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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Dec. 31 – CBC.ca

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A girl wearing a mask and 2021 headband looks on at a shopping mall in Bangkok on Thursday ahead of the start of the new year. Countdown celebrations and crowded events were banned amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Ontario’s finance minister resigns after returning from Caribbean vacation

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips has resigned after returning from a controversial Caribbean vacation while the province is under strict lockdown measures that discourage non-essential travel, Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday.

Earlier Thursday morning, upon arrival at Toronto’s Pearson airport, Phillips said he would like to keep his job amid calls for his resignation but would respect Ford’s decision following what the premier said would be a “very tough conversation” between the two.

“Today, following my conversation with Rod Phillips, I have accepted his resignation as Ontario’s minister of finance,” Ford said in a statement. “At a time when the people of Ontario have sacrificed so much, today’s resignation is a demonstration that our government takes seriously our obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

Ford said he has asked Peter Bethlenfalvy to assume the role of minister of finance and deliver the government’s 2021 budget. He said this appointment will “help ensure economic stability in the months ahead, as we support Ontario families, workers and businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we chart our path to long-term economic recovery.”

Soon after Ford’s announcement, Phillips’s office also issued a statement confirming his resignation as minister of finance. “Travelling over the holidays was the wrong decision, and I once again offer my unreserved apology,” Phillips wrote in the statement. He will remain a member of the provincial legislature, representing the riding of Ajax.

Phillips was in Saint Barthélemy, popularly known as St. Barts, since Dec.13 and will quarantine in Ajax for 14 days starting Thursday. He said earlier this week he chose to go ahead with the trip not knowing the province would be placed under lockdown on Boxing Day.

Days after he had departed on his trip, Phillips’s office posted a series of tweets for the minister that could arguably give the impression he was home for the holidays. The posts included a video of Phillips sitting next to a fireplace, thanking Ontarians for protecting the most vulnerable and a previously taken photo of him holding local maple syrup to celebrate National Maple Syrup Day.

In response to this, Phillips said Thursday it is not out of the norm to schedule tweets ahead of time, especially for politicians like himself. “Most politicians pre-program and pre-record a lot of their social media content. I did that to promote Ajax businesses, to promote the COVID-19 supports that we have for small businesses across the province and to wish my constituents a holiday greeting,” he said. “That said, I understand in the circumstances why it seemed insincere. I apologize for that.”

Click below to watch more from The National

Businesses in Dildo, N.L., were hoping for a tourist boom in 2020 after being featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live! But while the pandemic put a damper on plans for this year, there’s still hope for the future. 2:06

IN BRIEF

Ontario and Quebec break records for new COVID-19 cases

Ontario and Quebec reported record-high COVID-19 case numbers again on Thursday, with Ontario becoming the first province in the country to report more than 3,000 cases in a single day.

Ontario reported 3,328 new infections and 56 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 4,530. According to data released by the province, COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 1,235, with 337 patients in intensive care — both also new records.

Ontario hospitals continue to warn that intensive care units are reaching maximum capacity and threatening to overwhelm the wider health-care system. In a statement to CBC Toronto on Wednesday, Anthony Dale, CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said, “Do not celebrate the holidays with people outside your own household. It would be the ultimate tragedy if the worst consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic happened just as vaccines arrived on Canadian soil.”

Quebec, meanwhile, reported 2,819 new cases and 62 additional deaths, for a total of 8,226 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalizations stood at 1,175 with 165 people in the province’s ICUs, according to a provincial dashboard.

New Quebec government modelling indicates that hospitals in the province’s largest metropolitan area, Greater Montreal, are getting perilously full and could run out of capacity for new COVID-19 patients entirely in as little as two or three weeks.

Read more about the situation in Ontario and Quebec

Coronavirus outbreak hits Quebec’s first vaccination site, but it doesn’t mean the vaccine is ineffective, say officials

On Dec. 11, as the Quebec City health region was preparing to administer the first Canadian doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, two residents at the CHSLD Saint-Antoine tested positive for coronavirus. The next day, 15 more did. The people affected were from a single unit and were quickly isolated.

Officials had planned to inoculate the facility’s 230 or so residents partly to test whether the vaccine could inhibit the virus’s spread in an extended-care facility where it wasn’t already present. It now appears that by Dec. 14, the day the first shots were administered, it was too late. More than 80 people at the centre, including 66 residents, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since receiving the first of two vaccine doses.

