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Today's coronavirus news: Ontario is once again averaging more than 100 new COVID-19 cases a day; deaths among minorities during the crisis have risen far more than they have among whites in the U.S. – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 1:45 p.m.: Deal announced to manufacture N95 masks in Brockville

  • 12:30 p.m.: Deaths among minorities higher in the U.S., study shows

  • 8:30 a.m.: TTC passengers to get Presto credit for unused monthly fares

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

6:02 p.m. There are 124,282 confirmed cases in Canada, including 9,062 deaths, according to The Canadian Press.

This breaks down as follows (NOTE: The Star does its own count for Ontario; see entries elsewhere in this file.):

  • Quebec: 61,495 confirmed (including 5,733 deaths, 54,472 resolved)
  • Ontario: 41,179 confirmed (including 2,796 deaths, 37,397 resolved)
  • Alberta: 12,748 confirmed (including 230 deaths, 11,374 resolved)
  • British Columbia: 4,825 confirmed (including 200 deaths, 3,845 resolved)
  • Saskatchewan: 1,595 confirmed (including 22 deaths, 1,439 resolved)

  • Nova Scotia: 1,077 confirmed (including 64 deaths, 1,008 resolved)
  • Manitoba: 830 confirmed (including 12 deaths, 553 resolved)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 268 confirmed (including three deaths, 265 resolved)
  • New Brunswick: 188 confirmed (including two deaths, 178 resolved)
  • Prince Edward Island: 44 confirmed (including 40 resolved)
  • Yukon: 15 confirmed, all of which have been resolved
  • Repatriated Canadians account for 13 confirmed cases, all of which have been resolved
  • Northwest Territories: five confirmed, all of which have been resolved
  • Nunavut reports no confirmed cases.

5 p.m. Ontario is once again averaging more than 100 new COVID-19 cases a day, according to the Star’s latest count.

Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 43,268 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,833 deaths, up another 144 cases in 24 hours.

It’s the most the units have reported this month.

The seven-day average for daily case reports had been consistently below triple-digits since the province saw a brief spike in late July.

But it has risen every day this week.

With Friday’s total, the average has jumped to 102 cases per day over the last week. The province’s seven-day average was last in triple-digits on Aug. 2.

Still, even with the recent increases, the rate of infection remains well below the worst of the pandemic; Ontario saw the same average reach a mid-April peak of nearly 600 cases daily.

Three health units reported the vast majority of cases on Friday: Toronto, with 41 new cases; Ottawa, with 36; and Peel Region, with 33.

The three cities have reported the three highest case totals in the province so far the month.

Four deaths was reported Friday, one each in Toronto, Ottawa, York Region and Waterloo Region.

The vast majority of the province’s COVID-19 patients have since recovered; the Province lists fewer than 1,000 active cases of the disease.

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases. This means they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

The province cautions its separate data, published daily at 10:30 a.m., may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system. In the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

3:41 p.m. Property owners and organizers can be fined $2,000 for hosting events found in violation of public health orders in British Columbia under stronger enforcement measures announced Friday, The Canadian Press reports.

The fines can be levied for hosting a gathering in excess of 50 people, failing to keep the contact information of everyone who attends an event, or inviting more than five guests into a vacation rental property, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told a news conference, CP reports.

A party with fewer than 50 people is not necessarily legal, Farnworth added, since all other public health measures must still be followed.

“Police have their discretion, but if you have 38 people crammed into a kitchen and, you know, there’s no social distancing (taking) place, then clearly that’s in violation of the order and the owner would be subject to a $2,000 ticket,” he said.

Farnworth said “problematic” guests may also face $200 tickets for behaviour that could include refusing to leave when directed or disregarding COVID-19 safety plans at restaurants and other businesses.

2:13 p.m.: Property owners and organizers can be fined $2,000 for hosting events in violation of public health orders in British Columbia under stronger penalties announced today.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the fines include hosting a gathering in excess of 50 people, failing to keep the contact information of everyone who attends an event, or inviting more than five guests into a vacation rental property.

He says a party with fewer than 50 people is not necessarily legal since all other public health measures must still be followed.

He says guests may also face $200 tickets for their behaviour including if they refuse to leave when directed or disregard COVID-19 safety plans at restaurants and other businesses.

The province is enlisting liquor, cannabis and gaming inspectors, as well as conservation officers, to help issue the tickets for the duration of the pandemic.

Farnworth says the stronger enforcement actions are being taken because the behaviour of a small minority of “selfish individuals” across B.C. is putting vulnerable people at risk.

