The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
10:23 p.m.: The largest numbers of Kansas City residents who have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine live in ZIP codes that are overwhelmingly white, according to city health department numbers and census data.
That’s despite widespread knowledge that people of color are disproportionately harmed by the virus because of existing social inequities.
The ZIP code with the highest number of Kansas City residents who have been vaccinated — at 4,497 — is the 64114 ZIP code, according to the latest figures from the Kansas City Health Department.
The area is 82 per cent white, while the city as a whole is about 57 per cent white.
Since the vaccine was authorized in December, equity in distribution has been a major concern among public health officials in Kansas City and nationwide. In addition to barriers to access, public health officials worry that deep-seated mistrust will prevent some from taking the vaccine.
That’s a concern especially because Black and Hispanic residents are more likely to die from COVID-19, according to the city health department.
So far, of the 10 ZIP codes in the city with the largest number of people, the top eight are 73 per cent to 95 per cent white.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said the state’s allocation plan, which distributes more than half of the doses to hospitals, has created inequities for those who don’t have access to primary care physicians or hospital systems.
“It makes me angry that we’re being so incredibly apparently unfair,” he said during a phone interview Wednesday.
Ranking fourth for the highest number of vaccines is the 64113 ZIP code. It is 95 per cent white and has one of the lowest case rates in the area.
“It does not surprise me that in 64113, neighbourhoods on the southwest corridor near some of our ritziest homes and clubs, you see this sort of discrepancy,” Lucas said.
10:17 p.m.: A new form of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in New York City, and it carries a worrisome mutation that may weaken the effectiveness of vaccines, two teams of researchers have found.
The new variant, called B. 1.526, first appeared in samples collected in the city in November. By the middle of this month, it accounted for about one in four viral sequences appearing in a database shared by scientists.
One study of the new variant, led by a group at Caltech, was posted online Tuesday. The other, by researchers at Columbia University, has been submitted to a preprint server but is not yet public.
Neither study has been vetted by peer review nor published in a scientific journal. But the consistent results suggest that the variant’s spread is real, experts said.
“It’s not particularly happy news,” said Dr. Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University who was not involved in the new research. “But just knowing about it is good, because then we can perhaps do something about it.”
Nussenzweig said he was more worried about the variant in New York than the one quickly spreading in California. Yet another contagious new variant, discovered in Britain, now accounts for about 2,000 cases in 45 states. It is expected to become the most prevalent form of the coronavirus in the United States by the end of March.
Researchers have been scrutinizing the genetic material of the virus to see how it might be changing. They examine genetic sequences of virus taken from a small proportion of infected people to chart the emergence of new versions.
The Caltech researchers discovered the rise in B. 1.526 by scanning for mutations in hundreds of thousands of viral genetic sequences in a database called GISAID. “There was a pattern that was recurring, and a group of isolates concentrated in the New York region that I hadn’t seen,” said Anthony West, a computational biologist at Caltech.
He and his colleagues found two versions of the coronavirus increasing in frequency: one with the E484K mutation seen in South Africa and Brazil, which is thought to help the virus partially dodge the vaccines; and another with a mutation called S477N, which may affect how tightly the virus binds to human cells.
By mid-February, the two together accounted for about 27 per cent of New York City viral sequences deposited into the database, West said. (For the moment, both are grouped together as B. 1.526.)
The Columbia University researchers took a different approach. They sequenced 1,142 samples from patients at their medical centre. They found that 12 per cent of people with the coronavirus had been infected with the variant that contains the mutation E484K.
Patients infected with virus carrying that mutation were about six years older on average and more likely to have been hospitalized. While the majority of patients were found in neighbourhoods close to the hospital — particularly Washington Heights and Inwood — there were several other cases scattered throughout the metropolitan area, said Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.
“We see cases in Westchester, in the Bronx and Queens, the lower part of Manhattan and in Brooklyn,” Ho said. “So it seems to be widespread. It’s not a single outbreak.”
The team also identified six cases of the variant that pummeled Britain, two infections with a variant identified in Brazil, and one case of the variant that took over in South Africa. The latter two had not been reported in New York City before, Ho said.
The university investigators have alerted the authorities in New York state and in the city, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ho said. He and his colleagues plan to sequence about 100 viral genetic samples a day to monitor the variants’ rise.
10:06 p.m.: Eight schools across Toronto have been linked to COVID-19 variants of concern — new versions of the virus believed to be more contagious, the city said in a release Wednesday night.
