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COVID-19: Hinshaw admits no specific threshold, cutoff to halt province’s reopening – Globalnews.ca

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Wednesday that there are no specific numbers or cutoffs that the province would have to reach before it would pause or move backwards in its reopening plan.

The comments came after three separate media outlets, including Global News, asked Hinshaw to clarify what the benchmarks for metrics would be to put the emergency brake on Alberta’s Path Forward plan.

Read more:
Alberta to lift some COVID-19 restrictions and reopen gyms, in-person dining Feb. 8

And it appears to contradict what Hinshaw said on Feb. 3, when she stated that specific benchmarks were being discussed and that the province was looking at having a “very low threshold.”

READ MORE: Kenney says COVID-19 R value isn’t ‘state secret’ but data still not publicly accessible

Instead, on Wednesday, Hinshaw reiterated how they province will be watching leading indicators of case counts, R value and positivity rate and whether there is a concerning growth in any of them.

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“It’s not about a specific number or crossing a particular threshold of a certain number of new cases in any given day.

“It’s about the change. It’s about the trajectory. It’s about the trends,” she said.

“So if those three trends indicate we’re seeing growth and we’re seeing sustained growth over time then that’s a very concerning metric that would mean we would need to pause or take a step backward in our path,” she said.






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COVID-19: Alberta will be looking at 3 indicators in determining next steps for reopening


COVID-19: Alberta will be looking at 3 indicators in determining next steps for reopening

Epidemiologist Dr. Kirsten Fiest with the University of Calgary said earlier on Wednesday that the lack of detail on benchmarks gives her pause.

Fiest points to the benchmarks the province had set in the fall with hospitalizations and ICU admission, when it said that triggers for shutting down were if 50 per cent of the province’s COVID-19 ICU beds were full and if hospitalizations rose five per cent over the previous two weeks.

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“We sailed right past them and they never did anything,” Fiest said.

“One part of me is thinking: ‘It’s nice to know,’ the other part is [thinking], ‘But will anything happen if we get there?’”


Click to play video 'Easing Alberta COVID-19 restrictions will be staged approach based on hospitalizations'



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Easing Alberta COVID-19 restrictions will be staged approach based on hospitalizations


Easing Alberta COVID-19 restrictions will be staged approach based on hospitalizations – Jan 29, 2021

Fiest said this type of information is important for the province to gain trust and confidence from the public.

“We need to have an understanding of what it will take to either move forward or move backwards. That’s the only way people will continue to comply with public health measures.”

The vague details around benchmarks for pausing or moving backwards in reopening are reminiscent of how the province was not previously releasing the virus’s R value and the lack of detail released about the province’s plan for Phase 2 of vaccine rollout.

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Premier Jason Kenney, when asked again about vaccine priorities on Wednesday, pointed the finger at the federal government and the issues surrounding vaccine supply.

READ MORE: Alberta health minister blames feds for scarce details on Phase 2 COVID-19 vaccine plan

“We’ll be releasing our priority lists for the next phases of the vaccine distribution program pretty soon but frankly we wanted to see what other provinces were doing,” he said.

“Secondly, I frankly don’t understand the huge rush because we haven’t even really gotten into Phase 1B yet. We don’t have enough vaccines and that is the issue.”

No specifics about who is involved in Phase 2 have been shared with the public. Health law and health policy experts have criticized this decision, saying the public has a right to know what is involved with the rollout.


Click to play video 'Alberta continuing to work on various phases of COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans'



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Alberta continuing to work on various phases of COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans


Alberta continuing to work on various phases of COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans – Feb 10, 2021

“People want to have some idea. They need to have some sense of when, in a systematic way, they are going to be able to get vaccinated and then continue on a bit with life,” Blake Murdoch, with the University of Alberta Health Law Institute, said.

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READ MORE: Health law, policy experts criticize Alberta’s lack of Phase 2 COVID-19 vaccine plan

John Church, a health policy expert at the University of Alberta, argues that the province has run into a public relations problem with the management of COVID-19, as well as other policy issues.

And he said that is driving the speed of which details are being released.

