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COVID-19 cases in BC are on the decline ahead of holiday season – Victoria Buzz



(Province of British Columbia/Flickr)

The provincial health officer’s last live press briefing before Christmas carried a note of relief and positivity for more than one reason.

Latest data and epidemiological modelling shared by the Ministry of Health shows that COVID-19 transmission rates have flattened compared to highs of 800+ new cases per day.

The peak for new cases was reached in mid-November, and the numbers have been on the decline since new provincial restrictions on gatherings, businesses, etc. were put in place.

On Wednesday, December 23, the province recorded 518 new cases.

(Ministry of Health)

What remains concerning is that the rate of hospitalization due to COVID-19 is now the highest it has ever been since the start of the pandemic in B.C.

Death rates have also reached new highs; on Wednesday, the province reported 19 COVID-related deaths in a 24-hour period.

The vast majority of people who have died of COVID-19 in BC were older, aged 70 or more. However one person in their 30s and four people in their 40s have lost their lives to the virus so far this year.

While the news on hospitalizations and deaths is grim, it is important to remember that those statistics lag behind case rates, and are expected to reduce as transmission slows down.

The latest modelling shows that the province’s reproductive rate or R-naught number (the number of people an infected person comes into contact with and infects with the virus) is now hovering slightly below one.

When the R-naught is below one, it indicates that a person infected with COVID-19 does not transmit the virus to anyone else.

According to Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbians are currently at 40 to 50 per cent of regular contacts, and continuing at this level would keep decreasing virus transmission.

“What we are doing is working, but we cannot let up. It would not take much for us to get back into a danger zone again,” Henry said on Wednesday.

(Ministry of Health)

Another piece of good news is that since Health Canada approved the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday morning, BC is now slated to receive the first doses next week.

The Moderna vaccine is more flexible and can be broken down into 100 doses per allocation. This, combined with the fact that it does not need to be stored at ultra low temperatures and can be stored at fridge temperatures for longer periods of time, makes it ideal for use in rural areas.

This afternoon, Henry added that the Pfizer vaccine can now also be taken to settings outside its original point of delivery, and can therefore be administered at certain other select sites across the province that are capable of storing them.

Combined, the province expects to have 792,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines delivered by March, 2021.

“I’m excited and thankful and grateful that we have vaccines and this is the start of our being able to protect people,” Henry added.

BC’s immunization plan now details how many doses of the vaccine are reserved for which priority groups between December to February and February to March:

The first few doses of the Moderna vaccine will be arriving on Vancouver Island next week.

Island Health is now working to identify which long term care homes will be the first to receive these doses.

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Five key takeaways from Canada's latest COVID-19 projections – Virden Empire Advance



OTTAWA — The federal government’s latest COVID-19 projections show fast, strong and sustained measures are required to interrupt rapid growth cases and deaths.

Here are five things to know from federal modelling data released Friday:

article continues below

Rising Deaths

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 is steadily rising, reaching more than 17,500 as of Thursday. The latest data show another 2,000 people could die by Jan. 24 as the seven-day average number of deaths nears levels recorded at the peak of the pandemic’s first wave in May.

Rising Cases

Canada could see 10,000 daily infections in a little over a week as outbreaks in Ontario and Quebec drive rapid growth. The data also highlight high numbers in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The latest seven-day average was 7,900 cases each day across the country.

Rapid Growth

In the longer term, Ottawa says Canada remains on a “rapid growth trajectory.” The data show COVID-19 will continue to surge if Canadians maintain the current number of people they’re in contact with each day. The pandemic would surge faster if people increase their contacts. Outbreaks are forecast to come under control in most locations if people follow public health rules and limit contacts to essential activities.

Outbreaks in Long-term Care

Infections are escalating among high-risk people aged 80 and older. The data show more outbreaks in long-term care homes and retirement residences now than during the first wave. The federal government says the number of active outbreaks is underestimated due to reduced reporting last month, while a modelling chart shows it’s close to 400 countrywide.

Rising Hospitalizations

The number of people in hospital due to COVID-19 has been rising steadily in the five hard-hit provinces. Hospitalizations are highest per capita in Manitoba, followed by Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario and B.C.

