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Today’s coronavirus news: Manitoba to reveal new set of COVID-19 rules as vaccinations continue to rise; China orders mass coronavirus testing for Wuhan – Toronto Star

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

8 a.m. The Greek Olympic team says the outbreak of COVID-19 cases among its artistic swimmers has ruled them out of competing at the Tokyo Games.

Three new cases were reported Tuesday and the entire artistic swimming squad was asked to leave the Olympic Village. Only one case had been previously confirmed.

The Greek team says they are all staying at a quarantine hotel. Greece was due to compete in the duet and team events.

7:40 a.m. The quickly approaching fall semester has America’s colleges under pressure to decide how far they should go to guard their campuses against COVID-19 while navigating legal and political questions and rising infection rates.

Hundreds of colleges nationwide have told students in recent months they must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before classes begin.

California State University, the country’s largest four-year public university system, joined the list last week, along with Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. Their announcements cited concerns about the highly contagious delta variant and came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated mask guidelines based on new research regarding its spread.

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro called case surges linked to the variant an “alarming new factor that we must consider as we look to maintain the health and well-being of students, employees and visitors.”

Yet many more colleges have held off on vaccine mandates in a reflection of the limits school leaders face in adopting safety requirements for in-person classes.

In many Republican-led states, governments have banned vaccine mandates, or school leaders face political pressure to limit their anti-virus actions even among students who live in packed residence halls. Opponents say the requirements tread on personal freedoms.

Some campuses have sidestepped pushback by instead offering enticements, such as prize drawings for free tuition and computers, as they seek to boost student vaccination rates to 80 per cent or higher.

And a few have gone against the grain of their GOP-led states, such as Nova Southeastern in Florida requiring employees to get the shots and Nebraska Wesleyan mandating vaccinations for its 2,000 students.

Private colleges like these have more legal leeway regarding coronavirus rules, experts say. Prominent private universities mandating student vaccinations include Harvard, Yale, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Duke and Stanford.

6:40 a.m. Barack Obama is turning 60 on Wednesday and he’s marking the milestone with a celebration.

The Obamas are hosting an outdoor party in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to celebrate the former president’s birthday with friends, family and former staff members, a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly told USA TODAY. In order to promote safety, guests are required to adhere to all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health protocols, including a testing regimen managed by a COVID-19 coordinator.

Concerns about COVID-19 transmission reignited after the delta coronavirus variant caused a sharp spike in cases around the country in recent weeks. For the first time in more than three months, cases in the U.S. average more than 60,000 per day, according to USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

The Obamas have been strong advocates for the vaccine, emphasizing “the need and the urgency of our communities getting vaccinated” in a video with Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley in April and getting vaccinated themselves one month earlier.

6:25 a.m. Tokyo is experiencing a record surge in COVID-19 cases during the Olympic Games as the more infectious Delta variant rips through Japan, though contagion among those linked to the event appears to be relatively contained so far.

To date, organizers have announced 294 positive cases among people connected to the Olympics, including 25 athletes out of the more than 11,000 who are expected to participate. Of over 400,000 tests conducted so far on athletes and stakeholders, the positivity rate has been only 0.02 per cent, organizers said on Tuesday.

“There is a separation between the athletes and the various stakeholders, and the general population,” Mark Adams, International Olympic Committee spokesperson, told reporters Monday. “You can’t reduce the risk to zero, but we have with the playbooks pretty well covered the ability to reduce that risk as far as we can.”

The so-called playbooks set out COVID-prevention measures and rules for each Olympics participant including athletes, officials and media.

Breaking down the category of people with positive test results, the largest numbers are among Tokyo 2020 contractors — third-party personnel who are contracted to the games to provide various services — and games-concerned people, who include those affiliated with the IOC, National Olympic Committees and Olympic Broadcasting Services. There have been a cumulative 153 and 89 cases in those categories, respectively.

