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Ontario marks $255M to address homeless shelter COVID-19 outbreaks

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Ontario says it will give municipalities and Indigenous communities $255 million to address an increase in COVID-19 outbreaks in homeless shelters across the province.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark is expected to make the announcement at a press conference later this morning.

The government says communities can use the funding to acquire motel and hotel spaces to support physical distancing, hire more shelter staff, and buy more personal protective equipment.

The funds can also be used to purchase cleaning supplies and be added to rent and utility banks to keep people from becoming homeless.

Toronto will receive $94.5 million of the funding to prevent outbreaks in its shelters.

Of the 20,000 people who used Toronto’s homeless shelter system last year, 711 contracted the disease — and six died of the virus.

One recent outbreak linked to the COVID-19 variant has ripped through the Maxwell Meighen Centre in downtown Toronto, infecting dozens of people.

Clark said in a statement that with the increase in shelter outbreaks, the province needed to take action.

“This investment will provide our municipal service managers with the financial ability to take any means necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 in shelter spaces,” he said.

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Clark said at the outset of the pandemic, the province asked all shelters to develop outbreak management plans and complete infection, prevention and control education.

The province has asked shelter managers to ensure those plans are updated now that variants of concern are on the rise in Ontario, he said.

In late February, Ontario added homeless people to the list of those who qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine under Phase 1 of its plan.

Shelter-system residents were to start receiving their initial vaccine doses last week, the city said at the time.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health had previously stated that homeless residents would not be eligible for a vaccine until the inoculation drive entered its second phase.

Source: – Toronto Sun

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10,000 in Waterloo region eligible to get 2nd COVID-19 shot right now, official says – CBC.ca

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More than 90 per cent of eligible residents in Waterloo region have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

People who are 12 and up are eligible to get vaccinated, and able to get the second dose 28 days after the first, the Ontario government’s website says.

“To get second doses to 90 per cent, 20,683 second doses must be given. Out of those 20,000 people, approximately 10,000 are eligible now for their second dose and the remaining people will become eligible over the next month,” Vickie Murray, the region’s vaccine lead, said in a media briefing on Friday.

Murray said regional officials are pleased to see single doses reach the 90 per cent milestone, but they want to see second doses, which are at nearly 86 per cent, get there, too.

“Our goal is to continue to aim for the highest vaccination rates possible to protect our community from the spread of COVID,” she said.

As well, the region has given 5,854 third doses, offered to all people living in long-term care in the region.

Murray also announced Friday that as of Oct. 31, the vaccination at the Boardwalk in Waterloo will move to operating only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. because those are the busiest times.

Vaccination bus motors on

The vaccination bus continues to be effective, Murray said. On Wednesday, she said 47 per cent of the doses given were first ones.

The bus will maked scheduled stops:

  • Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Cambridge Farmer’s Market.
  • Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 150 Main St. in Cambridge.
  • Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kitchener Public Library.
  • Thursday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Region of Waterloo International Airport in Breslau.
  • Sunday, Oct. 24 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Sunrise Shopping Centre at 1400 Ottawa St. S., Kitchener.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region’s medical officer of health, said Friday that case rates have been “stable or slowly decreasing trend in the last few weeks.”

“We need to continue our efforts to increase our community immunity over the coming weeks and months,” she said, adding the highly transmissible delta variant remains a risk in the region and could be easily spread between people, especially the unvaccinated.

Murray encouraged anyone who is eligible to get the second dose to do so as soon as they can.

“That is going to be the best way to ensure that you’re fully vaccinated,” Murray said.

If regional staff find that a lot of people are delaying the second dose, they will reach out to them directly through emails and phone calls — something staff also did over the summer.

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Horse race marks Sydney’s emergence from long COVID-19 lockdown

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Thousands of Sydney residents flocked to a prominent horse race on Saturday, as Australia’s biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination.

Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/horse-racing-third-time-lucky-nature-strip-everest-2021-10-16 in Sydney, Australia’s richest turf horse race, and the country’s most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2.

New South Wales State, of which Sydney is the capital, reached its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of Australia.

“80% in NSW! Been a long wait but we’ve done it,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Twitter.

