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Ontario releases new detailed list of those eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 2 – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
The Ontario government has released a detailed list of people who will be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 2 of the province’s distribution plan, which officials say focuses on age and at-risk groups.

Speaking to reporters on background Friday, officials said the province is still on track to begin Phase 2 of the vaccination plan in April.

About 9 million Ontario residents are expected to receive their first dose of a vaccine in this phase, which is expected to be complete by at least July.

Under Phase 2, the government will begin mass immunization of adults between the ages of 60 and 79 (in declining five-year increments), people in high-risk congregate settings, individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers, people who cannot work from home and at-risk populations.

The list of individuals eligible for the vaccine in Phase 2 has expanded since it was first released in mid-January to encompass more at-risk groups and to take COVID-19 hot spots into account. Officials say they hope the adjustments will prevent deaths, hospitalizations and admissions to the intensive care units.

On Friday, officials released a detailed list of who will be eligible for the vaccine in Phase 2 based on each categorization:

Based on health conditions

Vaccinations for individuals based on highest-risk health conditions are expected to begin in April.

Highest risk: Organ transplant recipients, Hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients, people with neurological diseases in which respiratory function may be compromised, hematological malignancy diagnosed (<1 year), kidney disease

High-risk: Obesity (BM1 >40), other treatments causing immunosuppression such as chemotherapy and immunity-weakening medications, intellectual or developmental disabilities

At risk: immune deficiencies, autoimmune disorders, stroke or cerebrovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, liver disease, all other cancers, respiratory diseases, spleen problems, heart disease, hypertension with end organ damage, diagnosis of mental disorder, substance use disorders, thalassemia, pregnancy, immunocompromising health conditions, and other disabilities requiring direct support

Based on congregate settings

Vaccinations based on congregate settings are expected to begin in April along with essential caregivers.

This category includes at-risk staff, essential caregivers and residents in the following congregate settings: supportive housing, developmental services, emergency homeless shelters, other homeless populations not in shelters, mental health and addictions congregate settings, homes for special care, violence against women shelters and anti-human trafficking residents, children’s residential facilities, youth justice facilities, Indigenous healing and wellness, provincial and demonstration schools, on-farm temporary foreign workers, bail beds and Indigenous bail beds, adult correctional facilities.

Employees who cannot work from home

Vaccinations based on employment is expected to begin in June.

First group of workers to get vaccine: elementary and secondary school staff, workers responding to critical events, childcare and licenced foster care workers, food manufacturing workers, agriculture and farm workers.

Remaining workers unable to work remotely: high-risk and critical retail workers, remaining manufacturing labourers, social workers, courts and justice system workers, lowest-risk retail workers, transportation, warehousing and distribution, energy, telecom, water and wastewater management, financial services, waste management, mining, oil and gas workers.

Hot spots with high rates of death, hospitalizations and transmission

Some public health units will receive up to 920,000 doses of the vaccine to target hot spots, with a continued age focus.

Here are the priority regions:

• Durham

• Halton

• Hamilton

• Niagara

• Ottawa

• Peel Region

• Simcoe Muskoka

• Waterloo

• Wellington Dufferin Guelph

• Windsor-Essex

• York

• Toronto

• South West

Officials stressed that the timeline presented on Friday is dependent on vaccine supply.

Where are we in Phase 1?

The province is still moving through Phase 1 high-priority groups in its vaccination efforts.

As of March 5, nearly 80 per cent of long-term care residents in Ontario have been fully immunized against the novel coronavirus. Over 67 per cent of long-term care staff and more than 52 per cent of staff at retirement homes have received at least their first dose of the vaccine

More than 820,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered so far, with more than 260,000 Ontarians fully immunized.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require a second dose to be fully effective. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recently recommended that health officials can extend the interval for the second dose to about four months instead of the typical 21-day or 28-day wait.

Ontario officials have said it will move to this recommendation as of March 10, “with some limited exceptions.”

“This will allow Ontario to rapidly accelerate its vaccine rollout and maximize the number of people receiving first dose within a context of limited supply,” officials said in a presentation.

Speaking to reporters on Friday afternoon, the head of the COVID-19 vaccine task force in Ontario said the province has seen a “seismic shift in our vaccination opportunities” over the past week.

“We have a steady flow of vaccines, and we have confidence that that flow will continue uninterrupted, or we are gaining confidence  every day that that flow will continue uninterrupted, for the vaccines arriving in Ontario,” retired Gen. Rick Hillier said.

On Feb. 26, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use by Health Canada. Ontario is expected to receive 194,500 doses of this vaccine next week and will be given to people between the ages of 60 and 64.

Ontario is also expecting about 173,160 doses of the Pfizer-NioNTech vaccine next week and 174,330 doses for the next two following weeks.

The province is also expecting about 160,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine next week and 323,200 doses the following week.

A fourth vaccine was approved by Health Canada on Friday. Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine only requires one dose for full immunization, something Hillier called a “game-changer.”

