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Three new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, including one on StFX campus in Antigonish – CTV News Atlantic

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HALIFAX —
Nova Scotia has announced three new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the province’s total number of active cases to 31.  

According to the province’s website, 1,334 previously reported cases are now considered resolved.

Nova Scotia Health says two cases are in the Central Zone. One is a close contact of a previously reported case, and the other is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. That person is self-isolating.

One case is in the Eastern Zone and related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. The person in that case is a student at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., who lives on campus. They are self-isolating.

“We can see from our case numbers that Nova Scotians and university students returning to our province are doing a good job following the public health protocols and orders,” said Premier Stephen McNeil in Saturday’s media release. “I thank everyone for staying vigilant. This is how we contain the virus and protect the health of our fellow citizens.”

The province added that students returning from anywhere except Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland are encouraged to use their online self-assessment tool and book tests throughout their isolation period.

N.S. COVID-19 TESTS

The Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 1,154 tests on Friday.

Nova Scotia has done 248,815 tests. There have been 1,529 cumulativeconfirmed cases of COVID-19, and 65 total deaths.

There is no onein hospital due to COVID-19.

The province’s confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Fifty-five per cent of cases are female, and 45 per cent are male.

There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Central Zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.

The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.

  •  Western Zone: 87 cases
  •  Central Zone: 1258 cases
  •  Northern Zone: 112 cases
  •  Eastern Zone: 72 cases

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, has been extended to Jan. 24, 2021.

COVID ALERT APP

Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is available in Nova Scotia.

The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

LIST OF SYMPTOMS

Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:

  •  Sore throat
  •  Headache
  •  Shortness of breath
  •  Runny nose/nasal congestion

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Henry confident of B.C. plan to delay second dose despite critics – Times Colonist

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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who is delaying second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to 16 weeks from six to free up vaccine and give every British Columbian a first jab by July, said she is confident in the face of criticism.

Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s chief science adviser, has compared B.C.’s delay of second doses with a “population level experiment,” saying that while it’s plausible to do it, we should not tinker with the data provided by Pfizer and Moderna to leave three to four weeks between first and second doses.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease official in the U.S., said that country will stick to its two-dose regimen, resisting calls to use a single dose to give more people immediate protection, the Washington Post reported.

Henry is standing behind her decision. Studies show that the first dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine is upwards of 90 per cent effective after three weeks and it lasts for several months, preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths, Henry said on Tuesday.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has reviewed the data in detail and its statement is “imminent,” she said. “That is why I am so confident that the decision we made over this past weekend to extend that interval is the best one, based on all of the scientific and the data that we have to maximize the benefit to everybody in our community, so that we can both stop people from getting seriously ill, prevent people from needing ­hospitalization, and prevent people from dying.”

The freeing up of doses to vaccinate more people quickly will allow the province to ease pandemic restrictions much sooner, she said.

The province will be able to increase visits to long-term care facilities “and have families be together with their loved one in care homes before the end of this month,” she said. “We now know from the real-world data that we don’t need to rely on second doses before we can lift some of these restrictions, if we have enough people protected, and we can stop that transmission in our communities.”

Come June or July when everyone in B.C. is protected with a first dose of vaccine, “we will know more about when is the optimal timing for booster dose,” said Henry.

Fauci did not recommend the delaying of doses in the U.S. because he felt they had sufficient vaccine “which is fine,” Henry said. The United Kingdom is also delaying the second dose, and Fauci went on to say “each of those approaches is correct and is right,” she said.

Henry said that Nemer, the chief science adviser, “who obviously was not involved in some of these discussions and decision making … perhaps didn’t understand the context that this decision was made in.”

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch in Toronto said that in December and even January there was hesitancy over delaying the second dose, “but there’s been a growing global experience delaying the second dose and there’s also accruing evidence suggesting that delaying that second dose is a ­reasonable thing to do.”

If one were to line up 100 scientists, epidemiologists, public health providers and infectious diseases physicians there probably wouldn’t be an argument over delaying the second dose. “I think the argument you’d get is how long can you delay that second,” Bogoch said.

Canada’s chief science adviser has valid concerns, but there’s growing evidence suggesting it’s OK to delay, he said.

“It’s going be just like everything else we have seen in the pandemic,” Bogoch said. “You can have multiple people look at the exact same data and come to different conclusions. And that’s OK, as long as we’re open and honest and transparent about how we’re making our decisions, and we understand what the benefits are and what the potential risks are.”

