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Third major school closure likely in Ontario due to coronavirus variant spread: Toronto epidemiologist – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



An infectious disease expert says he believes schools in Ontario will be forced to shut down once again to slow the surge of COVID-19 variant cases in the province.

Dr. Colin Furness, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, made the prediction on Friday, a day after Ontario released updated modelling data, which suggested that the province could see as many as 8,000 COVID-19 cases per day by April, largely fueled by the spread of the more contagious variants of the disease.

“We know from the European experience that the kinds of control measures that we use are effective against the variants, we just need to maybe ramp it up a bit,” Furness said while speaking to Newstalk 1010 Friday. “I would expect us to need to have to close schools as an important measure, once the variants really pick up steam, and I’m expecting that to happen in the middle of April.”

On Thursday, Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table presented new COVID-19 modelling data, which concluded that variants of the disease could potentially bring on a third wave of infection in the province.

The table said that the behavior of residents over the next few weeks would be “critical” in determining the quality of Ontario’s summer.

“Our ability to control the rate of spread will determine whether we return to normal, or we face a third wave,” Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, the co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said during the modelling update.

In February, Furness predicted that the spread of COVID-19 variants would trigger an “ugly” third wave of the pandemic around April that could send Ontario into a third lockdown.

There are currently 1,081 confirmed cases of variants of concern in Ontario, including the U.K., South African, and Brazilian variant.

On Friday, Furness underscored that while he hopes his prediction is wrong, he said it appears the trends of variant spread in Ontario will make the eventual closure of schools inevitable.

“The good news is, the weather is getting warmer and vaccinations are really ramping up. So, as dire as this looks, I think it’s also going to be fairly short lived. And so I really do want people to feel concerned, but also positive,” he said.

Students in Ontario have been forced to navigate COVID-19 through a mixture of in-person and remote learning since last March when the pandemic was first declared.

Most recently, the Ministry of Education announced in February that it would be postponing March Break for students and teachers from March 15 to the week of April 12 to limit community transmission of COVID-19.

In response to Furness’s prediction, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said that its priority is to keep schools open and safe.

“Following the best public health advice, we have strengthened our screening, testing, and masking requirements to maintain the safety of students and staff from variants of concern,” Caitlin Clark told CTV News Toronto in an email.

“As we have done throughout this pandemic, we will continue to follow the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.”

More than 10 per cent of known active cases of COVID-19 in the province on Friday involved primary and secondary students, according to public data.

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Are you planning to get a flu shot this year? –



Canada’s top doctor warns the country could be heading for its first typical flu season since the pandemic began, even as health systems are still battling the fourth wave of COVID-19.

Last year Canada was spared the brunt of flu season thanks to strict public health measures to protect against COVID-19.

Surveillance data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows higher rates of infection than expected for some of Canada’s most common seasonal viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says a heavy flu season could put extra pressure on already fragile health-care systems.

She says this is definitely not the year to have influenza wreak havoc.

That’s why public health says it will be more important than ever that people get flu shots to avoid complications like pneumonia and protect hospitals from becoming overloaded.

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10,000 in Waterloo region eligible to get 2nd COVID-19 shot right now, official says –



More than 90 per cent of eligible residents in Waterloo region have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

People who are 12 and up are eligible to get vaccinated, and able to get the second dose 28 days after the first, the Ontario government’s website says.

“To get second doses to 90 per cent, 20,683 second doses must be given. Out of those 20,000 people, approximately 10,000 are eligible now for their second dose and the remaining people will become eligible over the next month,” Vickie Murray, the region’s vaccine lead, said in a media briefing on Friday.

Murray said regional officials are pleased to see single doses reach the 90 per cent milestone, but they want to see second doses, which are at nearly 86 per cent, get there, too.

“Our goal is to continue to aim for the highest vaccination rates possible to protect our community from the spread of COVID,” she said.

As well, the region has given 5,854 third doses, offered to all people living in long-term care in the region.

Murray also announced Friday that as of Oct. 31, the vaccination at the Boardwalk in Waterloo will move to operating only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. because those are the busiest times.

Vaccination bus motors on

The vaccination bus continues to be effective, Murray said. On Wednesday, she said 47 per cent of the doses given were first ones.

The bus will maked scheduled stops:

  • Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Cambridge Farmer’s Market.
  • Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 150 Main St. in Cambridge.
  • Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kitchener Public Library.
  • Thursday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Region of Waterloo International Airport in Breslau.
  • Sunday, Oct. 24 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Sunrise Shopping Centre at 1400 Ottawa St. S., Kitchener.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region’s medical officer of health, said Friday that case rates have been “stable or slowly decreasing trend in the last few weeks.”

“We need to continue our efforts to increase our community immunity over the coming weeks and months,” she said, adding the highly transmissible delta variant remains a risk in the region and could be easily spread between people, especially the unvaccinated.

Murray encouraged anyone who is eligible to get the second dose to do so as soon as they can.

“That is going to be the best way to ensure that you’re fully vaccinated,” Murray said.

If regional staff find that a lot of people are delaying the second dose, they will reach out to them directly through emails and phone calls — something staff also did over the summer.

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Horse race marks Sydney’s emergence from long COVID-19 lockdown



Thousands of Sydney residents flocked to a prominent horse race on Saturday, as Australia’s biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination.

Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest in Sydney, Australia’s richest turf horse race, and the country’s most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2.

New South Wales State, of which Sydney is the capital, reached its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of Australia.

“80% in NSW! Been a long wait but we’ve done it,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Twitter.

The state reported 319 new coronavirus cases, all of the Delta variant, and two deaths on Saturday. Many restrictions were eased in New South Wales on Monday, when it reached 70% double vaccinations.

Neighbouring Victoria, where the capital Melbourne has been in lockdown for weeks, reported 1,993 new cases and seven deaths, including the state’s youngest victim, a 15-year-old girl.

Victoria is expected to reach 70% double vaccination before Oct. 26 and ease its restrictions more slowly than New South Wales has, drawing criticism from the federal government on Saturday.

“It is really sad that Victorians are being held back,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Australia is set to gradually lift its 18-month ban on international travel from next month for some states when 80% of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 67.2% of Australians were fully inoculated, and 84.4% had received at least one shot.

The country closed its international borders in March 2020, since then allowing only a limited number of people to leave or citizens and permanent residents abroad to return, requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.

Australia’s overall coronavirus numbers are low compared to many other developed countries, with just over 140,000 cases and 1,513 deaths.

(Reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)

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