Keep your holiday gatherings small is the messaging from Canada’s top doctor, as new federal modelling points to a resurgence in COVID-19 infections in the coming weeks that could be further accelerated should the new Omicron variant take over.
The Delta variant remains the dominant strain in Canada and around the world, said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, but the spread of Omicron is increasing globally. In Canada, there are early signs of community spread.
While most of the 87 confirmed Omicron cases in Canada have been traced back to international travel and close contacts, cases with no known links to travel are starting to be reported, Tam noted during a press conference on Friday.
“Keeping private gatherings small is quite important at this point while we learn more,” said Tam.
“Gathering with a smaller number of people in well ventilated places – all of those layers of protection … can still enable us to have a good time while being safer and being precautionary.”
Travelling within Canada would be the “better choice” versus international travel, she added.
The current rise in new cases is primarily driven by Ontario and Quebec, with both provinces experiencing numbers not seen since spring. Should transmission rates increase by 15 per cent, or if Omicron takes hold under current levels of transmission, then Canada could see cases skyrocket to record levels above 10,000 cases before January, modelling charts show.
“We must approach the coming weeks with an abundance of caution and at the same time, we must be prepared to act quickly to control the spread at the first sign of rapidly accelerating cases,” said Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo.
So far, all documented cases involving Omicron in Canada have been asymptomatic or mild, and there is considerable uncertainty around the variant’s ability to evade immunity and cause severe illness, health officials said, but a rapid increase in cases could still strain the health-care system.
“That model doesn’t model the severity. But even if the proportion of those who get Omicron who gets severely ill is tiny – if you get enough cases, you still have enough severe outcomes to impact your hospitals and your ICUs,” Tam said.
Canada’s Rt, or effective reproduction number, has been back above one for the last five weeks, indicating that the epidemic is in a growth pattern, federal data shows, with the Delta variant accounting for more than 90 per cent of the cases.
Despite the many unknowns around the Omicron variant, including whether it poses a higher or lower risk of severe illness and death, preliminary data indicates that it has the potential to spread faster than the highly transmissible Delta variant.
In South Africa, cases have climbed at a much faster rate with Omicron compared to previous waves.
While vaccines are expected to still provide protection against the new variant, scientists are still investigating the level of effectiveness.
“The Omicron variant of concern is a cruel reminder that a global epidemiological situation can change quickly. We all need to be prepared for that,” said Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos in a press conference on Friday.
Source: Public Health Agency of Canada
With 80 per cent of the eligible population in Canada fully vaccinated, infection rates remain highest among children under the age of 12, a group that only recently became eligible for shots.
The size of outbreaks in schools and childcare settings remain small, however, at fewer than five cases, Tam said. In total, there have been over 380,000 reported cases in children up to 19 years of age, with less than one per cent involving severe illness.
Tam and Njoo continued to encourage vaccinating children aged five and up and providing boosters for those aged 18 and over, emphasizing that vaccines along with protective health measures will help control transmission and would significantly reduce risks of resurgence in 2022.
The risk of being hospitalized remains significantly lower for those who are fully vaccinated individuals, officials reiterated, noting that those who are unvaccinated between the ages of 12 and 59 are 32 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated. For those above 60, they are 16 times more likely to be hospitalized.
Despite the warning about the coming weeks, Tam said that vaccines have provided substantial protection from infection and severe outcomes and dampened the impact of the delta-driven wave this past fall.
“This time last year, we were experiencing double the number of daily cases and more than double the number of people with COVID-19 being treated in hospitals and in intensive care daily. Most importantly, daily reported deaths are 82 per cent lower than this time last year,” Tam said.
Global jobs recovery delayed by pandemic uncertainty, Omicron, ILO says
The global job market will take longer to recover than previously thought, with unemployment set to remain above pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2023 due to uncertainty about the pandemic’s course and duration, the International Labour Organization said in a report on Monday.
The U.N. agency estimates the equivalent of around 52 million fewer jobs in 2022 versus pre-COVID levels, which amounts to about double its previous estimate from June 2021.
Disruptions are set to continue into 2023 when there will still be around 27 million fewer jobs, it said, warning of a “slow and uncertain” recovery in its World Employment and Social Outlook report for 2022.
“The global labour market outlook has deteriorated since the ILO’s last projections; a return to pre-pandemic performance is likely to remain elusive for much of the world over the coming years,” the report said.
Director-General Guy Ryder told journalists that there were numerous factors behind its revision, saying the “primary one is the continuing pandemic and its variants, notably Omicron.”
The speed of recovery varies across regions, with the European and North American regions showing the most encouraging signs and Southeast Asia and South America lagging behind, according to the report.
Still, the projected deficit in working hours this year represents an improvement over the past two years. In 2021, the ILO estimates there were some 125 million fewer jobs than pre-pandemic levels and in 2020, 258 million fewer.
Overall, around 207 million people are estimated to be unemployed in 2022. However, the report said that the impact would be significantly greater since many people have left the labour force and have yet to return.
Among those are a high number of women https://www.reuters.com/markets/funds/gender-equality-takes-one-step-forward-three-back-during-covid-2021-12-02, often because they have been drawn into unpaid work at home such as teaching children during school closures or caring for sick family members.
The report predicted that the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women’s employment would narrow in the coming years but that a “sizeable gap” would remain.
“There are some anecdotal indications that they are not coming back in the same numbers and in the same portions as men are doing which would lead to concerns that a ‘Long COVID’ effect on gender at work would be a negative one,” said Ryder.
Others who have left the workforce have done so voluntarily as part of a phenomenon some economists call “the great resignation”. Ryder said this appeared to be more prominent in areas of the economy such as health and care giving.