At least one person connected to each school has tested positive for a variant of concern, it added.
“The affected individuals and cohorts have been dismissed from school with guidance based on their level of risk,” the release said.
“ (Toronto Public Health) has followed up with close contacts in affected class cohorts and has recommended testing.”
The affected schools include Beverley School, Helen Catholic School, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute, Yeshiva Yesodei Hatorah, Gulfstream Public School, The Toronto Cheder, Dante Alighieri Academy.
9:34 p.m.: Three federal Conservative shadow ministers called Wednesday night for the governing Liberals to suspend mandatory hotel quarantine for arriving international travellers after news media reported an alleged sexual assault at such a hotel.
“We are deeply angered to hear reports of sexual violence are happening during federally mandated quarantines by those supposed to be protecting public health … We call for the Liberals to suspend the hotel quarantine requirement until they have put measures in place to ensure the safety of Canadians.,” read part of a statement from Michelle Rempel Garner, Shannon Stubbs and Jag Sahota.
CTV reports that Robert Shakory faces one count of sexual assault, one count of breaking and entering, and one count of criminal harassment after a Feb. 17 incident in Montreal.
The MPs also noted a case of a quarantine screening officer who allegedly demanded money from and then sexually assaulted a woman while doing a quarantine compliance check at her home in Oakville on Feb. 18. The accused had been trained by the Public Health Agency of Canada as a designated screening officer under the Quarantine Act, Halton regional police said.
“The accused informed the victim that they were in violation of the quarantine order and demanded that a fine be paid in cash,” police alleged. “When the victim declined to pay, she was sexually assaulted by the accused.”
A 27-year-old Hamilton man has been charged.
8:49 p.m.: Vaccine maker Moderna plans to ramp up production of its COVID-19 vaccine in a bid to produce up to a billion doses this year, the U.S. pharmaceutical company said Wednesday.
“We believe from our discussions with governments around the world that there will continue to be significant demand for our COVID-19 vaccine and we now are committed to materially increasing our manufacturing capacity,” Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the company said it has created a new, experimental form of its vaccine to combat the worrisome variant of the virus first found in South Africa, and now found in many countries including Canada. Studies have suggested that current vaccines may be less effective against this variant than against the form that emerged earlier in the pandemic.
The new version is probably months away from public use but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday that new versions of existing vaccines, adapted to target variants, would not have to go through the same large trials in 30,000 or 40,000 patients as the first vaccines did.
Moderna said that its original vaccine still provides some protection against the variant, but that “out of an abundance of caution,” the company would pursue several new approaches: A shot of the new vaccine as a booster, after two doses of the original formulation; a booster shot combining the new vaccine and the original one; and a third approach, already underway, involves giving a third shot of just the original vaccine as a booster.
8:32 p.m.: The Halton Catholic District School Board is reporting a new coronavirus case at one of its schools in Burlington Wednesday night.
The Board is reporting a new case at St. Anne Catholic Elementary School that has led to a classroom being closed due to an identified exposure risk.
“For all confirmed cases, families and staff at the school will be notified by letter,” the Board said on its COVID-19 page. “Halton Public Health will contact any close contacts directly.”
There have now been close to 40 schools in Halton with COVID-19 cases since in-school learning resumed earlier this month.
7:53 p.m.: According to The Canadian Press and the popular virus-tracking website worldometers.info, Canada’s active case total dropped to 30,393 on Wednesday evening — the nation’s lowest total since Nov. 2.
6:52 p.m.: B.C. reported 456 new cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths on Wednesday. There are 4,668 active cases and 7,924 people under active public health monitoring.
B.C. reported administering 6,521 doses of vaccine.
5:37 p.m.: Alberta reported 430 new cases and 13 deaths on Wednesday, which weighed against 388 recoveries led the province’s active case total to increase to 4,545.
The province administered 5,817 doses of vaccine.
5:21 p.m.: The status of the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open is up in the air once again after Toronto announced the cancellation of city permits for events through July 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lone Canadian stop on the PGA Tour is scheduled for June 7-13 at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto’s west end.
While the golf course is privately operated and not subject to the city’s permit cancellation, the 2020 Canadian Open scheduled to take place at the same venue was eventually cancelled because of international travel and government restrictions related to the pandemic.
Golf Canada said in a statement that the organization and event sponsor RBC are assessing how the city’s decision will impact this year’s Canadian Open.
