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Ontario sees 994 new COVID-19 cases as health officials work to update vaccine rollout – CBC.ca

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Ontario reported another 994 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as the government works to update its immunization rollout following updated guidance that the time between doses for some vaccines can safely be pushed up to four months.

Public health units administered 30,409 doses of vaccine yesterday, a second straight record day in the province. A total of 268,118 people have received both shots and there are now immunization appointments being offered to residents aged 80 and older in at least 10 public health units.

Yesterday afternoon, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued a revised direction that the interval between shots for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be extended to 16 weeks. Clinical trials have shown the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be up to 92 per cent effective after a single dose.

The move will allow more people to get a first dose more quickly.

In a statement, the Ontario Ministry of Health said it welcomed the new recommendations from NACI. 

“This will allow Ontario to rapidly accelerate its vaccine rollout and get as many vaccines into arms as quickly as possible and, in doing so, provide more protection to more people,” a ministry spokesperson said in an email.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, also praised the new recommendation, saying it means the province might be able to move up its timeline of vaccinating all residents by early fall. 

Williams said health officials are now in talks about how an adjusted timeline could affect Ontario’s reopening framework, adding that the move might allow some congregate settings to be “more flexible and more allowable.” 

Don’t use AstraZeneca vaccine in people aged 65 and older: NACI

The province’s COVID-19 vaccine task force is now re-evaluating its immunization strategy as it awaits to hear more from the federal government about how many doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to expect in coming weeks. Health Canada approved the third vaccine last week.

NACI has also recommended against using the AstraZeneca vaccine in people aged 65 and older, even though Health Canada has authorized it to be used in adults of all ages.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday that Ontario will follow NACI’s recommendation, but wouldn’t specify whether or not the AstraZeneca vaccine will instead be prioritized to other age groups or vulnerable communities. 

“We expect to distribute all of them broadly across the province,” she said. 

Dr. Dirk Huyer, coordinator of the provincial outbreak response, said Ontario will continue to prioritize high-risk residents, but that it continues to look at “innovative approaches” to the vaccine rollout.

WATCH | Questions remain about the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to immunize seniors against COVID-19

Real-world experience, rather than hard data, suggests AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine may be effective at decreasing deaths in older people, prompting some countries to permit its use for those over 65. 4:47

Elliott also said earlier this week that the public can expect more clarity soon on who will qualify as an essential worker during phase two of the immunization campaign.

Also on Thursday, the government announced a further $500 million to help Ontario’s 444 municipalities offset costs of the pandemic.

The City of Toronto will receive $164 million, while Ottawa is set to receive $33.4 million.

You can see how much funding has been allocated to your own municipality here. 

The additional money was announced jointly by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy.

Amounts to individual municipalities were determined by combining household data and the relative proportion of COVID-19 cases confirmed in their respective health units, the province said. 

Premiers call on Ottawa to increase health-care funding 

This comes as Ontario Premier Doug Ford and several other provincial leaders are calling on the federal government to shoulder a larger share of health care costs in Ottawa’s upcoming budget. 

Quebec Premier François Legault, chair of the Council of the Federation, delivered that message at a virtual news conference on Thursday afternoon. Other premiers joined virtually. 

The Canada Health Transfer is the federal government’s primary contribution to covering the delivery of health services in the provinces and territories.

Right now, the provinces spend about $188 billion on health care and the federal government covers $42 billion of that figure — roughly 22 per cent of total costs. The premiers have asked for a permanent increase in the federal share to 35 per cent cent, which works out to an additional $28 billion.

Québec Premier François Legault, chair of the Council of the Federation, speaking at a news conference on Thursday. Other premiers joined virtually. (CBC)

“Today we all have the same message for the federal government: now is the time to act and increase the Canada Health Transfer,” Legault said, adding that if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t act, it’s the country’s “most vulnerable that will suffer.” 

“We believe that our demand is reasonable.” 

If approved, Ontario says the budget increase would provide the province with more than $10 billion in additional health care funding, which would be allocated toward the following:

  • Increasing access to home and community care so seniors can stay in their homes longer.
  • Building more long-term care beds and improving the quality of care in long-term care homes.
  • Addressing the large backlog of surgeries and procedures that has accumulated during the pandemic.
  • Improving wait times and increase access to services and procedures at hospitals.

“In Ontario alone, 40,000 seniors are waiting for long-term care beds,” Ford said.  

“Canadians can’t keep waiting for better health care … but the reality is, no province can do this alone.”

Announcement expected Friday regarding Toronto, Peel lockdowns

The new COVID-19 cases in today’s update include 298 in Toronto and 171 in Peel Region. Yesterday, the local medical officers in both health units asked that their respective regions be moved into the revised grey “lockdown” tier of the province’s colour-coded restrictions system.

That would mean that the stay-at-home order is lifted and non-essential businesses are allowed to reopen to customers with limited capacity, among other changes. You can read the province’s breakdown of each tier of the framework here.

Williams said the number of novel coronavirus variants, as well as the per cent positivity rates for both Toronto and Peel Region, are “going up steadily” and are “concerning” to health officials. 

“These are not insignificant numbers,” he said. “We want to be cautious at this time.” 

Williams is expected to announce on Friday the health units that will move to a new tier. 

96 more cases linked to variants of concern

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

  • York Region: 64
  • Ottawa: 49
  • Hamilton: 40
  • Lambton: 39
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 39
  • Niagara Region: 37
  • Halton Region: 33
  • Thunder Bay: 24
  • Durham Region: 23
  • Waterloo Region: 23
  • Sudbury: 18
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 18
  • Windor-Essex: 16
  • Middlesex-London: 12
  • Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District: 10

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.)

This comes as Ontario’s lab network completed 65,463 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and reported a test positivity rate of 2.1 per cent.

Labs also confirmed 92 more cases linked to the virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, bringing the total thus far to 644. Another four cases were confirmed to be the variant first found in South Africa, pushing the total to 31.

On Tuesday, 350 test samples provincewide were screened for the tell-tale spike gene that suggests the presence of a variant of concern. The spike was detected in 136, or about 39 per cent, of those samples. Those samples are then sent for whole genomic sequencing to determine the specific variant of concern.

Meanwhile, the seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 1,064.

The Ministry of Education reported another 101 school-related cases: 77 students, 21 staff members and three people who were not identified. Twenty-six schools are currently closed to the illness. That’s about 0.54 per cent of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly-funded schools.

A total of 649 people with COVID-19 were in hospitals, according to the Ministry of Health. Of those, 281 were being treated in intensive care and 183 needed a ventilator.

The 10 additional deaths in today’s update push the province’s official toll to 7,024.

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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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