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Canada signs vaccine deals with Pfizer and Moderna

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It’s day 148 since Canada’s 100th coronavirus case. The number of cases is 118,038 as of publication time, up 246 since yesterday—a 13 per cent decrease from the seven-day prior average of 284 new cases. At its peak on May 3, the seven-day average was 1,603 new cases a day.

Over the last week, one person has died every 80 seconds from COVID-19 in the United States, and the pace at which those 7,486 people died seems to be accelerating.

The federal government announced $78 million for COVID-19 research and development on Wednesday, including $59 million for vaccine clinical trials and $19 million for broader research related to the virus.

The lion’s share of the vaccine funding—$56 million from the federal Strategic Innovation Fund—will go to Variation Biotechnologies (VBI), an Ottawa-based wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. firm VBI Vaccines, for clinical testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The funding for VBI comes from the $600 million previously announced to support COVID-19-related clinical trials and Canada’s bio-manufacturing sector. Another $3 million will go to Nova Scotia-based IMV to help fund clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine candidate.

The government announced the funding on the advice of the newly appointed COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, also revealed Wednesday. The group, formed to advise on treatments, is led by Dalhousie University professor Joanne Langley and J. Mark Lievonen, a former Canadian executive for pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.

The announcements came the same day Procurement Minister Anita Anand confirmed that the government signed deals with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna to secure millions of doses of their COVID-19 vaccine candidates when they’re ready to deploy them. Both Moderna and Pfizer, which is developing its vaccine with German biotech firm BioNTech, are in the third and final phases of clinical trials and claim they could have “emergency” vaccines ready as early as this fall. Vaccines also need Health Canada approval before being used in Canada.

Canada had been lagging other countries in vaccine preorders, raising concerns Canadians would have to wait longer than others for immunity once treatments were available. Wednesday’s announcements signal a push to diversify potential treatment sources in preparation for “mass vaccination,” and ensuring “Canadians are at the front of the line when a vaccine becomes available,” said Anand. The minister would not say how many doses the government has ordered so far or how much it’s spending on the vaccines, citing ongoing negotiations with multiple suppliers.

Drinking from the firehose:

  • Canada saw 88,187 business closures in April, up 126 per cent year over year, while new-firm creation dropped 18 per cent to 32,803, according to new data from Statistics Canada. The numbers of companies starting and stopping in any given month are typically quite similar.
  • The Council of Canadian Innovators is calling for Ottawa to extend the Innovation Assistance Program, the National Research Council-administered measure for firms that don’t qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, until December. The business lobby group also wants the funding focused on firms with “a proven track-record of R&D expenditure and IP generation.”
  • Canada’s merchandise trade deficit hit $3.2 billion in June, up from $1.3 billion the previous month, as imports grew faster than exports. Both remain more than a tenth below February levels.
  • BigCommerce raised US$216 million in its Nasdaq IPO. Shares jumped as much as 292 per cent in the first day of trading, as investors piled into Shopify’s smaller competitor amid a pandemic-induced online-shopping boom.
  • New York City will set up “checkpoints” as part of an effort to enforce a quarantine for travellers from other parts of the U.S. Meanwhile, Chicago, the most populous city in the Midwest, has announced that public school students will start the school year learning from home.
  • Uber employees can continue to work remotely until July 2021, and the company will pay for up to US$500 in home-office setup costs.
  • English football club Arsenal is laying off 55 staff, citing the loss of commercial and matchday revenue during the pandemic. U.S. billionaire Stanley Kroenke owns the team, which recently qualified for a lucrative European competition.

Green shoots: The Calgary Zoo is worried about procuring the right kind of bamboo to feed Er Shun and Da Mao, after experiencing delays getting the permits to send the giant pandas to China, in part because of COVID-19 quarantine rules.

 

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COVID-19 case count increases in Manitoba; two more deaths reported – ThePeterboroughExaminer.com

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WINNIPEG—Manitoba’s chief public health officer says he’s worried by an increase in COVID-19 cases in Winnipeg and that some people are going to many different locations while symptomatic.

“It’s concerning,” Dr. Brent Roussin said Monday.

The number of active cases in the capital city has almost tripled to more than 280 since the start of September. Sixteen of 22 new provincial cases reported Monday were in Winnipeg.

The province identified several Winnipeg restaurants, bars and gyms as sites of possible exposures over the last week. There have also been cases in schools and from gatherings in homes.

Roussin said the number of contacts for each person who tests positive has increased, which is putting pressure on staff tasked with tracking them. One person who tested positive in Winnipeg had 50 contacts, according to recently released data in the province’s public health report for the week of Sept. 6 to 12.

Roussin said mandating masks and bringing back other restrictions are on the table. But for now, the province is monitoring the situation.

Roussin is encouraging people to wear masks even if not officially required.

“If the vast majority of Manitobans want to wear a mask in indoor public places, we don’t really need a mask mandate.”

Roussin also announced that two more Manitobans have died after testing positive for COVID-19. That brings the total in the province to 18. The recent deaths were of a man in his 80s in the southern health region and a woman in her 80s in the Prairie Mountain region.

