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Ontario premier says residents now interact with 50 to 100 people, causing 'out of control' COVID-19 contact tracing – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Premier Doug Ford says Ontario residents are now interacting with 50 to 100 people, making COVID-19 contact tracing very difficult.

“What we did see when we did contact tracing at the beginning, we’d be able to contact 10 people and trace them. Now, people are interacting with 50 to 100 and if you have 100 cases times 100, 10,000 contact tracings and then those people contact 100 and then those people – next thing you know it just flies out of control,” Ford said during a news conference held on Friday afternoon.

The premier’s comments come in response to the federal government calling on Canadians to decrease their current number of social contacts by 25 per cent in order to help curb the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While releasing new national modelling on Friday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said if Canadians maintain their current rate of contacts, the epidemic is forecast to resurge. They said if residents decrease their contacts by a quarter, the spread of the novel coronavirus would come under control “in most locations.”

When asked on Friday if the province is considering lowering the limits on social gatherings – currently set at 10 indoors and 25 outdoors – Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health said a review on the matter will take place.

“I think the bottom line is yes, we will review that obviously and consider whether we need to change the guidelines,” she said reminding people to be aware that COVID-19 generally spread between people.

“If you’re with people who are not people in your household, people you live with, you should be careful. You should minimize your contact with other people, especially within two metres, wear a mask and don’t do anything that’s not essential.”

Yaffe added that those who live alone should interact with another household to avoid social isolation.

Back in August, Ford said social circles of up to 10 people will likely be sticking around until 2021.

Ontario logged 896 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the seven-day average above 900 for the first time.

More than 74,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Ontario since the first infection was recorded in late January. That number includes more than 3,100 deaths and nearly 64,000 recovered patients.

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A subdued Black Friday at retailers amid COVID-19 pandemic as sales move online – CTV News

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Black Friday shoppers appear to have heeded public health warnings, with more online purchases and little crowding at stores across the country against a backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases.

Many brick-and-mortar stores were deserted compared with the usual crowds and fanfare of the one-day sales bonanza that traditionally launches the holiday shopping season.

Some stores and malls had lineups, but most remained under capacity limits throughout the day.

Discounted big ticket items at big-box stores – often among the first products to sell out on Black Friday – were still well-stocked in many locations halfway through the day.

It’s a sign that staggered Black Friday promotions, which many retailers began rolling out as early as October, as well as the push to offer more sales online, has helped curb in-store shopping.

Retail analysts said they expected most of this year’s Black Friday purchases to be online.

Ottawa tech-firm Shopify Inc. said online Black Friday sales were “off to a historic start” early in the day, with merchants that use the company’s platform breaking last year’s peak sales-per-minute record in the first three minutes at 12:03 a.m. Friday morning.

Still, some consumers across the country opted to shop in brick-and-mortar stores.

In Halifax, Daniel Smith said he decided to check out the sales at a local Walmart and was surprised to find no lineup outside and very few people in the aisles.

“I can’t believe there aren’t more people here, it’s reassuring,” he said, though he added that the retail event is usually “tame” compared to the United States.

Smith’s shopping cart was filled with toys, like L.O.L. Surprise balls and a unicorn slime milkshake kit.

“It’s a good time to get Christmas presents,” he said. “There were some good deals and I’ve got a bunch of nieces and nephews to buy for.”

Also in Halifax, a Best Buy worker described the day as “pretty chill,” while a Canadian Tire clerk said the store was busier on Thursday – when the chain’s weeklong sale started.

Retailers in the city, which has been the site of a recent COVID-19 outbreak, are under occupancy restrictions of 25 per cent normal capacity. Stores in the Halifax Shopping Centre posted limits in their shop windows, many of which could allow fewer than 10 people inside at a time.

The East Coast’s more muted Black Friday was mirrored across much of the country.

In Montreal, the city’s popular downtown shopping district along Ste-Catherine Street and the Eaton Centre mall appeared subdued.

