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First two large-scale U.S. COVID-19 vaccine trials will exclude pregnant women for now – The Globe and Mail

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A nurse prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway in Binghamton, N.Y., on July 27, 2020.

Hans Pennink/The Associated Press

The first two COVID-19 vaccines to enter large-scale U.S. trials will not be tested in pregnant women this year, raising questions about how this vulnerable population will be protected from the coronavirus, researchers told Reuters.

Moderna and Pfizer, which has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech, this week separately launched clinical trials that use a new and unproven gene-based technology. Both companies are requiring proof of a negative pregnancy test and a commitment to using birth control from women of child-bearing age who enrol.

Drugmakers say they first need to make sure the vaccines are safe and effective more generally. In addition, U.S. regulators require that drugmakers conduct safety studies in pregnant animals before the vaccines are tested in pregnant women to ensure they don’t harm the fetus or lead to miscarriage.

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Bioethicists, vaccine and maternal health experts have argued for years that pregnant women should be included early in trials of pandemic vaccines so they would not need to wait until long after a successful candidate emerges. That debate fell on deaf ears in recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika, but has taken on new urgency in the era of COVID-19, as studies show pregnant women are at increased risk of severe disease from the new coronavirus.

“It’s a problem because if (vaccines) are not tested in pregnancy, then they may not be available or people may not be comfortable offering them,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, chief of gynecology and obstetrics for Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.

According to the 2012 Census, 75.4 million U.S. women were of child-bearing age, defined as 15 to 50 years old. Currently, pregnant women are recommended to take flu and whooping cough vaccines and certain others depending on individual circumstances, but none of these have been specifically tested and proven safe for pregnant women.

“We have an enormous number of women of child-bearing age and potentially getting pregnant, and what’s the safest vaccine for them?” said Dr. Larry Corey, a vaccine expert at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle who is helping oversee vaccine trials conducted by Moderna and other drugmakers in collaboration with the U.S. government.

Doctors may want to see even more data for completely new vaccine technologies, such as those used by Moderna and Pfizer, compared with one that has already been used in pregnant women.

Such differences highlight why “we need multiple vaccines” to best address the needs of specific populations, Corey said.

A PRECEDENT IN PREGNANCY

Johnson & Johnson, which kicked off a small-scale safety trial for its COVID-19 vaccine this week, is using the same underlying technology that it used with its Ebola vaccine, which has been used in 1,000 pregnant women in Democratic Republic of Congo. Larger studies with that vaccine are now under way.

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J&J’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Paul Stoffels, told Reuters the company has done many years of “extensive” preclinical study with the Ebola vaccine, including on pregnant animals, and “has not see any challenges.”

Stoffels said J&J would decide in the next few weeks whether it will include pregnant women in its large Phase 3 late-stage trial for a COVID-19 vaccine due to start in September.

Pfizer expects to start toxicology studies in pregnant animals shortly, with data ready for review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the first quarter of 2021. Studies in pregnant women could start some time afterward.

“We continue to explore potential ways to shorten the time to studies in pregnant women,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, told Reuters.

Of course, unplanned pregnancies can happen even when women are using reliable contraception. Based on past experiences in such trials, Gruber said he expects about 1 per cent of women in Pfizer’s Phase 3 trial, or about 150 women, will become pregnant. And those women and their babies will be followed closely.

Moderna said in an e-mailed statement that the company launched its safety study in pregnant animals at the end of June and expects results by the end of this year.

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“Once we have generated additional safety data for our vaccine, and importantly demonstrated that it is efficacious, we intend to conduct additional studies in this important population,” a Moderna spokesperson said.

Sanofi, whose coronavirus vaccine is based on its flu vaccine platform, is doing reproductive toxicology in animals, but those results won’t be ready before the start of the company’s large Phase 3 trials, expected to start by year-end.

Sanofi may establish a pregnancy registry after the vaccine is approved to track outcomes in pregnant women, as has been done in the past.

Merck & Co said it has not made any decisions yet on when to test its vaccine candidate in pregnant women. Novavax and AstraZeneca Plc declined to comment on their plans.

Dr. Flor Munoz, an expert in maternal use of vaccines at Baylor College of Medicine, said companies have been reluctant to test anything in pregnant women since the 1950s and 60s, after the drug thalidomide, which was used to treat nausea in pregnancy, caused widespread birth defects. She agrees that preliminary testing is needed.

The vaccines “need to be reasonably safe and reasonably effective,” she said. “We don’t necessarily have to finish the Phase 3 trials.”

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Hackers linked to China’s government targeted biotech company Moderna Inc, a leading U.S.-based coronavirus vaccine research developer, earlier this year in a bid to steal valuable data, according to a U.S. security official tracking Chinese hacking activity. Reuters

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COVID-19 roundup: Canada signs vaccine deals with Pfizer and Moderna, earmarks $78 million for virus R&D – The Logic

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This article is a preview of The Logic’s Daily Briefing newsletter, sent every weekday. Sign up for a free trial.

It’s day 148 since Canada’s 100th coronavirus case. The number of cases is 118,038 as of publication time, up 246 since yesterday—a 13 per cent decrease from the seven-day prior average of 284 new cases. At its peak on May 3, the seven-day average was 1,603 new cases a day. 

Over the last week, one person has died every 80 seconds from COVID-19 in the United States, and the pace at which those 7,486 people died seems to be accelerating.

The federal government announced $78 million for COVID-19 research and development on Wednesday, including $59 million for vaccine clinical trials and $19 million for broader research related to the virus. 

The lion’s share of the vaccine funding—$56 million from the federal Strategic Innovation Fund—will go to Variation Biotechnologies (VBI), an Ottawa-based wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. firm VBI Vaccines, for clinical testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The funding for VBI comes from the $600 million previously announced to support COVID-19-related clinical trials and Canada’s bio-manufacturing sector. Another $3 million will go to Nova Scotia-based IMV to help fund clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine candidate. 

The government announced the funding on the advice of the newly appointed COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, also revealed Wednesday. The group, formed to advise on treatments, is led by Dalhousie University professor Joanne Langley and J. Mark Lievonen, a former Canadian executive for pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. 

