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Ontario reports 2,100+ coronavirus cases on both Dec. 25 and 26; ICU occupancy surpases 300 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Ontario reported more than 2,100 COVID-19 cases on both Friday and Saturday, with 81 new deaths over that 48-hour period, as the number of patients in intensive care surpassed 300 for the first time.

The province detected 2,159 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 2,142 new cases on Saturday.

“Today, there are 541 new cases in Toronto, 344 in Peel, 262 in York Region, 136 in Hamilton and 131 in Windsor-Essex,” Health Minister Christine Elliott wrote on Twitter.

Officials said 43 people died of infection on Friday and 38 died on Saturday, bringing the total number of deaths reported since the pandemic began to 4,359.

Ontario reported a record 2,447 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, along with 2,408 on Wednesday.

Testing data, usually provided by Ontario Health, was unavailable for Friday and Saturday.

There are now nearly 20,000 active cases of novel coronavirus infection across the province, the highest that number has ever been, up from 18,200 one week ago.

Thirty-nine of the eighty-one deaths reported in the past 48 hours were among residents of long-term care homes.

The latest report from Critical Care Services Ontario obtained by CP24 showed 304 adults in intensive care across the province due to COVID-19 on Saturday, as well as one newborn baby.

Twenty-nine more people entered intensive care due to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the report said.

Modelling released earlier in December said the province would hit 300 ICU beds filled sometime before the end of the month.

A new enhanced lockdown effort took effect across the province on Saturday morning, with southern Ontario seeing new restrictions on retailers, school and university operations, along with bans on ski hill operation, indoor dining, cinema and fitness facility activities for 28 days.

Elsewhere in the GTA, Durham Region reported 93 cases on Friday and 67 new cases on Saturday, while Halton Region reported 96 new cases on Friday and 93 new cases on Saturday.

Michael Garron Hospital intensivist Dr. Michael Warner says what happens in the next few weeks will determine if Ontario’s hospital system will make it through January without collapsing.

“What happens in the next two or three weeks really depends on how much spread of COVID-19 there has been in the community,” he told CP24. “We could reach 400 or 500 (occupied ICU beds) by mid Jan. or in the worst case scenario up to 1,500 (beds occupied) by Jan. 22, but I don’t think that will happen because if it does we will have to impose a much more severe lockdown in order for the health system to survive.”

He said there needs to be continued surveillance testing among-school age children, and a proven comprehensive way to isolate and support workers in large indoor workplaces if Ontario is to get its rate of infection under control.

“Just cruising along at 2,200 cases per day until a vaccine has been received by enough people to make a difference isn’t going to work,” he said.

“We have to go after the root causes, prove that school is safe before kids return to school so that doesn’t become a tinder box for COVID. And we have to make sure that people who work in factories, especially in Peel, are protected.”

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Alberta cancels recently issued coal leases in response to public outcry – Global News



The Alberta government has reversed its plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.

Public opposition to the move has grown significantly in the last number of days, with tens of thousands of people signing petitions, writing letters and joining online groups.

Read more:
Public opposition growing: Petitions against Alberta coal mines top 100K signatures

Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in an emailed statement that the province would cancel 11 recently issued coal leases and pause any future coal lease sales in former Category 2 lands.

“We have listened carefully to the concerns raised in recent days, and thank those who spoke up with passion,” she said.

“As a result, we will pause future coal lease sales in former Category 2 lands. The coal leases from the December 2020 auction will be cancelled.”

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Click to play video 'Impact of Alberta rolling back open-pit coal mine restrictions'

Impact of Alberta rolling back open-pit coal mine restrictions

Impact of Alberta rolling back open-pit coal mine restrictions – Aug 19, 2020

“I want to be absolutely clear: Under the current terms, just as it was under the 1976 coal policy, coal leases do not allow for exploration, development or production without a comprehensive regulatory review. A lease holder has no more right to set foot on lease property than any other Albertan. The same rules apply now, as before.”

Read more:
Alberta offers Rocky Mountain coal leases after rescinding protection policy

“This pause will provide our government with the opportunity to ensure that the interests of Albertans, as owners of mineral resources, are protected.

“Coal development remains an important part of the Western Canadian economy, especially in rural communities, but we are committed to demonstrating that it will only be developed responsibly under Alberta’s modern regulatory standards and processes.

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“This decision has no impact on existing coal projects currently under regulatory review.”

More than 100,000 signatures had been collected by Monday on two petitions opposing the United Conservative government’s move on two related fronts.

READ MORE: Alberta offers Rocky Mountain coal leases after rescinding protection policy

A Facebook site called Protect Alberta’s Rockies and Headwaters has more than doubled its membership over the last week to more than 10,000.

Last week, musician Corb Lund posted a Facebook video lambasting the province’s plans to open a vast stretch of its Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining.

“The scope of this thing — it’s huge,” Lund said in an interview.

“I’m from the foothills and it threatens the hell out of our water. And the mountains. It’s a big one.”

Read more:
Alberta musician Corb Lund on proposed coal mines in Rockies: ‘I 100% oppose these policy changes’

The NDP said the decision is a “small victory” but that eight leases that were already sold remain in effect.

“Today’s backpedaling from the UCP on their removal of protections for Category 2 public lands is a small victory for the thousands upon thousands of Albertans who have spoken up against this UCP government’s reckless decision to rip up Peter Lougheed’s coal policy,” NDP Environment Critic Marlin Schmidt said in a statement.

