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COVID-19 update for March 31: London Drugs booked up for vaccines | Tam says 'crisis phase' will be over by fall | Age 55 to 65 in Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health can book vaccine | 840 new cases | State of emergency extended – Vancouver Sun

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C.

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for March 31, 2021.

We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on in B.C. right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly throughout the day, with developments added as they happen.

Check back here for more updates throughout the day. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.


B.C.’S COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS

As of the latest figures given on March 29:

• Total number of confirmed cases: 99,035 (7,062 active)
• New cases since March 29: 840
• Total deaths: 1,455 (0 new)
• Hospitalized cases: 312
• Intensive care: 78
• Total vaccinations: 724,193 people have received one of the three approved vaccines, including 87,319 who have received a second dose.
• Cases under public health monitoring: 11,164
• Recovered: 90,401
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 12

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IN-DEPTH:COVID-19: Here are all the B.C. cases of the novel coronavirus


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

COVID-19: Here’s everything you need to know about the novel coronavirus

COVID-19 FAQ: What you need to know about the vaccine rollout in B.C.

COVID-19: Have you been exposed? Here are all B.C. public health alerts

COVID-19 at B.C. schools: Here are the school district exposure alerts

COVID-19: Avoid these hand sanitizers that are recalled in Canada

COVID-19: Here’s where to get tested in Metro Vancouver

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool


LATEST NEWS ON COVID-19 IN B.C.

3 p.m. – Health officials are set to share latest figures on COVID-19 in B.C.

Health officials are expected to update the number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and recoveries across the province.

11:45 a.m. – Education ministry says masks required in schools for students in Grade 4 and up, despite confusion

Students in Grade 4 and up will be required to wear masks in classrooms, according to updated guidelines released Tuesday night by the B.C. Ministry of Education. Whether masks in schools are mandatory or simply recommended was a source of confusion following the tougher restrictions announced Monday by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

There’s also confusion among other businesses, such as brewpubs with patios and bowling alleys, which complain that vague public health guidelines leave them wondering whether they have to close.

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According to safety guidelines sent to schools Tuesday, “effective immediately all K-12 staff and all students in grades 4 to 12 will be required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, including when they are at their work stations (desks), and on school buses — both within and outside of their learning group.” Masks for students in kindergarten to Grade 3 are encouraged but not mandatory.

There are exceptions for people who have health or disability challenges that prevent them from wearing a mask, and in cases where a service is being provided to someone, such as a person with hearing impairment who relies on lip reading or facial expressions to communicate. Students can remove masks temporarily to engage in an activity where the mask is prohibitive, such as eating or drinking, playing an instrument or engaging in physical activity.

“Schools reflect what’s happening in local communities, and we support public health’s decision to introduce additional mask measures to our K-12 guidelines across the province,” Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, public health orders and guidelines have been amended to reflect changing knowledge and the risk of spread of COVID-19 in the community and different settings.”

Since Monday, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation has been fielding questions from confused teachers and parents who said they were unclear as to whether Henry’s announcement Monday meant masks were mandatory or recommended. On Tuesday night, the union posted the relevant section from the Education Ministry’s updated health and safety guidelines to clarify that masks are required for students in grades 4 to 12, a measure the BCTF has been calling for for months.

-Katie DeRosa

11:45 a.m. – Ryan Reynolds injects humour into receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Ryan Reynolds couldn’t help himself when he got his shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Known for his wisecracks both on-screen (Deadpool) and off, the Vancouver actor cracked, “Finally got 5G,” in an Instagram post that showed him sporting a pink tuque and rolling up the short sleeve of his white T-shirt to get the jab.

The joke was seemingly aimed at anti-vaxxers or conspiracy theorists. Some people have claimed the COVID-19 pandemic is part of a plan to implant microchips into humans that can be activated by 5G networks (the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks).

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– Postmedia

11:30 a.m. – Tam says ‘crisis phase’ will be over by fall

Canada’s top public health doctor says she expects the “crisis phase of the pandemic” will be over before the fall.

Dr. Theresa Tam says the next few weeks may be the most challenging yet, as the third resurgence of cases driven by unrelenting variants of concern means there is even less “room for errors” in our public health measures.

But she says with every week that passes, with every shipment of vaccines and with the onset of nicer weather that will allow us to do more outdoor activities safely, things are going to get easier.

By June, Tam says, every adult Canadian who wants a vaccine will get at least one dose.

