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COVID-19 variant-driven third wave hits middle-aged adults hard – The Globe and Mail

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People line up at a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal on March 24, 2021.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Canada’s third wave of COVID-19 is escalating at an alarming rate, driven by variants that are sending more middle-aged people to hospital, just as the country’s immunization experts recommend against giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone under the age of 55.

Cases are increasing at such a fast clip in British Columbia that the government has imposed the strictest restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic. In Ontario, a new report shows variant infections are sending more people in their 40s and 50s to intensive-care units than earlier incarnations of the coronavirus.

“The third wave is really different, especially from the first wave,” said Katharina Plenk, chief and medical director of the department of medicine at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, a facility north of Toronto designated for COVID-19 patients. “Definitely there is a signal there that this is affecting a younger population. This is obviously something that hits close to home, and it’s been very scary to see.”

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COVID-19 case rates among

select provinces

Rate per 100,000 people,

seven-day moving average

British Columbia

Other provinces

Lowest point

since peak

40.6

The highest rate

of all provinces

Saskatchewan

13

Highest rate among

provinces during

the first wave

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

COVID-19 case rates among select provinces

Rate per 100,000 people, seven-day moving average

British Columbia

40.6

The highest rate

of all provinces

Other

provinces

Lowest point

since peak

Saskatchewan

13

Highest rate among

provinces during

the first wave

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

COVID-19 case rates among select provinces

Rate per 100,000 people, seven-day moving average

British Columbia

40.6

The highest rate

of all provinces

Other provinces

Lowest point

since peak

Saskatchewan

13

Highest rate among

provinces during

the first wave

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

The age profile of people with severe COVID-19 is also shifting because of vaccines, which have contributed to a steep drop in infections and deaths among residents of nursing and retirement homes, the chief victims of previous waves.

But Canada’s vaccination efforts were dealt a fresh blow on Monday. The expert group that advises the country on immunization policy called for a pause in injections of the AstraZeneca shot to anyone under 55 – one day before Canada was scheduled to receive 1.5 million doses of the vaccine from the United States.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued the new recommendation after rare cases of serious and unusual blood clots in European recipients, particularly women, under 55.

Although no such cases have been reported in Canada, Shelley Deeks, the vice-chair of NACI, said it made sense to stop giving the shot to younger people as a “precautionary measure,” while Health Canada investigates.

Health Canada itself has approved AstraZeneca for all adults, but officials said Monday they would now require manufacturers to conduct a “detailed assessment” of the benefits and risks by age and sex.

Provincial leaders said they would follow NACI’s guidance and direct their AstraZeneca doses to people 55 and older, but experts predicted the fog of uncertainty that has engulfed the AstraZeneca vaccine for weeks was bound to hurt uptake.

Lisa Richardson, a physician with Toronto’s University Health Network who works on vaccine hesitancy, said she agreed with the advisory committee’s recommendation. But, Dr. Richardson said, the real challenge will now be figuring out how to communicate why the decision makes scientific sense and why the vaccine still remains a good choice for those who are 55 and over.

“To have to backtrack and explain this … it is going to be a setback for this vaccine, which we know is an effective one,” she added.

Canada vaccine tracker: How many COVID-19 doses have been administered so far?

Most European countries that suspended using the AstraZeneca vaccine resumed administering the shot after the European Medicines Agency concluded on March 18 that the vaccine was safe. However, agency officials said they could not rule out a connection between the vaccine and a rare clotting disorder.

In recent days, a German-led research team found the disorder is comparable to one that is known to sometimes occur in reaction to the blood thinner heparin. In that case, heparin occasionally binds with a protein that is normally associated with blood platelets, the body’s natural clotting agents. The unusual combination alerts the immune system to produce antibodies that eventually end up triggering the platelets to form clots.

The vaccine-associated cases seen in Europe exhibit a similar syndrome, which the team in a study has dubbed vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia, or VIPIT. Similar antibodies were found in four out of four cases for which the team had blood samples.

The team’s results are documented in a study that has been posted online but is still undergoing peer review.

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“I’m confident that this is the explanation for these unusual cases,” said Ted Warkentin, a professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University who was a co-author on the study.

The disorder is extremely rare and can be tested for and treated if patients report problems after vaccination. Dr. Warkentin said a lab at McMaster is now prepared to do the necessary testing should any cases arise in Canada.