Still, a few stores offering steep discounts attracted larger crowds. A line up at shoe store Centrall Montreal stretched around the corner, with customers eager to get deals on shoes like Nike Jordan 1s and Yeezys.

David Gorelik, who said he waited outside the store overnight, showed off a pair of shoes he bought for $5 that normally sell for between $180 and $200.

He said it was worth the wait, adding that it’s not just the good deals but a “fun experience.”

Montreal, like all of Quebec’s major cities, is a “red zone” – the highest level of Quebec’s COVID-19 alert systems. Red zone restrictions have forced bars, restaurant dining rooms, gyms, museums and cinemas to close and private gatherings are banned. However, retail stores remain open.

Meanwhile, one Toronto-area mall was no busier than a typical pre-pandemic weekend.

Only the public health protocols differentiated the scene at Mapleview Shopping Centre in Burlington, Ont., from a usual day.

Staff were stationed at each entrance to the building and at central elevators, making sure shoppers kept a safe distance.

Only a few shops – generally the ones advertising storewide promotions without the usual “up to” and “almost everything” caveats – saw customers lining up to enter.

Connie Johnson, a local resident toting a single shopping bag from the women’s clothing store Laura, said she hit the stores early in a bid to beat crowds.

“I’m always concerned about going somewhere, with the virus, but you have to go out and do some things, and I do go to the grocery store and the drugstore, and today I figured I’d go and take a chance,” she said from behind her reusable mask.

Burlington – part of Halton Region and roughly 50 kilometres west of Toronto – is in the red or “control” zone of Ontario’s pandemic plan, with the strictest public health measures short of a lockdown.

However, while Mapleview Shopping Centre was relatively slow, regional outlet mall Vaughan Mills reportedly had long lineups to get inside.

Meanwhile, parts of Western Canada also saw some shoppers out and about, but fewer than in previous years.

Ten minutes before a Best Buy store in northwest Calgary was set to open, there was nobody in line.

When the store opened, about 25 customers, socially distanced, were lined up waiting to get in. A sign on the door announced a limit of 164 customers and a digital check-in where people would be texted when there was space for them to shop.

“It’s a smaller crowd than I was expecting,” said Dean Rawley, who was planning to use a gift card to take advantage of the Black Friday deals.

After a record surge in COVID-19 cases this week, Alberta put in place stricter public health measures including limiting occupancy in retail businesses to 25 per cent capacity.

Rawley said he wasn’t concerned about venturing out.

“Not particularly. I’m not too worried about it,” he said. “If something happens. It happens.”

In Manitoba, the province urged people to stay home and shop online, saying that provincial workers will be “out in full force on Black Friday” ensuring public health orders are adhered to.

On the West Coast, streets in Vancouver’s downtown core lined with major retailers and department stores were largely empty Friday.

A few shoppers trickled in and out of stores decked out with Black Friday sale signs, a far cry for an area that’s often bustling during the holiday season.

Retail analysts say the bulk of today’s purchases will probably be online.

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, said e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

He said given ongoing lockdowns and in-store capacity limits, online sales are expected to be strong today and remain heightened over the holiday shopping season.

Black Friday, which started as a post-Thanksgiving sale in the United States, has gained in popularity in Canada in recent years.

It has also become an increasingly important sales event for retailers, along with Cyber Monday, overshadowing Boxing Day.

Robin Sahota, managing director and Canadian retail lead for professional services firm Accenture, said retailers might be saving some special discounts for Cyber Monday.

“It’s going to be a day where retailers look to add some sweeteners to entice consumers, particularly with the pull forward of Black Friday,” he said. “I think folks will be seeking out something special on Cyber Monday.”

– With files from Nicole Thompson in Burlington, Jacob Serebrin in Montreal and Bill Graveland in Calgary.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.

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What provinces and territories have said about their COVID-19 vaccine plans – CBC.ca

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The federal government is laying plans for the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, inking contracts with seven potential manufacturers and saying six million doses could arrive in the country in the first quarter of 2021.