“The health and safety of everyone connected to the tournament will always come first, and we respect the City’s decision to act in the best interest of community health,” Golf Canada said.
“We continue to work with our partners at RBC and the PGA Tour to determine the best course of action for the 2021 RBC Canadian Open.”
5:17 p.m.: Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health expressed concern Wednesday about the gradual rise in the number of COVID-19 cases reported in the province over the past week.
Dr. Robert Strang reported three new cases, bringing the total number of known active infections in Nova Scotia to 21. There were nine active cases on Feb. 14.
Strang said he was also concerned about possible community transmission. “We are seeing several cases over the last few days with no clear link to travel or a known case,” he told reporters in Halifax.
As a result, Strang warned residents to expect higher case numbers over the coming days and said public health will be stepping up COVID-19 testing in two specific areas where cases had recently been detected: the Halifax-area communities of Lower Sackville and Beaverbank, and in the Annapolis Valley between Wolfville, N.S., and Berwick, N.S.
3:49 p.m.: More than a dozen new cases of COVID-19 variants have been detected within Toronto’s homeless population, including individuals linked to shelters, respites and encampments, as one downtown shelter battles a variant outbreak that as of Monday had swollen to 29 cases.
The outbreak at the Salvation Army’s Maxwell Meighen Centre, at Sherbourne and Queen Streets, was first reported in early February, and shortly afterwards, became the first shelter site in Toronto to report a variant case — though the exact strain was yet unknown.
Since the city confirmed the outbreak was at 29 cases, 13 others have screened positive for a variant in the homeless population. Two were linked to the Good Shepherd, two to the Birkdale family shelter, two to a drop-in at 129 Peter St., three to Fred Victor’s Adelaide Resource Centre for Women, and four cases were among people who aren’t connected to a specific site.
Dr. Andrew Bond is medical director of Toronto’s Inner City Health Associates, which is helping to manage the Meighen outbreak, as it did during an earlier outbreak at the same facility in the pandemic’s first wave.
“It was totally preventable and avoidable to have been seeing this,” said Bond.
3:43 p.m.: Manitoba reports 39 new cases and one death and Saskatchewan reports 57 cases and three deaths, as active cases dropped in both provinces to 1,196 and 1,425 respectively
Manitoba administered 2,402 doses of vaccine to Saskatchewan’s 1,003.
3:17 p.m.: A school board in Thunder Bay, is calling for all classes to go online after several COVID-19 outbreaks.
The board wants public health authorities to mandate online learning for at least two weeks starting March 1.
Board chairwoman Ellen Chambers says schools have had to dismiss classes repeatedly because of one COVID-19 case. She says that is affecting students’ learning.
Chambers says 576 students and 55 staff are currently self-isolating, creating a teacher shortage.
The Lakehead District School Board has 26 elementary schools and four secondary schools.
Four schools are currently in virtual learning because of COVID-19 cases.
2:16 p.m. Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa says there are 389 new COVID cases in Toronto, total 351 in hospital and 63 in ICU, one additional death. She said there are 72 confirmed variant cases in the city, one of the variant that was first detected in Brazil, the others of the variant that was first found in the U.K.
2:10 p.m. City of Toronto extended the cancellation of outdoor festivals until July including Canada Day events. Organizers tell city most will happen “in some virtual way.: The affected events, include:
Toronto Marathon, half Marathon, 5k, 10k and relay (will be a virtual event)
Sporting Life 10k (will be a virtual event)
Canadian Music Week (will be a virtual event)
Doors Open Toronto (cancelled)
Juno Awards (will be a virtual event)
Ride for Heart (will be a virtual event)
NXNE Music Festival (will be a virtual event)
Luminato (virtual option to be determined)
The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer (will be a virtual event)
TD Toronto Jazz Festival (virtual option to be determined)
Indigenous Arts Festival (will be a virtual event)
Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival (will be a virtual event)
Trans March, Dyke March & Pride Parade (will be a virtual event)
Scarborough Canada Day Parade & Celebration (cancelled)
Canada Day Celebrations at Mel Lastman Square (cancelled)
2 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 today.
One case is in the Edmundston region and involves a staff member in their 70s at the Manoir Belle Vue long-term-care home, which has reported seven COVID-19-related deaths.
The other case involves a person in their 50s in the Moncton region.
