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COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while BC cases decrease

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Dr. Bonnie Henry is calling it a precipice, a plateau from which the novel coronavirus could spring upwards, or decline.

New cases in B.C. have hovered around 500 per day, but on Vancouver Island, numbers have anything but plateaued.

While B.C. is showing a gradual decline in new cases, Island Health is smashing through new highs weekly. The Island took 10 months to reach 1,000 cumulative cases. Three weeks later, that total has already reached 1,458.

What’s behind the exponential increase? Vancouver Island’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick isn’t sure.

But whatever the cause, the Island is seeing double digit case counts every day in January. The region has registered 25 or more new cases 11 times. Ten of those totals came in the past three weeks.

Contact tracing teams have gone all out — as of Jan. 26, the region had 753 people isolating after being identified as close contacts, and 217 people confirmed as positive. Total cases are still manageable, hospitals are not at capacity.

In fact, Vancouver Island has been able to offer support to Northern B.C., an area that is bursting at capacity for beds.

Most of the current Island cases are within the Central Island region, between the Nanaimo hospital outbreak, some school exposures, and Cowichan Tribes which has had more than 150 cases. The First Nation’s membership is sheltering in place until at least Feb. 5.

Indigenous people are four times more likely to experience the worst effects of COVID-19, Stanwick said.

“This is open to speculation as to why, whether they are under-housed, or a is there a propensity to it? The simple fact is unfortunately they are more vulnerable to the effects,” Stanwick said.

It’s one of the reasons First Nations communities are included in priority vaccinations along with long-term care and assisted living residents and workers.

“The good news is that we have finished immunizing all long-term care clients who have wished to be immunized as of [Jan. 24], and are working hard to complete all of our assisted living by mid-week,” Stanwick said.

But we’re far from out of the woods, even with positive first steps.

“It’s only the first dose they’ve gotten, and this is where I cross my fingers and my toes. It takes 14 days to get a good immune response mounted by the body. So we’re still vulnerable for two more weeks. There is a possibility we could still see outbreaks in our long-term care and assisted living facilities.”

The First Nations Health Authority has set a goal of delivering vaccinations to all First Nations on the Island by the end of March. That process is well underway.

What really worries Stanwick is the rising number of people who have no clue where they contracted the virus. It makes contact tracing nearly impossible, and makes it a lot harder to control the spread.

Take the U.K. variant for example; one Central Island resident caught it while travelling. They passed it to two others, but all three people followed quarantine rules and the strain died there.

The South African variant — which has not yet been found on the Island — is of unknown origin at this time.

“It’s when it surprises us that’s where we worry the most,” Stanwick said.

Vancouver Island’s positivity rate is another concern. Dr. Henry regularly says the goal is to keep it at 1 per cent or below, but the Island is almost at 4 per cent right now.

“We’re still looking at a few months out for wide vaccinations. We are so close, I’d hate to see us backslide into the same situation as the U.K., going into full lock down,” he said.

“The orders [Dr. Henry] puts in place have worked. They’ve gotten us where we are, we’ve just got to hang in a little longer.”

In the meantime, Stanwick said Vancouver Island Health Authority is assigning environmental health officers to identify places where standards are not being met. It’s not a hunt to issue fines, he said, but an effort to help people understand what Work Safe requirements are. However, they are issuing fines to people unwilling to comply.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Source: – Nanaimo News Bulletin

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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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The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 – Cochrane Today

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The latest developments on the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada (all times eastern):

6:35 p.m.

British Columbia is reporting 589 new cases of COVID-19, along with seven deaths.

But the province cautions the numbers are considered provisional due to delayed updates in its lab reporting system.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say in a statement that the federal government’s approval of the vaccines by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Verity-Serum Institute of India is encouraging news.

More than 250,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., with roughly 73,000 of those being second doses.

5:40 p.m.

Alberta has recorded 356 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths. 

There were 269 people in hospital with the virus, including 55 in intensive care. 

The test positivity rate was 3.9 per cent.

Two doctors who co-chair the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s pandemic committee are urging the Alberta government to hold off on easing restrictions on Monday.

They also think restrictions should be tightened on bars, restaurants and pubs, which they say are overcrowded and not following existing rules.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says he still needs to see latest data, but so far there’s been nothing that warrants alarm.

4:30 p.m.

Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka will be in lockdown starting Monday based on COVID-19 trends.

Ontario announced the decision on Friday after local leaders in Thunder Bay called for help amid growing spread of the virus.

Public health restrictions will loosen in seven other Ontario public health units on Monday.

Data has shown COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations dropped after strict public health measures took effect in January, but numbers are starting to rise again.

4:10 p.m.

Prince Edward Island is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says the case involves a woman in her 20s, adding that the infection does not appear to be directly linked to other cases announced this week.