While athletes in the Olympic Village are required to test daily, requirements are less strict for volunteers who have less contact with athletes. The rules are also harsher for those flying in from overseas, compared to Japanese residents.

5:55 a.m. The United States on Monday finally reached President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70 per cent of eligible adults at least partly vaccinated.

The milestone came a month later than Biden had hoped as the country faced the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

There was no celebration at the White House. The announcement was made on Twitter by Cyrus Shahpar, the COVID-19 data director for the Biden administration. “Let’s continue working to get more eligible vaccinated!” Shahpar wrote.

The White House had hoped to announce the 70 per cent vaccination bench mark four weeks ago. Biden initially used Independence Day to declare a victory of sorts over the pandemic and some kind of return to normal life.

But that goal evaporated in recent weeks as the Delta variant spread rapidly, putting pressure on hospitals in regions with low vaccination rates, including many politically conservative areas in the south. Southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, for instance, have been hard hit, swamping hospitals.

In recent weeks, there has been an uptick in the vaccination rate in some states where cases have crested. Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Florida have seen steady increases.

5:45 a.m. Florida leads the U.S. in another alarming coronavirus statistic: kids hospitalized with COVID-19.

Florida had 32 pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations per day between July 24 and 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adjusted for population, that’s 0.76 kids hospitalized per 100,000 residents, the highest rate in the country.

The Florida Department of Health reported 10,785 new COVID-19 infections among children under 12 between July 23 and 29. That’s an average of 1,540 new cases per day.

The surge is worse for children who are eligible for the vaccine — 11,048 new cases among those ages 12 to 19 in the same week.

Last Friday’s state data shows seven deaths among children under 16 since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Florida stopped reporting COVID-19 deaths by age group to the CDC on July 17.

Dr. Claudia Espinosa, pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of South Florida, said that she is deeply concerned about cases spiking when kids return to school this month. Hundreds of thousands of kids across the state will soon pack themselves into school buses, classrooms and cafeterias.

“I’m terrified of what’s going to happen,” she said.

Pediatric hospitalizations are the latest sign of the resurgent pandemic’s hold on Florida. Last week, the state accounted for nearly one out of every four new infections and hospitalizations in the nation, according to the CDC. State data shows Florida averaged more than 15,780 infections a day over the most recent seven-day period.

Tampa Bay pediatric hospitals are seeing those higher admissions themselves. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg diagnosed 113 COVID-19 cases in the first three and a half weeks of July, while the hospital only had 11 infections in the entire month of June, said Dr. Joseph Perno, the hospital’s vice president of medical affairs.

Every week in July set a new weekly record for the most cases the hospital has seen during the pandemic, Perno said.

The age range of infected patients is evenly spread between young children and teenagers. And the vast majority of them are unvaccinated, said Dr. Allison Messina, the hospital’s chairman of the Division of Infectious Disease. Children 11 and under cannot yet get the vaccine.

Pediatric COVID-19 patients in BayCare’s 15 Florida hospitals doubled in July compared to June, after two months of declining case numbers, said hospital system spokesperson Lisa Razler.

The vast majority of infected pediatric patients are hospitalized at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa, Razler said, one of the six BayCare facilities that paused elective surgeries requiring overnight stays to make more beds available for COVID-19 patients.

While infected children are at less risk of serious illness then adults, Messina said they can still develop serious long-term complications, Messina said.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome is an autoimmune disease that targets school-aged children and can occur two to six weeks after a coronavirus infection. Symptoms include fever, rashes, red eye, and diarrhea and vomiting. If left untreated, Messina said, the illness can be fatal or cause permanent heart damage.

5:33 a.m. Chinese authorities have announced mass coronavirus testing in Wuhan as an unusually wide series of COVID-19 outbreaks reached the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019.

The provincial capital of 11 million people in central China is the latest city to undergo city-wide testing. Three cases were confirmed in Wuhan on Monday, its first non-imported cases in more than a year.

China has largely curbed COVID-19 at home after the initial outbreak that devastated Wuhan and spread globally. Since then, authorities have tamped down and controlled the disease whenever it pops up with quick lockdowns and mass testing.