The announcements came the same day Procurement Minister Anita Anand confirmed that the government signed deals with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna to secure millions of doses of their COVID-19 vaccine candidates when they’re ready to deploy them. Both Moderna and Pfizer, which is developing its vaccine with German biotech firm BioNTech, are in the third and final phases of clinical trials and claim they could have “emergency” vaccines ready as early as this fall. Vaccines also need Health Canada approval before being used in Canada.

Canada had been lagging other countries in vaccine preorders, raising concerns Canadians would have to wait longer than others for immunity once treatments were available. Wednesday’s announcements signal a push to diversify potential treatment sources in preparation for “mass vaccination,” and ensuring “Canadians are at the front of the line when a vaccine becomes available,” said Anand. The minister would not say how many doses the government has ordered so far or how much it’s spending on the vaccines, citing ongoing negotiations with multiple suppliers. 

Drinking from the firehose:

  • Canada saw 88,187 business closures in April, up 126 per cent year over year, while new-firm creation dropped 18 per cent to 32,803, according to new data from Statistics Canada. The numbers of companies starting and stopping in any given month are typically quite similar.
  • The Council of Canadian Innovators is calling for Ottawa to extend the Innovation Assistance Program, the National Research Council-administered measure for firms that don’t qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, until December. The business lobby group also wants the funding focused on firms with “a proven track-record of R&D expenditure and IP generation.”
  • Canada’s merchandise trade deficit hit $3.2 billion in June, up from $1.3 billion the previous month, as imports grew faster than exports. Both remain more than a tenth below February levels.
  • BigCommerce raised US$216 million in its Nasdaq IPO. Shares jumped as much as 292 per cent in the first day of trading, as investors piled into Shopify’s smaller competitor amid a pandemic-induced online-shopping boom.
  • New York City will set up “checkpoints” as part of an effort to enforce a quarantine for travellers from other parts of the U.S. Meanwhile, Chicago, the most populous city in the Midwest, has announced that public school students will start the school year learning from home.  
  • Uber employees can continue to work remotely until July 2021, and the company will pay for up to US$500 in home-office setup costs.
  • English football club Arsenal is laying off 55 staff, citing the loss of commercial and matchday revenue during the pandemic. U.S. billionaire Stanley Kroenke owns the team, which recently qualified for a lucrative European competition.

Green shoots: The Calgary Zoo is worried about procuring the right kind of bamboo to feed Er Shun and Da Mao, after experiencing delays getting the permits to send the giant pandas to China, in part because of COVID-19 quarantine rules.

***

Our reporting team is working tirelessly around the clock to deliver the very latest information on the COVID-19 crisis. If you like our journalism, please consider subscribing. You can get a subscription today for more than $100 off your first year.

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Canada signs deals with Pfizer, Moderna to get doses of COVID-19 vaccines – CityNews Toronto

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Canada now has deals in place with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and U.S.-based biotech firm Moderna to secure millions of doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccines, in case either of the candidates is approved for wide-scale use.

But Procurement Minister Anita Anand will not yet say how much Canada is spending or how many doses of either vaccine candidate Canada will get because she says Canada is in talks with other domestic and international firms to secure doses of their experimental vaccines as well.

“The information we can reveal at the current time regarding doses in particular is being kept confidential because we are taking a prudent approach to the negotiations while we are engaged with other suppliers,” she said Wednesday at a news conference in Toronto.

She said there will be firm orders with multiple suppliers and options to purchase more should further doses be needed. After a company pronounces a vaccine safe and effective, Health Canada must approve it for use here before it can be used. Anand said once that happens, she anticipates delivery of approved vaccines in 2021.

“As the situation evolves and as the number of suppliers becomes more firm for Canada we can isolate precisely how many doses we might need,” Anand said.

Watch the full announcement below.

Last month Public Services and Procurement Canada issued bids to supply 75 million syringes and other vaccine administration supplies like alcohol swabs and bandages, to be delivered by the end of October. The goal is to have enough supplies to give every Canadian two doses of a vaccine.

“These agreements with Moderna and Pfizer are indicative of our aggressive approach to secure access to vaccine candidates now so that Canadians are at the front of a line when a vaccine becomes available,” Anand said. “These vaccine candidates are very promising and we all look forward to the day when restrictions can be lifted entirely.”

Both Pfizer and Moderna began Phase 3 clinical trials of their vaccine candidates in the last week, which are large-scale tests to determine how well the vaccines work. Both of these vaccine candidates use something called messenger RNA (mRNA) to try to provoke an immune response to COVID-19.

They are among about two dozen COVID-19 vaccine candidates in clinical trials around the world. Dozens more are in earlier stages of development.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are part of the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed program to facilitate the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines quickly.

Pfizer said July 22 that it has a US$1.95-billion agreement to supply 100 million doses to the U.S. government, with an option for 500 million more.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a conference call Wednesday that small amounts of Moderna’s vaccine have been priced between US$32 and US$37 a dose, but that the price would be lower for big orders.

Pfizer also said it expects it can produce 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of December, and another 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

Last month both Pfizer and Moderna reported positive results from smaller trials. Moderna’s vaccine was tested on 45 healthy adults between 18 and 55 years old in a Phase 1 trial in May and June, and reported a strong immune response in all people, with mild or moderate side effects such as fatigue, fever and body aches.

The Phase 3 trials will both test the vaccines on 30,000 people, and results are expected in the fall.

Anand and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains stressed they are looking for both domestic and international vaccine solutions for COVID-19. Bains announced a $56-million contribution to Variation Biotechnologies Inc. to support clinical trials of its vaccine candidate.

Bains also said Ottawa hasn’t yet decided whether it will make getting a vaccine mandatory.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned Tuesday against expecting a vaccine to provide a quick end to the pandemic, saying they provide hope but likely no silver bullet for the novel coronavirus.

Anand echoed that sentiment, urging Canadians to continue to practice physical distancing, wash their hands and wear masks in public to prevent the spread of the virus while waiting for a vaccine.