And by the fall, she says, they will get their second.

– The Canadian Press

10:30 a.m. – Facebook Live with Dr. Theresa Tam – Your COVID-19 Vaccine Questions Answered

Facebook Canada is hosting Your COVID-19 Vaccine Questions Answered, a Facebook Live event with Canada’s top doctors to connect millions of Canadians with trusted COVID-19 vaccine information.

The event is free to attend and anyone can join:https://www.facebook.com/facebookappCanada 

Speakers will include:

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer
Dr. Evan Adams, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at Indigenous Services Canada
Dr. Supriya Sharma, Chief Medical Advisor, Health Canada
Samantha Yammine, PhD, neuroscientist, molecular biologist and popular science communicator known as Science Sam
Danielle Nadin, CIHR Institute of Gender and Health

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8:30 a.m. – London Drugs all booked up for vaccine appointments

Starting today people aged 55 to 65 living in the Lower Mainland can book a AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine, but there may be a wait, as already one major pharmacy says it is all booked up.

On Tuesday night, a day before the bookings opened for this category, London Drugs announced on Twitter that due to an “overwhelming response,” all vaccine appointments have been booked at the three London Drugs pharmacies selected by the B.C. government to offer the vaccine.

The company asked people not to call the pharmacies so they can prepare for the “fully booked” appointments.

The B.C. Pharmacy Association website has a list of pharmacies offering the vaccine, which will be updated regularly in the coming weeks.

Those going to get a vaccine will be required to bring their Personal Health Number, located on your CareCard or driver’s license.

The AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine is currently not available in pharmacies in the Northern, Interior, and Vancouver Island health authorities at this time.

5 a.m. – Horgan’s ‘do not blow this’ comment enrages young people in B.C.

Premier John Horgan shamed and blamed young people for spreading COVID-19, but his “do not blow this” finger-wagging appeal has faced swift backlash from those he was trying to bring on side.

He resisted calls to apologize on Tuesday, but said he acknowledges the sacrifices of young people and was trying to catch the attention of the few who are breaking the rules.

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His initial comments, critics say, were counter-intuitive and harmful to young people who are disproportionately working in higher-risk, front-line jobs hard hit by Monday’s tougher restrictions on restaurants and the closure of Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort.

On Monday, Horgan said people between 20 and 39 are “quite frankly, putting the rest of us in a challenging situation.”

“My appeal to you is, do not blow this for the rest of us,” he said. “Do not blow this for your parents and your neighbours and others who have been working really, really hard, making significant sacrifices so we can get good outcomes for everybody.”

Justin Kulik, the NDP’s youngest candidate in the last election, called on Horgan to apologize for his “hurtful” remarks.

Horgan did not apologize, instead writing on Twitter Tuesday that his top concern is protecting people from the virus and getting through the “last mile” safely.

“I’m trying to catch the attention of the few who refuse to follow the public health restrictions. To the vast majority of young people doing everything they can: thank you,” he wrote.

He acknowledged that young people, who often work in front-line jobs or living with roommates. have made “tremendous sacrifices” to fight COVID-19.

5 a.m. – Did you get the AstraZeneca vaccine? Here’s what you need to know

On Monday, B.C. announced it was suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people 55 and younger due to concerns over a “very rare” blood clot condition.

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For a primer that breaks down why B.C. is halting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people, but at the same time accelerating the vaccination of other age groups using this vaccine read Cheryl Chan’s breakdown here.

2 a.m. – As of today, Lower Mainland residents age 55 to 65 can book a vaccine

B.C. is now offering a COVID-19 vaccine to Lower Mainland residents age 55 to 65, according to Vancouver Coastal Health.

Starting today, eligible residents can call their local pharmacy to make an appointment to get their AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine.

About 150 pharmacies are participating in this partnership with Immunize B.C.

Drop-in service may also be an option.

The B.C. Pharmacy Association website has a list of pharmacies offering the vaccine, which will be updated regularly in the coming weeks.

12 a.m.  – 840 new cases, no additional COVID-19 related deaths

B.C. reported 840 new cases, including 18 epidemiologically-linked cases, on Tuesday. There were no new deaths.

There are 7,062 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, including 312 people in hospital, 78 of whom are in intensive care.

There have been 320 new confirmed cases involving variants of concern.