“We do need to look again and to invest further in those areas of economic activity,” he said.
(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Chizu Nomiyama)
Black and Racialized Artists, Musicians and Producers Join Forces For THE FREEDOM MARCHING PROJECT
January 2022/Toronto, ON — Rufus John, award-winning Black Caribbean-Canadian R&B/ Soul singer & songwriter is gearing up to release the single, Freedom Marching (Part I). The song will be available for pre-order on January 10th, 2022 and will be featured on the 3-song EP, The Freedom Marching Project, which is slated to be released on February 4th, 2022.
In support of the release of the EP, the project will also consist of; two official music videos, one in-studio performance video, a Call-To-Action Commercial, a Behind the Scenes Docuseries and a website that will feature resources and information for those who are willing to watch, listen and learn to then #JoinTheMarch.
The Freedom Marching Project founded by John, was inspired by the thousands of people who had the courage to use their voice to take action by marching through streets all over the world shouting, “Black Lives Matter!” in what is hailed as the most significant civil rights movement of our generation. The goals of the Project are to use the creative power of Art, Education and Activism to; honor the community leaders who are fighting daily on the frontlines for equity, access, diversity, participation, and rights for Black, Indigenous, racialized communities, to shed light on the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous & Racialized communities and to provide resources and information to those who want to Stay Informed, Get Connected and Take Action.
John’s own music tells life stories of his past. A certified youth worker and mentor, John’s goal is to bring to the fore-front, deeply embedded issues experienced by the youth he helps and to inspire those who want to do more, to listen, to learn and join the movement. John’s mandate has always been to not just connect but to engage. John’s patience & commitment comes from his own experiences & mistakes and the people that helped him. Walking alongside the youth he mentors is not only necessary for their journey but for his. Being in for the long term is important. Showing up is key.
John used his connections within the music industry to bring together some Juno & Grammy award winners & nominees to lend their voices and talents to this special project. Collectively the talented group is called, United Artists 4 change and the ensemble features over 40 Black and Racialized Artists, Musicians and Producers from around Canada. The EP was produced by Da-Rell Clifton, vocally produced by Gary McAuley, Rufus John & Darren Hamilton, and mixed/mastered by Dan Brodbeck. Some of the artists involved are: JRDN, Carlos Morgan, D.O, Chad Price, Dan-e-o, Owen “O Sound” Lee, Dwayne Morgan, Quisha Wint, Jason Simmons (Vocal Paint), The McAuley Boys, Nefe, Clair Davis, Aphrose, D/Shon and The Waterloo Region Mass Choir.
The Freedom Marching Project has partnered with Community leader Selam Debs & the initiative Parents of Black Children. A Go Fund Me page has been set up where people can donate for the month of February and all the proceeds raised via Go Fund Me will be evenly distributed between The Freedom Marching Project and our partners who are combating racism, oppression and discrimination within the current systems and communities.
Jan 10th: Pre save/order Freedom Marching (Part I)
Jan 17th: Docuseries Ep.1
Jan 21st: Docuseries Ep. 2
Jan 26th: Docuseries Ep. 3
Jan 28th: Freedom Marching (Part I) Release
Feb 1st: In Studio Music Video Release
Feb 4th: Full EP Release
Feb 11th & 12th: Music Videos Release
Connect with The Freedom Marching Project:
Tik Tok: https://www.tiktok.com/@freedommarchingproject
** Talent available for interviews
Sasha Stoltz Publicity & Management:Sasha Stoltz | Sasha@sashastoltzpublicity.com | 416.579.4804
National Gaming on Capital Hill
This past January 13th, The US Supreme Court issued two rulings blocking an Occupational Safety and Health Administrations COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for employers who have 100 or more employees, while allowing a separate rule which applies to healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funds.
The 6-3 decision blocked OSHA and other organizations from imposing any such rule. While the OSHA made every effort to enforce temporary emergency standards in its massive organization, it seems the influence and legal pressure applied by both Labor and Corporations to end this attempt to have 84 million workers get COVID-19 vaccinations was too much for the administration.
The Supreme court directed organizations and corporations with more than 100 employees to develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with exceptions for employees that instead are required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face mask at work.
While many corporations and manufacturers did enforce OSHA rules and carry out the needed mass vaccinations, the problem arose that such an organization such as OSHA had never issued such a mandate, and Congress had declined to enact any measure similar to OSHA’s. What do we have here folks? A governmental organization trying to carry out what the Biden Administration has asked to be done in America. The vaccines are available, but a large portion of America remains unvaccinated.
Instead of issuing a Presidential Executive Order declaring an emergency, the Administration has directed a few organizations to do so that they can wait and see if such a mandate will be accepted and approved by the population, labor, and business sectors. Perhaps it is the way this is being done that is the problem for The Supreme court, or the Republican friendly conservative of the court simply outnumber the liberal members. Politics as usual. Ineffectual, unworkable politics where no matter the issue, the Republicans will block any Democratic Administration’s attempt to protect America.
A nation divided, even when the lives of many are at stake. American media makes the storming of the Capital on Jan 6th seem like an emergency, an insurrection of serious substance while the Republicans on the Capital, block in every way possible any attempt to save lives through public safety and health mandates. Remember how the Republican strategy to make Obama Administration seem ineffectual by blocking all legislative efforts? The same Republicans are repeating this strategy with the Biden Administration. A sports analogy whereby one blocks constantly until your opponent makes a mistake and fumbles. While the lives of millions are threatened by COVID-19 these Republicans play games with the nation. Americans are feeling stressed, hopeless, and fearful of their future and yet their elected officials cannot work together to accomplish anything, except perhaps giving themselves a wage increase. Have those on Capital Hill forgotten who they represent?
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