“The government is being very cautious about how they provide information and what information they are providing because they don’t want to, for example, over-promise on what they’re going to do with the rollout of the COVID vaccine and then have that fall apart for a variety of possible reasons,” Church said.

“They’ve had so much go wrong for them politically in the last several months, they are going to be pretty gun shy about doing anything prematurely that might add fuel to the fire around that.”

READ MORE: Experts levy criticism at province over failure to disclose Alberta’s R value

The issue with data, specifically COVID-19 data, comes at a time when the province is conducting a survey about the data it shares with the public.

The COVID-19 Data Study was launched on Friday and is intended to improve the quality of online information that is shared with Albertans.

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“Since the start of the pandemic, when Alberta launched the first comprehensive online dashboard in Canada, we have continually expanded and improved our approach,” said Alberta Health Spokesperson Tom McMillan.

“This sort of research is a best practice to make sure we are continually aware of better ways to present online information to meet Albertans’ needs.

“We want the information to be presented as clearly and usefully as possible.”

A survey will filter who is eligible to participate in the research, and there are currently no plans to release the findings.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine reduces transmission after one dose – UK study – Reuters

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LONDON (Reuters) – A single dose of Pfizer and BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine cuts the number of asymptomatic infections and could significantly reduce the risk of transmission of the virus, results of a UK study found on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Researchers analysed results from thousands of COVID-19 tests carried out each week as part of hospital screenings of healthcare staff in Cambridge, eastern England.

“Our findings show a dramatic reduction in the rate of positive screening tests among asymptomatic healthcare workers after a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine,” said Nick Jones, an infectious diseases specialist at Cambridge University Hospital, who co-led the study.

After separating the test results from unvaccinated and vaccinated staff, Jones’ team found that 0.80% tests from unvaccinated healthcare workers were positive.

This compared with 0.37% of tests from staff less than 12 days post-vaccination – when the vaccine’s protective effect is not yet fully established – and 0.20% of tests from staff at 12 days or more post-vaccination.

The study and its results have yet to be independently peer-reviewed by other scientists, but were published online as a preprint on Friday.

This suggests a four-fold decrease in the risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 infection amongst healthcare workers who have been vaccinated for more than 12 days, and 75% protection, said Mike Weekes, an infectious disease specialist at Cambridge University’s department of medicine, who co-led the study.

The level of asymptomatic infection was also halved in those vaccinated for less than 12 days, he said.

Britain has been rolling out vaccinations with both the Pfizer COVID-19 shot and one from AstraZeneca since late December 2020.

“This is great news – the Pfizer vaccine not only provides protection against becoming ill from SARS-CoV-2, but also helps prevent infection, reducing the potential for the virus to be passed on to others,” Weeks said. “But we have to remember that the vaccine doesn’t give complete protection for everyone.”

Key real-world data published on Wednesday from Israel, which has conducted one of the world’s fastest rollouts of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, showed that two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much.

Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by David Goodman and Jane Merriman

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’We need this’: Getting COVID-19 vaccine to remote and urban Indigenous populations – Vanderhoof Omineca Express

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Chief Chris Moonias looked into a web camera as he prepared to get a COVID-19 vaccine just after precious doses arrived in his northern Ontario community.

“I’m coming to you live from Neskantaga First Nation community centre where our vaccines will be administered,” a jovial Moonias, wearing a blue disposable mask, said during a Facebook live video at the start of February.

Moonias was first to get the vaccine in the fly-in Oji-Cree First Nation on the shores of Attawapiskat Lake north of Thunder Bay.

The vaccine had arrived by plane earlier in the day after weeks of planning, and the chief’s video was part of a campaign to get community members on board.

Moonias said in an interview that he had done his own research, had spoken with medical professionals and wasn’t concerned about getting the shot.

About 88 per cent of eligible on-reserve members have since received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Second doses are to arrive Monday.

However, earlier this week, the reserve declared a state of emergency due to a COVID-19 outbreak, with some cases linked to the Thunder Bay District Jail.

