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Canada passes 500,000 COVID-19 cases following Saskatchewan report – BayToday



Canada surpassed 500,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday as infections continued to surge while the vaccine rollout reached its final province.

Saskatchewan pushed the country over the grim threshold Saturday, with 252 new cases reported as well as eight more deaths.

Earlier in the day, Ontario and Quebec, the two provinces hardest hit by the pandemic, each recorded daily case counts beyond 2,000.

It’s the fifth consecutive day Ontario has exceeded 2,000 new positive tests, with Saturday’s tally at 2,357.

The province, which is currently holding emergency talks to consider additional health measures, also recorded 27 new deaths.

Five regions in Ontario are scheduled to be in the province’s lockdown stage as of Monday. 

Quebec recorded 2,038 new infections and 44 new deaths related to the novel coronavirus.

The latest 100,000 cases racked up in just 15 days across the country, marking the shortest growth period since the pandemic was declared in March.

It took six months for Canada to register its first 100,000 cases of the virus, another four to reach 200,000, less than a month to hit 300,000 and 18 days to hit 400,000.

Meanwhile, immunizations are now officially underway in all provinces, with New Brunswick the last to launch its inoculation program.

The province delivered its first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this morning, to an 84-year-old resident of a long-term care facility.

Pauline Gauvin told the health worker who administered the injection she felt comfortable having it, and, after asking what her next step in the process was, Gauvin was told she could go back to the waiting area.

“(I’ll) go mix with the crowd,” she said, smiling.

Other residents and health-care workers were set to get the shot today as part of the province’s plan to administer the vaccine to 1,950 people.

New Brunswick accepted an offer from the owner of a bluefin tuna exporting company in eastern Prince Edward Island for a loan of two freezers that can store the vaccine, which has to be kept below -70 C.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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What's different about the coronavirus 'variants of concern' flagged by WHO –



The seemingly more transmissible variants of the coronavirus first discovered in Britain, South Africa and Brazil are called “variants of concern” by the World Health Organization.

Viruses mutate or change all the time to gain a selective advantage over other variants or versions of the virus.

What sets the variants of concern apart from run-of-the-mill mutations is they could help the virus to infect human cells more easily or transmit person to person. If so, the variant gains a competitive advantage to wrestle aside other versions of the virus.

So far, there are no signs of the variants worsening severe outcomes from the disease directly. But the fear is they will lead to more hospitalizations and deaths by spreading much more easily to more people.

Here’s a look at what’s driving the concern and calls for more precautions in Canada.

Where are the variants found in Canada?

Canada’s national microbiology lab has to date reported 23 cases of the B117 virus variant first identified in the U.K. and two cases of the variant first reported in South Africa.

Most provinces aren’t testing all samples for the variants. Only Saskatchewan says all of its COVID-19 tests will detect the B117 variant.

Researchers at Aalborg University in Denmark screen and analyze all of the positive Danish COVID-19 samples for the variant that was first reported in Britain. Experts are calling on Canada to increase surveillance for variants. (Ritzau Scanpix/Henning Bagger/Reuters)

Health officials say when greater transmission results in more people testing positive, then more hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and eventually deaths will follow.

And the more that a virus circulates — either worldwide or in a particular community — the more opportunities it has to mutate.

How quickly and to what extent are the variants spreading?

Virus and infectious disease experts say that to get a handle on how quickly the variants are spreading in Canada requires more surveillance.

But genome sequencing is a research tool that is costly and time consuming to use clinically. That’s why labs across the country are working to develop faster assays for variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, noted Monday that some of the province’s cases of variants don’t have a travel history.

Travellers arrive on international flights at Vancouver International Airport last month. When coronavirus variants show community transmission, the source of an outbreak can no longer be traced back to travel abroad. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“We do expect more cases to be identified in the weeks to follow, as there is evidence now of community transmission,” Yaffe said.

Last week, Yaffe called community transmission “a very serious concern that the vaccine will not be able to address quickly enough.”

Public health officials are on the lookout for variants showing community transmission because it means the source of an outbreak can no longer be traced back to travel abroad. At that point, an outbreak can quickly spiral, so time is of the essence.

If the B117 variant spreads in the community, the doubling time for cases could drop to 10 days in March from every 35 to 40 days now, Ontario health officials estimated.

What would experts like to see next?

Art Poon, an associate professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Western University in London, Ont., develops computer methods to study the evolution of viruses, such as an app called CoVizu that’s listed by the GISAID Initiative — an international non-profit project to share genome data on viruses.

