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First presumptive case of coronavirus in GTA worries schools, parents – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Katherine DeClerq, CP24.com


Published Sunday, January 26, 2020 7:22PM EST


Last Updated Sunday, January 26, 2020 7:37PM EST

Residents across the Greater Toronto Area are expressing concern after learning that a man in a Toronto hospital has been diagnosed with Canada’s first presumptive case of coronavirus.

Health officials confirmed the first “presumptive positive” case of coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, at Sunnybrook Hospital on Saturday. The patient, a man in his 50s, had recently travelled to Wuhan, China and returned to Toronto on Jan. 22.

He was admitted to the hospital the following day, where he remains in stable condition.

After hearing the news, some GTA schools issued notices to parents calling for caution and asking families to stay home if necessary.

The principal of Somerset Academy, a private school in Markham, sent a letter home to parents this weekend saying that families who have travelled to Asia should stay home for a minimum of 15 days.

“To avoid any member of our Somerset Academy family from getting sick with this illness, we are asking that all families who are currently away from school and are in Asia or are planning to go to Asia,to understand that you will not be permitted back into Somerset Academy or Yips until you and your family have been home from your travels a minimum of 15 days from the date you have landed back in Canada,” the letter reads.

“As proof of this, you will be asked to provide and show us your boarding pass(es) and/or stamped documents that states the date of your return from your trip.”

The letter urged parents of children with flu-like symptoms that have developed within the last 12 hours to stay home and rest.

“We are taking this illness, along with other sicknesses, very seriously and no exceptions or excuses will be accepted,” the letter said. “The health of our families is extremely important to us and you are only putting our students, along with our teachers and staff, health at risk. It is better to be safer now than sorry later.”

More than 6,000 people sign online petition in York

A petition has also started to circulate titled “stop the potential spreading of the novel coronavirus in schools of York Region.”

The author of the petition claims to be representing parents from various schools and calls for caution following Saturday’s Chinese New Year.

“Traditionally large amounts of people travel nationwide or even internationally during this period to meet families and friends, which tremendously increases the chance of infection,” the petition said.

“Meanwhile, in the next few weeks, families went to China will travel back to Canada. It will definitely bring the virus into our country, and makes next two to four weeks being the peak time of this infectious disease transmission.”

The petition recommends that schools keep track of students who recently travelled to China and asks those families to stay isolated for a minimum of 17 days.

Meanwhile, Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Neil Rau said that people need to listen to world health experts and stop creating an “epidemic of fear.”

“We don’t need people going rogue, deciding to do their own form of quarantine where they tell people to stay home for two weeks after they came back from China,” he told CTV News Toronto. “No one is telling anyone to do that at this time. It is incredibly disruptive, it has economic consequences, it is inconvenient for parents, it’s bad for kids’ education if schools do this.”

The last statement released by the Toronto District School Board about the coronavirus was on Jan. 24.

Toronto public health urging people to contact officials

In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health said that officials are “actively following up” with anyone who may have been on China Southern Airlines flight CZ311, which arrived at Pearson airport on Jan. 22 from Guangzhou.

“We are informing these people that they may have been exposed to a potential health risk, what signs and symptoms they should look out for, and when and what type of medical treatment should be sought out, if that becomes necessary,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said in a statement said. “This work is part of routine public health follow-up of a case of an infectious disease.”

De Villa also said that local hospitals have reported that people are coming to emergency departments without symptoms of the virus.

“While we appreciate that people may have concerns, and that people may worry about their health, we encourage people who were on this flight and who do not have signs of illness to continue with their routine activities and we ask that these people do not present to the healthcare system,” she said.

“The risk to our community remains low.”

The illness was first reported in Wuhan, China in late December. As of Sunday, there were nearly 2,000 diagnosed cases around the world.

More than 55 people have died as a result of the virus in China.

Markham mayor calls for enhanced screening at airports

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti released a statement Sunday evening calling on the federal government to implement additional screening and detection measures at Canadian airports.

“The current measures introduced are less stringent than at other major airports in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles that involve passengers from China being screened for symptoms,” he said.

