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Here's what COVID-19 numbers will look like in Hamilton if people stop wearing masks – CBC.ca

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Slowly pumping the brakes on COVID-19 remediation measures between now and February, instead of keeping all the measures in place, would mean a difference of about 973 cases in Hamilton.

That’s according to a new forecast from the city, which says if rules around masking and capacity limits remain, Hamilton will see 1,676 new cases by February. If those measures trickle to an end by that time, the city will see 2,654 cases of COVID-19, the data shows. And if the measures are lifted and the majority of kids 12 and under get vaccinated, that number drops to 2,541.

These numbers come as public health officials shift to figuring out how to ease rules and get life back to normal with COVID-19 as part of our long-term reality, says Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, medical officer of health. But people need to be patient as communities find the right balance.

“We’re working all that through as we go,” she said. “We’re going to continue to need the science, and we’re going to continue to need the patience of the community as we walk through this process and see what works.”

Hamilton has only seen 32 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday, public health data shows. The city’s numbers have been relatively stable since the third week of October.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, says public health officials are trying to figure out how to prevent numbers from shooting upward while allowing people to get back to normal. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

At Monday’s meeting, epidemiologist Ruth Sanderson outlined three scenarios. The first is if masking and capacity limits remain at 70 per cent by Jan. 31. The second is masking being reduced to 60 per cent by the end of the year, and eliminated entirely by March. The third is lifting the measures while vaccinating the majority of kids 12 and under.

Sanderson’s data shows that under the second scenario, 13 more people will die with the virus by the end of January, and 77 per cent of those patients will be older than 60. New cases could peak at 40 per day, she said.

Her data also shows that under scenario one, there would likely be 129 more hospital admissions between now and the spring, compared to 202 under scenario two.

“While we continue to be cautiously optimistic, the forecasts indicate that we must temper this optimism with the awareness we must continue to actively navigate the delicate balance of reopening with controlling the spread of COVID-19,” Sanderson said. 

Rural Flamborough has lowest vaccination rate

In Hamilton, 85.6 per cent of residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 82.2 per cent are fully vaccinated. Because of that, even when numbers increase, “severe outcomes are likely to be modest,” Sanderson said.

Hamilton’s encouraging numbers come at a time when infections are on the rise in most parts of Ontario. Last week, the Ministry of Health paused further lifting of capacity limits for remaining high-risk settings such as night clubs and bathhouses. 

Some other highlights:

  • There are currently 110 people known to have COVID-19 in Hamilton.
  • Since the pandemic began, 25,462 people have had COVID-19. Of those, 6.7 per cent were hospitalized and 416 have died. 
  • Hamilton is averaging 13 new cases per day.
  • Over the last week, 659 people have been tested at city assessment centres.
  • The city has released a new map showing the vaccination rates of various parts of Hamilton. Rural west Flamborough has the lowest rate, with 54.4 per cent being fully vaccinated. Ancaster and parts of Hamilton Mountain are the highest, with as many as 99 per cent of residents having at least one dose. 

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No new Covid-19 cases reported in Northwest Territories – Cabin Radio

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The NWT on Friday reported no new cases of Covid-19, only the third day of reporting to come back blank since the territory’s latest Delta-variant outbreak began in mid-August.

The active case count across the territory dropped from 42 to 35. Twenty-eight are in Tuktoyaktuk – which now has a rabies warning to contend with – while four are in Yellowknife and one each in Inuvik, Norman Wells, and Hay River.

There was no change to the number of hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, or deaths.

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Meanwhile, the World Health Organization on Friday dubbed the globe’s latest variant of concern Omicron.

Omicron, identified in South Africa, has a large number of mutations. Early evidence suggests it could be significantly more transmissible than Delta and present an increased reinfection risk.

However, the amount of evidence related to Omicron is low. The variant was only identified last week and the number of cases studied to date numbers in the low dozens.

Some countries, including Canada, moved swiftly on Friday to impose travel restrictions on South Africa and neighbouring nations.

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Canada currently has no direct flights to or from the affected region, but nevertheless banned the entry of all foreign nationals who have travelled through South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, or Eswatini in the past 14 days.

Some observers criticized the rush to travel bans, arguing South Africa was in effect being punished for operating a particularly effective variant surveillance program.

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Kids on P.E.I. receive first vaccinations against COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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One hundred and thirty children in P.E.I. received the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday — the first day the shot was available to five to 11-year-olds.

A pediatric vaccine clinic was held at the County Fair Mall in Summerside, P.E.I.

“I think it’s important because it can help protect others,” said 10-year-old Alex DesRoche. “I was worried that I’d get COVID and spread it to my papa … because he has cancer.”