The data came as federal officials revealed deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been temporarily reduced due to production delays in Europe.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021.

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Quebec to wait up to 90 days for 2nd vaccine dose – Winnipeg Free Press



A man walks past the COVID-19 vaccination site at Maimonides long-term care facility Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL – Quebec will wait up to 90 days before giving a COVID-19 vaccine booster to people who have received a first shot, Health Minister Christian Dube said Thursday.

That delay goes far beyond the recommendation of vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, which propose intervals of 21 and 28 days, respectively, and is more than double the 42-day maximum delay proposed by Canada’s national vaccine advisory committee.

Dube told a news conference that the decision was made in order to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible and to reduce the pressure on the health system.

“In our context, this is the best strategy, because we have to contend with (having) very few vaccines, and we’re in a race against the clock,” Dube told a news conference.

He said the province had discussed its decision with vaccine manufacturers and with federal public health officials. The latter, Dube said, acknowledged that the 42-day recommended maximum can be extended depending on the disease’s progression in a particular province.

He said the high rates of community transmission, hospitalizations and deaths in Quebec justified the change. “In Quebec, we don’t have the same situation as in New Brunswick or British Columbia,” he said.

Richard Masse, a senior public health adviser, said the change would allow up to 500,000 seniors who are most at risk of complications — including those in private residences and those aged 80 and up — to receive their vaccine several weeks earlier than originally thought.

Masse said the justification to extend the interval was based on the “experience of working with many vaccines through time,” which shows, he said, that vaccine immunity does not suddenly drop off within a month or two.

He said, however, the province was carefully monitoring the efficacy of the vaccines and would immediately give second doses if authorities saw evidence of decreased immunity in certain groups, such as the elderly.

Health officials, Masse said, were investigating why an unspecified number of elderly nursing home residents who had received their first dose in December had since tested positive for COVID-19.

Two of the facilities where vaccinations took place were experiencing outbreaks before shots were delivered, he said. Masse also noted that the body takes up to 14 days to build immunity against the virus, meaning, he said, that those who had received a shot but who had been exposed before that interval would be less protected.

Some residents, however, had tested positive more than 14 days following their injection. Health officials, Masse said, were trying to find out why. He said possibilities include the vaccine is not perfectly effective, or that it may not work as well in some age groups.

“Ninety three per cent (effective) is not 100 per cent, and it could be lower than that for people who are elderly,” he said.

Both Masse and Dube said the province would work to shorten the interval between first and second doses once the province begins receiving larger quantities of vaccine — likely in March or April, they said.

Meanwhile, Quebec reported Thursday that some regions had few or no doses of COVID-19 vaccine remaining as the vaccination rate outpaced delivery.

As of Thursday morning, the Health Department said the Gaspe region, Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Nord-du-Quebec and the James Bay Cree Nation territories were out or almost out of vaccine, adding that it expected new deliveries Friday or Saturday. Four other regions had almost used up all their doses but received new supplies Tuesday.

Jean Morin, a spokesman for the Gaspe region’s health authority, said the vaccination campaign was going “exceedingly well” despite the fact nearly all the doses had been used. Morin said there are logistical challenges to vaccinating people in the vast and thinly populated region, including having to transport people to clinics to receive their shots.

Dube recognized the federal effort being made to get vaccine to the provinces, but said he wished it would go more quickly because the need is so great. “We recognize the effort but we’re not satisfied, because we have so many people we want to vaccinate,” he said.

The province reported 2,132 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and 64 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including 15 that occurred in the previous 24 hours. Quebec has reported a total of 236,827 infections and 8,878 deaths linked to the virus.

The province had administered more than 115,000 doses of vaccine as of Thursday, including nearly 26,000 to long-term care residents.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021.

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Two new COVID cases announced in Nova Scotia, Strang says people are lying to contact tracers – Halifax Examiner



Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, speaks during Friday’s COVID-19 briefing.

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing.

Nova Scotia’s premier and chief medical officer of health defended the province’s vaccine rollout and urged people to tell the truth if contacted public health during Friday’s COVID-19 briefing.

