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Ontario reports 615 new COVID-19 cases, nearly half in Toronto – CBC.ca

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Ontario reported an additional 615 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as the province begins its move toward appointment-only testing for the illness.

Toronto recorded 289 new cases, while Peel saw 88 and Ottawa 81. 

Toronto Public Health said over the weekend that it would temporarily suspend COVID-19 contact tracing outside of outbreaks in congregate settings like long-term care homes because it is overwhelmed by a surge of new cases in the city. 

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases today include:

  • York Region: 47.
  • Halton Region: 26.
  • Waterloo Region: 15.
  • Durham Region: 10.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said about 58 per cent of the new cases reported today are in people under 40 years old. The share of new daily cases in that demographic has been slowly but steadily creeping downward in recent weeks, a trend that provincial health officials have attributed to younger people increasingly transmitting the virus to more vulnerable, older age groups. 

Some 56 of the newly-confirmed infections reported today are school-related, including 31 students, eight staff and 17 people categorized as “individuals not identified.” A total of 335 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly-funded schools have now reported at least one case of COVID-19 in students or staff.

When asked by reporters at Monday’s news conference exactly how many cases it would take for a school to shut down, neither Premier Doug Ford, Education Minister Stephen Lecce nor Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams could provide an exact metric.

Instead, the government announced $35 million in funding for schools intended to hire more staff and improve at-home learning. The funding is part of the government’s $1.3 billion plan to “safely reopen classrooms across the province.”

Lecce said Monday’s funding announcement was intended to help “avoid the scenario” of closing schools down.

“We’re going to work hard to make sure our schools stay open,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s network of labs processed 38,196 test samples for the novel coronavirus yesterday, while the backlog of tests waiting to be completed sits at 68,006 — down from a high of more than 90,000 last week. 

Ontario recently announced it would end testing for asymptomatic people at its 153 COVID-19 assessment centres, instead moving to an appointment-only model for those with symptoms of the disease. The decision was made, in part, to help labs clear the backlog of test samples.

The last day for walk-in testing was Saturday. Health experts have warned the shift could result in artificially-low new daily case counts later this week.

Social circles ‘not relevant’

At Monday’s afternoon news conference, Williams said some public health units, including Toronto’s, are overwhelmed with the number of contacts they need to call. A significant number of people who have been testing positive for COVID-19 are reportedly admitting to having a couple hundred contacts in just a few days, Williams said.

Because of this, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Barbara Yaffe said they are “asking people to avoid close contact with people outside of your household.”

When asked how the province’s current methods apply to the social circles that were implemented in the spring, Yaffe said they are no longer relevant.

“I guess we’re saying the social circle at this point is not relevant,” she said. “It’s evolving.”

“Given the current picture, we’re saying stick to your household”

Ontario has now seen a total of 54,814 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, about 84.6 per cent are resolved. Another 541 were marked resolved in today’s report.

There are currently around 5,474 confirmed, active cases of the illness provincewide, the most since April 26.

The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed infections also continued its steady upward climb up to 176, seven more than yesterday. That figure may be an underestimate, however, as 35 hospitals did not submit data from their daily bed censuses in time to be factored in to today’s report.

Forty-three patients are being treated in intensive care, and 26 are on ventilators, the most since early July. 

Further, Ontario’s official COVID-19 death toll grew by five and is now 2,980.

Ford reluctant to enforce any more closures, for now

Last week, Toronto’s chief medical officer Dr. Eileen de Villa announced recommendations to help curb the current resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the city. Her proposals included shutting down indoor dining at Toronto restaurants for four weeks, as well as prohibiting indoor fitness and recreation activities.

“If there’s a request to shut down restaurants, I have to sit back and look at the evidence,” Ford said at Monday’s news conference. 

WATCH: Ford urges consideration of people’s livelihoods in talk of potential shutdowns

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he will use hard evidence and data to make any decisions about shutdowns, and asks the public to consider the situation for small businesses owners who may be ‘your neighbors, your friends.’ 1:24

The Premier said he is reluctant to close restaurants in order to preserve income for small business owners.

“The easy thing to do is without seeing endless data is just close everything down. I’m sorry, I’m not prepared to do that to people’s lives right now,” Ford said.

Ford said he will impose tighter restrictions “in a heartbeat” but said he needs to see the evidence before he makes any further decisions. 

“I would [need] to exhaust every single avenue before I ruin people’s lives,” he said. “Show me the evidence. Hard, concrete evidence.”

