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COVID-19 Update: Alberta reports 351 new cases, four deaths | School costs expected to keep rising amid variants, delayed vaccines – Calgary Herald

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Alberta reported an additional 348 cases of COVID-19 from 10,033 tests, representing a 3.5 per cent positivity rate. The rate is below the seven-day average positivity rate of 4.2 per cent.

There are now 457 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 84 of whom are in intensive-care units — down from 475 and 89 the previous day, respectively. There are 6,266 active cases of the coronavirus in Alberta, down from 6,407 the previous day.

As well, Alberta reported 12 more deaths from the virus, bringing its total to 1,705. Four of those deaths were in the Alberta Health Services Calgary zone, which has seen a toll of 528 COVID-19 fatalities.

Officials also administered another 2,650 doses of vaccine through end-of-day Friday, bringing Alberta’s total number of jabs given to 116,716. To date, 25,540 Albertans are fully immunized after having received both their first and second dose of vaccine.


Saturday

Province announces new relaxed restrictions on team sports

DARREN MAKOWICHUK/CALGARY SUN/QMI AGENCY-A rink attendant cleans the ice at the West Hillhurst Community Association as Hockey Calgary cancelled all Minor Hockey games Monday night due to the severe weather conditions as players had the option to still show up and use their ice time for practicing.  Monday February 7, 2011.DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI AGENCY ORG XMIT: p7Hockey080
A Zamboni clears the ice in this file photo. Photo by DARREN MAKOWICHUK /Postmedia File

In a news release Saturday morning, the province said those under the age of 18 will now be allowed to take part in lessons, practices and other conditioning activities for indoor or outdoor minor-league team sports. Playing games remains banned.

The shift came as a surprise to youth sports groups, who were left out of last week’s provincial announcement of sectors allowed to ease some public-health restrictions.

In Alberta’s announcement last Friday, the province said kids’ sports and performance would only be allowed to resume if related to school activities, like physical education class. One-on-one training was also permitted.

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Toronto, Peel and North Bay exit Ontario's emergency coronavirus stay at home order – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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All non-essential retail stores in Toronto and Peel Region are opening their doors to customers for the first time in months as the two COVID-19 hot spots move to the grey zone of the province’s tiered reopening framework.

With the exception of stores that offer essential goods, customers have been barred from entering shops in both regions since Nov. 23, purchasing items instead through curbside pickup or delivery.

Starting today, those stores can welcome customers inside once again but must only operate at 25 per cent of their regular indoor capacity.

Groceries stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores are permitted to operate at 50 per cent capacity in the grey zone.

The Ford government has also lifted stay-at-home orders in both Toronto and Peel Region and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are now permitted.

Mayor John Tory said the city is constantly assessing the situation to see how the virus is spreading in the community.

“We are watching it every day with a view to make sure we open further as soon as we possibly can with an eye always on making sure we avoid a further lockdown later,” Tory told CP24 on Monday.

Other regions of the GTA are in the red zone of the framework, which allows restaurants to reopen indoor dining with up to 10 patrons inside at one time. In the red zone, many other businesses, including gyms, hair salons, and other personal care services, are allowed to reopen.

“The case count numbers did pop up again in Ontario and we’ll see how they are today and tomorrow because we are watching this very carefully,” Tory said.

Ontario saw nearly 1,300 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and more than 1,600 on Monday, the highest daily counts recorded in weeks.

Tory said public health officials are still concerned about how variants of concern are spreading throughout the region.

“Don’t forget a lot of the region did open up into the so-called red zone all around Toronto and many Torontonians we know from the phone data we’re going shopping in those areas so you sort of have to see did that cause any increase in the virus or the variants of concern.”

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who initially advocated for her municipality to enter the red zone this week, says the trends are encouraging in her city.

“We are very close to the red zone here in Mississauga. Our numbers are down, our cases are declining… I’m watching it very closely this week. I see that our numbers have been declining further so my fingers are crossed. I’m very hopeful this week that they will look at Mississauga and perhaps allow us to reopen,” she told CP24 on Monday.

“We are ready. It’s spring. Everybody feels like we are ready for that safe reopening.”

Some Toronto business owners have expressed frustration that more restrictions have been eased in neighbouring regions in the GTA.

Thanh Tran, owner of salon Roots & Tips near Yonge and Dundas streets, says it remains unclear how personal care businesses exactly how many cases of COVID-19 were transmitted through visits to personal care services.

“I think it is a little unfair… We’ve taken every precaution to make sure everybody is safe, taking down contacts,” she told CP24 on Monday.

“We can limit the amount of people we interact with where as big stores, you don’t know… nobody really keeps to social distancing.”

