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The Latest: S Korea extends distancing rules for 2 weeks – Bowen Island Undercurrent

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is extending stringent distancing rules for two more weeks as authorities seek to suppress a viral resurgence, while confirming its first case of an apparently more contagious coronavirus variant detected in South Africa.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said Saturday the second highest level of distancing rules will remain in place for the Seoul region until Jan. 17. He says the third highest level of restrictions will stay in other areas until then.

The curbs include bans on social gatherings of more than five people and in-person religious services. The government will require foreigners entering South Korea to submit negative virus test results starting Jan. 8.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— In California, coronavirus infections are racing out of control.

— Only about half of the Americans who volunteered to test COVID-19 vaccines got the real thing. Now experts debate whether all volunteers should.

— Israel says it has vaccinated 1 million peopl e against COVID-19 as it rolls out one of the world’s earliest and most rapid inoculation campaigns.

— Police in Wisconsin say they’ve arrested a hospital employee suspected of intentionally spoiling COVID-19 vaccines.

— Authorities in Belgium say a 27th elderly person has died in an outbreak at a nursing home from a super-spreading St. Nick party last month.

— Turkey’s health minister says the country has identified 15 people who carry a highly contagious coronavirus variant that was discovered in the United Kingdom.

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LOS ANGELES — California started the new year by reporting a record 585 coronavirus deaths in a single day.

The state Department of Public Health said Friday there were more than than 47,000 new confirmed cases reported, bringing the total to more than 2.29 million.

Hospitals in the state ended the year on “the brink of catastrophe,” a health official said as the pandemic pushed deaths and sickness to staggering levels and some medical centres scrambled to provide oxygen for the critically ill.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced Friday that California would begin collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate and upgrade outdated oxygen delivery systems at six Los Angeles area hospitals.

The collaboration comes as older hospitals are having difficulty maintaining oxygen pressure in aging infrastructure and some were scrambling to locate additional oxygen tanks for discharged patients to take home.

California this week became the third state to exceed 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas hit a new record high for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 for the fifth consecutive day Friday, in a continued surge of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus following holiday gatherings and travel.

Texas reported 12,481 COVID-19 patients in state hospitals on New Year’s Day, an increase of more than 1,750 from a week ago.

State health officials on Friday reported 12,369 new, confirmed cases of the virus and another 3,658 probable cases.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, intensive care units in several parts of Texas were full or nearly full.

The grim count has continued to climb as some Texans gathered to celebrate the new year, despite warnings from health officials that congregation is likely to further spread the virus.

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada on Friday reported 2,315 additional known COVID-19 cases along with 21 more deaths from the coronavirus.

The state’s totals since the pandemic began increased to 227,046 cases and 3,146 deaths.

Seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths in Nevada dropped over the past two weeks. That’s according to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID Tracking Project.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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LONDON — British medical authorities are warning that hospitals around the country face a perilous few weeks amid surging new coronavirus infections blamed on a new virus variant.

Concerns are mounting about the ability of the already stretched National Health Service to handle the anticipated increase in the number of people seeking treatment for COVID-19.

Field hospitals that were constructed in the early days of the pandemic but that were subsequently mothballed are being reactivated.

The Royal College of Nursing’s England director says the U.K. is in the “eye of the storm.”

Over 55,280 new infections and another 613 deaths were recorded Friday, putting the U.K. on track to once again overtake Italy as Europe’s worst-hit country in the pandemic.

The spike in new cases is said to be due to a new, more contagious variant of the virus first identified around London and the southeast of England.

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BALTIMORE — The number of confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases has surpassed 20 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

That’s nearly twice as many as the No. 2 country, India, and nearly one-quarter of the more than 83 million cases globally.

The U.S. continued to surpass other countries in COVID-19 cases as it reached 20 million at the start of the new year, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University.

COVID-19 deaths have also increased in the country, now totalling more than 346,000.

India and Brazil trail behind the U.S. in coronavirus cases at over 10 million and 7 million, respectively.

The increase comes as officials race to vaccinate millions of Americans but have come off to a slower and messier start.

President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration Tuesday for the pace of distributing COVID-19 vaccines and vowed to ramp up the current speed of vaccinations. However, Biden acknowledged that it “will still take months to have the majority of Americans vaccinated.”

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WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah is assailing the slow pace of vaccinations against the coronavirus.

He says it’s “incomprehensible” and “inexcusable” that the Trump administration has not developed an efficient federal vaccination model for the states.