Moonias said four off-reserve members in Thunder Bay, all under the age of 40 — including his nephew — have died. And he’s worried about the 200 other members who live off the reserve — almost the same number as those on the reserve — and when they’ll get inoculated.

“I even thought about flying my people up … to get the vaccine,” said Moonias, who added it’s unlikely to be an option because of cost.

Canada is in the midst of the largest vaccine rollout in its history. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Indigenous populations much harder and Ottawa says they are a priority for vaccinations.

The actual distribution remains complex and varied across the country.

Neskantaga is one of 31 fly-in First Nations included in Operation Remote Immunity, part of the first phase of Ontario’s vaccination rollout. The operation was developed with Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Ornge, the province’s air ambulance service. The goal is to provide mass vaccinations by April 30 and it is having early successes.

There are challenges getting the vaccine to remote First Nations and questions about distribution for urban Indigenous populations.

The Assembly of First Nations says most Indigenous communities haven’t received sufficient supply to extend doses to their off-reserve members. The National Association of Friendship Centres says there is no national vaccination plan for urban Indigenous people.

There’s also concern there is no national plan to tackle decades of mistrust created by systemic racism and experimentation on Indigenous people.

There are many examples throughout Canadian history of scientists sponsored by the federal government or the government itself doing medical experiments on Indigenous people, including children, who were the subject of a tuberculosis vaccine trial in Saskatchewan that began in the 1930s.

Ontario New Democrat Sol Mamakwa, who represents the electoral district of Kiiwetinoong, said some constituents tell him they are scared to take the vaccine. They don’t trust it.

He has been travelling to communities to help promote it and received his first dose alongside members of Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation.

Community engagement has been key in vaccine uptake, Mamakwa said. Promotion begins weeks before vaccine teams arrive and includes radio campaigns, social media posts and live online question-and-answer sessions.

It’s about giving people information, he said.

“One of the only ways out of this pandemic is the vaccine,” said Wade Durham, Ornge’s chief operating officer, who added it’s key to have Indigenous people involved in vaccine planning.

Each First Nation in Operation Remote Immunity has a community member responsible for answering questions and setting up a vaccination site. Immunization teams are required to take cultural training and, when possible, include Indigenous medical professionals and language speakers.

Indigenous Services Canada said it is aware that a history of colonization and systemic racism has caused mistrust, so campaigns are being developed specifically for First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.

Michelle Driedger, a Metis professor of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba, said experience has shown that stakes are high when it comes to Indigenous communities.

During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the Public Health Agency of Canada prioritized vaccines by geography. A main lesson learned was to increase Indigenous representation at decision-making tables, she said.

At the time, Indigenous people were over-represented in hospitalizations and intensive care stays, as well as in deaths. Those living in remote and isolated communities experienced worse outcomes.

Driedger said the vaccine response is better now, but there is “rational skepticism.” There needs to be a transparent vaccination plan for Indigenous communities — no matter where they are, she said.

The Matawa First Nations tribal council said its four communities reachable by road are not getting the same vaccine access as its five fly-in ones, and more needs to be done.

Provincial officials have said that remote First Nations received priority for the vaccine rollout because of less access to on-site health care and increased health risks. Chief Rick Allen from Constance Lake First Nation has said the vaccine needs to go where the outbreaks are.

Back in Neskantaga, Moonias said he’ll do anything he can to protect anyone he can.

He continues to give updates about his vaccination. In another Facebook video posted soon after he received his shot, the chief gave a thumbs-up and said he had no pain or discomfort.

“We need this. We need to beat this virus.”

First Nations

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’We need this’: Getting COVID-19 vaccine to remote and urban Indigenous populations – Salmon Arm Observer

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Chief Chris Moonias looked into a web camera as he prepared to get a COVID-19 vaccine just after precious doses arrived in his northern Ontario community.

“I’m coming to you live from Neskantaga First Nation community centre where our vaccines will be administered,” a jovial Moonias, wearing a blue disposable mask, said during a Facebook live video at the start of February.

Moonias was first to get the vaccine in the fly-in Oji-Cree First Nation on the shores of Attawapiskat Lake north of Thunder Bay.