Toronto still in ‘precarious’ situation, de Villa says

Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said Monday that she would like to see the city’s cases per 100,000 and the city’s reproductive rate decline before easing restrictions further.

Other factors to consider, she said, are what proportion of cases involve a variant of concern and how quickly vaccines can roll out to the community.

“These are the many indicators that we need to be looking at in order to assure ourselves that we are in a better place in order to reopen more fulsomely and to really start to restore life more to something like we knew before COVID-19 was around,” she said.

“The idea is to make sure that as we start to emerge, and as hope becomes more of a possibility… that we will be able to see more activity return to our city.”

De Villa said the city is still in a “very precarious situation” but there is the “hope of vaccines on the horizon.”

“My plea to the people of Toronto is to continue to be vigilant around practicing self-protection measures. They remain one of our strongest defences against the spread of COVID-19 and the negative impact that it has on us,” she said.

“Beyond that, as vaccine becomes more available, and as we are able to get more vaccine into arms, taking these two things together… this is what will see us through and towards the place where we all want to be, which is with COVID-19 in the rear view mirror.”

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Ontario reports 1,631 new COVID-19 cases, but official says data issues put count likely closer to 1,300 – CBC.ca

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Ontario is reporting 1,631 new COVID-19 cases on the same day stay-at-home orders lift in three regions, including Toronto and Peel — which have consistently seen the province’s highest number of infections throughout the pandemic.

Monday’s cases mark the highest number of new infections in over a month, though Ontario’s Ministry of Health says today’s case count is higher than expected due to a “data catch-up process.”

Asked how much Monday’s figure was inflated by the data delay, Public Health Ontario said it couldn’t provide a specific number “due to the way the data are pulled for the reports.”

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, said Monday’s case count is probably closer to 1,300.

Of the new cases, 568 were reported in Toronto, 322 were reported in Peel Region and 119 were reported in York Region.

Provincewide, the Ontario government is reporting that some 626 people are in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 282 are in intensive care, and 184 require a ventilator to breathe.

But according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario — which provides a more up-to-date look at critical care data — the actual number of patients with COVID-19 in intensive care now sits at 337.

Ontario is also reporting an additional 10 deaths, bringing the death toll to 7,077. None of the deaths reported on Monday were of long-term care home residents.

Toronto, Peel and North Bay were the last regions still under a stay-at-home order, and are transitioning back to the government’s colour-coded pandemic response framework.

North Bay is now in the “red” category, while Toronto and Peel are entering the “grey-lockdown,” something local public health officials asked for in both regions.

Despite the “lockdown” title, moving to the grey category will allow more retailers to open with restrictions. Gyms, personal care services and indoor restaurant dining, however, will stay closed.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says the government is taking a “safe and cautious approach” to ending the provincewide shutdown, which started in January.

This comes as Ontario’s lab network processed 38,063 test samples for the virus — the lowest number completed in a week. The test positivity rate was 3.4 per cent.

According to the ministry, health units across Ontario administered 21,882 doses of vaccines yesterday. A total of 273,676 people in Ontario have now been given both shots of a vaccine.

Ontario’s website for booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments began a “soft launch” in six public health units last week

Ahead of the province’s centralized website for all public health units, Toronto hospitals have launched their own site where you can pre-register to get a vaccine if you’re 80-plus or a high-priority health-care worker. To learn more about how to get a COVID-19 vaccine in the Greater Toronto Area — and whether or not you qualify — click here

The Ministry of Education also reported another 95 school-related cases: 84 students and 11 staff members. Thirty schools are currently closed due to the respiratory illness.

The seven-day average of daily cases now stands at 1,155 — the highest it’s been in three weeks.

The new daily case count brings the total number of cases since the pandemic began in Ontario to 309,927.

Labs also confirmed 51 more cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, B117, bringing the cumulative total of that variant to 879 (though the actual number is likely higher).

Yaffe, for her part, reported at a news conference later on Monday that the province now has 935 cases involving variants of concern.

In addition to the 879 cases of the B117 variant, there are 39 cases of the B135 variant, first identified in South Africa, and 17 of P1, first identified in Brazil.

Yaffe said the province is also now reporting the number of COVID-19 samples that have screened positive for the N501Y mutation, a mutation all shared by the variants of concern.

As of Friday, more than 26,000 samples have been screened for the N501Y mutation, with a test positivity rate of 16.8 per cent.

“We’re seeing quite a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases that are screening positive for a variant of concern,” she said.

Asked about new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S., which suggests that fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors, Yaffe said it is too early to say whether that advice could apply to Ontario. She said the U.S. has a higher rate of vaccinations. 

