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Survey offers glimpse of what could reopen in Manitoba – Winnipeg Free Press

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The Manitoba government’s online survey on the easing of COVID-19 restrictions is mostly a public relations exercise. But it does provide insight into what the province may reopen this week — and what is off the table.

The Pallister government is expected to announce as early as Tuesday what changes are in store for public health orders when regulations expire Friday. The easing of restrictions are expected to be minor. Provincial officials have made it clear they don’t want a “yo-yo” approach, where measures are loosened and reinstated every few weeks.

The online survey, which went live Friday, is mostly about optics; an attempt to convince the public they have a real say over public health orders. It may have some impact on government decision-making. Not all low-risk businesses, services or activities can reopen at once. Decisions to open some and not others will be arbitrary. Knowing the priorities of the public could act as a tie-breaker in some cases.

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Much to the chagrin of some protesters, the doffing of masks in indoor public places is also not on the table.

For the most part, though, public health officials will make those decisions on their own.

In the meantime, the survey acts as a short list for what could reopen. It shows what is under consideration and asks respondents to rank options in order of importance. If it’s not listed, it’s probably not on the table.

“Not all activities and services are immediately listed as not all are being considered in the current round of services and activities due to the higher risk of activity,” the survey says.

Bars, city libraries, movie theatres and tattoo parlours are not listed. Presumably, those are not up for consideration. Much to the chagrin of some protesters, the doffing of masks in indoor public places is also not on the table.

Bars are not one of the activities listed in the survey.

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Bars are not one of the activities listed in the survey.

Reducing restrictions for places of worship is being considered. In-person services are banned under code-red restrictions. Given the high level of transmission reported in those settings, it seems doubtful those would reopen, even with capacity limits. Respondents were also asked about increasing the five-person limit for funerals and weddings. Those seem more likely.

Expanding retail has a good shot. It will probably be the most significant part of this week’s announcement. Respondents were asked whether they should be allowed to shop without limiting the products they can buy. Right now, stores can only sell essential items, as prescribed by regulation. Considering the low-risk nature of retail and what’s at stake economically for small business owners, eliminating the essential-items list (or at least broadening it) seems likely. With the help of face coverings and capacity restrictions, retail can operate relatively safely.

Barber shops and hairstylists are up for consideration, as are gyms and fitness studios. Those are possibilities.

Greater access to recreation opportunities, including resuming organized sports (such as amateur hockey and indoor soccer) are also on the list. I wouldn’t hold my breath on those. Most organized sports are volunteer-driven and don’t have the resources of public schools to enforce public health measures. Sports for adults, such as beer league hockey and indoor soccer, will probably have to wait.

Considering the low-risk nature of retail and what’s at stake economically for small business owners, eliminating the essential-items list seems likely.

MALAK ABAS / FREE PRESS FILES

Considering the low-risk nature of retail and what’s at stake economically for small business owners, eliminating the essential-items list seems likely.

The most concerning set of questions in the survey is around household gatherings. Once government finally agreed in late November to prohibit people from having visitors in their homes (with some exceptions), COVID-19 cases began to fall. It wasn’t the only reason for the decline, but it was a significant factor. People gathering indoors for prolonged periods without masks is a major source of transmission.

The survey asks respondents for their views on expanding the list of exemptions for household gatherings, returning to a limit of five visitors per home, or maintaining the status quo.

Loosening those measures when Manitoba still has over 100 cases of COVID-19 a day would be a big mistake.

If infection rates and hospital numbers continue to fall, Manitoba could ease restrictions further in late February. For now, baby steps are the name of the game.

tom.brodbeck@freepress.mb.ca

Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck
Columnist

Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

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B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday – Abbotsford News

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B.C.’s top officials are scheduled to unveil how the province’s mass vaccination plan will roll out at a press conference Monday (March 1).

Present at the press conference will be Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and and Dr. Penny Ballem, the executive lead of the B.C. immunization rollout team.

It will be the province’s first vaccination plan update since Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca vaccine last week, which could speed up immunization efforts due to its easier storage requirements. The newest two-dose shot can be stored and transported at fridge temperatures, not the ultra-cold storage required for Pfizer or the freezer storage required for Moderna.

Currently, all of B.C.’s long-term care residents and staff have been offered the shot during phase one, with 90 per cent of each group having gotten their first dose. About half of both groups have received their second dose.

According to the province’s current posted vaccination plan, seniors 80 years of age and older living in the community, Indigenous seniors 65 years and up, vulnerable populations in congregate living settings and health-care staff who haven’t yet received a vaccine are next on the list.

Those vaccinations are scheduled to be wrapped up by the end of March, with mass immunizations beginning in April. Those will start at age 79 and move downwards in five year increments. By June, all people 60 years of age and older, as well as younger people deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable” are scheduled to have received at least their first dose. According to the province, front line essential workers aged 18 to 64 may get their shot in April, May or June if additional vaccines are available.

The last group, people between the ages of 18 and 59, are scheduled to get their vaccines between July and the end of September, with older individuals first in line.

As of Friday, B.C. has administered 252,373 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.

READ MORE: Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine


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Canadian Press NewsAlert: B.C. to offer second dose of COVID vaccine after 4 months – WellandTribune.ca

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VICTORIA – British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months as it ramps up its age-based immunization plan to free up doses so all residents could get their initial shot by July.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday the change is based on the “miraculous” protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

She said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is expected to issue a statement to align with B.C.’s decision, which is also based on similar data from Quebec and countries including Israel and the United Kingdom.