12 a.m. – State of emergency extended to continue B.C.’s COVID-19 response

B.C. has extended the provincial state of emergency, allowing health and emergency management officials to continue to use measures under the Emergency Program Act to support the province’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

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The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on April 13.

“While the finish line remains in sight, rising case counts and the spread of variants of concern mean we all must continue working together to keep each other safe,” said Premier John Horgan, in a statement.

The original declaration was made on March 18, 2020, the day after Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, declared a public health emergency.


B.C. VACCINE TRACKER



LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information

Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool

Vancouver Coastal Health – Information on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

HealthLink B.C. – Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page

B.C. Centre for Disease Control – Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update

World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

– With files from The Canadian Press

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CANADA STOCKS – TSX falls 0.14% to 19,201.28

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* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.14 percent to 19,201.28

* Leading the index were Stantec Inc <STN.TO​>, up 3.4%, Imperial Oil Ltd​, up 3.3%, and Corus Entertainment Inc​, higher by 2.9%.

* Lagging shares were Aphria Inc​​, down 14.2%, Village Farms International Inc​, down 9.9%, and Aurora Cannabis Inc​, lower by 9.4%.

* On the TSX 91 issues rose and 134 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 24 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 228.0 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Royal Bank Of Canada and Suncor Energy Inc.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 0.32 points, or 0.3%, while the financials sector climbed 2.46 points, or 0.7%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.52%, or $0.31, to $59.63 a barrel. Brent crude  rose 0.4%, or $0.25, to $63.2 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.1% for the year.

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Air Canada signs C$5.9 billion government aid package, agrees to buy Airbus, Boeing jets

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By David Ljunggren and Allison Lampert

OTTAWA/MONTREAL (Reuters) -Air Canada, struggling with a collapse in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached a deal on Monday on a long-awaited aid package with the federal government that would allow it to access up to C$5.9 billion ($4.69 billion) in funds.

The agreement – the largest individual coronavirus-related loan that Ottawa has arranged with a company – was announced after the airline industry criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for dawdling. The United States and France acted much more quickly to help major carriers.

Canada‘s largest carrier, which last year cut over half its workforce, or 20,000 jobs, and other airlines have been negotiating with the government for months on a coronavirus aid package.

In February, Air Canada reported a net loss for 2020 of C$4.65 billion, compared with a 2019 profit of C$1.48 billion.

As part of the deal, Air Canada agreed to ban share buybacks and dividends, cap annual compensation for senior executives at C$1 million a year and preserve jobs at the current level, which is 14,859.

It will also proceed with planned purchases of 33 Airbus SE 220 airliners and 40 Boeing Co 737 MAX airliners.

Chris Murray, managing director, equity research at ATB Capital Markets, said the deal took into account the “specific needs of Air Canada in the short and medium term without being overly onerous.”

He added: “It gives them some flexibility in drawing down additional liquidity as needed.”

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government was still in negotiations with other airlines about possible aid.

Canada, the world’s second-largest nation by area, depends heavily on civil aviation to keep remote communities connected.

Opposition politicians fretted that further delays in announcing aid could result in permanent damage to the country.

Air Canada said it would resume services on nearly all of the routes it had suspended because of COVID-19.

‘SIGNIFICANT LAYER OF INSURANCE’

The deal removes a potential political challenge for the Liberals, who insiders say are set to trigger an election later this year.

The government has agreed to buy C$500 million worth of shares in the airline, at C$23.1793 each, or a 14.2% discount to Monday’s close, a roughly 6% stake.

“Maintaining a competitive airline sector and good jobs is crucially important,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, adding the equity stake would allow taxpayers to benefit when the airline’s fortunes recovered.

The Canadian government previously approved similar loans for four other companies worth up to C$1.billion, including up to C$375 million to low-cost airline Sunwing Vacations Inc. The government has paid out C$73.47 billion under its wage subsidy program and C$46.11 billion in loans to hard-hit small businesses.

Michael Rousseau, Air Canada‘s president and chief executive officer, said the liquidity “provides a significant layer of insurance for Air Canada.”

Jerry Dias, head of the Unifor private-sector union, described the announcement as “a good deal for everybody.”

Unifor represents more than 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector.

But the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents roughly 10,000 Air Canada flight attendants, said the package protected the jobs of current workers rather than the 7,500 members of its union who had been let go by the carrier.

