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Ontario wants better testing for COVID-19 at airports: In The News for Dec. 22 – Lethbridge News Now

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Canada had been easing the near-total shutdown at the border that went into effect in March.

First, a tight list of essential workers were allowed in. It was expanded to allow more workers, such as agricultural labourers. Then the government expanded the list of eligible family members able to join or visit relatives in Canada, and has since expanded that list further. 

Most incoming travellers are required to quarantine for 14 days and are screened for symptoms of COVID-19. If they violate quarantine, they can face heavy financial fines or jail time.

But Ford compared the way the border is being managed to a leaky roof on Monday.

He said close to 64,000 people arrived at Toronto’s Pearson airport last week alone and suggested they were basically unchecked.

“Let’s get the testing at the airport and stop the leak,” he said. 

“It doesn’t matter if there’s 10 people getting through, that’s 10 too many that are going to be out in the community spreading COVID.” 

Also this …

The National Hockey League and its players’ association will attempt a 56-game regular season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic’s raging second wave, with every Canadian franchise competing in a national division.

The NHL and NHLPA left room in their plan to adapt to COVID-19.

And there are still a lot of details to be worked out, including whether Canada’s seven teams in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal will be allowed to play in their home arenas.

For that to happen, health officials from five provinces will have to sign off on any plan.

Most of the provinces said Monday they are reviewing the NHL’s proposal. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said talks continue on allowing the province’s two NHL teams to host games.

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix was non-committal about the NHL proposal.

“We’ll make some decisions in the days to come as to whether the plan meets the needs of people.”

Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, said officials there are also going over the NHL’s proposal, but even if the plan gets approved, there won’t be any fans at Winnipeg Jets’ games any time soon. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, noted that a number of provinces are involved in the decision as the province looks at whether it will allow games in Calgary and Edmonton.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

He was given the vaccine on live television on Monday as part of a growing effort to convince the American public the inoculations are safe.

Biden took a dose of Pfizer vaccine at a hospital not far from his Delaware home, hours after his wife, Jill Biden, did the same. 

The president-elect rolled the left sleeve of his turtleneck all the way up to his shoulder, then declined the option to count to three before the needle was inserted into his left arm.

“You just go ahead anytime you’re ready,” he told the nurse practitioner who administered the shot.

Biden emphasized the safety of the vaccine, and said President Donald Trump’s administration “deserves some credit” for getting the vaccine distribution process “off the ground.”

Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband are expected to receive their first shots next week.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

The European Union has given approval for the coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer to be used across the 27-nation bloc.

There are hope EU countries can begin administering the first shots to people shortly after Christmas.

The EU’s executive commission gave the green light just hours after the European Medicines Agency said the vaccine meets safety and quality standards. 

“As we have promised, this vaccine will be available for all EU countries at the same time, on the same conditions,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “This is a very good way to end this difficult year, and to finally start turning the page on COVID-19.”

Deliveries of the vaccine are expected to start this coming Saturday, with inoculations beginning across the EU between Dec. 27 and Dec. 29.

On this day in 1986 …

The Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that four sections of Quebec’s controversial language law were invalid. After the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the decision, the Quebec legislature passed a new law two years later that allowed French-only on signs outside stores and bilingual signs inside.

In entertainment …

Michelle Latimer says she’s resigning from the second season of CBC’s Indigenous TV series “Trickster.” 

The filmmaker from Thunder Bay, Ont.,  says she’s leaving the production after seeking advice over concerns raised about the accuracy of her claimed Indigenous ancestry. 

She served as co-creator and director of the show.

Latimer posted a Facebook message on Monday saying, “I have listened to my community and feel that stepping away from the production is the appropriate course of action.”

Latimer had previously said she was of Algonquin, Metis, and French heritage, from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and Maniwaki area in Quebec, but a CBC investigation last week challenged those claims and raised issues over her self-identification.

On Thursday, Latimer wrote that she “made a mistake” in naming Kitigan Zibi as her family’s community before verifying the linkage. 

“Trickster” is based on a series of novels by Eden Robinson that tell the story of a teenager from Kitimat, B.C., who discovers he has magical powers passed down through generations.

ICYMI …

Black service members in the U.S. air force are far more likely to be investigated, arrested, face disciplinary actions and be discharged for misconduct, according to a new report.

The report by the air force inspector general looked at racial disparities across the service and said Black members of the air force and space force are less likely to be promoted to higher enlisted and officer ranks.

It says one-third of them believe they don’t get the same opportunities as their white peers. 

The report comes as the Pentagon struggles with a broader effort to expand diversity within the ranks. The Defence Department last week endorsed a new slate of initiatives to more aggressively recruit, retain and promote a more racially and ethnically diverse force.

Gen. Charles Brown Jr., chief of staff of the air force, said service leaders must rebuild trust with their force.