“With a first presumptive confirmed case of the novel coronavirus now in the Toronto area, there is heightened concern and anxiety in the community. These screening measures as an ounce of prevention would provide greater public confidence that more is being done to reduce risk and exposure to the virus.”

Earlier this month, major airports in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal increased security measures as a result of the coronavirus. An additional health screening question was also added to electronic custom kiosks.

Travellers are also being asked to inform border services officers if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Janice Golding

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Quebec's test positivity rate highest since May as COVID-19 infections climb – CBC.ca

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While the number of new COVID-19 cases in Quebec remains low when compared to the peak of the third wave, the test positivity rate hit 1.4 per cent on Sunday.

That’s the highest it’s been since late May, and new public health data shows infections are on the rise.

Quebec has reported an average of 139 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from an average of 57 a week prior.

Quebec Public Health reported 154 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 347 new infections were identified on Friday and Saturday.

There have been no new deaths attributed to the disease since Thursday but there are 61 COVID-19 patients in hospital — of those, 17 are in intensive care.

Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, told The Canadian Press that the current trends are concerning as they show “there is still ongoing community transmission.”

The increased rate is based on fewer tests, he said.

On May 31, Quebec recorded a test-positivity rate of 1.5 per cent based on 15,783 tests. While on Sunday, Quebec analyzed only 11,202 tests.

With that data in mind, Vinh said the concern lies in the future, as schools and university classes resume in late August  and September.

“If it’s already increased when we are in the ‘safe’ outdoors,” he said, “what’s going to happen when we’re in the indoors?”

Quebec’s public health institute reported that 84.6 per cent of residents 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine while 68 per cent are adequately vaccinated.

Delta variant stirs worldwide worry

Meanwhile, health officials in the United States are sounding the alarm over the rapid spread of the delta variant which is described as extremely contagious, even among vaccinated people. It may also cause more serious disease than earlier coronavirus strains.

“High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with delta can transmit the virus,” said Rochelle Walensky, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in a statement last week.

On Friday, the CDC released data from a study of an outbreak in Massachusetts in which it said three-quarters of those infected had been fully vaccinated. 

Quebec has reported an average of 139 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from an average of 57 a week prior. (Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada)

The CDC recommends that Americans wear masks in areas with substantial transmission “regardless of vaccination status.”

The highly contagious variant, which was first discovered in India in late 2020, has spread around the world and now accounts for the majority of cases in Canada and various other countries. 

As of late July, the delta variant accounted for about five per cent of new cases in Quebec, compared to nearly 90 per cent of new cases in Ontario. 

For now, Quebec is continuing to scale back restrictions. For example, bars and restaurants are now officially allowed to serve alcohol until 1 a.m.— one hour longer than what was previously allowed. 

Stadiums, venues and festivals can welcome 15,000 spectators outdoors, up from 5,000.

The details on all changes can be found here.

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U.S. vaccination rate hits the highest pace in weeks – CTV News

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The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States continues to rise, a positive sign amid skyrocketing cases and hospitalizations after weeks of lagging inoculations.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sunday that 816,203 additional doses were administered, the fifth straight day the agency recorded more than 700,000 shots in arms. That brings the total number of doses administered to 346,456,669, according to the CDC numbers released Sunday.

The seven-day average of administered doses is now 662,529 per day, the highest average since July 7.

Additionally, Sunday was the third day in a row that the seven-day average of people getting their first shots topped 400,000. The last time that metric was over 400,000 was the July Fourth weekend.

That’s still less than a quarter of the peak in mid-April, when nearly 2 million people were getting their first shot each day.

If the U.S. picked up vaccinations to the April pace, it would take only a month and a half to reach all eligible people.

Per CDC data released Sunday, 168.4 million people are fully vaccinated, or 49.6% of the U.S. population. Among vaccine-eligible Americans — meaning those who are 12 and older — 58.1% are fully vaccinated.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, hopes the recent surge in cases driven by the Delta variant is changing the minds of the vaccine hesitant, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday. Collins noted that in the last two weeks, vaccination rates have increased 56% nationally.