There are now 64 active reported cases in the province and two people are hospitalized with the disease, including one in intensive care.
New Brunswick has reported a total of 1,426 cases of COVID-19 and 26 COVID-19-related deaths.
1:56 p.m. Manitoba health officials are reporting one COVID-19 death Wednesday and 45 new cases.
However, six cases have been removed due to data corrections, so the net additional count is 39.
1:50 p.m. Alberta Health Services says more than 12,000 seniors born in 1946 and earlier have booked appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations so far this morning.
Chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has said there are 230,000 Albertans in that age group and has urged those eager to get their shots to be patient as there will be hiccups along the way.
Shortly after bookings opened, several people on social media complained about the appointment website crashing and calls not going through to the province’s 811 Health Link line.
The Calgary Police Service told people via Twitter to exercise caution and not to call 911.
The provincial health agency says additional staff are on hand to handle the surge in call volumes to 811.
The agency is urging people not to call hospitals or clinics directly to book appointments, but notes work is underway to make vaccines available at pharmacies.
1:30 p.m. A quarantine screening officer in Oakville is facing charges of sexual assault and extortion.
Regional police say the accused was trained by the Public Health Agency of Canada and worked for a private security company.
Police allege the 27-year-old officer told a woman at a home she was in violation of a quarantine order.
They allege he demanded a fine be paid in cash, and sexually assaulted her when she refused.
Police say the accused goes by the name Hemant and has been suspended.
They won’t identify the security company.
1:25 p.m. In a bid to attract personal support workers to nursing homes and home care, Ontario says it will spend $115 million to provide tuition-free community college programs to 6,000 prospective PSWs. Turnover has been high over health dangers and low pay amid COVID-19.
1:10 p.m. Most homeowners who sought deferrals for mortgages last year have seen their deferral periods end, but the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the risk of these borrowers falling into arrears could re-emerge.
The federal housing agency says in a report that more than 250,000 homeowners with mortgages insured by CMHC sought payment deferrals between last March and September, but by the end of that period almost 65 per cent of the deferrals had ended.
CMHC says slightly more than 67 per cent of the deferrals ended on time, while almost 33 per cent finished early.
The data shows about 85 per cent of the mortgage deferrals still active after Sept. 30 were scheduled to expire in October and almost 10 per cent were due to end by the start of 2021.
Only six per cent of mortgage deferrals sought between last March and September were due to finish in 2021.
CMHC says as deferral options expire, the risk of these mortgages entering arrears could emerge again, but the report did not quantify that risk.
12:30 p.m.: Advocates are calling on federal and provincial governments to ensure migrant and undocumented workers have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The Migrant Rights Network made the call today along with doctors and labour leaders.
They say they are concerned that thousands of migrant and undocumented workers will not get the vaccine because of their immigration status.
The group says the vaccine should be provided to the workers free of charge and must not require a health card to obtain.
They also say the shot should not be mandatory and health care providers must train people providing the doses to ensure they don’t turn away migrant or undocumented workers.
The Ontario government has not said if temporary foreign workers employed on the province’s farms would have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
11:45 a.m.: Older Ontarians are in line for COVID-19 shots over the next few months but anyone under 60 will be waiting well into summer, says the retired general heading the province’s vaccination task force.
A website and a telephone hotline for appointments are slated to open March 15 with jabs for about 600,000 seniors 80 and up beginning in the third week of March, Rick Hillier told a news conference Wednesday.
Starting April 15, those 75 and up will be able to book time slots at vaccination centres near their homes, followed by May 1 for the 70+ age category, June for those 65 and older, and July 1 for the 60+ crowd.
“Everything I said about that is vaccine-dependent,” Hillier said in reference to short supplies of doses from Health Canada-approved manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna in recent weeks.
11:15 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 806 new COVID-19 cases and 17 more deaths attributed to the virus, including five in that past 24 hours.
Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 25, to 655, and the number of intensive care cases rose for a second consecutive day, with 10 more patients for a total of 130.
The province says it administered 8,807 doses of COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, for a total of 376,910 since the campaign began.
11 a.m.: Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says active cases of COVID-19 in First Nations communities are declining access the country.
Miller says there were 1,443 active cases and a total of 20,347 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in First Nations communities on-reserve as of yesterday.
Miller says vaccinations have begun in 440 Indigenous communities and more than 103,000 doses have been administered.