The current outbreaks are still in the hundreds of cases in total, but have spread much more widely than previous ones. Many of the cases have been identified as the highly contagious delta variant.

The National Health Commission said Tuesday that 90 new cases had been confirmed the previous day.

5 a.m. Ontario’s back-to-school plan will be front and centre this week as the province announces what protocols will be in place so boards can get ready to welcome kids back to in-person learning in just five weeks.

With the government set to announce details as early as Tuesday, questions remain as to what the school year will look like, if the province has taken the advice of pediatric experts — and what has taken so long for the plan to be released.

While most of Ontario’s two million students are set to resume classes in person after Labour Day, some schools, on a modified calendar such as Peel’s Roberta Bondar elementary and York’s Bill Crothers secondary, are returning this week.

Read the full story from the Star’s Kristin Rushowy

Tuesday 4 a.m. The Manitoba government is to announce changes Tuesday to its COVID-19 restrictions.

Premier Brian Pallister and the province’s chief public health officer are scheduled to hold a news conference on the updated orders.

Manitoba is running ahead of its vaccination targets, with roughly 80 per cent of people ages 12 and up having at least one dose and more than 70 per cent having two.

The current rules include a 50 per cent capacity limit at stores, museums, restaurants and gyms.

Casinos, bingo halls, movie theatres and some other facilities are open only to people who are fully vaccinated.

Household visits are also capped at five people in addition to residents of a home.

Monday 7 p.m. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted Monday he has tested positive for coronavirus, months after he was vaccinated.

The Republican senator said he started having flu-like symptoms Saturday night and went to the doctor Monday to be tested.

Graham described his symptoms as “mild,” and said his symptoms feel like he has a sinus infection.

He tweeted he will quarantine for the next 10 days, and, despite his diagnosis, is glad he was vaccinated.

“I was just informed by the House physician I have tested positive for #COVID19 even after being vaccinated. I started having flu-like symptoms Saturday night and went to the doctor this morning,” Graham tweeted. “I feel like I have a sinus infection and at present time I have mild symptoms. I will be quarantining for ten days. I am very glad I was vaccinated because without vaccination I am certain I would not feel as well as I do now. My symptoms would be far worse.”

Graham’s diagnosis is among the rising breakthrough cases reported across the country where vaccinated people are testing positive for the virus due to the rise in the delta variant.

South Carolina has also has reported a spike in cases during the past few weeks, seeing its most cases since February.

Monday 6:30 p.m. The positivity rate for COVID-19 testing in Quebec reached 1.4 per cent on Sunday — the highest it’s been since late May.

New COVID-19 infections are also on the rise, according to the Health Department. Officials reported 154 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 347 new infections identified on Friday and Saturday. Quebec has reported an average of 139 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from an average of 57 a week prior.

Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, says the trends are concerning. The rising positivity rate in the province “means that there is still ongoing community transmission,” he said in an interview Monday.

He is also concerned because Quebec’s rate on Sunday reflected fewer overall tests compared with late May. On May 31, Quebec recorded a test positivity rate of 1.5 per cent based on 15,783 tests. On Sunday, Quebec analyzed 11,202 tests.

The big question, Vinh said, is whether the jump in the positivity rate is a sign Quebecers should expect cases to rise even more in late August and September, when classes at schools, junior colleges and universities resume. “If it’s already increased when we are in the ‘safe’ outdoors, what’s going to happen when we’re in the indoors? That’s where the concern is,” he said.

Despite the rise in cases, deaths and hospitalizations linked to the novel coronavirus haven’t followed suit.

The Health Department, which no longer provides COVID-19 updates on weekends, said no deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus have been reported in the province since Thursday. It said the number of those hospitalized increased by one since its last report, to 61, and 17 people were in intensive care — unchanged since Friday’s update.

Health officials said 38,247 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered Sunday and Quebec’s public health institute reported that 84.6 per cent of residents 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine while 68 per cent are adequately vaccinated.

