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Dr. Heather Morrison to hold COVID-19 briefing at noon – CBC.ca

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Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison have announced an easing of COVID-19 restrictions including larger gatherings, more visitors in long-term care homes and a resumption of organized sports.

They made the announcement Thursday during an unscheduled briefing. 

“Though Islanders have earned some relief through their hard work and commitment, this is not the time to stop,” King reminded the province. 

The restrictions will ease Friday at 8 a.m. and the changes will last until Jan. 11. The new measures include:

  • A household can welcome 10 additional people for a private gathering. Morrison said the 10 people should “be as consistent as possible and physical distancing maintained as much as possible.”
  • Restaurants may offer dining room service again, but must close by 11 p.m. and capacity will be reduced.
  • Recreational and organized sports can resume, but tournaments are banned.
  • Residents in long-term care many have two partners in care each plus up to six additional visitors in assigned areas.
  • Organized gatherings such as church services and concerts may resume with a maximum of 50 people plus a second cohort of 50 if there is an approved operational plan.
  • Weddings and funerals may now have 50 people in attendance. 
  • Gyms, museums, craft fairs, markets and retail establishments can operate at 50 per cent of normal capacity.

With increased travel during the holidays, Morrison said she still expects to see more cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. in the coming weeks.

Circuit breaker measures eased early

This is an early easing of the “circuit-breaker” restrictions imposed after an outbreak of 11 cases on Dec. 5-6. Officials still have not been able to determine the cause of that outbreak, which affected a cluster of people primarily in their 20s. 

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King was happy to announce circuit-breaker restrictions are being eased four days early on P.E.I. (Ken Linton/CBC)

P.E.I. has had no new cases since Saturday, Dec. 12, when five cases related to travel were announced. 

King and Morrison said the lack of new cases showed that the restrictions, which had eliminated all public and private gatherings and saw thousands of people in their 20s tested in the Charlottetown area, had been successful in stemming the early-December outbreak.

Morrison did announce one new unrelated case on P.E.I. Thursday, a man in his 30s who travelled to P.E.I. on Air Canada flight 7462 on Dec. 13 from Toronto to visit family for the holidays. Morrison urged anyone on that flight to monitor themselves for symptoms. 

Morrison applauded the man’s decision to self-isolate in a location away from family, even though he was asymptomatic. 

The chief public health officer also urged Islanders to “think small, think consistent, think careful, be careful” over the holidays, acknowledging that Christmas will be different for many this year. 

“I am confident Islanders will comply,” she said, while admitting she is nervous. 

“For saving Christmas, thank you and thank all your staff,” King told Morrison at the end of the news conference. “That’s wonderful.” 

P.E.I. has confirmed a total of 90 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with no deaths or hospitalizations. As of midday Thursday, 17 cases were considered active. 

The province kicked off its vaccination program Wednesday, with health-care workers first in line for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Reminder of COVID-19 symptoms

The symptoms of COVID-19 can include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough or worsening of a previous cough.
  • Possible loss of taste and/or smell.
  • Sore throat.
  • New or worsening fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Runny nose.

More from CBC P.E.I.

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Vaccine delay left Barrie’s Roberta Place home vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreak – The Globe and Mail

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Paramedics transport a patient from Roberta Place, a long term seniors care facility which is the site of a COVID-19 outbreak, in Barrie, Ont., on Jan. 18, 2021.

CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

The slow rollout of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination program to people living and working in the province’s virus-ravaged nursing homes has left one facility where an unidentified variant has been detected vulnerable to a devastating outbreak.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit got the go-ahead to roll up its mobile immunization unit to Roberta Place last Saturday – days after an outbreak began ripping through the long-term care home in Barrie, north of Toronto, infecting nearly every resident.

Colin Lee, Simcoe Muskoka’s associate medical officer of health, said residents and staff should have received the vaccine well before the outbreak began.

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Vaccine maker Moderna delivered 168,000 doses to Canada at the end of December. The Ontario government earmarked the Moderna vaccine for Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Windsor-Essex, the four areas with the highest COVID-19 transmission rates.

Dr. Lee told reporters on Thursday that the four regions received the Moderna doses that were destined for Simcoe Muskoka. “We were planning to go straight to the long-term care homes with it,” he said.