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Today’s coronavirus news: Canada makes deal with Pfizer, Moderna for coronavirus vaccine; Ontario reports fewer than 100 cases for third straight day – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 2 p.m. Toronto reports 18 new confirmed, 1 probable case of COVID-19.

  • 10:30 a.m. For the third consecutive day and fifth time in the last week, Ontario is reporting fewer than 100 cases of COVID-19

  • 10 a.m. Canada is signing deals with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and U.S.-based biotech firm Moderna to procure millions of doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccines.

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

6:05 p.m.: As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 41,760 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,821 deaths, up 78 new infections in 24 hours.

The province continues to be at its lowest rate of new infections since well before the pandemic first peaked in Ontario in the spring. Ontario has averaged 96 cases per day over the last seven days, down from a peak of nearly 600 daily, seen in mid-April.

On Wednesday, 20 of Ontario 34 health units reported no new cases; none reported more than 20 cases.

Meanwhile, one fatal case was reported Wednesday in the province, in Chatham-Kent. The southwestern Ontario health unit is the only area of the province that’s currently experiencing its worst rate of infection since the beginning of the pandemic — a still-relatively low 8.3 cases per day over the last week.

Earlier Wednesday, the province reported that 66 Ontarians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 30 in intensive care, of whom 15 are on a ventilator.

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

The province cautions its separate data, published daily at 10:30 a.m., may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

6 p.m.: The Alberta government has announced $48 million for shelters and community organizations that have been helping homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is still working out how the money will be divvied up.

“This critical financial support will help ensure the important work of our partners can continue,” Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney said Wednesday.

The money is on top of $25 million announced in March.

4:20 p.m.: Ottawa has unveiled details of a $469-million program aimed at helping Canada’s fish harvesters deal with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said Wednesday the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program, which was first announced in May, will be open for applications from Aug. 24 to Sept. 21.

In all, more than 28,000 workers across the country are expected to be eligible for the program, which also covers inland fishing enterprises licensed by provincial governments.

3:50 p.m.: About 125,000 people in Quebec aged 18-69 are estimated to have contracted COVID-19, according to a new study published Wednesday by Quebec’s blood collection agency — more than three times the official number reported by health authorities.

But the Hema-Quebec study indicates the majority of Quebecers remain vulnerable to being infected by the novel coronavirus, agency vice-president Dr. Marc Germain said.

“The conclusion is obvious,” Germain said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s a very small proportion of the population who have been exposed to the virus during the first wave. And that means there are many people in the population who are susceptible to being infected.”

It also means Quebec is far from developing what’s known as a natural or herd immunity against the virus, said Dr. Gaston De Serres with Quebec’s institute for national health, which collaborated on the study.

So-called herd immunity occurs when enough of a population has contracted a virus and developed an immune response to it, helping to prevent them from getting reinfected and transmitting it. “With this data, it shows that herd immunity in Quebec is not present,” said De Serres. “Forget it.”

Hema-Quebec’s antibody study involved a sample of 7,691 people aged 18-69 who donated blood between May 25 and July 9. It revealed 2.23 per cent of donors had been infected with COVID-19. The study indicated the highest rates of infection were found in Montreal and Laval, with just over three per cent, while in most of the rest of the province the rate was much lower at 1.29 per cent.

3:45 p.m.: Quebec reported 155 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the total number of people with confirmed infections to 60,000. The province also reported two additional deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, for a total of 5,687.

2:53 p.m. U.S. testing for the coronavirus is dropping even as infections remain high and the death toll rises by more than 1,000 a day, a worrisome trend that officials attribute largely to Americans getting discouraged over having to wait hours to get a test and days or weeks to find out the results.

An Associated Press analysis found that the number of tests per day slid 3.6% over the past two weeks to 750,000, with the count falling in 22 states. That includes places like Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri and Iowa where the percentage of positive tests is high and continuing to climb, an indicator that the virus is still spreading uncontrolled.

Amid the crisis, some health officials are calling for the introduction of a different type of test that would yield results in a matter of minutes and would be cheap and simple enough for millions of Americans to test themselves — but would also be less accurate.

“There’s a sense of desperation that we need to do something else,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute.

Widespread testing is considered essential to containing the outbreak as the U.S. approaches a mammoth 5 million confirmed infections and more than 157,000 deaths out of over 700,000 worldwide.

2:17 p.m. For Esther Adhiambo, this year was supposed to be a year of endings and new beginnings. She was expecting to complete high school, enroll in a university and get a job to help her single mother, who runs a small tailoring business in Nairobi’s Mathare slum.

Instead, for Adhiambo and other Kenyan students, 2020 is turning out to be the year that disappeared. Education officials announced in July that they were canceling the academic year and making students repeat it. They are not expected to begin classes again until January, the usual start of Kenya’s school year.

Education experts believe Kenya is the only nation to have gone so far as to declare the entire school year a total washout and order students to start over.

2 p.m. There are 18 new confirmed, 1 probable case in Toronto today, Dr. Eileen de Villa says. She says low-double digits is “good news”. It’s too early to know what, if any, uptick in cases can be linked to Stage 3 re-opening that started Friday but she says more activity is expected. Expected not because things are necessarily going wrong, but that the re-opening brings us closer together and some increase in cases is likely, health experts say.

2 p.m. As Ottawa and airlines talk about contact tracing, federal officials are trying to sort out how much information companies should provide, and how the data should flow.

Concerns about the level of detail airlines provide have been greatest in British Columbia, where the provincial health officer has lamented a lack of movement from federal officials.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday there could be improvements to the data that airlines provide as part of efforts to trace the potential spread of COVID-19.

A federal government official tells The Canadian Press the issue revolves around information collected for domestic flights, with one of the hurdles being finding an agreement that satisfies all parties involved.

The official wasn’t authorized to speak on the record because efforts are being headed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The federal health agency already requires airlines to provide information on travellers arriving on international flights who are subject to strict quarantine rules and Tam says there hasn’t been a confirmed case of in-flight transmission.

1:52 p.m. Florida reported another 5,409 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, pushing the state over half a million confirmed infections.

That makes Florida second only to California among states with people diagnosed with the disease.

