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Ontario reports 1,631 new COVID-19 cases, but official says data issues put count likely closer to 1,300 – CBC.ca

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Ontario is reporting 1,631 new COVID-19 cases on the same day stay-at-home orders lift in three regions, including Toronto and Peel — which have consistently seen the province’s highest number of infections throughout the pandemic.

Monday’s cases mark the highest number of new infections in over a month, though Ontario’s Ministry of Health says today’s case count is higher than expected due to a “data catch-up process.”

Asked how much Monday’s figure was inflated by the data delay, Public Health Ontario said it couldn’t provide a specific number “due to the way the data are pulled for the reports.”

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, said Monday’s case count is probably closer to 1,300.

Of the new cases, 568 were reported in Toronto, 322 were reported in Peel Region and 119 were reported in York Region.

Provincewide, the Ontario government is reporting that some 626 people are in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 282 are in intensive care, and 184 require a ventilator to breathe.

But according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario — which provides a more up-to-date look at critical care data — the actual number of patients with COVID-19 in intensive care now sits at 337.

Ontario is also reporting an additional 10 deaths, bringing the death toll to 7,077. None of the deaths reported on Monday were of long-term care home residents.

Toronto, Peel and North Bay were the last regions still under a stay-at-home order, and are transitioning back to the government’s colour-coded pandemic response framework.

North Bay is now in the “red” category, while Toronto and Peel are entering the “grey-lockdown,” something local public health officials asked for in both regions.

Despite the “lockdown” title, moving to the grey category will allow more retailers to open with restrictions. Gyms, personal care services and indoor restaurant dining, however, will stay closed.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says the government is taking a “safe and cautious approach” to ending the provincewide shutdown, which started in January.

This comes as Ontario’s lab network processed 38,063 test samples for the virus — the lowest number completed in a week. The test positivity rate was 3.4 per cent.

According to the ministry, health units across Ontario administered 21,882 doses of vaccines yesterday. A total of 273,676 people in Ontario have now been given both shots of a vaccine.

Ontario’s website for booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments began a “soft launch” in six public health units last week

Ahead of the province’s centralized website for all public health units, Toronto hospitals have launched their own site where you can pre-register to get a vaccine if you’re 80-plus or a high-priority health-care worker. To learn more about how to get a COVID-19 vaccine in the Greater Toronto Area — and whether or not you qualify — click here

The Ministry of Education also reported another 95 school-related cases: 84 students and 11 staff members. Thirty schools are currently closed due to the respiratory illness.

The seven-day average of daily cases now stands at 1,155 — the highest it’s been in three weeks.

The new daily case count brings the total number of cases since the pandemic began in Ontario to 309,927.

Labs also confirmed 51 more cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, B117, bringing the cumulative total of that variant to 879 (though the actual number is likely higher).

Yaffe, for her part, reported at a news conference later on Monday that the province now has 935 cases involving variants of concern.

In addition to the 879 cases of the B117 variant, there are 39 cases of the B135 variant, first identified in South Africa, and 17 of P1, first identified in Brazil.

Yaffe said the province is also now reporting the number of COVID-19 samples that have screened positive for the N501Y mutation, a mutation all shared by the variants of concern.

As of Friday, more than 26,000 samples have been screened for the N501Y mutation, with a test positivity rate of 16.8 per cent.

“We’re seeing quite a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases that are screening positive for a variant of concern,” she said.

Asked about new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S., which suggests that fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors, Yaffe said it is too early to say whether that advice could apply to Ontario. She said the U.S. has a higher rate of vaccinations. 

Provincial officials, however, will look at the guidance, she said.

“Certainly, we’re always interested in looking at the data that they’ve used and seeing how we can apply it here, once we get more vaccine into people,” she said.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in cases were:

  • Thunder Bay: 91
  • Durham Region: 68
  • Ottawa: 57
  • Halton Region: 51
  • Waterloo Region: 51
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 48
  • Windsor-Essex: 46
  • Niagara: 31
  • Sudbury: 27
  • Hamilton: 22
  • Brant County: 20
  • Lambton: 19
  • Middlesex London: 18
  • Eastern Ontario: 15
  • Northwestern: 11
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 10

What you need to know about retail reopening in ‘grey lockdown’

Under the grey lockdown tier of the framework, non-essential stores can open at 25 per cent capacity while indoor dining, gyms and hair salons remain closed.

Grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies can operate at 50 per cent capacity.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and must comply with physical distancing rules.

Though non-essential stores in Toronto and Peel Region are allowed to open for the first time in more than 100 days, it won’t be business as usual.

To prepare for visitors, major malls in these two hot spots have implemented new safety protocols, including:

  • 25 per cent capacity limit.
  • Live online meters to check mall capacity in real time.
  • Mandatory screening (in-person or online) for all retailers, employees, and shoppers entering the malls.