Dr. André Veillette, an immunologist at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute and member of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, said it’s likely the number of active COVID-19 cases in the province is higher than testing data suggests.

“I think we should be worried, but I think that what we should be even more worried about is that we’re not worried enough,” Veillette said. “We’ve all become a little bit complacent.”

Veillette said the rise in cases in the province is likely the result of the more contagious Delta variant of the virus.

Data from Quebec’s public health institute on Monday, however, indicates the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases involving variants dropped the week ending July 24, compared with the prior week. But Judith Fafard, a medical microbiologist at the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, said that data is incomplete.

It takes time, she explained, for results to be gathered and processed from the province’s decentralized laboratory network. The most reliable data on variants comes from the week ending July 17, which showed a rise in the percentage of cases involving the Delta variant from the prior week.

The percentage of cases involving the Alpha variant — which accounted for more than 80 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Quebec in mid-May — has also been dropping since the last week of that month, she said.

“It would be surprising if we were any different from England, the other provinces and the United States, so what’s replacing Alpha is probably the Delta variant,” she said.

“We know that the Delta variant is in Quebec and that it is growing.”

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Rural schools close as Alberta's COVID-19 vaccine passport system begins – Powell River Peak

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EDMONTON — Two schools in rural Alberta closed their classrooms Monday over the number of students not attending because of COVID-19 infections as Edmonton police introduced tough new vaccine requirements on the first day of the province’s new proof-of-vaccination program.

The Big Valley and Donalda schools, both in central Alberta’s Clearview Public School Division, announced that too many students are away from school to continue in-person classes.

“The percentage of students away continues to be over 10 per cent with reported cases of COVID-19,” the division said in a release.

The two schools are closed to in-person learning for students in Grades 1 through 9 until Oct. 1. Kindergarten and playschool classes will continue.

“Instruction and learning opportunities will be offered using a combination of online and paper-based materials,” the release said. “Classroom teachers will provide a detailed schedule so that students will have direct access to them at specified times during the day.”

Alberta Education spokeswoman Nicole Sparrow said the province received the request from the school division, which must be approved before a school can actually close.

“Approval from the Minister of Education is required for a short-term shift of one or more schools or an entire school authority to at-home/online learning,” she wrote in an email. 

“A decision for a school authority request will be based on the ability of a school to have staff available to operate in-school classes.” 

The Edmonton Police Service said it will give its members three choices on immunization: vaccinate, pay for their own rapid COVID-19 tests or stay home without pay until the situation changes or one of the first two conditions is met. 

“(Police) volunteers and contractors will also be required to either indicate they have been fully vaccinated or submit to rapid testing to engage in their duties,” the service said in a release. 

Police spokeswoman Chery Sheppard said more than 86 per cent of the service’s sworn and civilian employees have been fully vaccinated.  

Alberta averaged about 1,500 new cases daily over the weekend, recording 4,633 cases between Friday and Sunday. The province had 954 people with COVID-19 in hospital, 216 of them in intensive care.

The province recorded 22 deaths over the three days.

Earlier Monday, the government released more details about which businesses and institutions come under its restriction exemption plan, allowing eligible public organizations to function more normally. 

Retail stores, libraries, hotels and post-secondary institutions will not be required to take part in the program, nor will worshippers at a church, employees on a work site or students on a school trip.

Some restrictions will still apply. 

Stores must limit shoppers to one-third of normal capacity, for example, and people in indoor public spaces must still be masked. 

Entertainment facilities from restaurants to nightclubs to art galleries are all eligible to participate in the program, allowing them to operate with fewer restrictions as long as they require patrons to show proof of vaccination. 

Premier Jason Kenney announced the program last week. Retail stores and libraries were initially on the list of eligible organizations but were removed on the weekend.

Kenney had previously opposed a vaccine passport over what he said were privacy concerns. He switched to support for passports as Alberta’s hospitals faced the prospect of being overwhelmed in the pandemic’s fourth wave.

