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Sault Ste. Marie high COVID case numbers could last two weeks – Sault Star

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The new measures often take some time to understand what is required, to put the measures in place and to cut down close contact between individuals.

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It may take several weeks for the Algoma region to see a drop in positive COVID cases with new restrictions that came into effect Wednesday.

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APH implemented new restrictions geared to reducing the spread of growing COVID cases across the district.

Last Friday, APH issued a statement asking residents to take three key actions to protect themselves and one another.

It followed Monday with implementing mandatory measures for businesses and individuals.

“Whenever these types of broad measures are taken, it does take time before we see their effects. Usually, it’s a couple of weeks,” Dr. Jennifer Loo, Algoma’s medical officer of health, told the Sault Star Wednesday.

The new measures often take some time to understand what is required, to put the measures in place and to cut down close contact between individuals.

“The other thing we need to note is that we’re still seeing cases right now of what has been happening over the past two weeks. Sometimes things get a little worse before they can get better,” she said.

Higher numbers of testing and a potential delay in results can also attribute to increasing case numbers, she said.

Loo said APH will be watching the numbers and she hopes that they will stabilize and start to come down soon.

“That’s when we know we are heading in the right direction,” she said.

This ‘surge’ is only part of the fourth wave that Algoma has seen since mid-July, similar to the rest of the province. That’s when the Delta variant really began to transmit across the region, she said.

“This present surge is a very intense peak of the fourth wave that we are in right now,” she said. “It is very stressful for us all to be in such a high surge but what I am thankful for is that our biggest surge came at a time when the vast majority of our community members are fully immunized and that makes a huge difference.”

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The difference is that those infected are getting more mild infections and it shows the vaccine provides some good protection against the virus, Loo said.

APH’s message is the same to those who have not been vaccinated or totally vaccinated, to get the jab. Clinics by appointments, walk-ins and pop-up clinics, are continuing across the district. Those eligible for third doses can also receive them now.

APH’s new orders require anyone in Algoma who has confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection, or who is identified as a close contact, to follow isolation requirements and other public health direction.

The MOH has issued a Section 22 Class Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, effective immediately across Algoma.

Not complying with this legal order is an offence and a person may be liable for a set fine of $750 or otherwise of up to $5,000 per day or part of each day that the offence continues, on conviction.

APH is also reverting back to Reopening Ontario Act by ordering businesses and organizations, including indoor and outdoor public events, to maintain physical distancing of at least two metres.

The regulations include restaurants, bars, personal care services, indoor and outdoor recreational amenities, fitness centres, casinos, bingo halls and meeting and event spaces, among others.

Currently, APH reports there are 209 active cases across the district, including 15 hospitalizations. There are five active outbreaks across the region including Isabel Fletcher Public School and Grand View Public School. Thessalon Public School has also reported one positive case. Sault Area Hospital’s 3B unit also has a respiratory-COVID-19 outbreak along with a unit at the Algoma Treatment and Remand Centre. Tenaris Algoma has a facility-wide outbreak. Extendicare Maple View Echo Bay Floor is said to have a respiratory-rhinovirus outbreak.

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Those outbreaks are part of the spike, Loo said, and some can be attributed to the loosening of restrictions where individuals may become more complacent with their masking or brushing off sniffles or sore throats as the common cold.

“That’s where we see transmission happening and once it gets into a particular setting, and people are not masked or distanced, like in an office or a break room for example, it can spread very quickly,” she said.

Meanwhile, Loo said, all health-care service providers have been affected throughout the pandemic, especially with more work required to do contact tracing.

“It’s been very tense now for many, many days now,” she said.

APH has trained and redeployed some of its staff within the agency to help with the surge demand. It also works with other public health units across Northern Ontario and beyond and relies on mutual aid assistance from others.

Sault Area Hospital’s manager of communications Brandy Sharp Young said current staffing levels at the hospital are stable.

“The Assessment Centre has experienced extremely high daily volumes over the last week and daily appointment slots have been filling by late morning. We are working hard to increase capacity at the Assessment Centre by increasing staffing levels, shortening appointment times to accommodate more patients, and working with our partners on collaborative solutions,” she said in an emailed response.

Patients are asked to book online where possible at https://bit.ly/3kxh8x2.

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SAH laboratory staff are working extended hours to support the increase in testing and Health Science North Laboratory Team is also assisting to ensure testing is completed in a timely manner. Test results can take up to three to five days as a result of the surge.

In the meantime, urgent surgeries and procedures will continue. Some elective procedures have been scheduled but, to date, surgeries have not been cancelled. Activities are reviewed daily and in-person visits may be rescheduled to virtual or phone calls where possible.

“The recent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations has resulted in greater than normal mobilization efforts by all our health-care teams across the hospital to ensure we have the appropriate capacity to safely care for all our patients,” she said, and staff continue to work “tirelessly.” Staffing levels have been adjusted where necessary and steps have been taken to build capacity by facilitating appropriate discharges where possible.

The public is reminded that only vaccinated essential caregivers are permitted to enter SAH until further notice.

APH reminds people to stay home when sick, even with mild symptoms, wear a mask, social distance and get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so.

“We’re asking people who are not vaccinated to roll up their sleeves and get their first shot and that will put them in good timing to get fully immunized before the holidays,” Loo said.

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No new Covid-19 cases reported in Northwest Territories – Cabin Radio

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The NWT on Friday reported no new cases of Covid-19, only the third day of reporting to come back blank since the territory’s latest Delta-variant outbreak began in mid-August.

The active case count across the territory dropped from 42 to 35. Twenty-eight are in Tuktoyaktuk – which now has a rabies warning to contend with – while four are in Yellowknife and one each in Inuvik, Norman Wells, and Hay River.