Provincial officials, however, will look at the guidance, she said.

“Certainly, we’re always interested in looking at the data that they’ve used and seeing how we can apply it here, once we get more vaccine into people,” she said.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in cases were:

  • Thunder Bay: 91
  • Durham Region: 68
  • Ottawa: 57
  • Halton Region: 51
  • Waterloo Region: 51
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 48
  • Windsor-Essex: 46
  • Niagara: 31
  • Sudbury: 27
  • Hamilton: 22
  • Brant County: 20
  • Lambton: 19
  • Middlesex London: 18
  • Eastern Ontario: 15
  • Northwestern: 11
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 10

What you need to know about retail reopening in ‘grey lockdown’

Under the grey lockdown tier of the framework, non-essential stores can open at 25 per cent capacity while indoor dining, gyms and hair salons remain closed.

Grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies can operate at 50 per cent capacity.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and must comply with physical distancing rules.

Though non-essential stores in Toronto and Peel Region are allowed to open for the first time in more than 100 days, it won’t be business as usual.

To prepare for visitors, major malls in these two hot spots have implemented new safety protocols, including:

  • 25 per cent capacity limit.
  • Live online meters to check mall capacity in real time.
  • Mandatory screening (in-person or online) for all retailers, employees, and shoppers entering the malls.

WATCH | What you need to know about restrictions easing in Toronto and Peel 

Stay-at-home orders are lifting in Toronto and Peel Region on Monday. The areas will remain under Ontario’s grey lockdown level. Here’s what you need to know. 2:15

Masks remain mandatory in the shopping centres and must be properly worn at all times. Shoppers are also strongly encouraged to shop individually or with members of the same household.

At this time, food and beverage consumption is not allowed in malls. In-dining areas are not open to the public but all food court retails are open for takeout.

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What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Monday, March 8 – CBC.ca

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Recent developments

What’s the latest?

People who were born in or before 1941, or are an adult getting home care for a chronic health condition, can now make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccineif they live in 14 more communities such as Lowertown or Vanier.

The number of clinics in the city is also expanding and shots will begin on Friday.

Starting Wednesday, anybody in any community who was born in or before 1931 can make an appointment for a vaccine at the Nepean Sportsplex.

Ottawa Public Health is reporting 57 more COVID-19 cases and one more death.

Grace Roswell, 12, celebrates her birthday by breaking things in the Vengeance Van, a rage room on wheels, in Ottawa on Tuesday, February 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

How many cases are there?

As of Monday, 15,167 Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19. There are currently 513 known active cases, 14,211 resolved cases, and 443 deaths.

Public health officials have reported more than 26,900 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 25,200 resolved cases.

Elsewhere in eastern Ontario, 131 people have died of COVID-19, and 163 people have died in western Quebec. 

Akwesasne has had more than 240 residents test positive on the Canadian side of the border and seven deaths. It’s had more than 500 cases combined with its southern section.

Kitigan Zibi has had 21 confirmed cases and Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory has had six, with one death.

CBC Ottawa is profiling those who’ve died of COVID-19. If you’d like to share your loved one’s story, please get in touch.

What can I do?

Restaurants, gyms, personal care services, theatres and non-essential businesses are open across eastern Ontario. Most sports can also resume.

Social gatherings can have up to 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors. Organized events can be larger.

People are asked to only have close contact with people they live with, be masked and distanced for all other in-person contact and only travel for essential reasons, especially between differently coloured zones.

Eastern Ontario ranges from orange to green under the province’s colour-coded pandemic scale.

Ottawa Public Health and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit are orange, with more restrictions than the rest of the region.

Health units in Renfrew and Lanark counties have warned private gatherings are a problem and it has led to stricter rules.

Ottawa’s health unit is again saying it’s close to a move to red and seems like it could be heading into a third wave.

Local health units can also set their own rules, like Kingston’s is doing around St. Patrick’s Day.

WATCH | Detecting coronavirus variants in wastewater:

Ottawa has been testing its wastewater to get a better understanding of how much of the coronavirus is in the city’s sewage. The project’s co-lead investigator explains how it helps with surveilling COVID-19. 4:19

Western Quebec’s gyms and restaurants can open under its orange zone rules, joining non-essential businesses

Outdoor gatherings of up to eight people are now are now allowed and places of worship can bring in more people.

That area’s new curfew hours are 9:30 p.m. until 5 a.m.

The exception is Grenville-sur-la-Rouge and some of that area, which remains in red.

Like in Ontario, people are asked not to have close contact with anyone they don’t live with and travel from one region of Quebec to another is discouraged. 

Quebec will allow extra-curricular activities and sports in schools across the province starting next week.