How will people get the vaccine?

Provincial officials said they expect about 80 per cent of vaccinations in Ontario to take place at an immunization clinic in Phase 2 and Phase 3.

The start date for the province’s online booking system and call centre remains the same—March 15. If public health units want to begin mass immunizations at an earlier date, they will have to use their own systems.

The booking system is being tested in six regions across Ontario until March 8, and as of 7:40 p.m. on March 2, has been used by 308 residents.

The province has earmarked the time between March 8 and the launch on May 15 as “process improvement” time.

first look at Ont. booking portal

The province will also be launching a pilot program in Toronto, Windsor and the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington region that utilizes pharmacies and primary care providers to administer shots.

Pharmacies will use their own booking systems to schedule vaccination appointments. The majority of AstraZeneca vaccine doses are expected to go to both pharmacies and primary-care providers.

While officials refused to provide a date for when all Ontarians may receive the first dose of the vaccine, Hillier optimistically challenged officials to get a shot into the arm of every person in the province by June 20, the first day of summer.

“I want to say by the first day of summer, we want to have, vaccine supply dependent, we want to have a first needle in the arms of every person in Ontario, who is eligible for the vaccine, and who wants to get it.”

Under the current timeline presented by health officials, those over the age of 60 are expected to receive their first dose of a vaccine by the end of May. The timeline does not include a lot of information regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will begin being administered to those between the ages of 60 and 75 this month.

Hillier added that with both the AstraZeneca and the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he hopes the province can “crush those timelines.”

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In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is shifting its vaccination campaign to target frontline workers, moving away from a largely age-based rollout as the country tries to get a handle on the raging third wave of the pandemic.

Canada‘s approach thus far has left unvaccinated many so-called “essential workers,” like daycare providers, bus drivers and meatpackers, all of whom are among those at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provinces are now trying to adjust their strategy to tackle the surge driven by new variants.

Targeting frontline workers and addressing occupation risk is vital if Canada wants to get its third wave under control, says Simon Fraser University mathematician and epidemiologist Caroline Colijn, who has modelled Canadian immunization strategies and found “the sooner you put essential workers [in the vaccine rollout plan], the better.”

Initially, Canada prioritized long-term care residents and staff for the vaccines, as well as the very elderly, health workers, residents of remote communities and Indigenous people.

Targeting vaccinations by age made sense early on in a pandemic that ravaged Canada‘s long-term care homes, Colijn said. But now, immunizing those at highest risk of transmission brings the greatest benefit.

“If you protect these individuals you also protect someone in their 60s whose only risk is when they go to the store. … The variants are here now. So if we pivot now, but it takes us two months to do it, then we will lose that race.”

Data released on Tuesday from the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences showed that Toronto’s neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the lowest vaccination rates, underscoring the disparities in vaccination.

‘IT’S A JUGGERNAUT’

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to have mobile vaccine clinics target COVID-19 “hotspots” and high-risk worksites, although he stopped short of giving people paid time off to get the shot.

Karim Kurji, medical officer of health in York Region north of Toronto, characterizes the shift in vaccination priority from age to transmission risk as moving from defence to offence.

“It’s a juggernaut in terms of the immunization machinery, and turning it around takes a lot of effort,” Kurji said.

Meanwhile, officials in the western province of Alberta say they are offering vaccines to more than 2,000 workers at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in High River, site of one of Canada‘s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. Provincial officials said in a statement they are looking to expand the pilot to other plants.

Quebec will start vaccinating essential workers such as those in education, childcare and public safety in Montreal, where neighbourhoods with the highest vaccination rates have been among those with the lowest recorded infection rates.

The people doing the highest-risk jobs, from an infectious disease perspective, are more likely to be poor, non-white and new Canadians, health experts say. They are less likely to have paid leave to get tested or vaccinated or stay home when sick and are more likely to live in crowded or multi-unit housing. They need to be prioritized for vaccination and their vaccination barriers addressed, experts say.

Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist, said making vaccines available to high-risk communities is not enough without addressing barriers to access.

“The face of COVID-19 and who was being impacted changed dramatically. The variants seemed to take hold in communities where essential workers live. … This [pivot] is a step in the right direction and will hopefully save lives.”

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)

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Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.

Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.

“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.

The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.

Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.

Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.

“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”

Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.

($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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COVID-19 in Ottawa: Fast Facts for April 10, 2021

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OTTAWA —
Good morning. Here is the latest news on COVID-19 and its impact on Ottawa.

Fast Facts:

  • Ottawa’s top doctor warns schools could remain closed after the April break next week
  • Ottawa sets new record for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on Friday
  • The city of Ottawa admits it doesn’t have enough supply to vaccinate residents 50 and older in high-priority neighbourhoods
  • Kingston closes popular waterfront park to prevent COVID-19 spread

COVID-19 by the numbers in Ottawa (Ottawa Public Health data):

  • New COVID-19 cases: 242 new cases on Friday
  • Total COVID-19 cases: 19,030
  • COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (previous seven days): 146.0
  • Positivity rate in Ottawa: 9.2 per cent (April 2 to April 8)
  • Reproduction Number: 1.05 (seven day average)

Testing:

Who should get a test?

