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B.C. reports 832 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths – Global News

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British Columbia reported 832 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with five additional deaths.

At a live briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said 310 of the new cases were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 388 were in the Fraser Health region, 53 were in the Island Health region, 42 were in the Interior Health region and 39 were in the Northern Health region.

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Thursday’s case count pushed B.C.’s seven-day rolling average for new cases to 873. A month prior, on March 1, it stood at just 497.

There were 7,571 active cases, while 296 people were in hospital, 79 of whom were in critical or intensive care.






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Dr. Bonnie Henry’s frequently asked COVID-19 questions


Dr. Bonnie Henry’s frequently asked COVID-19 questions

Henry used the briefing to urge British Columbians to stay home over the Easter long weekend, and to ensure that if they did gather with others, it was outside.

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“This is not the time for any of us to be travelling for leisure or vacation or getaways outside of our community, travel is still very high risk for all of us — we take the risk from where we are coming and we take it home from where we have been,” she said.

“If you do choose to spend time with anyone other than your immediate household this weekend, it must be outdoors. And all of the COVID-19 safety plans and precautions need to continue to be followed as more and more of our seniors and elders in particular are protected, we need to give that time for that best protection to take hold.”

Henry said B.C. had identified another 90 cases of variants of concern in the past 48 hours. The province had 192 active variant cases, and 35 people hospitalized with a variant.

Henry said a cluster of the P.1 variant, first identified in Brazil, had been contained in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

“There’s no focal superspreading event related to these, what we’re finding is there is small chains of transmission in multiple areas that aren’t linked, so it is community spread,” she said.

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The province has administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 700,255 people, or about 13.7 per cent of the province’s population. Of them, 87,394 people have also had second doses.

Henry also confirmed that the vaccination of first-responders and some other priority groups, outside of B.C.’s age-based immunization program, had been paused due to its near-suspension of AstraZeneca vaccine use.

“We are going to be following what’s happening around the world with the data around this vaccine, and I am confident we’ll be able to get back to that program soon, but we need to make sure we are all confident with the safety and with who is the best population to use it,” she said.

B.C. suspended the use of AstraZeneca on Monday amid concerns it could cause blood clots in a small percentage of people under the age of 55.

It has been using remaining supplies of the vaccine to immunize people aged 55-65 in recent days, to ensure none of the supply goes to waste.

Read more:
B.C. reports 1,013 new COVID-19 cases, highest-ever single day total

B.C. has recorded 100,880 total cases have recovered, while 1,463 people have died.

Earlier Thursday, the province opened COVID-19 vaccine bookings to people aged 72 (born in 1949) and older.

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On Wednesday, new COVID-19 infections in B.C. shattered records, clocking in at over 1,000 for the first time. The province also surpassed 100,000 total cases since the start of the pandemic.

Rising COVID-19 cases prompted a new round of “circuit breaker” restrictions on Monday, which include a ban on indoor restaurant service until April 19.


Click to play video: 'B.C.’s changing COVID-19 hotspot'



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B.C.’s changing COVID-19 hotspot


B.C.’s changing COVID-19 hotspot

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Australians living with disability have been 'abandoned' in vaccine rollout: Butler – Sky News Australia

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Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler has highlighted “shocking evidence” which came to light at the Senate Inquiry into COVID on Tuesday which indicates the majority of vulnerable Australians are not fully vaccinated.

“You’ll remember that phase 1a, the vaccination of our most vulnerable members of the community, aged care residents, disability facility residents and their staff were supposed to be completed by Easter, that is what Scott Morrison promised,” he said.

Mr Butler said the evidence showed two-thirds of aged care residents still have not been fully vaccinated and “shockingly” more than 99 per cent of residents in disability facilities have not been fully vaccinated.

“Australians living with disability have been abandoned by Scott Morrison in this vaccine rollout.”

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Specified front-line workers in Manitoba a little more at ease after prioritization for COVID-19 vaccine – CBC.ca

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Foodfare employee Jackie Sandul is looking forward to some peace of mind as Manitoba’s COVID-19 immunization strategy is slated to expand Friday.

On Wednesday, Manitoba officials released new details for expanding vaccination eligibility to adults living in certain geographic areas with high rates of COVID-19 spread or more severe outcomes.

Certain front-line workers, including grocery store workers like Sandul, will be part of the prioritization.

“It makes me safer. My employees and everybody in general around this area,” said Sandul, who is a cashier, supervisor and stockperson at the Foodfare on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg.

“Germs are passed by touch. If you’re touching someone’s money, what do we do? Touching their cards, touching their groceries. When you’re scanning it through the till, you don’t know what they’ve touched or where they’ve been.”

Sandul, a 45-year-old with diabetes, is already eligible for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. But knowing she’ll be prioritized through the province’s immunization plan adds a level of comfort because she won’t have to worry much longer about picking up the novel coronavirus at work, she said.

Geographic areas are deemed hot spots based on previous COVID-19 transmission rates, population density and socio-economics such as race, average income and housing, said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccine task force. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba’s vaccine task force has been reviewing public health data from the second wave and so far into Wave 3 to determine which parts of the province have seen high levels of coronavirus transmission and where residents have had more severe outcomes after contracting COVID-19.

They have also been reviewing which professions put people at greatest risk of picking up SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Front-line workers serving hot spot communities at a school, food processing facility, food establishment such as a restaurant and grocery or convenience store will be prioritized.

