The slow rollout of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination program to people living and working in the province’s virus-ravaged nursing homes has left one facility where an unidentified variant has been detected vulnerable to a devastating outbreak.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit got the go-ahead to roll up its mobile immunization unit to Roberta Place last Saturday – days after an outbreak began ripping through the long-term care home in Barrie, north of Toronto, infecting nearly every resident.
Colin Lee, Simcoe Muskoka’s associate medical officer of health, said residents and staff should have received the vaccine well before the outbreak began.
Vaccine maker Moderna delivered 168,000 doses to Canada at the end of December. The Ontario government earmarked the Moderna vaccine for Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Windsor-Essex, the four areas with the highest COVID-19 transmission rates.
Dr. Lee told reporters on Thursday that the four regions received the Moderna doses that were destined for Simcoe Muskoka. “We were planning to go straight to the long-term care homes with it,” he said.
Health authorities say an unidentified variant of COVID-19 is behind the outbreak at Roberta Place, which began on Jan. 8 after one staff member tested positive during routine screening.
The staffer was in close contact with someone who travelled internationally, but not to the United Kingdom, Brazil or South Africa. Dr. Lee said the staffer’s swab is one of six that contains an unidentified variant. It’s a “very, very high probability,” he said, that the variant will turn out to be the strain from one of those three countries.
Forty-eight hours after the outbreak began, 55 residents and staff were sickened with the virus. As of Thursday, 122 of the home’s 130 residents had tested positive for COVD-19, including 25 who have died. Another 72 staff and two essential visitors were also sickened with the virus.
The health unit immunized 21 residents on Saturday with the Pfizer vaccine, but testing subsequently revealed that most of them were already infected with COVID-19, Dr. Lee said.
“Unfortunately, the ability to move the vaccine came a little bit late,” he said.
The health unit has a small amount of the Pfizer vaccine, which it must juggle between administering a second dose to long-term care residents and staff who’ve received their first shot and to those in retirement homes, who have yet to be vaccinated, Dr. Lee said.
“There are some difficult choices we have to make,” he said.
Fourteen cases of a COVID-19 variant have been found in Ontario as of Jan. 16, according to the province’s weekly epidemiologic summary. Roberta Place is the first known case of a highly contagious variant finding its way into a long-term care home in Canada – a sector that has been hard hit by the coronavirus.
Ontario has deemed residents of long-term care homes the province’s most vulnerable citizens. To date, 3,256 nursing home residents have died of COVID-19.
These residents were supposed to be at the front of the line for the vaccine. An expert committee that advises the Public Health Agency of Canada on immunization recommended that the first shots go into the arms of residents and staff in long-term care homes.
But in Ontario, that is not what has happened. The first dose of a vaccine has made its way to only 40 per cent of the province’s 626 long-term care homes, according to Alexandra Hilkene, press secretary for Health Minister Christine Elliott.
In addition to the Moderna vaccine, Canada has also approved one made by Pfizer. Ontario opted to distribute its first doses of the Pfizer shot only through hospitals with access to freezers capable of keeping vials at -70 C, as the vaccine maker suggested.
“I can only wish I could turn the clock back,” Dr. Lee said. “If we had vaccines a month before we went in on Saturday, I think this outbreak would be a lot less severe.”
With a report from Laura Stone in Toronto
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B.C. unveils details of mass vaccination plan, approves four-month window between doses – CHEK
The B.C. government is optimistic that with a longer window between doses and a more storage-friendly vaccine approved for use, everyone in the province 18 years or older will be able to receive a COVID-19 immunization by the end of September or even sooner.
The province provided more concrete details of its sweeping COVID-19 immunization program Monday, giving a glimpse of a potential end to a pandemic entering its second year.
“We can now see the light at the end of what has been a difficult and challenging time for us all. To get us through, we need to continue to work together and support each other,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said in a news release.
On Monday, Premier John Horgan revealed that through the end of April, under Phase 2 of the plan, there are more than 415,000 people set to receive their vaccinations including:
- Seniors over 80
- Indigenous people over 65
- Any remaining medical staff and specialists not immunized
- Vulnerable people in close quarters
- Those who work in senior community home support and nursing
Those mass vaccinations will begin in the latter half of March, with a call-in system being launched March 8 for those targeted in Phase 2. On the following dates, seniors and Indigenous people can call in to book their appointments:
- March 8, 2021: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years+)/Indigenous peoples born in or
before 1956 (65 years+)
- March 15, 2021: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years+)
- March 22, 2021: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years+)
Vaccines for that group will begin taking place on March 15. The government is asking people to visit its senior vaccination website for more information on health authority contacts, call-in schedules and step-by-step instructions on how to make an appointment.
The government also revealed that over the weekend, it approved a four-month window between doses one and two of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines because the first dose has been higher than 90 per cent effective after three weeks, with protection lasting four months.
Because of that, more initial doses will be made available to a broader segment of the population sooner, according to the province.
The province has been operating under Phases 1 and 2 of its immunization plan over winter, with the most at-risk and vulnerable populations receiving the vaccine so far.
Also not included in the government’s rollout plan was the recently approved Astra-Zeneca vaccine, which Henry touted as being more “fridge-stable” compared to the current two vaccines in use. She also said it will speed up delivery plans even further. Canada is expected to get 24-million doses of the vaccine between April and September. The province is not yet sure how much of that it will be getting and when.