Florida now has 502,739 cases, while California health officials on Tuesday listed almost 520,000 cases.

The number of reported test results in Florida was under 61,000 for the third straight day, likely a result of numerous test sites closed due to Tropical Storm Isaias.

A total of 57,272 results were recorded on Tuesday, compared to 88,244 a week earlier on July 28.

1:49 p.m. The number of new daily coronavirus infections in Spain continues increased to 1,772 cases on Wednesday.

That was up from 1,178 the previous day. More than 60% of the new cases were detected in the regions of Madrid and Aragon, in the northeast. Two of the country’s 19 autonomous regions didn’t report their numbers.

New cases have risen steadily in Spain since a three-month lockdown ended on June 21. By the end of July, the daily increase surpassed 1,000. That’s prompted some other European countries to demand travellers from Spain go into quarantine upon arrival.

Several regions of the country have imposed new restrictions on movement and mandates the wearing of masks.

Meanwhile, the government of the Canary Islands will become the first region of Spain to cover the expenses of tourists, both local and foreign, who test positive for the coronavirus while on vacation in the archipelago.

Local authorities say an agreement was reached with an insurance company to cover medical expenses, repatriation or extended stays if tourists have to self-quarantine.

Spain has confirmed more than 305,000 cases and nearly 28,500 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

1:49 p.m. The French government is raising another glass to the wine industry.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced an additional 80-million-euro ($95 million) in financial help during a visit to the winemaking town of Sancerre in central France on Wednesday. He’s adding to the aid already given to the industry in May.

He says the aid will improve storage of surplus product and help unsold grapes be distilled into other materials. Winegrowers estimate that the coronavirus crisis has generated a shortfall of at least 1.5 billion euros due to the shutdown of bars, restaurants, festive gatherings and tourism.

1:30 p.m. B.C. health officials reported no new COVID-19 related deaths but 146 new test-positive cases over the B.C. Day long weekend.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry broke down the new case count, which took place over a four day period. From Friday to Saturday, 43 cases were recorded, while Saturday to Sunday saw 29, Sunday to Monday reported 46, and Monday to Tuesday had 28 new COVID-19 cases.

This weekend’s case numbers bring the total number of cases in the province to 3,787.

Dr. Henry said the case numbers over the long weekend are not unexpected, as we are now seeing cases from those exposed at events up to two weeks ago.

“This is a concern, because the majority are related to what happened prior to this long weekend,” she said. “The source of these cases is varied, and as we’ve talked about many times, this is something that we take very seriously in public health. To track down and trace how everybody, every single case, became infected is important to us.”

Case counts continue to rise across the province, with multiple exposure events continuing to cause an impact. Interior Health is now reporting 377 cases total, 137 of which are linked to the Kelowna exposure events.

In a press release sent out last week, Interior Health noted they have changed the way they are reporting cases linked to the “Kelowna cluster”.

“Currently we are seeing more broad community transmission so we are expanding our reporting to focus on any cases that are linked to Kelowna during their exposure or infectious period,” read the press release.

The new reporting format does not change the total number of cases in Interior Health, but reclassifies many as associated with the Kelowna cluster.

1:37 p.m. With new coronavirus clusters sprouting aboard ships overseas, the U.S. cruise industry is extending its suspension of operations through October.

The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents more than 50 companies and 95% of ocean-going cruise capacity, said Wednesday that if conditions in the U.S. change, it would consider allowing short, modified sailings.

A no-sail order for U.S. waters initially issued by the Centers for Disease Control in March has been extended through Sept. 30. The CLIA has extended its travel suspension twice.

A Norwegian cruise line halted all trips and apologized Monday after a coronavirus outbreak aboard one vessel infected at least 5 passengers and 36 crew. Health authorities fear the ship may have spread the virus to dozens of towns and villages along the west coast of Norway. The Hurtigruten cruise line was one of the first to resume sailing in June, offering cruises from Germany to Norway.

Positive coronavirus tests have also been reported this week on cruise ships in Italy and Tahiti.

The risk of infection aboard a cruise ship is elevated because of the close quarters. Between March and July, there were 2,973 reported cases of COVID-19 or COVID-like illnesses about ships in U.S. waters, according to the CDC. As of July 10, there were still 14,702 crew members aboard 67 ships.

12:54 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 today.

Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters the cases involve temporary foreign workers who arrived from Mexico.

Higgs says they were identified during screening when they arrived in Moncton and they are now in isolation.

He says the workers were destined for Miramichi, N.B.

The new cases of the virus are the first reported in the province in over two weeks.

New Brunswick has had a total of 174 confirmed cases with 168 people recovered from the virus and two deaths.

12:13 p.m. Nova Scotia’s Opposition Progressive Conservatives have released an estimated $634-million plan aimed at improving the province’s long-term care sector.

Leader Tim Houston says his party would immediately add 2,500 single-bed rooms to the system, hire 2,000 nurses and continuing care assistants and establish a new option of incremental supportive living funding if it eventually forms government.

Houston says the COVID-19 pandemic has “shone a light” on the importance of single rooms for long-term care residents when it comes to infection control and to slowing the spread of illness within a facility.

Of Nova Scotia’s 64 deaths so far in the pandemic, 53 occurred at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax — an older facility lacking in single-occupancy rooms.

Houston says he’s also submitted a proposal to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seeking federal support for a further 1,000 single-bed rooms.

11:50 a.m. Time and food supplies are running out for two giant pandas at the Calgary Zoo.

Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Calgary in 2018 after spending five years at the Toronto Zoo and were to remain in the Alberta city until 2023.

Calgary Zoo president Clement Lanthier says the facility spent months trying to overcome transportation barriers in acquiring fresh bamboo and decided in May that it was best for the animals to be in China, where their main food source is abundant.

But he says the Zoo hasn’t been able to approve international permits, as the COVID-19 pandemic created changes to import laws and animal quarantine facilities.

Lanthier says the continued travel delay is putting the health and welfare of the animals in jeopardy.

He says the zoo is only able to source fresh bamboo reliably from British Columbia, and that supply is expected to run out in September.