However, a spokesperson for the local health authority said positive tests and resulting cases of COVID-19 were always likely. According to the evidence from clinical trials, it can take up to two weeks to achieve 50 per cent immunity, and a second dose is required after 21 days to reach 95 per cent. Residents and staff will begin receiving their second dose of the serum beginning Jan. 4.

“We expected there could be more cases among staff and residents who are vaccinated, because they’ve only had one dose of the vaccine,” Mélanie Otis said in an email. According to the health region, 202 residents took the vaccine, along with 125 staff. It seems likely several of them were already infected with the coronavirus when they received the shot, Otis indicated.

In any case, immune responses aren’t typically instantaneous, Dr. Jacques Girard, the medical adviser to Quebec City’s chief public health officer, told Radio-Canada’s Première Heure. “When we give someone a vaccine it’s to protect them,” he said, but he cautioned that it often takes a couple of weeks to develop sufficient antibodies to stave off the virus, meaning that as of this week there should be signs the outbreak at CHSLD Saint-Antoine is starting to recede.

Read more on what the outbreak at CHSLD Saint-Antoine means

Vancouver party host spends Christmas in jail after repeated fines for violating COVID-19 public health orders

A 24-year-old Vancouver man spent Christmas night in jail after repeatedly hosting parties that violated COVID-19 public health orders. Police say they issued multiple warnings and fines to the man before arresting him on Dec. 25 and charging him under Section 99 of the provincial Public Health Act. He was released on Boxing Day.

“Clearly the talks that we were having with him weren’t having the desired effect,” said Sgt. Steve Addison. “This should serve as a reminder to anyone who thinks it’s still OK to ignore the public health order and put other people at risk.”

Addison said the Vancouver Police Department has received a dozen complaints about noise and parties at the man’s downtown apartment since September. He was twice issued $2,300 violation tickets in December. After another loud party on Dec. 18, Vancouver police worked with Crown counsel to obtain an arrest warrant.

The provincial COVID-19 Related Measures Act bans social gatherings of any size inside residences, but allows people who live alone to host two people with whom they regularly socialize.

Read more about Vancouver’s crackdown on COVID rule breakers

(CBC News)

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

I had COVID-19. Do I get the vaccine?

With the recent announcement that Health Canada has approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, the second being made available to the public, Canadians are likely wondering when it will be their turn to get inoculated.

But with the country in the first phase of vaccine rollout, that’s still unclear, with much depending on what they do and where they live. CBC News has put together an explainer here to answer some questions you may have.

As for the issue at hand: There’s not enough information yet to know whether people who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 would need the vaccine for immunology, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease doctor in Toronto and a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.

However, reports of people getting reinfected with COVID-19 as soon as four months after recovering from their previous infection suggest that most people who have recovered from COVID-19 will be eligible for vaccination.

AND FINALLY…

B.C. mom describes ‘surreal experience’ meeting new son after waking up from coma related to COVID-19

Gillian McIntosh and her husband, Dave, celebrate Christmas at home in Abbotsford, B.C., with their two children. She was discharged from hospital on Dec. 24 after spending a month in an induced coma because of COVID-19 complications. (Submitted by the McIntosh family)

A British Columbia mom who gave birth while in an induced coma because of COVID-19 says she was released from hospital just in time to spend Christmas at home with her family.

Gillian McIntosh’s new son, Travis Len, was delivered by emergency C-section in early November after she was admitted to Abbotsford Regional Hospital because of complications related to the novel coronavirus. She was unconscious and on a ventilator when the baby made his first appearance and didn’t meet him until mid-December, when she was eased out of her coma.

In a written statement released Wednesday, McIntosh said she was discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve. She said the opportunity to spend the holidays with her two children and husband, Dave, was “one of the best gifts I have ever received.”

“It’s a very surreal experience to wake from a month-long coma, when the last thing I remember was going to the emergency department having trouble breathing and texting my husband that they were going to keep me in for a few days,” she said. “Waking up, no longer pregnant, but to know our sweet baby boy joined the world and was healthy was such a relief and blessing.”

According to Wednesday’s statement, McIntosh has recovered from her illness more quickly than expected, but the full extent of the damage to her lungs is still unknown, and it’s not certain how long it will take them to heal. She required daily physiotherapy in the hospital to relearn how to walk, and she still needs to use a walker, cane and other mobility aids to get around the house.

Gillian and Dave McIntosh also expressed their gratitude to those who have reached out to offer thoughts, prayers and donations as well as the workers at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. “It takes special people to be able to keep doing what our health-care workers have been doing for so long,” said Dave McIntosh.

Read more about the family’s experience

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here.

