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N.S. reports no new cases of COVID-19 Friday; many restrictions eased – CTV News Atlantic

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HALIFAX —
Health officials in Nova Scotia identified no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Two previously reported cases are now considered recovered, dropping the total number of active cases in the province to eight.

Friday’s case count and the province’s diminishing active case number prompted Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil to praise residents for their efforts.

“I’m so proud of this province and all of you,” said McNeil during a press conference on Friday. “Thank you for your cooperation.”

RESTRICTIONS EASING

On Friday, the province announced the easing of many public health restrictions, which will come into effect on Monday until at least March 7.

“We have been seeing a low number of new cases daily, and that allows us to ease some restrictions, while keeping public health measures like wearing masks and distancing in place,” said McNeil, in a press release issued on Friday. “I thank Nova Scotians for their patience and their vigilance in following public health guidelines.”

Effective Monday at 12 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. March 7:

  • retail businesses can operate at 75 per cent capacity
  • fitness facilities can operate at 75 per cent capacity and must maintain three metres between people during high-intensity activities both indoors and outdoors
  • recognized businesses and organizations can resume hosting events with 150 people outdoors, or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity to a maximum of 100 indoors
  • these events must stop any food or alcohol service by 10 p.m. and end by 11 p.m.
  • these events include social events, arts and culture events, sport and recreation events, special events, festivals, faith gatherings, weddings with receptions, and funerals with visitation and receptions
  • these events include bingo, darts and other similar activities hosted by licensed and unlicensed establishments
  • these gathering limits also apply to meetings and training hosted by private businesses or organizations, provincial and municipal government, first responder organizations, mental health and addictions support groups, and organized clubs
  • organized clubs can host activities for all ages and follow the day camp guidelines to have cohorts of up to 15 within the larger indoor or outdoor gathering limit
  • spectators are allowed at events, including sports games and practices and arts and culture rehearsals and performances, except when they are held at schools
  • large facilities that already have approved plans can resume hosting events with multiple groups of 100 that are kept separate with their own entrances and exits and their own washrooms
  • Centre 200 in Sydney and Scotiabank Centre in Halifax can have multiple groups of 150

“As we start to be more social again with events, it’s important for Nova Scotians to continue all the layers of protection – wash hands, wear masks, practise physical distance, stay home when you’re sick, and get tested,” said chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang, in a press release issued on Friday. “In addition, everyone should make asymptomatic testing part of their regular routine to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially people with a lot of contacts.”

McNeil added the restrictions can be reinstated at any moment depending on the outcome.

“This is a test for all of us,” said McNeil. “We’re keeping our cases down, but the moment that we see a shift or a surge and change in the number of cases, we will not hesitate to bring back restrictions. It really is up to all of us.”

GATHERING LIMITS

In a release issued on Friday, the province also noted the general gathering limit remains at 10 people. This limit applies to household and informal gatherings and events that are not hosted by a recognized business or organization.

There is no change to hours for restaurants and licensed establishments. These businesses must stop service at 10 p.m. and close at 11 p.m. There will be no exceptions to close later when there are special sports events, such as the Super Bowl. The province notes the hours also apply to all types of gatherings hosted by recognized businesses and organizations as appropriate.

Sports teams and individual competitors are still restricted to playing and competing with other teams and people with whom they routinely play or compete.

$5M FOR WOMEN

On Friday, during a press conference, the province acknowledged the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women and announced a $5 million contribution to Sandpiper Ventures – the first venture capital fund of the Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund, in support of women entrepreneurs with innovative ideas.

“They [women] not only lost their jobs, but they had a very hard time getting back into the workforce, let alone finding a well-paying job,” said McNeil. “We need women to be active members of our economy; we need women to drive our economy; we need women in business, in the tech sector, and we need women entrepreneurs.”

“If our daughters have an idea, there should be resources available to them, just as it is to our sons,” added McNeil. “We know the pandemic has led to a decline in women’s employment, at a time when we need more women entrepreneurs. Sandpiper Ventures will help women take their innovative ideas to market.”

The province’s contribution to Sandpiper is expected to be a catalyst for others. It will also help further develop Nova Scotia’s technology and digital start-up ecosystem.

The province says the investment will attract additional capital to the fund and to the region from across the country. Sandpiper invests in women building ground-breaking technology companies, enabling innovative entrepreneurship and equitable growth opportunities.

Sandpiper Venturesis seeking to raise capital from private and public investors with a target of $20 million.

N.S. CASE DATA

The Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 1,681 tests on Thursday.

Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has completed 167,755 tests. There have been 495 positive COVID-19 cases and no deaths. Cases have ranged in age from under 10 to over 70. Four-hundred-and-eighty-sevencases are now resolved.