Poon said that the variants of concern show more mutations than scientists would expect.

WATCH | New coronavirus variant emerges in Brazil:

Three COVID-19 variants are now worrying health officials. The ones first identified in Britain and South Africa are already here. The third is spreading fast in Brazil and beyond. It may be better at dodging the immune response, and even reinfecting survivors. 3:36

“I think, sadly, we’re going to see increasing frequency of this particular [B117] variant and disproportionate growth of this in other countries,” he said of what’s been seen so far in Britain.

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, is also looking for more surveillance of variants, as well as other precautions.

Saxinger said she would like to see tighter controls at Canada’s border with the United States, both by land and air. This includes checks to ensure international travellers obey requirements in the Quarantine Act and aren’t carrying the infection unknowingly and spreading it, as well as possibly an interprovincial travel ban, which has been proposed by B.C. Premier John Horgan.

“We don’t want there to be multiple importations of these difficult mutations before we have an opportunity to detect and control them,” Saxinger said. “We should probably try to keep a tight lid on things until we sort out what’s what, if this is a big deal, where it’s a big deal and how it might be controlled.”

Limiting importations of the variants means less fuel for the fire. “If you’re not having that many potential sparks hitting your tinder, you have a much better chance of being able to control it,” she said.

Saxinger is one of the signatories to a petition released Tuesday calling on the federal government to immediately act to reduce opportunities for variant entry by restricting international travel to essential travel, as well as other precautions.

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Manitoba health officials to give update on COVID-19 cases – CTV News Winnipeg



Manitoba health officials are set to provide an update on Wednesday afternoon regarding the province’s COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, and Dr. Joss Reimer, a member of Manitoba’s COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Task Force, will be speaking at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building at 12:30 p.m. CTV News Winnipeg will live-stream the event.

This news conference comes one day after the province announced proposed changes to the current Code Red restrictions, including allowing more stores in the province to reopen and relaxing some of the rules around visitations.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said the province is taking a cautious approach to reopening.

“We don’t want to go back and forth,” he said.

“We want to have a slow, cautious approach so we can continue reopening over time and not have to go back and close certain things again.” 

On Tuesday, the province announced 111 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of active cases to 3,088. 

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate is sitting at 9.9 per cent, while Winnipeg’s test positivity rate is at 7.4 per cent.

Health officials also announced 11 deaths related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, which brings Manitoba’s death toll to 783.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 27,740 cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba.

This is a developing story. More details to come.

– With files from CTV’s Danton Unger and Devon McKendrick.

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What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. for Jan. 20 – Yahoo News Canada



Local Journalism Initiative

War veteran and volunteer, the region’s first COVID-19 vaccine recipient has lived to serve