2 p.m.: Kingston, a city that relies heavily on tourism and revenue from three post-secondary institutions — Queen’s University, the Royal Military College of Canada and St. Lawrence College — has been hit hard by the lockdown.

The schools provide an economic boost to the region and many of the events they host, such as homecomings, football games and convocation, bring in people from across the country.

But with most schools moving classes online in the fall semester, much of that revenue has vanished.

Queen’s University has typically 24,000 students on campus, but only about 6,600 are expected to attend in person in September.

1:45 p.m.: Spooked by a shortage of N95 masks early in the pandemic — and rattled by U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats of cutting off vital supplies — Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are banding together.

As disclosed Thursday by the CBC and the Star, Queen’s Park and Ottawa are each contributing more than $23 million toward 3M’s $70-million plan to manufacture the respirator masks in Brockville.

“In the face of a global pandemic, I vowed as premier that we would do everything we can to get the essential supplies we need to protect our heroic health-care and front-line workers in the province,” Ford said Friday.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie.

1:30 p.m.: Newfoundland and Labrador is back down to zero active cases of COVID-19.

The Department of Health said today the two most recent cases reported this month are now considered recovered.

The cases involved two employees of the St. John’s-shot television series “Hudson & Rex,” who tested positive for the virus earlier in August.

Three people have died from COVID-19 in the province and 265 people have recovered.

Ten cases have been reported since the beginning of May.

News of the recoveries comes days before an order requiring mask-wearing in indoor public spaces enters into effect across the province.

1 p.m.: Ontario’s New Democrats say the province should not hand back management of for-profit long-term care homes that the government took over during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath notes the first of those management contracts will expire next week, but says the province should maintain oversight of those facilities until all investigations are complete.

The province has appointed temporary management at 11 homes since the start of the pandemic as the facilities struggled to contain COVID-19 outbreaks.

A spokeswoman for the long-term care minister says companies will be able to resume management when risks to residents and staff have been mitigated.

She says that decision rests with the ministry’s inspection branch, and the ministry can extend the orders — which were to last for 90 days — if inspectors believe it necessary.

12:45 p.m.: For all of the challenges in controlling the spread of the coronavirus, Europe’s initial strategy was relatively straightforward: nearly universal, strictly enforced lockdowns.

It eventually worked. And in the two months since most countries have opened up, improved testing and tracing have largely kept new outbreaks in check, and with basic rules on wearing masks and social distancing, life has been able to resume with some semblance of normality.

But in recent days France, Germany and Italy have experienced their highest daily case counts since the spring, and Spain finds itself in the midst of a major outbreak. Government authorities and public health officials are warning that the continent is entering a new phase in the pandemic.

There isn’t the widespread chaos and general sense of crisis seen in March and April. But there are growing concerns that with the summer travel season drawing to a close, the virus could find a new foothold as people move their lives indoors and the fall flu season begins.

The increase in cases in Europe, as in many other parts of the world, is being driven by young people: The proportion of people age 15 to 24 who are infected in Europe has risen from around 4.5 per cent to 15 per cent in the last five months, according to the World Health Organization.

This time, European leaders have largely avoided imposing widespread lockdowns, and are instead relying on measures like targeted restrictions on movement in hot spots, increased mask requirements and public health education campaigns.

12:30 p.m.: As many as 215,000 more people than usual died in the U.S. during the first seven months of 2020, suggesting that the number of lives lost to the coronavirus is significantly higher than the official toll. And half the dead were people of colour — Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and, to a marked degree unrecognized until now, Asian Americans.

The new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight a stark disparity: Deaths among minorities during the crisis have risen far more than they have among whites.

As of the end of July, the official death toll in the U.S. from COVID-19 was about 150,000. It has since grown to over 170,000.

But public health authorities have long known that some coronavirus deaths, especially early on, were mistakenly attributed to other causes, and that the crisis may have led indirectly to the loss of many other lives by preventing or discouraging people with other serious ailments from seeking treatment.

12:10 p.m.: Quebec reported 93 new COVID-19 cases Friday, for a total of 61,495.

Public health officials reported three more deaths attributed to COVID-19. They said one death occurred in the past 24 hours while two others occurred between Aug. 14-20.

The number of hospitalizations dropped by 10 to a total of 136 on Friday. Of those, 23 people are in intensive care, two fewer than a day earlier.

Authorities said they conducted 16,164 COVID-19 tests Wednesday, the last day for which testing data is available.

11:30 a.m.: Quebec’s health department says a 19-year-old has died from complications linked to COVID-19.

