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Key COVID-19 numbers in the Ottawa area today –



  • Ottawa reports 16 new COVID-19 cases and no deaths Sunday

Today’s Ottawa update

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) reported 16 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, the second highest case total since late June. 

It also removed one case from its dashboard.

Ten of Sunday’s new cases were people in their 20s.

OPH didn’t report any new deaths and hasn’t for nearly a month.

There are 77 known active cases in the capital.

Numbers to watch

0.7%: Ottawa’s average COVID-19 test positivity rate increases.

1.26: The number of people infected by a single COVID-19 case, or R(t). The rate of spread is considered under control when the number is below one. 

6.1: The weekly incidence rate, a rolling seven-day total of new COVID-19 cases expressed per 100,000 residents.

1: The number of active COVID-19 outbreaks in Ottawa: a daycare outbreak with two child cases, as well as one case linked to a staff member.

3: The number of Ottawa residents being treated for COVID-19 in an Ottawa hospital.

1: The number of those patients in an intensive care unit.

770,131: The number of Ottawa residents who have received at least one vaccine dose, as of Friday.

674,412: The number of Ottawa residents who are fully vaccinated, as of Friday.

83%: The percentage of Ottawa residents 12 and up — all those who are currently eligible for a vaccine — who have at least one vaccine dose, as of Friday.

73%: The percentage of eligible Ottawa residents who are fully vaccinated, as of Friday.

Across the region

Eastern Ontario health units outside of Ottawa are generally reporting an average of a new case or two per day at most and aren’t reporting any COVID-19 hospital patients or outbreaks.

An exception is Hastings Prince Edward Public Health in the Belleville, Ont., area, which reported 13 new cases in recent days and 24 known active cases after warning about COVID-19 exposure at parties. It doesn’t have any COVID-19 patients in hospital.

Ontario is currently under Step 3 of the province’s pandemic reopening plan.

In eastern Ontario, most units have met the province’s fully vaccinated threshold for the next reopening step.

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CN Rail to slash capital spending, resume stock buybacks as shareholder battle looms – The Globe and Mail



CN’s announcement came less than a day after its second-largest investor, TCI Fund Management, gave the company 21 days to call a shareholder meeting at which TCI plans to oust CN’s chairman, chief executive officer and two directors.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Canadian National Railway Co. has moved to fend off a battle for control of the company’s boardroom, rolling out a list of investor-friendly plans Friday that includes share buybacks, layoffs and reduced spending.

CN unveiled the changes, including the sale of non-rail businesses and other steps intended to boost profit and improve productivity, as it defended its actions in the failed takeover of U.S. railway Kansas City Southern.

CN’s announcement came less than a day after its second-largest investor, TCI Fund Management, gave the company 21 days to call a shareholder meeting at which TCI plans to oust CN’s chairman, chief executive officer and two directors.

Mathieu Gaudreault, a CN spokesman, said the company received TCI’s meeting requisition notice and will respond later.

British billionaire Chris Hohn, who owns TCI, said CN is poorly run by people with little or no rail experience. Mr. Hohn said the failed attempt to buy Kansas City Southern underlined CN’s “flawed decision making” and “a basic misunderstanding of the railroad industry and regulatory environment.”

Ben Walker, a partner in TCI, dismissed CN’s Friday announcement as “reactive” and said it does not change the plans to wage a boardroom fight. The dissatisfaction with CN’s leadership precedes the failed KCS bid, he said, pointing to CN’s underperformance in recent years compared with its rivals.

“A lot of the things they’re doing should have been done already as part of a continuous improvement plan and efficiency optimization,” Mr. Walker said by phone. “We’re hopeful that shareholders will vote for our slate of independent, high-quality nominees.”

KCS agreed to a cheaper bid from rival Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and is awaiting regulatory approval.

On a conference call with analysts Friday, CN executives defended their handling of the KCS bid and said the company’s management and board were the best people to lead the company.

“We have the right leadership team and management team to execute our strategic plan, both in the short term and the long term,” said Jean-Jacques Ruest, CN’s chief executive officer. “We have a vision for the industry which is forward-looking, not backward-looking.”

Mr. Ruest said the non-rail businesses that could be sold or shut down include its Great Lakes commodity ships, freight forwarding business and Winnipeg trucking company TransX Group, which CN bought in 2019.

“There is no sacred cow at CN,” Mr. Ruest said on the call. “Do they fit in the long-term strategy? Do they also contribute to feeding the beast or bringing business to the railroad?”

CN said it will eliminate 650 management jobs and 400 unionized positions in train operations.

Walter Spracklin, a Royal Bank of Canada stock analyst, said CN’s “strategic refocus” was inevitable.

“It is clear to us that CN’s operating efficiency has deteriorated over the past several years and the company has gone from industry leader to industry laggard,” Mr. Spracklin said. “That said, as an early pioneer of [precision scheduled railroading], we believe the company has the potential to achieve … efficiency levels that are among the best in the industry.”

TCI’s nominees to CN’s board include former CN and Union Pacific Railroad executive Jim Vena as CEO.

The US$40-billion hedge fund, launched in 2003 by Mr. Hohn, owns more than 5 per cent of CN’s shares, worth about $4-billion. TCI is also the largest owner of CP shares, at 8 per cent, and owns almost 3 per cent of Union Pacific.