“Racial disparity isn’t an easy topic and something we don’t traditionally talk about much throughout our levels of command,” said Brown, the first Black man to lead the air force. “Now we must all move forward with meaningful, lasting, and sustainable change.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2020

The Canadian Press

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Additional steps Albertans can take as more cases of COVID-19 variants reported – Global News

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Health officials say current public health measures around masking and distancing will protect Albertans against the new variants of the novel coronavirus, but there are some extra precautions that can be taken.

Alberta Health reported Monday that there were 20 cases of the UK variant and five cases of the South African variant in the province; while most were travel-related, there is one case that appears to be the result of community transmission.

READ MORE: U.K. variant of COVID-19 ‘may have entered the broader community’ in Alberta: Shandro

Infectious disease epidemiologist Zahid Butt of the University of Waterloo said people will need to be more vigilant now about following public health guidelines.

“We need to be more careful about distancing now. We need to be more careful about wearing masks. We should be more careful about hand sanitization and other measures,” Butt said.

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The variants can transmit faster between people because of changes to the spike proteins on the virus’s surface, which allows it to enter cells more easily. Higher transmission of the virus means there is the potential for more cases and, with that, the possibility there could be more hospitalizations.

Should people wear two masks?

While some Americans are wearing two masks, Butt said he wouldn’t recommend it.

READ MORE: Officials confirm Canada’s 1st case of South African variant of COVID-19 detected in Alberta

“Currently they just recommend one mask because…it has a better fit, it’s a more comfortable fit,” Butt said, adding he recommends wearing a mask everywhere, even outdoors.

Butt also said that three layers in a mask will protect a person more than a mask with just one layer.

RELATED: COVID-19: Triple-layer masks now recommended, what does that mean for Albertans?

“Additionally if you have a mask which you can actually put in a filter, in addition to your three layers, that will protect you better,” he said.

Infectious disease physician Dr. Stephane Smith agrees, saying she doesn’t think there’s any evidence to suggest wearing two masks is more protective than wearing one.

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Smith said N95 can filter small air particles but those are recommended for those working in hospital settings.

READ MORE: ‘Realistic possibility’ COVID-19 variant from U.K. could be deadlier, researchers say

“For most people in everyday settings, the surgical mask or its equivalent is effective in preventing transmission from larger droplets,” she said.

Smith said wearing masks indoors is very important and wearing masks outdoors is also important if you are going to be in close contact with someone, but she balks at wearing a mask at all times when outdoors.

“If you’re just out for a walk in your neighbourhood and you don’t actually interact with anyone then you probably don’t need to wear a mask at all,” she said.

Should people distance more than two metres?

Albertans have been told to distance two metres from people outside of their household, but Butt said people can take extra precautions and distance more than two metres to be safe.

Should people cut down the time they spend in indoor spaces?

Smith said, at this point, it isn’t clear how well established the new variants are in Alberta but she recommends curbing interactions.

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“If you need to go to the grocery store, go to the grocery store but limiting the amount of time you spend there is still the best suggestion,” she said.

Butt suggests only going out for essential tasks and he also recommends reducing the time spent in closed settings.

What about travel internationally, domestically and within Alberta?

Butt said people should avoid travelling right now, saying this is one way the variant can spread.

“No travelling across provinces and also, if you’re living in an area that’s designated a high-risk area, don’t travel from your high-risk area to a low-risk area,” he said.

READ MORE: Kenney clarifies he doesn’t encourage travel during pandemic despite thinking it’s safe, good for the economy

Smith said international travel right now is a “bad idea” and that the province should monitor what is happening in other provinces.

“If it does appear there are areas of the country that have widespread transmission of the new variant then I think we would have to look at some restrictions of people coming from that particular province,” she said.

READ MORE: Albertans angry over COVID-19 travel scandal, feel consequences came too late

“There have been outbreaks in Ontario related to the new variant. I think this data is emerging. I think we’ll have to keep a close eye on the information that we get from these other provinces to determine what we should be doing about restrictions within Alberta.”

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As for travel within Alberta, Smith said there is an increased risk any time you travel because there are more interactions with people that you wouldn’t normally interact with.

Smith suggests curtailing travel within the province unless it is essential.

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

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Ontario reports 1740 new coronavirus cases, 63 more deaths – thepeakfm.com

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Ontario is reporting 1,740 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the provincial total to 258,700.

Tuesday’s case count is lower than Monday’s which saw 1,958 new infections. On Sunday, 2,417 new cases were recorded and 2,359 on Saturday.

It is also the lowest increase in daily cases since Dec. 13 when 1,677 new cases were reported.

“Locally, there are 677 new cases in Toronto, 320 in Peel and 144 in York Region,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

The death toll in the province has risen to 5,909 after 63 more deaths were reported.

Read more:
Coronavirus: Toronto hospital nurse who died by suicide remembered as caring, dedicated

Meanwhile, 229,755 Ontarians have recovered from COVID-19 which is about 89 per cent of known cases. Resolved cases increased by 2,261 from the previous day.