The case marks the first time someone under the age of 20 has died from COVID-19 in Quebec since the pandemic began.

Spokeswoman Marie-Claude Lacasse says the health department cannot release any information about the identity of the person who died, or details about the death.

The province says 3,279 people between the ages of 10 and 19 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus to date.

Among those cases, 31 people had to be hospitalized, including six who were in intensive care.

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Quebec has reported 61,402 COVID-19 cases and 5,730 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

11:03 a.m.: Tennessee had 2,100 confirmed coronavirus cases in children ages 5 to 18 during the past two weeks, according to state data.

So far, 131 of Tennessee’s roughly 140 public schools have restarted, with 129 districts operating or planning to run on a hybrid model. Most of those are opening in person with a virtual option, according to Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. Eighteen districts are operating fully remotely, and nine individual schools were closed due to at least one COVID-19 case, Schwinn says.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee says his administration is asking federal officials how specific Tennessee can get in disclosing cases of COVID-19 in schools. School districts currently have the choice of releasing information on cases on their own.

Tennessee has nearly 1,500 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.

10:40 a.m.: One day after a data glitch led to fewer than average new COVID-19 cases being reported, Ontario is reporting 131 additional cases Friday and three more coronavirus deaths.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said problems have been resolved with the Integrated Public Health Information System, which revealed just 76 new cases on Thursday.

That was because there was no data from 11 of Ontario’s 34 public health units: Algoma; Brant County; Chatham-Kent; Hamilton; Niagara Region, Peterborough; Simcoe Muskoka; Southwestern; Sudbury; Timiskaming; and Windsor-Essex.

Click here for the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie.

8:30 a.m.: TTC users will be able to get refunds for fares they purchased on their PRESTO cards during March and April that were unused due to the pandemic lockdown.

People will be able to redeem their credits on Friday, which will come from unused monthly fares betwee March 18 and the end of April. To do so they can continue to tap their card as usual while boarding, or scan their card at a fare vending machine.

“We know many residents who were required to stay home or were working from home were not able to use the TTC monthly passes they purchased for the months of March and April,” said Mayor John Tory in a news release shared by the transit agency. “By providing a credit, we are ensuring that some of our most loyal transit customers are fairly reimbursed.”

Due to the high number of people who are likely to seek refunds, the agency said it could take until November to process each rider’s request. The service cost the agency $13 million and was approved in June.

7:17 a.m.: South Korea added its most new virus cases in months on Friday, driven by a surge around the capital that appears to be spreading nationwide.

The 324 new infections was its highest single day total since early March and the eighth consecutive triple-digit daily increase.

Most of the new cases are in the densely populated Seoul region, where health workers are scrambling to track transmissions from sources including churches, restaurants, schools and workers.

But the new infections reported Friday were from practically all major cities, including Busan, Gwangju, Daejeon, Sejong and Daegu, the southeastern city that was the epicenter of a massive outbreak in late February and March.

6:40 a.m.: Lebanon on Friday began a two-week partial lockdown and nighttime curfew after coronavirus cases increased sharply following an explosion in Beirut that killed and injured thousands of people.

Confirmed cases of the virus have increased from 5,417 a day after the massive blast on Aug. 4 to nearly 11,000 on Friday, leading officials to announce the lockdown.

On Thursday, Lebanon’s Health Ministry tallied a record 605 confirmed new cases in the previous 24 hours, raising the total registered cases since late February to 10,952.

The pandemic has killed 113 people in the tiny country, which was successful in limiting the spread of the virus during the early months.

6:37 a.m.: Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state on Friday reported its lowest tally of new coronavirus cases in more than six weeks. Victoria’s Health Department reported 179 new infections and nine deaths in the latest 24-hour period, the lowest daily increase since July 8.

The state capital Melbourne has been under a strict lockdown for two weeks, and authorities have said daily infections will have to fall to single digits or low double digits before Melbourne’s lockdown is relaxed.

6:34 a.m.: A Chinese mining company in Papua New Guinea claimed to have immunized employees against COVID-19 in an apparent vaccination trial, a newspaper reported. The Australian newspaper reported Papua New Guinea’s health department is investigating the claim by Ramu NiCo Management.

Papua New Guinea has not approved any vaccine trials and says any vaccine imported into the country must be approved by PNG’s health authorities.

The newspaper reported that a document on Ramu letterhead said 48 Chinese employees were “vaccinated with SARS-COV-2 vaccine” on Aug. 10 and tests on them might return false-positive results. Papua New Guinea has recorded only 361 COVID-19 cases and four deaths but infections have surged in the past month.