The vaccine had arrived by plane earlier in the day after weeks of planning, and the chief’s video was part of a campaign to get community members on board.

Moonias said in an interview that he had done his own research, had spoken with medical professionals and wasn’t concerned about getting the shot.

About 88 per cent of eligible on-reserve members have since received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Second doses are to arrive Monday.

However, earlier this week, the reserve declared a state of emergency due to a COVID-19 outbreak, with some cases linked to the Thunder Bay District Jail.

Moonias said four off-reserve members in Thunder Bay, all under the age of 40 — including his nephew — have died. And he’s worried about the 200 other members who live off the reserve — almost the same number as those on the reserve — and when they’ll get inoculated.

“I even thought about flying my people up … to get the vaccine,” said Moonias, who added it’s unlikely to be an option because of cost.

Canada is in the midst of the largest vaccine rollout in its history. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Indigenous populations much harder and Ottawa says they are a priority for vaccinations.

The actual distribution remains complex and varied across the country.

Neskantaga is one of 31 fly-in First Nations included in Operation Remote Immunity, part of the first phase of Ontario’s vaccination rollout. The operation was developed with Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Ornge, the province’s air ambulance service. The goal is to provide mass vaccinations by April 30 and it is having early successes.

There are challenges getting the vaccine to remote First Nations and questions about distribution for urban Indigenous populations.

The Assembly of First Nations says most Indigenous communities haven’t received sufficient supply to extend doses to their off-reserve members. The National Association of Friendship Centres says there is no national vaccination plan for urban Indigenous people.

There’s also concern there is no national plan to tackle decades of mistrust created by systemic racism and experimentation on Indigenous people.

There are many examples throughout Canadian history of scientists sponsored by the federal government or the government itself doing medical experiments on Indigenous people, including children, who were the subject of a tuberculosis vaccine trial in Saskatchewan that began in the 1930s.

Ontario New Democrat Sol Mamakwa, who represents the electoral district of Kiiwetinoong, said some constituents tell him they are scared to take the vaccine. They don’t trust it.

He has been travelling to communities to help promote it and received his first dose alongside members of Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation.

Community engagement has been key in vaccine uptake, Mamakwa said. Promotion begins weeks before vaccine teams arrive and includes radio campaigns, social media posts and live online question-and-answer sessions.

It’s about giving people information, he said.

“One of the only ways out of this pandemic is the vaccine,” said Wade Durham, Ornge’s chief operating officer, who added it’s key to have Indigenous people involved in vaccine planning.

Each First Nation in Operation Remote Immunity has a community member responsible for answering questions and setting up a vaccination site. Immunization teams are required to take cultural training and, when possible, include Indigenous medical professionals and language speakers.

Indigenous Services Canada said it is aware that a history of colonization and systemic racism has caused mistrust, so campaigns are being developed specifically for First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.

Michelle Driedger, a Metis professor of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba, said experience has shown that stakes are high when it comes to Indigenous communities.

During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the Public Health Agency of Canada prioritized vaccines by geography. A main lesson learned was to increase Indigenous representation at decision-making tables, she said.

At the time, Indigenous people were over-represented in hospitalizations and intensive care stays, as well as in deaths. Those living in remote and isolated communities experienced worse outcomes.

Driedger said the vaccine response is better now, but there is “rational skepticism.” There needs to be a transparent vaccination plan for Indigenous communities — no matter where they are, she said.

The Matawa First Nations tribal council said its four communities reachable by road are not getting the same vaccine access as its five fly-in ones, and more needs to be done.

Provincial officials have said that remote First Nations received priority for the vaccine rollout because of less access to on-site health care and increased health risks. Chief Rick Allen from Constance Lake First Nation has said the vaccine needs to go where the outbreaks are.

Back in Neskantaga, Moonias said he’ll do anything he can to protect anyone he can.

He continues to give updates about his vaccination. In another Facebook video posted soon after he received his shot, the chief gave a thumbs-up and said he had no pain or discomfort.

“We need this. We need to beat this virus.”

First Nations

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