11:43 a.m. Virginia has rolled out a smartphone app to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus, becoming the first U.S. state to use new pandemic technology created by Apple and Google.

The Covidwise app was available on the tech giants’ app stores Wednesday ahead of an expected announcement from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

“We’re using every possible approach to fight this virus and keep Virginians healthy,” Northam said in a statement provided to AP that encouraged all Virginians to download the app. “The COVIDWISE app is completely anonymous, protects personal privacy, and gives you an additional tool to protect yourself and your community.”

It comes nearly four months after Apple and Google said they were partnering on creating app-building software for public health agencies trying to contain the spread of the pandemic. Canada and a number of European countries have already rolled out apps using the tech companies’ framework.

11:25 a.m. Turkey’s interior ministry announced new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus after daily confirmed cases peaked back above 1,000.

The interior ministry says its units will conduct “one-on-one monitoring” for people who have been required to self-quarantine, especially in the first seven days of isolation.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu tweeted a widespread inspection will take place across Turkey Thursday. The ministry also says contact tracers will be assisted by law enforcement or teachers and imams in smaller settlements.

It says it won’t accept any violations of mask wearing and social distancing at events such as weddings or circumcision ceremonies. Gatherings after funerals will be restricted.

Businesses and transportation meeting safety requirements will be awarded a “safe space” logo after three inspections.

Latest statistics show nearly 235,000 confirmed infections and 5,765 deaths in Turkey.

11:37 a.m. Chicago’s mayor on Wednesday announced that the U.S.’s third-largest school district will not welcome students back to the classroom, after all, and will instead rely only on remote instruction to start the school year.

The city’s decision to abandon its plan to have students attend in-person classes for two days a week once the fall semester starts Sept. 8 came amid strong pushback from the powerful teachers union and as school districts around the country struggle with how to teach their children during the coronavirus pandemic.

When Chicago officials announced their hybrid-learning plan last month, they said it was subject to change depending on families’ feedback and how the coronavirus was faring in the area.

On Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot attributed the change in plans to a recent uptick in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city.

11:28 a.m. Quebec added 155 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total number of people infected to 60,000.

The province also added two deaths, for a total of 5,687 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Health Department reports two fewer patients in hospital for 167, with 19 of those in intensive care, also a reduction of two.

11:25 a.m. In South Carolina, hospitals and the state health department say demand for coronavirus testing remains high even as testing numbers have dipped in the last two weeks.

In some cases, people may be deterred by the long wait times at certain testing sites. Others forego the tests when their health insurance won’t cover them, says Dr. Patrick Cawley, CEO of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

Cawley told a state legislative committee Tuesday insurance companies typically don’t pay for tests for asymptomatic patients. It’s one of the biggest barriers to people getting tested in the state, Cawley says.

Health officials announced 1,168 new confirmed cases and 52 confirmed deaths Tuesday. The state has reported 93,604 confirmed cases and 1,774 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

11:25 a.m. Arizona officials say 517 inmates at the state prison in Tucson tested positive Tuesday for the coronavirus.

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry says nearly half of the prisoners housed at the Whetstone unit have tested positive for the virus. The cases among inmates in the prison’s Whetstone unit were discovered in a push to test all 39,000 state prisoners.

Officials say 564 corrections employees have tested positive for the virus

Before corrections officials discovered the cases at the Whetstone unit, the agency reported 890 other inmates had tested positive and 21 inmates had died statewide.

Arizona has 180,500 confirmed cases and more than 3,800 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

11:23 a.m. The federal government is moving ahead with plans to make it easier for provinces and territories to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure projects to address the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna says $3.3 billion out of the $33 billion that Ottawa has previously promised in matching funds for provincial and territorial projects will be available for projects related to the pandemic.

Those projects include retrofits to public buildings such as schools and long-term care facilities, measures related to physical distancing such as new bike and walking paths and those designed to protect against floods and wildfires.

McKenna says the federal government plans to introduce a faster application process for provinces and territories to apply for federal funds, with Ottawa footing up to 80 per cent of the bills for approved projects.

The new approach comes as most provinces are looking at re-opening schools in the next month and trying to guard against new outbreaks of COVID-19 at nursing homes.

While the measure is expected to be welcomed by provinces and territories, each must sign an agreement with the federal government before it can apply for funding.

10:30 a.m. For the third consecutive day and fifth time in the last week, Ontario is reporting fewer than 100 cases of COVID-19, with 86 new cases today, a 0.2% increase, Health Minister Christine Elliott reported on Twitter. With 146 more resolved, we also continue to see a persistent decline in the number of active cases in the province. Hospitalizations continue to decline. Locally, 29 of the province’s 34 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, with fully 22 of them reporting no new cases at all.

10:28 a.m. An antibody study by Quebec’s blood collection agency has concluded that about 2.23 per cent of the province’s adult blood donors had contracted COVID-19.

The seroprevalence study by Hema-Quebec and the province’s public health institute tested the blood of 7,691 people between the ages of 18 and 69 who donated blood between May 25 and July 9.

When extrapolated to the rest of the population, the study estimated that some 124,800 adults contracted the virus since the pandemic began.

The Quebec government reported some 37,000 cases for the 20 to 69 age group in the same period.

The study revealed that the highest rates of infection were found in Montreal and Laval, with just over three per cent, while in most of the rest of the province the rate was much lower at 1.29 per cent.

Authorities will contact the donors who had COVID-19 antibodies to document their symptoms in order to estimate how many of them were asymptomatic.

10:11 a.m. A provincial supreme court judge says a civil rights group can participate in a court challenge of Newfoundland and Labrador’s COVID-19 travel ban, but not make arguments about enforcement measures.

Justice Donald Burrage rendered his decision today in St. John’s on the second day of proceedings.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed a claim along with Halifax resident Kim Taylor in May that alleges the restrictions violate the charter and fall outside the province’s jurisdiction.

Burrage granted the association public interest standing to make legal arguments about the ban itself.

The special measures order from the province’s chief medical officer of health in May banned anyone but permanent residents and asymptomatic essential workers from entering the province.

But Burrage denied the group standing to challenge changes to the province’s Public Health Protection and Promotion Act, also adopted in May, that allows peace officers to detain and transport people to exit points in the province and expands their search powers.