Romney says it was unrealistic to assume that health care workers already overburdened caring for COVID-19 patients could carry the brunt of the vaccination program or that the big drugstore chains would have the workers to inoculate millions.

He’s suggesting that public health authorities seek to enlist all retired or active medical professionals who are not otherwise engaged in care, as well as veterinarians, combat medics, medical students and first responders in the effort. He says they could be easily trained to administer the vaccines.

Overworked, underfunded state public health departments have been scrambling to get up to speed on vaccinations even for the frontline workers and long-term care residents who were given priority.

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MILAN, Italy — Italy added another 462 virus deaths on Friday for a known pandemic death toll of 74,621, the highest in Europe.

Italy’s daily death toll remains stubbornly high more than two months into restrictive measures and in the second week of a modified lockdown.

The number of new positives dipped by 5% from a day earlier, to 22,211, while 15% fewer tests were administered, according to Health Ministry statistics. Italy is launching its vaccine campaign and is first targeting residents of nursing homes and medical personnel.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon health care worker has been hospitalized after having a severe allergic reaction to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

The Oregon Health Authority says the employee at Wallowa Memorial Hospital experienced anaphylaxis after receiving a first dose of the vaccine this week.

The health authority said vaccines for COVID-19 can cause mild to moderate side effects in some people. This can include pain and swelling on the arm and sometimes fever, chills, tiredness and headache. In rare cases, some people have experienced severe allergic reactions.

Health officials will continue to track adverse reactions.

So far, 38,698 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the state of Oregon since the week of Dec. 13.

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FORT YATES, N.D. — The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota is prioritizing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to those who speak Dakota and Lakota languages.

Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Mike Faith tells KXMB-TV it’s about keeping customs alive.

“It’s something we have to pass on to our loved ones, our history, our culture our language. We don’t have it in black and white, we tell stories. That’s why it’s so important,” Faith said.

The Standing Rock reservation straddles the North Dakota and South Dakota border and is home to about 8,000 people, more than half of whom live in North Dakota.

Faith said only about 300 people on the reservation are fluent in the language.

Frontline health care workers already have begun receiving he vaccine at the Fort Yates hospital, but starting next week priority will be for those who speak their native language.

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PARIS — Ravers at an underground, curfew-violating New Year’s Eve party that drew at least 2,500 people in western France attacked police units sent to shut them down, torching a vehicle and injuring officers with bottles and stones, officials said Friday.

Hundreds of vehicles carrying party-goers started converging on hangars in Lieuron, Brittany, on Thursday night, the regional government Friday said in a statement.

Gendarmes and their vehicles were attacked when they tried to stop the ravers from installing their party gear. Some officers suffered light injuries, the statement said. On Friday morning, 2,500 ravers from France and abroad were still partying, circled by a reinforced police presence.

First aid workers were distributing masks and hand gel to try to limit coronavirus infections.

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BANGKOK — The Thai capital is shutting down venues including schools and entertainment parks as coronavirus cases continue to spread.

Thailand reported 279 new cases on Friday including two deaths.

Seven provinces including Bangkok have been designated red zones where places including entertainment venues, boxing rings, gyms and flea markets are ordered closed. Restaurants are allowed to serve only takeouts.

The restrictions are in place until mid-January.

The new outbreak has spread from the country’s largest wholesale seafood market in Samut Sakhon south of Bangkok and the gambling den in Rayong, and both places continue to log the highest number of infections. Bangkok reported 180 cases in the last 24 hours.

A spokesman for the COVID-19 centre, Dr. Taweesilp Visanuyothin, said that the Health Ministry had contacted Oxford-AstraZeneca to purchase a second batch of 26 million doses of the vaccine. The deal would double the number of doses to be supplied by the British vaccine manufacturer.

The first 2 million doses are expected in February and March and will be given to medical staff.

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BEIJING — Two major airports in northeastern China are requiring departing passengers show a negative coronavirus test taken over the previous 72 hours before they can board their planes.

The requirements by the Shenyang and Dalian come amid a small but persistent growth in cases in the two cities located in Liaoning province just north of the capital Beijing.

Four new cases were announced Friday in Liaoning, along with another five cases in Beijing, where emergency testing was ordered for more than a million people following the detection of a small cluster in the northeastern suburbs.

Wary of another wave of infections, China is urging tens of millions of migrant workers to stay put during next month’s annual Lunar New Year holiday, usually the world’s largest annual human migration. Classes are also being dismissed a week earlier than usual and tourists are being told not to come to Beijing for holidays.

