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'It's not over': Experts fear new surge of COVID-19 infections after holidays – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Many hard-hit areas of Canada have seen rapidly increasing rates in COVID-19 infections over the past few weeks, and experts are warning that the start of 2021 could include an even higher surge of cases.

Dr. Ronald St. John, former Director General for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), told CTV News Channel on Thursday that our current case numbers don’t even reflect the past week, when many may have gathered over the holidays in contradiction of health advice.

“I’m concerned that we haven’t begun to see a spike from Christmas,” he said. “It’s only been about five, six days since Christmas, that’s not quite enough time for transmission that occurred on Christmas Day to start to show up in any significant numbers.”

Since it takes around two weeks in general for people who contracted COVID-19 to experience symptoms and get tested, we will likely only know how big the Christmas spike will be in early January.

New Year’s Eve brings poses a second risky time for large gatherings.

“I’m afraid we’re going to have another spike from New Year’s Eve,” St. John said.

Officials have stressed that any celebrations should be virtual, and households should not be mixing for the kind of parties that are common in any other year.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer for B.C., reminded the public earlier Thursday to celebrate safely.

“Many of us will be ordering our favourite meals in, myself included,” Henry said. “Whatever your plans may be this evening, please remember how important it is to follow the public health orders and restrictions. The actions of a small group of people, as we have seen before, can have consequences.”

She added that health officials had been made aware of “holiday celebrations being planned, some for several hundreds [of] people.”

With Christmas and New Year’s Eve potentially impacting community spread, St. John believes we’re “looking at three weeks of increasing numbers,” in January, adding that this “may well have a major impact on our health-care system.”

We won’t see the effects of provincial lockdowns that occurred in December for weeks, making it hard to know how much they have helped or not.

Dr. Hassan Masri, an ICU specialist from Saskatchewan, told CTV News that “bold decisions should have been made earlier.”

“Unfortunately, they were not made early enough,” he said.

In Ontario, hospitals are being stretched to the limits in many regions. Within the province, COVID-19 patients in intensive care have doubled since the end of November, with 337 in the ICU today. In Scarborough alone, over 60 per cent of the ICU capacity is occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Albert Lauwers, chief of staff at Scarborough Health Network, told CTV News that they are bracing for an increase in cases in early 2021.

“We’re expecting spikes in January right through to mid-February,” he said.

While this is occurring, more shipments of vaccines will be making their way across Canada. But the vaccine rollout shouldn’t spur people to assume the pandemic is now over, St. John said — it should inspire us to be more careful than ever.

With the vaccine right around the corner for the general public, “now is not the time to get COVID,” he said.

“And now’s not the time to get COVID and then spread it to somebody, especially your grandparents, or your parents, or anybody else. Now is the time to really follow the measures and try to avoid becoming infected.”

He acknowledged that this is a “very difficult time.

“I’m afraid this epidemic is going to continue on into 2021,” he said. “It’s not over, and until we get enough vaccination to control the virus, we’re still going to have to follow these measures.” 

With files from Andrew Weichel

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Rio Tinto smelter workers go on strike in Kitimat, B.C. – Business News – Castanet.net

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Approximately 900 Rio Tinto workers at the company’s aluminum smelting facilities in Kitimat, B.C. have gone on strike.

The walkout began today at one minute after midnight. Unifor Local 2301, which represents the workers, had issued a 72-hour strike notice after nearly seven weeks of negotiations.

Jerry Dias, Unifor’s National President, says the strike comes down to what he calls “Rio Tinto’s greed and lack of respect” for the union members working at the Kitimat smelting facilities.

The union says it has proposed the first changes to workers’ retirement income and benefit levels in more than a decade, including moving younger workers to defined benefit from defined contribution pension plans.

It also says negotiations have focused on a backlog of more than 300 grievances resulting from the company’s use of contractors and its refusal to hire full-time workers.

Bargaining had continued up until the strike deadline, and the company had earlier said that it was “committed to working with the union to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.”

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30 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death reported in Manitoba on Sunday – CBC.ca

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There are 30 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba and one more person has died from the illness, the province’s online coronavirus dashboard says.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate is now 3.2 per cent, the dashboard says, down slightly from 3.3 on Saturday.

The province is no longer issuing COVID-19 news releases on weekends, which means updates on Saturdays and Sundays come from Manitoba’s online dashboards.

Those data portals offer less information than what’s typically included in a news release. For example, they do not provide any information on the age or health region of people who died from the illness.

Those and other details are expected to be revealed in the province’s next news release on Monday.

There are still 103 Manitobans hospitalized after getting COVID-19 and the number of people in intensive care rose by one to 26, the dashboard says.

Manitoba has now reported 1,172 deaths linked to COVID-19. The province’s seven-day new case average sank to just under 44.

On Saturday, the province did 1,465 more tests for the illness, the dashboard says, bringing the total number of swabs completed since the beginning of the pandemic to 865,786.

As of Sunday, Manitoba has fully vaccinated 66 per cent of its eligible population against COVID-19 while 78.6 per cent have at least one dose, the province’s online vaccine dashboard says.

That brings the province slightly closer to its final reopening plan goal of having 80 per cent with at least one dose and at least 75 per cent with both by Sept 6.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 57,446 people in Manitoba have tested positive for COVID-19. The dashboard says 55,719 of them are considered recovered, while 555 are still deemed active cases.

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Ontario reports 172 new COVID-19 cases and 2 more deaths; 7-day average remains unchanged – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Ontario reported fewer than 200 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Sunday, as the seven-day rolling average remains unchanged from yesterday.

Provincial health officials logged 172 new infections today, up from 170 on Saturday but down from 177 a week ago.

The province reported 192 cases on Friday, 185 on Thursday and 135 on Wednesday.

The seven-day rolling average now stands at 159, unchanged from Saturday but up slightly from a week ago when it was 153.

The province’s virus-related death toll is 9,313.

Another 144 people recovered from the virus yesterday, resulting in 1,450 active cases across the province.

Ontario labs processed 13,902 tests in the past 24 hours, down from 19,131 the previous day.

The drop in testing contributed to a slight day-over-day rise in the positivity rate to 1.1. per cent, compared to 0.8 per cent on Saturday, according to the Ministry of Health.

Another 152 lab-confirmed cases of variants of concern were identified in Ontario in the past 24 hours.

In the Greater Toronto Area, 48 cases of COVID-19 were logged in Toronto, 23 in Peel Region, nine in York Region, 11 in Durham and seven in Halton.

There are currently 127 people in intensive care units across the province due to the virus and 81 of those patients are breathing with the help of a ventilator.

To date, there have been more 549,300 lab-confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 538,565 recoveries since January 2020.

Over 8.5 million people are fully vaccinated against the virus after receiving two doses of approved vaccines.

More than 18.9 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Ontario since mid-December, with 103,812 shots into arms yesterday alone.

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.

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