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The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada on Feb. 16, 2021 – HalifaxToday.ca

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OTTAWA — The latest developments on the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada (all times eastern):

3:35 p.m.

Saskatchewan has extended its public health rules until at least March 19.

Existing rules prohibit households from having guests over, team sports from playing games, and casinos and bingo halls from operating.

Health officials announced another 136 new infections and say that three more residents have died from the virus.

There are 184 people in hospital, with 20 people in intensive care. 

2 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 and now has 12 active infections.

Health officials say two cases have been identified in the Halifax area while the other is in the western zone.

All are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.

As of Monday, the province says it has administered 23,140 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with 8,225 people having received their required second dose.

1:55 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting its 24th COVID-19-related death.

Health officials say the latest death involves a resident in their 80s at the Manoir Belle Vue long-term care home in Edmundston.

Most of the recent pandemic-related deaths in the province have occurred at this long-term care facility.

Officials say there are 130 active reported cases in the province.

1:50 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting 166 additional COVID-19 cases over the last two days and four deaths. 

Seven cases from a First Nations community that were identified as potential cases of the United Kingdom variant have turned out not to be, after sequencing.

1:35 p.m.

Nunavut is reporting five new cases of COVID-19 today.

All of the new cases are in Arviat, a community of about 2,800 on western Hudson Bay.

Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson urged Arviat residents to stay home to end the current outbreak as quickly as possible.

There are 23 active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut, all in Arviat, and 299 total recovered cases.

1:10 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting seven new confirmed cases of COVID-19 today.

All of the latest cases were found in the area including St. John’s, which has been at the centre of a recent COVID-19 surge in the province.

Officials are also reporting 25 new presumptive cases of the disease, and the individuals are now in self-isolation while contact tracing is underway.

Newfoundland and Labrador now has 297 active cases of COVID-19.

1 p.m.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada will receive 1.3 million doses of the Moderna vaccine in March, despite uncertainty over timing details.

The shipments would bring the total of Moderna doses to two million as planned, following smaller-than-expected deliveries this month.

Canada’s vaccine rollout is ramping back up with more than 878,000 more Pfizer-BioNTech doses expected in the next two weeks after faltering shipments attributed to production delays abroad.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline across the country despite an alarming flare-up of more contagious variants of the virus.

1 p.m.

Prince Edward Island is reporting zero new cases of COVID-19 today.

Health officials say the province has two active reported cases.

P.E.I. last weekend said it had identified its first case of the variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says that case involves a person who has been isolating since arriving in the province.

11:25 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 904 new COVID-19 cases today, and 964 cases that were not reported on the Family Day holiday.

Twenty-six deaths from the virus were reported over the last two days.

There were 742 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of this morning, including 292 in intensive care and 201 on ventilators.

The province says 10,679 COVID-19 vaccines were administered yesterday.

11:15 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 669 new cases of COVID-19 and 20 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including six in the past 24 hours.

Health officials said today hospitalizations dropped by 33, to 771, and 134 people were in intensive care, a decline of two.

The province says it administered 2,732 doses of vaccine yesterday, for a total of 297,694.

Quebec has reported a total of 278,187 COVID-19 infections and 10,246 deaths linked to the pandemic. The province has 9,399 active reported infections.

10:50 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s been reassured again by the president of the European Commission that export controls imposed by the EU won’t affect shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada.

He says he spoke to Ursula von der Leyen this morning.

Canada is expecting its biggest single shipment of vaccine doses from Pfizer-BioNTech this week, and a bigger one next week.

All of Canada’s doses of that vaccine come from a factory in Belgium.

Trudeau also said he spoke to Moderna chair Noubar Afeyan Monday to get reassurance about that company’s deliveries.

Moderna is to ship two million doses by the end of March but is only at about half a million doses shipped so far.

Trudeau said Afeyan said the company will meet its contract for two million doses in the first quarter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Island Health to start taking calls Monday for first group in mass-vaccination drive – Times Colonist

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Island Health officials are hustling this weekend, getting ready to vaccinate remaining high-risk groups next week and preparing to open phone lines Monday for seniors 90 and older to register for their COVID-19 shots.

“Excited, nervous,” said Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Island Health, on the “unprecedented” scope of the immunization effort, which, he said, is bound to have a few hiccups. “I think we’re willing to perhaps make a few missteps to make sure that people get vaccinated earlier rather than later.”

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The health authority performed a major pivot this week, postponing ­second-dose clinics to give more ­people first doses, after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced booster shots will be given after 16 weeks instead of six. First doses have been shown to be about 90 per cent effective.