Coronavirus Brief will take a break on New Year’s Day and return to your inboxes on Jan. 4. Have a happy holiday.

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Ontario's COVID test processing dips on Tuesdays, here's why – SooToday

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In its daily updates, Ontario Health provides data on the latest COVID-19 cases, and that includes the testing done by more than 40 labs across the province. 

As recently as May 2020, the province was reporting fewer than 10,000 tests processed in 24 hours, which meant severe delays and a low capacity for testing even for those with symptoms of COVID. 

On Friday, the province reported a record 76,472 tests processed in 24 hours. 

However, even with the capacity to process 60,000 to 70,000 tests in 24 hours, the province’s public health labs are not consistently processing that many test results. 

According to an email from Ontario Health to Village Media, the fluctuation in tests processed is a direct result of how many specimens are sent in. 

“As the volume of specimens collected at assessment centres, long-term care homes, and other specimen collection sites often drops over the weekend, the number of tests processed drops as well,” stated the email from Ontario Health. “We’ll often see a higher number of tests processed than specimens received on a Saturday, for example, as the labs are still processing Friday’s specimens received.” 

Last week’s, Public Health Ontario reported 72,900 tests processed in its report on Saturday, Jan. 9, 62,308 tests processed in its Sunday, Jan. 10 report, 46,402 tests processed in its Jan. 11 report, and 44,802 tests processed in its Jan. 12 report. After that, the number of tests processed each day increased from 50,931 on Jan. 13 to 76,742 on Jan. 15.

“On a Tuesday, we may see a lower number of tests processed than specimens received as the labs are processing Monday’s volumes,” stated the email.  “For context, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 36,000 tests were received and 62,000 were processed.” 

The province also reports the number of tests still under investigation or awaiting processing at a lab. Last week that backlog ranged from 28,774 to 66,940. 

“There are always tests in progress,” stated Ontario Health.

As of Friday, Jan. 15, Public Health Ontario has reported 8,791,388 tests processed during the pandemic.

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Ontario's COVID test processing dips on Tuesdays, here's why – CollingwoodToday

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In its daily updates, Ontario Health provides data on the latest COVID-19 cases, and that includes the testing done by more than 40 labs across the province. 

As recently as May 2020, the province was reporting fewer than 10,000 tests processed in 24 hours, which meant severe delays and a low capacity for testing even for those with symptoms of COVID. 

On Friday, the province reported a record 76,472 tests processed in 24 hours. 

However, even with the capacity to process 60,000 to 70,000 tests in 24 hours, the province’s public health labs are not consistently processing that many test results. 

According to an email from Ontario Health to Village Media, the fluctuation in tests processed is a direct result of how many specimens are sent in. 

“As the volume of specimens collected at assessment centres, long-term care homes, and other specimen collection sites often drops over the weekend, the number of tests processed drops as well,” stated the email from Ontario Health. “We’ll often see a higher number of tests processed than specimens received on a Saturday, for example, as the labs are still processing Friday’s specimens received.” 

Last week’s, Public Health Ontario reported 72,900 tests processed in its report on Saturday, Jan. 9, 62,308 tests processed in its Sunday, Jan. 10 report, 46,402 tests processed in its Jan. 11 report, and 44,802 tests processed in its Jan. 12 report. After that, the number of tests processed each day increased from 50,931 on Jan. 13 to 76,742 on Jan. 15.

“On a Tuesday, we may see a lower number of tests processed than specimens received as the labs are processing Monday’s volumes,” stated the email.  “For context, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 36,000 tests were received and 62,000 were processed.” 

The province also reports the number of tests still under investigation or awaiting processing at a lab. Last week that backlog ranged from 28,774 to 66,940. 

“There are always tests in progress,” stated Ontario Health.

As of Friday, Jan. 15, Public Health Ontario has reported 8,791,388 tests processed during the pandemic.

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Quebec reports 2,225 new COVID-19 cases, 67 deaths as hospitalizations decline – The Record (New Westminster)

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MONTREAL — Quebec is reporting 2,225 new COVID-19 cases and 67 further deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. 

The number of hospitalizations dropped for a second day, this time by 22 for a total of 1,474 patients, with four fewer patients in intensive care for a total of 227.

Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted that all Quebecers need to continue to follow public health rules to ensure cases and hospitalizations go down.

The province’s Health Department reported 2,430 more recoveries, for a total of 210,364.

Quebec currently has 21,640 active cases.

The province has now reported 240,970 confirmed infections and 9,005 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

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

The Canadian Press

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