A lawyer for the province argued Tuesday that there is no evidence related to the enforcement powers because they have not been applied to anyone, including Taylor.

The association’s lawyer, however, said the measures are unconstitutional on their face.

The province has defended the ban as being necessary to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

10 a.m. Canada is signing deals with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and U.S.-based biotech firm Moderna to procure millions of doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccines.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand is announcing the deals this morning in Toronto, which will see Canada get access to the vaccines if they prove to be both safe and effective.

Both companies began Phase 3 clinical trials of their vaccine candidates in the last week, large-scale tests to determine how well the vaccines work.

Earlier in July both Pfizer and Moderna reported positive results from smaller trials.

The Phase 3 trials will both test the vaccines on 30,000 people, and results are expected in the fall.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned Tuesday about expecting a vaccine to provide a quick end to the pandemic, saying they provide hope but likely no silver bullet for the novel coronavirus.

9:47 a.m. Pfizer Canada and BioNTech SE have announced an agreement with the government of Canada to supply their BNT162 mRNA-based vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV2, subject to clinical success and Health Canada approval.

Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed, but the terms were based on the timing of delivery and the volume of doses. As requested by the Government of Canada, deliveries of the vaccine candidate are planned for over the course of 2021.

“We continue to be committed to partnering with the Canadian government to help fight this pandemic and are pleased with their collaborative approach to addressing a national COVID-19 immunization strategy with public health officials,” said Cole C. Pinnow, President, Pfizer Canada. “With our combined efforts, we know there is no health challenge that we cannot address.”

“As the development of effective COVID-19 vaccines continues around the world, we commend the work of Pfizer and BioNTech, which will provide Canadians access to a vaccine candidate for the virus. This agreement is another critical step in our government’s efforts to keep Canadians safe and healthy as the pandemic continues to evolve,” said Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement.

9 a.m. The Star has found that Transport Canada is relying on scant peer-reviewed scientific evidence regarding the spread of COVID-19 on airplanes in its decision not to mandate social distancing on commercial flights.

When asked for the scientific evidence guiding its recommendations to airlines, Transport Canada initially provided none, saying only that safety measures are “based on the best available science and evidence.”

When pressed by the Star for that evidence, the agency provided just one peer-reviewed study looking at an outbreak of COVID-19 that affected 16 passengers on a flight from Singapore to Hangzhou, China, in late January. The study concluded that one passenger may have become infected on the flight.

Read the full story from the Star’s Kenyon Wallace: Is flying safe during COVID-19? Here’s the scant bit of scientific evidence Transport Canada is relying on

9 a.m. Even though Public Safety Minister Bill Blair asked prison and parole officials this spring to consider releasing low-risk inmates early due to the threat posed by COVID-19, there was no increase in the number of prisoners released during the first three months of the pandemic compared to a year earlier.

In fact, there were slightly fewer inmates released, according to new information obtained by the Star.

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The federal inmate population nationwide did fall by about 600 — from 13,958 on March 1 to 13,357 on May 24, show records from the Correctional Service of Canada.

But the decline is attributed not to a rise in inmate releases but to “releases from federal custody continuing to outnumber admissions,” according to the records. In other words, the drop appears to have been driven more by court shutdowns and fewer offenders being sentenced.

Read the full story from the Star’s Douglas Quan: Remember the chatter about releasing inmates early to ease spread of COVID-19? It didn’t happen

8:52 a.m. The Netherlands’ two most populous cities began ordering people to wear face masks in busy streets Wednesday amid rising coronavirus infection rates, but many people in the Dutch capital’s famous red-light district still did not wear them.

Police in Rotterdam said a number of people opposed to the mask order staged a protest in the downtown area where masks became obligatory.

Amsterdam ordered masks to be worn in the red-light district and busy shopping streets and markets. Many visitors to the narrow lanes and canal-side roads of the historic neighbourhood ignored the instructions, despite signs informing people of the new measure.

Municipality workers stood at the entrance to one downtown Amsterdam shopping street wearing signs saying in Dutch and English that masks were required and handing them out to people who didn’t have one.

The Dutch capital’s local health authority said around 5% of people who got a test over the last week were positive, more than double the 2% from the previous week.

Among clusters being tracked in the city was one at a strip club in the red-light district where at least one customer and 10 staff have tested positive, according to a statement from the health authority. The owner voluntarily closed the club.

8:46 a.m. Lockdown restrictions have been reimposed in the Scottish city of Aberdeen after a coronavirus “cluster” was reported.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says all hospitality venues in the city need to be closed by end of business Wednesday. Those living in the area should not travel more than five miles unless for work or essential trips. People are asked not to go into other houses.

Sturgeon says the cluster of 54 cases have been traced to a bar but more than 20 other pubs and restaurants are involved. The rise in cases has contributed to a greater concern there was a significant outbreak in the city.

The restrictions will be reviewed next Wednesday and may be extended, if necessary.

8:46 a.m. New Zealand’s unemployment rate showed a surprising improvement to 4% during the midst of the nation’s virus lockdown, although the headline number doesn’t tell the full story and joblessness is likely to increase in the months ahead.

Still, the figure was far better than most people expected and came as welcome news to the government led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ahead of a general election next month.

The figures from Statistics New Zealand showed the unemployment rate in the quarter ending June fell from 4.2% in the previous quarter. But the number of hours worked also fell a record 10% and the number of people not in the labour force rose.

Because people who aren’t actively seeking work are not counted as unemployed, the figures didn’t reflect many job losses because most people couldn’t search for jobs during the lockdown. And many workers have been protected by a government-funded wage subsidy scheme during the pandemic which is due to expire next month.

8:46 a.m. A governor in Japan is drawing skeptical criticism after he touted a gargling product as effective against the coronavirus, an assertion that, despite its dubiousness, emptied some store shelves of the medicine.

Shares of Shionogi & Co. and Meiji Holdings Co., which make Isojin, soared in Tokyo Tuesday trading after Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura made the comments.

Yoshimura referred to a study carried out by the Osaka regional government on a sample of just 41 people. Experts said such a study is inconclusive.