The state reported 319 new coronavirus cases, all of the Delta variant, and two deaths on Saturday. Many restrictions were eased in New South Wales on Monday, when it reached 70% double vaccinations.

Neighbouring Victoria, where the capital Melbourne has been in lockdown for weeks, reported 1,993 new cases and seven deaths, including the state’s youngest victim, a 15-year-old girl.

Victoria is expected to reach 70% double vaccination before Oct. 26 and ease its restrictions more slowly than New South Wales has, drawing criticism from the federal government on Saturday.

“It is really sad that Victorians are being held back,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Australia is set to gradually lift its 18-month ban on international travel https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/covid-19-infections-linger-near-record-levels-australias-victoria-2021-10-14 from next month for some states when 80% of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 67.2% of Australians were fully inoculated, and 84.4% had received at least one shot.

The country closed its international borders in March 2020, since then allowing only a limited number of people to leave or citizens and permanent residents abroad to return, requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.

Australia’s overall coronavirus numbers are low compared to many other developed countries, with just over 140,000 cases and 1,513 deaths.

(Reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)

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Canada heading for flu season in the middle of fourth wave of COVID-19 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Laura Osman, The Canadian Press


Published Friday, October 15, 2021 1:09PM EDT


Last Updated Friday, October 15, 2021 4:34PM EDT

OTTAWA – The country could be heading for its first typical flu season since the pandemic began, even as health systems are still battling the fourth wave of COVID-19, Canada’s top doctor warns.

Last year the flu was “virtually non-existent,” in Canada, thanks to strict public health measures to protect against COVID-19, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday.

What served as a blessing last fall, sparing already overwhelmed health systems, could now mean Canadians have less immunity against common strains of the flu.

Surveillance data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows higher rates of infection than expected for some of Canada’s most common seasonal viruses: respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. and human parainfluenza.

“This year we are anticipating a possible flu resurgence, due to lower levels of immunity in the population as a result of less circulation last flu season, and the easing of some restrictive, community-based public health measures,” Tam said.

Even during non-pandemic times, flu season has been known to bring hospitals to their knees, overcrowding emergency rooms and intensive care units.

Now, with some hospitals already at capacity and staff across the country burnt out by a year and a half of providing pandemic care, an intense flu season could be especially dire.

“This is definitely not the year to have influenza wreak havoc,” Tam said.

That’s why public health officials say it will be more important than ever that people get flu shots to avoid complications like pneumonia and protect hospitals from becoming overloaded.

On Oct. 7, The National Advisory Committee on Immunization suggested the flu vaccine can be given any time before or after – or even at the same time as – the COVID-19 vaccine, so there’s no reason to postpone either shot.

It’s too early to say how severe the flu season is likely to be, but pediatric hospitals are already feeling the ill effects.

The emergency room at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario is packed to the level the hospital would normally see at the peak of flu season.

The surge has been driven partly by routine injuries, but also from a “potpourri” of viruses, including RSV, said Tammy DeGiovanni, the hospital’s senior vice-president of clinical services and chief nurse executive.

Because of COVID-19, she said, CHEO has had to cancel surgeries and add to already length backlogs. Flu cases would only compound that problem further and create lengthy waits for non-urgent care.

“What we worry about is our capacity and our ability to staff,” DeGiovanni said in an interview Friday. “What we try not to do, but we’ve been forced to, are some cancellations.”

A similar situation is playing out at other children’s hospitals as well, she said.

Tam said the federal government has been bolstering health-care systems throughout the pandemic by ensuring emergency aid from the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Red Cross, but the solution is not sustainable.

“Health-care capacity cannot be generated overnight, and particularly things like ICU capacity,” Tam said.

“People need to do everything they can to reduce both COVID and other respiratory viruses in order to keep our system going.”

Tam’s deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, said one of the silver linings of the pandemic may be the prevalence of flu prevention measures, like hand-sanitation stations and mask wearing.

“Hopefully these types of behaviors will carry on long past … COVID-19 and become part of normal healthy behaviors to protect yourselves in the future against other respiratory infections, including annual flu.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2021

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