WATCH | What you need to know about restrictions easing in Toronto and Peel 

Stay-at-home orders are lifting in Toronto and Peel Region on Monday. The areas will remain under Ontario’s grey lockdown level. Here’s what you need to know. 2:15

Masks remain mandatory in the shopping centres and must be properly worn at all times. Shoppers are also strongly encouraged to shop individually or with members of the same household.

At this time, food and beverage consumption is not allowed in malls. In-dining areas are not open to the public but all food court retails are open for takeout.

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Should children ages 5 to 11 be vaccinated? Hear from Dr. Fauci – CNN

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg lays out ‘metaverse’ vision at developers event

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Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg said privacy and safety would need to be built into the metaverse, as he opened the company’s annual conference on virtual and augmented reality on Thursday.

Facebook continues to battle criticism over its market power, its content moderation practices and harms linked to its social media platforms. The tech giant, which reports about 2.9 billion monthly users, has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from global lawmakers and regulators.

In the latest controversy, whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-sees-safety-cost-whistleblower-says-2021-10-25 leaked documents which she said showed the company chose profit over user safety. Zuckerberg earlier this week said the documents were being used to paint a “false picture.”

The metaverse, a term first coined in a dystopian novel three decades ago and now attracting buzz in Silicon Valley, refers broadly to the idea of a shared virtual environment which can be accessed by people using different devices.

Zuckerberg has increasingly been promoting the idea of Facebook, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, as a “metaverse” company https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-sets-up-new-team-work-metaverse-2021-07-26 rather than a social media one.

The CEO, speaking during the live-streamed Facebook Connect event, gave examples of privacy and safety controls that would be needed in the metaverse, such as the ability to block someone from appearing in your space. Zuckerberg is betting that the metaverse will be the next big computing platform, calling it “the successor to the mobile internet.”

The whistleblower documents, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, show internal research and employee discussions on Instagram’s effects on the mental health of teens and whether Facebook stokes divisions, as well as its handling of activity around the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and inconsistencies in content moderation for users around the globe.

The company gave a slew of updates for its VR and AR products. It said it would this year launch a way for people using its Oculus VR headset to call friends using Facebook Messenger and for people to invite others to a social version of their home, dubbed “Horizon Home,” to talk and play games as avatars.

Facebook also said it would introduce a way for Oculus Quest users to use different 2D apps like Slack, Dropbox and Facebook while in this “Horizon Home” VR space.

The company, which began a beta test of its virtual meeting spaces “Horizon Workrooms” earlier this year, said it was working on ways of customizing these with company logos and designs and said it would be bringing more work capabilities into consumer Quest devices. It also announced new fitness offerings for Oculus Quest users.

Facebook said this week that its hardware division Facebook Reality Labs, which is responsible for AR and VR efforts, would become a separate reporting unit and that its investment in it would reduce this year’s total operating profit by about $10 billion.

This year, Facebook created a product team focused on the metaverse and it recently announced plans to hire 10,000 employees in Europe over the next five years to work on the effort.

Facebook also said it would run a $150 million education program aimed at helping AR and VR creators and developers.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York and Sheila Dang in DallasEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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Shopify’s revenue rises in run-up to key holiday season; shares up

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Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify Inc reported a 46% rise in quarterly revenue as consumer spending “normalizes” after a year of a pandemic-fueled online shopping frenzy, sending its shares up 9%.

The widespread shift to e-commerce at the height of the pandemic had brought a wave of new business to Shopify, which provides infrastructure for retailers to set up their stores online and generates revenue mainly through subscriptions and merchant services.

However, on a call with analysts, Shopify executives flagged “pressures in supply chain” for the key holiday shopping season.

Companies across the globe have sounded alarm bells on supply issues that have pushed costs higher and made some products scarce.

Shopify raked in billions of dollars over the past year, growing quarterly revenue by over 90% in four of the last six quarters.

It has been able to maintain a healthy growth rate even as people stepped out of their homes and bigger rivals like Amazon.com Inc bolster their offerings to retain customers.

“The strength of Shopify’s flywheel was on display within the more normalized spending environment we saw this past quarter, as more merchants used more of our platform to start and grow their businesses,” said Shopify’s finance chief, Amy Shapero.

The company’s subscription solutions revenue jumped by 37% to $336.2 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30.

Analysts are optimistic about Shopify’s business model, which is driven primarily by mom-and-pop stores.

“Shopify was a high-growth company long before COVID, and it’s going to be a high-growth company after the pandemic tailwinds fade,” said Samad Samana, analyst at Jefferies.

The company’s total revenue was $1.12 billion, narrowly missing expectations of $1.14 billion, according to Refinitiv data. Its adjusted profit of 81 cents per share also came in below an estimate of $1.18.

(Reporting by Richard Rohan Francis and Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Maju Samuel)

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