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Coronavirus case counts in Toronto are 'horrific,' top health official says – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Public health officials in three COVID-19 hotspots, including Toronto and Peel, are calling on the Ford government to issue a provincewide stay-at-home order similar to the one that was introduced during the peak of the second wave of the pandemic in January.

The medical officers of health for Toronto, Peel and Ottawa sent a joint letter to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams over the weekend asking him to consider putting the order in place amid surging COVID-19 case counts and hospitalization rates that have been driven by the prevalence of the B.1.1.7 variant.

“A stay-at-home order issued by the Province through an Emergency Order is necessary to prevent and mitigate large scale morbidity and mortality and irreparable strain on the health care system,” they say in the letter. “Stricter lockdowns have been shown to be effective in other countries to control transmission while vaccine campaigns progressed to achieve sufficient population coverage to suppress transmission.”

The province’s science table released modelling last week that suggested that the province could reduce daily COVID-19 case counts to between 1,000 and 1,500 by the end of April but only if they were to implement a month-long stay-at-home order.

The province, however, has resisted taking the advice and last week Health Minister Christine Elliott said that the government wouldn’t replicate the stay-at-home order from the second wave because of the “tremendous ill effect” it had on residents and the need for people to enjoy the outdoors as the weather improves.

Instead, the province issued its so-called “emergency brake” to bring all 34 public health units under enhanced restrictions.

In their letter, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, Peel Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh and Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches did welcome the “additional province-wide public health measures” announced last week but they warn that “stronger measures will be required to reverse the surge” in case counts being experienced in their communities.

In addition to the stay-at-home order they also want Williams to reconsider the long list of businesses and services that are deemed essential in Ontario and to implement staffing limits of no more than 50 per cent for essential businesses and services.

They are also asking that the province consider imposing travel restrictions between regions in Ontario and move schools to “online or hybrid learning where local jurisdictions’ school outbreaks are significant and capacity to manage is stretched.”

“While continued expansion of vaccine administration remains a critical component of our long-term pandemic response, public health measures are needed immediately to reverse, as quickly as possible, the concerning trends we are seeing in our health units,” they say.

Intensive care units swell with COVID-19 patients

The request from de Villa, Loh and Etches comes with Ontario’s rolling seven-day average of new cases sitting at 2,758, up from 2,094 just one week ago.

The number of people in intensive care units with COVID-19 also continues to reach new highs and is now at 494.

In a statement provided to CTV News Toronto on Monday, a spokesperson for Minister of Health Christine Elliott conceded that Ontario is very much in the midst of a third wave of the pandemic and said that “immediate action is required to help turn the tide.”

But the spokesperson said that the province already took action by invoking its emergency brake and needs to wait to see what impact, if any, that has on infection rates.

“It’s critical to point out that after applying public health measures it takes time for the intended effects of the measures to be realized due to the incubation period of the virus,” the spokesperson said. “Our government will continue act on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health who will review the science, data and trends along with collaborating with local medical officers of health and our team of expert health officials on if and when public health measure can be loosened or strengthened.”

De Villa calls case counts ‘horrific’

The rapid rise in cases in Ontario over the last few weeks came as the Ford government loosened some restrictions, only to re-impose them with the invoking of the emergency brake.

De Villa was asked about the situation while touring a new mass vaccination clinic at the Hangar in North York on Monday morning and said that there “is no question the case counts are horrific.”

De Villa also said there are “measures that promote distance whether taken at a policy level or taken by us as individuals that will help reduce transmission” but stopped short of providing specifics.

For his part, Mayor John Tory said that he would be open to having “a discussion about what more might need to be done in order to wrestle this to the ground.”

“The fact is people around the world are searching for the right thing to do and looking at additional things we can do in workplaces, in the community, I think has proven more often than not to be as successful as anything else in addition to keeping distance and wearing masks,” he said.

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Exclusive-Canada’s Ontario to expand use of AstraZeneca COVID vaccine as epidemic rages

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By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Ontario will begin offering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday to people turning 40 or older this year, according to a government source.

