Nearly five years ago, Yassin Dabeh’s family fled war-torn Syria for a better life in Canada.
Now the family has been confronted with the unspeakable horror of watching Dabeh become the youngest person in the Middlesex-London area to die after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Dabeh, 19, worked as a contract cleaner at the Middlesex Terrace Long Term Care home in Delaware, Ont., just west of London, and died after contracting the virus, said Mohamad Fakih, a businessman and philanthropist, who spoke with the young man’s father.
“In 2016, they arrived as immigrants from Syria,” said Fakih, CEO of Paramount Fine Foods, who reached out to the grieving family to offer financial assistance for the funeral. “He said that the community came together and paid for the funeral.”
Fakih said the teenager, who had three brothers and one sister, died on Thursday and was buried on Friday.
To honour Dabeh’s life in his own way, Fakih asked the organizers of a biweekly community outreach event in which 500 meals are cooked for those in need in Regent Park, if Sunday’s event could be held in Dabeh’s memory. They agreed.
Fakih said Dabeh’s father cried when he told him the meals would be served in his son’s honour.
“People need to feel that they’re not alone, especially if they’re refugees,” said Fakih, an immigrant himself who came to Canada from Lebanon more than 20 years ago. “We want to show them that … Canadians, we’re all one big family and they’re not alone. He was very appreciative, the father.”
Details around Dabeh’s death, and its cause, are still emerging.
Dr. Alex Summers, Middlesex-London Health Unit’s associate medical officer of health, told the Star he couldn’t confirm Dabeh’s identity, but only that a male between the ages of 10 and 19 who worked at a long-term-care home had died after testing positive for the virus.
“Obviously a death amongst somebody recently diagnosed with COVID in this age group is a surprise to many and something that is tragic,” said Summers, adding that the deceased was the youngest individual in the health unit region to have died after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
“The public health unit investigation is primarily on understanding where individuals contracted an infectious disease such as COVID and where it might be spread and trying to intervene to limit transmission,” he noted.
He said that the case in question was considered “resolved,” meaning that the patient was no longer infectious.
“Certainly COVID as a virus can have implications for people well beyond whether or not somebody’s infectious,” Summers said. “Sometimes the repercussions can extend beyond the infectious period certainly. In this instance, all I can share is unfortunately a person of that age recently diagnosed with COVID has passed away.”
According to the Middlesex-London Health Unit, an outbreak was declared at the Middlesex Terrace Long Term Care Home on Dec. 23 and remains “active.” The number of infections at the home is not published.
In the health unit as a whole, there have been 601 COVID-19 cases, 292 of which have been among residents and 309 in staff members, as well as 79 deaths.
Mary Raithby, CEO of APANS Health Services, the company that owns the network of homes to which Middlesex Terrance belongs, said in an email to the Star that “we extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Yassin.”
“Out of respect for their loss and grief, we are declining any interview or statement requests at this time,” she said.
Unifor Local 302, which represents employees at Middlesex Terrace, told the Star that Dabeh was not one of its members, but that it sends its “deepest sympathies to this young man’s family and friends.”
Some politicians took to social media Sunday to express their thoughts on Dabeh’s death.
On Twitter, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called Dabeh’s death “a tragedy.”
“Essential workers are at risk every day,” Singh wrote. “Paid sick days, faster vaccine rollout and access to PPE are needed urgently — to save lives.”
“My sincerest condolences to this young man’s family, friends, & loved ones — and all victims of COVID-19,” tweeted London mayor Ed Holder. “The virus doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, race, religion, or creed. Everybody needs to take this seriously, otherwise anybody can find themselves at risk.”
Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at the Sinai Health System and University Health Network, said the vast majority of young people who get COVID-19 experience mild, asymptomatic courses. But he said there is a very small segment of young people who get serious and hard-to-treat bouts of the virus that require hospitalization.
“One of the biggest reasons people die due to influenza is not actually due to influenza but because influenza can actually trigger other issues,” he said. “For a lot of older people, influenza can actually trigger a pneumonia or a co-infection with something like pneumonia. It can also, if you have something like heart disease, trigger you to actually have a heart attack or other things.”
Sinha noted that it is really hard to say at this stage what may have happened to Dabeh.
“It could have been something completely unrelated … or it might have been that COVID-19 triggered something else or caused something else to get worse.”
Source:e – Toronto Star
Vaccination sites busy in Ontario regions offering COVID shots to seniors – KitchenerToday.com
TORONTO — Some Ontario seniors braved frigid temperatures Monday to get a COVID-19 vaccine as several regions in the province moved ahead with their plans to vaccinate the general public.
With the broad launch of a provincial booking portal still two weeks away, some local public health units used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments.
In York Region, where bookings opened Monday morning for shots that could be administered as early as the afternoon, dozens of seniors and their caregivers lined up outside a sports centre to get the vaccine.
Some huddled together for warmth – a winter weather advisory was in effect for the region – as the line to enter the centre in Richmond Hill moved slowly.
Hassan Abbas Kara was saving a place in line while his grandmother waited in a car.
“I don’t want her to wait in the cold, so it’s a little thing I can do right now to help her,” he said.
Atta Hussain, 82, said the process was “beautiful” and well organized, and expressed relief after receiving his shot.
“We thank everybody who is participating,” he said.
