Health officials throughout the United States are pinning their hopes on U.S. President Joe Biden as they struggle to obtain coronavirus vaccines.
Doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been arriving haphazardly as they make their way from the federal government to their final destinations in counties, cities and hospitals throughout the U.S.
A number of states are reporting they are running out of vaccines, and tens of thousands of people who managed to get appointments for a first dose are seeing them cancelled.
The full explanation for the apparent mismatch between supply and demand was unclear, but last week the U.S. Health and Human Services Department suggested that states had unrealistic expectations for how much vaccine was on the way.
Amazon on Wednesday sent a letter to Biden offering to help by administering vaccines at its facilities.
“We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts,” Dave Clark, the chief executive of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, said in the letter.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday that more than 2.1 million people in the country have now received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, up more than 138,000 from Tuesday’s number. More than 16 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the U.S. overall, according to the CDC. The country’s COVID-19 death toll tops more than 400,000.
San Francisco’s public health department said it was likely to run out of the vaccine on Thursday, in part because the state pulled back on administering a batch of Moderna shots after several health workers had a bad reaction.
The county health department received 12,000 doses last week but fewer than 2,000 doses this week, although local hospitals had their own supplies. But Mayor London Breed said she was “ready to celebrate” when Biden takes office on Wednesday, believing there will be more support.
Across the country, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the city had to cancel 23,000 appointments for people awaiting their first dose this week because of inadequate supply. The mayor, who has been sounding the alarm about vaccine shortages for days, said the situation was compounded by a delay in this week’s delivery of the Moderna vaccine to the city.
City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said the 103,400 Moderna doses that were scheduled for delivery on Tuesday — 54,200 first doses and 49,200 second doses — were now expected Wednesday and Thursday.
Citing a statewide shortage of vaccine, New York City’s police department suspended first-shot vaccinations for its officers.
Biden addresses COVID-19 pandemic
Biden wasted no time addressing the COVID-19 pandemic after his inauguration. One of the first executive orders he signed as president requires masks to be worn and physical distancing measures to be followed in federal buildings, on federal land and by federal employees and contractors — a departure from former president Donald Trump, who often refused to wear one.
The 46th president of the United States is also directing the government to rejoin the World Health Organization.
During his inauguration speech on Wednesday, Biden spoke of the damage done by the global pandemic, calling it a “once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country.”
The virus, he said, has “taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War Two.”
Biden urged people to come together and not “retreat into competing factions.”
“My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we’re going to need each other,” he said in his first address as president “We need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.”
The U.S. is entering what may be the “toughest and deadliest” period of the pandemic, Biden said.
“We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation — one nation.”
As he stood on stage before a physically distanced crowd, Biden asked people to join him in a prayer for all those who have died as a result of COVID-19.
“Those 400,000 fellow Americans — moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, neighbours and co-workers — we’ll honour them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be.”
– From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
As of 3:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 724,326 cases of COVID-19, with 68,923 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,427.
Vaccine distribution remained a concern in several provinces as supplies ran low and federal officials worked to answer questions about when new doses would arrive.
Canada won’t be getting any Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines next week and will be getting 50 per cent fewer than expected over the next month, officials said Tuesday, prompting the leader of Canada’s most populous province to ask U.S. president-elect Joe Biden to share a million doses from Pfizer’s Michigan plant.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout and distribution of vaccines, called it a major reduction but said Pfizer is still expected to meet its contractual obligation to ship four million doses to Canada by the end of March.
Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, said he’s angry. He asked Biden to help Canada out, noting there’s a Pfizer plant in Michigan.
“Our American friends, help us out,” Ford said. “You have a new president, no more excuses. Help us out.”
In measured comments on Wednesday, health officials in Manitoba said the reduction will not lead any vaccine appointments to be cancelled. It has reduced its vaccination goal to 1,496 per day in Februrary, down from 2,500 doses per day.
In Ottawa, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the federal government is working with the provinces to prioritize vaccinating Indigenous people against COVID-19.
Miller told a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday that there is a need to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to Indigenous people living both on reserves and in urban centres.
He said he has been concerned that the federal government is not able to vaccinate Indigenous people living off-reserve, where the provinces provide heath services.
“This is the case with respect to Métis populations,” Miller said, noting that that’s also the case for First Nations people living off reserves, as well as for Inuit people.
“This is a particularly acute issue and challenge when we’re talking about the deployment of the vaccine,” he said.
Ottawa is doing “quiet work” with the provinces, he said, to prioritize vaccinating Indigenous people living off-reserve.
In a news release on Wednesday, Indigenous Services Canada said there have been 89 COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths in long-term care homes in Indigenous communities on reserves.