6:32 a.m.: India’s coronavirus caseload crosses 2.9 million with a surge of 68,898 in the past 24 hours. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 983 more deaths, taking total fatalities to 54,849.

India has been recording at least 50,000 new infections per day since mid-July. Four of India’s 28 states now account for 63 per cent of fatalities and 54.6 per cent of cases. Western Maharashtra state and three southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the worst-hit.

The Health Ministry said more than 900,000 tests are being done and the rate of tests that are positive for the virus is averaging 8 per cent, but it will be lowered through isolation, tracking and clinical management.

6:30 a.m.: Stronger actions to enforce public health measures are expected to be announced today in British Columbia as the number of active cases of COVID-19 rises.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth is scheduled to give an update about compliance and enforcement measures under the province’s ongoing state of emergency to combat the illness.

Farnworth said on Tuesday he would bring in new measures to address the behaviour of people whose actions “demonstrate their indifference to the health and safety of others.”

At the same time, Premier John Horgan said people in B.C. have sacrificed to keep transmission of the illness low, and unsafe parties and gatherings are eroding that hard work.

He said the provincial government is committed to getting B.C. back on track and will announce enforcement action against people who continue to put others at risk.

B.C. reported 80 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases to 780, including 11 people in hospital.

6:30 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will join Ontario Premier Doug Ford today to announce a deal aimed at ensuring Canada is never again at the mercy of unreliable foreign suppliers of personal protective equipment during a pandemic.

Under the agreement, 3M is to increase capacity at its Brockville, Ont., facility so that it can produce up to 100 million medical-grade N95 masks a year.

The federal and Ontario governments are each kicking in $23.3 million to help increase production capacity at the plant.

A provincial government official confirmed the masks are to be used to meet private sector, provincial, and North American market demand throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Ford has repeatedly said that Ontario needs to ramp up production of personal protective equipment given the experience early in the COVID-19 crisis, when Canada was scrambling in a global competition for a limited supply of masks and other equipment.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 1 a.m. on Aug. 21, 2020:

There are 123,873 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 61,402 confirmed (including 5,730 deaths, 54,383 resolved)

_ Ontario: 41,048 confirmed (including 2,793 deaths, 37,291 resolved)

_ Alberta: 12,604 confirmed (including 228 deaths, 11,292 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 4,825 confirmed (including 200 deaths, 3,845 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,590 confirmed (including 22 deaths, 1,419 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,077 confirmed (including 64 deaths, 1,007 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 796 confirmed (including 12 deaths, 537 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 268 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 263 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 186 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 172 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 44 confirmed (including 40 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 123,873 (0 presumptive, 123,873 confirmed including 9,054 deaths, 110,282 resolved)

Click here for news from Thursday.

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Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 407 new COVID-19 cases; Ford limits indoor and outdoor gatherings across the province – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 10:44 a.m. Ontario is reporting 407 new cases of COVID-19 today, but no new deaths associated with the coronavirus.

  • 8 a.m. India has maintained its surge in coronavirus cases, adding 93,337 new confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file is no longer updating. Click here to read the latest. Web links to longer stories if available.

(Updated) 11:06 a.m. Premier Doug Ford has announced that social gatherings will be limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, everywhere across the province.

Those limits were previously imposed in just three hot-spot regions, Toronto, Peel and Ottawa.

“Over the past several days, we have seen an alarming growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in the province,” Ford said at a rare weekend news conference. “Clearly, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction. That’s why we are taking decisive action to lower the size of unmonitored private social gatherings in every region of Ontario.”

The expanded limits, effective immediately for the next four weeks, include all parties, dinners, barbecues, weddings and other functions head in homes, backyards, parks and other recreational areas. Indoor and outdoor gatherings cannot be merged together.

The new limits do not apply to gatherings in staffed businesses and other facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet hall, gyms, places of worship, sporting or performing arts events, the government says.

Ontario is reporting 407 new cases of COVID-19 today and one new death. The figures mark the second time in as many days that the province has recorded more than 400 cases in a 24-hour period.

(Updated) 10:44 a.m. Ontario is reporting 407 new cases of COVID-19 today, and one new death associated with the coronavirus.

The figures mark the second time in as many days that the province has recorded more than 400 cases in a 24-hour period.

Numbers have been surging over the past few weeks, particularly in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.

Premier Doug Ford rolled back social gathering limits in those areas earlier this week and has indicated he’s willing to do the same in other regions.

