Connect with us


Outdoor religious services now permitted, as B.C. records 682 new COVID-19 cases and 1 more death –



The restrictions on religious gatherings in B.C. are loosening, health officials announced Tuesday, as they released the latest numbers showing that many COVID-19 trend lines continue to head in the wrong direction.

In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that a public health order banning gatherings and events has been amended to allow outdoor religious gatherings, as long as COVID-19 safety plans are in place. 

Tuesday’s daily update included 682 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death. There are now 314 people in hospital with the disease — the highest total since Jan. 25 — including 83 who are in intensive care.

The latest numbers mean that the seven-day rolling average of new cases has hit 617, the highest since Dec. 20.

“While we are immunizing more people every day, and in parallel slowly turning the dial on the restrictions we have in place, we must remember the risk for all of us remains high, particularly with indoor activities — whether for work or social reasons,” Henry and Dix said.

There are currently 5,409 active cases of coronavirus in the province, the highest total since Jan. 9. Public health is now monitoring 9,488 people across B.C. who are in self-isolation because of COVID-19 exposure.

A total of 86,307 people who tested positive for the virus have recovered, while 1,438 people in B.C. have lost their lives because of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

B.C. has recorded no new outbreaks in health-care facilities, and outbreaks at Revera Sunwood Retirement Community in Maple Ridge and the Brucejack Mine have been declared over.

So far, 557,508 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 87,168 of those being second doses.

Vaccination slots opening for the medically vulnerable

On Tuesday, the province provided more details on how people who are “clinically extremely vulnerable” can receive a vaccine in the coming weeks.

Those who are at higher risk of COVID-19 because of medical conditions will be able to register for immunization beginning March 29. People who qualify include transplant recipients, people with severe respiratory conditions and some cancer patients.

“For many, knowing that COVID-19 would compound what are already serious illnesses has created added challenge and stress — concerns that will soon be relieved,” Henry and Dix said.

About 200,000 people over the age of 16 will be included in this group, according to a government news release. A group of medical experts has worked with public health to draft a list, and those who qualify can expect to receive a letter in the mail with information on how to book an appointment.

Anyone who believes they should qualify and hasn’t received a letter by April 15 should call the provincial call centre or visit a yet-to-be launched online site for booking vaccination appointments, the government says.

Meanwhile, B.C.’s accelerated vaccination progress means that as of Wednesday, people born in 1945 will be able to book their first shot.

On Monday, Henry expressed concern about the rising number of cases but did not give a clear answer as to whether B.C. is experiencing a third wave of the pandemic.

“People ask if we’re in our third wave,” she said. “We’ve come down from the peak of our second wave but we have levelled out for many weeks now and it’s a slow and steady increase.”

Henry urged everyone to make sure any gatherings are held outdoors, in physically distanced groups of 10 or fewer.

Dix stressed that while the vaccines are helping, it’s still not safe to resume normal life.

“Vaccines provide us with a great deal of hope, but orders are still in place,” he said. “If you are thinking of going to a birthday celebration, do not go right now.”

Henry and Dix said that no plans should be made for large gatherings like weddings for the near future and any such plans should be pushed to summer at the earliest.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs



By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.

Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.

Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.

Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.

“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.

“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”

In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.

“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”

Continue Reading


In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers



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.


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)

Continue Reading


Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare



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)

Continue Reading