The number of COVID-19 active cases in First Nations communities reached an all-time high this week with 5,571 reported cases as of Tuesday.
Officials with Nunavut‘s Department of Health met a passenger on an inbound flight to Iqaluit on Wednesday. The individual received a positive test result for COVID-19 after taking off from Ottawa.
“The passenger is asymptomatic and doing well. As a precaution, the individual will be taken to Qikiqtani General Hospital and isolated,” Dr. Mike Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said in a statement. “A followup COVID-19 test will be performed to rule out the possibility of a false positive. We are expecting the test results later this afternoon.”
The rest of the passengers — approximately 100 people — will be kept at the airport until the test results are back, according to the statement.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver announced the territory has no active cases of COVID-19 in the territory’s weekly briefing, down from six active cases last week. He praised residents’ vigilance and collective efforts and said they are “clearly working.”
Ontario reported 2,655 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 89 additional deaths, bringing the death toll in the province to 5,568. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 stood at 1,598, with 395 in intensive care units, according to a provincial dashboard.
Saskatchewan reported 234 new cases of COVID-19 and four new deaths on Wednesday.
Manitoba reported six new deaths and 154 more cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, though health officials said case numbers are headed in the right direction overall. The province also announced the release of a new online dashboard to provide information about its immunization campaign. Officials are expected to announce the loosening of some pandemic restrictions on Friday.
Quebec on Wednesday reported 1,502 new cases of COVID-19 and 66 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 9,208. Figures published by the province on Wednesday showed a slight decrease in hospitalizations, with 1,467 COVID-19 patients in Quebec hospitals including 216 in intensive care.
The update comes a day after Premier François Legault called on the federal government to ban all non-essential flights to Canada. Legault said he’s worried that people travelling to vacation destinations will bring back new variants of COVID-19.
Public health officials in New Brunswick, meanwhile, reported 31 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and one additional death from the disease.
“We have never been in a situation like this since pandemic began,” Premier Blaine Higgs said Tuesday. “I cannot stress enough that this is a critical moment…. Stay home as much as you possibly can and avoid interacting with people outside your household bubble.”
As of midnight Tuesday, the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton regions were set to join the Edmundston region at the red level of the province’s COVID-19 recovery plan.
Nova Scotia reported three new cases and one new death Wednesday. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the province is 1,564.
Here’s a look at what else is happening with COVID-19 across the country:
– From CBC News, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press, last updated at 4:15 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
WATCH | ‘The world was not prepared,’ says WHO interim pandemic report:
As of Wednesday evening, more than 96.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 53 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than two million.
In the Americas, five trucks carrying oxygen from Venezuela have arrived at Manaus, a city of two million people in the Brazilian rainforest where the local health system has collapsed amid a devastating second wave of COVID-19 and a severe shortage of oxygen for breathless patients.
Venezuela’s consul in Manaus says the trucks delivered 132,000 litres of oxygen late Tuesday. They came from the state of Bolivar in southern Venezuela and travelled more than 1,500 kilometres to Manaus, the capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the move Sunday night. He is a political adversary of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has drawn criticism for his handling of the crisis in Manaus as well as the pandemic in general, which has caused more than 207,000 deaths in Brazil.
Dozens of merchants protested Wednesday in Colombia’s capital city of Bogota against the local government’s pandemic restrictions. Some protesters carried signs suggesting keeping their businesses closed will make them go bankrupt. The city is set to experience the third weekend in a row under a strict lockdown.
Mayor Claudia Lopez has said the restrictions are in response to an increase in COVID-19 infections and the high occupancy of hospital intensive care units.
Colombia has recorded 1,939,071 COVID-19 cases and 49,402 deaths, according to the latest report from the country’s Ministry of Health. Government data shows more than 91 per cent of ICU beds are currently in use.
In the Asia-Pacific region, China’s capital Beijing said it will investigate all individuals who entered the city from abroad from Dec. 10 and shut down a subway station after reporting the biggest daily jump in new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks.
South Korea may secure additional coronavirus vaccines for 20 million people from U.S. drugmaker Novavax Inc., President Moon Jae-in said, according to a statement from the presidential office.
In the Middle East, Kuwait has registered its first cases of a more contagious coronavirus variant in two Kuwaiti women who had been in Britain.
The government of Dubai on Wednesday ordered all hospitals to cancel non-essential surgeries for the next month as coronavirus infections surge to unprecedented heights in the United Arab Emirates. For the ninth consecutive day, the UAE shattered its record for new infections, reporting 3,509 cases. Daily infections in the country have nearly tripled since November.
In Africa, Nigeria will seek to procure vaccines that are less dependent on cooling facilities, as more than 2,600 Nigerian physicians have contracted COVID-19 and dozens have died.
