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Widespread COVID-19 vaccination the 'best shot' for returning to normal, health officials say – The Globe and Mail

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Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, take part in a news conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Sept. 1, 2020.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Canadians will need to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated in large numbers to finally corral COVID-19 before life can return to a semblance of its pre-pandemic state, Canada’s top public health officers said Tuesday.

“Widespread vaccine uptake is the best shot Canadians have in regaining some of what we’ve lost and returning to things that we cherish – things like holding family and friends closely, having community events and living our lives without the fear of contracting the disease,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s Chief Medical Officer.

Dr. Tam and her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, offered that assessment one day after the Trudeau government announced the latest instalment in its plan to pre-buy tens of millions of doses of potential vaccines, signing deals with two American firms.

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The newest deals will allow Canada to buy as many as 76 million doses of a vaccine candidate from Maryland-based biotech company Novavax, and up to 38 million doses of the vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical company Janssen Inc.

An eventual vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19 will go through rigorous testing in Canada before it’s approved here, public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says. The Canadian Press

Last month, the government signed similar deals with U.S. companies Pfizer and Moderna that would give Canada access to up to 76 million more doses.

Dr. Njoo said it is not clear what percentage of Canadians will need to get vaccinated to achieve broad immunity but “the more Canadians that take advantage, the better.”

Both physicians evoked the dark days of forced quarantines, school closures and bans on public gatherings during the measles and polio outbreaks of the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

“Most of us are lucky. We have not had to live through these types of measures because of safe and effective vaccines for these diseases,” said Dr. Tam.

“What Canada and the world needs to have for the best shot at normalcy is safe and effective vaccines.”

Dr. Tam suggested that the threshold for effective immunization is a moving target because understanding the science around COVID-19 is itself a work in progress.

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For regulatory purposes, she said, that level has to be continuously evaluated.

“The international consensus is that we should at least look at around the 50-per-cent vaccine efficacy mark,” said Dr. Tam, adding that there simply isn’t a “yes or no” answer.

More will be known when the data from ongoing Phase 3 clinical trials become available, she said.

“It’s a matter of remaining open to the evidence and being flexible.”

Right now, there appears to be low immunity to the disease around the world, “so getting a high enough vaccine uptake is going to be quite important,” said Dr. Tam.

Dr. Njoo said a vaccine could be available some time in 2021, perhaps as early as the spring.

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“We’re very optimistic here in Canada and because there are a number of vaccine candidates being evaluated,” said Dr. Njoo.

“There could be an effective and safe vaccine, perhaps in 2021. We don’t know exactly when. Perhaps in the spring, maybe a little bit later. But it’s a very good thing to stay optimistic.”

As for whether such a vaccine should be mandatory, Dr. Njoo said it is better for people to educated about the benefits of immunization rather than have it forced upon them because that’s the best way to increase the number of vaccinations.

“I think it is more important to maybe change people’s attitudes who may be more reticent about getting vaccinated rather than having regulations to make vaccination mandatory,” Dr. Njoo said.

While vaccines have never been made compulsory in Canada, the practice in hospitals and long-term care facilities that have had outbreaks of respiratory illnesses has been for health care workers to be vaccinated before being allowed to return to work, he noted.

As for testing for COVID-19, Dr. Njoo said the gold standard remains the so-called PCR test, or polymerase chain reaction testing, which relies on a sample collected from a person’s nose or throat.

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Asked about the possibility of a home test for the disease, Dr. Njoo said: “It’s quite complicated but the bottom line is: We’re open to examining all types of testing technologies because the more tools we have in the toolbox in terms of different types of tests available to use in different types of contexts, the better.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada has signed agreements in principle with Johnson & Johnson and Novavax to get doses of the vaccines they’re working on to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, if the drugs prove safe and effective. The Canadian Press

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4 people test positive for COVID-19 after attending night club last week – CBC.ca

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Public health officials in Toronto are warning of a potential COVID-19 exposure that originated at a local night club last week.

The city’s public health unit says four people who have tested positive for the virus attended Noir inside Rebel Entertainment Complex on Sept. 11.

They say anyone who was at the club between 10:30 p.m. that night and 2 a.m. the next morning may have been exposed.

Toronto Public Health says those who were at the club that night should monitor themselves for symptoms until Sept. 25, as well as wear masks in public and wash their hands regularly.

They say officials are working to trace anyone who had close contact with the four positive cases.

Toronto is one of three regions that’s been leading a major spike in the province’s COVID-19 case numbers in recent weeks, along with Ottawa and Peel Region.
 

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Valley transmission rate among world's best | News | pentictonherald.ca – pentictonherald.ca

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A mid-month rise in COVID-19 cases can be traced back to British Columbians getting a little too close to one another over the Labour Day weekend, health officials say.

Another 139 cases, only three of which were in the region served by Interior Health, were announced province-wide between Thursday and Friday.

Since Sept. 15, the average number of new daily cases has been 153.

In the first two weeks of the month, the average daily number of new cases was 108.

“The cases we are seeing today are a direct result of how we spent our Labour Day long weekend. Let’s break the chain of transmission and turn this trend around,” Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a joint Friday statement.

“No one intends to pass the virus onto friends or family, but it is very easy to do. It can take up to two weeks for symptoms of COVID-19 to develop and, in that time, we can inadvertently spread it to others.”

As of Friday, there were 1,803 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C. and another 3,075 who are under active public health monitoring because of their identified exposure to someone known to be infected.

Hospitalizations rose two, to 59, and 20 of them are in intensive care.

