December 21, 2021
By Nate Smelle
Last week, Canadians surpassed two tragic milestones, as the death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 10,000 in Ontario, and 30,000 nationwide. The current surge underway in Canada is inline with a rapidly growing number of cases being reported globally. In the past 28 days, the death toll due to COVID-19 worldwide added another 202,631 names.
Provincially, Ontario reported another 7,237 cases in the 48 hours before Bancroft This Week went to press on Tuesday, Dec. 21. As of the same time, there were 165 people fighting COVID-19 in the province’s Intensive Care Units. A day earlier, the province reported its highest test positivity rate (9.7 per cent) in more than seven months.
This surge in cases is also being mirrored in the local tallies by the Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health Unit. On Monday, Dec. 20 the health unit reported another 146 new cases over the weekend – 10 of which are in North Hastings. At that time the health unit confirmed that there are 16 active cases currently in the Bancroft area.
The Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health Unit also announced that there are currently: 365 active cases; 27 outbreaks; 12 hospitalizations; and, five people in local Intensive Care Units. HPEPH also indicated that there has been a total of 2,343 cases between the two counties; and, 17 people who have died of COVID-19.
In addition, on Saturday, Dec. 18, the local health unit sent out a media release, alerting the public that individuals who had attended the North Hastings Community Centre at 103 Newkirk Boulevard in Bancroft from Dec. 7 to Dec. 18 could have been exposed to COVID-19. Noting that the Town of Bancroft and the North Hastings Community Centre have been working with HPEPH to respond to the situation, the health unit advised everyone who attended the North Hastings Community Centre between the aforementioned dates to:
• Monitor closely for symptoms of COVID-19.
• If symptoms develop, even mild ones such as a runny nose or sore throat, isolate at home and away from others, and only leave isolation to seek testing or medical care.
• To seek testing, book an appointment online for the Bancroft testing centre. Individuals can also call 613-332-2825 ext. 6224.
• For other testing options, please visit: hpePublicHealth.ca/getting-tested-for-covid-19/.
When seeking testing, please provide investigation number 2238-2021-53773 to the testing centre.
Reminding the public that the “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective“; and that “vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and those you care about from COVID-19,” the health unit encouraged everyone to get vaccinated, and get their booster shot as soon as they become eligible.
To book an appointment for COVID-19 vaccination, visit: covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine for booking details.
Many pharmacies also offer COVID-19 vaccination and offer evening and weekend hours. Find pharmacies offering vaccine at: covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations.
While HPEPH’s dashboard indicates that there are 16 active cases in North Hastings, the Bancroft Family Health Team said there are actually well over 20 active cases in the Bancroft area at the moment. According to a post on the local health team’s Facebook page, the reason for the discrepancy in the number of active cases is because individuals could be residing in the area temporarily for work, school or other recreation and sporting activities. The Bancroft Family Health Team also acknowledged that HPEPH’s numbers do not account for cases in individuals who are new to the area and did not update their address with Service Ontario.
In the same media release, the health team also reported that new positive cases had been confirmed at North Hastings High School.
With the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in the region causing a backlog in Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health’s case and contact management process, the health team said there will be a delay – potentially more than 48 hours – in contacting individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their high-risk contacts. In the meantime, for those who do test positive the health team recommends that they do their own contact tracing to help limit the spread.
For more information about this, please visit: https://hpepublichealth.ca/media-release-hpeph…/
BFHT is asking anyone feeling unwell who might be experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home and get tested. Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
• Muscle aches
• Chills and sweats
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Dry, persistent cough
• Shortness of breath
• Tiredness and weakness
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Sore throat
• Vomiting and diarrhea
• Other symptoms of COVID-19 may include a loss of taste or smell, pinkeye, nausea and chest pain.
To get tested, contact the COVID-19 hotline at: 613-961-5544; or locally at: 613-332-2825 ext. 6224. Individuals can also pre-register for an appointment at: https://www.qhc.on.ca/pre-register-for-covid-assessment.
With the more transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus now putting its foot down heavily across Canada and around the world, governments are again imposing strict restrictions in an attempt to subdue the rising number of infections.
On Friday, Dec. 17 the Ontario Science Advisory Table reported that the number of Omicron cases of COVID-19 are doubling approximately every 2.8 days. At this rate, they project that before Christmas Day the daily case count could climb to over 6,000 – the highest in Canada since the start of the pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford addressed the heightened concern over the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ontario during a press conference on Dec. 17. Noting that Omicron is the most transmissible variant of the coronavirus to arise yet, Ford said over the coming days and weeks the number of cases of COVID-19 will continue to accelerate. Likewise, he said the number of people being admitted to Ontario’s Intensive Care Units – especially those who are unvaccinated – is also expected to increase sharply before the new year.
“Nothing will stop the spread of Omicron,” Ford said. “It’s just too transmissible. What we can do, and what we’re doing, is slowing it as much as possible to allow more time for shots to get into arms… The Omicron variant is unlike anything we’ve seen, and if we don’t take every single precaution we can do the modeling tells a scary story. To the other jurisdictions right now the United Kingdom is facing a tidal wave of Omicron infections threatens the entirety of their whole system is a very it was first detected that scenario to take hold here the UK experience is an urgent call for action.”
