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Quebec changes COVID-19 vaccine strategy, won’t hold back doses for booster shots – Global News

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Quebec is accelerating its vaccination rollout by inoculating as many people as possible instead of holding back doses to be given later as booster shots.

“All the vaccines that we have received and that we will receive in Quebec over the next few weeks will be used to immunize as many priority groups as possible,” the Health Department said in a statement Thursday.

Vaccine-maker Pfizer had requested the province reserve half the doses as booster shots for those already vaccinated. That strategy had been criticized by health experts who said the province’s vaccine rollout was taking too long.

Quebec has so far received 87,000 doses of vaccine — 55,000 doses from Pfizer-BioNTech and 32,500 from Moderna — and has administered 29,250 injections. Both vaccines require two doses: Pfizer recommends a second dose after 21 days while Moderna says its second dose should come 28 days after the first injection.

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READ MORE: New coronavirus testing rules for travellers landing in Canada to start Jan. 7

Dr. Gaston De Serres, chief physician of the scientific immunization group at Quebec’s national public health institute, said Thursday the first dose provides the majority of the protection against the virus. The second, he added, serves mostly to prolong that protection.

Meanwhile in Quebec City, almost 100 people at a long-term care home — both residents and staff — have tested positive for COVID-19 after they were vaccinated against the virus, according to the regional health authority. The Saint-Antoine long-term care home was the site of the first COVID-19 vaccination in Canada on Dec. 14.

De Serres said the outbreak at that facility had been detected several days before vaccinations began. He said it takes time for the body to build immunity following a COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s not really a surprise to see these cases occurring,” De Serres said in an interview. “In general, with vaccines, we anticipate that protection should be present starting two weeks after the vaccine has been injected, not necessarily the day the vaccine has been injected.”

He said he doesn’t expect any more cases among people who received the vaccine on Dec. 14 and 15. The Health Department said there were 64 active cases of COVID-19 among residents at Saint-Antoine on Wednesday, the most recent date for which data is available.

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READ MORE: Canada to require all arriving air passengers to show negative COVID-19 test

Dr. Maria Sundaram, a Toronto-based epidemiologist at health-care research agency ICES, said given the high rates of community transmission and the high risk of exposure in long-term care homes, catching COVID once vaccinated “is unfortunately almost a given at this point.”

“This is not an indication that the vaccine doesn’t work,” she said in an interview Thursday. “This is an indication of the vaccine trying to work in sub-optimal conditions and it’s in a group that hasn’t been fully vaccinated.”

Quebec exceeded the 200,000 COVID-19 case mark Thursday after officials reported a record 2,819 new infections. The province also reported 62 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including 22 that occurred in the past 24 hours.

Quebec has reported a total of 202,641 COVID-19 cases and 8,226 deaths linked to the virus.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: looking back on how Quebec responded to COVID-19 in 2020'



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Coronavirus: looking back on how Quebec responded to COVID-19 in 2020


Coronavirus: looking back on how Quebec responded to COVID-19 in 2020

© 2021 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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