10:45 a.m.: Ontario reports three more residents in long-term care have died for a total of 3,739 since the pandemic began, in the latest report released by the province.
Ontario is reporting 10 fewer long-term-care homes in outbreak, for a total of 117 or 18.7 per cent of LTC homes in the province.
Meanwhile, toronto’s long-term-care homes have new, hopeful data that could be a sign of encouraging things to come.
10:30 a.m.: Ontario is reporting that 17,141 additional vaccine doses have been administered since its last daily update, for a total of 602,848 as of 8 p.m. Tuesday.
The province says 251,590 people are fully vaccinated, which means they’ve had both shots.
10:15 a.m.: Ontario is reporting another 1,054 COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths.
Nearly 54,900 tests completed.
Locally, there are 363 new cases in Toronto, 186 in Peel and 94 in York Region.
10:10 a.m. (updated with more schedule details): Ontario won’t have an online vaccination appointment portal until March 15, says Gen. Rick Hillier.
There will be less reliance on hospital vaccination clinics in case the province gets hit with third wave.
Ontario can start booking vaccine appointments for residents, who are more than 80 years old, starting March 15.
Those 75 and above, will start April 15.
Those 70 and above, will start May 1.
Those 65 and above, will start June 1.
Those 60 and above, will start July 1.
9:55 a.m.: Police say several people have refused to comply with new COVID-19 restrictions after arriving at Pearson International Airport.
Peel Regional police say most cases were resolved after conversations with officers but some people still refused to comply and were fined.
The Quarantine Act says anyone arriving in Canada must stay in an isolation hotel for three nights.
They may only leave after a negative COVID-19 test, but are expected to self-isolate for a total of 14 days.
Staying in a government-approved isolation hotel could cost up to $2,000 for a three-night stay.
Police say they will not detain anyone for violating the Quarantine Act absent aggravating circumstances such as an offence under the Criminal Code.
9:50 a.m. The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is set to take place in person this November, CEO Charlie Johnstone told the Star.
“The plan right now is to open up the doors to the public so we can execute a physical fair in November consistent with the mission and mandate that is the Royal Winter Fair and we’re excited about doing that,” he said.
The annual fair, first held in 1922, is scheduled to kick off Nov. 5 and run for a total of nine days. It normally draws 300,000 people, according to its website, but last year’s event was one of many gatherings to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being off last year was a challenge for everybody across the board, across the world,” Johnstone said. “We’re really enthusiastically embracing the opportunity to once again welcome the very best in Canadian agriculture, local food and equestrian sport to Royal.”
The Canadian National Exhibition, also called off last summer, is also scheduled to go ahead with its in-person festivities this year.
“The CNE team is very busy planning our 2021 event,” director of marketing and communications, Karen Lynch told the Star. “That said, we are following Public Health Guidelines very carefully and will be proceeding with the 2021 CNE unless governmental stipulations prevent us from doing so.”
9:35 a.m. Ghana received the world’s first delivery of coronavirus vaccines from the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative on Wednesday — the long-awaited start for a program that has thus far fallen short of hopes that it would ensure shots were given quickly to the world’s most vulnerable people.
The arrival of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the West African country marks the beginning of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF. It is a linchpin of efforts to bring the pandemic to an end and has been hailed as the first time the world has delivered a highly sought-after vaccine to poor countries during an ongoing outbreak.
“Today marks the historic moment for which we have been planning and working so hard. With the first shipment of doses, we can make good on the promise of the COVAX facility to ensure people from less wealthy countries are not left behind in the race for life-saving vaccines,” said Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, which delivered the vaccines.
9:20 a.m. Two more units have been added to a COVID-19 outbreak declared at Vancouver General Hospital.
A statement from Vancouver Coastal Health says outbreaks are underway on in-patient units T-14-G and T-11-G in the highrise tower of the hospital’s Jim Pattison Pavilion.
The health authority says the outbreaks are in addition to one declared Sunday in unit T-10-C in the same tower.
The statement says, in total, 16 patients and 13 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Visits to all three units have been suspended, except for end-of-life compassionate visits, and the hospital says infection prevention and control protocols are underway to prevent further transmission.
Coastal Health says the rest of the hospital, including the emergency room, remain open and operating as usual.
9:10 a.m. When Sharmila D’Souza landed in Toronto with her daughter, Isabel, she was hoping her detailed quarantine plan would be enough to spare them a mandatory three-day hotel stay.