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said 283,182 doses of COVID vaccine have been administered — 186,654 people have received first doses, 86,537 have received second doses. That includes 95 per cent of long-term care and assisted living residents who have received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Everyone needs to focus on maintaining all levels of protection including physical distancing, wearing masks, and not gathering outside one’s household, and getting tested if symptomatic, Henry said.

On Tuesday, the province reported 438 new cases of COVID-19, including 19 new cases in Island Health. Of 4,679 active cases, there are 243 people in hospital, including 63 in intensive or critical care. Another 8,445 people who are contacts of an infected person are under public health monitoring.

Two more deaths have been reported, for a total of 1,365 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Twenty-two new variants of concern have been detected — 159 of the U.K. variant and 23 of the South African variant — of which eight are still active.

The province made a data correction on Tuesday, announcing another 254 cases of COVID-19 over the past week that went unreported.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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Peel and Toronto's top doctors want to be placed in lockdown level of Ontario's framework for coronavirus restrictions – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Toronto’ top doctor is asking the province to place the city in the grey lockdown category of its framework for COVID-19 restrictions as of Monday, allowing non-essential retail stores to reopen while keeping most other businesses closed.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa shared her recommendation during a briefing at city hall on Wednesday, calling it a “modest step towards more flexibility in daily life.”

If approved by the provincial government the designation would allow non-essential retail stores to reopen across the city, including those located in shopping malls.

Most stores, however, will be limited to no more than 25 per cent of their regular capacity. Grocers, convenience stores and other businesses that primarily sell food will be allowed up to 50 per cent of their regular capacity.

“Based on the data in front of us it is clear that reopening widely such as under the red category of the provincial framework is not advisable at this time given our case counts,” de Villa said, noting that the number of samples that have screened positive for a variant of concern in Toronto have doubled over the last week. “Moving out of the stay-at home order is a reasonable course of action for Toronto although I will add that while there are evident reasons for a change in status there remains reasons or risks that underscore how moving back into grey status is, or will be, a delicate balance.”

The province lifted its state of emergency order last month and began gradually moving regions back into its framework, with the exception of Toronto, Peel and North Bay which have remained under an extended stay-at-home order.

As part of Toronto’s potential move back into the grey zone, de Villa has issued a Section 22 order that will establish a series of additional requirements for workplaces with active outbreaks, including the mandatory wearing of masks at all times by employees.

De Villa said that she has also asked the Ministry of Labour to conduct a “workplace inspection blitz” in the city.

“Returning to the province’s framework represents a modest step towards more flexibility in daily life which can be taken because we all worked to limit the spread of COVID-19 but it is important that we all act in ways that do not squander these hard earned small steps forward,” she told reporters. “It is a question of preserving what we have gained.”

Wednesday was Toronto’s 100th consecutive day under a lockdown but the recommendation made by de Villa could represent a slight loosening of restrictions for the first time since this summer.

Of course, restaurants and bars will remain takeout-only and other businesses like gyms and hair salons won’t be able to reopen for at least two weeks.

Indoor gatherings of people from different households will also continue to be prohibited, though outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed.

“I am very sympathetic to those who will not be able to reopen going into grey but I think the best way in which we can avoid that further lockdown later on, which I think everybody to a person says would be the worst case scenario, is to take these cautious steps one at a time and to follow public health advice and keep doing what we have been doing in many respects and then the day may not be too far down the road where we can do more,” Mayor John Tory said during Wednesday’s briefing.

Peel’s top doctor has also asked for region to be kept in grey

De Villa’s announcement on Wednesday afternoon came hours after Peel’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh confirmed that he would also be advocating for his region to be placed under the grey lockdown category in the province’s framework.

The recommendation from Loh comes despite a vocal campaign from Mississauga Bonnie Crombie to have the region moved into the red zone, which would have allowed indoor dining to resume at bars and restaurants with capacity limits.

“From five cases just two weeks ago we now have over 100 confirmed case of variants in our community and 600 that have screened positive and these numbers give me pause,” Loh said earlier in the day. “Our hospitals are also seeing admissions related to spread of variants and while ICU occupancy has improved from the peak of the second wave it still remains at levels similar to what e saw in wave one in the spring of 2020. Reopening too quickly risks eliminating the gains we have made and putting lives and wellbeing at risk.”

Peel’s rolling-seven day average of new cases has risen from 194 at the this time last week to 213.

It also has the highest weekly incidence rate of any public health unit when adjusted for population.

Loh said that if conditions were different he would “absolutely recommend loosening measures more quickly,” as he did in July but can’t do so while cases are rising.

Speaking with reporters during a subsequent news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Crombie conceded that she was “extremely disappointed” by the decision but said that she understands the reasoning behind it.

