Protest held at Alta. slaughterhouse dealing with deadly COVID-19 outbreak
Labour leaders gathered early Wednesday morning at the Red Deer, Alta., slaughterhouse that is at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak that claimed the life of a 35-year-old employee.
The protest at Olymel Red Deer Food Processing Plant was organized by UFCW Local 401. As of Tuesday, an outbreak at the pork-processing plant was linked to 200 active cases, and more than 343 in total.
“We’re here because no workplace that’s unsafe should ever be allowed to operate in society, and surely people need to be put ahead of pigs,” union president Thomas Hesse told CBC News.
Hesse said the union had advocated for the closure of the plant — where 1,800 employees work in close proximity — a move supported by the vast majority of workers.
“We were so surprised and it really speaks to the level of fear when workers say, ‘I want my own workplace to close and I’ll take all of the risks associated with that,'” said Hesse.
On Monday, the Quebec-based company announced it would voluntarily close the plant with operations ceasing over the next few days.
During Tuesday’s daily COVID-19 update, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said processes in place at the Red Deer plant had previously been “very successful” in preventing spread.
“Unfortunately, I think there was a concurrence of a number of events that were not limited to events directly on that plant site, and therefore we did see an increase in cases,” said Hinshaw.
From The National
Judge denies B.C.’s request for injunction against churches breaking COVID-19 rules
The B.C. government may ultimately win its case against three Fraser Valley churches flouting COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person services, but on Wednesday the chief justice of British Columbia’s Supreme Court denied an application from the province for an injunction against the churches.
“Given the other remedies available to the respondents, I have reservations that an injunction alone, without enforcement by the B.C. Prosecution Service, would overcome the deeply held beliefs of the petitioners and their devotee,” Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson wrote in dismissing the application by B.C.’s attorney general and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
The Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, the Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack filed the petition last month challenging the province’s COVID-19 restrictions, arguing they violate the rights and freedoms of their parishioners.
“To be clear, I am not condoning the petitioners’ conduct in contravention of the orders that they challenge, but find that the injunctive relief sought by the respondents should not be granted,” Hinkson wrote in Wednesday’s ruling.
At a hearing last week, Hinkson said he had to consider the “balance of convenience” between sacrificing the Charter rights of the three churches and the public health damage the province claimed might happen without an injunction.
He said the balance favoured the churches, given that Henry still had other options to enforce her rules. The province’s Public Health Act says people who ignore health orders can face jail time and fines ranging from $25,000 to $3 million for causing a health hazard.
The challenge from the churches on the COVID-19 restrictions is set to be heard next month.
Incomplete national data makes it hard to assess exactly how far along Canada is on vaccination
The latest Public Health Agency of Canada numbers on vaccination are a gauge of how the country is actually doing when it comes to vaccinating those first in line for getting inoculated.
But officials in Canada’s most populous province are not submitting key COVID-19 data to the federal government’s health agency, making it difficult to get a clear, national picture of how the first phase of the country’s vaccination program is progressing.
Since Dec. 19, provinces and territories have been reporting the number of people vaccinated in three target populations that are top priority groups in the first phase: adults living in group settings, adults over the age of 80 and health-care workers.
The data is gathered by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and published once a week on its vaccine coverage website — with one key exception.
“Data for Ontario are not included,” reads a disclaimer on the PHAC site. The reason given is that the province’s data is “not broken down by key population groups.”
In an email in response to CBC’s request for more information, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Health said the ministry is working with PHAC to provide more data in “the near future.”
The issue comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal health officials have primed the country for an imminent and significant increase in the pace of vaccinations after setbacks with supply for both approved vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Montreal community groups press, once again, for race-based data on COVID-19
Nearly a year after the pandemic descended on Canada, community groups in Montreal are still pressing all levels of government to collect and publicize data on how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting racialized minorities and low-income residents in the city.
Fo Niemi, the executive director of the Center For Research-Action on Race Relations, who was also at the news conference, said the information would helpful in dealing with the next challenge: vaccinations.
He pointed out that Canada’s national advisory committee on immunization issued new guidance earlier this week, recommending that adults from racialized communities disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic be prioritized for shots in the second stage of the vaccination campaign.
Dr. Jill Hanley, a social work professor at McGill University said at a virtual news conference on Tuesday that while researchers have been able to gather some information themselves, public health officials would be able to go deeper and allow policy makers to take more targeted steps at addressing the problem.
“Montreal as a city needs this information so that we can work together to send resources where they are most needed,” said Hanley, who conducted her own study last year on the impact of COVID-19 on ethnocultural communities in Montreal.
When asked about the issue of collecting race-based data, Quebec public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said that he doesn’t think that’s the most relevant social factor to look at.
“We use that for some diseases when there is a racial effect of the disease because of the genetics. But most of the time, it’s not the race that is the problem, it’s the conditions of the person: poverty, crowding in houses,” said Arruda. “And I think it’s those elements which are more important for me: revenue, how many kids, university level. For me those are the factors that can explain why those communities are more [affected].”
Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.
New lab processes thousands of rapid COVID tests to keep film industry rolling in B.C.
A man in costume holds flowers while walking down a street in Gastown during the filming of The Mysterious Benedict Society in Vancouver in November. (Ben Nelms/CBC News)
A new lab set up in Coquitlam, B.C., is processing thousands of coronavirus tests in under 12 hours each day to screen film industry workers for the virus and keep productions rolling.
Since January, Omega Laboratories Inc., working in partnership with Swedish-based First Wellness Testing, has responded to the huge demand for its specialized service.
Some experts say the film industry’s embrace of rapid asymptomatic testing is a direction other areas of the economy might consider, especially now that more infectious variants of the virus are emerging in B.C.
Gio Miletto, medical director for Omega Vancouver Laboratories, says the investment film companies are making to keep their employees safe is having the “knock-on” effect of screening out virus spreaders from the general community.
“We are finding the people that don’t have symptoms that are spreaders,” said Miletto.
The tests that U.S.-based Omega is employing in B.C. go beyond antigen tests, which detect fragments of SARS-CoV-2 virus proteins from a swab or sample. Its lab provides polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that employ a nasal swab collected by a trained nurse who goes on site.
One caveat: The tests are about $150 a pop.
It’s “enormously expensive, but maybe in the context of all the economic costs of COVID-19, it’s not looking like such a bad equation,” said Eric Brown of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University in Hamilton, which has looked at the efficacy of rapid tests.
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B.C. vaccinates more than 200,000 people for COVID-19, as second dose shots fall to a trickle – Vancouver Is Awesome
B.C. announced March 3 that it has vaccinated more than 200,000 individuals with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine – 11 weeks after the first dose was administered in the province on December 16.
There are now 203,193 B.C. residents who have had at least one dose of a vaccine, with 86,616 of those having had two doses. That is an average of 2,639 people per day who have had at least one shot.
B.C. officials said earlier this week that they expect all eligible British Columbians to have been vaccinated by the end of July. In order to do that, the province will need to increase more than tenfold the number of people that health officials vaccinate each day, to around 26,666.
Health officials administered 6,627 doses of vaccine in the past day, to 6,543 new people, and a mere 84 second doses to individuals who have already had their first doses.
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and others have explained that the new strategy is to focus first on vaccinating people with single doses, and to leave second doses until as long as 112 days after the first dose because of supply shortages. The rationale for this tactic is also that first doses provide significant immunity and it is smarter to vaccinate as many people as possible with first doses, to limit the spread of COVID-19, than to focus on having people fully immunized with two doses.
The spread of COVID-19 in B.C. is not abating. Officials detected another 542 new infections overnight, for a total of 81,909 cases since the first infection was detected in late January 2020. The vast majority of the 4,654 people actively infected with the virus in B.C. have been told to self-isolate, but 246 people are sick enough to be in hospitals, with 64 of those in intensive care units.
Another seven people died overnight while being infected with the virus, raising B.C.’s death toll from COVID-19 to 1,372.
More than 92.5%, or 75,819 people, who were infected with the virus, have tested negative twice and are therefore considered by the province to have recovered. Health officials are also closely monitoring 8,617 people for symptoms because they have had known exposure to identified cases.
Here is the breakdown of where the 542 new cases are located:
• 131 in Vancouver Coastal Health (24.1%);
• 292 in Fraser Health (53.9%);
• 31 in Island Health (5.7%);
• 43 in Interior Health (7.9%);
• 44 in Northern Health (8.1%) and
• one person who resides outside Canada.
“There have been 18 new confirmed COVID-19 cases that are variants of concern in our province, for a total of 200 cases,” provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement. “Of the total [variant] cases, 11 are active and the remaining people have recovered. This includes 176 cases of the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant and 24 cases of the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant.”
There were no new outbreaks of the virus at seniors’ homes, nor were there any active outbreaks in those homes that were declared over.
None of the nine active outbreaks at seniors’ homes is in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
The five active outbreaks at seniors’ living facilities in Fraser Health are:
• CareLife Fleetwood in Surrey;
• Chartwell Carrington House in Mission;
• Revera Sunwood in Maple Ridge;
• Royal City Manor in New Westminster; and
• Shaughnessy Care Centre in Port Coquitlam.
The outbreak at Glacier View Lodge in Courtenay is the only outbreak at a seniors’ home in the Island Health region.
The only outbreak at such a facility in the Northern Health region is at the Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert.
The two active outbreaks at seniors’ living facilities in Interior Health are now at Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops, and The Florentine in Merritt.
There are also eight active COVID-19 outbreaks at B.C. hospitals. They include:
• Chilliwack General Hospital in Chilliwack;
• Dawson Creek and District Hospital in Dawson Creek;
• Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody;
• Kelowna General Hospital in Kelowna;
• Mission Memorial Hospital in Mission;
• Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster;
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey; and
• Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver.
