Health officials in British Columbia are scheduled to give the last live COVID-19 update of 2020 on Thursday afternoon.
The announcement follows 485 new test-positive coronavirus cases on Wednesday, along with 11 deaths.
There are currently 7,551 active infections across the province, including 379 people in hospital with COVID-19 and 77 in intensive care. Additionally, 9,320 people are under “active public health monitoring,” meaning they’re in mandatory self-isolation because they were a close contact of an infected person.
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Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced a new Public Health Order banning liquor sales at bars, restaurants, and retail stores from 8 pm on New Year’s Eve to 9 am on New Year’s Day. The order is meant to curb New Year’s Eve parties and associated COVID-19 transmission.
Henry said that while she is not concerned about folks enjoying a meal with their household bubble at a restaurant on New Year’s Eve, she feels the temporary order will prevent people from gathering later into the night.
She added that the order is something officials have “been considering for some time” and it was “prudent” to take action ahead of New Year’s Eve.
“The food is perfectly fine and the meal service can happen but the last call has to happen at 8 pm,” she said.
Thursday’s live update is scheduled to begin at 3 pm and can be streamed online.
How other provinces are rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine – CTV News Winnipeg
Manitoba public health officials are expected to release a long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan Wednesday, which could include a timeline for when the general population can expect a jab.
“If you know there is a plan and you know how it’s going to roll out, it gives you a lot more confidence,” said Health Sciences ICU physician Dr. Dan Roberts.
The rollout in other provinces may provide some clues as to what Manitobans can expect.
British Columbia released its four-phase plan last week. Like Manitoba, health-care workers, long-term care residents and Indigenous people in remote and isolated communities are first priority.
Phase 2 includes people who are over 80 and weren’t immunized in the first phase, Indigenous people over 65, and vulnerable populations who lives in group settings.
Phases 3 and 4, which are expected to begin in April, include mass immunizations and is based largely on age.
Ontario has released a three-phase plan.
Phase 2 is expected to begin in March and opens the eligibility to essential workers and people with chronic health conditions. The Ontario government plans to begin vaccinating the general public in August.
The Manitoba government said it would have released a schedule soon if it wasn’t for the pause in vaccine shipments affecting the entire country.
“The delay (in the rollout) was so we had time to review and make sure nothing in our plan would be disrupted,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, Manitoba’s COVID-19 Task Force Medical Lead on Monday.
CALLS FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY
Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, said despite the delay, the province could have provided more details.
“(Determining) what week and which month we can expect, under the conditions is very difficult. But what stands out with Manitoba is that is has defined (Phase) one and nothing beyond that,” said Bowman.
Roberts also would have liked to see more information out sooner
The Winnipeg physician has been pushing the province for more transparency on the rollout and said he had a meeting with the new minister of health and seniors care Heather Stefanson last week.
This past weekend Roberts toured the vaccine super site at the RBC Convention Centre.
“I was very relieved to hear the actual details of the plan they’re putting together and they actions they were taking.”
“At the end of the meeting they asked me for advice, I said, ‘provide some transparency.’ The medical community and the public need to hear what you’re doing to doing. They’re anxious to see this government get on a solid footing, to start over again and roll out the vaccine in a timely fashion,” he said.
UK variant of COVID-19 on cusp of community spread, says top doctor in hard-hit Simcoe Muskoka region – Brampton Guardian
U.K. variant of COVID-19 on cusp of community spread, says top doctor in hard-hit Simcoe Muskoka region – Toronto Star
Simcoe Muskoka’s top public health official warned Tuesday that travel within Ontario should be restricted and school reopenings could falter if community transmission of extra-contagious COVID-19 viral variants takes hold — a reality that may be already be underway after a rash of new positive results.
Samples collected from 99 more people in the region screened positive for a “variant of concern,” the health unit said Tuesday. Two of those cases have no known links to the devastating outbreak at Barrie’s Roberta Place nursing home, where the presence of the U.K. variant was confirmed Saturday in six swabs.
