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Today's coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 1468 more cases, 11 deaths; Ontario family doctors in some regions will start giving vaccinations today – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 10:10 a.m.: Ontario reporting 1,468 more cases, 11 deaths

  • 4:04 a.m.: Some Ontario family doctors to start giving vaccinations today

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

11:10 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 789 new cases of COVID-19 today and 11 additional deaths.

The province’s Health Department says the number of hospitalizations rose by one to 551, while the number of people in intensive care was stable at 106.

Health authorities say 31,527 doses of vaccine were administered on Friday — marking a new single-day high — for a total of 681,487.

Quebec has reported 296,918 cases of COVID-19 and 10,535 deaths associated with the disease since the onset of the pandemic.

10:35 a.m.: Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting no new cases of COVID-19 today.

There are now 33 active cases in the province and one patient is hospitalized.

There have been 1,465 cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick since the onset of the pandemic, as well as 30 virus-related deaths.

10:35 a.m.: Ontario is reporting no new deaths in long-term care so the number of LTC residents who have died since the pandemic began stays at 3,750.

The province also says four more long-term-care homes are in outbreak for a total of 84 or 13.4 per cent of all LTC homes.

10:15 a.m.: Locally, there are 381 new cases in Toronto, 226 in Peel and 168 in York Region.

10:15 a.m.: Ontario has topped the 50,000 mark for daily vaccine doses administered for the first time.

The province is reporting that 53,586 more vaccine doses were administered since its last daily update, and a total of 1,116,496 have been given out as of 8 p.m. Friday.

Ontario says 284,686 people are fully vaccinated, which means they’ve had both shots.

The Star’s Breanna Xavier-Carter has more details.

10:10 a.m. (correction, fixes total number of cases): Ontario is reporting 1,468 more COVID-19 cases, with 11 deaths.

The seven-day average is up to 1,337 cases daily or 64 weekly per 100,000, and up to 12.3 deaths per day.

Labs report 58,431 completed tests, and a 2.9 per cent positivity rate.

The Star’s Breanna Xavier-Carter has more details.

9:05 a.m.: Pamela Puchalski still remembers how frightening it felt when the coronavirus upended life in her New York City neighbourhood last March.

With terrifying swiftness came the first infections, the first restrictions and the first deaths. There were no answers to be found, only dire warnings: Stay away from work, from school, from restaurants and bars, from shops and theatres — and especially from each other.

“It was that feeling … like you can’t trust your neighbour,” Puchalski said.

A year later, the nation’s largest metropolis — with a lifeblood based on round-the-clock hustle and bustle, push and pull — is adapting and showing new life. The renewal is evident in the stream of customers waiting across the Plexiglas-covered counter at Artuso pastry shop in the Bronx; in laughter wafting from outdoor dining sheds built on the streets in front of restaurants; in the parks filled with picnics, birthday gatherings and dance parties, despite the winter chill.

“What is the alternative? Just close the doors and stay home?” asked Gloribelle Perez, who opened a restaurant with her husband in East Harlem only months before the pandemic hit.

For weeks after the virus descended on New York, the strictest warnings held sway. Businesses shuttered. Thousands of people fled. The only sounds in the streets were wailing ambulance sirens. Many saw it as a death knell for the city, a tearing of fabric that might not be repaired.

8:56 a.m.: The U.S. effort in World War II was off the charts. Battles spread over three continents and four years, 16 million served in uniform and the government shoved levers of the economy full force into defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.

All of that was cheaper for American taxpayers than this pandemic.

The $1,400 federal payments going into millions of people’s bank accounts are but one slice of a nearly $2 trillion relief package made law this past week. With that, the United States has spent or committed to spend nearly $6 trillion to crush the coronavirus, recover economically and take a bite out of child poverty.

Set in motion over one year, that’s warp-speed spending in a capital known for gridlock, ugly argument and now an episode of violent insurrection.