Nonetheless, Crombie said that she wants the data reviewed on a weekly basis so that Peel can be moved to the red zone as soon as possible.

The province has typically said that it will not move regions to a new level in its framework until it has two weeks worth of data.

“It is extremely unfair that businesses in neighbouring regions have been allowed to reopen more fully. Think about this for just a moment if you will. If you are standing at Dundas Street at Winston Churchill Boulevard restaurants and stores on the south side of the street are open for business for in-person shopping and dining while on the north side of the street they are closed because the north side of the street is in Mississauga. That is simply unfair and also inequitable,” Crombie said.

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An earlier end date for vaccination campaign is 'possible', Trudeau says – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that Canada’s vaccination campaign could wrap up before September if the country secures the necessary shots and if there’s a change in dosing timelines.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced Tuesday his administration will have enough supply on hand by the end of May to vaccinate every American — two months earlier than planned.

Asked about that ambitious timeline, Trudeau said his government is confident that all Canadians who want a shot will be vaccinated by the end of September, but an earlier end date is “possible” if all goes well with deliveries and if other promising vaccine candidates are approved by the regulators at Health Canada.

“As I’ve been saying since this past November, we expect all Canadians to be vaccinated by the end of September, for those who want it,” he said. “It’s possible that those timelines can be moved forward.”

He said Ottawa is focused on “bringing in more doses for more Canadians to get through this as rapidly as possible.”

Possible change to dosing schedule

More Canadians could get vaccinated earlier than planned if the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) agrees to adjust the recommended interval between first and second vaccine doses — a change that some provinces, notably B.C. and Quebec, have implemented already.

“We’re seeing some of the science shift, some proposals put forward which are very, very interesting, which could result in rapider timelines,” Trudeau said.

Asked if he was reluctant to amend the timelines because of past supply hiccups, Trudeau said there have been “disruptions” in supply from Pfizer and Moderna “from the very beginning.”

Trudeau said any comparisons between the pandemic experiences of Canada and the U.S. must recognize that there have been many more cases — and more deaths — reported south of the border.

“Obviously, the pandemic has had a very different course in the United States,” Trudeau said.

On a death-per-caseload basis, however, Canada has fared worse than the U.S. because of how many seniors have died of the virus in long-term care homes in this country. About 2.5 per cent of all COVID-19 cases have resulted in death in Canada, compared to 1.8 per cent in the U.S.

Health Canada’s recent approval of the AstraZeneca product will add more than 20 million shots to the country’s vaccine stockpile over the next six months, but the delivery schedule for most of these shots has not yet been finalized.

One shipment of 500,000 AstraZeneca shots produced by the Serum Institute of India arrived today, but questions remain about who should have access to this product.

WATCH: Some provinces won’t give AstraZeneca to seniors

Several provinces are signalling they will follow the recommendation of Canada’s vaccine advisory body and not give the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to seniors, creating a shift away from a high-priority group despite Health Canada’s advice that the vaccine is safe and effective. 2:29

Even before Biden’s announcement, the U.S. was well on its way to ending its inoculation campaign before Canada.

The U.S. is on track to fully vaccinate at least 34 per cent of the population by the end of March, while Canada hopes to vaccinate about 8 per cent on the same timeline.

After accounting for population size, the U.S. will have administered about 4.5 times more shots per capita by month’s end. Canada has administered 2 million doses so far, while the U.S. is nearing 80 million.

At least 26.4 million doses — 23 million from Moderna and Pfizer combined, 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute and another 1.9 million AstraZeneca doses from COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative — are set to arrive in Canada between April and June.

All told, the country is projected to have enough supply to fully vaccinate at least 16.45 million people by Canada Day. The supply is expected to grow once delivery schedules for the AstraZeneca product are confirmed.

The U.S. campaign has benefited from a robust domestic vaccine manufacturing sector and massive investments by former president Donald Trump’s administration in companies like Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Trump also signed an executive order last December to mandate that all U.S. facilities fulfil their contractual obligations to the U.S. government before shipping products abroad — a decision that has forced Canada to rely on European plants for our shots.

Biden has maintained Trump’s ‘America First’ approach to vaccines and his spokesperson, Jen Psaki, told reporters this week that the U.S. will not send any doses to allies like Canada or Mexico until the vaccination campaign is complete stateside.

According to the latest federal budget documents, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has budgeted up to $5 billion for COVID-19 vaccines and other treatments, such as therapeutics.

The specific costs for each vaccine candidate are protected by confidentiality clauses in the federal government’s agreements with drug makers. Canada has promised to buy more than 240 million doses of seven different vaccines if all of them are approved.

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