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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada for Thursday, March 11, 2021 – Times Colonist

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):

5:55 p.m.

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it’s dropping the eligible age for seniors to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments to 80, down from 85.

Thursday was the launch of the province’s booking system, announced after people raised concerns about waiting to be contacted by public health to receive their shots.

The health authority says around 4,300 appointments were made by phone or online.

It was only open to residents 85 and older, but the authority says the age will drop to 80, starting Friday, after a successful first-day rollout.

5:50 p.m.

Yukon’s chief medical officer of health is warning residents to avoid all non-essential travel during the upcoming March break to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Brendan Hanley says in a statement that non-essential travel out of Yukon is not recommended, and those who do so will have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

He says the designated quarantine facility in Whitehorse is not available for those who travel for recreation, entertainment or tourism purposes.

5:30 p.m.

Alberta has recorded 364 new COVID-19 infections and five more deaths.

Chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw says about four per cent of tests in the past day came back positive.

There are 259 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 38 in intensive care.

The province also reported 41 more variant cases over the past day, bringing its total to 775.

5:30 p.m.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer is allowing up to 10 people to meet outdoors after nearly four months of restrictions that barred social gatherings between people from different households.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says restrictions on indoor gatherings and rules for restaurants, bars, retail stores and other venues remain in place.

She says while the infection curve of the pandemic is trending down on Vancouver Island and in the Interior and Northern health regions, COVID-19 is still circulating in communities, particularly in the Lower Mainland.

Henry announced 569 new cases today and three more deaths, pushing the death toll in the province to 1,397.

More than 360,000 doses of COVID-19 have been administered in the province so far.

3:05 p.m.

Health officials in Saskatchewan announced another 165 new cases of COVID-19.

In Regina, the Ministry of Health reports an increase in community transmission of variants of concern.

To date, many of the cases connected to the B.1.1.7 strain, first detected in the United Kingdom, have been found in and around the capital city.

There are 137 people in hospital with COVID-19 provincewide, with 27 in intensive care.

Officials say so far, the province has given nearly 96,000 doses of vaccine.

1:35 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting three COVID-19 deaths and 91 new cases.

However, three cases from unspecified dates have been removed due to data corrections, bringing the net increase to 88.

1:15 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19.

The case involves a man in his 50s in the eastern region, where officials beat back an outbreak that spread through the metro region last month.

Officials say the outbreak initially spread through high school students, ultimately affecting at least 185 staff and students in 22 different schools.

The Department of Education announced today that St. John’s-area schools will reopen next week for students in kindergarten through Grade 9, but remote learning will continue for high school students across the province.

1:05 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 today.

Health officials say the two cases are in the Moncton area.

Officials are also announcing that starting today, residents aged 85 and older can set up COVID-19 vaccine appointments at pharmacies, which will begin administering doses March 17.

New Brunswick has 34 active reported cases of the disease.

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton’s mayor says flags on municipal buildings will fly at half-mast to honour those who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Don Iveson says the city’s iconic High Level Bridge across the North Saskatchewan River will be lit in white to mark the national day of observance.

There have 810 deaths from COVID-19 recorded in the Alberta capital, which has a population of just under a million people.

Nearly 2,000 people have died from COVID-19 across the province.

11:15 a.m.

Ontario reported 1,092 new cases of COVID-19 today and has surpassed a million total vaccine doses administered.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 293 new cases are in Toronto, 199 are in Peel Region, and 79 are in York Region.

More than 40,000 vaccine doses were administered since Wednesday’s update, taking Ontario past the million-dose milestone.

Ten more deaths were linked to the virus in Ontario.

11 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 738 new COVID-19 cases and 15 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including three in the past 24 hours.

Health officials said today hospitalizations dropped by 18, to 563, and 111 people were in intensive care, a drop of one.

Officials say they administered 18,659 vaccine doses on Wednesday, for a total of 619,060.

Quebec has reported a total of 295,390 COVID-19 cases and 10,518 deaths linked to the virus; there are 7,134 active reported infections in the province.

10:35 a.m.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is using a white rose in the House of Commons to remember those who have died from COVID-19 over the past year.

Blanchet is also calling for Canada to address the inequality and shortcomings in the national health-care system that were exposed during the pandemic.

He is also marking the sacrifices of health-care and other front-line workers, many of whom are women.

10:20 a.m.

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is using an address in the House of Commons marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by listing the many ways in which Canadians have suffered over the past year.

He’s also criticizing the Liberal government for what he describes as the slow pace of vaccinations to date.