That newly freed-up vaccine ­supply is being used next week to ­vaccinate the last of the high-risk seniors in independent living, those receiving home support and seniors awaiting placement in long-term care, as well as long-term care ­residents, visitors and staff who were missed in the first round.

Also being ­vaccinated are ­Indigenous ­communities, hospital staff, ­community ­doctors, medical specialists, ­vulnerable populations living and ­working in group settings, and staff in ­community home support and nursing services for seniors.

Joseph Nestor, 95, a resident in independent living at The Peninsula in Sidney, got his first dose Friday.

“I couldn’t sleep all night thinking about it,” said Nestor, who woke up at 3:30 a.m. for his appointment at 6:45 a.m. “I just lay there.”

Noting about 3,700 people were vaccinated on Thursday, Stanwick said Island Health may get a four-week jump on its vaccination schedule because of the longer gap between shots. Vaccines will be administered at clinics as well as via mobile units that will go to the residences of house-bound seniors.

Stanwick is hoping the glee some are feeling about being protected ­earlier than anticipated offsets the disappointment of others who had second doses cancelled.

“The community will be safer because there’ll be less virus spread,” Stanwick said. “This is actually to the benefit of everyone.”

On Monday, Island Health will begin booking appointments for the first group of people in the general population eligible for vaccines: those 90 and older, and Indigenous people 65 and older.

Don and Joan Hepburn of James Bay, both 90, plan to call on Monday, which also happens to be their 69th wedding anniversary, to register for their shots. Vaccinations for the 90-plus group will begin March 15.

Those born in or before 1936 can start calling March 15 for shots beginning March 22, while those born in or before 1941 can start calling March 22 to make appointments for vaccinations that will start March 29.

Those whose age window comes up are asked to call Island Health at 1-833-348-4787 to make an appointment. The health authority says it has 50 agents ready to start Monday, a number that will increase in coming weeks. The call centre will operate 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

The province has staggered the call-in dates in hopes that people will call only when it’s their turn, rather than risk crashing the call lines, as has happened in other jurisdictions. The lines will only hold a certain number of calls in the queue before asking people to call back. “We know some people may experience long wait times when they call to book an appointment,” the health authority said. “We are confident in our levels of vaccine supply … we are asking people to be patient when possible.”

No one loses their priority to book an appointment, regardless of when they call, said Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead for B.C.s immunization plan.

The list of vaccination sites in Island Health is expected to be released next week.

On Friday, Health Canada announced it had approved use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The availability of a fourth vaccine —along with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstaZeneca vaccines — will help accelerate protection of British Columbians, said a joint statement by Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Island Health reported 26 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, out of 634 new cases province-wide.

The number of new cases remains higher than “where we want it to be,” said Henry and Dix , who called for British Columbians to continue to follow public health orders and restrictions.

The reproduction rate of the virus — how many people an infected person will pass the virus on to — is now about 1.2 in the Island Health region. Henry has said the province wants to keep the number below one.

There are now 256 active cases in the Island Health region, 139 of which are in the central region, 62 in the north and 55 in the south.

Another four COVID-19 deaths were reported Friday, for a total of 1,380 to date in B.C.

The province has administered 311,208 doses of vaccine, of which 86,865 were second doses.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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B.C. records more than 600 new cases of COVID-19 – News 1130

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There are 634 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in this province, bringing the total to 83,107.

B.C. also recorded four more deaths linked to the virus, for a total of 1,380.

The numbers, released Friday, came on the heels of B.C.’s top doctor offering hope that people in this province might return to some sense of normalcy by summer.

“Maybe I’m too optimistic, but we’re going to be in our post-pandemic world by the summer, if things continue to go the way that we want them to,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.

On Friday, the province announced four more confirmed cases of variants of concern.

Related article: COVID-19 vaccinations in B.C.: What you need to know

The province says 311,208 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, 86,865 of which are second doses.

Health-care workers, those living and working in long-term care homes, and people living in remote and isolated Indigenous communities have so far been the only ones eligible for the vaccine.

But as of Monday, Indigenous people age 65 and up, and other British Columbians age 90 and up can book an appointment to get a shot.

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New B.C. infections well above national average, with one-third likely COVID-19 'long-haulers' – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
As British Columbia records its highest single-day case count in two months, the province is second only to Saskatchewan in new infections per capita over the past two weeks. Experts are warning more must be done soon, especially with thousands of people facing long-term symptoms.

