Ontario reported another 1,468 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday as well as 11 new deaths.
With the exception of March 8, when a data issue caused the case count to be artificially inflated by about 300 cases, this morning’s number is the highest on a single day since Feb. 7.
The seven-day average of daily cases — which helps to clarify long-term trends in the data — rose to 1,337, marking eight straight days of increases in that figure.
The seven-day average nationally is 3,052 cases, said Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam in a statement released on Saturday.
Tam noted that there are currently upwards of 30,780 active cases nationwide, and while activity has been “levelling off… for a few weeks, average daily case counts remain high and we are now observing a recent increase.”
Fears of a third wave have been particularly loud in Ontario in the last week.
“It’s almost like a dystopian plot in a movie,” epidemiologist Dr. Tim Sly, a professor emeritus at Ryerson University in Toronto, told CBC News earlier in the week. “On the horizon ahead you’ve got the vaccine cavalry… and on the other horizon you’ve got the mutants, all lined up, a motley bunch.”
In her statement, Tam urged Canadians to remain vigilant.
“While vaccine programs begin to accelerate, it will be important to maintain a high degree of caution,” she said.
The additional cases reported today include 381 in Toronto, 226 in Peel Region and 168 in York Region, according to Minister of Health Christine Elliott.
As of Friday, the province has now administered 1,116,496 doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
The latest case count comes as some family doctors begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations in six regions today and a pilot project to offer vaccines at pharmacies expands.
Some family doctors in Toronto, Peel Region, Hamilton, Guelph, Peterborough and Simcoe-Muskoka have been shipped some 29,500 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to administer to people aged 60 to 64 years old.
People are being asked not to call their doctor’s office as physicians will reach out to those who are eligible for the vaccine.
A separate pilot project involving pharmacies is also up and running. In that case, people born between 1957 and 1961 are eligible to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at select pharmacies province wide.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommended against using the AstraZeneca vaccine for people older than 65. However, NACI head Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh recently told CBC News that updated guidance on the use of the vaccine in older populations will be forthcoming in the “next few days.”
The City of Toronto, which recorded 381 new cases on Saturday, up slightly from 371 new cases on Friday, says it has now administered nearly 240,000 vaccine doses.
This coming Wednesday, the city will begin vaccinating seniors born in 1941 or earlier at three of its mass immunization clinics. There is one at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, a second at the Toronto Congress Centre and a third at the Scarborough Town Centre.
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The city expects to have two more clinics, one at Malvern Community Recreation Centre and the other at Mitchell Field Community Centre, up and running on March 29. The city says it expects to have a third clinic operational at The Hangar on April 5.
Booking opened on Friday for those seniors in the city’s priority group. Approximately 133,000 vaccination appointments between March 17 and April 11 are available for online booking at clinics.
As of Saturday morning, the city says 7,878 people have booked appointments through www.toronto.ca/covid-19/. A spokesperson for the City of Toronto said they expect the number of people confirmed for appointments to grow over the weekend.
The booking system will be offline briefly around 8 p.m. on Sunday as the provincial booking system and call centre come online, the city says. Once the province-wide booking system is online, there will be a phone number available for seniors to call to book appointments.
Roughly two dozen healthcare-run vaccination clinics are operating in Toronto this weekend.
To “prevent a rapid shift in trajectory of the pandemic,” Dr. Tam urged Canadians to follow public health guidelines as they have for more than a year now.
She said that means limiting interactions to “the fewest number of people, for the shortest time, at the greatest distance possible, while wearing the best-fitting mask.”
Canada’s manufacturers ask for federal help as Montreal dockworkers stage partial-strike
MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canada‘s manufacturers on Monday asked the federal government to curb a brewing labor dispute after dockworkers at the country’s second largest port said they will work less this week.
Unionized dockworkers, who are in talks for a new contract since 2018, will hold a partial strike starting Tuesday, by refusing all overtime outside of their normal day shifts, along with weekend work, they said in a statement on Monday.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Quebec’s 1,125 longshore workers at the Port of Montreal rejected a March offer from the Maritime Employers Association.
The uncertainty caused by the labour dispute has led to an 11% drop in March container volume at the Montreal port on an annual basis, even as other eastern ports in North America made gains, the Maritime Employers Association said.
The move will cause delays in a 24-hour industry, the association said.
“Some manufacturers have had to redirect their containers to the Port of Halifax, incurring millions in additional costs every week,” said Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME).
While the government strongly believes a negotiated agreement is the best option for all parties, “we are actively examining all options as the situation evolves,” a spokesman for Federal Labor Minister Filomena Tassi said.
Last summer’s stoppage of work cost wholesalers C$600 million ($478 million) in sales over a two-month period, Statistics Canada estimates.
($1 = 1.2563 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
Canada scraps export permits for drone technology to Turkey, complains to Ankara
OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada on Monday scrapped export permits for drone technology to Turkey after concluding that the equipment had been used by Azeri forces fighting Armenia in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.
Turkey, which like Canada is a member of NATO, is a key ally of Azerbaijan, whose forces gained territory in the enclave after six weeks of fighting.
“This use was not consistent with Canadian foreign policy, nor end-use assurances given by Turkey,” Garneau said in a statement, adding he had raised his concerns with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier in the day.
Ottawa suspended the permits last October so it could review allegations that Azeri drones used in the conflict had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.
In a statement, the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa said: “We expect our NATO allies to avoid unconstructive steps that will negatively affect our bilateral relations and undermine alliance solidarity.”
Earlier on Monday, Turkey said Cavusoglu had urged Canada to review the defense industry restrictions.
The parts under embargo include camera systems for Baykar armed drones. Export licenses were suspended in 2019 during Turkish military activities in Syria. Restrictions were then eased, but reimposed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan jumped sixfold last year. Sales of drones and other military equipment rose to $77 million in September alone before fighting broke out in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, data showed.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Cooney)
Investigation finds Suncor’s Colorado refinery meets environmental permits
By Liz Hampton
DENVER (Reuters) – A Colorado refinery owned by Canadian firm Suncor Energy Inc meets required environmental permits and is adequately funded, according to an investigation released on Monday into a series of emissions violations at the facility between 2017 and 2019.
The 98,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colorado, reached a $9-million settlement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) March 2020 to resolve air pollution violations that occurred since 2017. That settlement also addressed an incident in December 2019 that released refinery materials onto a nearby school.
As part of the settlement, Suncor was required to use a third party to conduct an independent investigation into the violations and spend up to $5 million to implement recommendations from the investigation.
Consulting firm Kearney’s investigation found the facility met environmental permit requirements, but also pinpointed areas for improvement, including personnel training and systems upgrades, some of which was already underway.
“We need to improve our performance and improve the trust people have in us,” Donald Austin, vice president of the Commerce City refinery said in an interview, adding that the refinery had already undertaken some of the recommendations from the investigation.
In mid-April, Suncor will begin a turnaround at the facility that includes an upgrade to a gasoline-producing fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at Plant 1 of the facility. That turnaround is anticipated to be complete in June 2021.
Suncor last year completed a similar upgrade of an automatic shutdown system for the FCCU at the refinery’s Plant 2.
By 2023, the company will also install an additional control unit, upgraded instrumentation, automated shutdown valves and new hydraulic pressure units in Plant 2.
Together, those upgrades will cost approximately $12 million, of which roughly $10 million is dedicated to Plant 2 upgrades, Suncor said on Monday.
(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Marguerita Choy)