WATCH | Quebec families, athletes call for return of team sports outside schools:

With some sports about to return to Quebec schools, thousands marched in Quebec city to demand the return of youth team sports, citing their benefits to physical and mental health. 1:56

Distancing and isolating

The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs, sneezes, or breathes onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air.

People can be contagious without symptoms, even after getting a vaccine. New coronavirus variants can be more contagious.

This means it is important to take precautions now and in the months to come like staying home while symptomatic — and getting help with costs if needed — keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean and maintaining distance from anyone you don’t live with, even with a mask on.

WATCH | Why buffets may not have much of a future:

Thanh Pham, who used to run Kanata Noodle House Vietnamese Buffet, says he had to close the restaurant after COVID-19 hit. Now, he’s pivoting to a more pandemic-friendly alternative — a takeout-only banh mi shop. 1:05

Masks, preferably ones that fit snugly and have three layers, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec.

OPH says residents should also wear masks outside their homes whenever possible.

A couple of people make their way along Wellington Street in Ottawa on Friday, March 5, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who’ve been ordered to do so by their public health unit. The length varies in Quebec and Ontario; the latter recently updated its rules, including in schools.

People have to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter Canada by land without a fine and have to pay for their stay in a quarantine hotel if entering by air.

Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible and get help with errands.

WATCH | What could the next 12 months look like?

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger answers questions about how a second year of the COVID-19 pandemic might be different — and what’s been learned. 3:34

Symptoms and vaccines

COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and loss of taste or smell. Children can develop a rash.

If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic, and resources are available to help.

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine supply has stabilized and four vaccines have now been approved

In early March the national task force said evidence shows first doses have offered such strong protection that people can wait up to four months to get a second dose, opening the door for jurisdictions to spread first doses widely.

More than 113,000 doses have been given out in the wider region since mid-December, including about 63,600 doses in Ottawa and 13,300 in western Quebec.

Ontario’s first doses generally went to care home residents and health-care workers.

The province’s campaign expands to priority groups such as people over age 80 starting in mid-March, moving to people as young as age 60 in June, people with underlying health conditions in April people who can’t work from home in June.

Ontarians who are eligible can book appointments online or over the phone starting March 15.

WATCH | Why masks, distancing will stay for ‘some time’:

Dr. Theresa Tam says that a year into the pandemic, with COVID-19 vaccines helping Canada gain an upper hand, masks, physical distancing and travel restrictions won’t disappear immediately because vigilance is needed to beat the evolving virus. 1:53

Local health units have some flexibility in the larger framework, so check with them for specifics.

For example, Ottawa has begun offering shots to certain groups in certain high-risk neighbourhoods and, as of Friday, anyone born in or before 1931.

Officials have been vaccinating Indigenous people and started offering shots to police officers and shelter clients last week.

Many eastern Ontario vaccine clinic locations are in the same communities as test sites and none are open yet for the general public. Health units are asking people to keep their phone lines clear.

Quebec also started with people in care homes and health-care workers.

It moves to older adults outside care homes starting Wednesday in western Quebec’s six clinics, then essential workers and finally the general public.

People who qualify can make an appointment online or over the phone.

Pharmacists will be giving shots in both Ontario and Quebec.

Front Burner21:55Are all COVID-19 vaccines created equal?

How solid is the science behind delaying second COVID-19 vaccine doses? Are the shots from AstraZeneca-Oxford and Johnson & Johnson effective enough? Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch answers our most pressing questions about the latest vaccine news. 21:55

Where to get tested

In eastern Ontario:

Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment.

Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, if you’ve been told to by your health unit or the province, or if you fit certain other criteria.

People without symptoms but who are part of the province’s targeted testing strategy can make an appointment at select pharmacies. Travellers who need a test have very few local options to pay for one.

Ottawa has ten regular test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high.

A person looks out from the entryway of a storefront for lease in Ottawa’s ByWard Market March 1, 2021. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Alexandria, Casselman, Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Rockland and Winchester.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile clinic.

People can arrange a test in Picton over the phone or in Bancroft, Belleville and Trenton, where online booking is preferred.

Kingston’s main test site is at the Beechgrove Complex, another is in Napanee.

Renfrew County test clinic locations are posted weekly. Residents can also call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 with health questions.

In western Quebec:

Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms and their contacts.

Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 ave. Buckingham. They can check the wait time for the Saint-Raymond site.

There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Maniwaki and Petite-Nation.

Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis:

Akwesasne has a COVID-19 test site by appointment only and a curfew of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who’s been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who’s interested in a test can call 613-967-3603.

Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing and now vaccines, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.

For more information

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