Once Phases 3 and 4 begin more of the general population will be able to schedule their vaccination appointments by phone or through a government website.
One such immunization clinic was held at the University of Victoria over the weekend, where front-line health care workers received their first doses of the vaccine.
Ontario reports fewest number of coronavirus-related deaths in a single day since late October – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Ontario logged just over 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more virus-related deaths, the lowest single-day death toll reported since late October.
Ontario health officials confirmed 1,023 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus on Monday, down from 1,062 on Sunday and 1,185 on Saturday. Today’s case count is also lower than the 1,058 infections logged one week ago.
Six new virus-related deaths were confirmed today, the lowest single-day death toll reported since Oct. 28, when just five new deaths were logged in the province.
The rolling seven-day average of new deaths now sits at 16, down from 24 at this point last week.
Just over 35,000 tests were processed over the past 24 hours with the Ministry of Health reporting a provincewide positivity rate of 3.1 per cent today, down from 3.3 per cent last Monday.
The rolling seven-day average of new infections is now 1,099, up from 1,045 last week.
According to the province, there are now 659 patients infected with COVID-19 who are receiving treatment in hospital, up from 646 seven days ago.
The number of patients in intensive care is now 280, down from 289 on Sunday but unchanged from last Monday.
It should be noted that hospitalization data is less reliable early in the week due to gaps in reporting from some hospitals in the province.
The number of active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario is now 10,570, up from 10,335 last Monday. Of the new cases reported today, 280 are in Toronto, 182 are in Peel Region, and 72 are in Ottawa.
New restrictions imposed in 2 Ontario regions
The Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka public health units are under new restrictions starting today following a surge in COVID-19 infections in both regions. The province activated its so-called “emergency brake” last week to place both public health units into the grey, or “lockdown,” category of its colour-coded reopening framework.
The move forced restaurants to shut down in-person dining once again and close gyms, barbershops, and hair salons.
The rise in cases in those regions has been partially attributed to the circulation of more transmissible COVID-19 variants. The Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit is reporting a total of nearly 200 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom. This accounts for more than a third of all confirmed cases involving a variant of concern across Ontario.
The province reported another seven cases of the B.1.1.7 variant on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 535. There are a total of 27 confirmed B.1.351 variant cases in Ontario along with three of the P.1 variant of concern.
Thousands of additional cases have screened positive for a variant of concern but have not yet undergone full genome sequencing. The province has said it is only a matter of time before the B.1.1.7 variant becomes the dominant strain in Ontario.
The province’s continues to roll out vaccine doses as part of Phase 1 of its COVID-19 vaccination program and starting today, multiple regions of Ontario, including Hamilton and York Region, began inoculating members of the general population over the age of 80. Ontario has administered a total of 704,695 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to date and 263,214 people have received two doses for full immunization.
The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.
Coronavirus: Latest developments in the Greater Toronto Area on March 1 – Global News
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in the Greater Toronto Area for Monday.
Toronto’s Porter Airlines sets new tentative reopening date of May 19
Toronto’s Porter Airlines has set a new tentative reopening date again of May 19 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The airline suspended its operations in March 2020 due to COVID-19 and the restart date has since been pushed several times. The last tentative date was March 29.
Status of cases in the GTA
Ontario reported a total of 1,023 new coronavirus cases on Monday.
- 280 were in Toronto
- 182 were in Peel Region
- 47 were in York Region
- 34 were in Durham Region
- 39 were in Halton Region
Ontario reports more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases, 6 more deaths
Ontario is reporting 1,023 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 301,839.
The death toll in the province has risen to 6,986 as six more virus-related fatalities were reported which is the lowest single-day increase in deaths since the end of October.
Resolved cases increased by 939 from the previous day. The government said 35,015 tests were processed in the last 24 hours
Cases, deaths and outbreaks in Ontario long-term care homes
According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there have been 3,744 deaths reported among residents and patients in long-term care homes across Ontario which is unchanged from yesterday. Eleven virus-related deaths in total have been reported among staff.
There are 106 current outbreaks in homes, which is unchanged from the previous day.
The ministry also indicated there are currently 80 active cases among long-term care residents and 179 active cases among staff — cases for both have stayed the same in the last 24 hours.
Cases among students and staff at Ontario schools, child care centres
Meanwhile, government figures show there have been a total of 8,563 school-related COVID-19 cases in Ontario to date. This is an increase of 116 more cases in the last day — 99 student cases, 15 staff cases and two were not identified.
The COVID-19 cases are currently from 530 out of 4,828 schools in the province. Twenty schools in Ontario are currently closed as a result of positive cases, the government indicated.
There have been a total of 2,675 confirmed cases within child care centres and homes — an increase of 13 (seven new child cases and six staff cases). Out of 5,264 child care centres in Ontario, 139 currently have cases and 21 centres are closed.
COVID-19 pandemic zaps electricity usage in Ontario as people stay home
Demand for electricity in Ontario last year fell to levels rarely seen in decades amid shifts in usage patterns caused by pandemic measures, new data show.
The decline came despite a hot summer that had people rushing to crank up the air conditioning at home, the province’s power management agency said.
In all, Ontario used 132.2 terawatt-hours of power in 2020, a decline of 2.9 per cent from 2019.
NOTE: This story will be updated throughout the day.
— With files from The Canadian Press.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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