D’Souza has not seen her husband, Isabel’s father, in two years — separated by family responsibilities back in India and COVID-19.
But there are no exceptions to Canada’s new quarantine rules for international air travellers, which require incoming passengers to book three nights in one of 18 approved hotels in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver, and to stay there until they get the results of their coronavirus test.
9 a.m. When COVID-19 hit Ontario and the first provincial state of emergency shuttered venues for the arts, one might say it was the day live music died.
Bars and restaurants could not have live entertainment. Curtains came down on theatres with shows suspended. Arenas could not host concerts, while music festivals went virtual or were cancelled altogether. Busking was still possible, although it is not an outlet for all the arts and streets were largely bare of foot traffic to play for.
Circumstances that some hoped to be temporary have extended for nearly a year. With some venues closed forever and others cautiously reopened following provincial orders, there has yet to be a place for musicians. They aren’t essential by the province’s terms and they’ve had to stay at home.
It’s a grim landscape but, as one musician says, when you have a musical talent you will find a way to use it. The bills have to be paid too.
Three Toronto musicians told the Star how they’ve been making music.
8:42 a.m. Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, U.S. regulators said, a key milestone on the path toward giving Americans access to the first such shot to work in a single dose.
The vaccine was 72 per cent effective in a U.S. clinical trial, Food and Drug Administration staff wrote in a document summarizing the company’s trial data, confirming findings J&J released earlier this month. There were no COVID-related deaths in the vaccinated group, the staff wrote. Agency officials prepared the document ahead of a meeting Friday where external advisers will make a non-binding recommendation as to whether the vaccine should be authorized.
The analysis supported a favourable safety profile with no specific safety concerns identified that would preclude issuance of an EUA.
Vaccines from Moderna Inc. and the partnership of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE were authorized by the FDA in December, just before the first major coronavirus variants were seen in the U.S.
8:24 a.m. After being at the centre of COVID-19 deaths and mass outbreaks, the city’s long-term-care homes have new, hopeful data that could be a sign of encouraging things to come.
This week, Toronto Public Health reported a “substantial decline” in the rate seniors have tested positive in long-term-care homes, from 10.9 per cent in November to just 0.6 per cent as of the week of Feb. 7 — well below the overall city rate of 4.8 per cent.
It was the “first sign” Mayor John Tory said this week that the city’s vaccination efforts were working.
In the 10 homes the city of Toronto runs, there was just a single staff person that tested positive recently and zero residents who had COVID-19.
“This week was the first week where we actually saw zeroes for a short period of time, which was just so striking for us,” said Paul Raftis, the head of Toronto’s senior care. Caring for the city’s most vulnerable has kept him up at night. Now, the falling numbers have brought a huge wave of relief.
“There really isn’t words for it.”
That sharp decline comes just a week after the city celebrated the successful completion of vaccination of more than 10,000 residents across all 87 of the city’s LTCs — public, non-profit and for-profit.
8:16 a.m. Public health officials in Sudbury have dismissed students and staff from two schools following five confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Lasalle Secondary School and Cyril Varney Public School were closed today.
All five cases have been identified by Public Health Sudbury & Districts as variants of concern.
The afternoon route of elementary bus N100 is also affected.
Staff and students at the two schools and on the bus route are being advised by public health officials to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19.
Officials say there is no evidence that the virus was acquired or spread within the school communities, so no outbreak has been declared.
8:05 a.m. As millions of Ontario seniors wonder when it will be their turn for the COVID-19 vaccine, residents of one east Toronto apartment building found the shots arriving at their doors, Tuesday.
A pilot program is rolling out over the next three days, with the hope that it can be used as a model for getting vaccines to those who need them most, when more become available.
The residents of Jack Layton Seniors Housing, a publicly funded non-profit seniors building, were the first to get the delivery service.
“I think the main reason we wanted to do this is to try to figure out how best to deliver vaccines to seniors” 80 and older, said Dr. Jeff Powis, medical director of infection prevention and control at Michael Garron Hospital.
“This is a bit of a trial run to see what we could do differently,” he said, starting with the highest risk apartments with a lot of older people, and then “very quickly moving out to other buildings that are predominantly seniors.”
7:48 a.m. Hydro One Ltd. reported its fourth-quarter profit fell compared with a year earlier as the power utility faced higher costs related to the pandemic.
Hydro One says it earned net income attributable to common shareholders of $161 million or 27 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $211 million or 35 cents per diluted share a year earlier.