Her mom, Robin DesRosche, is happy to have gotten her daughter vaccinated. 

Robin DesRosche (left) stands with her daughter Alex. DesRosche says it’s a relief to get her daughter vaccinated. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

“At any point in time, something can weigh in on your family and if you can do anything to try to prevent it, as a parent, I would,” said DesRoche. 

There are 13,000 kids in the five to 11 age group in the province, and 2,500 have appointments booked so far. 

Madeline Goguen, 10, said she was a little nervous to get the shot, but in the end, she said it didn’t hurt and was well worth it. 

“I’m excited because it’s been a while since I’ve gone on vacation,” Goguen said. “It was just quick. It was a tiny pinch and that was it.”

Getting the vaccine will make going to see her dad in New Brunswick less stressful, she said. 

“Every time that I had to get tested I was always worried,” said Goguen.

Her mother, LeAnne Weeks, shares that sense of relief.

LeeAnn Weeks (left) gives a thumbs up next to her daughter Madeline Goguen. Weeks says getting vaccinated is the right thing to do. (Steve Bruce/CBC )

“Now that Madeline is done, that’s our whole family, and we’re just excited that we feel safe now,” Weeks said. 

The clinic has been set up just for kids and other community clinics will be too. With decorations from the movie Frozen and a free toy with every shot, it’s about making the kids feel more comfortable. 

“I think kids and adults too are a little bit nervous about coming and getting needles, even if they know they really want it, and need it,” said Marion Dowling, chief of nursing on P.E.I. 

“We just want to make it as welcoming as possible, and try to give them a bit of privacy with the stations, so they can sit as a family unit, and have the conversation, ask any questions they might have too, and be comfortable.” 

PEI’s chief public health officer made an appearance at the clinic on Friday. Dr. Heather Morrison said she’s pleased to see so many parents booking shots for their children. 

Chief of nursing Marion Dowling says more than 1,000 appointments were booked when vaccine registration for children opened on Tuesday. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

“I almost got goosebumps in there. There are children who are excited, there are parents who are that excited. Just to be a part of it was pretty special” Morrison said. 

In a survey by the province, about 70 per cent of parents said they would get their child vaccinated, while others said they were undecided. 

Morrison said she thinks word of mouth will convince many of them to sign up. 

“We know it can influence others if we know that your friends have booked their vaccine,” she said.

“I saw children here today wearing stickers saying, ‘I got my COVID vaccine.’ They will start talking amongst their friends that ‘I got mine, and it feels good.'”

Dr. Heather Morrison says she is getting her kids vaccinated. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Five community clinics across P.E.I. are currently offering the vaccine for five to 11-year-olds. 

In the new year, the plan is to set up school clinics for kids in grades four to six. 

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UK COVID genomics head says new variant likely to come to UK

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It is likely that the new coronavirus variant B.1.1.529, which is spreading in South Africa, will end up in Britain, the head of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium said on Friday.

A ban on flights from southern Africa came into force in Britain on Friday, and numerous other countries also restricted travel from the region.

“(B.1.1.529 is) something that I would guess is likely to be transmitted into the UK at some point, but it buys that time,” COG-UK Chair Sharon Peacock told reporters.

“I think buying time is important and it’s worthwhile, because we can find out what we need to know about that particular variant.”

Speaking at a briefing with other experts, Peacock praised the quick work of South African scientists who shared what they knew about the variant after a surge in cases centred on Gauteng province.

That early warning could be crucial in preventing the variant taking over rapidly from the Delta variant as the world’s dominant one, even as South Africa bristles at the swift imposition of barriers to travel.

“This is a different circumstance than Delta, and there might be some hope for maybe some amount of containment,” said Jeffrey Barrett, Director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

“The difference really is that the surveillance was so good in South Africa and other nearby countries that they found this, understood that it was a problem, and told the world extremely fast.”

S-GENE CLUE

Peacock said it was important not to assume that the variant had arisen in South Africa just because it had been detected there.

“Variants will fly under the radar in countries where there’s no sequencing capability,” she said.

A distinctive trait known as an “S-gene target failure”, which distinguishes the new variant from Delta, means that PCR tests can give a clue to the presence of the new variant without full genomic sequencing.

However, Wendy Barclay, a virologist who leads the UK National Virology Consortium G2P-UK, cautioned that some other variants also had the trait.

Many parts of Europe have been struggling with high and rising COVID rates for weeks, but Barrett said these were unlikely to be driven by B.1.1.529, even in places with less sequencing.

“They are consistently finding a mix of Delta variant, basically,” he said.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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