Shionogi and Meiji shares were already coming down Wednesday, as subsequent Japanese media reports debunked Yoshimura’s claim.

Daily confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been shooting up in Japan, to more than 1,000 people.

8:46 a.m. Mexico posted a near-record one-day total of 857 newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, bringing the country’s confirmed death toll to 48,869, the third-highest number in the world.

The Health Department reported that just over 1 million coronavirus tests have been performed, with almost 450,000 people testing positive to date.

Mexico’s has had a positive rate of about 45% to 50% since the early weeks of the pandemic, largely because most people were tested only after exhibiting considerable symptoms.

8:46 a.m. Hong Hong has reported 80 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths, while new cases in mainland China fell to just 27.

Hong Kong saw cases spike in a new wave of infections, but new daily cases have now fallen back into the double digits.

Authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese city have ordered masks be worn in all public places, slapped restrictions on indoor dining, banned many activities and increased testing for coronavirus. Hong Kong has recorded a total of 3,669 cases and 42 deaths from COVID-19.

Of mainland China’s cases, 22 were in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose capital and largest city Urumqi has been the centre of China’s latest outbreak. China has reported 4,634 deaths among 84,491 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

China said Tuesday it was working with the World Health Organization on an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, but gave no word on when that would get underway.

8:46 a.m. Nevada health officials say 95% of the 980 new coronavirus cases reported statewide during the last day were in the Las Vegas area.

State coronavirus response officials said Tuesday that Clark County residents accounted for 931 of the positive COVID-19 tests reported. Confirmed cases statewide topped 52,000, and 15 more deaths brought Nevada’s total to at least 862.

Separately, the governor’s office issued a report tallying $16.7 billion in federal coronavirus funding to Nevada since Congress approved a $2.2 trillion emergency aid bill in March.

The report says nearly $2.2 billion went toward $600-per-week payments to idled workers statewide.

8:46 a.m. President Donald Trump says more Americans will be lost to COVID-19.

Trump was interviewed on a Fox Business Network on Tuesday. Trump said the relationship has been “very badly hurt” by the spread of the coronavirus and he repeated his belief China should have contained it.

The president noted the American death toll, saying somewhat prematurely that 160,000 had died from the disease caused by the virus. He told host Lou Dobbs: “We’re going to lose more.”

Trump added that millions would have been lost had he not intervened and “just let it ride.’

The U.S. death told from COVID-19 stood at more than 156,000 on Tuesday evening.

8:46 a.m. A technical problem has caused a lag in California’s tally of coronavirus test results, casting doubt on the accuracy of recent data showing improvements in the infection rate and hindering efforts to track the spread.

State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Tuesday that in recent days California has not been receiving a full count through electronic lab reports because of the unresolved issue.

The state’s data page now carries a disclaimer saying the numbers represent an underreporting of actual positive cases per day.

The latest daily tally posted Tuesday showed 4,526 new confirmed positives, the lowest in more than six weeks.

7:18 a.m. A cruise ship carrying more than 200 people docked in a Norwegian harbour Wednesday and ordered to keep everyone on board after a passenger from a previous trip tested positive for the coronavirus upon returning home to Denmark.

Bodoe Mayor Ida Pinneroed told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the SeaDream 1’s 85 crew members would all be tested for the virus and that authorities were in contact with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health on whether the 123 passengers should be as well.

“We take the situation very seriously,” the mayor said.

The Norway-based company that owns the ship, SeaDream Yacht Club, said the former passenger had no symptoms of COVID-19 during the earlier voyage and had travelled home from Tromsoe on Aug. 2. The person underwent a routine virus test upon arrival in Denmark and it came back positive on Tuesday.

All the other passengers from the infected individual’s trip must self-isolate for 10 days, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said.

7:13 a.m. The World Health Organization is sending dozens of senior experts to South Africa to help the nation deal with the world’s fifth-highest number of coronavirus infections.

South Africa has more than half-a-million confirmed COVID-19 cases and expects the first wave of infections to peak around the end of August, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told reporters. The WHO is responding to a request for help by sending 43 specialists, with several arriving Wednesday, he said.

While South Africa has had reduced hospital admissions in recent weeks and its official virus death toll of 8,884 people is relatively low, medical researchers have found a discrepancy between the country’s confirmed COVID-19 fatalities and the number of excess natural deaths.

6:57 a.m. Australia’s hot spot Victoria state announced a record 725 COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths on Wednesday, while businesses in Melbourne city prepared to draw down their shutters as new pandemic restrictions are enforced.

The 24-hour record was marginally higher than the 723 cases and 13 deaths reported last Thursday.

From late Wednesday, many non-essential businesses including most detail retailers, hair-dressers and gyms in Australia’s second-largest city will be closed for six weeks. People employed in essential jobs will have to carry passes under Australia’s toughest-ever lockdown restrictions.

Like Melbourne hospitals, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced that non-emergency surgeries will be restricted in hospitals in regional Victoria, where infections rates are lower.

“It will be very challenging, but it is necessary to drive these numbers down,” Andrews said of the new restrictions.

He added that the “notion of more than 700 cases is not sustainable.”

A Victoria state government website crashed on Wednesday when it was overwhelmed by employees in essential services applying for permits that would allow them to leave home for work from Thursday.

6:57 a.m. India has reported more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases for an eighth straight day, taking the country’s number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began past 1.9 million. The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported a spike of 52,509 new cases and 857 new deaths in the past 24 hours. The ministry said India’s recovery rate among COVID-19 patients has touched 66.31%. It also said a record 661,892 samples were tested in the last 24 hours, taking the cumulative testing to more than 2 million. It also said that 50% of deaths have happened in the age group of 60 years and above, 37% deaths in 45-60 age group while 11% in 26-44 years age group. In the gender distribution, 68% of people who died were men and 32% women.

6:47 a.m. Novavax Inc. shares saw huge swings in extended trading as investors took a critical eye to early data on its experimental vaccine for COVID-19 following a 3,800-percent rally in the stock this year.