Ottawa Public Health says you can get a COVID-19 test at an assessment centre, care clinic, or community testing site if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are showing COVID-19 symptoms;
  • You have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by Ottawa Public Health or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app;
  • You are a resident or work in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by Ottawa Public Health;
  • You are a resident, a worker or a visitor to long-term care, retirement homes, homeless shelters or other congregate settings (for example: group homes, community supported living, disability-specific communities or congregate settings, short-term rehab, hospices and other shelters);
  • You are a person who identifies as First Nations, Inuit or Métis;
  • You are a person travelling to work in a remote First Nations, Inuit or Métis community;
  • You received a preliminary positive result through rapid testing;
  • You require testing 72 hours before a scheduled (non-urgent or emergent) surgery (as recommended by your health care provider);
  • You are a patient and/or their 1 accompanying escort tra­velling out of country for medical treatment;
  • You are an international student that has passed their 14-day quarantine period;
  • You are a farm worker;
  • You are an educator who cannot access pharmacy-testing; or
  • You are in a targeted testing group as outlined in guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Ottawa:

There are several sites for COVID-19 testing in Ottawa. To book an appointment, visit https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/shared-content/assessment-centres.aspx

  • The Brewer Ottawa Hospital/CHEO Assessment Centre: Open Monday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • The Moodie Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Open Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (testing only)
  • The Heron Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The Ray Friel Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (testing only)
  • COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Howard Darwin Centennial Arena: Open daily 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
  • Centretown Community Health Centre: Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sandy Hill Community Health Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 pm.
  • Somerset West Community Health Centre: Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Wednesday.
  • COVID-19 Drive-Thru Assessment Centre at 300 Coventry Road: Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Vaccine eligibility screening tool:

To check and see if you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Ottawa, click here.

COVID-19 screening tool:

The COVID-19 screening tool for students heading back to in-person classes can be found here.

Symptoms:

Classic Symptoms: fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath

Other symptoms: sore throat, difficulty swallowing, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, pneumonia, new or unexplained runny nose or nasal congestion

Less common symptoms: unexplained fatigue, muscle aches, headache, delirium, chills, red/inflamed eyes, croup

Ottawa’s top doctor warns it’s “more likely than not” that all elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa will be closed for in-person learning after the April break.

“I am now thinking the probability that schools will close to in-person learning after the spring break is higher than the probability the COVID-19 situation will improve in time to keep schools open,” said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health.

“My heart is heavy because I know how important schools are to the health of our community.”

Etches says Ottawa Public Health will make a decision by next Wednesday on whether schools will reopen or close after the April Break.

Ottawa Public Health reported 242 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday, the highest one-day case count in the capital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The surging numbers prompted the city’s medical officer of health to issue a rallying cry to Ottawa residents, saying the city has reached a key point in the COVID-19 “marathon.”

“We are tired. We’re fatigued. We want this to be over. And this is the point in our COVID marathon where we’re hitting the wall,” Dr. Vera Etches told reporters Friday. “This is our defining moment. It’s a moment where we’ve got to break through that wall.”

Ottawa’s positivity rate increased to 9.2 per cent for the period of April 2 to 8 from 8.8 per cent. Ottawa’s weekly incidence rate is now 146 cases per 100,000 people.

Residents aged 50 and over in three hot spot postal code areas in Ottawa can now book an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but the city warns it doesn’t have enough vaccine supply to vaccinate everyone.

On Friday, Ontario opened vaccine appointments at community clinics to residents born in 1971 or earlier who live in certain “hot spots.” In Ottawa, the hot spots have been identified as postal codes K1T, K1V, K2V.

A memo from Dr. Vera Etches and Ottawa’s general manager of emergency and protective services Anthony Di Monte said residents 50 years of age and older living in the provincially identified “hot spots” of K1T, K1V and K2V are eligible for vaccine appointments at community clinics.

Residents living in the high-priority neighbourhoods of Emerald Woods – Sawmill Creek and Greenboro East and Ledbury – Heron Gate and Ridgemont will have the option to book at either a community clinic or at a pop-up clinic.

COVID-19 vaccine Ottawa immunization clinic

One day after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared in Kingston’s University District, the city is closing the popular Breakwater Park until the end of the university school year to prevent large gatherings.

Mayor Bryan Paterson has issued an emergency order to close Breakwater Park for the next 10 days.

“This timeline coincides with students move-out, but can be extended if needed. As one of our most popular community parks, closing it is a last resort,” said Paterson in a statement

“Yesterday, however, we saw troubling instances of overcrowding, which is especially concerning given the current outbreak in the nearby University District.”

Pictures on social media showed dozens of people in the popular park along the waterfront on Thursday.  During the provincewide shutdown, outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of five people.

Kingston's Breakwater Park

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