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Fauci: Vaccinations are ramping up in a `glimmer of hope' – Vancouver Is Awesome

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The U.S. ramped up COVID-19 vaccinations in the past few days after a slower-than-expected start, bringing the number of shots dispensed to about 4 million, government health officials said Sunday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, also said on ABC’s “This Week” that President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to administer 100 million shots of the vaccine within his first 100 days in office is achievable.

And he rejected President Donald Trump’s false claim on Twitter that coronavirus deaths and cases in the U.S. have been greatly exaggerated.

“All you need to do … is go into the trenches, go into the hospitals, go into the intensive care units and see what is happening. Those are real numbers, real people and real deaths,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The U.S. death toll has climbed past 350,000, the most of any country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, while more than 20 million people nationwide have been infected. States have reported record numbers of cases over the past few days, and funeral homes in Southern California are being inundated with bodies.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the pandemic is getting worse in his city as the virus spreads rapidly within households and people let their guard down with news of a vaccine’s arrival. “This is a virus that preys off of our weakness, preys off of our exhaustion,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Experts believe that the real numbers of U.S. deaths and infections are much higher and that many cases were overlooked, in part because of insufficient testing.

Fauci said he has seen “some little glimmer of hope” after 1.5 million doses were administered in the previous 72 hours, or an average of about 500,000 per day, a marked increase in vaccinations. He said that brings the total to about 4 million.

He acknowledged the U.S. fell short of its goal of having 20 million doses shipped and distributed by the end of December.

“There have been a couple of glitches. That’s understandable,” Fauci said. “We are not where we want to be, there’s no doubt about that.”

But he expressed optimism that the momentum will pick up by mid-January and that ultimately the U.S. will be vaccinating 1 million people a day. Biden’s “goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days is a realistic goal,” Fauci said.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccine development and distribution effort, told CBS that 17.5 million doses have been shipped. About 13 million of those have been distributed to clinics, hospitals and other places where they will be administered, according to Fauci.

The 20 million-dose goal hasn’t been reached in part because local health departments and medical facilities had to stay focused on testing to handle a surge in cases, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said. And the holiday season meant health workers were taking time off, he said.

“I don’t want anyone to think I’m being Pollyannish here. There’s what we delivered, and we hope that those will be translated into vaccinations. That has not occurred to the way that we would like,” Adams said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

On Sunday morning, Trump falsely tweeted that the outbreak has been “far exaggerated” because of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “ridiculous” methodology. He complained, too, that Fauci has been credited by the news media with doing “an incredible job” when Fauci “works for me and the Trump Administration, and I am in no way given any credit for my work.”

Fauci and others are warning that an additional surge is likely because of holiday gatherings and the cold weather keeping people indoors.

“It could and likely will get worse in the next couple of weeks, or at least maintain this very terribly high level of infections and deaths that we’re seeing,” Fauci said.

Arizona on Sunday reported a one-day record of more than 17,200 new cases, eclipsing the previous mark of about 12,000 set in early December. Health officials said the jump appears to reflect infections from Christmas gatherings but was also probably inflated by a reporting lag over New Year’s weekend.

North Carolina and Texas reported record numbers of people in the hospital with COVID-19 — nearly 3,600 and over 12,500, respectively..

Overseas, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said more onerous lockdown restrictions in England are likely as a variant of the coronavirus has pushed infection rates to their highest levels on record. More than 50,000 new infections have been reported daily over the past six days.

Scientists have said the variant is up to 70% more contagious. While Fauci said the U.S. needs to do its own study, he noted that British researchers believe that the mutated version is no deadlier or more likely to make people sicker and that vaccines are effective against it.

But Scott Gottlieb, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner who serves on the board of vaccine maker Pfizer, said on “Face the Nation” that the variant “really creates more urgency around trying to get this vaccine out more quickly and get more people vaccinated.”

___

Associated Press writers worldwide contributed to this report.