Coronavirus: Toronto still waiting on vaccine supply boost from province – Global News
While thousands of Ontario seniors 80 years of age and older were recently inoculated against COVID-19, many have not yet received their first vaccine dose.
Peel and York Regions launched their own online portals two weeks ahead of the provincial government’s website.
Online booking for appointments in York opened at 8 a.m. on Monday. Within an hour and a half, all 20,000 available spots had been claimed.
The region announced late Wednesday evening it would be opening an additional 2,000 appointments.
In Peel, public health is working in collaboration with Trillium Health Partners and William Osler Health System to provide the shots for eligible residents.
Meanwhile, in Canada’s largest city, officials continue to wait for a badly needed boost to its vaccine rollout.
“We are vaccine availability limited,” said Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg.
Pegg, who is the general manager of Toronto’s Office of Emergency Management, faced several questions about when residents in that age group would be able to receive vaccinations at city-run sites.
“There are a number of hospitals and there are a number of health care partners who are moving forward, and who are vaccinating a number of people, and residents who are over the age of 80, from the supply of vaccine that they have,” he said during a news conference on Wednesday.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Michael Garron Hospital and North York General Hospital are all offering pre-registration. Their portals were also launched in advance of the provincial government site.
When asked on Monday during a news conference about why Toronto was unable to launch its own targeted vaccination effort, Dr. Eileen de Villa pointed to the considerable number of people required to be inoculated under the provincial prioritization framework.
“We have roughly, I believe, about 100,000 people working within the health-care system here, and that just doesn’t exist in other jurisdictions,” she said.
“That’s just one example of the scale or the size and scope of the vaccination campaign that we need to undertake here in Toronto that differentiates us from other jurisdictions.”
Coronavirus: Toronto and Peel Region request a return to the grey zone
Global News reached out to the Ministry of Health for comment on Wednesday afternoon, and did not receive a response in time for publication.
As of the week of February 22, Toronto received 137,670 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 57,700 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Toronto Public Health says this was enough to cover 97,685 people as part of the two-dose regimen. The estimated number of people to be vaccinated in phase one is 325,000.
Public Health officials in Peel Region tell Global News as of the end of last month, 65,000 doses have been received across sites that obtain doses directly from province.
Nearly 52,000 doses have been administered to those eligible to receive one.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Ontario to launch coronavirus vaccine pilot project in selected pharmacies – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
As vaccine supply starts to ramp up in Ontario, residents could soon get their COVID-19 vaccine in pharmacies.
The Ford government and the Ontario Pharmacists Association have reached a deal that will allow the administration of vaccines in 4,600 pharmacy locations across the province.
“We have signed agreements now with the pharmacy association to allow them to vaccinate. As you know, the minister of health has expanded the number of health care practitioners who can provide vaccines,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said Wednesday.
“So, we’re ready. We have put in the bricks if you may to make sure that no matter how much vaccine we have, we’re ready and able to ramp up quickly.”
Justin Bates, the president of the association, told CTV News Toronto Wednesday that a pilot project will be launched in a number of pharmacies next week in three health units – Toronto Public Health, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennos and Addington Public Health, and Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
“I think that’s a great milestone to increase access and convenience for residents of Ontario,” Bates said.
“We’re going to start there with the limited amount of vaccine that’s available and then scale up.”
Bates added that details of the pilot project are still being finalized, including who is eligible to go to a pharmacy and what vaccine will be distributed.
The province could see 46 vaccinations in a day per pharmacy, which amounts to about one million per week, he said.
“We have the resources and infrastructure to be able to add quite a few vaccinations and give ultimately, a choice and a complementary system to both public health mass immunization clinics, as well as what the role for primary care physicians are going to going to ultimately be,” Bates said.
“This is going to be an all-hands-on-deck scenario. And pharmacies are certainly an important part of that.”
When asked if pharmacists will be involved in the rollout of therecently approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Bates said that it is under consideration, but no final decision has been made.
The provincial government indicated that it will be using ‘a different pathway’ in delivering the AstraZeneca vaccine into people’s arms. Ontario is expected to receive approximately 190,000 doses of the vaccine this month, including 114,000 shots with an expiration date of April 2.
The province said those between the ages of 60 and 64 will have access to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I think because of the supply challenges, and also because we don’t want to take away from what’s available in the public health clinics, whether it’s the mass immunization clinics or the mobile pop-up clinics, I think they’re going to look for a separate supply for pharmacy, whether that’s AstraZeneca or what have you,” Bates said.
“But we want to make sure what we’re doing is complimentary. That we’re offering choice for patients, residents in the province lots of access points. We don’t want to take away from the efforts that are underway for the priority populations within the other parts of the system.”
– with files from CTV News Toronto’s Colin D’Mello
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