There were more resolved cases than new cases on Tuesday.

Active cases in Ontario now stand at 23,036 — down from the previous day when it was 23,620, and down from last Tuesday at 27,615.

The seven-day average has now reached 2,346, down from yesterday at 2,371 and down from last week at 2,893 — showing a downward trend in new cases.

Ontario reported 1,466 people hospitalized with COVID-19 (up by 68 from the previous day), with 383 patients in an intensive care unit (down by 14) and 298 patients in ICUs on a ventilator (up by 15).

The government said 30,717 tests were processed in the last 24 hours. There is currently a backlog of 36,405 tests awaiting results. A total of 9,375,676 tests have been completed since the start of the pandemic.

Test positivity — the percentage of tests that come back positive — for Tuesday was 5.9 per cent, up from Monday at 5.5 per cent, and down from one week ago when it was 6.8 per cent.

As of 8 p.m. Monday, the province has administered 295,817 COVID-19 vaccine doses. There are 83,285 people fully vaccinated with two doses. Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the only two vaccines currently approved in Canada, require two shots.

Here is a breakdown of the total cases in Ontario by gender and age:

  • 126,519 people are male — an increase of 874 cases.
  • 130,723 people are female — an increase of 875 cases.
  • 33,791 people are 19 and under — an increase of 243 cases.
  • 94,667 people are 20 to 39 — an increase of 636 cases.
  • 74,605 people are 40 to 59 — an increase of 497 cases.
  • 37,300 people are 60 to 79 — an increase of 252 cases.
  • 18,288 people are 80 and over — an increase of 110 cases.
  • The province notes that not all cases have a reported age or gender.

The province notes that the number of cases publicly reported each day may not align with case counts reported by the local public health unit on a given day. Local public health units report when they were first notified of a case, which can be updated and changed as information becomes available. Data may also be pulled at different times.

Here is a breakdown of the total deaths related to COVID-19 by age:

  • Deaths reported in ages 19 and under: 2
  • Deaths reported in ages 20 to 39: 22
  • Deaths reported in ages 40 to 59: 222
  • Deaths reported in ages 60 to 79: 1,594
  • Deaths reported in ages 80 and older: 4,068
  • The province notes there may be a reporting delay for deaths.

Read more:
Provinces sitting on millions in COVID-19 funds for long-term care homes: CCPA

Ontario long-term care homes

According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there have been 3,389 deaths reported among residents and patients in long-term care homes across Ontario which is an increase of 24 deaths. Eleven virus-related deaths in total have been reported among staff.

There are 246 current outbreaks in homes, which is a decrease of 10 from the previous day.

The ministry also indicated there are currently 1,164 active cases among long-term care residents and 1,905 active cases among staff — down by 102 cases and down by 105 cases, respectively, in the last day.

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

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5 more deaths, 94 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Manitoba today – CBC.ca

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Five more deaths and 94 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Manitoba on Tuesday.

This is the first time the daily caseload has been below 100 since Jan. 12, when there were 92 new cases. Prior to that, the province last saw a sub-100 daily count in mid-October.

One of the province’s health regions — Interlake-Eastern — reported zero new cases.

The Winnipeg area has the most new cases of any single health region with 41. The northern region has 36 new cases, while the Prairie Mountain Health region has 15 and the Southern Health region has two.

The total number of deaths in Manitoba due to COVID-19 is now 809.

One of the five new deaths is a woman in her 90s from the Prairie Mountain Health region, who is linked to the outbreak at Fairview Personal Care Home.

The other four deaths are from the Winnipeg area — a man in his 70s, a man in his 80s, a woman in her 80s who is linked to the outbreak at Seven Oaks General Hospital 5U1-3, and a man in his 90s who is linked to the outbreak at Fred Douglas Lodge.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, said today’s low number of new cases — compared to the seven-day average of 170 — “is trending the right way, but we still have a number of people in hospital.”

There are currently 277 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 38 ICU patients.

That shows there “still is a burden on the acute care system,” Atwal said.

While the province is seeing benefits from its aggressive contact tracing, it is unrealistic to think the daily case totals will drop to zero any time soon, he said, but tipped his hat to the Interlake–Eastern region.

“This is a pandemic. This isn’t going away quick,” Atwal said. “We need to do what’s being asked of people to do by public health … to keep our case counts low.

“Every interaction we have has a risk of propagating an infection. The more interactions we have, with the more people, that risk has a multiple on it. That’s where you get that exponential growth.”

The vaccination program will eventually help reduce that exponential risk “but we are still early on, on that vaccine side,” he said.

The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 10.3 per cent provincially and 6.4 per cent in Winnipeg after 1,118 tests were completed on Monday.

The province on Tuesday declared outbreaks over at the Boyne Lodge Personal Care Home in Carman and Health Sciences Centre unit GA4 in Winnipeg.

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