“This may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant to say, ‘OK, it’s time,'” Collins said. “I hope that’s what’s happening. That’s what desperately needs to happen if we’re going to get this Delta variant put back in its place.”

Overall, the seven-day average of people becoming fully vaccinated each day is at 247,385 people per day.

Twenty states have now fully vaccinated more than half of their residents, including Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state, as well as Washington, DC.

On the other hand, the states with the lowest percentage of their population vaccinated are Alabama and Mississippi, which have 34% and 35% of their residents vaccinated, respectively.

Correction: An earlier version of this story and headline gave the wrong timing for when the doses were administered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the additional doses Sunday, but it’s not clear when they were all administered.

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Delta spreads 'like wildfire' as doctors study whether it makes patients sicker – CTV News

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LOS ANGELES —
With a new wave of COVID-19 infections fuelled by the Delta variant striking countries worldwide, disease experts are scrambling to learn whether the latest version of coronavirus is making people – mainly the unvaccinated – sicker than before.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that Delta, first identified in India and now dominant worldwide, is “likely more severe” than earlier versions of the virus, according to an internal report made public on Friday.

The agency cited research in Canada, Singapore and Scotland showing that people infected with the Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalized than patients earlier in the pandemic.

In interviews with Reuters, disease experts said the three papers suggest a greater risk from the variant, but the study populations are limited and the findings have not yet been reviewed by outside experts. Doctors treating patients infected with Delta described a more rapid onset of COVID-19 symptoms, and in many regions an overall increase serious cases.

But the experts said more work is needed to compare outcomes among larger numbers of individuals in epidemiologic studies to sort out whether one variant causes more severe disease than another.

“It’s difficult to pin down increase in severity and population bias,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at the UK’s Warwick Medical School.

In addition, it is likely that the extraordinary rate of Delta transmission is also contributing to a greater number of severe cases arriving at hospitals, the experts said.

Delta is as contagious as chickenpox and far more contagious than the common cold or flu, according to the CDC report.

Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego, said the clearest indication that the variant may cause more severe disease comes from the Scotland study, which found that Delta roughly doubled the risk of hospitalization compared to an earlier version.

The majority of hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus in the United States are occurring in people who have not been vaccinated. But there is evidence that the shots are less effective in people with compromised immune systems, including the elderly.

For vaccinated, otherwise healthy individuals, the odds are that if they contract COVID-19 they will only experience asymptomatic or mild disease, said Dr. Gregory Poland, infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic.

“But they can pass it on to family members and others who may not be so lucky,” Poland said. “We have to be vaccinated and masked or we will, for the fourth time now, endure another surge and out of that will come worse variants.”

‘FULL-ON FLAMES’

The rate of severe illness, especially in regions where vaccination rates are low, is again straining healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

“This is like a wildfire, this is not a smouldering campfire. It is full-on flames right now,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control at Colorado’s UCHealth.

Research from China suggesting that the Delta variant replicates much faster and generates 1,000 times more virus in the body compared to the original strain highlights the biggest danger of this new wave, Barron said.

“It is hard to tell if they are more sick because of the Delta variant or if they would have been more sick anyway,” she said.

Other doctors said patients infected with Delta appear to become ill more quickly, and in some cases with more severe symptoms, than those they treated earlier in the pandemic.

“We are seeing more patients requiring oxygen sooner,” said Dr. Benjamin Barlow, chief medical officer at American Family Care, a 28-state chain of urgent care clinics.

At his clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, Barlow said that around 20 per cent of patients are testing positive for COVID-19, compared with two to three per cent a few weeks ago. Patients are assessed at that time for potential hospital admission and oxygen support.

David Montefiori, director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development at Duke University Medical Center, said the Delta variant is more infectious and leads to faster onset of illness – particularly for the unvaccinated.

“Frankly there’s a severity that comes from this variant that is a little more severe,” Montefiori said on a webcast last week. “It’s not just easier to transmit, it makes you sicker.”

(Reporting by Deena Beasley in Los Angeles, Josephine Mason in London and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Daniel Wallis)

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