O’Toole says many Canadians have lost their jobs over the past year, while many others are struggling with mental-health challenges, domestic violence and opioid addictions.

The Conservative leader says most Canadians remain unsure when they will get vaccinated, and Canada must learn from the past 12 months and ensure the country is not caught by surprise again in the future.

10:10 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is marking the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic by remembering the more than 20,000 people who have died from the illness.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Trudeau also praised the health-care workers, military personnel and others who have stepped up over the last year to help Canadians through the pandemic.

The prime minister describes the past 12 months as “a tough year, a heartbreaking year, but it is a year we have faced together.”

10 a.m.

U.S.-based vaccine maker Moderna says it has now started giving doses of a B.1.351 COVID-19 variant booster shot to 60 people who have already been vaccinated with the company’s original shot.

The phase two trial is testing various combinations, including two different sizes of doses of just the booster shot that has adjusted the original vaccine to account for the changes seen in the variant first identified in South Africa.

A third version combines both the original vaccine and the booster shot, attempting to see if one jab can cover the original virus and the new variant.

Lab tests showed Moderna’s original vaccine did produce antibodies when put up against multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, but the level of response against B.1.351 was as much as six times less than that against the original virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2021.

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Australians living with disability have been 'abandoned' in vaccine rollout: Butler – Sky News Australia

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Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler has highlighted “shocking evidence” which came to light at the Senate Inquiry into COVID on Tuesday which indicates the majority of vulnerable Australians are not fully vaccinated.

“You’ll remember that phase 1a, the vaccination of our most vulnerable members of the community, aged care residents, disability facility residents and their staff were supposed to be completed by Easter, that is what Scott Morrison promised,” he said.

Mr Butler said the evidence showed two-thirds of aged care residents still have not been fully vaccinated and “shockingly” more than 99 per cent of residents in disability facilities have not been fully vaccinated.

“Australians living with disability have been abandoned by Scott Morrison in this vaccine rollout.”

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Specified front-line workers in Manitoba a little more at ease after prioritization for COVID-19 vaccine – CBC.ca

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Foodfare employee Jackie Sandul is looking forward to some peace of mind as Manitoba’s COVID-19 immunization strategy is slated to expand Friday.

On Wednesday, Manitoba officials released new details for expanding vaccination eligibility to adults living in certain geographic areas with high rates of COVID-19 spread or more severe outcomes.

Certain front-line workers, including grocery store workers like Sandul, will be part of the prioritization.

“It makes me safer. My employees and everybody in general around this area,” said Sandul, who is a cashier, supervisor and stockperson at the Foodfare on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg.

“Germs are passed by touch. If you’re touching someone’s money, what do we do? Touching their cards, touching their groceries. When you’re scanning it through the till, you don’t know what they’ve touched or where they’ve been.”

Sandul, a 45-year-old with diabetes, is already eligible for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. But knowing she’ll be prioritized through the province’s immunization plan adds a level of comfort because she won’t have to worry much longer about picking up the novel coronavirus at work, she said.

Geographic areas are deemed hot spots based on previous COVID-19 transmission rates, population density and socio-economics such as race, average income and housing, said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccine task force. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba’s vaccine task force has been reviewing public health data from the second wave and so far into Wave 3 to determine which parts of the province have seen high levels of coronavirus transmission and where residents have had more severe outcomes after contracting COVID-19.

They have also been reviewing which professions put people at greatest risk of picking up SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Front-line workers serving hot spot communities at a school, food processing facility, food establishment such as a restaurant and grocery or convenience store will be prioritized.

People working as child-care or daycare providers, food or public health inspectors, or workplace safety and health officers will be prioritized too.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 832 has been pushing for such a shift for grocery store employees for a while now, said president Jeff Traeger.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to these people that have been doing this work, because we all have to eat and we all have to shop to get our food. They’ve gone to work each and every day throughout the pandemic to make sure that our community keeps running,” he said.

“If there’s any way that we can reduce the risk, like putting them higher on the vaccine priority list, we should be doing that.”

Traeger would have liked to have seen security guards, who often work in places like grocery stores, be added to the priority list too.

The upcoming changes to vaccine eligibility will be a huge boost for morale for school staff, said Chris Goring, principal of Isaac Brock School, a nursery to Grade 9 school in Winnipeg’s West End.

“It’s going to validate the hard work that staff have been doing in the school, not just teachers — educational assistants, custodians, administrators, clerical staff,” said Goring.

“It’s going to be peace of mind for them when they go home to their families.… It’s going to help us carry through the remainder of the school year and keep our schools safe.” 