In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Germany may need to consider border crossing curbs if other European countries do not act to halt the spread of the coronavirus, particularly its new, more transmissible variants.
The spread of the coronavirus in France could sharply accelerate in the coming months due to the emergence of a more contagious variant, two Paris hospital executives said on Wednesday, raising fears of a third lockdown in the country.
-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 5:15 p.m. ET
COVID-19 vaccination ramps up in several provinces as supply worries ease – CTV News
Several provinces began expanding their COVID-19 vaccination programs to members of the general population on Monday, as new recommendations on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine suggested it should be targeted at younger Canadians.
A national panel of vaccine experts said provinces should not use the newly approved vaccine on people 65 and over out of concern there is limited data on how well the vaccine will work in older populations — even though Health Canada approved the vaccine for all adults.
Rather, the recommendations issued by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine could help speed up vaccination for younger age groups, who otherwise would have to wait longer for protection.
The arrival of a third vaccine raises the prospect of further accelerating Canada’s efforts to inoculate the general population, which hit a new gear Monday in several provinces.
Ontario, Quebec and B.C. started or announced plans to start vaccinating older seniors living in the community on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care.
In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city.
The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province has already finished vaccinating long-term care residents with a first dose and was almost finished in private seniors homes, the premier said Saturday.
There were long lineups and some frustration among vaccine recipients at the Olympic Stadium, but at another site, Montreal’s downtown convention centre, people reported a swift process.
Julie Provencher, a spokeswoman with the regional health authority asked people not to be too harsh. “For the first day of the biggest mass vaccination in the history of humanity, I think it’s going OK,” she said in an interview.
Several Ontario health units were also set to begin giving COVID-19 vaccines to their oldest residents after a provincial website for appointment bookings opened in six regions.
Some health units reported thousands of bookings and high call volumes, as regions such as York, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton began taking appointments for seniors aged 80 or 85 and up, depending on the region.
In York Region — where those aged 80 and older could start scheduling and receiving their shots on Monday — vaccination clinics were fully booked just two hours after they started taking appointments, according to a spokesman.
“At this time residents are urged to remain patient and will be notified as more appointment bookings become available,” Patrick Casey said in a statement.
A similar problem occurred in Nova Scotia, where the COVID-19 vaccination-booking web page was taken off-line Monday after it experienced technical issues the first day it opened to people aged 80 and over. The Health Department said high traffic to the site prompted the slowdown and suggested people could book by phone in the meantime.
In British Columbia, Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlined the next phase of the province’s immunization plan, which covers all seniors 80 and over and Indigenous seniors 65 and up.
Despite the good news, Horgan warned that the province still has several difficult months to come. “Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we’re far from out of this,” he said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is expecting delivery of about 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and none from Moderna — numbers that are down from last week’s all-time high.
It’s unclear when the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in the country, but a senior government official told The Canadian Press on background Sunday it could be as early as midweek.
The advisory committee’s recommendations raise the prospect of younger Canadians getting vaccine much earlier than originally planned.
There are no concerns that the vaccine is unsafe, but the panel said the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are preferred, especially for people 65 years old and above, “due to suggested superior efficacy.”
The advisory committee said AstraZeneca should be offered to people under 65 as long as the benefits of getting a good vaccine early outweigh any limitations the vaccine may have in terms of effectiveness. It also noted that because AstraZeneca, unlike the first two vaccines, is stable at normal refrigerated temperatures, it allows for “a variety of alternate vaccination sites.”
Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reported about 95 per cent effectiveness at preventing COVID-19 overall, while AstraZeneca reported its vaccine to be about 62 per cent effective.
B.C. announced it would extend to four months the time between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine in order to allow the province to vaccinate more people sooner. Henry said the decision was based on evidence that showed the first two approved vaccines provide “a high level of real-world protection” after one dose.
Ontario confirmed Monday that it is considering following suit, adding that it’s asking the federal government for guidance on possibly extending the intervals between doses.
Despite the positivity surrounding vaccines, some Canadians were returning to lockdown on Monday.
Those included residents of the Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka health regions in Ontario as well as Prince Edward Island, which entered a 72-hour, provincewide lockdown Monday meant to stop two clusters of COVID-19 cases from spreading.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.
— With files from Mia Rabson, Stephanie Marin and Holly McKenzie-Sutter
Huawei CFO’s lawyer disputes what HSBC knew as U.S. extradition case resumes
By Moira Warburton and Sarah Berman
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou‘s U.S. extradition hearing resumed in a Canadian court on Monday with defence countering prosecutors’ claims that Meng misled HSBC about the Chinese telecom company’s relationship with its affiliate while doing business in Iran.