China on Friday reported a total of 19 new virus cases, including 10 that were brought from outside the country. Since the novel coronavirus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, China has reported a total of 87,071 cases and 4,634 deaths, although some question whether those figures underreport the full extent of the outbreak in China the country.

The Associated Press


















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Survey offers glimpse of what could reopen in Manitoba – Winnipeg Free Press

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The Manitoba government’s online survey on the easing of COVID-19 restrictions is mostly a public relations exercise. But it does provide insight into what the province may reopen this week — and what is off the table.

The Pallister government is expected to announce as early as Tuesday what changes are in store for public health orders when regulations expire Friday. The easing of restrictions are expected to be minor. Provincial officials have made it clear they don’t want a “yo-yo” approach, where measures are loosened and reinstated every few weeks.

The online survey, which went live Friday, is mostly about optics; an attempt to convince the public they have a real say over public health orders. It may have some impact on government decision-making. Not all low-risk businesses, services or activities can reopen at once. Decisions to open some and not others will be arbitrary. Knowing the priorities of the public could act as a tie-breaker in some cases.

JOHN WOODS CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Much to the chagrin of some protesters, the doffing of masks in indoor public places is also not on the table.

For the most part, though, public health officials will make those decisions on their own.

In the meantime, the survey acts as a short list for what could reopen. It shows what is under consideration and asks respondents to rank options in order of importance. If it’s not listed, it’s probably not on the table.

“Not all activities and services are immediately listed as not all are being considered in the current round of services and activities due to the higher risk of activity,” the survey says.

Bars, city libraries, movie theatres and tattoo parlours are not listed. Presumably, those are not up for consideration. Much to the chagrin of some protesters, the doffing of masks in indoor public places is also not on the table.

Bars are not one of the activities listed in the survey.

JESSE BOILY / FREE PRESS FILES

Bars are not one of the activities listed in the survey.

Reducing restrictions for places of worship is being considered. In-person services are banned under code-red restrictions. Given the high level of transmission reported in those settings, it seems doubtful those would reopen, even with capacity limits. Respondents were also asked about increasing the five-person limit for funerals and weddings. Those seem more likely.

Expanding retail has a good shot. It will probably be the most significant part of this week’s announcement. Respondents were asked whether they should be allowed to shop without limiting the products they can buy. Right now, stores can only sell essential items, as prescribed by regulation. Considering the low-risk nature of retail and what’s at stake economically for small business owners, eliminating the essential-items list (or at least broadening it) seems likely. With the help of face coverings and capacity restrictions, retail can operate relatively safely.

Barber shops and hairstylists are up for consideration, as are gyms and fitness studios. Those are possibilities.

Greater access to recreation opportunities, including resuming organized sports (such as amateur hockey and indoor soccer) are also on the list. I wouldn’t hold my breath on those. Most organized sports are volunteer-driven and don’t have the resources of public schools to enforce public health measures. Sports for adults, such as beer league hockey and indoor soccer, will probably have to wait.

Considering the low-risk nature of retail and what’s at stake economically for small business owners, eliminating the essential-items list seems likely.

MALAK ABAS / FREE PRESS FILES

Considering the low-risk nature of retail and what’s at stake economically for small business owners, eliminating the essential-items list seems likely.

The most concerning set of questions in the survey is around household gatherings. Once government finally agreed in late November to prohibit people from having visitors in their homes (with some exceptions), COVID-19 cases began to fall. It wasn’t the only reason for the decline, but it was a significant factor. People gathering indoors for prolonged periods without masks is a major source of transmission.

The survey asks respondents for their views on expanding the list of exemptions for household gatherings, returning to a limit of five visitors per home, or maintaining the status quo.

Loosening those measures when Manitoba still has over 100 cases of COVID-19 a day would be a big mistake.

If infection rates and hospital numbers continue to fall, Manitoba could ease restrictions further in late February. For now, baby steps are the name of the game.

tom.brodbeck@freepress.mb.ca

Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck
Columnist

Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

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Some provinces see positive signs in COVID fight, but hospitalizations a concern – Red Deer Advocate

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Some provincial authorities saw encouraging signs in the fight against COVID-19 on Monday, even as experts warned that it’s too soon to draw conclusions from the data and provinces scrambled to deal with a looming shortage of Pfizer vaccines.