Gary D. Robertson, The Associated Press







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British Columbia announces plan for mass vaccination campaign starting in April – The Globe and Mail

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Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Adrian Dix look on as Premier John Horgan talks about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Jan. 22, 2021.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

Starting in February, British Columbia’s oldest residents will be asked to pre-register to get their COVID-19 vaccination, securing a place in line for when their age group is called.

The B.C. government offered the details of its distribution plan on Friday, as it wraps up the first phase of priority vaccinations for those in long-term care facilities. Rebuffing demands from various industries and professions, it has instead established a rollout based mostly on a resident’s date of birth.

“The science is very clear. The single biggest factor for death or severe illness, is age,” Premier John Horgan told a news conference on Friday. He said he has been lobbied hard by different interest groups that wanted priority vaccines, but said the plan is driven by the statistics on risk. An individual older than 60 is five times as likely to get seriously ill or die from COVID-19 than someone younger than 45, he noted. “No matter where you work, no matter what you do, your age is the predominant factor. And that’s been the focus of the development of this plan.”

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Even with mass vaccinations around the province starting in April, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said relief from pandemic restrictions such as mask requirements, travel limits and bans on social gatherings are many months away.

“I would love to be able to say July 1st, but I think there are a whole lot of unknowns,” she said. She suggested that non-essential travel within B.C. will likely be permitted by the summer, but not large gatherings. She cautioned that the new variants of COVID-19, or additional shortages of promised vaccines, could change that.

“By the summer, we should be able to have some types of our normal lives back again,” she said. “But the full, back to what we would like to have, in terms of social interactions and being together, is not likely until the fall.”

The province, dealing with uncertainty around vaccine supply, is focused on reaching select high-risk populations, such as people who are homeless, acute-care health workers, elderly residents at home and family doctors. Roughly 520,000 people are expected to be vaccinated in this early stage of the program, before distribution is opened up to the remainder of the province’s eligible adults. The two vaccines currently available in Canada, made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, have not been approved for people younger than 18.

Once residents are pre-registered, they will be contacted by their local health authority for the opportunity to visit one of mass vaccination centres that are being organized in 172 communities around the province. They will be set up in school gymnasiums, convention halls and stadiums, staffed by nurses and others who can be trained to administer the vaccine. Residents will emerge with a vaccination card, and instructions on when to return for their booster shot within 35 days.

Residents older than 79, or Indigenous elders older than 64, will be served first. Vaccinations will proceed based on age, descending in five-year increments. The last group to receive their shots will be those aged 18 to 24, with the last, second doses expected to be done in October.

The B.C. teachers union said they are concerned with the plan. “B.C. teachers, like many others, will be disappointed to see there is no prioritization for the front-line workers who have kept our schools, public services and economy open,” federation president Teri Mooring said in a statement.

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The Mayor of the Vancouver Island city of Duncan, which has seen a large wave of COVID-19 cases, expressed relief at word the program is under way. “The way that they rolled it out makes sense,” Michelle Staples said in an interview. “You can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Before, there has been [this sense] that we have no idea how long this is going to go on.”

Ian MacPhee, comptroller of Prince of Whales, a marine-tour company operating out of Vancouver and Vancouver Island, said the prospect of widespread vaccination in B.C. provides some “hopeful certainty” for his tourism business.

But hope has a cost. He said his 27-year-old company faces the challenge of surviving to the point when many are vaccinated. “But how many limbs will we have left? We may be that soldier stumbling off the battlefield with only one arm and one leg,” said Mr. MacPhee, who is also an at-large member of the board of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C.

The province’s plan is banking on the delivery of only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, but Dr. Henry said she is hoping a third vaccine, by AstraZeneca, will be approved shortly. That additional supply would allow the province to target some groups that are not currently prioritized but still facing elevated risk.

Until a majority of residents are vaccinated, the virus will continue to pose a risk, she noted. “We need to keep this bargain that we have made with each other, this social contract that we have, to keep ourselves, our communities, protected through this next few months, as we get towards the light, as we start to see the time when we will be able to come together again, when we will be able to take our masks off.”