For a year now, Americans have grappled with numbers beyond ordinary comprehension: some 30 million infected, more than half a million dead, millions of jobs lost, vast sums of money sloshing through government pipelines to try to set things right.

How high can you count? At one turn after another, that may be the rhetorical question of these COVID-19 times.

8:55 a.m.: When Ann Camden learned last month that her 17-year-old daughter got exposed to the coronavirus at school and was being sent home, she packed her belongings, jumped in the car and made the two-hour drive to the coast to stay with her recently vaccinated parents.

The 50-year-old mother had been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and could not afford to become infected. She also was not yet eligible under North Carolina’s rules to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. So she left her twin daughters with her husband and fled for safety.

Across the United States, millions of medically vulnerable people who initially were cited as a top vaccination priority group got slowly bumped down the list as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modified its guidelines to favour the elderly, regardless of their physical condition, and workers in a wide range of job sectors.

North Carolina is one of 24 states that currently places people under 65 with “underlying medical conditions” near the bottom of the pack to receive the vaccine, according to Jen Kates, senior vice-president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. A report she wrote for the foundation last month listed Pennsylvania as the lone state making vaccines available to the medically vulnerable during its first phase of distribution.

When North Carolina unveiled its initial guidance in October, it placed people with multiple chronic conditions near the top of the list. In response to December recommendations from the CDC to prioritize people 75 and older, however, it dropped those with chronic conditions to Phase 2. When the guidance changed again to expand eligibility to those 65 and up, medically vulnerable residents learned in January they would be dropped to Phase 4 — to be vaccinated after “frontline essential workers” but before “everyone.”

7:09 a.m.: Jordan’s health minister stepped down Saturday after at least six patients in a hospital COVID-19 patient ward died due to a shortage of oxygen supplies, state media reported.

Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh ordered an investigation into the deaths early Saturday morning at a government hospital in the town of Salt, 20 kilometres north of the capital Amman.

He asked Health Minister Nathir Obeidat to resign, according to the reports. The Al-Rai newspaper, a government mouthpiece, confirmed that Obeidat had resigned.

Jordan, home to 10 million people, is grappling with surging coronavirus infections and deaths and struggling to secure vaccines.

About 150 relatives of the patients gathered outside the hospital, which was surrounded by a large deployment of police and security officers, who prevented the families from entering.

7:04 a.m.: President Joe Biden has directed his administration to order another 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, growing a likely U.S. surplus of doses later this year while much of the rest of the world struggles with deep shortages.

Even before Wednesday’s order, the U.S. was to have enough approved vaccine delivered by mid-May to cover every adult and enough for 400 million people total by the end of July. Enough doses to cover 200 million more people are on order should vaccines from AstraZeneca and Novavax receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The new J&J doses, which would cover another 100 million people, are expected to be delivered in the latter half of the year.

White House aides said Biden’s first priority is ensuring that Americans are vaccinated before considering distributing doses elsewhere.

“We want to be oversupplied and overprepared,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday, saying Biden wanted contingencies in the event of any unforeseen issues with the existing production timeline.

Biden’s announcement comes as the White House has rebuffed requests from U.S. allies, including Mexico, Canada and the European Union, for vaccine doses produced in the United States, where months of production runs have produced vaccine solely for use in the country.

7:01 a.m.: Last spring was a season like no other for residents across Toronto. It was chaotic and grim. Four days in, on March 23, Mayor John Tory declared a state of emergency.

From there, grocery store shelves were stripped bare, playgrounds blocked off with caution tape, dog parks and tennis courts chained and locked, patios closed.

High Park was closed during peak cherry blossom season, barring residents from walking through the famous garden. In May, physical distancing circles were painted at Trinity Bellwoods Park following the public shaming thousands who’d gathered.

The pandemic has also laid bare existing inequities, inequities many would like to fix permanently. Since last spring, racialized and lower-income groups have been hit harder by COVID-19 – further revealing Toronto’s injustices of poverty and racism.