The most recent development from Ottawa came Friday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped former NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead the national distribution effort.

But various provinces have started spelling out their plans as well. Here’s a look at what they’ve said so far:

Nova Scotia

The province’s chief medical officer of health says he will release a detailed plan for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine once Ottawa shares more information.

Dr. Robert Strang said Friday there is no certainty yet about the availability of a vaccine, but expressed hopes an initial supply will trickle into Nova Scotia early in the new year.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said a detailed provincial plan, to be released once the federal government has shared more specifics on its end, will include tight control of the supply and clear rules dictating who can be first in line for immunization. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Strang said a detailed provincial plan, to be released once the federal government has shared more specifics on its end, will include tight control of the supply and clear rules dictating who can be first in line for immunization.

He said he’s waiting for more federal guidance on issues ranging from priority groups to transportation and storage logistics.

Quebec

The province will be ready to start rolling out its vaccine plan as of Jan. 1, say senior politicians.

Premier François Legault said Thursday that public health officials have already settled on the list of priority vaccine recipients, but did not release details. Legault said the province is also working to put the necessary infrastructure in place to support a vaccine rollout.

That includes obtaining refrigerators capable of maintaining the extremely low temperatures needed by one of the most promising potential vaccine options, currently in development through pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Quebec has also tasked assistant deputy health minister Jerome Gagnon and former provincial public health director Dr. Richard Masse to oversee the province’s vaccination effort.

Quebec has also tasked assistant deputy health minister Jerome Gagnon and former provincial public health director Dr. Richard Masse, pictured, to oversee the province’s vaccination effort. (Jacques Boissinot / Canadian Press)

Ontario

Premier Doug Ford is among those leaders calling on Ottawa to provide more clarity as officials scramble to develop a provincewide vaccination strategy.

Early speculation on the number of doses the province could receive was put to rest earlier this week when federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said such details were still in the works.

But Ford has forged ahead, naming former chief of national defence, retired general Rick Hillier, to oversee the province’s vaccine rollout.

Hillier said on Friday he hopes to have a plan developed by year’s end, while Ford urged Ottawa to provide detailed information on potential vaccine delivery.

“We need a clear line of sight into the timelines of the shipments,” Ford said.

WATCH | Ontario prepares vaccine plan as daily case numbers hit record high:

Ontario reported a record-high 1,855 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The head of the province’s vaccine task force says he aims to be ready for vaccine distribution by the end of the year, though the vaccine may not yet have arrived. 5:04

Alberta

The province’s top medical official has said she expects to receive 680,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine early in the new year, a figure not yet confirmed by the federal government.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw has also said a number of hurdles and unknowns remain as the province works to devise its vaccination scheme.

“These [vaccine] numbers, of course, depend on many factors,” Hinshaw said on Nov. 18.

“They depend on the final pieces of the trials that are underway going well. They depend on ensuring that the safety and the effectiveness of the early vaccines can be assured. All of those checks and balances must be cleared.”

WATCH | Hinshaw speaks about a potential vaccine:

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says although a potential COVID-19 vaccine may be getting closer it is still “a lifetime away” and Albertans need to continue to follow health guidance. 1:50

On Friday, Hinshaw said the province is working with Ottawa to get vaccine, but it is “a bit of a moving target” on when vaccines might be available.

“But our goal is that whenever vaccine is available, we will be ready to start immunizing individuals on that highest priority list.”

British Columbia

Provincial health officials announced on Wednesday that a vaccine strategy for the province is already in the works.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top doctor, said Dr. Ross Brown of Vancouver Coastal Health will join the group working to organize the logistics around the distribution of vaccines.

Henry said front-line workers as well as those in long-term care homes will likely have priority for vaccinations.

She cautioned that while the province has contracts with vaccine makers, there can be challenges with offshore manufacturing.

WATCH | Potential vaccine is ‘fantastic,’ Henry says:

B.C. provincial’s health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said while she hasn’t seen the data from the Pfizer trial, it’s still good news, if the results hold. 1:40

“It’s very much focused on who is most at risk and how do we protect them best,” Henry said. “There’s a lot of discussion that needs to happen.”