In addition to COVID-19 related expenses, the company says it saw a reduction in insurance proceeds, higher depreciation and asset removal costs and higher taxes.
Revenue for the quarter totalled $1.87 billion, up from $1.72 billion.
6:21 a.m.: Travellers and employees at Toronto’s Pearson airport will soon be able to opt in to a COVID-19 testing research program that will deliver results in just two hours.
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates Toronto Pearson International Airport, is working with several Canadian health care companies to deploy the 10-week program, which is designed to test the efficacy of antigen tests against the approved PCR test.
The program, which launches on March 1, is supported in part by funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).
“This research will contribute substantial new scientific data to the body of knowledge used to fight this disease by improving access to testing that will identify, trace and isolate COVID-19,” said GTAA president and CEO Deborah Flint in a press release Wednesday.
6:18 a.m.: One of the few bright spots to the pandemic shines through in a crop of new entrepreneurs. For some, the shakeup in daily routines has brought the push they needed to jump into new business ideas that didn’t seem possible before.
6:18 a.m.: Thailand on Wednesday received its first delivery of COVID-19 vaccine for mass inoculations, 200,000 doses from the China-based company Sinovac.
The lot received by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is part of a total 2 million doses the government earlier reserved from Sinovac.
The government plans to start vaccinations in 13 high-risk provinces on March 1. They will be for front-line medical personnel, officials with exposure to infected patients, and people with congenital diseases.
About a third of the initial 200,000 doses is earmarked for Samut Sakhon province, near Bangkok, where an outbreak last year set off a surge of coronavirus infections.
Tourism Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan said some doses have been reserved for workers in the tourism sector to help promote a revival of the hospitality industry, which was badly hurt by restrictions to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
6:17 a.m.: India will start inoculating people above 60, and those with underlying health problems above age 45 in the second phase of its massive vaccination drive from March 1.
India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar says the vaccinations will be done in 10,000 public and 20,000 private hospitals. Javadekar told reporters on Wednesday that vaccine shots in government hospitals will be free, but did not say how much it will cost in private hospitals.
India started inoculating health workers beginning on Jan. 16.
India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers. The government has authorized emergency use of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India, and a homegrown vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech.
Cases of COVID-19 are increasing in some parts of India after months of a steady nationwide decline In many cities, markets are bustling, roads are crowded and restaurants are nearly full. The country is reporting about 11,000 to 13,000 new cases a day, compared to a peak of nearly 100,000. in September.
6:17 a.m.: The Czech prime minister says the pandemic situation in his country, one of the hardest-hit in the European Union, is “extremely serious” and his government will have to impose more restrictions to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the measures are needed to prevent “a total catastrophe” in hospitals that have been coming close to their limits.
The government will decide those measures later Wednesday. Babis says they will be similar to those in place last spring when the borders and schools were completely closed. He also mentioned possible restrictions to limit movement of people.
Babis says the situation might be the worst on March 1, the anniversary of the first cases recorded in the Czech Republic.
Babis spoke amid a surge of new coronavirus cases caused by a highly contagious variant originally found in Britain as hospitals are filing up.
The day-to-day increase f new confirmed cases reached 15,672, about 3,000 more than a week ago. A total of 6,817 COVID-19 patients needed intensive care.
The country had almost 1.2 million confirmed cases with 19,682 deaths.
6:16 a.m.: Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive vaccines acquired through the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative with a delivery of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India.
The vaccines, delivered by UNICEF, arrived at Accra’s international airport early Wednesday and are part of the first wave of COVID-19 vaccines being sent by COVAX, an international co-operative program formed to make sure low- and middle-income countries have fair access to COVID-19 vaccines. COVAX is led by the United Nation’s World Health Organization; Gavi, a vaccine group; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI.
Ghana is among 92 countries that have signed onto the COVAX program, according to a statement by Ghana’s acting Minister of Information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah.
The West African nation of 30 million has recorded 81,245 cases and 584 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to figures from Ghana’s Health Services Tuesday.
Ghana’s vaccination campaign will begin March 2 and will be conducted in phases among prioritized groups, beginning with health workers, adults of 60 years and over, people with underlying health conditions, front-line executive, legislature, judiciary, and their related staff, said Nkrumah.
6:16 a.m.: More than 2,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Tennessee’s most populous county went to waste while local officials sat on tens of thousands of shots they thought had already gone into arms, the state’s top health official announced Tuesday.