Officials in both Quebec and Manitoba noted that case numbers have dropped slightly in recent days and suggested that their populations’ efforts to control the virus could be paying off.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said case numbers in his province appeared to be dipping.

“We’re definitely not out of the woods,” he told a news conference as the province reported 118 cases. “We certainly still have a long way to go before we can return to normal.”

Roussin said the province is looking at easing some restrictions in the coming days, but that any changes would be gradual.

Quebec reported 1,634 new COVID-19 cases, which included about 200 from the previous day that weren’t noted because of a delay. The province had broken the 3,000-case mark in early January and has a seven-day rolling average of more than 1,900 cases a day.

Health Minister Christian Dube noted on Twitter that the Quebec City region in particular had seen a decline in the number of new infections recently, which he saw as a sign that “the sacrifices that we’re asking of Quebecers are bearing fruit.” However, he asked Quebecers to continue their efforts in order to reduce the number of hospitalizations, which rose Monday after three straight days of decline.

Universite de Montreal public health professor Benoit Masse said it will take another week or two to know whether the downward trend will be sustained and to gauge the impact of the recently imposed curfew. He said the province should know more by Feb. 8, when curfew restrictions are set to lift.

Ontario also reported its lowest number of COVID-19 cases since early January, with 2,578 new infections, but the province completed a little more than 40,000 tests Sunday, compared with more than 60,000 the day before.

Nova Scotia also reported no new cases for the second time this month.

The news was less positive in New Brunswick, where the Edmundston region entered the province’s highest pandemic-alert level, ushering in new restrictions on businesses in the region after a record-breaking number of new cases on Sunday. The province reported 26 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday after recording 36 the day before.

Provinces were also reviewing their vaccine programs to contend with a reduced supply of Pfizer-BioNTech doses after the company said last week it was cutting back on promised deliveries over the next month as it works to expand production.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday that his province was pausing appointments for people to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine due to the supply shortage.

“Even with a new shipment of Pfizer expected later this week, we won’t have enough supply to continue with new first-dose appointments,” he said, adding that the province had set aside vaccines for people who were due for their second doses, and those appointments would continue.

Manitoba stopped booking new appointments over the weekend, but health officials announced Monday that those bookings would resume, with room for about 4,000 new appointments this week and next.

Ontario also acknowledged it was working with a supply crunch that would see its next two shipments of Pfizer vaccine reduced by 20 per cent and 80 per cent respectively.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the situation would last until late February or early March when larger shipments begin to arrive.

Ontario announced that a new hospital set to open in Vaughan, Ont. would be used to relieve a capacity crunch because of rising COVID-19 admissions. Elliott and Premier Doug Ford said the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital would add 35 new critical care beds and 150 medical beds to the province’s bed capacity.

Hospital capacity has been a concern in many provinces, with doctors in Ontario and Quebec being told to prepare for the possibility of implementing protocols to decide which patients get access to life-saving care in the case of extreme intensive care unit overcrowding.

Nationally, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are still increasing, according to Canada’s chief public health officer. Dr. Theresa Tam noted that hospitalizations tend to lag one or more weeks behind a surge in cases.

“These impacts affect everyone, as the health-care workforce and health system bear a heavy strain, important elective medical procedures are delayed or postponed, adding to pre-existing backlogs,” she wrote in a statement.

She said an average of 4,705 COVID-19 patients a day were being treated in Canadian hospitals during the last seven days, including an average of 875 in ICUs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021

— With files from Steve Lambert, Shawn Jeffords and Sidhartha Banerjee

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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BC health officials announce 1,330 new COVID-19 cases since Friday | News – Daily Hive

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British Columbia health officials have announced 1,330 new test-positive COVID-19 cases since Friday, bringing the total number of recorded cases in the province to 61,447.

During a press conference on Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there were 584 cases reported from Friday to Saturday, 445 from Saturday to Sunday, and 301 from Sunday to Monday.

Broken down by health region, this equates to 281 new cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 548 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 65 new cases in the Island Health region, 257 new cases in the Interior Health region, 166 new cases in the Northern Health region, and 13 new cases from people who reside outside of Canada, which Henry said is largely attributed to “temporary farm workers arriving in the province for the upcoming season.”

There were also 31 more deaths over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 1,078.

There are currently 4,326 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, and 6,865 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases.

Currently, 343 individuals are hospitalized with COVID-19, 68 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people with COVID-19 are recovering at home in self-isolation.

Henry said that 54,656 individuals who tested positive have now recovered.

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