He’s set to make an announcement later this morning alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott and the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe.

Correction— Sept. 19, 2020: This entry has been updated from a previous version said there had been no new deaths related to the coronavirus.

10:04 a.m. Pope Francis is urging political leaders make sure coronavirus vaccines are available to the poorest nations.

He says in many parts of the world, there is a “pharmacological marginalization” of those without access to health care.

Francis met Saturday with members of an Italian aid group that collects donated medicines from pharmaceutical companies and distributes them to clinics and centres helping the neediest.

Francis says far too many people die in parts of the world for lack of drugs widely available elsewhere, and political leaders must take their plight into account.

“I repeat, it would be sad if in distributing the vaccine, priority was given to the wealthiest, or if a vaccine becomes the property of this or that nation and not for everyone,” the pope said.

Francis has previously called for universal access to the vaccine.

9:30 a .m. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to make a rare weekend announcement this morning related to COVID-19.

No details have been made immediately available, but Health Minister Christine Elliott and the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, will also be on-hand.

Ford suspended weekend pandemic briefings over the summer as case numbers across the province declined.

But they’ve spiked again in recent weeks, with Ontario reporting 401 new COVID-19 cases on Friday.

Most of the new cases are concentrated in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa, prompting Ford to roll back social gathering limits in those areas earlier this week.

The premier has said he plans to tighten restrictions in other areas as well, often at the request of local officials.

9 a.m. Ontarians are flooding to COVID-19 testing centres as the province sees a sharp spike in positive cases, a trend one Toronto psychologist calls reminuscent of the “toilet paper days” during the pandemic’s onset.

Outside Lakeridge Health Centre in Oshawa this week, Stephanie Hammond said she decided to get tested after developing a fever and cold-like symptoms. Her kids, Grades 6 and 4 students, were planning a return to in-class schooling but were staying home for the time being.

“I hope it’s nothing about the coronavirus,” said Hammond, 46. “These days, even a small glitch in your body terrifies the hell out of you.”

The tests completed has skyrocketed over the last two weeks. A record 35,826 tests were completed across the province on Thursday, with some assessment centres reporting waits as long as four hours. Meanwhile, Ontario saw more than 300 new cases almost every day this week — topping out at 400 new cases on Friday, according to the Star’s tally of reports from public health units.

Read the full story from the Star’s Gilbert Ngabo: Testing is the new toilet paper. How rising COVID-19 cases are stoking a second round of pandemic anxiety

8 a.m. Nursing home doctors contracted to care for residents in Scarborough’s Extendicare Guildwood did not enter the home during the devastating COVID-19 outbreak that killed 48 residents, even though managers “repeatedly” asked for their help.

At Camilla Care Community in Mississauga, where 68 residents infected with COVID died, physicians under contract with the home offered phone calls but “were not coming on site to support residents and staff.” It was a similar story in Scarborough’s Altamont Care Community, where 53 people died.

And at Woodbridge Vista Care Community, in Vaughan, where the virus killed 31 residents, the two doctors who remained on-site suffered from “overwork and burnout.”

There are many reasons why some doctors stayed away, including personal health issues, recommendations for “virtual visits” from professional organizations or the decision to work safely in one location. But their absence, at least in the most troubled homes, did not go unnoticed.

Read the full story from the Star’s Moira Welsh: Nursing home doctors were repeatedly asked to visit residents during the COVID-19 outbreak. They didn’t come. As virus resurges, Ontario considers new rules

8 a.m. India has maintained its surge in coronavirus cases, adding 93,337 new confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.

The Health Ministry on Saturday raised the nation’s caseload to more than 5.3 million out of the nearly 1.4 billion people. It said 1,247 more people died in the past 24 hours for a total of 85,619. The country has over a million active cases with about 80% recovery rate.

India has been reporting the highest single-day rise in the world every day for more than five weeks. It’s expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced scathing criticism from opposition lawmakers in India’s Parliament for its handling of the pandemic amid a contracting economy leaving millions jobless.

More than 10 million migrant workers, out of money and fearing starvation, poured out of cities and headed back to villages when Modi ordered the nationwide lockdown on March 24. The migration was one key reason that the virus spread to the far reaches of the country while the lockdown caused severe economic pain. The economy contracted nearly 24% in the second quarter, the worst among the world’s top economies.

7 a.m. Members of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine task force are casting worried eyes at the Trump administration’s political push to get a vaccine approved before the U.S. presidential election in November.