Donald Fisher, known to some as ‘Scotty,’ is known to others as: Don, Pappa, Grandpa, very recently great-grandpa, ‘Buddy’ to his sister-in-law Evelyn, ‘My hero’ to his other sister-in-law, Jeannette, and Donnie-Onnie (thanks to his love of rhyming everyone else’s name.) You can also replace Fisher with its original, Odjig. More on that later. There is also ‘Odiepop,’ the name given to him by his grandson, Drake, and often called out to his grandfather while Fisher would take his daily walks past the school. A name also given to him by the entirety of Drake’s schoolmates, who would call out to him just as his grandson did. Other titles? Veteran of the Second World War, chief engineer on The Philip R. Clark, beloved Wiikwemkoong community leader, nonagenarian, recipient of the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Union of Ontario Indians, golf-enthusiast, a joker and … The first COVID-19 Vaccine recipient in Northeastern Ontario. He said it only hurts a little, just in case you were wondering. Donald Fisher (Odjig) was born in Wiikwemkoong (as it was then called) on June 18, 1926, to Dominic and Joyce Odjig (née Peachy). Fisher and his three older siblings were raised on a small family farm. Fisher left home at 15 to work at a lumber camp in Sault Ste. Marie, but the stories his father told of the First World War made him dream of fighting as well, and in 1943, Donald Odjig left the lumber yard to enlist, lying about his age in order to do so. He changed his name from Donald ‘Odjig’, to the English translation of the word, ‘Fisher’. An often-repeated story has Fisher telling the enlistment officer that, as the man’s friends recall, “Indians don’t have birth certificates.” Just like that, he’s going to war. Of course, while Fisher heard many stories of the war from his father, his own seven children never heard much. “Painful memories linger for Scotty,” said his daughter-in-law, Lynda Fox Trudeau. “He will not openly talk about his personal experiences of the war. He always swore he would never talk about it with his children, a personal promise he keeps to this day.” They know he received his training in Shilo, Man., and volunteered to become a paratrooper. As a member of the 1st Canadian Paratroop Battalion, Fisher was sent overseas on Christmas Day, 1944. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and on March 17, 1945, he crossed the Rhine River, fighting for his country until the end of the war. Well, sort of. The end of Fisher’s service is somewhat legendary among his friends and family, as related to by his friends Patrick and Patricia Ryan, both retired teachers who have known Fisher since 1970. “He was with the first group of Canadians who met up with the Russians near the end of the war,” Patricia said. “While busy ‘celebrating’ with them, he fell off a horse, broke his ankle, and was shipped back to England. He used to laugh about his noble war injury!” She also said this sense of humour is the core of who Fisher’s being. “Don is a fun-loving extrovert. He never hesitated to voice his opinions and had no time for people who complained, but did nothing to change a situation. He is smart, well-read and kind. He does not suffer fools and demands the best from everyone. If Don was running anything, you knew it would be done the right way, and efficiently.” And her descriptor, ‘well-read,’ is an understatement. His favourite book? “Anna Karenina” (Leo Tolstoy, 1855). Another core part of who Fisher is? Wiikwemkoong. “With the ending of World War Two,” Fox Trudeau said, “Don began his 27-year chief engineer career, shipping iron ore on the Great Lakes. Upon the passing of his wife, Rosemary Peltier, he returned home to look after and raise his family. He embarked upon his next career working for the then Department of Indian Affairs for 17 years.” Fisher worked as a local government advisor for the department, a position that his colleague Larry Leblanc describes as “the federal government had finally realized that having Native people to communicate with Natives was a good idea.” Leblanc was also the person who sparked Fisher’s interest in running, something Fisher was not keen on previously. When he learned that Leblanc was a marathon runner, Fisher got curious and began training in secret on the island. He was shy, so he would run at dawn or at night, and no matter how hot the weather, never in shorts. Leblanc said Fisher told him, “I don’t want those old ladies seeing my butt.” But he later loved running so much, he helped the youth on the Island understand and love the sport as well. In addition to this, Leblanc describes him as a true community member. “He volunteered to coach countless hockey teams for I don’t know how many years. He initiated and developed community projects such as, Thunderbird Ballpark, the Wiikwemkoong Recreational Centre and, his pride and joy, the Rainbow Ridge Golf Course.” Those who speak of the golf course say that Fisher was the driving force behind its creation. Fisher is a big fan of golf and his grandson, Drake Trudeau, remembers getting ice cream with his grandfather and driving by to check on who was golfing at the golf course. Of all his accomplishments, Trudeau thinks his grandfather is proudest of “anything to do with golf.” Of course, because it is Donald Odjig Fisher we speak of, there are many other descriptors for him, courtesy of family and friends. For instance, he is regimented. Or so says his sister-in-law, Evelyn Corbiere, the one who calls him ‘Buddy.’ “Mostly everything he did was on a schedule. Our fond memory to illustrate this were their (Fisher and his late wife, Lori) Sunday morning coffee visits. Guaranteed, their vehicle would come down our road precisely at 8:25 a.m. so he and Lori would be here for 8:30. After a good visit, jokes and coffee and Lor’s one or two slices of bacon at exactly 9:10 he would say, ‘Okay Lor, time to go as I have to go for my walk’.” And there are few things Fisher likes better than a good joke. “Scotty always has a good joke,” said Donna Debassige, his friend and former colleague. Sister-in-law Corbiere adds, “He would tell jokes at social gatherings or after Couples’ Night at golf. Although the jokes were often repeated, or whether he needed reminders with the punchlines, we would all have a good laugh. He would always look at Lor for help, which made it funnier.” Plus, he knows the keys to good health, said his family. “He believes that a healthy diet of fish, a glass of red wine a day, exercise, and a good joke is the secret to living a long and fulfilling life,” said Fox Trudeau. A vaccine helps with that, too. “Scotty is important in so many ways that Wiky would not be the welcoming community it is today,” says Leblanc. “He was a band councillor, education committee leader, community recreation director, and a multi-sport player and coach. He loves children and would go out of his way to help them be better in every way. “This honourable man is more than just a friend to me. He is a mentor, a brother, a man devoted to the humanity around him. He always gave of himself – his all. He is a devout giver and leader. It is easy to say, ‘He is my brother.’ Chi miigwech Nitchke.” Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

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