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Jack Knox: Among the glumness of another COVID extension, signs of hope – Times Colonist

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You might recall a December column in which I urged weary readers to maintain COVID discipline, keep their Christmas celebrations small and hang on for what I assured them would be the best Family Day ever.

This, of course, was a typographical error.

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What I meant to say was “waiting for this pandemic to ease is like waiting for the Canucks to win the Stanley Cup.”

Or, as you used to say to your dad on those interminable nobody’s-stopping-to-pee road trips (remember road trips?) to Broken Dreams, Sask., “Are we there yet?”

No, no we are not. And we’re feeling more than a little like Alice in Wonderland, chasing a goal that never gets closer no matter how fast we run.

Nobody was really surprised Friday when Dr. Bonnie Henry extended — again — the no-gathering rules introduced in mid-November. We need to buy time, she said, to get B.C.’s immunization program back on track and to get a handle on those scary variants that, while rare here, we really don’t want to take root.

Besides, opening the doors to social gatherings in the run-up to Super Bowl Sunday, the Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day and Family Day would have been like lowering the drinking age the week before spring break. (Speaking of spring break: don’t.)

Still, even though Friday’s extension was expected, it was discouraging.

There’s a stand-up comedian who has a joke about meteorologists who habitually forecast a sunny day at the end of a week of rain, just to keep people’s hopes up. After a few weeks of no sun, hope fades. That’s what if felt like.

Except here’s the deal: the mountain of information released by Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix actually included plenty of reasons for cautious optimism. Indicators are pointing in the right direction.

Among the positives:

• If we continue to buckle down, we could see the return of our safe-six bubbles, religious ­services and youth sports by the end of the month. “It’s not going to be ‘yay, we’re out of this, we’re back to ­normal,’ ” Henry said. It will be a slow re-entry into the world that was.

• After peaking in November, then blipping up after the holidays, the daily case count is going in the right direction. “We have now flattened and slowly started to decrease.”

• The flow of vaccines to B.C. might be disappointing, but the effects of the shots that have been administered are beginning to show. Henry said there has been a “dramatic and sustained” decrease in cases among the elderly and those who are most vulnerable to severe illness.

Dix said the number of outbreaks in long-term care, assisted-living and independent-living homes fell from 49 on Jan. 15 to 24 as of Friday. Not only that, but outbreaks in the past two weeks have been smaller in scope.

• The return to classrooms did not bring the spike in cases that some had feared. “We’re not seeing accelerated transmission in school-age children,” Henry said.

• The all-important R number — the average number of people infected by an infected person — has dropped below one. That’s critical.

• Of the 145,567 British ­Columbians who have received vaccines, only 205 have reported adverse side effects. That includes 55 who had serious reactions such as anaphylaxis. “That’s not ­unexpected,” Henry said.

• More vaccines are in the approval process.

“We are seeing some encour aging signs here in B.C,” Henry summarized. The collective efforts are working.

It all came with a note of caution, though.

Henry and Dix repeatedly said how easy it would be to undo all the progress. All it would take for the virus to take off would be one or two superspreader events, or even a slight increase in our contacts. Seeing one more friend, or going to a birthday party is all it might take, Henry said.

And that brings us to the bottom line.

It wasn’t really Dr. Bonnie who was responsible for extending the restrictions Friday. It was COVID.

Nor will it be up to Henry to ease the limits on our lives. It will be up to us. If we keep doing the right things — staying apart, staying put, washing hands, wearing masks — we’ll create our own hope.

jknox@timescolonist.com

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Gorillas are the first non-humans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – Maple Ridge News – Maple Ridge News

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The San Diego Zoo has vaccinated nine great apes for the coronavirus after a troop of gorillas in its Safari Park became infected.

Officials say four orangutans and five bonobos received COVID-19 injections in January and February.

Three bonobos and a gorilla also are expected to receive the vaccine, which is experimental and not built nor suitable for human use.

The vaccinations followed a January outbreak of COVID-19 at the zoo’s Safari Park. Eight western lowland gorillas got the virus, probably by exposure to a zookeeper who tested positive for COVID-19.

The gorillas had symptoms ranging from runny noses to coughing and lethargy. But they are recovering.

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Quebec reports 749 new COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths as province expands vaccine access – Toronto Star

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Quebec continued to escalate its vaccination drive over the weekend, reporting Saturday that the past 24 hours had seen it deliver a single-day high of nearly 20,000 shots to its growing list of eligible residents.

The 19,865 jabs administered on Friday mark the most the province has reported in a single day and come as vaccine shipments ramp up across Canada following numerous international shipment delays.

To date, provincial figures show 532,012 doses of vaccine have been administered out of a total of 638,445 received from the federal government.

Provincial health minister Christian Dube highlighted the upward trend in a tweet on Saturday.

“Vaccinations have [increased] over the last few days and will continue to [increase], with other regions in addition to Montreal beginning mass vaccination next week,” Dube wrote.

Until recently, Quebec has concentrated its vaccination effort on particular groups such as health-care workers, people living in remote regions and seniors in long-term care facilities.

The government began allowing members of the general public to schedule appointments to receive their vaccines recently, with eligibility varying by region. In Montreal and Laval, for example, people over the age of 70 can book appointments, while slots are restricted to people over 80 in other regions.

More regions are scheduled to expand vaccine access to those in different age groups starting next week.

In addition to the vaccine numbers, Quebec reported 749 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday along with 10 new deaths linked to the virus.

Hospitalizations across the province declined by 16 to 601 over the past 24 hours, while the number of patients in intensive care declined by two to 109.

Quebec’s case numbers have stabilized in recent weeks, prompting officials to relax restrictions in some regions.

Starting on March 8, areas such as Estrie and Capitale-Nationale will be designated as “orange zones,” meaning the provincewide curfew will be extended until 9:30 p.m. rather than 8 p.m. More businesses, including restaurants, will also be allowed to open at limited capacity.

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Quebec premier Francois Legault has said that Montreal and the surrounding areas will not see any imminent changes in public health restrictions, warning that more contagious variants of the virus could prompt a sharp uptick in the number of cases in the region.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021.

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Interior Health opens COVID-19 vaccine bookings Monday – Rossland Telegraph

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Interior Health will open up its call centre on Monday for seniors to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

On Monday, seniors aged 90 and over, and Indigenous peoples aged 65 and over, can begin booking appointments by calling 1-877-740-7747. The call centre is open seven days per week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

We remind everyone to be vigilant against fraud. Call centres will never ask for financial information, credit card details, or social insurance numbers. 

The call centre will only ask for:

  • legal name
  • date of birth
  • postal code
  • personal health number (PHN) from the back of B.C. driver’s licences or BC services cards, and
  • current contact information, including an email address you or your family checks regularly or a phone number that can receive text messages.

The public is reminded to follow a staggered approach to prevent long waits and system overload.

  • March 8, 2021: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years+) and Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment;
  • March 15, 2021: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; and
  • March 22, 2021: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment.

​Immunization clinic locations will be confirmed at the time of booking, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15, 2021.

To learn about B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan and the Phase 2 rollout, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst

For additional information on the immunization campaignvisit www.gov.bc.ca/covidvaccine

For more information on what to expect when you go to get vaccinated for COVID-19, visit: www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine/getting-a-vaccine

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