Reporters at press conferences in recent weeks have repeatedly asked Ford and other government officials for concrete metrics the province is using to make its decisions around COVID-19 closures. The province has thus far not provided answers.

Hundreds more contact tracers coming, province says

The Ministry of Health says it is hoping to hire 600 additional contact tracers and case managers over the next five weeks to help local health units that have been especially hard-hit by a recent surge in new cases.

In an email, a spokesperson for the ministry said Toronto Public Health should expect up to 200 more staff for contact tracing efforts within four weeks, and that hiring begins today. For the time being, they will help reach out to confirmed cases of the illness before moving into contact tracing roles. 

Another 150 workers will be assigned to assist Ottawa Public Health in coming weeks, the spokesperson said.

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Coronavirus victims: Remembering the Canadians who have died – CTV News

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The first person in Canada contracted COVID-19 in January, but it wasn’t until March that the first Canadian died from the disease.

The numbers have grown in Canada and around the world since then, each death an anonymous statistic announced in a growing daily tally.

While the loss is real for those who have lost loved ones to the disease, it is harder to fathom for Canadians not directly touched by the tragedy.

However, each statistic represents a Canadian with their own story.

These are some of the victims’ stories, as told to CTV News by family members and loved ones.

Did one of your loved ones die of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus? Help us share your memories of them, along with a favourite photo of them, to paint a fuller picture of some of the Canadian lives lost as a result of the pandemic.

Please email us the name, age, hometown, and date of death of your loved one at dotcom@bellmedia.ca, along with your name, location and contact information.

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Why getting COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada won't be 'overnight solution' to pandemic – CBC.ca

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For months, more than 150 teams around the world have been working at an unprecedented pace to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus. 

Ten of those vaccine candidates are now in Phase 3 clinical trials, in which each is given to thousands of people to ensure it’s both safe and effective — the final leg of the process before their potential approval.

In the fight against COVID-19, that feels like a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

But once at least one vaccine is approved, what comes next? 

“Approval itself is not going to be an overnight solution,” said Matthew Miller, an associate professor at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“There’s going to be a significant amount of time required to distribute the vaccine and then have enough doses prepared to administer to the population.”

Public health and vaccination experts also say the months after Canada starts acquiring a vaccine will be rife with challenges, both logistically and ethically, as public health officials will need to determine which groups should get priority access — be it health-care workers or other vulnerable demographics — as production scales up to meet demand.

“There will inevitably be supply chain issues,” Miller warned. “It’s going to take time for the vaccine manufacturers to produce enough doses, and there’s going to need to be prioritization over who will get those first doses when they become available.”

WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam on the flu and COVID-19 vaccines:

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says preparations for administering this year’s flu vaccine is a “good rehearsal” for any COVID-19 vaccine. 1:01

Canada preordering 6 candidates

Earlier this year, the federal government said it put $1 billion into preorders of six foreign vaccine candidates

It’s a move that hedges our bets, with Canada set to receive 20 million to 76 million doses of each vaccine — if any successfully make it through clinical trials and gain approval from Health Canada.

Should at least one of the preorders prove safe and effective, federal and provincial officials need a strategy in place to roll it out among different groups, ensuring there are no “inequities” between regions, noted Alison Thompson, an associate professor in the Leslie Dan faculty of pharmacy and Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

“This is something that we can get out in front of,” she said. “We know a vaccine could become available in the next few months.”

In September, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said preparations for administering this year’s flu vaccine offered a “good rehearsal” for mass immunization programs for a coronavirus vaccine.

But some Ontario physicians recently warned those efforts fell short, with initial rounds of supplies drying up quickly amid early and higher-than-usual demand.

The province, however, has said more shipments are coming — and stressed the program was meant to take a staggered approach to rolling out the vaccine, first targeting vulnerable populations like long-term care residents before the general public. 

Protecting ‘vulnerable’ first

That “prioritization” approach could also prove crucial while rolling out a vaccine for the coronavirus, both to conserve supplies while production scales up and protect those most at risk.

“We may be looking at protection for really important health-care workers, first responders, people who keep the economy running,” Thompson said. “We might want to be protecting vulnerable populations first before anybody else.”

But who should be deemed most vulnerable, and first in line?

There’s no “one size fits all” approach behind that decision, Miller said, and in Canada a lot of factors are at play, from residents’ ages to their socioeconomic status to their pre-existing health conditions.

Health-care workers have proved at risk across the country, with a dozen dying and more than 21,000 falling ill — representing roughly 20 per cent of cases — in the pandemic’s first wave, according to a September report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The largest death toll, however, was more than 5,300 elderly residents in long-term care, with those facilities accounting for more than 80 per cent of all Canadian COVID-19 deaths in the first wave, CIHI findings show.