She says health officials are still trying to determine the source of an outbreak of three cases in the Summerside area, about 60 kilometres west of Charlottetown.

Morrison says COVID-19 testing is being offered in the Summerside area for people between the ages of 14 and 21 on Saturday and for those between 22 and 29 on Sunday.

3:10 p.m.

Saskatchewan health officials announced 153 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths Friday. 

There were 155 people in hospital, with 16 in intensive care. 

The province says 3,545 vaccine doses were administered Thursday for a total of 69,451.

1:55 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting one new travel-related case of COVID-19 today involving a person in their 20s in the Moncton region.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says there are 41 active known cases in the province and that one person is in hospital with the disease, in intensive care.

She says if the number of new cases remains low, all areas of the province may be able to move from the “orange” to the lower, “yellow” pandemic-alert level on March 7.

Under the new rules, mask-wearing will still be required for indoor activities but not outdoor ones, and restrictions will be eased for entertainment centres, churches and sporting activities.

1:50 p.m.

Health officials in Manitoba say one more person has died due to COVID-19 and there are 64 more cases. 

The number of new infections has been steadily decreasing in Manitoba over recent weeks. 

There are 191 people in hospital due to the novel coronavirus. 

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccination task force, says there’s no indication yet about how much of the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine will come to the province. 

But she says 250 clinics and pharmacies are ready to provide doses when it arrives.

1:35 p.m.

Nunavut is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.

The new case is in Arviat, a community of about 2,800 and the only place in Nunavut with active cases.

Arviat, which continues to see an outbreak of the virus, has been in a strict lockdown for over 100 days.

All schools and non-essential businesses in the community are closed and travel is restricted.

There are 26 active cases in Nunavut, all in Arviat.

1:10 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador health authorities are reporting four new cases of COVID-19.

Officials say they are also battling the province’s first outbreak at a hospital.

Though Eastern Health officials will not provide exact numbers, they say fewer than 10 people are affected by an outbreak at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital in St. John’s.

Public health says a wider outbreak in the St. John’s metro region is ongoing and there are now 11 people in hospital with the virus, including five in intensive care.

12:10 p.m.

Canada’s chief public health officer says the daily COVID-19 case counts are nearly 75 per cent higher than they were at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic last spring.

Dr. Theresa Tam says the average daily case counts in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia have increased between eight and 14 per cent over the previous week.

She says that as of Thursday evening, there have now been 858,217 COVID-19 cases in Canada, including 21,865 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic.

Tam warns that COVID-19 variants can still emerge and those that spread more quickly can become predominant.

12:05 p.m.

Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19 today.

Nine of the new cases have been identified in the health region that includes Halifax, and one is in the eastern region.

Of the new cases, five are close contacts of previously reported cases, three are under investigation and two are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

12 p.m.

Ontario’s science advisers say prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations based on neighbourhood as well as age could prevent thousands of cases and reduce the number of deaths due to the pandemic.

The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table makes the findings in a new report released today.

The group says the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on older adults and residents of disadvantaged and racialized urban neighbourhoods. 

It says targeting those residents for vaccination first could minimize deaths, illness and hospitalizations across Ontario. 

11:50 a.m.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada has secured two million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine through a deal with Verity Pharmaceutical Canada Inc. and the Serum Institute of India.

She says 500,000 of those doses will be delivered in the coming weeks.

Another 1.5 million doses will arrive by mid-May.

This is on top of the 20 million doses already secured through an earlier deal with AstraZeneca.

Health Canada approved the vaccine for use in Canada earlier today.

11:25 a.m.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on the federal government to work to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines to give poorer countries greater access to doses.

Singh joined with former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis today to demand Ottawa support developing nations at an upcoming World Trade Organization meeting.

Those countries are asking for a patent waiver, which would allow them to produce generic versions of the vaccines.

Singh is also calling for the WTO to suspend its dispute resolution mechanism as it applies to poorer countries so that pharmaceutical companies cannot sue them over vaccine production.

(The Canadian Press)

11 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 815 new COVID-19 infections and 11 more deaths attributed to the virus.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 13, to 620, and 119 people were in intensive care, a drop of three.

Quebec has now vaccinated more than 400,500 people with a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine after administering 12,038 doses on Thursday.

10:40 a.m.

Ontario’s ministry of health says there are 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says that of those new cases 362 are in Toronto, 274 are in Peel Region and 104 are in York Region.

There were also 28 more deaths linked to the virus in Ontario since the last daily update.

8:30 a.m.

Health Canada has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, the third to be given the green light for national use.

Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

It will also receive up to 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX by the end of June.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version, based on information provided by Dr. Theresa Tam, erroneously stated that daily COVID-19 case counts are nearly 75 times higher now than they were at the peak of the first wave. In fact, Tam later clarified they are 75 per cent higher than at the peak of the first wave.

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