The Department of Health began an investigation over the weekend into a report that recent winter storms caused 1,000 doses to be tossed in Shelby County, which encompasses Memphis.
But Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey on Tuesday revealed that the problems were far more widespread. She said issues dating back to Feb. 3 included multiple incidents of spoiled doses, an excessive vaccine inventory, insufficient record-keeping and a lack of a formal process for managing soon-to-expire vaccines. A federal investigation is also expected.
As a result, Shelby County’s local health department will temporarily no longer be allowed to allocate the vaccine. Instead, Memphis city officials, hospitals, clinics and other pharmacies will handle the distribution. Meanwhile, the physical management of the vaccine will now be handled by hospital partners.
6:15 a.m.: Israel’s government has approved a nighttime curfew from Thursday until Sunday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus over the Purim holiday.
The Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that a curfew from 8:30 p.m. until 5 a.m. would be in force starting Purim eve.
Purim, a Jewish holiday traditionally marked with public festivities and gatherings, begins Thursday at sundown. The holiday lockdown prohibits any large gatherings of more than 10 people indoors, concerts, parades or parties typical of the holiday’s observances.
Israel reopened its economy last week after a nearly two-month lockdown, the country’s third since the start of the pandemic, as new cases of COVID-19 began to gradually decrease. But recent days have seen a slight uptick in new infections, prompting the government to impose the new lockdown.
It has one of the highest immunization rates per capita, with over 4.5 million of its citizens having received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
The Health Ministry has reported over 759,000 cases and at least 5,634 deaths from COVID-19.
6:15 a.m.: South Korea’s top infectious disease expert has warned that vaccines will not end the coronavirus pandemic quickly as the country prepared to give its first vaccinations this week.
Jeong Eun-Kyeong, director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said during a briefing Wednesday it would take a “considerably long time” before the vaccination campaign brings the virus under control.
The country aims to vaccinate more than 70 per cent of its population by November. But a safe return to maskless normalcy is highly unlikely in 2021, considering various factors including the growing spread of virus variants, said Choi Won Suk, an infectious disease professor at the Korea University Ansan Hospital who joined Jeong at the briefing.
“We are concerned that people might drop their guard as vaccination begins, triggering another massive wave of the virus,” Jeong said.
South Korea on Wednesday began transporting its first available doses of vaccines that rolled off a production line in the southern city of Andong, where local pharmaceutical company SK Bioscience manufactures vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
The country will kick off its mass immunization campaign on Friday by administering the Astra-Zeneca-Oxford vaccines to residents and employees at long-term care facilities.
Separately, some 55,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals involved with treating COVID-19 patients will begin receiving shots of vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Saturday.
6:12 a.m.: A pastor of an Edmonton-area church that has been allegedly holding Sunday services in violation of COVID-19 rules is to appear in court today.
James Coates with GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove was arrested last week.
RCMP have said he was remanded in custody after refusing to agree to bail conditions.
The church has been holding services that officials say break public health regulations on attendance, masking and distancing.
Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January.
Coates was twice charged in February with violating the Public Health Act and violating a promise to abide by rules of his release, which is a Criminal Code offence.
Coates has addressed the province’s health restrictions in his sermons, telling worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship.
An associate pastor of the church, Jacob Spenst, conducted last Sunday’s service and told the congregation that messages of support have been pouring in for the jailed pastor.
6:08 a.m.: Advocates say migrant and undocumented workers should have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The Migrant Rights Network is calling on all levels of governments to guarantee that access.
The group is expected to make the call in a news conference today along with doctors and labour leaders.
They say they are concerned that thousands of migrant and undocumented workers will not get the vaccine because of their immigration status.
The group says government vaccination plans do not include measures that would guarantee safe access to the shot for the workers.
The Ontario government has not said if temporary foreign workers employed on the province’s farms would have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
4 a.m.: The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.
In Canada, the provinces are reporting 48,362 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,602,365 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 4,227.957 per 100,000.
There were 152,100 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,003,810 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 79.97 per cent of their available vaccine supply.
4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.
There are 852,269 confirmed cases in Canada (30,677 active, 799,830 resolved, 21,762 deaths). The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.
There were 2,760 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 80.72 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,693 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,956.
There were 40 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 367 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 52. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.26 per 100,000 people.
There have been 23,880,652 tests completed.