On Friday, B.C. health officials announced 634 confirmed cases of COVID-19. A federal infobase shows B.C. infections at a rate of 141 per 100,000 residents when averaged over the past two weeks. Saskatchewan posted 186 per 100,000 residents, while the national average was just 108. And, while the majority of provinces showed a continued decline or flattening of infections, only the westernmost province showed significant growth.

“Obviously what we’re doing in British Columbia is not having the desired effect. We cannot have 650 cases a day and we cannot tolerate it until the vaccine kicks in and produces community-based immunity, we’re weeks and months away from that,” said Dr. Brian Conway, president of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre.

“All of this is suggestive of less-controlled, if not uncontrolled, community-based (rather than institutional) spread and this is the part of the pandemic that is of most concern,” Conway said. “If that occurs, then we need to intervene in a way that is different from what we are doing now to control (it).”

Only a handful of long-term care and assisted-living facilities declared outbreaks in February, and there haven’t been any in March so far.

While vaccine availability is ramping up and the number of deaths continues to decline, one of the experts on the front line is warning those numbers tell only part of the story.

Many thousands of “long COVID” cases in B.C.

As the months wear on, more and more people are reporting COVID-19 symptoms that persist well beyond their infectious period. Medical professionals treating them at three specialty clinics in Metro Vancouver say B.C. statistics mirror what other countries are observing.

“We don’t know what the absolute prevalence of the ‘long COVID’ disease is now, but we know from the data 75 per cent of hospitalized patients are having ongoing symptoms at 3 months,” said Dr. Zachary Schwartz, who leads the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Clinic at Vancouver General Hospital.

“For outpatients, probably upwards of 30 per cent of people can be still symptomatic at 6 months or 9 months after their infection.”

There isn’t a definition yet of what would qualify someone as a “long-hauler.” Symptoms can be mild to severe and range from tightness or pain in the chest to coughing and trouble breathing. Concussion-like symptoms – such as brain fog and fatigue – and mental health problems have also been reported.

“We do have psychiatrists involved in our networks that are seeing individuals relatively rapidly because we’re seeing both a new onset of mental health disorders like PTSD, anxiety, depression and – in people who have previously been diagnosed – we’re definitely seeing decompensation in some of their mental health as well,” he said.

In Surrey, they’ve only seen 18 patients at the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Clinic at Jim Pattison Outpatient and Surgery Centre, which opened Jan. 8.

A total of 130 patients have been accepted at VGH, where applications are now open for referrals. 

St. Paul’s Hospital has provided the lion’s share of the treatment, with 328 seen by doctors. Providence Health says the hospital is “building capacity both virtually and actually.”

With limited space, patients need a referral for treatment and the facilities are currently only accepting the most severe long-haulers. For those with mild to moderate symptoms, they’re increasingly providing online resources for them to manage their symptoms. 

Warnings from doctors as complacency becomes more common

As the weather warms up and pandemic fatigue has people desperate for company, Conway believes more targeted restrictions may be needed to avoid disaster.

“I’m hoping it’ll be the Whistler approach,” he said, noting that targeted business closures, emphasizing household bubbles and some changes to living situations slashed transmissions by 75 per cent in a month.

“My sense is, what’s going on in Surrey and the surrounding areas in the Fraser Valley is community-based transmission is occurring, so either it’s living situations that need to be changed or people are making decisions in their day-to-day lives that ‘this one time, this one evening, it’s OK to not follow the rules.’”

Conway praised public health officials in other provinces who moderated restrictions based on infections and allowed communities with few cases to carry on, while hotspots in Toronto and Montreal saw crackdowns that brought transmission under control.

“Broad restrictions (in B.C.) are probably not appropriate and people wouldn’t necessarily follow them anyway, they would be resistant, so I think a targeted approach is where we need to pay attention,” he suggested.

With 76,752 people who tested positive for the disease have now classified as “recovered,” Schwartz said it may be more accurate to call them “recovered from acute disease” or “no longer contagious,” since a third of them could still be experiencing symptoms; that’s roughly 25,000 people who could be feeling a faint tightness in the chest, or struggling to get out of bed.

“You don’t want to end up with these symptoms long-term because they’re debilitating … people who cannot get back to school full time, people who cannot get back to work full time,” he said, noting that aside from the personal and family toll that’s taking, it’ll increasingly have an impact on our economy and health-care system.

“When you apply that to a population health level, when you apply that to 500 cases a day just to British Columbia, it starts becoming significant,” Schwartz said. 

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