Alberta’s chief medical officer of health will give an update Wednesday on the COVID-19 situation in the province.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw will speak at her usual time, 3:30 p.m., and her update will be live streamed in this post.
The update comes one day after the province announced it would be expanding its free self-isolation hotel program and financial supports to targeted communities in Edmonton and Calgary that are seeing high rates of COVID-19 transmission.
The province also officially started its rollout of its vaccination program Tuesday.
A respiratory therapist at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton and an ICU nurse at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre were the first people in the province to get the Pfizer vaccine.
On Tuesday, the province confirmed 1,341 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the province’s active case total to 20,849. With 16,353 tests done in the last 24 hours, the province’s positivity rate for Tuesday sat at 8.2 per cent.
AHS hires more contact tracers
On Wednesday, Alberta Health Services confirmed to Global News it had recently hired 400 new staff to support contact-tracing efforts in the province.
That brings the current total to 1,100.
Before the pandemic, AHS had 50 contact tracers on staff. In July, that number was increased to 300 and in September it increased again to 700.
The agency said it plans to hire 500 more by the end of the year to reach a total of 1,600.
“AHS has continued to enhance our contact-tracing teams to meet demand,” AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said in an email Wednesday.
“We are rapidly increasing our response to the unprecedented volume of COVID-19 cases in the province.”
The province remains under strict restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, including a 15 per cent capacity limit for retail and grocery stores, as well as places of worship.
All restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes have closed in-person dining but can still offer takeout. All entertainment venues, recreation facilities, casinos, personal and wellness services have also closed.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces details of new COVID-19 outreach campaign
Masks are now mandatory in all indoor public spaces and workplaces across the province, with the exception of farm operations and rental accommodations.
All indoor and outdoor social gatherings are also banned.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada to wait longer than Europe for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine – The Globe and Mail
The European Union will have a much shorter interruption in deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine than Canada, despite commitments last week that countries would share equally in a temporary drop in doses.
On Friday, the federal government announced vaccine deliveries to Canada would be cut by half for a four-week period starting Jan. 25. The pharmaceutical giant said the slowdown was needed to allow the company to retool its Belgian plant in order to expand production.
Major-General Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s vaccine logistics, said the loss would be made up in the subsequent weeks, with the company still delivering all four million vaccine doses in the first quarter — as previously committed.
Maj-Gen. Fortin also said that every country that has purchased Pfizer vaccines will be “affected equally.” But after first laying out a three- to four-week slowdown in shipments to European countries, the company later said shipments would resume their original schedule to European Union members the week of Jan. 25.
The vaccine is delayed in Canada as COVID-19 infections continue to rise and as pressure on hospitals remains high in many parts of the country. Ontario reported 3,422 new infections on Sunday, along with 69 deaths. The numbers were based on nearly 60,200 tests.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said in an e-mailed statement Sunday that Ottawa has reiterated to Pfizer the importance of Canada returning to its regular delivery schedule of vaccines, but no explanation was provided for the discrepancy.
“I understand and share the concerns of Canadians regarding the temporary delivery delay of Pfizer doses,” Ms. Anand said. “We are once again in touch with representatives from Pfizer to reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible.”
Canada was previously expecting to receive 208,650 doses in the last week of January and about 367,000 doses each week in February. Instead, about 655,000 of those doses will be delivered later.
Based on publicly released delivery numbers, the drop will translate to approximately 327,000 people getting their two-shot vaccine later than expected.
The slowdown means Ontario will increase the interval between the two shots needed to maximize the protection provided by the vaccine, from the company-recommended 21 days to up to 42 days. On Friday, British Columbia said it was also evaluating whether it would need to increase the interval between the shots.
Ms. Anand said Pfizer assured the government it is deploying all efforts to return Canada to its original delivery schedule as soon as possible. “This is an evolving situation. As soon as updated information on the delivery of Pfizer doses for Canada is available, we will share it with Canadians,” she said.
Europe had initially been advised it would face a similar delay as Canada. Germany’s Health Ministry had said Friday that Pfizer informed the European Commission it would not be able to fulfill all of its promised deliveries in the next three to four weeks. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she “immediately called the CEO of Pfizer.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at his press conference that the setback was “out of our hands” and that’s why Canada has contracts with several vaccine developers.
Christina Antoniou, a spokesperson for Pfizer, said in an e-mailed statement Sunday that because of the improvements the company is undertaking to scale up capacity, vaccine shipments will be temporarily affected in late January and early February, but it will allow for a significant increase in late February and March.