The shares briefly fell as much as 34 per cent postmarket on Tuesday, before paring the decline. In trading before regular hours Wednesday, they were up 21 per cent.

The two-injection regimen when administered concurrently with Novavax’s immune-boosting technology generated antibody responses that were four times higher than those seen in people who had recovered from the disease. Some of the healthy adults in the study experienced side effects including fever, headache and fatigue.

Confusion over the vaccine’s safety data arose after a media report incorrectly said trial participants were hospitalized with severe reactions. The vaccine appeared safe in the more than 100 patients who received it, according to the company. Reactions to the shots were generally mild, lasting two days or less. One patient getting the vaccine had a mild skin infection that was determined not to be related to the shot.

6:03 a.m. Poland reported 18 new coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, the most in a day since June 30, taking the total to 1,756 as an outbreak in the country’s industrial heartland worsens.

The pace of new cases slowed from Tuesday’s record 680, rising by 640 to 48,789, mostly in the southern coal mining region of Silesia and at a poultry processing company in the western district of Wielkopolska.

The government expects about 600 new cases per day in the next period, Wojciech Andrusiewicz, a spokesman for the health ministry told reporters on Wednesday. Authorities will soon announce new restrictions, including on restaurants and weddings, to fight the epidemic in 20 particularly affected counties, he said.

4:10 a.m. Nearly half of Canadians would support an election being called if the federal watchdog finds Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to have violated the Conflict of Interest Act again over the WE charity affair, a new poll suggests.

The survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies also suggests the WE controversy has taken a bite out of Trudeau’s popularity, as well as that of the federal Liberal party, putting the Conservatives within striking distance of victory.

“To me these are numbers that will certainly worry or concern the Liberals at this moment because even though it’s in the summer, this is raising a lot of eyebrows,” said Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.

The online poll of 1,531 adult Canadians took place July 31 to Aug. 2, in the days following Trudeau’s appearance before a parliamentary committee to answer questions about the deal with WE. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered truly random.

The survey results come as federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion is investigating both Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau over whether they broke conflict-of-interest rules in relation to the government’s decision to give the WE organization a sole-sourced contract to run a $912-million student-volunteer program.

4 a.m. A Canadian company is telling the government Wednesday that its trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine on animals completely blocked the virus, but it must conduct human trials to know whether it has found a possible cure for the pandemic.

And a leading health-care expert says the findings are promising even though they haven’t been peer-reviewed.

Providence Therapeutics says it needs federal funding to move forward, but it has not heard back from the Trudeau government since May, the month after submitting a $35-million proposal to conduct first-stage human trials.

Providence has told the government it could deliver five million doses of its new vaccine by mid-2021 for use in Canada if it were able to successfully complete human testing, but it has heard nothing.

Eric Marcusson, the San Francisco-based co-founder of Providence and its chief science officer, says the company has concluded testing on mice that showed its vaccine was able to block the entry of the novel coronavirus into their cells.

4 a.m. Wednesday A new study suggests Canadians, especially women, will face a potentially explosive increase in mental illness for years after the COVID-19 pandemic is finally over.

Over the long term, the Deloitte study estimates that visits to emergency rooms for stress and anxiety-related disorders will increase one to three per cent from pre-pandemic rates.

Moreover, the study estimates that 6.3 million to 10.7 million Canadians will visit a doctor for mental health issues — a whopping 54 to 163 per cent increase over pre-pandemic levels.

The consulting firm says governments should be funding mental health services, providers should be getting ready for the demand and insurance companies should look at revising coverage options.

The estimates are based on an analysis of what transpired in the years following the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016, which forced the evacuation of 88,000 people and destroyed more than 2,400 homes in Alberta.

It’s also based on an analysis of the long-term impact on Canadians of the “great recession” of 2008-09, a global economic crash that was nowhere near as deep or as long-lasting as the expected impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Wednesday 12:05 a.m. The Walt Disney Company lost nearly $5 billion (U.S.) in April, May and June, while its theme parks were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a presentation Disney executives made Tuesday.

It cost the company $3.5 billion (U.S.) just to close the parks during the third quarter, on top of the $1 billion (U.S.) it cost to shut them down the second half of March.

In all, the company posted a loss of nearly $5 billion (U.S.) for the third quarter, including a $2 billion (U.S.) loss in its parks, experiences and products segment.

Disney’s domestic parks — Disney World and Disneyland, as well as Disneyland Paris, resorts and cruise operations were closed for the entirety of the quarter and the final two weeks of the previous quarter.

“This is obviously a very uncertain time,” CEO Bob Chapek said during an earnings webcast Tuesday. “We should be in good shape once consumer confidence returns.”

7:30 p.m.: British Columbia health minister is urging residents not to attend private parties and gatherings after recent increases in the number of COVID-19 cases across the province.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says many of the latest cases stem from such events and the numbers serve as a reminder that people must adhere to public health rules this summer.

B.C.’s top doctor Bonnie Henry says transmission remains low and residents must ensure it stays that way.

She says common factors in many of the latest cases include talking, laughing and sharing drinks and food, especially in indoor settings, as well as spending time in crowded areas.

During a briefing on Tuesday, Henry reported that 146 new cases of COVID-19 have been detected since Friday and there have been no additional deaths.

Active cases have climbed to 319, while 3,273 people have recovered from the illness.

5:45 p.m.: As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 41,682 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,820 deaths, up 125 new infections in 24 hours.

The provincewide case growth included a spike in Chatham-Kent, which on Tuesday reported 40 new cases for the three days of the Civic Holiday long weekend.

Along with neighbouring Southwestern Public Health, Chatham-Kent is one of two Ontario health units that is currently seeing its highest rate of case growth since the start of the pandemic.

Elsewhere, cases continue to fall, and the province is overall at its lowest rate of new infections since well before the pandemic first peaked in Ontario in the spring.

Ontario has averaged 98 cases per day over the last seven days, down from a peak of nearly 600 daily, seen in mid-April.

Meanwhile, three more fatal cases were reported, two in Toronto and one in Simcoe-Muskoka.

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

The province cautions its separate data, published daily at 10:30 a.m., may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

Read Tuesday’s rolling file

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