Those areas saw a resurgence in positive cases in July and August. As a result, specific regulations around masks and group sizes were put in place in Prairie Mountain, which includes Brandon. Infection numbers in those regions have since dropped, while cases in Winnipeg have surged.

The surge prompted the captain of the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets to make a request on social media for mandatory masks.

“Time for universal mask mandate. Why not? Let’s take care of each other,” read a post on Blake Wheeler’s Twitter account, directed to Premier Brian Pallister.

When asked about the request, the premier said he would defer to health experts.

“I personally have a ton of affection for Blake Wheeler and the way he plays hockey,” Pallister said.

“To make sure that we get through this together, we have to demonstrate that we can respect those who we’ve put in a position of trusted leadership. And Brent Roussin’s been put in that position and it’s really important we respect that.

“It doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything Brent says or does — that’s not what I’m saying. But I am saying that I am going to respect … what our experienced public health officials decide.”

Also Monday, the government revealed details of how it will spend its $85.4-million share of recently announced federal funding to help schools during the pandemic.

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Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the money is to help enhance remote learning for students who can’t attend classes, such as those with chronic health conditions who are advised by doctors to not attend.

Remote learning is also available for some high school students in more-crowded schools and for students whose classes have been temporarily cancelled due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Goertzen said the province is not expanding remote learning to make it an option for any student who wants it.

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Two more Alberta schools with in-school transmission; 1,459 active cases province-wide – Calgary Herald

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There are two schools in the province with outbreaks of five or more cases, including St. Wilfrid Elementary in Calgary and Vimy Ridge School. And the list of Calgary schools with outbreaks of two to four cases now includes Notre Dame High School, Lester B. Pearson High School, Henry Wise Wood High School, Auburn Bay School, Crescent Heights High School, Chris Akkerman School, Saddle Ridge School and Apostles of Jesus.

“Every single Albertan can make school reopening successful by working to limit and minimize community transmission. And again, that’s the message I want to make sure everyone understands,” said Hinshaw.

Meanwhile in British Columbia, the Ministry of Health has removed 10 symptoms from the student health checklist — including sore throat, runny nose, headache and fatigue — because they are common in children and there’s a low probability these symptoms by themselves are indications of COVID-19.

When asked if this is something being considered in Alberta, Hinshaw said it has been discussed at length because of the pressures the current checklist puts on families that have to adjust their daily schedules when they need to keep their child home from school because of a runny nose.

“In Alberta, we are not far enough along yet to know whether or not we could take some of those symptoms off of our list, without increasing the risk that COVID-19 could be introduced into the school,” she explained.

“We try to reach the right balance between keeping our kids in school, and making sure that their learning is as smooth as possible while at the same time, minimizing the risk of the COVID-19 introduction and spread. Right now, we are keeping our symptom list as is.”

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Five more Manitoba healthcare workers test positive for COVID-19 – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG —
Five Manitoba healthcare workers tested positive for COVID-19 in the span of a week.

The latest numbers from the Manitoba government’s surveillance data, from Sept. 6 to 12, shows that a total of 88 healthcare workers have contracted the disease since the beginning of the pandemic. This is an increase of five healthcare workers compared to the week before.

Of these 88 workers, 74 have recovered from COVID-19 and gone back to work.

According to the data, which monitors the intensity, characteristics, transmission and geographic spread of the disease, 29 of these workers are healthcare aids, 23 are nurses, nine are physicians or physicians in training, five are social/support workers, four are medical clerks and 18 fall into a combined category.

The majority of the 88 workers – 64 per cent – contracted the disease through close contact with a known case, about 13 per cent got it from travel, and for the rest of the cases, the source is unknown.

The province is reporting that a total of 20 pregnant Manitobans have gotten COVID-19, which is an increase of two pregnant cases from the week before.

During the week of Sept. 6 to 12, there were three more COVID-19 outbreaks in Manitoba, bringing the total number since the start of the pandemic to 20 outbreaks. Of these three new outbreaks, two were at long-term care facilities and one was at a school.

Over the span of this week, the province saw a decrease in terms of the number of confirmed cases and the volume of people going for tests. There were 108 lab-confirmed cases, which is down from 128 in the week before, and an average of 1,300 people were tested each day, down from 1,500 the previous week.

But, the province saw an increase in its test positivity rate, moving from 1.2 per cent last week to 1.4 per cent this week.

Of the 108 new cases during this week, 63 per cent were from Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, 14 per cent were from the Prairie Mountain Health Authority, and 13 per cent were in the Southern Health – Santé Sud Regional Health Authority. The Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority also accounted for about 10 per cent of cases.

The province is reporting that 57 per cent of the 108 cases were contracted through close contacts to known cases, and two per cent were from travel.

Of all of Manitoba’s cases, nearly 63 per cent contracted the disease from close contact with a known case. For more than 16 per cent, the cause is unknown, and approximately 15 per cent got it from travel.

For more than 5 per cent of cases, the source is still being investigated.

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