A teacher with students at Isaac Brock School, where principal Chris Goring hopes the upcoming changes to the vaccine may also soon lead to a bit of normalcy for students. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Shaun Jeffrey, CEO of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, appreciated public health officials recognized restaurant employees were at greater risk, he said.

The problem was Jeffrey learned about the changes the same time the general public did.

“Our industry looks to us for guidance and for feedback and education on what’s happening in Manitoba. We need to be brought up to speed on what the province’s plans are so that we can distribute that and communicate that in an effective manner,” he said.

People booking appointments will be asked for proof of employment, such as a workplace ID or letters from employers. In some cases, they may be asked to simply say they work in an eligible industry. They will be asked for proof of employment on the day of the vaccine appointment as well.

More essential workers may be added to the priority list as more vaccine doses become available, said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccine task force, during a Wednesday news conference.

The list of hot spots should be released Friday. Geographic areas are deemed hot spots based on previous COVID-19 transmission rates, population density and socio-economics such as race, average income and housing, said Reimer.

The people CBC News spoke with for this story agreed it makes sense to prioritize people working in communities hardest hit by COVID-19.

But Traeger believes all grocery store workers ought to be prioritized because of the amount of contact those employees have with the public, he said.

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Expert says Saskatchewan should consider more targeted vaccine plan as variants surge – moosejawtoday.com

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SASKATOON — Nazeem Muhajarine says he feels a sense of relief after receiving his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine last week at a centre in Saskatoon.

“It was just so well-organized and run. I felt completely safe,” Muhajarine said in an interview.

The professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan said the province is making great strides quickly getting shots into arms, but he’s concerned some people are being left behind.

Premier Scott Moe touted during question period Wednesday that Saskatchewan is leading the country when it comes to administering first vaccinations. 

“Our way through this pandemic, everyone’s plan to get through this pandemic, is to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Moe said. 

More than 365,000 doses of vaccine have been given in Saskatchewan. Health officials say 52 per cent of residents over the age of 40 have received their first shot. 

It puts Saskatchewan — with a population of just under 1.18 million — ahead of other provinces when it comes to doses delivered per capita. Data from a COVID-19 vaccination tracker, run by University of Saskatchewan students using federal and provincial data, suggests the province in outpacing Ontario and Quebec.

Moe credits his Saskatchewan Party’s “robust vaccination plan,” which he says will be augmented in the coming days. Eligibility for all vaccines is being lowered to 44 on Thursday, except for in the north where it will go down to 40. It’s expected to drop to 40 for the general population by Wednesday.

Muhajarine said there’s much to applaud about the vaccine rollout. The choice, initially, to use age-based eligibility meant it was easy to understand and targeted those who were more likely to experience severe outcomes if infected, he said. 

Drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinics have also been successful, said Muhajarine. One providing mass immunizations in Regina as the capital has became a hot spot for variants has expecially worked well.

Muhajarine said his own experience shows that organization at larger mass vaccination sites is also commendable. 

However, the professor said now that vulnerable senior populations are immunized and there are highly contagious new strains, the province may be missing the mark.

Getting the most vaccinations out fastest is just part of a good public health response, he said, but surging infections and hospitalizations mean the response should now be targeted to those most affected.

“Workplace spreads and outbreaks have been quite prevalent,” Muhajarine said. “That’s been a huge contributor in Regina and has been a contributor in Saskatoon as well.”

There were 231 new cases in Saskatchewan on Wednesday and four more deaths, including a person in their 30s another in their 40s. The others were over 70. There were 185 people in hospital and 49 in intensive care.

Provincial public health orders were tightened recently as officials warned the more transmissible variant strains were becoming dominant. 

Muhajarine said the recent deaths of influential Cree teacher Victor Thunderchild, 55, in Prince Albert and well-known chef Warren Montgomery, 42, in Regina are examples of people in high-risk work environments who weren’t able to get vaccinations under the age-eligibility plan. 

He said Saskatchewan should consider following Ontario and Manitoba, which are pivoting vaccination plans to target neighbourhoods where people have a higher risk of contracting the virus. 

It should also consider socio-economic factors, including how many residents are in a household and the type of jobs people have, he added.

One example would be neighbourhoods with multi-generational households and where many people work service jobs facing the public. Congregate living facilities such as shelters and correctional centres would be another, he said.

Muhajarine said teachers and other essential workers should also get priority.

Every region in the country is seeing benefits to targeting areas and occupations where the pandemic’s third wave has taken hold, he suggested

“That is not something to be trivialized in this kind of complex and mass undertaking.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2021. 

— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press

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