The change will broaden access to vaccines as a third wave of infections threatens to overwhelm hospitals in Canada‘s most-populous province, and should make it easier to use doses that in some cases have been accumulating at pharmacies.

The change will be announced on Monday and go into effect across the province on Tuesday, according to the source. The vaccine has already been distributed to pharmacies but currently can only be given to people turning 55 or older this year.

Ontario announced new public health measures on Friday, promising checkpoints at provincial borders, new police powers and closing outdoor amenities, while leaving many workplaces open. The measures were widely criticized by doctors and public health experts, and the province quickly reopened playgrounds and modified the new police powers.

On March 29, Health Canada said it would review reports of serious blood clots and bleeding in a small number of people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine in other countries, and an independent panel called the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) recommended that it only be given to people 55 and older. All provinces followed that advice.

But NACI’s recommendations are not binding. Last week, Health Canada, the country’s drug regulator, said it had reviewed all available evidence and would not restrict the use of the vaccine, because its benefits outweigh its potential risks. Health Canada said at the time that NACI was reviewing its recommendations.

On Sunday, NACI’s chair told Reuters that the panel would make a new recommendation on Tuesday.

Health Canada said regulators in the UK had estimated the risk of clots to be very small, roughly four in a million people who receive the vaccine. It also said the complication was treatable. Two people have developed it in Canada, and both are recovering.

Several other countries have limited the use of the vaccine to older people. Denmark has withdrawn the shot, and Norway said on Thursday it would take more time to decide whether to resume use.

Ontario reported 4,250 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The Ontario Hospital Association said 59 patients were admitted to intensive care on Saturday, bringing the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs to 737.

Health Canada says those who receive the vaccine should seek medical attention immediately if they experience shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent belly pain, neurological symptoms like severe headaches or blurred vision, or skin bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.

 

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney)

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Trudeau mobilizes federal workers to battle COVID-19 in Toronto and rest of Ontario

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he would send federal healthcare workers to help Toronto and the province of Ontario battle a third wave of COVID-19 infections that has forced shutdowns of schools and businesses.

“We are mobilizing federal healthcare workers from across government departments to deploy on the front lines in Ontario and specifically the Greater Toronto area where the situation is most critical,” Trudeau said in a video posted on Twitter.

Other provinces, especially on the Atlantic coast, are working “to determine what human resources and equipment they could free up over the coming days,” Trudeau said, adding that the federal government would cover the costs of that help.

The government will also seek to boost rapid testing, especially for essential workers, Trudeau said.

The government of Ontario, Canada‘s most-populous province and industrial powerhouse, has moved schools online and announced more stringent public health measures on Friday, including shutting the provincial borders to non-essential travel.

On Saturday, federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair deployed two mobile health units to set up more hospital beds in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, and the prime minister said he stood ready to send the Red Cross to staff mobile vaccination clinics in Ontario if help is requested.

Canada‘s seven-day average of new infections was 8,669, the chief medical officer said on Sunday, a 26% increase compared with the previous seven days. Ontario reported 4,250 new cases on Sunday.

Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.

More than 48 million doses are to be delivered by the end of June, which is enough for all of Canada‘s population of some 38 million to receive at least one shot, with a total of 100 million doses expected by the end of September.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Canada has second case of rare blood clots after AstraZeneca vaccin

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(Reuters) – Canada on Saturday reported a second case of rare blood clots with low platelets after immunization with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in a week, while it said it still recommended the use of the shot.

The person who experienced the very rare event has been treated and is recovering, Canada‘s health ministry said in a statement, adding that the person lives in the province of Alberta.

Based on the evidence available, Canada still maintains that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the potential risks, the statement said.

Canada health authorities “will continue to monitor the use of all COVID-19 vaccines closely and examine and assess any new safety concerns,” the statement said.

Canada reported a first blood clotting associated with the vaccine on Tuesday, and a day later, after a review, health authorities said they would not restrict use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A separate advisory council had earlier recommended Canada stop offering the vaccine to people under 55. That panel is in the process of reviewing its advice.

Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign, but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.

Amid a spiking third wave of infections, Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, announced new public health restrictions on Friday, including closing the provinces borders to domestic travelers.

 

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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