($1=1.2567 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)

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U.K. advises limiting AstraZeneca in under-30s amid clot worry

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LONDON —
British authorities recommended Wednesday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine not be given to adults under 30 where possible because of strengthening evidence that the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.

The recommendation came as regulators both in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people — even though the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots. British authorities recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca. But the EMA advised no such age restrictions, leaving it up to its member-countries to decide whether to limit its use.

Several countries have already imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine, and any restrictions are closely watched since the vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to global immunization campaigns and is a pillar of the UN-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is a course correction, there’s no question about that,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said during a press briefing. “But it is, in a sense, in medicine quite normal for physicians to alter their preferences for how patients are treated over time.”

Van-Tam said the effect on Britain’s vaccination timetable — one of the speediest in the world — should be “zero or negligible,” assuming the National Health Service receives expected deliveries of other vaccines, including those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

EU and U.K. regulators held simultaneous press conferences Wednesday afternoon to announce the results of investigations into reports of blood clots that sparked concern about the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The EU agency described the clots as “very rare” side effects. Dr Sabine Straus, chair of EMA’s Safety Committee, said the best data is coming from Germany where there is one report of the rare clots for every 100,000 doses given, although she noted far fewer reports in the U.K. Still, that’s less than the clot risk that healthy women face from birth control pills, noted another expert, Dr. Peter Arlett.

The agency said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors. Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the U.K., where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director. “The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects.”

Arlett said there is no information suggesting an increased risk from the other major COVID-19 vaccines.

The EMA’s investigation focused on unusual types of blood clots that are occurring along with low blood platelets. One rare clot type appears in multiple blood vessels and the other in veins that drain blood from the brain.

While the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks, that assessment is “more finely balanced” among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, the U.K’s Van-Tam said.

“We are not advising a stop to any vaccination for any individual in any age group,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. “We are advising a preference for one vaccine over another vaccine for a particular age group, really out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns.”

In March, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, suspended their use of AstraZeneca over the blood clot issue. Most restarted — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said countries should continue using the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Britain, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca, however, continued to use it.

The suspensions were seen as particularly damaging for AstraZeneca because they came after repeated missteps in how the company reported data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and concerns over how well its shot worked in older people. That has led to frequently changing advice in some countries on who can take the vaccine, raising worries that AstraZeneca’s credibility could be permanently damaged, spurring more vaccine hesitancy and prolonging the pandemic.

Dr. Peter English, who formerly chaired the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the back-and-forth over the AstraZeneca vaccine globally could have serious consequences.

“We can’t afford not to use this vaccine if we are going to end the pandemic,” he said.

In some countries, authorities have already noted hesitance toward the AstraZeneca shot.

“People come and they are reluctant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, they ask us if we also use anything else,” said Florentina Nastase, a doctor and co-ordinator at a vaccination centre in Bucharest, Romania. “There were cases in which people (scheduled for the AstraZeneca) didn’t show up, there were cases when people came to the centre and saw that we use only AstraZeneca and refused (to be inoculated).”

Meanwhile, the governor of Italy’s northern Veneto region had said earlier Wednesday that any decision to change the guidance on AstraZeneca would cause major disruptions to immunizations — at a time when Europe is already struggling to ramp them up — and could create more confusion about the shot.

“If they do like Germany, and allow Astra Zeneca only to people over 65, that would be absurd. Before it was only for people under 55. Put yourself in the place of citizens, it is hard to understand anything,” Luca Zaia told reporters.

The latest suspension of AstraZeneca came in Spain’s Castilla y Leon region, where health chief Veronica Casado said Wednesday that “the principle of prudence” drove her to put a temporary hold on the vaccine that she still backed as being both effective and necessary.

French health authorities had said they, too, were awaiting EMA’s conclusions, as were some officials in Asia.

On Wednesday, South Korea said it would temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people 60 and younger. In that age group, the country is only currently vaccinating health workers and people in long-term care settings.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it would also pause a vaccine rollout to school nurses and teachers that was to begin on Thursday, while awaiting the outcome of the EMA’s review.

But some experts urged perspective. Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of Britain’s vaccination committee, said that the program has saved at least 6,000 lives in the first three months and will help pave the way back to normal life.

“What is clear it that for the vast majority of people the benefits of the Oxford AZ vaccine far outweigh any extremely small risk,” he said. “And the Oxford AZ vaccine will continue to save many from suffering the devastating effects that can result from a COVID infection.”

Source: – CTV News

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