At this time, Ford said that it was too soon to determine whether students will go back to their classrooms in Ontario after the holiday break. That same morning, the province reported that 382 schools in Ontario were dealing with an active outbreak. They also indicated that as of Dec. 17 there were 72 schools closed throughout the province due to COVID-19. This was the second highest number of school closures since the start of the pandemic in January 2020.
In response to what experts are predicting could be the worst wave of the pandemic yet, the provincial government imposed several new public health measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario. Starting Monday, Dec. 20 all Ontarians 18 years of age or older became eligible to receive a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
With the holiday break just around the corner, a time when many families like to hold it together to celebrate, the Ford government has reduced the limit on the number of people allowed to gather indoors in one place from 25 to a maximum of 10. The maximum number of people attending a social gathering outdoors has also been cut back from 100 to 25.
Beginning on Saturday, Dec. 18 the province also placed capacity limits on larger venues that host crowds of 1,000+, reducing the maximum number of attendees by 50 per cent. The province has also banned food and drinks at sporting events, concert venues, theatres, and bingo halls. At this point, the government has not placed capacity limit on weddings and funerals, as long as guests wear a mask and practice social distancing.
The capacity limit on bars and restaurants in Ontario was reduced to 50 per cent as well. Bars and restaurants also must send out the last call for alcohol at 10 p.m., and close their doors by 11 p.m.
A 50 per cent capacity limit has also been placed on grocery stores, shopping malls, pharmacies, and personal care services.
In addition, starting on Tuesday, Dec. 21 anyone entering Canada must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR before arriving in the country. These new measures apply to all travellers, including those who have been out of the country for less than 72 hours.
Omicron-specific vaccine likely to come too late to help in this wave: Sharma – Victoria News
Health Canada’s chief medical adviser says variant-specific vaccines can be approved faster than the general ones first issued to combat COVID-19, but one targeting the Omicron strain still likely won’t be ready in time to help with the latest wave.
Dr. Supriya Sharma said what is really needed are vaccines that can possibly stop more than one variant at a time, including those yet to come.
Omicron became the dominant variant in Canada in just over two weeks, and the Public Health Agency of Canada said Friday it’s now believed to be responsible for more than 90 per cent of all COVID-19 cases.
Studies suggest two doses of the existing mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are not good at preventing infection from Omicron.
Multiple studies, however, suggest the vaccines are excellent at keeping symptoms mild, preventing hospitalizations, and shortening the stay and lowering the level of care for those who do get admitted to hospital. Fewer vaccinated Omicron patients, for example, need mechanical ventilation.
Both Pfizer and Moderna are working on new versions of their vaccines that specifically target the Omicron variant.
Moderna is hoping to get its product into trials early this year. Pfizer said it could have 100 million doses of theirs ready as early as March, and Canada has contracts for boosters from both companies that would include vaccines for variants too.
But Sharma said even with the expedited review process for vaccine variants, that’s “probably not” fast enough.
“By that time, based on what we’ve known about the Omicron wave, it might well and truly be through,” she said. “And then the question is always, ‘is there another variant that’s coming up?’”
The solution, she said, likely lies with vaccines that can target more than one variant at a time.
The COVID-19 vaccine technical committee of the World Health Organization said the same thing on Jan. 11, noting Omicron is the fifth variant of concern in two years and “is unlikely to be the last.”
Booster shots that heighten antibody development became the immediate response to Omicron for many governments, including Canada.
Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a British Columbia pediatrician and co-chair of the WHO’s clinical research committee on COVID-19, told The Canadian Press that boosters aren’t a long-term viable option.
“Boosting your way out of a pandemic is going to inevitably shoot you in the foot in the sense that you’re going to have a future variant that’s going to emerge that’s going to cause problems,” he said. “It’s going to evade your vaccines, and then you’re going to have to scramble.”
Omicron doesn’t evade the existing vaccines entirely but a future variant could, he said. The issue largely stems from the fact that the original vaccines train the body’s immune system to recognize what is called the spike protein found on the surface of a virus, and that spike protein is mutating significantly.
Think of the mutated spike protein as a bit of a disguise that makes it harder for the immune system to recognize the virus and mount a defence to kill it off.
Omicron has more than 50 mutations, and at least 36 are on the spike protein.
Multivalent vaccines that use the spike protein from more than one variant, or that target the genetic components of a virus rather than the spike protein, are possibly the ones that could offer protection for both this pandemic and the next novel coronavirus that emerges.
“It’s pan-coronavirus, where it’s looking at big broad neutralizing responses and you don’t have to update it every season and so on,” said Murthy. “That’s been the Holy Grail of flu vaccinology for the past number of decades. We haven’t achieved that yet, because flu is a bit tricky, but we think that it’s achievable for coronavirus, specifically.”