Starting Sunday, immunized Albertans could download proof-of-vaccination cards, but some pointed out they could be easily altered. 

A health ministry spokeswoman said work continues on a more secure QR code that would be available in the coming weeks. Starting Tuesday, Albertans will be able to request a free, printed version of their vaccination records from a registry agent.

Over the weekend, the province’s four largest health-care unions asked Kenney to request help from the military, the Red Cross and any other available medical resources able to assist hospitals caring for an increasing number of patients.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2021.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Saskatchewan’s digital proof of vaccination launches ahead of October requirement – Red Deer Advocate

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REGINA — Saskatchewan residents were able on Monday to start downloading a digital QR code from their eHealth account showing proof of vaccination.

The government said in a news release that the code — which can be downloaded or printed — replaces the COVID-19 vaccination record that was made available in August but did not include a digital format.

The province announced last week that proof of vaccination will be required at non-essential businesses — including restaurants, casinos, movie theatres and indoor sports venues — beginning Oct. 1.

It won’t be required for civil services, retail or grocery stores, places of worship, hotels or at non-ticketed amateur sporting events.

Businesses can verify the QR codes on mobile devices using a special app.

The news release said travellers at international borders will also be able to use the code.

“This is the next, improved, version of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccination record,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in the release.

“It has been something that travellers, businesses and organizations have been asking for.”

The announcement followed a record-breaking 543 daily cases in Saskatchewan on Sunday.

On Monday, the province reported 519 infections and two deaths. The active number of cases stood at 4,672. Some 253 people were being treated in hospital.

Saskatchewan remains in the first phase of its triage plan, which means choices are being made about which surgeries need to be cancelled to free up space.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2021.

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Nova Scotia reports 25 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, active cases rise to 137 – CTV News Atlantic

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HALIFAX —
Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 25 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, along with 17 recoveries, as the number of active cases in the province rises to 137.

Fourteen new cases were identified in the province’s Central zone. Of the new cases, eight are close contacts of previously reported cases and six are under investigation.

Health officials say there are signs of community spread among people in the Central zone aged 20 to 40 who are unvaccinated and participating in social activities.

Five new cases were identified in the province’s Northern zone. Four are close contacts of previously reported cases and one is under investigation

Health officials say there is a large cluster of linked cases in a defined group in the Northern zone, and most of the group is unvaccinated, so more cases are expected.

Three cases new cases were identified in the province’s Western zone. One is a close contact of a previously reported case and two are under investigation.

Three cases new cases were identified in the province’s Eastern zone. One is a close contact of a previously reported case and two are under investigation.  

Public Health says it is closely monitoring all four health zones for community spread.

COVID-19 CASE DATA

Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 2,984 tests on Monday. A total of 1,180,686 COVID-19 tests have been processed since the start of the pandemic.

According to the province’s online COVID-19 dashboard, there have been 6,392 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia. Of those, 6,161 people have recovered and 94 have died due to COVID-19.

There are currently nine people in hospital in Nova Scotia due to COVID-19, with no one in an intensive care unit.

Since April 1, there have been 4,650 positive COVID-19 cases and 28 deaths. Of the new cases since April 1, 4,485 are now considered resolved.

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: 326 cases (7 active case)
  • Central zone: 4,923 cases (80 active cases)
  • Northern zone: 490 cases (42 active cases)
  • Eastern zone: 653 cases (8 active cases)

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to Oct. 3, 2021.

VACCINE UPDATE

The province’s COVID-19 online dashboard provides an update on the number of vaccines that have been administered to date.

As of Tuesday, 1,488,276 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.

In total, 79.6 per cent of the province’s overall population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 73.6 per cent of Nova Scotians have received their second dose.

The province says it has received a total of 1,661,340 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since Dec. 15.

All Nova Scotians are encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible. COVID-19 vaccination appointments can be made online or by phone at 1-833-797-7772.

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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