Health authorities say an unidentified variant of COVID-19 is behind the outbreak at Roberta Place, which began on Jan. 8 after one staff member tested positive during routine screening.

The staffer was in close contact with someone who travelled internationally, but not to the United Kingdom, Brazil or South Africa. Dr. Lee said the staffer’s swab is one of six that contains an unidentified variant. It’s a “very, very high probability,” he said, that the variant will turn out to be the strain from one of those three countries.

Forty-eight hours after the outbreak began, 55 residents and staff were sickened with the virus. As of Thursday, 122 of the home’s 130 residents had tested positive for COVD-19, including 25 who have died. Another 72 staff and two essential visitors were also sickened with the virus.

The health unit immunized 21 residents on Saturday with the Pfizer vaccine, but testing subsequently revealed that most of them were already infected with COVID-19, Dr. Lee said.

“Unfortunately, the ability to move the vaccine came a little bit late,” he said.

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The health unit has a small amount of the Pfizer vaccine, which it must juggle between administering a second dose to long-term care residents and staff who’ve received their first shot and to those in retirement homes, who have yet to be vaccinated, Dr. Lee said.

“There are some difficult choices we have to make,” he said.

Fourteen cases of a COVID-19 variant have been found in Ontario as of Jan. 16, according to the province’s weekly epidemiologic summary. Roberta Place is the first known case of a highly contagious variant finding its way into a long-term care home in Canada – a sector that has been hard hit by the coronavirus.

Ontario has deemed residents of long-term care homes the province’s most vulnerable citizens. To date, 3,256 nursing home residents have died of COVID-19.

These residents were supposed to be at the front of the line for the vaccine. An expert committee that advises the Public Health Agency of Canada on immunization recommended that the first shots go into the arms of residents and staff in long-term care homes.

But in Ontario, that is not what has happened. The first dose of a vaccine has made its way to only 40 per cent of the province’s 626 long-term care homes, according to Alexandra Hilkene, press secretary for Health Minister Christine Elliott.

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In addition to the Moderna vaccine, Canada has also approved one made by Pfizer. Ontario opted to distribute its first doses of the Pfizer shot only through hospitals with access to freezers capable of keeping vials at -70 C, as the vaccine maker suggested.

“I can only wish I could turn the clock back,” Dr. Lee said. “If we had vaccines a month before we went in on Saturday, I think this outbreak would be a lot less severe.”

With a report from Laura Stone in Toronto

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Hospitalizations from COVID-19 in B.C. fall to level last seen in November – Squamish Chief

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The trajectory of serious COVID-19 infections in B.C. continues to point in the right direction, as the number of hospitalizations, and intensive care unit (ICU) patients, continues to fall.

The province now has 320 people hospitalized with the virus that has spawned a global pandemic. That is nine fewer than yesterday, and the lowest total since November 30.

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The number of hospital patients in ICU is similarly falling, as it is down by four overnight, to 66, which is the lowest total since November 26, according to government data.

Unfortunately 14 more people died overnight from complications related to the virus, pushing the death toll in B.C. to 1,104 since the first death was recorded on March 9.

New cases continue to pile up, with 500 people newly diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past day, and only 465 people newly diagnosed as having recovered. Testing also ramped up substantially, compared with yesterday, as 10,437 tests were given. That pushes the positive-test rate down to 4.7%, compared with 9.22% yesterday.

More than 89%, or 55,564 individuals out of the 62,412 people identified in B.C. as having contracted the virus, are deemed to have recovered.

The vast majority of the 4,345 people actively infected with the virus have been told to self-isolate, while 6,905 people are under active health monitoring from officials because they are known to have been in contact with others who have tested positive for the virus.

Here is a regional breakdown of where the 500 new cases were identified:
• 125 people in Vancouver Coastal Health (25%);
• 216 people in Fraser Health (43.2%);
• 32 in Island Health (6.4%);
• 91 in Interior Health (18.2%);
• 35 in Northern Health (7%); and
• one person who resides outside the province.

Despite fewer doses of vaccine expected to be delivered in later January than first expected, there were 5,756 vaccinations completed in the past day, for a total of 98,125 since the first dose was administered on December 16. 