“We’ve learned a lot about this pandemic since it began last spring,” Coun. Joe Cressy told the Star. “A pandemic presents a severe challenge, but it also presents an opportunity for us to rethink our cities and how they can function better.”

Now, Toronto is only eight days away from entering another spring with COVID-19 in its midst. Will it be any different?

Click here to read more of this story by the Star’s Irelyne Lavery.

7 a.m.: China is aiming to vaccinate 70-80 per cent of its population by mid-2022, the head of the country’s Center for Disease Control said Saturday.

With four approved vaccines, China will vaccinate 900 million to 1 billion people, Gao Fu, the CDC head, said in an interview with Chinese state media broadcaster CGTN. “We hope that China can take the lead in achieving herd immunity in the world,” he said.

Herd immunity occurs when enough of the population has immunity, either from vaccination or past infection, to stop the uncontrolled spread of an infectious disease like COVID-19.

China had administered 52.5 million vaccine doses through the end of February. It has been slower in its vaccination campaign than many other countries, including the U.S., government health experts have acknowledged. China has committed roughly 10 times more doses abroad than it has distributed at home.

Although emergency vaccinations have been underway in China since at least last summer, the country has been slow to announce whether it had any plans to achieve herd immunity.

China currently has 17 COVID-19 vaccine candidates for clinical trials.

It has approved four domestically made vaccines: two from state-owned Sinopharm, one from Sinovac, and another from CanSino. None of the four vaccines have publicly released their final stage trial data.

China announced on Friday that it would waive a COVID-19 test and health form requirement for foreigners applying for visas to the mainland from Hong Kong if they have been vaccinated with a Chinese-made vaccine.

4:04 a.m.: Some family doctors in Ontario will start administering COVID-19 vaccinations in six regions today.

The province announced this week that some family doctors in Toronto, Peel Region, Hamilton, Guelph, Peterborough, and Simcoe-Muskoka will be administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot.

The Ontario Medical Association says physicians in those regions are asking for patience as they begin administering doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca to people aged 60 to 64 years old on Saturday.

They are asking people not to call their doctors’ office, saying that physicians will contact eligible patients.

The doctors are getting a limited number of doses — some 29,500 shots — but that could increase as more vaccine shipments arrive.

Another pilot project offering Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to residents aged 60 to 64 in pharmacies in three public health units — Toronto, Windsor and Kingston — launched fully on Friday.

4:03 a.m.: The novel coronavirus might have reached Canada weeks before the first official case was diagnosed in late January of 2020, says an expert who tracks pandemics.

Prof. Sarah Otto of the University of British Columbia said it is possible there were infections of COVID-19 a month or two before the first official case.

A traveller could have returned to Canada and was just getting over the illness or was sick and didn’t go out while they were infectious, she said.

Reconstructing early travel patterns of those carrying COVID-19 around the world might lead to better policies before pandemics take hold, said Otto, who is an expert on the mathematical models of pandemic growth and control in the university’s zoology department.

“I don’t think that we had any cases that then sparked community spread,” she said.

Researchers have developed a phylogenetic or family tree of the COVID-19 strains from around the world to determine when the virus was in the community, she said. They analyzed over 700,000 sequences of its genome from positive cases since it was first found in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

4:02 a.m.: The top doctor at British Columbia’s First Nations Health Authority says she is “hopeful” all Indigenous adults in the province, including those who don’t live on reserves, will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the second phase of the immunization program.

B.C. has so far only committed to vaccinating residents of First Nations communities and other Indigenous adults over 65 in Phase 2, despite the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommending that all Indigenous adults be vaccinated during that stage.

However, Dr. Shannon McDonald, the acting chief medical officer of the First Nations Health Authority, said “active planning” is underway to expand the eligibility to more Indigenous adults who live away from their home communities in the coming weeks.

4:01 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

There are 903,233 confirmed cases in Canada.