Dr. Joanne Langley, the task force co-chair, and member Alan Bernstein say they are concerned about “vaccine hesitancy” in Canada, the phenomenon where people have doubts about taking a readily available vaccine because of concerns about its safety.

Langley says that when a vaccine against COVID-19 is eventually found, governments and health-care professionals will have to mount a vigorous information campaign to counter opposition.

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And it won’t help that President Donald Trump has said a pandemic-ending vaccine could be rolled out as soon as October, stoking concern that he is rushing the timeline to further his re-election chances on Nov. 3.

6 a.m. Halfway through their 14-day quarantine period, Diala Charab and Yehya Al-Ayoubi are excited to start working as health-care aides after arriving Sunday from Lebanon.

Despite COVID-19 travel restrictions that prevent most people from coming to Canada, the two nurses were exempted, resettled under a pilot project to bring skilled refugees to the country.

“Diala got her visa during the (COVID-19) lockdown … I got the visa after the Beirut explosion.” Al-Ayoubi said.

“Things were hectic, but we just wanted to come here and be beneficial, productive people in this society.”

Charab, 25, and Al-Ayoubi, 29, will join the staff of VHA Home HealthCare in Toronto as personal support workers.

Ernesto Sequera, VHA’s human-resources manager, said in a statement that the company is happy to bring health care workers to Canada to address the urgent need for more trained home-care professionals during the pandemic.

4:01 a.m. Health care workers in Canada made up about 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections as of late July, a figure that was higher than the global average.

In a report released earlier this month, the Canadian Institute for Health Information said 19.4 per cent of those who tested positive for the virus as of July 23 were health-care workers. Twelve health care workers, nine from Ontario and three from Quebec, died from COVID-19, it said.

The World Health Organization said in July that health-care workers made up 10 per cent of global COVID-19 infections.

A national federation of nurses’ unions blames the infection rate on a slow response to the pandemic, a shortage of labour and a lack of personal protective equipment.

4:01 a.m. A union representing Ontario’s hospital workers says it has concerns about the safety of the province’s plan to expand COVID-19 testing to pharmacies, as Premier Doug Ford pushed Friday to start the program later next week.

Ontario is expected in the coming days to unveil a plan to grant community pharmacies the ability to test for COVID-19 as it grapples with hours-long waits at some of the province’s 148 assessment centres.

Ford said last week he has been in discussions with groups that represents pharmacists and the major retailers that own Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall.

But the president of the Council of Hospital Unions, a branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the plan could bring people with the virus in contact with vulnerable seniors or other medically compromised people.

“Sending the public to a pharmacy and mingling with people who fear that they have COVID-19, and may be symptomatic … seems to me to be unwise and potentially not very safe,” Michael Hurley said.

12:34 a.m. Public health authorities in Italy are warning that the average age of coronavirus patients is creeping up as young people infect their more fragile parents and grandparents, risking new strain on the hospital system.

The Superior Institute of Health issued its weekly monitoring report Friday as the country where COVID-19 hit first in the West recorded the highest number of new infections — 1,907 — since May 1. Another 10 people died over the past day, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 35,668.

While Italy hasn’t seen the thousands of daily new infections other European countries have seen recently, its caseload has crept up steadily over the past seven weeks. Initially, most new infections were in young people who returned from vacation hotspots. The health institute said Friday that they are now infecting their older and more fragile loved ones in home settings, with the average age of positive cases last week at 41 versus the low 30s in August.

The institute warned that while the health system isn’t overwhelmed, it risks further strain if Italians don’t rigorously adhere to mask mandates and social distancing norms.

12:34 a.m. The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says new global cases of the coronavirus appear to have plateaued at about 2 million and 50,000 deaths every week.

Dr. Michael Ryan says while the global COVID-19 caseload was not rising exponentially, the weekly number of deaths was still very unsettling.

“It’s not where developing countries want to be with their health systems under nine months of pressure,” Ryan said.

He says there have been recent surges in Europe, Ecuador and Argentina. He adds a lack of large increases in African countries and other nations might reflect a lack of testing.

10:49 p.m. Friday Sept. 18: Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has tested positive for COVID-19.

His positive result Friday evening came hours after Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet issued a statement that he too had tested positive.

Both men will now be unable to attend next week’s throne speech, with Blanchet required to isolate until at least Sept. 26 and O’Toole until at least Oct.1.

Late Friday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he will get tested for COVID-19 because he met with O’Toole earlier this week.

10 p.m. Friday Sept. 18: Four patrons of Noir, inside Rebel Nightclub, on 11 Polson St., have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Toronto Public Health.