”We have had two new health-care facility outbreaks: at Villa Cathay in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, and Acropolis Manor in the Northern Health Authority,” provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement.

“The outbreaks at Guildford Seniors Village and Maple Ridge Seniors Village in the Fraser Health Authority, as well as Mountainview Village and Village by the Station in the Interior Health Authority, are now over.”

They added that there has been one new community outbreak at the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre.

“Our COVID-19 curve is trending in the right direction, and we want to keep that going – to push our curve down, which in turn, will allow us to safely ease restrictions,” they said.

The nine hospitals identified as having active COVID-19 outbreaks are:
• Burnaby Hospital in Burnaby;
• Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake;
• Chilliwack General Hospital in Chilliwack;
• Mount St. Joseph’s Hospital in Vancouver;
• Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge;
• St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver;
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey;
• Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver; and
• University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George.

The nine active outbreaks at seniors’ living facilities in Vancouver Coastal Health are at:
• Arbutus Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Braddan Private Hospital in Vancouver;
• Fraserview Intermediate Care Lodge in Richmond;
• German Canadian Benevolent Society Home in Vancouver;
• Hilltop House in Squamish;
• Little Mountain Place in Vancouver;
• Minoru Residence in Richmond;
• Renfrew Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Sunrise of Vancouver in Vancouver; and
• Villa Cathay in Vancouver.

The 23 active outbreaks at seniors’ living facilities in Fraser Health are at:
• Avalon Gardens in Langley;
• Brookside Lodge in Surrey;
• Eagle Ridge Manor in Port Moody;
• Evergreen Baptist Care Society in White Rock;
• Fleetwood Villa in Surrey;
• George Derby Centre in Burnaby;
• Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre in Delta;
• Hilton Villa Seniors Community in Surrey;
• Kin Village in Tsawwassen;
• Kin Village West Court in Tsawwassen;
• Madison Care Centre in Coquitlam;
• Mayfair Seniors Living Care in Abbotsford;
• Menno Home in Abbotsford;
• Morgan Place Care Facility in Surrey
• Nicola Lodge in Port Coquitlam;
• Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge in White Rock;
• Queen’s Park Care Centre in New Westminster;
• Rideau Retirement Residence in Burnaby;
• Royal City Manor in New Westminster;
• St. Michael’s Centre Extended Care in Burnaby;
• Suncreek Village in Surrey;
• The Harrison at Elim Village in Surrey; and
• Waterford Retirement Residence in Delta.

The two active outbreaks at a seniors’ living facilities in Northern Health are at Jubilee Lodge in Prince George, and Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert.

The nine active outbreaks at seniors’ living facilities in Interior Health are at:
• Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops;
• Creekside Landing in Vernon;
• Heritage Retirement Residence in West Kelowna;
• Heritage Square in Vernon;
• Noric House in Vernon;
• Sunnybank Retirement Home in Oliver; and
• Williams Lake Seniors Village in Williams Lake.

In Island Health, there are two seniors’ facilities with an active outbreak of COVID-19:
• Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo; and
• Hart House in Victoria.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom
 

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Nova Scotia's freedom of information online service reopens after lengthy redesign – HalifaxToday.ca

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HALIFAX — Nova Scotia has restored an online portal through which the public can submit freedom of information requests, almost three years after the site was shut down because of a security breach.

The new site was launched Thursday and allows people to track the progress of requests, pay fees and receive responses.

The site was shut down in March 2018 after a 19-year-old downloaded documents from the site to his home computer.

About 7,000 documents were accessed over two days, affecting 700 people.

The young man wasn’t charged because he told officers he had used a widely available software to search for documents about a teachers’ labour dispute, and it became clear to authorities that the basic firewalls weren’t in place.

The province says it has updated and improved security features on the site to prevent further breaches.

Paula Arab, Nova Scotia’s Internal Services minister, said the province has a five-year contract worth $760,000 with two companies to operate the site.

Arab said it took time to set up the portal because the project was split into several parts. One portion involved receiving requests while another involved disclosing documents. Added security measures also required time, she said.

“We wanted to do as many security tests as we could and to come up with the right solutions, and we took seriously two reports given to us following the (security) breach,” Arab said.

The new access to information application site can be found at iaprequest.novascotia.ca.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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