Henry said the province hopes to have vaccines in hand by January.

Yukon

Premier Sandy Silver told the legislature on Wednesday that the territory has been in discussions with various levels of government on a vaccine rollout plan.

He said the goal will be to provide vaccines to elderly people and health-care providers.

Silver said rural and remote communities should also get priority status in northern regions, a fact he said he’s emphasized with federal authorities.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said rural and remote communities should also get priority status in northern regions, a fact he said he’s emphasized with federal authorities. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

The premier said he has joined the other provincial and territorial leaders in pushing for a national strategy to distribute the vaccine.

“How confusing would it be for 13 different strategies right across the nation?” he said.

Silver said the Pfizer vaccine could cause logistical problems for remote communities because of its cold-storage requirements, but those issues may not apply to other vaccines under development.

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Ontario reports record-breaking 1800 new COVID-19 cases as testing numbers rise – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Ontario health officials are reporting more than 1,800 new COVID-19 cases after the province processed a record-breaking number of tests over the past 24 hours.

The province confirmed 1,855 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday. It’s the highest number of cases ever recorded in a single day in Ontario. The previous record high was on Saturday when officials logged 1,588 cases.

Officials said the province completed 58,037 tests over the past 24 hours, which is the highest number of tests processed since the pandemic began and the first time the province has surpassed its 50,000 capacity limit. The previous record-breaking number was on Oct. 8, when the province processed 48,488 tests in a 24-hour period.

The ministry of health said the province’s positivity rate on Friday now stands at about 3.7 per cent when including duplicate tests and errors.

Health officials also reported 20 new deaths on Friday. Seniors continue to be the age group hardest hit by the pandemic. According to the province’s epidemiology report, 13 of the 20 deaths were people living in long-term care homes.

Since the pandemic started in January, of the 3,595 people who have died in Ontario due to the disease, 2,494 were over the age of 80.

Provincial health officials deemed 1,451 more cases to be resolved as of Friday, bringing the total number of recovered patients in Ontario to 94,366.

The total number of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario now stands at 111,216, including the deaths and the recoveries.

The province released updated COVID-19 projections on Thursday that showed that in the worst-case scenario, Ontario could see more than 9,000 new cases of the disease per day by the end of the year.

There are 541 people currently in Ontario hospitals due to COVID-19, with at least 151 of those patients in an intensive care unit and 101 of them breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

The province previously stated that once the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU reaches 150, it becomes harder to support medical needs not related to the disease. Furthermore, once 350 COVID-19 patients are in the ICU in the province, it becomes “impossible” to handle other medical needs.

Thursday’s projections also suggested that more than 200 COVID-19 patients will be admitted to Ontario intensive care units in December “under any scenario.”

Where are the COVID-19 cases in Ontario?

Ontario’s three COVID-19 hot spots continue to be the most impacted regions in the province. On Friday, Peel Region reported 517 new cases, Toronto reported 494 new cases and York Region reported 189.

Toronto and Peel Region entered the province’s lockdown phase on Monday, which forced most non-essential businesses, including gyms, malls and personal care services, to close for at least 28 days.

Several other regions in Ontario reported rising COVID-19 case numbers. Halton Region reported 130 cases, Hamilton reported 82 cases, Waterloo reported 74 cases, Durham Region reported 65 cases, Ottawa reported 55 cases, Windsor-Essex reported 52 cases and Simcoe-Muskoka reported 38 cases.

Most of the new cases of COVID-19 reported on Friday involve people under the age of 80.

There were 686 infections in people between the ages of 20 and 39, at least 564 in people between the ages of 40 and 59 and 249 in people between the ages of 60 and 79. There were 278 cases in people under the age of 19.

In total, Ontario has processed more than 6.1 million tests since the pandemic began in January. There are 54,241 COVID-19 tests still under investigation. 

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