“Let’s make sure that the work of the last 11 months is not wasted by taking a chance,” said McNeil. “We’ve seen how quickly this virus can take off on us. We’ve seen it next door, we’re watching what’s happening in other parts of Canada.”

There are currently two people in hospital due to COVID-19, one of which is in the intensive care unit.

Since the pandemic began, Nova Scotia has completed 290,933 tests. Cumulatively, there have been 1,584 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 1,511 cases considered recovered.

The province has reported 65 COVID-19 related deaths since the pandemic began, with an average age of 80.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the province’s confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Fifty-five per cent of cases are female, and 45 per cent are male.

There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Central Zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.

The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.

  • Western Zone: 94 cases (1 active case)
  • Central Zone: 1,284 cases (6 active cases)
  • Northern Zone: 127 cases (0 active cases)
  • Eastern Zone: 79 cases (1 active case)

STATE OF EMERGENCY EXTENDED

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to Feb. 21, 2021.

VACCINE UPDATE

Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 online dashboard now provides an update on the amount of vaccines that have been administered to date.

As of Friday, 17.295 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered so far, with 4,681 Nova Scotians having received a second dose.

Of the vaccines administered, 10,251 were health care workers, and 1,687 were long-term care residents.

“Although we didn’t receive any vaccine last week, we are scheduled to receive 1,950 doses of Pfizer and 4,000 doses of Moderna later this week,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “As we have with previous shipments, we will administer half as first doses and save half for second doses.”

NOVA SCOTIANS ENCOURAGED TO SEEK ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING

Public health is strongly encouraging Nova Scotians to seek asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, particularly if they have attended several social interactions, even with their own social circle.

“As we are seeing low case numbers, we are also noticing fewer people taking advantage of our asymptomatic testing, but we need people to continue getting tested,” said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health. “I want to encourage everyone, especially people with a high number of contacts, to make asymptomatic testing part of their regular routine. Testing is one way to stop COVID-19 before it has a chance to spread.”

COVID-19 tests can be booked through the provinces online self-assessment COVID-19 tool, or by calling 811.

People can also visit one of Nova Scotia’s many rapid pop-up testing sites that continue to operate throughout the province.

COVID ALERT APP

Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is available in Nova Scotia.

The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

LIST OF SYMPTOMS

Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose/nasal congestion

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Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine becomes 4th to receive Health Canada approval – CBC.ca

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Health Canada has approved the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in Canada, CBC News has learned.

Health officials will announce the approval at a media briefing today at 10 a.m. ET, multiple sources with knowledge of the approval confirmed.

The U.S. health-care giant’s vaccine is the fourth to be approved in Canada.

The approval is expected to provide a significant boost to Canada’s vaccine rollout. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is widely seen as one of the easiest to administer because it requires only one dose and can be stored for long periods of time at regular refrigerator temperatures.

Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.

Regulatory approval in this country follows similar approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday. 

The FDA said Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine offers strong protection against serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose proved to be 85 per cent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness in a global clinical trial spanning three continents.

More to come.

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3 Ontario regions to pilot COVID-19 vaccines at some pharmacies next week – Yahoo News Canada

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It's not known yet how many doses would be assigned to pharmacies or how many will be participating. (Bobby Hristova/CBC - image credit)

It’s not known yet how many doses would be assigned to pharmacies or how many will be participating. (Bobby Hristova/CBC – image credit)

Some Ontario pharmacies could be offering COVID-19 vaccines as early as next week as part of a provincial pilot program rolling out in three regions.

Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex are the three areas involved in the project, according to Justin Bates, the CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA).

It’s not known yet how many doses would be assigned to pharmacies or how many will be participating. Bates said a comprehensive list of participating stores will be finalized by Monday.

Tentatively, however, the plan is for the selected pharmacies to use the newly approved AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. Bates said the three regions were chosen in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

“The three public health units were very much advanced in their vaccination plans as it related to determining what role pharmacies would play in those regions,” he said.

“But we’re planning to scale up and we’ll be adding more stores. We want all pharmacies to be able to participate once the vaccine is available.”

Vaccine expires at the end of March, says OPA

The OPA is currently working on the details of the plan, said Bates, and are aiming to distribute vaccines across 380 stores in total. However, timing is a factor for the supply as the first shipment of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is set to expire at the end of this month.

“We have a very short window to operationalise this and get all of those vaccines into arms, and that’s part of the reason why we’re launching next week,” said Bates. “We’re doing it on a limited basis because that’ll give us enough vaccine for those 380 stores to get it out of their pharmacies by the end of the month.”

Justin Bates, the CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, says time and supply is limited. The group is aiming to distribute vaccines across 380 stores in total.Justin Bates, the CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, says time and supply is limited. The group is aiming to distribute vaccines across 380 stores in total.