The four confirmed cases visited the club on Sept. 11, from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

“Anyone who was at the night club during this time may have been exposed to COVID-19,” said Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health with TPH, in an email to the Star.

She asked anyone who visited the club during the above times to monitor themselves for symptoms until Sept. 25.

Read the full story: Toronto waterfront nightclub linked with four COVID-19 cases remains open

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Public Health Agency of Canada president resigns as COVID-19 cases spike – CBC.ca

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The president of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is stepping down only 18 months into the job, leaving the federal agency tasked with coordinating the country’s COVID-19 response without a seasoned leader.

Tina Namiesniowski said she would be stepping aside immediately to make way for a new president.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government expects to have a replacement for Namiesniowski “in the coming days.”

In a letter to staff, Namiesniowski, a long-serving bureaucrat, said she needs to “take a break” and “step aside so someone else can step up” to lead the agency as caseloads spike and testing times creep up in some parts of the country.

“You really need someone who will have the energy and the stamina to take the agency and our response to the next level,” she said in internal correspondence announcing her departure, which was later released by PHAC.

“While responding to this crisis, we’ve done many things since then to add capacity, improve processes, take on new roles and really build up the competence that had diminished in recent years. All of this work has taken a personal toll on so many people … I put myself in that category.”

In a statement, Hajdu said Namiesniowski has shown an “unwavering commitment” and has given “incredible service” to Canada during her tenure as the head of PHAC.

“She has led a committed team of public servants who have been working flat out for months. I have seen first hand the countless hours that Tina has spent away from her family to protect Canadians,” she said.

“We are all grateful. Thank you for working so hard to keep all of us safe, and all the best in your next steps.”

Before her appointment to the top job at PHAC in May 2019, Namiesniowski held a number of senior postings within government. She served as the executive vice-president of the Canada Border Services Agency and was an assistant deputy minister at Agriculture Canada and Public Safety Canada.

The agency’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has been the public face of PHAC’s efforts throughout this pandemic. Namiesniowski called her work “exceptional.”

“She is a rock and truly inspirational. I’ve felt privileged to work alongside of her,” she said.

PHAC has come in for criticism in recent months as Canada’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has been questioned by some critics. The pandemic has killed roughly 9,200 people in this country.

The federal government’s initial reluctance to close the border as the virus spread in Asia, its depleted national emergency stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the early months of this pandemic, confusing guidance on the wearing of masks and other perceived failures have been cited by opposition parties in Parliament and others as examples of Canada’s uneven response to COVID-19.

“We have all been working non-stop in a high pressure environment subjected to significant scrutiny and without a doubt, we’ve risen to the challenge,” Namiesniowski said.

On Namiesniowski’s watch, some scientists working for the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) complained that their early warnings about the threat of COVID-19 were ignored or inadequately addressed by senior staff at PHAC.

The network, a federal government-run monitoring and analysis unit, alerts senior officials to health risks around the globe by compiling media reports and other intelligence about outbreaks.

CBC News reported in April on concerns about the network’s alerts not being as widely disseminated as they had been during past health crises.

The Globe and Mail has also reported on internal concerns about the efficacy of the reporting system after changes made in 2018 and 2019 shifted the network’s focus away from monitoring global health trends to a more domestic role.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu has ordered a review of the network amid the complaints.

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COVID-19 in Canada: What a second shutdown might look like – CTV News

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This article was featured in the Nightly Briefing, CTV News’ evening reading recommendation. You can sign up here to receive it each weekday night.

As countries around the world start re-imposing coronavirus restrictions amid spikes in new cases, Canadian politicians and health officials are warning that parts of the country may soon enter a second shutdown.

However, infectious disease physician Dr. Zain Chagla says the second lockdown will not look like the first.

“We’re very different than we were in March, we had no clue how deep this was going to spread into our communities, there was hospital issues in terms of health care utilization, and we really had limited testing and didn’t really understand where this disease was transmitted within our community,” Chagla explained in an interview with CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.

“So we had to really do something very global to get things to work.”

Now, Chagla said provincial health authorities have a better grasp on what measures work in mitigating the risk of COVID-19.

While Canada’s case numbers are rising, Chagla said the country has access to reasonable testing, healthcare systems aren’t currently overloaded and both the public and officials understand that private, indoor gatherings are largely contributing to the spread of the virus.

He added that having these factors under control gives Canada the opportunity to thoughtfully prepare for a second wave and another possible shutdown.