Some countries said the vaccine would be used only for older citizens since the risk of not being vaccinated grows steeply with age. But countries have varied on their cutoff age. France settled on 55, while Sweden and Finland are only giving the vaccine to people older than 65 and Iceland to those 70 and up.

COVID-19 cases and deaths in Canada

Rate per 100,000 population,

7-day moving average

0.5

0.4

0.3

0.2

0.1

0

25

20

15

10

5

0

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

COVID-19 cases and deaths in Canada

Rate per 100,000 population, 7-day moving average

0.5

0.4

0.3

0.2

0.1

0

25

20

15

10

5

0

April

2020

January

2021

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

COVID-19 cases and deaths in Canada

Rate per 100,000 population, 7-day movingaverage

0.5

0.4

0.3

0.2

0.1

0

25

20

15

10

5

0

April

2020

January

2021

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

Coronavirus tracker: How many COVID-19 cases are there in Canada and worldwide? The latest maps and charts

Meanwhile, Canada is now reporting more than 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day, on average, up from about 2,500 in early March, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Deaths have dropped to an average of 29 a day, down significantly from a second-wave high that topped an average of 160 a day in late January.

When it comes to infections, the Canada’s reversal of fortunes is being driven by faster-spreading variants of the coronavirus, particularly the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in Britain.

B.C. recorded 2,518 new COVID-19 cases from Friday to Sunday – about the same as in the first two months of the pandemic.

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The surge prompted the government to impose a provincewide “circuit-breaker.” For three weeks beginning Tuesday, dine-in service at bars and restaurants, all indoor adult group fitness activities, and worship services – which were just permitted to reopen on a limited basis – are all prohibited.

The Whistler Blackcomb ski resort is also required to close over the same period to address transmission within the community.

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry acknowledged variants were behind the spike. Of 2,233 confirmed variant cases, 1,915 are the B.1.1.7 variant most commonly associated with Britain, she said. But confirmed cases of the P.1 variant commonly associated with Brazil increased to 270 on Monday, up from 13 on March 9. There are currently 413 confirmed active variant cases in B.C.

“That is also a concern because we know this variant is not only more transmissible but has been shown in some parts of the world to be less amenable to the vaccine,” Dr. Henry said.

In Ontario, cases that have screened positive for a variant of concern now make up an estimated 67 per cent of all cases, according to the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

Science table members have also found B.1.1.7 to be more dangerous, reinforcing research from Britain and Denmark on the lethality of the new variants.

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In a new brief published Monday, the group concluded that, compared with early versions of the coronavirus, the variants of concern increase the risk of hospital admission, ICU admission and death by 63 per cent, 103 per cent and 56 per cent, respectively.

Ontario’s daily case counts are as high now as they were when Premier Doug Ford’s government ordered a provincewide lockdown on Boxing Day. More COVID-19 patients are in hospitals and ICUs now than they were then. But the percentage of coronavirus patients in ICUs who are younger than 60 is about 50 per cent higher than it was around Christmas.

Dr. Plenk of Cortellucci Vaughan sees evidence of that in her hospital. On Monday afternoon, one-third of the 30 coronavirus patients in its ICU were younger than 60. Two were in their 40s, and one in his or her 30s, Dr. Plenk said.

“We have a lot of patients who are factory workers or essential workers and their whole family is sick,” she added. “Before, the household infectivity rate was 30 per cent. Now, if one person has it, the whole family has it.”

Peter Juni, scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said the longer the Ontario government waits to renew and strengthen its public-health measures, the more “painful” an eventual lockdown will be.

“Every day we delay we just increase the burden for the health care system and we ensure, with everyday that we wait, that the restrictions will need to be longer,” he said. “That’s the challenge here.”

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With a report from Laura Stone in Toronto

The large number of COVID-19 infections in some places makes it more likely for new variants of the virus to emerge. Science Reporter Ivan Semeniuk explains how vaccines may not be as effective against these new strains, making it a race to control and track the spread of variants before they become a dangerous new outbreak. The Globe and Mail

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

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Oil prices rise on Middle East tensions; crude stock build caps gains – CNBC

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Oil pump under the blue sky with beam pumping unit in the oil field.
Zheng Zaishuru | iStock | Getty Images

Oil prices edged higher on Thursday, supported by tensions in the Middle East, but failed to regain most of the previous day’s losses after a surprise build in crude stockpiles in the United States, the world’s top oil consumer.