As five days of hearings in the British Columbia Supreme Court started, the defence drilled into the alleged sanction violations that led to Meng’s arrest. The daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei is accused by the United States of misleading HSBC about her company’s business arrangements in Iran, causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions.
Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant and has been living under house arrest while her case makes its way through Canada‘s courts.
Defence lawyer Frank Addario kicked off a new phase of hearings with an assertion that HSBC’s global client relationship manager, tasked with overseeing its dealings with Huawei Technologies, knew that Huawei controlled Skycom Tech Co Ltd’s accounts.
U.S. prosecutors allege Skycom operated as a Huawei affiliate in Iran and that Meng misrepresented this relationship. Meng allegedly made statements suggesting Skycom was sold to an arms-length third party, according to the prosecutors, when it was in fact sold to a parent company controlled by Huawei.
Addario countered that HSBC employee emails show that information about Huawei’s control of Skycom was shared freely before and after this relationship was first reported by Reuters. (https://reut.rs/3q0dtIc)
Addario said that U.S. prosecutors’ evidence that HSBC made decisions based on Meng’s statements “is very misleading in that it underplays the global relationship manager’s knowledge.”
Canadian prosecutor Robert Frater opposed Addario’s call to admit new evidence on Monday afternoon, insisting that an extradition hearing is not a trial. He told the judge she’s “not here to draw inferences about their (the bank employees) state of knowledge.”
Frater argued that Meng’s defence lawyers will have an opportunity to cross-examine bank witnesses about their knowledge of Huawei’s affiliates at trial.
Following testimony from Canadian border officials and police officers involved in the case in late 2020, the latest hearings will also focus on then-President Donald Trump’s alleged interference in the case, as well as outstanding issues from witness testimony and other abuses of process arguments.
Meng’s arrest caused tensions between Beijing and Ottawa, and soon afterward, China detained two Canadians, who continue to have limited access to legal counsel or diplomatic officials.
Meng’s case is scheduled to wrap in May.
(This story drops reference to South District of New York in paragraph nine)
(Reporting by Moira Warburton and Sarah Berman; Editing by Denny Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)
'Each time we get a different answer': Do older children arriving to Canada have to stay in quarantine hotels? – CTV Toronto
A group of Toronto-area parents are struggling to interpret Canada’s rules over whether younger adults and older children have to book themselves into so-called quarantine hotels when they return to Canada.
The problem appears to be the use of two definitions for whether a child or a young adult qualifies for an exemption and can go straight home — with two different ages — and, if someone is caught in between, no one is sure what will happen when they get to the airport.
“Each time we get a different answer,” said Michael Stavsky, whose 20-year-old son Isaac is slated to return to Canada after spending two years studying in Israel on March 10. Stavsky said his son has received both doses of the vaccine while studying abroad.
“We had answers ranging from, ‘sure it says 22 and under, that’s no problem,’ to others that said ‘no it’s 19 and under and even one saying, ‘it’s 20 and under.’ We don’t know,” he said.
The Stavskys aren’t the only family that’s had this issue, said Peter Kent, the MP for Thornhill. He said he’s received several calls from people who aren’t sure where government officials will send their children.
“It’s been very inconsistent and CBSA, Health Canada and Immigration Canada, the messaging is all over the place,” Kent told CTV News Toronto.
The hotel stay requirement can cost between $1,000 and $2,000 depending on the hotel and require all incoming air travellers to Canada to spend at least three days in an approved hotel at their own expense as they await the results of a COVID-19 test they were required to take when they landed in Canada.
Some guests have complained to CTV News about a lack of bottled water and hot, prompt meals; others have said the hotels have been very difficult to book.
CTV News Toronto reached out to the Canadian Border Services Agency about the question of whether young adults must stay in the hotels, but the department referred the inquiry to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which didn’t respond by deadline.
The answer, however, may lie in the order-in-council that explains the quarantine regulations. It says most people are required to “quarantine themselves without delay at a government-authorized accommodation…and remain until they receive the result for the COVID-19 molecular test.”
The rule doesn’t apply to a “diplomatic or consular courier” and an “unaccompanied dependent child or an unaccompanied minor.”
If that seems clear, it isn’t, said immigration lawyer Michael Battista, who pointed out that “unaccompanied minor” is customarily someone under 18, while a “unaccompanied dependent child” for immigration purposes is someone who is under 22 — as long as they are not married.
“To use both definitions simultaneously does create confusion,” Battista said.
He said strictly the language implies that if a person meets either definition they should be eligible — but it is going to be up to the border guards — because any legal appeal will take too long to make a difference for a two-week quarantine.
The people coming into Canada from Israel are much more likely to be vaccinated than those already here — more than 93 per cent of adults in the country have received at least one dose, while less than five per cent of Canadian adults have.
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