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

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B.C. now has three clinics for ‘long-hauler’ COVID-19 patients with lingering symptoms – The Globe and Mail

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Katy McLean, a COVID-19 ‘long-hauler’ in Vancouver, on Jan. 22, 2021.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

British Columbia has launched a network of three clinics offering specialized treatments for COVID-19 patients still suffering from an array of ailments months after testing positive for the virus, with researchers using evidence from this care to better understand the long-term effects of the disease.

On Friday, a group of local health authorities announced units already operating at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver have now been joined by one this week at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre in Surrey, still the B.C. community reporting the most new cases each day.

As the pandemic nears its first year in Canada, health authorities across the country are grappling with how to treat those patients, who refer to themselves as long haulers. Alberta has announced three similar clinics, while Ontario has one in Toronto and one in London.

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Most patients at the trio of B.C. clinics will see a doctor at the facility three months after they first feel ill and then have follow-up visits after six months and then a year. “We’re truly building this plane as we’re flying it and we haven’t reached the 12-month mark,” said Zachary Schwartz, head of the recovery clinic at Vancouver General Hospital.

Though the scientific research to date varies, Jesse Greiner, the head of St. Paul’s clinic, told The Globe and Mail that a leading study showed up to 13 per cent of patients in the United Kingdom self-reported still having symptoms a month after first getting ill. A further 4.5 per cent reported having at least one symptom a month further along, and 2.5 per cent still felt sick at 12 weeks.

In B.C., 56,455 people were listed as recovered in the province’s Friday update, which means more than 1,400 people could still be fighting coronavirus-related symptoms three months or longer after first noticing them.

Dr. Schwartz, whose clinic began seeing long haulers in November, said the most common problem among patients is serious fatigue, but many also experience insomnia, ringing in their ears, tremors or a foggy brain.

“It’s a very individual disease, and everyone has a different history and story to them which makes treatment very difficult,” he said.

For Katy McLean, a Vancouver officer manager, her current experience is comparable to her recovery from a bad concussion once suffered after she fell down the stairs. More than four months after she first tested positive for coronavirus, the 42-year-old still finds it impossible to walk more than 10 minutes at a time and has to write everything down because of short-term memory loss.

“I feel like I have a brutal hangover every day and like I’ve smoked several packs of cigarettes,” she said.

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Still, she said she is feeling positive after recently reducing her work hours to 80 per cent of full time. Ms. McLean has found success managing her fatigue by setting intentional goals for each day. She said she is also incredibly grateful to live with her partner, who is a nurse.

“If I had been living alone I think I probably would have had to go live with a family member because that’s how much my function has been impaired,” she said.

Dr. Greiner, the internist who is in charge of the clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital, said the most important treatment to date has been educating people about how their activities can lead to their symptoms flaring.

Often, people experience a worsening of their ailments two to three days after they exert themselves heavily while recovering, he said. But mental and emotional stress can also kick off these bouts of bad symptoms, he added. His clinic has seen 160 patients since it opened in the fall.

“The learning that happens from doing this over and over again really just takes time … listening to patients and really trying to hear their stories and understand what their suffering is and where it’s coming from,” Dr. Greiner said.

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B.C. records 508 new COVID-19 cases, 9 deaths as vaccine plan released – News 1130

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Health officials in B.C. say the risk of COVID-19 transmission in long-term care and in communities remains too high to lift restrictions, as they announce nine more people have died from the virus in the last 24 hours.

In a joint statement Friday, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 508 more people have been contracted the coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

On the heels of an announcement of how the province will proceed with immunization, Dix and Henry remind British Columbians that following guidelines and public health orders continue to be critical.

“We need to remember our risk remains high right now, even as we protect more and more people with vaccine. We are not at the point where we can lift restrictions in our community or long-term care,” they write.

“We must continue to use our COVID-19 layers of protection and do all we can to stop transmission in our communities right now.”

So far, 110,556 doses of the vaccine have been administered. Of those, 2,202 are second doses.

A new outbreak has been declared at the North Fraser Pretrial Services Centre in Port Coquitlam, and outbreaks have been declared at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, and Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

A total of 315 people are hospitalized, 74 are in intensive care.

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