York Region said its vaccination clinics were fully booked just two hours after they started taking appointments. A spokesman said approximately 20,000 appointments were made Monday across five locations in the region.
Clinics were also offering shots to those 80 and older in Windsor-Essex County, and to those 85 and older at a hospital in Hamilton, where officials warned of long wait times amid high call volumes to its COVID-19 hotline.
Hamilton’s top doctor apologized for backlog on the phone line and asked people who don’t live in the city to not call about appointments.
The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal.
It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units.
When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that’s why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally.
“Some of them are already vaccinating the over-80-year-old people that are living within their regions,” Elliott said Monday. “I think that’s something that we should be celebrating not denigrating.”
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said he’s happy some public health units are offering shots already, but argued it could cause issues later when health units that have already started making appointments on their own systems have to switch over to the provincial one.
The province also said Monday that it has asked the federal government for guidance on possibly extending the intervals between the first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses to four months.
It pointed to British Columbia’s decision to do so and said there’s growing evidence suggesting intervals between the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses can be safely extended.
Monday also saw two Ontario regions – Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka – return to lockdowns as a result of rising COVID-19 cases.
Restrictions on businesses and gatherings were loosened in seven other health units: Niagara Region, Chatham-Kent; Middlesex-London; Southwestern; Haldimand-Norfolk; Huron Perth; and Grey Bruce.
Municipal officials in Simcoe Muskoka raised concerns about pressure on small businesses and the effects of yet another lockdown on the public during a public meeting with the health unit on Monday.
The region’s top doctor said he’s heard concerns about the strict measures from people in areas with fewer cases. Dr. Charles Gardner said he’ll be in touch with the province’s chief medical officer about whether a full lockdown is required for the region.
In Thunder Bay, which entered a lockdown after reporting more COVID-19 cases in February than all of 2020, a local hospital reported it was expanding its COVID-19 and intensive care units to meet the needs of the community.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the Public Health Agency of Canada was reviewing a funding application for an isolation site in Thunder Bay after the city said it could no longer afford to keep it running.
Ontario reported 1,023 new cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths from the virus on Monday.
– With files from Cole Burston
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
B.C. extends wait between COVID-19 vaccine doses to four months – News 1130
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C. has decided to extend the time between first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the interval between the two shots will now be four months.
Citing data from around the world, as well as in B.C., Henry says we are seeing immunity last at least four months after a person is given a first dose of the vaccines. The extension will apply to all three vaccines currently approved in Canada, made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.
The decision to extend duration between first – second doses to 4 months DBH says came looking at data from around the world (UK, Israel) & here seeing the immunity lasts at least 4 months. Extension is for all three types of vaccine.#bcpoli @NEWS1130
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) March 1, 2021
“The important thing that we have learned is that these vaccines work, they give a very high level of protection, and that protection lasts for many months,” Henry said on Monday.
“In combination with the new vaccines that we have available, this gives us a very important and very real benefit to everybody here in B.C. That means we can move everybody up the list and more people will be protected sooner,” B.C.’s top doctor added, noting delaying the second shot “provides very high, real-world protection to more people sooner.”
Henry says health officials will be monitoring vaccine effectiveness going forward.
Word of the extension comes as the province unveiled dates for when the most senior British Columbians will begin to have access to the vaccines.
A call-in system to book vaccination appointments for Indigenous peoples aged 65 and up and other British Columbians aged 90 and up will open March 8, with clinics starting to run March 15.
Seniors aged 85 to 90 can start booking on March 15, for vaccinations starting a week later. Booking opens for those aged 80 to 85 open on March 22.
Admitting the challenges restrictions at long-term care homes have had on residents and their families, Henry says the province will be revisiting when restrictions can be decreased “given what we know now about how effective these vaccines are.”
-With files from Frances Yap
Data suggests everyone in BC will likely have first COVID-19 vaccine dose by July | News – Daily Hive
Every eligible person in BC will likely have their first COVID-19 vaccination by July, based on new provincial data unveiled on Monday.
During a press conference, health officials gave an update on the provincial COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy. Officials announced that the window between the first and second doses of the two-dose vaccine has been extended to 16 weeks.
According to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, the interval has been extended to 16 weeks because protection given by a first dose lasts for at least four months. Stretching the interval between the first and second dose will free up approximately 70,000 doses that will be used to expand coverage across BC.
This adjustment in the timeline means all British Columbians will be able to move up the priority list and get their first vaccination sooner, meaning second doses could start being rolled out en masse by July.
“We’re going to have a lot more come the third quarter and the summer months,” said Henry. “We will be starting on second-dose clinics in July, and we’re going to be re-jigging all of those time frames.”
Overall, she said, “this means that everybody moves up in line, and we’ll be focusing on second doses starting in the summer.”
Call-ins will begin on March 8, and vaccinations are scheduled to start on March 15. Each health authority across the province will have a unique call centre number and a number of available clinics where appointments can be made. People living in Fraser Health, however, will be able to book their appointments online.
In order to reduce the initial stress and volume on call lines, the general population over 80 years old will be divided into subgroups. People will be asked to only call in once they become eligible. Anyone who missed their week can book an appointment at any time — they will not lose their spot.
Seniors will be able to have family, friends, or people who provide additional support call and book an appointment for them.
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