Starting Monday, health authorities will contact residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors’ supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff.

Seniors aged 90 and up can call a central number to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over.

People 80 and up will have a chance to book their time-slot on March 22. Those between 60 and 79 as well as people 16 and up who are medically vulnerable are expected to get their shots starting in mid-April by registering for an appointment online.

Henry said first responders and essential workers, including teachers, may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, with the first shipment expected to arrive in B.C. next week.

“We’ve had a number of places in communities around the province where we’ve had outbreaks. We can think about things like poultry workers (and) people who work in some of our mail distribution centres,” she said.

While people will be able to choose whether they want the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or wait their turn for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, Henry said people should go with what is available first.

Premier John Horgan urged people to continue taking precautions — such as wearing masks, practising physical distancing and staying home when sick — aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 as vaccines become available.

“We have months to go and I want British Columbians to take the good news we’re hearing today with the joy that it deserves. But we need to remind ourselves not just today, but next week and next month, that we have a long way to go,” he said.

Some 275,681 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., of which 83,777 were second doses.

Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading the province’s vaccination plan, said about 400,000 morepeople are expected to be vaccinated by early April but that number could rise because 70,000 more first doses will be available by stretching out the time before second doses are administered.

Ballem said it’s important for people to call for an appointment only when it is their turn, or when the person they’re calling for is eligible for vaccination in order to prevent call centres from being overwhelmed as has happened in other jurisdictions.

Information that will be required includes a birth date, personal health number and a postal code to connect people to the right health authority, she said, adding that an online booking system will be operating by mid-April.

“That, in and of itself, is a major, major step forward in our vaccination program,” she said of the system that will also help track real-time vaccine effectiveness.

B.C. reported 1,428 new COVID-19 cases from Saturday to Monday, for a total of 80,672 cases in the province since the pandemic began.

There are 4,464 people with active cases in B.C., of whom 236 are hospitalized and 65 are in intensive care.

Forty-two new cases are variants of concern, for a total of 158 cases. The majority — 137 cases — are the strain first identified in the United Kingdom, while 21 are the variant first found in South Africa.

There have been eight new deaths linked to COVID-19, for a total of 1,363 fatalities connected to the virus in B.C.

The province reported four new health-care facility outbreaks at Glacier View Lodge, Chilliwack General Hospital, Royal Columbian Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital.

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Several outbreaks were also declared over, including one at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

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Premier Horgan to present details of B.C.'s COVID-19 mass immunization plan – Alaska Highway News

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VICTORIA — British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months as it ramps up its age-based immunization plan to free up doses so all residents could get their initial shot by July.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday the change is based on the “miraculous” protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

article continues below

She said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is expected to issue a statement to align with B.C.’s decision, which is also based on similar data from Quebec and countries including Israel and the United Kingdom.

Starting Monday, health authorities will contact residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors’ supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff.

Seniors aged 90 and up can call a central number to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over.

People 80 and up will have a chance to book their time-slot on March 22. Those between 60 and 79 as well as people 16 and up who are medically vulnerable are expected to get their shots starting in mid-April by registering for an appointment online.

Henry said first responders and essential workers, including teachers, may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, with the first shipment expected to arrive in B.C. next week.

“We’ve had a number of places in communities around the province where we’ve had outbreaks. We can think about things like poultry workers (and) people who work in some of our mail distribution centres,” she said.

While people will be able to choose whether they want the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or wait their turn for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, Henry said people should go with what is available first.

Premier John Horgan urged people to continue taking precautions — such as wearing masks, practising physical distancing and staying home when sick — aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 as vaccines become available.

“We have months to go and I want British Columbians to take the good news we’re hearing today with the joy that it deserves. But we need to remind ourselves not just today, but next week and next month, that we have a long way to go,” he said.

Some 275,681 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., of which 83,777 were second doses.

Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading the province’s vaccination plan, said about 400,000 morepeople are expected to be vaccinated by early April but that number could rise because 70,000 more first doses will be available by stretching out the time before second doses are administered.

Ballem said it’s important for people to call for an appointment only when it is their turn, or when the person they’re calling for is eligible for vaccination in order to prevent call centres from being overwhelmed as has happened in other jurisdictions.

Information that will be required includes a birth date, personal health number and a postal code to connect people to the right health authority, she said, adding that an online booking system will be operating by mid-April.

“That, in and of itself, is a major, major step forward in our vaccination program,” she said of the system that will also help track real-time vaccine effectiveness.

B.C. reported 1,428 new COVID-19 cases from Saturday to Monday, for a total of 80,672 cases in the province since the pandemic began.

There are 4,464 people with active cases in B.C., of whom 236 are hospitalized and 65 are in intensive care.

Forty-two new cases are variants of concern, for a total of 158 cases. The majority — 137 cases — are the strain first identified in the United Kingdom, while 21 are the variant first found in South Africa.

There have been eight new deaths linked to COVID-19, for a total of 1,363 fatalities connected to the virus in B.C.

The province reported four new health-care facility outbreaks at Glacier View Lodge, Chilliwack General Hospital, Royal Columbian Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Several outbreaks were also declared over, including one at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

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