There was no change to the number of hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, or deaths.

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Meanwhile, the World Health Organization on Friday dubbed the globe’s latest variant of concern Omicron.

Omicron, identified in South Africa, has a large number of mutations. Early evidence suggests it could be significantly more transmissible than Delta and present an increased reinfection risk.

However, the amount of evidence related to Omicron is low. The variant was only identified last week and the number of cases studied to date numbers in the low dozens.

Some countries, including Canada, moved swiftly on Friday to impose travel restrictions on South Africa and neighbouring nations.

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Canada currently has no direct flights to or from the affected region, but nevertheless banned the entry of all foreign nationals who have travelled through South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, or Eswatini in the past 14 days.

Some observers criticized the rush to travel bans, arguing South Africa was in effect being punished for operating a particularly effective variant surveillance program.

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Kids on P.E.I. receive first vaccinations against COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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One hundred and thirty children in P.E.I. received the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday — the first day the shot was available to five to 11-year-olds.

A pediatric vaccine clinic was held at the County Fair Mall in Summerside, P.E.I.

“I think it’s important because it can help protect others,” said 10-year-old Alex DesRoche. “I was worried that I’d get COVID and spread it to my papa … because he has cancer.”

Her mom, Robin DesRosche, is happy to have gotten her daughter vaccinated. 

Robin DesRosche (left) stands with her daughter Alex. DesRosche says it’s a relief to get her daughter vaccinated. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

“At any point in time, something can weigh in on your family and if you can do anything to try to prevent it, as a parent, I would,” said DesRoche. 

There are 13,000 kids in the five to 11 age group in the province, and 2,500 have appointments booked so far. 

Madeline Goguen, 10, said she was a little nervous to get the shot, but in the end, she said it didn’t hurt and was well worth it. 

“I’m excited because it’s been a while since I’ve gone on vacation,” Goguen said. “It was just quick. It was a tiny pinch and that was it.”

Getting the vaccine will make going to see her dad in New Brunswick less stressful, she said. 

“Every time that I had to get tested I was always worried,” said Goguen.

Her mother, LeAnne Weeks, shares that sense of relief.

LeeAnn Weeks (left) gives a thumbs up next to her daughter Madeline Goguen. Weeks says getting vaccinated is the right thing to do. (Steve Bruce/CBC )

“Now that Madeline is done, that’s our whole family, and we’re just excited that we feel safe now,” Weeks said. 

The clinic has been set up just for kids and other community clinics will be too. With decorations from the movie Frozen and a free toy with every shot, it’s about making the kids feel more comfortable. 

“I think kids and adults too are a little bit nervous about coming and getting needles, even if they know they really want it, and need it,” said Marion Dowling, chief of nursing on P.E.I. 

“We just want to make it as welcoming as possible, and try to give them a bit of privacy with the stations, so they can sit as a family unit, and have the conversation, ask any questions they might have too, and be comfortable.” 

PEI’s chief public health officer made an appearance at the clinic on Friday. Dr. Heather Morrison said she’s pleased to see so many parents booking shots for their children. 

Chief of nursing Marion Dowling says more than 1,000 appointments were booked when vaccine registration for children opened on Tuesday. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

“I almost got goosebumps in there. There are children who are excited, there are parents who are that excited. Just to be a part of it was pretty special” Morrison said. 

In a survey by the province, about 70 per cent of parents said they would get their child vaccinated, while others said they were undecided. 

Morrison said she thinks word of mouth will convince many of them to sign up. 

“We know it can influence others if we know that your friends have booked their vaccine,” she said.

“I saw children here today wearing stickers saying, ‘I got my COVID vaccine.’ They will start talking amongst their friends that ‘I got mine, and it feels good.'”

Dr. Heather Morrison says she is getting her kids vaccinated. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Five community clinics across P.E.I. are currently offering the vaccine for five to 11-year-olds. 

In the new year, the plan is to set up school clinics for kids in grades four to six. 

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UK COVID genomics head says new variant likely to come to UK

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It is likely that the new coronavirus variant B.1.1.529, which is spreading in South Africa, will end up in Britain, the head of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium said on Friday.

A ban on flights from southern Africa came into force in Britain on Friday, and numerous other countries also restricted travel from the region.

“(B.1.1.529 is) something that I would guess is likely to be transmitted into the UK at some point, but it buys that time,” COG-UK Chair Sharon Peacock told reporters.

“I think buying time is important and it’s worthwhile, because we can find out what we need to know about that particular variant.”

Speaking at a briefing with other experts, Peacock praised the quick work of South African scientists who shared what they knew about the variant after a surge in cases centred on Gauteng province.

That early warning could be crucial in preventing the variant taking over rapidly from the Delta variant as the world’s dominant one, even as South Africa bristles at the swift imposition of barriers to travel.

“This is a different circumstance than Delta, and there might be some hope for maybe some amount of containment,” said Jeffrey Barrett, Director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

“The difference really is that the surveillance was so good in South Africa and other nearby countries that they found this, understood that it was a problem, and told the world extremely fast.”

S-GENE CLUE

Peacock said it was important not to assume that the variant had arisen in South Africa just because it had been detected there.

“Variants will fly under the radar in countries where there’s no sequencing capability,” she said.

A distinctive trait known as an “S-gene target failure”, which distinguishes the new variant from Delta, means that PCR tests can give a clue to the presence of the new variant without full genomic sequencing.

However, Wendy Barclay, a virologist who leads the UK National Virology Consortium G2P-UK, cautioned that some other variants also had the trait.

Many parts of Europe have been struggling with high and rising COVID rates for weeks, but Barrett said these were unlikely to be driven by B.1.1.529, even in places with less sequencing.

“They are consistently finding a mix of Delta variant, basically,” he said.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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