Canada: 903,233 confirmed cases (30,781 active, 850,048 resolved, 22,404 deaths).The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 3,476 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 80.99 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 21,479 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 3,068.

There were 34 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 213 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 30. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.95 per 100,000 people.

There have been 25,663,891 tests completed.

Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,012 confirmed cases (61 active, 945 resolved, six deaths).

There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 11.68 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been nine new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people.

There have been 209,311 tests completed.

Prince Edward Island: 143 confirmed cases (16 active, 127 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 10.02 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of four new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 115,128 tests completed.

Nova Scotia: 1,666 confirmed cases (17 active, 1,584 resolved, 65 deaths).

There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 1.74 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 15 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

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There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people.

There have been 380,980 tests completed.

New Brunswick: 1,465 confirmed cases (34 active, 1,401 resolved, 30 deaths).

There were three new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 4.35 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 18 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.

There was one new reported death Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.84 per 100,000 people.

There have been 247,402 tests completed.

Quebec: 296,143 confirmed cases (7,128 active, 278,489 resolved, 10,526 deaths).

There were 753 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 83.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,968 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 710.

There were nine new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 71 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 10. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 122.76 per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,574,053 tests completed.

Ontario: 314,891 confirmed cases (11,512 active, 296,252 resolved, 7,127 deaths).

There were 1,371 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 78.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 8,884 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,269.

There were 18 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 81 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 48.37 per 100,000 people.

There have been 11,437,995 tests completed.

Manitoba: 32,607 confirmed cases (872 active, 30,823 resolved, 912 deaths).

There were 98 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 63.22 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 508 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 73.

There was one new reported death Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of nine new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 66.12 per 100,000 people.

There have been 551,461 tests completed.

Saskatchewan: 30,369 confirmed cases (1,437 active, 28,528 resolved, 404 deaths).

There were 176 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 121.92 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 939 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 134.

There were three new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 34.28 per 100,000 people.

There have been 602,077 tests completed.

Alberta: 137,562 confirmed cases (4,546 active, 131,081 resolved, 1,935 deaths).

There were 425 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 102.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,366 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 338.

There were two new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 22 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.07 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.76 per 100,000 people.

There have been 3,493,039 tests completed.

British Columbia: 86,867 confirmed cases (5,145 active, 80,325 resolved, 1,397 deaths).

There were 648 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 99.95 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,760 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 537.

There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 17 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.05 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 27.14 per 100,000 people.

There have been 2,019,894 tests completed.

Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one death).

There were zero new cases Friday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people.

There have been 8,303 tests completed.

Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 15,177 tests completed.

Nunavut: 381 confirmed cases (12 active, 368 resolved, one death).

There were zero new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 30.49 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of eight new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people.

There have been 8,995 tests completed.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 95,261 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,814,488 doses given. Nationwide, 590,192 people or 1.6 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 7,426.231 per 100,000.

There were no new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 3,227,410 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 87.21 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis.

Newfoundland is reporting 8,864 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,621 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 64.207 per 1,000. In the province, 1.75 per cent (9,170) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 48,470 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.36 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

P.E.I. is reporting 1,945 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 15,226 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 95.985 per 1,000. In the province, 3.52 per cent (5,584) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 15,885 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 10 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 95.85 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nova Scotia is reporting 8,215 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 46,891 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 48.049 per 1,000. In the province, 1.60 per cent (15,655) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 73,680 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 63.64 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

New Brunswick is reporting 4,742 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 38,483 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 49.335 per 1,000. In the province, 1.56 per cent (12,152) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 56,135 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 68.55 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Quebec is reporting 29,603 new vaccinations administered for a total of 648,663 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 75.808 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 825,065 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.62 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Ontario is reporting 43,503 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,062,910 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 72.361 per 1,000. In the province, 1.92 per cent (282,748) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 1,086,745 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 97.81 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Manitoba is reporting 1,699 new vaccinations administered for a total of 99,482 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 72.245 per 1,000. In the province, 2.28 per cent (31,464) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 159,220 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 12 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.48 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Saskatchewan is reporting 2,692 new vaccinations administered for a total of 98,571 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.595 per 1,000. In the province, 2.44 per cent (28,771) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 93,145 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 105.8 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Alberta is reporting 15,805 new vaccinations administered for a total of 333,379 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 75.733 per 1,000. In the province, 2.08 per cent (91,470) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 326,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 102.1 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

