two bars in Saskatoon and one in Regina had been issued $14,000 fines. He held out the hope that three weeks from now, Saskatchewan may be able to look at reducing the number of restrictions in place. He pointed out that the province has made a lot of progress in vaccinations. To date, 34,080 doses have been delivered, and those administering it are quite literally getting the most out of every bottle, getting 104 per cent of expected dosages. Moe said, “But we continue to be limited by the slow pace of vaccine deliveries, from to and from the federal government. Saskatchewan now has the highest percentage of vaccines administered, and we have the second-highest per capita rate of vaccinations completed among any of the provinces. “Unfortunately, today we are virtually out of vaccines. And with no new shipments coming this week, our vaccination program will be stalled for the next number of days.” Next week, the province is expecting 12,000 additional doses, of which 5,850 will be Pfizer doses heading to Saskatoon, Regina, North Battleford, Yorkton and Swift Current to allow continued vaccination of long-term care residents and staff, as well as those over 70. A further 6,500 Moderna doses will be going to the far northeast, far northwest, and northeast regions of the province for a second doses. In the central-west region, first shots will be administered, Moe said. The province will continue to push the federal government for more vaccines, and to also look at approving additional types of vaccines for use. He referenced the vaccines that AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have been working on. Shahab said, “I think it’s really important that we are seeing a steady decline in our case numbers; all the indicators are moving in the right direction is slow and steady.” Daily case numbers have come down from 24 per 100,000 population to 20 per 100,000. Test positivity is down under 10 per cent, and is doing so throughout the province. When vaccination starts picking up in March and April, “then we hope to see significant impact on hospitalization and deaths,” he said. Until then, we really have to stay the course. “The other thing is that, with our public health measures, some people say it’s too little, some people say it’s too much. But, you know, they try to strike a fine balance between minimizing cases, as long as the guidelines are followed, and letting people work, (and) enjoy other amenities as much as possible.” He added, “But the downward trend does show, that if all of us abide by public health principles, it has a significant impact on our case numbers.” On the same day, Manitoba implemented 14-day quarantines for nearly all travellers to that province. Asked about doing something similar for Saskatchewan, Shahab said it have been looked at, but found to be impractical, given our long borders, and people in border communities who work and shop across the border. But he did recommend minimizing travel. Regarding variants of the COVID-19 virus, Shahab said sampling is done with relation to travel, and some sampling with age groups and geography as well. “I would not be surprised if we saw a variant in Saskatchewan, but again, what we’re doing, is exactly the same. We really have to follow all these public health measures.” Asked about adverse reactions to the vaccines in Saskatchewan, Shahab said there have been around 10 to 15 allergic reactions, some tingling on the face, and one anaphylaxis that was managed safely. They were well-described in the product monograph and have been managed, he said. “Most of them have presented in individuals who may have had a history of allergies, and they have managed well, so at this point the signal is not of any concern, compared to what is known about these vaccines what we were expecting, with what’s know about other vaccines.” He noted the importance of watching those vaccinated for 15 minutes after the shot, and if you have any allergies, make it known and you will be monitored some more. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
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