The province announced two new cases on Friday — one each in the Northern and Central zones, both close contacts of previously reported cases. There are 32 known active cases in Nova Scotia and no one is in the hospital with the disease. Labs completed 2,010 tests on Thursday.

Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

And here is the active caseload for the second wave:

At the start of Friday’s briefing, Premier Stephen McNeil said Nova Scotia had administered 7,600 doses of vaccines by the end of Thursday, 2,200 front-line healthcare workers had received both doses, and all frontline workers and long-term care residents at Northwood’s Halifax campus had received their first dose.

“I know there’s lots of concerns with how our vaccination program is rolling out,” McNeil said. “Dealing with this vaccine is not the same as dealing with the flu.”

Those concerns — primarily that Nova Scotia is behind all other provinces in the percentage of acquired doses it’s administered — are contemplated in Friday’s Morning File.

McNeil said the province will continue to hold onto a second shot for anyone given a first dose until the province is guaranteed there won’t be an interruption in supply.

“And right now, we don’t have that guarantee,” he said.

McNeil said the province will now report vaccine numbers twice weekly, instead of once a week. Strang suggested the province may ramp up to daily reporting.

Strang said Nova Scotia had received about 13,000 doses by Thursday, and those were all either used or held back for second shots. Another 10,000 doses were delivered on Thursday, and Strang said those would be used or reserved by the end of next week.

“Our goal is to make sure that we have a constant and steady supply of vaccine going to clinics. We don’t want to have a surplus of vaccine in the province,” Strang said.

“We have to make sure people have access across the province, so we have to make sure we ship vaccine in an equitable basis to multiple locations … It’s an ongoing balancing act to make sure that what we receive goes out to clinics in a timely way and is used.”

Strang faced numerous questions about who will get the vaccine and when, and how it will roll out in Phase 2.

Much more vaccine is coming in April or May, Strang said, and when that happens the province will shift from immunizing only select groups of people in hospitals and long-term care facilities to immunizing people in the community based on age.

Strang said the province would start piloting clinics for people 80-85 years and older in February or March, but most seniors will have to wait until the spring for their shots.

Public health is working on a process for directly and individually notifying people when it’s their turn to be immunized, Strang said, rather than advertising generally.

Asked when people with underlying conditions who are under the age of 75 will be immunized, Strang suggested they’ll have to wait, saying age will be the first priority.

“Age is by far the single biggest predictor of risk for severe outcomes of COVID,” he said, adding that people with those underlying conditions in the older age group will be prioritized.

Tell contact tracers the truth, Strang and McNeil plead

Strang said during Friday’s briefing that there have been recent cases of people lying to contact tracers with public health.

“It’s been recently brought to my attention that in a few of our ongoing investigations by public health, there are some individuals who have been very deliberately not following the public health regulations, and they have not been truthful and honest about their movements and people they have been in contact with,” Strang said.

“I have to say I’m very disappointed by this news. By not following public health orders or disclosing contacts, these individuals are putting other people’s lives unnecessarily at risk.”

Strang said the issue isn’t widespread, but in a few cases people have broken their quarantine and exceeding gathering limits and then lied about who they’ve been in contact with. Public health found out when they traced their way back to a previous positive case.

Giving public health accurate and full information is “critically important” to minimize community spread, Strang said.

“The lack of information has put us in a position where we weren’t able to respond and there’s been further transmission of the virus, which is unfortunate,” he said.

Strang urged people who think public health orders don’t apply to them to reflect.

“We’re one of the safest places certainly in the country, if not globally, but we can only stay here if we continue to stay committed,” Strang said.

McNeil reiterated that people should be honest with public health.

“We’re not looking in any way to judge your movement or decisions that you have made. Our No. 1 goal and only goal is to capture and wrap our arms around this virus as quickly as we can so it doesn’t spread within the community,” McNeil said.

“We’ve come so far. The private conversations you have with public health will be private between you and public health. Please, please tell them everything, all the contacts that you have. We’ll protect your information at the same time we protect health for Nova Scotians.”

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