Justin Bates, the CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, says time and supply is limited. The group is aiming to distribute vaccines across 380 stores in total.(Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for Windsor and Essex County, said the additional vaccines are “good news.”

“This means more protection. More vaccines in our community. We really want people to use that opportunity to get vaccinated,” said Ahmed.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations isn’t recommending the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for those 65 and older, and those who are younger will be the target group for these doses. Health Canada has authorized it to be used in adults of all ages.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex, said having additional vaccines is "good news."Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex, said having additional vaccines is "good news."

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex, said having additional vaccines is “good news.”(Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

OPA confirmed that this month’s AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines will be used on people between the ages of 60 and 64.

“Then [we] will lower the thresholds — probably in increments of five years — in intervals, when we get into April and we have more supply,” Bates said. “It’s going to go sequentially.”

This means following the vaccination of people in the cohort of 60 and 64, the next set of people to be vaccinated would be those between of ages of 55 and 59 years and so forth.

“I’m super excited,’ says Essex, Ont. pharmacist

The pilot project is what some pharmacists, including Tim Brady, the owner of Brady’s Drug Stores, in Essex, Ont. have been pushing for.

While the OPA is finalizing a list of locations for this project, Brady is hopeful his pharmacies will make the cut.

“We know it’s happening, it’s developing and growing rapidly and we’re trying to stay on top of it, but I know everybody will step up and do the best we can to make sure people get the injections they need,” he said.

“I’m super excited. We’ve been waiting for this. The pharmacists of Ontario and that of Essex County are ready to put needles in arms and get the people of Essex County back to a normal life again.”

Pharmacist Tim Brady says he's excited about the pilot project and has been waiting for this.Pharmacist Tim Brady says he's excited about the pilot project and has been waiting for this.

Pharmacist Tim Brady says he’s excited about the pilot project and has been waiting for this.(Amy Dodge/CBC)

Brady said the move to allow pharmacists to vaccinate is a good one, given they are equipped for mass vaccinations.

“Even over this COVID year, the Ontario pharmacists are giving over a million injections a year for the flu vaccine. So this is just a natural extension of that,” he said.

Brady said the most challenging part for him is the logistics of the plan and he expects his pharmacy to be busy if it’s part of the project. He said his pharmacy will likely follow an appointment system.

Brady urges people to stay patient as not all pharmacies will have the vaccine yet.

“I want everyone to stay calm. Every pharmacy will inevitably have it,” he said.

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Coronavirus: With US aiming to finish vaccinations in May, PM 'optimistic' Canada's timeline could speed up – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
While U.S. President Joe Biden pledges that there will be enough COVID-19 vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s not ready yet to say Canada’s immunization timeline will speed up, but he’s “very optimistic” it will.

“We are now fully back on track and even ahead of schedule in terms of where we were hoping to be for the end of March,” Trudeau said Wednesday, facing questions about Canada’s pace of immunization, in light of Biden moving up his country’s timeline.

What the prime minister seems to be waiting to see—noting the delivery shortages and delays Canada experienced in the first months of the mass vaccination campaign— is “if indeed, all the vaccines that we’ve contracted for are able to be manufactured and shipped in the right ways.”

For months, the federal government has stuck to its pledge that every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated, will be by the end of September. It’s a timeline that officials have indicated could accelerate should additional vaccines be approved and arrive in this country in the months ahead.

The uptick in supply has begun, with last week’s Health Canada authorization of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and could be given another shot in the arm in the weeks ahead if Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is given the green light.

Asked whether he was concerned about the impact that the American economy likely fully reopening ahead of Canada’s might have, Trudeau noted the different pandemic experiences both countries have had and cautioned against comparing.

“It’s possible that those timelines be moved forward, and we’re certainly going to work closely with the provinces in order to try and get to that, to get vaccinations to Canadians as quickly as possible so that we can loosen and reopen as quickly as possible,” he said.

Should the U.S. have all the doses needed in that country by the end of May, it opens up questions as to whether larger numbers could be sent to Canada earlier. It’s something Trudeau said he’s spoken with Biden about generally, but there’s no concrete commitment that Canada would be in line to receive any potential surplus from the U.S.

Trudeau indicated that in his conversations with Biden he seemed “very open to helping out other countries,” once Americans were immunized, and said it’s a conversation that will continue.

The most recent COVID-19 vaccination timeline showed that at least 14.5 million Canadians will be able to be immunized by the end of June with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna doses, but that could increase up to 24.5 million Canadians if additional shots are granted regulatory approval.

The remaining millions of Canadians who are eligible to receive these vaccines would be left waiting until sometime between July and September.

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