“We have the luxury of sitting here and actually making some very precise changes to see if we can keep transmission down afterwards, rather than putting everyone through what we did in March and April,” Chagla said.

To avoid a repeat scenario, he explained that policymakers need to keep COVID-19 messaging positive and consistent, plan creative long-term solutions for outdoor facilities, and closely monitor allowable gathering sizes.

“We’re going to have ebbs and flows but these sorts of solutions, what we’re going to be doing for the months and going into the winter and even further than that, are going to have to be sustainable and so that’s where the positive messaging comes from,” Chagla said.

Chagla added that there is a misconception about who is transmitting the virus. He says “there’s a big thought” that recent spikes are all young people that are partying together but in reality, “it’s still families that are having get-togethers” such as weddings and other celebrations where the virus is spreading.

“All of us kind of need to be messaged positively to say ‘OK, [COVID-19] is still here. We can protect our communities. We can do things safely’,” he said.

To help with this, Chagla said outdoor facilities and restaurants need to be better equipped to allow Canadians to safely socialize especially as the country heads into the winter months.

“Making more outdoor facilities gives us the recognition that we need to socialize. We need to actually be around people and there is a way to do it safely with a few more layers, but sparing what’s going to happen to the medical system,” Chagla said.

Additionally, Chagla said policymakers should not impede Canadians’ ability to get tested, but also not encourage over-testing.

As long lines are being reported at COVID-19 testing centres across the country, the federal government has pledged billions in funding to address the issue and improve other pandemic measures.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CTV News Channel that the testing wait times stem from a combination of factors, including limited testing capacity and an increased desire from the population to receive a test.

Bogoch said in an interview on Thursday that these factors need to be addressed amid the current rise in cases.

“The capacity currently is significantly better than what it was in for example March or April of this year, but clearly it’s not where it needs to be,” he said.

New testing centres have recently opened in Edmonton and Laval, Que. while another is slated to open soon in Brampton, Ont. However, Bogoch said this still might not be enough.

To address the capacity issue, Bogoch said provinces may have to change their messaging around testing.

“Given the snapshot that we’re in right now, maybe it’s best for messaging to focus on people to get tested if they’re either at risk for getting this infection, if they have any signs or symptoms of infection regardless of how mild, or if they’ve had any possible exposures to this infection,” Bogoch explained.

“Certainly those individuals should be prioritized, but in the same breath of course, you shouldn’t be turned away from a testing centre,” he added.

Amid the testing issues, Chagla says monitoring gathering sizes remains key in managing Canada’s recent COVID-19 spikes.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce that the province will lower limits on social gatherings in its hotspots to stem recent increases in COVID-19 cases. Ford said that the “highest fines in the country” will be put in place to stop people from breaking the regulations but Chagla says the move does not go far enough.

“I think that’s a good symbolic gesture, but there does need to be some enforcement unfortunately for some of these people that take things out of control and lead to a significant public health event,” Chagla said.

Bogoch told CTV News Channel that rolling back gathering limits in Ontario’s hotspots is the “right move.”

“We clearly can’t continue on at the status quo, and there clearly needs to be measures to limit transmission, especially in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa. That’s a smart move,” Bogoch said in an interview on Thursday.

He added that the province will see some benefit from the rollback, if the implementation of the new gathering limits are clearly communicated and enforced.

While Ontario rolls back its gathering limit, Bogoch said other provinces experiencing outbreaks should follow suit.

“We’re seeing widespread community transmission in four provinces. Clearly, we need to clamp back down to get this virus under control,” he said.

“What does clamp down mean? It’s not entirely clear. Different provinces are taking different steps, but it’s obvious that we need to take action now to prevent these cases from rising.”

Last week in Quebec, the government said police can hand out tickets, ranging between $400 and $6,000, to those who don’t have a face covering in indoor public spaces or on public transit.

The province also announced several measures in addition to the fines, including the banning of karaoke and obliging bars to keep registers of clients as infection numbers rise.

In response to its increase in cases, B.C. ordered the immediate closure of nightclubs and banquet halls and reduced restaurant hours last week after daily COVID-19 case numbers were consistently above 100.

“I think we need to all start rethinking about what we need to do to get us through the next few months as a community together, and these are some of the things that we’ll need to put aside for now,” B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explained at a news conference.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam reminded Canadians at a press conference on Tuesday to take precautionary measures if they must socialize, including having hand sanitizer readily available, wearing masks or other face coverings, and cleaning common areas before and after the event.

“The key message is that the time to act is now across the board in terms of reducing some of the contacts you’ve had over the summer months,” Tam said.

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