Racialized and marginalized communities have also been hard hit in areas like Toronto, where multiple diverse, lower-income neighbourhoods have experienced high case counts and test positivity rates for the virus have been more than triple the city’s average, Toronto Public Health data shows.

A resident of Toronto’s Fairview Nursing Home leaves with paramedics on Sept. 29, 2020 — the same day Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to scale back visitations to care homes as a means to curb a spike in cases. Fairview is in the midst of an outbreak of COVID-19. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Alongside health-care workers on the front lines, it’s remote Indigenous communities which “need to be first priority,” based on the severe comorbidities, residential overcrowding and lack of access to health-care facilities found in many areas, according to Dr. Anna Banerji, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and faculty lead for Indigenous and refugee health. 

“All Indigenous communities are at highest risk compared to non-Indigenous communities — by far,” she said.

Scaling up could take ‘many months’

Miller said the process of scaling up vaccinations from priority groups to the broader public could take “many months,” if not a year or more.

That time frame could also involve a less-discussed stage of vaccine research: Phase 4 clinical trials, after candidates are already on the market.

It’s a time to evaluate vaccines’ effectiveness and safety in a “real world” setting, Miller said, and could offer clues for future generations of COVID-19 vaccines.

“The first vaccines approved may not necessarily be the most effective vaccines,” he said. 

The vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, was later expanded to protect people against more strains of the virus, for instance, while an early version of the shot for shingles was far less effective than a later form which has an efficacy of more than 90 per cent.

In those instances, people wound up getting additional rounds of newer vaccines to ensure the highest level of protection, Miller explained, adding it’s still not clear if people will need revaccination to protect against this coronavirus. 

The more pressing concern now is getting at least one first option out to the public in hopes of winding down this months-long pandemic.

While the threshold for achieving herd immunity — which occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making its continued spread less likely — isn’t clear yet for COVID-19, it could be as high as 70 per cent of people, said epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

That’s a level of protection Canada won’t hit for quite some time after a vaccine becomes available, assuming enough residents get the shot.

“If we don’t get there, then we have a functioning society, with some restrictions still in place, like distancing and mask wearing and maybe limits on gatherings, but no more lockdowns and things like that,” he said. 

“So either way, the vaccine is going to help us.”

Front Burner28:37Inside Canada’s race for a COVID-19 vaccine

A global race for a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is underway. More than 160 of them are in different stages of testing around the world. Canada is in this race too. A group of scientists at the University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac – the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatoon – are trying to get through a decade’s worth of testing and approvals as early as next year. Today on Front Burner, CBC Saskatoon reporter Alicia Bridges takes us inside a lab working on a Canadian COVID vaccine, and inside the lives of the scientists trying to find it. 28:37

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EU removes Canadians from list of approved travellers because of COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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European Union officials are moving to halt Canadians from travelling to the bloc of European countries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In July, the EU set up a so-called white list of countries whose citizens would be allowed access for non-essential travel.

Canada had been on the approved list from Day 1, along with 14 other countries.

The United States has been on the list of banned countries from the start.

In August, the EU removed Algeria, Montenegro, Morocco and Serbia from the white list because of rising COVID-19 case numbers in those countries.

Officials meet every two weeks to decide if any changes should be made to the white list, and no changes had been recommended since then.

Rising case numbers

On Wednesday, officials met for their regularly scheduled meeting. According to Reuters, Bloomberg and other reports, they decided to remove three countries — Canada, Tunisia and Georgia — while adding Singapore to the approved travel list.

An EU official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed to CBC News that the bloc has decided to change the makeup of the white list, the finalized version of which is expected to be made public within days.

According to CBC’s coronavirus tracker, there are more than 203,000 confirmed cases of the disease across Canada, with 2,251 new cases on Tuesday.

After the changes, the white list consists of nine countries: Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Uruguay. 

The decision doesn’t ban travel immediately, nor is it necessarily strictly enforced in every EU country.

Some countries, such as France, have not placed any restrictions on visitors from countries on the white list. Germany has pared the list down while Italy requires a period of self-isolation and demands travellers take a private vehicle to their destinations even if they are on the white list.

The Canada Border Services Agency doesn’t provide a detailed breakdown of how many Canadians have been travelling to various EU countries, but Statistics Canada does note that in July, the month with the most up to date data, 57,000 people came to Canada from France, 11,000 came from the Netherlands and 42,000 from Germany.

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