In 2008, TCI led a boardroom fight at U.S. railway CSX Corp., replacing four of 12 directors.

Among the steps CN announced Friday:

  • Resuming share repurchases to reach $1.1-billion by the end of January, 2022;
  • Increasing shareholder returns, including share buybacks of $5-billion for 2022;
  • Replacing two directors in 2022, including chairman Robert Pace, whose planned retirement was previously announced;
  • Improving the operating ratio, which compares sales with costs, to 57 per cent; and
  • Increasing train length and speed.

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US FDA panel okays COVID-19 booster jabs for people over 65 – Al Jazeera English



Recommendation comes after science advisory panel rejects Pfizer proposal to provide booster jabs to most people.

A United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel has given approval to a booster jab of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people over the age of 65 and others at high risk of the disease.

But the influential FDA panel of scientists on Friday rejected widespread delivery of boosters to most Americans, delivering a surprise blow to the Biden administration’s plan to combat the highly contagious Delta variant by rolling out third jabs of the vaccine next week.

Members of the FDA’s panel of outside experts voted unanimously to support boosters for older Americans and at-risk people after rejecting Pfizer’s proposal to provide boosters of the vaccine to the general public.

The FDA’s move to clear the way for booster jabs only for older and at-risk people came as President Joe Biden planned to host a COVID-19 summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.

The US has been pushing partner nations to increase the availability of vaccines worldwide. The World Health Organization has urged the US to hold off providing boosters to its citizens until more of the worldwide population has received an initial inoculation.

“We will be asking participants to commit to a higher level of ambition” on a “common vision for defeating COVID-19 together”, White press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

During several hours of discussion, the FDA panel of scientific advisers voiced frustration that Pfizer had provided little data on the safety of extra doses. And they complained information provided by Israeli researchers about their booster campaign was not useful for predicting the US experience.

Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech, as well as rival vaccine maker Moderna Inc, have presented analyses of clinical trials showing that the effectiveness of the vaccines wanes over time.

As a result, people who were vaccinated earlier on in the pandemic are now more vulnerable to infections, particularly in the face of the fast-spreading Delta variant of coronavirus.

Booster doses help restore the waning levels of antibodies produced by the original inoculation, the drugmakers have said.

Top FDA members have been split on the necessity of the boosters, with interim head Janet Woodcock backing them but some of the agency’s top scientists arguing they are not needed yet.

Members of the advisory panel said the Pfizer and the FDA request for approval for people as young as 16 years old is too broad. Most of them said they would support boosters for older Americans, but did not think they were needed yet for younger adults.

Many vaccine experts said the data so far only suggested a need for boosters in older adults and people with compromised immune systems. The critics include two FDA scientists who resigned as the Biden administration announced its booster shot plans.

A separate panel advising the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will meet next week to recommend which groups should get them.

The White House said it was ready to roll out boosters next week if health officials approve the plan. That programme now is likely to be narrowed in light of the advisory panel’s views and the FDA’s partial approval of the use of boosters.

A report published in The Lancet medical journal on September 13 concluded that even with the threat of the more contagious Delta variant, “booster doses for the general population are not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic.”

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Health-care industry, not consumers, target of vaccine brand names – Business News –



Experts say the renaming of COVID-19 vaccines is “business as usual” since the shots could not be branded until fully authorized by Health Canada, and their not-so-usual names are the result of pharmaceutical companies marketing to health institutions, not consumers.

The government on Thursday approved the brand names SpikeVax for the Moderna vaccine, Vaxzevria for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and Comirnaty for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Pfizer said the new name for its vaccine is meant to combine the terms COVID-19, mRNA (the technology used in the shot), immunity and community into a singular name.

“Although the vaccine’s brand name will be Comirnaty following this approval, Canada will continue to receive vials of the vaccine labeled with the name ‘Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine’ for the next several months,” said Pfizer spokeswoman Christina Antoniou.

“Given the current ongoing pandemic, a transition to new labeling will occur at a later date.”

Ryerson University associate professor Joanne McNeish said the procedure of naming the drug after full approval is standard for drug companies, but unorthodox for consumers during the pandemic since people were so in tune with the different kinds of vaccines.

She said the names, which don’t exactly roll off your tongue, may be that way since the companies will be selling to our health-care system, not to consumers.

“Most people don’t know the brand name or the company of their flu shot,” said McNeish.

Before Thursday, she said, the vaccines didn’t actually have a name at all, and the name that we knew was simply the company’s title.

She compared it to laundry detergent: we call them Tide pods because of the brand, not Procter and Gamble pods because of the parent company.

“From (the pharmaceutical companies’) point of view, this is business as usual, but it’s unusual for us as users to be observing it, because this would normally all be done before it came to market,” said McNeish.

However, she said putting a brand name on their product can be an expensive process with labelling and legal costs in the millions. McNeish said these companies wouldn’t take the time to brand the product unless they believe that COVID-19 vaccines are going to be a part of our lives for a long time.

“There are a lot of costs that go into building a brand name, and I think these companies wouldn’t do this if these vaccines were only going to be used for another year,” said McNeish, adding the companies are trying to build long-term equity around the brand name.

“So what I would take from this is that they’re going to be using this brand name for this drug for quite a while.”

In the meantime, McNeish said she expects the companies’ names will remain front and centre in the public sphere, and the brand names for each vaccine will only become more common over time.

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