Across the province, 7,842 British Columbians have now been infected since the start of the pandemic, including 492 in the Interior Health region.

A total of 220 people have died in B.C. from COVID-19; two of those deaths occurred in the region served by Interior Health.

B.C. vs. Canada

A total of 330 people across the Okanagan have been infected by COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, new figures from the government indicate.

That number represents 0.08 per cent of the region’s population of 377,000 people.

In the past two weeks, 13 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the Okanagan.

The rate of transmission in the Valley is now among the province’s lowest, behind the West Kootenays and northwest B.C., and far below the rates being experienced in Vancouver and Surrey.

Every Thursday, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control produces a surveillance report covering a variety of COVID-19 data with infection statistics broken down by geography, patient age and likelihood of hospitalization.

The most recent report provides some context to the scope and effect of the pandemic beyond the daily case counts provided by Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

What often attracts the most media and public attention is the rising number of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases.

Between Sept. 11 and Sept. 17, 833 new cases were confirmed provincewide, compared to 789 in the previous one-week period.

And the number of active COVID-19 cases across the province also rose in the past two weeks, from 1,412 to 1,705.

That number has been rising steadily since mid-July, and is now more than three times higher than active case counts in March, before the start of near-lockdown provisions ordered by the government.

But the surveillance reports also contain information that, while perhaps not reassuring exactly, give a fuller picture of how the pandemic is affecting British Columbians.

Here are some other highlights from this week’s COVID-19 surveillance report, with numbers accurate to Thursday:

— Cases have surged among people aged between 20 and 40, with that group now accounting for 44 per cent of all COVID-19 infections in B.C.

But only 10 per cent of British Columbians who’ve been hospitalized for the disease have been between 20 and 40, and no one in this age range has died of the disease.

Those numbers reflect the fact that reasonably healthy young people are simply much less likely to become seriously ill if they catch COVID-19.

— There are almost one million children and teenagers under 19 in B.C., but only 605 of them have caught COVID-19. That represents 0.06 per cent of the population group. Of the 605 children or teens who were infected, only five were hospitalized, none were treated in intensive care, and all have recovered.

— Of the 219 British Columbians who died of COVID-19 from the onset of the pandemic until this past Thursday, 28 per cent were over the age of 90, 69 per cent were over age 80, and 88 per cent were over age 70.

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Three new outbreaks, 8 additional cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region – CTV Toronto

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KITCHENER —
The Region of Waterloo is reporting eight new cases of COVID-19, and three new outbreaks in the community.

Public Health added 13 cases to the region’s total on Saturday. Eight of those cases are considered new, while the remaining five are part of a revision to the previous tally.

The total number of positive cases in Waterloo Region is now 1,571, with 1,357 cases considered resolved and no new deaths.

REGIONAL OUTBREAKS

Public Health is also reporting three new outbreaks.

One is at the YWCA St. Paul Childcare Centre on Birchcliff Ave. in Kitchener. Public Health has confirmed to CTV News that there is one case reported in a child. The centre remains open, but the region says other students in the cohort are currently isolating at home.

Another outbreak has been declared at Lanark Heights Long-Term Care Home in Kitchener, after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

The operator of the home says they are both asymptomatic cases and the employees “have been off work and will continue to be off work for the next 14 days.”

Lanark says essential visitors will still be allowed in the home, as long as they comply with screening measures.

The region’s COVID-19 dashboard also shows a new outbreak at a “congregate setting.” According to the province, this refers to a shared space which could include shelters, group homes and correctional facilities.

The latest update brings the total number of local outbreaks to six.

On Friday, the region announced an outbreak at a gym after three people tested positive for COVID-19. CTV News has confirmed that it was the F45 Waterloo location on Glasgow Street.

The University at Village Gates, a retirement home in Waterloo, has been listed on the region’s dashboard since Sept. 5 after a staff member had a positive COVID-19 test.

An active outbreak has also declared at second unnamed “congregate setting.” According to the region, there are a total of two active cases between these two locations and both involve staff members.

In addition to these locations, Goodlife Fitness has confirmed to CTV News that two of its members have contracted COVID-19. Both were members at its Williamsburg location. This latest announcement was not included in the region’s daily update.

NEW SOCIAL GATHERING RULES

The number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb, with 407 infections reported across the province on Saturday.

That’s the highest total since the beginning of June.

Premier Doug Ford calls the latest results “alarming.”

“Folks, the alarm bells are ringing,” he said at Saturday’s news conference. “Too much of it is being tied to people who aren’t following the rules. People who think it’s okay to hold parties, to carry on as if things are back to normal. They aren’t.”

In response, the province is imposing new restrictions in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

Social gatherings are now limited to 10 people in an indoor setting, or 25 people outdoors.

The new rules only apply to private gatherings, and don’t include movie theatres, restaurants, banquet halls, places of worship and gyms.

Saturday’s announcement comes just days after similar rules were put in place for Ontario’s worst COVID-19 hotspots, and after top doctors in Waterloo Region and the Guelph-area urged the province to take more action.

Anyone who breaks the social gathering rules could face a fine. The province says organizers may have to pay $10,000, while attendees would be fined $750.

“With more and more people returning to work, children returning to schools, and students going back to college or university, we need to ensure we are doing everything we can to minimize the risk of spread,” said Health Minister Christine Elliot at the press conference.

But not everyone is happy with the premier’s announcement.

The NDP Deputy Leader put out a statement today criticizing the plan, saying it’s a sign of poor planning. They would also like to see lower limits not just in social gatherings, but in school classrooms too.

The new rules will remain in effect for the next four weeks.

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