The United States Army has a version heading into Phase 2 trials that can attach multiple spike proteins. A vaccine with the specific spike proteins from all five COVID-19 variants of concern would likely be more successful, even against future variants, because they all share some of the same mutations and what one might miss another may catch.
Moderna is working on trials for multivalent vaccines using combinations of the spike proteins from the original virus and one of the variants, or two of the variants together. It’s not clear when they would be ready for use.
Sharma said even if the vaccines aren’t working as well against variants as they were against the original virus, to her “they’re still miraculous.”
“To have a vaccine that was developed that quickly, that still has, through multiple variants … with boosters, up to 70, 80 per cent effectiveness against serious disease, ailments, hospitalization and death,” she said. “That is miraculous for a new vaccine for a new virus.”
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Canada approves Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment, seeks supplies
Canada on Monday approved Pfizer Inc’s oral antiviral treatment for mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 in people aged 18 and older but said supply shortages would keep doses from being made available immediately.
Infections and hospitalizations due the Omicron variant have been rising in Canada, forcing provinces to put in restrictions and the federal government to support impacted businesses.
“(This) is particularly important, as access to easy to use treatments could help to reduce the severity of COVID-19 in adults who become newly infected at high risk of progressing to serious illness,” said chief public health officer Theresa Tam.
Pfizer’s two-drug antiviral regimen, Paxlovid, was nearly 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in patients at high risk of severe illness, according to data from the company’s clinical trial.
It is meant to be taken at home for five days beginning shortly after onset of symptoms.
Ottawa said last month it had signed a deal with Pfizer for a million treatment courses, pending approval. But getting those supplies could face hurdles.
“While there is currently limited global supply of Paxlovid, we are working to firm up a delivery schedule with the intent of bringing treatment courses to Canada as quickly as possible,” Tam told a briefing.
Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces, is seeing signs that Omicron cases may have peaked, said chief medical officer Kieran Moore.
“I’m starting to have much more hope … the number of cases is decelerating instead of accelerating in terms of hospitalizations and (people admitted to) intensive care units,” he told an Ottawa radio station.
Official data show that as of Jan 8, 87.8% of Canadians aged 12 and above had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The U.S. authorized the Pfizer treatment for people ages 12 and older last month.
Canada is still looking at whether to approve Merck & Co’s oral antiviral pill, molnupiravir, which had less impressive results than Paxlovid in its pivotal clinical trial.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot)
January 16, 2022 coronavirus update for Oakville – Oakville News
This is Oakville’s coronavirus update for Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. As children head back to school tomorrow, the main takeaway from today’s COVID-19 update is the increase in the number of outbreaks in long-term care, retirement, and hospital facilities. OTMH is now dealing with two outbreaks as a new one was declared at 5 South, and the province has 231 hospitals recording ongoing outbreaks, an increase nice.
A new outbreak at OTMH was declared but not shown on the region’s update of Friday, Jan. 14, 2022. Halton does not provide new information on weekends or holidays.
- Oakville – 70 patients – plus 6
- Halton – 126 patients – plus 10
- Ontario – 3,595 patients – minus 362 (ICU 563 plus 19, Ventilators 327 plus 19)
There are currently nine active outbreaks with 58 cases (LTC-41, retirement homes-13, hospitals-2) in Oakville.
Long-term care facilities status
- 424 ongoing outbreaks -plus 9
- 27,391 cases – plus 320
- 39,06 resident deaths – plus 9
- 319 ongoing outbreaks – plus 16
- 231 ongoing outbreaks – plus 16
- 1st Dose (5+) – 90%
- 2nd Dose (5+) – 83%
- Boosters (18+) – 48%
Ontario administered 117,300 vaccinations
- 1st Dose (5+) – 82%
- 2nd Dose (5+) – 3%
The number of confirmed new cases in Oakville, Halton and Ontario is under-reported since the province restricted access to testing, limiting it to high-risk individuals, healthcare providers, and patients.
- 36,184 cases – plus 552 or 5,962.2 cases per million
- 634.6 new weekly cases per 100,000, down 15.9 per cent from 2 weeks ago
- 948,086 total cases – plus 10,450 or 6,434.7 cases per million
- 503.1 new weekly cases per 100,000, down 22.4 per cent from 2 weeks ago
- 843,073 recoveries – plus 15,317
- 10,605 deaths – plus 40
- 94,408 active cases – minus 4,907
**Vaccine booking: Halton continues to book first and second-dose vaccinations for all residents age five and older, plus third-dose boosters for all adults age 18 and up.
Parents must make booster doses and appointments for children in advance, but first and second doses for those 12 and up are available on a walk-in basis.
All vaccines approved for use in Canada effectively protect you against COVID-19 and all known variants of concern.
The evidence is clear: vaccination is the best way to be protected. Local, provincial, national and international health units all affirm the same data that Canada’s approved vaccines effectively protect you from COVID-19 and significantly reduce your risks of getting sick, going to the hospital, and dying from the disease.
Pictured right is a graph from the Halton region showing how dramatically your risk of getting sick or being admitted to hospital is when vaccinated.
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