Brent crude oil futures rose by 14 cents, or 0.2%, to $70.52 a barrel by 0132 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures increased by 18 cents, or 0.3%, to $68.33 a barrel. Both benchmarks fell by more than $2 a barrel on Wednesday.

Israeli aircraft struck what its military said were rocket launch sites in south Lebanon early on Thursday in response to earlier projectile fire towards Israel from Lebanese territory.

Two rockets launched from Lebanon on Wednesday struck Israel, which initially responded with artillery fire amid heightened regional tensions over an alleged Iranian attack on an oil tanker in the Gulf last week.

The exchange came after an attack last Thursday that Israel blamed on Iran on a tanker off the coast of Oman. Two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed. Iran denied any involvement.

The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday it believed Iranians hijacked the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess tanker in the Gulf of Oman but was not in a position to confirm.

Helping check gains, a rise in locally transmitted Covid-19 cases in China, the world’s second largest oil consumer, that has prompted restrictions in some cities and cancellation of flights is threatening demand, analysts said.

Prices also fell steeply in the previous session after the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude stockpiles rose by an unexpected 3.6 million barrels last week.

Still, some analysts pointed to a bigger-than-forecast 5.3 million barrel fall in fuel stockpiles.

“The fall in U.S. gasoline stockpiles to the lowest level since November 2020 suggests that fuel demand conditions in the U.S. are still quite resilient,” analysts from Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a note on Thursday.

The bank expects Brent oil prices to rise to $85 a barrel by the fourth quarter as oil demand outpaces supply growth. 

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Ontario removes one COVID-19 case from Ottawa total Wednesday – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
Ottawa Public Health says five more people have tested positive for COVID-19 but the health unit removed 12 cases from its pandemic total after it was found those individuals did not live in Ottawa.

Cases are sometimes removed from totals for a particular health unit when investigations reveal the individual or individuals who tested positive live in another health region.

“On Aug. 3, 2021, some cases were removed from the OPH dashboard because it was determined that the individuals did not live within the city of Ottawa,” Ottawa Public Health said in a statement. “As such, OPH’s cumulative case count has decreased since the previous report.”

A previous version of this article reported an increase of three new cases and the removal of 10, based on changes in daily figures for total cases by age category. Ottawa Public Health later told CTV News Ottawa the correct figures in terms of daily new cases and cases removed via data correction was five new cases and 12 cases removed. The overall change to the pandemic total remains the same.

The correction brings the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ottawa down to 27,821, seven fewer than what was reported Tuesday. Eight of the cases removed from Ottawa’s total were considered resolved. The number of confirmed active cases in Ottawa rose by one.

Hospitals and ICUs in Ottawa remain free of COVID-19 patients and there are zero active COVID-19 outbreaks in the city.

Across the province, Public Health Ontario said 139 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 11 more Ontarians have died, while noting that seven deaths are from 2020 and were added following a data cleanup. Another 155 cases are now considered resolved.

Two new cases were reported in the Hastings Prince Edward Public Health region on Wednesday. No other eastern Ontario public health unit reported new COVID-19 infections.

OTTAWA’S KEY COVID-19 STATISTICS

Ottawa is now in Step 3 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen plan.

Ottawa Public Health data:

  • COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (July 27 to Aug. 2): 3.8 (down from 4.0)
  • Positivity rate in Ottawa (July 28 to Aug.3): 0.5 per cent (unchanged from July 23-29)
  • Reproduction number (seven day average): 0.95 (down from 1.16)

Reproduction values greater than 1 indicate the virus is spreading and each case infects more than one contact. If it is less than 1, it means spread is slowing.

COVID-19 VACCINES IN OTTAWA

Ottawa Public Health updates vaccine numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

As of Monday:

  • Ottawa residents with 1 dose (12+): 768,618 (+1,266)
  • Ottawa residents with 2 doses (12+): 668,736(+6,771)
  • Share of population 12 and older with at least one dose: 83 per cent
  • Share of population 12 and older fully vaccinated: 72 per cent
  • Total doses received in Ottawa*: 1,333,790

**Total doses received does not include doses shipped to pharmacies and primary care clinics, but statistics on Ottawa residents with one or two doses includes anyone with an Ottawa postal code who was vaccinated anywhere in Ontario. 

ACTIVE CASES OF COVID-19 IN OTTAWA

There are 43 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Wednesday, up from 42 on Tuesday.