“The principle of equity is used when considering allocation of doses worldwide and we expect to have more information in the coming days,” Ms. Antoniou said.
Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner said in an e-mailed statement that it is up to the Prime Minister to explain to Canadians why they will not be able to get vaccinated for months after people in other countries, such as the United States.
“It’s up to him to explain why, based on Friday’s news about vaccine delivery delays, we might be looking at many more months of lockdown – with the lost jobs, time with families, and mental health challenges that accompany them – while vaccines are being delivered to countries like the United States. It’s also up to him to find better path forward; if his Plan A has failed, what’s Plan B?” asked Ms. Rempel Garner.
With a report from the Associated Press
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Ontario to expand big-box retail blitz amid widespread rule violations, labour minister says – Global News
TORONTO — An enforcement blitz that uncovered numerous violations of COVID-19 prevention protocols across big-box retailers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas will broaden its scope to include the rest of the province in the weeks ahead, the province’s labour minister said Sunday.
Monty McNaughton said the initial wave of inspectors combing retailers for those eschewing masks and ignoring physical distancing guidelines found only 70 per cent of sites they visited were adhering to the public health measures intended to curb the spread of the virus. He called the results disappointing, pledging to expand the enforcement efforts to other parts of the province as well as additional industries at risk from COVID-19 outbreaks.
“We’ll be expanding that in the days and weeks to come across the whole province,” McNaughton said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to continue targeting bad actors and we’ll continue issuing fines and close them down if we have to.”
The initial blitz involved 50 inspectors fanning out across Toronto, Hamilton and surrounding municipalities to observe the scene at multiple big-box retailers, which are among the businesses allowed to keep their doors open under Ontario’s current stay-at-home order.
McNaughton said big-box stores would remain a key target during the provincewide expansion. The ministry issued a document late last week saying inspections would also involve workplaces which reported COVID-19 outbreaks and businesses focused on manufacturing, warehousing, distribution centres and food processing.
Word of the expansion comes amid growing pressure to quell soaring COVID-19 case counts across Ontario, which showed little sign of abating over the weekend.
The province reported 3,422 new cases of COVID-19 and another 69 deaths on Sunday, up more than 10 per cent from levels recorded the day before.
Coronavirus: Critically ill patients flown to other regions due to ICU bed shortage
The bulk of the most recent diagnoses remain in Toronto and nearby Peel Region, where 1,035 and 585 new infections were identified in the past 24 hours.
Windsor-Essex County, York Region and Niagara logged another 254, 246 and 186 cases respectively.
McNaughton was hopeful the weekend blitz would help reign in those numbers.
The inspectors visited 110 retailers on Saturday alone and found 31 violations of COVID-19 protocols, he said, noting that amounts to a compliance rate of just over 70 per cent.
They issued 11 formal warnings and 11 tickets, he added.
McNaughton said he’d hoped the compliance rate would be much higher.
“Every business, every supervisor and every worker out there has to do more today than at any point during this pandemic to keep people safe and to be vigilant,” he said.
What’s driving the COVID-19 surge in Windsor, Ontario?
The blitz, which continued Sunday, is part of an array of measures the province unveiled in recent days to toughen its approach to COVID-19.
Ontario recently ordered people to only leave their homes for groceries, medical appointments, exercise and work that can’t be completed remotely.
Stores selling non-essential goods have been forced to temporarily close and operate solely through e-commerce and curbside pickups.
The most common violations inspectors found big box stores contravening were linked to screening of customers and staff, masking protocols and physical distancing problems, McNaughton said.
Coronavirus: Vaughan closes outdoor skating, tobogganing
The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development says it has conducted more than 34,000 COVID-19 related workplace inspections and halted unsafe work 55 times throughout the pandemic.
It is in the process of hiring an additional 100 health and safety inspectors and doubling the number of phone lines at the provincial Health and Safety Contact Centre, where violations can be reported.
Individuals found violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act can be fined up to $100,000 and imprisoned for as long as a year, while corporations can be fined up to $1.5 million per charge.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
How long will rural doctors have to wait for the vaccine? – CBC News
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- How long will rural doctors have to wait for the vaccine? CBC News
- Quebec Is Getting Nearly 90,000 Fewer Pfizer Vaccine Doses Than Expected By Next Month MTL Blog
- COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down Medicine Hat News
- LILLEY: Time for Trudeau to deliver badly-needed vaccines Toronto Sun
- Lebanon signs with Pfizer for 2.1 million vaccine doses The Times of Israel
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