Since then, a total of three cases in Simcoe Muskoka with no links to Roberta Place have tested positive for variants — two of which are involved in separate outbreaks, one at a different nursing home and one at a psychiatric hospital. Full genome sequencing will confirm the variant involved, but the health unit said it expects all to be more instances of the U.K. variant, known scientifically as B.1.1.7, which researchers have calculated is about 50 per cent more transmissible than pre-existing viral strains.
“If it isn’t spreading readily in our community now, it may very well do so in the near future,” Dr. Charles Gardner, Simcoe Muskoka’s medical officer of health, said in a Tuesday press briefing.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch was more blunt: “The horse is out of the barn. We already have community transmission.
“It just means we have to double down on our efforts to keep this virus under control, and vaccinate as swiftly as possible,” said Bogoch, a member of the province’s vaccine task force.
The 99 new cases were identified through a point-prevalence study being conducted by Public Health Ontario, which is analyzing all positive COVID-19 test results from last Wednesday, Jan. 20, for the three known variants of concern, a single-day snapshot that will help establish a baseline for how the variants have spread.
As of Tuesday, 47 cases of B.1.1.7 have been confirmed in Ontario through full genome sequencing, according to data from Public Health Ontario — a count that doesn’t include preliminary screening results, including the 99 from Simcoe Muskoka, for which full sequences are not yet available. Variants of concern from Brazil and South Africa have not yet been reported in the province.
Gardner also said Tuesday that 42 household contacts of people linked to Roberta Place have tested positive for COVID-19, in addition to 127 residents, 82 staff, and six essential caregivers and “external partners.” Forty-six deaths have been reported at the home. Recent evidence from the U.K. suggests that besides being more transmissible, the B.1.1.7 variant may be somewhat more lethal, although that finding is debated by experts.
While the outbreak at the home itself may be receding, “the bigger picture … is transmission in the households of staff, and out into the community,” Gardner said. “And to me, we’re at the beginning of that. We’ve got to do all we can to slow that down.”
Another case of B.1.1.7 was identified in the Kingston region in a person who had travelled to Simcoe Muskoka but had not travelled outside the country, according to a health unit spokesperson. The person tested positive for COVID-19 “several weeks ago” but was only identified as a B.1.1.7 case on Monday.
Gardner and Bogoch both said provincial policies focused on international travellers — whether in the form of which cases get prioritized for variant screening, or in the form of stronger border controls — were likely to now be insufficient measures on their own.
“Additional measures at the border might provide some further incremental protection, and it might slow down the introduction of more of this (variant), or other variants,” Bogoch said. “But this is already here, and it’s circulating.”
Any additional measures at the borders shouldn’t distract the province from keeping transmission under control within its borders, Bogoch said, including focusing on the “huge” equity-related issues of infection risk.
“There’s no magic, right? We know how to control this,” adding that evidence shows COVID-19 vaccines are still effective against the U.K. variant.
Gardner said that in addition to strict adherence to the province’s current stay-at-home order, he believes Ontario needs more stringent controls on travel between jurisdictions — measures he acknowledges would be unpopular, but were used successfully in Australia.
“I think that movement in the population is a problem … I’ve long advocated that there needs to be some form of restrictions. You’ve got a lot of transmission happening between jurisdictions,” said Gardner, a member of the province’s public health measures table, which provides advice to government.
While cases are currently dropping in Ontario, Gardner warned that B.1.1.7 could quickly overwhelm those gains — and if the variant causes case counts to spike, “it would make it difficult to open schools again. There would be a lot of concern about the wisdom of that.”
He also expressed frustration over vaccine supply. While the health unit has visited every long-term-care facility to provide first doses, plans to vaccinate all retirement homes in the region had to be scuttled because of low supply, with only high-priority retirement homes receiving doses.
“It’s a worrying situation. It’s far better if you can to slow and contain this from spreading widely, if possible.”
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