People working as child-care or daycare providers, food or public health inspectors, or workplace safety and health officers will be prioritized too.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 832 has been pushing for such a shift for grocery store employees for a while now, said president Jeff Traeger.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to these people that have been doing this work, because we all have to eat and we all have to shop to get our food. They’ve gone to work each and every day throughout the pandemic to make sure that our community keeps running,” he said.

“If there’s any way that we can reduce the risk, like putting them higher on the vaccine priority list, we should be doing that.”

Traeger would have liked to have seen security guards, who often work in places like grocery stores, be added to the priority list too.

The upcoming changes to vaccine eligibility will be a huge boost for morale for school staff, said Chris Goring, principal of Isaac Brock School, a nursery to Grade 9 school in Winnipeg’s West End.

“It’s going to validate the hard work that staff have been doing in the school, not just teachers — educational assistants, custodians, administrators, clerical staff,” said Goring.

“It’s going to be peace of mind for them when they go home to their families.… It’s going to help us carry through the remainder of the school year and keep our schools safe.” 

A teacher with students at Isaac Brock School, where principal Chris Goring hopes the upcoming changes to the vaccine may also soon lead to a bit of normalcy for students. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Shaun Jeffrey, CEO of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, appreciated public health officials recognized restaurant employees were at greater risk, he said.

The problem was Jeffrey learned about the changes the same time the general public did.

“Our industry looks to us for guidance and for feedback and education on what’s happening in Manitoba. We need to be brought up to speed on what the province’s plans are so that we can distribute that and communicate that in an effective manner,” he said.

People booking appointments will be asked for proof of employment, such as a workplace ID or letters from employers. In some cases, they may be asked to simply say they work in an eligible industry. They will be asked for proof of employment on the day of the vaccine appointment as well.

More essential workers may be added to the priority list as more vaccine doses become available, said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccine task force, during a Wednesday news conference.

The list of hot spots should be released Friday. Geographic areas are deemed hot spots based on previous COVID-19 transmission rates, population density and socio-economics such as race, average income and housing, said Reimer.

The people CBC News spoke with for this story agreed it makes sense to prioritize people working in communities hardest hit by COVID-19.

But Traeger believes all grocery store workers ought to be prioritized because of the amount of contact those employees have with the public, he said.

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Expert says Saskatchewan should consider more targeted vaccine plan as variants surge – moosejawtoday.com

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SASKATOON — Nazeem Muhajarine says he feels a sense of relief after receiving his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine last week at a centre in Saskatoon.

“It was just so well-organized and run. I felt completely safe,” Muhajarine said in an interview.

The professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan said the province is making great strides quickly getting shots into arms, but he’s concerned some people are being left behind.

Premier Scott Moe touted during question period Wednesday that Saskatchewan is leading the country when it comes to administering first vaccinations. 

“Our way through this pandemic, everyone’s plan to get through this pandemic, is to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Moe said. 

More than 365,000 doses of vaccine have been given in Saskatchewan. Health officials say 52 per cent of residents over the age of 40 have received their first shot. 

It puts Saskatchewan — with a population of just under 1.18 million — ahead of other provinces when it comes to doses delivered per capita. Data from a COVID-19 vaccination tracker, run by University of Saskatchewan students using federal and provincial data, suggests the province in outpacing Ontario and Quebec.

Moe credits his Saskatchewan Party’s “robust vaccination plan,” which he says will be augmented in the coming days. Eligibility for all vaccines is being lowered to 44 on Thursday, except for in the north where it will go down to 40. It’s expected to drop to 40 for the general population by Wednesday.

Muhajarine said there’s much to applaud about the vaccine rollout. The choice, initially, to use age-based eligibility meant it was easy to understand and targeted those who were more likely to experience severe outcomes if infected, he said. 

Drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinics have also been successful, said Muhajarine. One providing mass immunizations in Regina as the capital has became a hot spot for variants has expecially worked well.

Muhajarine said his own experience shows that organization at larger mass vaccination sites is also commendable. 

However, the professor said now that vulnerable senior populations are immunized and there are highly contagious new strains, the province may be missing the mark.

Getting the most vaccinations out fastest is just part of a good public health response, he said, but surging infections and hospitalizations mean the response should now be targeted to those most affected.

“Workplace spreads and outbreaks have been quite prevalent,” Muhajarine said. “That’s been a huge contributor in Regina and has been a contributor in Saskatoon as well.”

There were 231 new cases in Saskatchewan on Wednesday and four more deaths, including a person in their 30s another in their 40s. The others were over 70. There were 185 people in hospital and 49 in intensive care.

Provincial public health orders were tightened recently as officials warned the more transmissible variant strains were becoming dominant. 

Muhajarine said the recent deaths of influential Cree teacher Victor Thunderchild, 55, in Prince Albert and well-known chef Warren Montgomery, 42, in Regina are examples of people in high-risk work environments who weren’t able to get vaccinations under the age-eligibility plan. 

He said Saskatchewan should consider following Ontario and Manitoba, which are pivoting vaccination plans to target neighbourhoods where people have a higher risk of contracting the virus. 

It should also consider socio-economic factors, including how many residents are in a household and the type of jobs people have, he added.

One example would be neighbourhoods with multi-generational households and where many people work service jobs facing the public. Congregate living facilities such as shelters and correctional centres would be another, he said.

Muhajarine said teachers and other essential workers should also get priority.

Every region in the country is seeing benefits to targeting areas and occupations where the pandemic’s third wave has taken hold, he suggested

“That is not something to be trivialized in this kind of complex and mass undertaking.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2021. 

— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press

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