Ottawa Public Health removed eight resolved cases from its pandemic total on Wednesday. The total number of resolved cases of coronavirus in Ottawa is 27,185. The eight cases were removed upon investigations revealing these individuals did not live in Ottawa.

The number of active cases is the number of total laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 minus the numbers of resolved cases and deaths. A case is considered resolved 14 days after known symptom onset or positive test result.

HOSPITALIZATIONS IN OTTAWA

Ottawa Public Health is reporting zero COVID-19 patients in local hospitals and zero in intensive care.

Local ICUs have been COVID-19 free for more than a month.

These data are based on figures from Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, which refer to residents of Ottawa and do not include patient transfers from other regions.

COVID-19 CASES IN OTTAWA BY AGE CATEGORY

  • 0-9 years old: Three new cases (2,307 total cases)
  • 10-19 years-old: Zero new cases (3,586 total cases)
  • 20-29 years-old: Three cases removed from total (6,243 total cases)
  • 30-39 years-old: Three cases removed from total (4,251 total cases)
  • 40-49 years-old: One case removed from total (3,662 total cases)
  • 50-59 years-old: Two cases removed from total (3,332 total cases)
  • 60-69-years-old: One case removed from total (1,964 total cases)
  • 70-79 years-old: Zero new cases (1,097 total cases)
  • 80-89 years-old: Zero new cases (856 total cases)
  • 90+ years old: Zero new cases (520 total cases)
  • Unknown: Zero new cases (3 cases total)  

VARIANTS OF CONCERN

Ottawa Public Health data*:

  • Total Alpha (B.1.1.7) cases: 6,834 (-1)
  • Total Beta (B.1.351) cases: 406
  • Total Gamma (P.1) cases: 35 
  • Total Delta (B.1.617.2) cases: 52 (+1)
  • Percent of new cases with variant/mutation in last 30 days: 40 per cent
  • Total variants of concern/mutation cases: 9,154 (+1)
  • Deaths linked to variants/mutations: 101

*OPH notes that that VOC and mutation trends must be treated with caution due to the varying time required to complete VOC testing and/or genomic analysis following the initial positive test for SARS-CoV-2. Test results may be completed in batches and data corrections or updates can result in changes to case counts that may differ from past reports.

COVID-19 TESTING IN OTTAWA

Ottawa Public Health says 525 Ottawa residents were tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday. The daily positivity rate was 0.95 per cent.

The weekly average positivity rate for Ottawa residents for the week of July 28 to Aug. 3 is 0.5 per cent.

CASES OF COVID-19 AROUND THE REGION

  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit: Zero new cases
  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health: Two new cases
  • Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health: Zero new cases
  • Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit: Zero new cases
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit: Zero new cases

Correction:

A previous version of this article reported an increase of three new cases and the removal of 10, based on changes in daily figures for total cases by age category. Ottawa Public Health later told CTV News Ottawa the correct figures in terms of daily new cases and cases removed via data correction was five new cases and 12 cases removed. The overall change to the pandemic total remains the same.

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Feds say 82000-plus doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to be sent to Trinidad and Tobago – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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OTTAWA – The federal government has announced it will send more than 82,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Trinidad and Tobago.

International Development Minister Karina Gould said in a release Wednesday that Trinidad and Tobago was selected to receive the excess doses that had already arrived in Canada based on need and the country’s capacity to deploy them immediately.

Gould said the doses will be delivered in the coming days and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will manage the administration of the vaccines in accordance with manufacturing guidelines and public health best practices.

Last month, the federal government said it would donate nearly 18 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to poorer countries.

At the time, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said after talking to the provinces, the federal government determined these vaccine doses were excess supply, as demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine had been met.

She said Canada would donate 17.7 million doses that were supposed to flow into Canada from the United States through an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca and that they would be made available to lower-income countries through the global vaccine-sharing alliance COVAX.

In her statement Wednesday, Gould said vaccinating the world against COVID-19 continues to be the best strategy to end the pandemic.

“By redirecting excess doses we do not need here in Canada, we are supporting global efforts to fight this virus, and ensuring vaccines get to those in need,” she said. “Canadians know that no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

At the G7 meeting in June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that Canada would give back at least 13 million doses it was set to receive through a contract with COVAX, on top of millions of dollars already set aside for the global vaccine effort.

Global Affairs Canada said Trinidad and Tobago is a key partner for Canada, with more than 100,000 Canadians with connections to the country, and many thousands of Trinbagonians with connections to Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2021

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