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“While the UCP government has agreed to cancel the 11 most recently issued coal leases, there are another eight leases they sold last May that remain in effect.

“Further, they still have not committed to reinstating the coal policy and to consulting before making further changes. Without these commitments, these precious wild spaces are still under threat.”

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is still very worried about existing coal leases.

“While this is a step in the right direction, this ‘pause’ will have little effect on the ability of existing leases to be explored and developed for coal in the region,” said Katie Morrison, conservation director with CPAWS Southern Alberta.

“There are more than 840,000 hectares of coal leases and rights in the Eastern Slopes (of the Rocky Mountains). This area includes around 420,000 hectares within lands formerly protected as Category 2 (an area approximately the size of Kananaskis Country) that are now, and still with today’s announcement, open for development as open-pit coal mines. These areas continue to be open and at risk from coal exploration and mine development.”

The group says the 11 leases covered in the province’s announcement are small and only cover about 1,800 hectares — or 0.002 per cent of the area that’s already been leased.

“Whether or not the coal leases were existing or new, open-pit coal mines are now allowed in Alberta’s headwaters where they previously were not,” Morrison explained.

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CPAWS is urging the government to fully reinstate the province’s previous coal policy, hold public consultations on the issue and permanently prohibit new coal proposals, exploration and open-pit mines in these areas.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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B.C. focuses on second doses of COVID-19 vaccine after Pfizer delay: top doctor – News 1130



VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C. is still on track to vaccinate the most vulnerable people despite a reduction in deliveries from Pfizer, the provincial health officer says.

Dr. Bonnie Henry explained the supply issue will have the biggest impact over the next week after which deliveries of vaccines will start to pick up again.

She said this will slow down getting the shots to some hospitals, but the province will continue on schedule for giving the first dose to those most at-risk.

“We have, however, been able to rearrange and look at the process that we have to make sure that we are continuing with providing the first of two doses to those at highest risk, and that we are able to start second doses at day 35, in accordance to our plans that we announced a few weeks ago,” she said during Monday’s briefing.

“It is a bit of a setback, but it is only a delay.”

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak at Port Moody care facility

She said the province expects to receive extra doses at the end of February and into early March, when it will look at expanding its program.

Until then, the plan is still to give people their second dose before focusing on getting others their first dose.

Henry added 87,346 people have received a COVID-19 shot since immunizations started.

She stressed that while immunizations are underway, the risk remains high across the province as transmission continues.

Since Friday, 31 people lost their lives to the virus, with the deaths in every health authority. The total since the start of the pandemic climbed to 1,078.

Another 1,330 infections were reported over the weekend.

There was also a jump in cases in non-resident Canadians, which Henry explained is mostly farmworkers coming for the season. Henry noted there are quarantine accommodations.

She again said the arrival of coronavirus mutations requires caution and following health measures.

“The biggest risk and the biggest variants we have right now is all of us, our human behaviour, the choices that we make every day,” she said.

Henry added the investigation is ongoing after someone tested for the South African variant in B.C. without knowing how they contracted it.

RELATED: South African COVID-19 variant not immune to vaccines but source of B.C.’s first case remains a mystery

Health Minister Adrian Dix noted it has been almost a year since the first COVID-19 joint release from the province, noting it hasn’t been easy.

“We’ve seen through the course of the pandemic a lot of worry, a lot of fear, a lot of loss, a lot of uncertainty. While COVID-19 gives each of us every reason to experience those feelings, each and every day, I also saw from that day something else, something reassuring – resolve, spirit, strength compassion, and well fear and uncertainty. I think are part of every day in a pandemic. What has kept us going to seeing how British Columbians in every part of our province refuse to let fear and uncertainty rule,” he said.

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Ontario's top doctor says daily COVID-19 cases will have to fall to around 1000 to lift lockdown – CTV Toronto



Ontario’s top doctor has said the number of new COVID-19 cases reported daily should be “around or below 1,000” before the lockdown orders can be lifted.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday afternoon, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said that officials would have to be able to guarantee hospital capacity could be protected before changing public health measures in Ontario.

“If you do that knowing the different numbers and per cents that usually get admitted to hospital and how many of those end up in the (intensive care unit) ICU you get a general sense that you have to get somewhere around or below 1,000 new cases a day,” he said.

“It was only a few months ago, the end of October that we were there, and we can get back there I believe.”

Williams added that the number of people being treated in Ontario intensive care units (ICU) for COVID-19 would also have to be reduced from 400 to about 150.

The province said that it becomes harder to support non-COVID-19 needs when the number of ICU patients with the novel coronavirus exceeds 150.

It becomes “impossible” to handle once it exceeds 350 people.

As of Monday, there are currently 1,571 patients in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, at least 394 patients are being treated in the ICU and 303 are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a province-wide lockdown on Dec. 26 that shuttered all non-essential businesses and prohibited in-person dining at bars and restaurants.

As the number of COVID-19 cases neared 4,000 a day in early January, Ford declared a state of emergency and issued a stay-at home order.

Under this order, residents are required to stay at home with the exception for essential reasons.

Ontario’s COVID-19 case total now stands at 240,364, including 5,433 deaths and 206,310 recoveries.

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