British Columbia is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 366,791 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 71.477 per 1,000. In the province, 1.70 per cent (87,024) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 445,920 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 8.7 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 26,374 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 632.00 per 1,000. In the territory, 22.17 per cent (9,253) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 35,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 84 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 75.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 28,208 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 625.191 per 1,000. In the territory, 24.71 per cent (11,151) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 35,300 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 78 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 79.91 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nunavut is reporting 217 new vaccinations administered for a total of 15,889 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 410.293 per 1,000. In the territory, 14.85 per cent (5,750) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 26,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 68 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 60.19 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Click here to read more of Friday’s COVID-19 coverage.

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Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs

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By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.

Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.

Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.

Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.

“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.

“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”

In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.

“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”

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In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is shifting its vaccination campaign to target frontline workers, moving away from a largely age-based rollout as the country tries to get a handle on the raging third wave of the pandemic.

Canada‘s approach thus far has left unvaccinated many so-called “essential workers,” like daycare providers, bus drivers and meatpackers, all of whom are among those at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provinces are now trying to adjust their strategy to tackle the surge driven by new variants.

Targeting frontline workers and addressing occupation risk is vital if Canada wants to get its third wave under control, says Simon Fraser University mathematician and epidemiologist Caroline Colijn, who has modelled Canadian immunization strategies and found “the sooner you put essential workers [in the vaccine rollout plan], the better.”

Initially, Canada prioritized long-term care residents and staff for the vaccines, as well as the very elderly, health workers, residents of remote communities and Indigenous people.

Targeting vaccinations by age made sense early on in a pandemic that ravaged Canada‘s long-term care homes, Colijn said. But now, immunizing those at highest risk of transmission brings the greatest benefit.

“If you protect these individuals you also protect someone in their 60s whose only risk is when they go to the store. … The variants are here now. So if we pivot now, but it takes us two months to do it, then we will lose that race.”

Data released on Tuesday from the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences showed that Toronto’s neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the lowest vaccination rates, underscoring the disparities in vaccination.

‘IT’S A JUGGERNAUT’

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to have mobile vaccine clinics target COVID-19 “hotspots” and high-risk worksites, although he stopped short of giving people paid time off to get the shot.

Karim Kurji, medical officer of health in York Region north of Toronto, characterizes the shift in vaccination priority from age to transmission risk as moving from defence to offence.

“It’s a juggernaut in terms of the immunization machinery, and turning it around takes a lot of effort,” Kurji said.

Meanwhile, officials in the western province of Alberta say they are offering vaccines to more than 2,000 workers at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in High River, site of one of Canada‘s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. Provincial officials said in a statement they are looking to expand the pilot to other plants.

Quebec will start vaccinating essential workers such as those in education, childcare and public safety in Montreal, where neighbourhoods with the highest vaccination rates have been among those with the lowest recorded infection rates.

The people doing the highest-risk jobs, from an infectious disease perspective, are more likely to be poor, non-white and new Canadians, health experts say. They are less likely to have paid leave to get tested or vaccinated or stay home when sick and are more likely to live in crowded or multi-unit housing. They need to be prioritized for vaccination and their vaccination barriers addressed, experts say.

Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist, said making vaccines available to high-risk communities is not enough without addressing barriers to access.

“The face of COVID-19 and who was being impacted changed dramatically. The variants seemed to take hold in communities where essential workers live. … This [pivot] is a step in the right direction and will hopefully save lives.”

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)

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Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.

Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.

“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.

The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.

Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.

Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.

“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”

Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.

($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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