Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 1,185 more cases, with six deaths; Sunnybrook to set up field hospital
On Parliament Hill, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discusses the federal government’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) pandemic. He is joined virtually by Dominic LeBlanc, the minister of intergovernmental affairs, as well as Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, and Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer.
9:32 p.m.: Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital campus is preparing to add 100 beds to hospital field, as some experts predict a third wave of COVID-19.
The Sunnybrook Health Science Centre has begun setting up the hospital in its parking lot, according to a CTV Toronto report, which aired footage of the work. It will feature ventilators, oxygen machines, portable X-ray machines, and a negative-pressure system that cleans the air.
The federal government promised two units to the GTA on Jan. 22.
A spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, Alexandra Hilkene, said Tuesday evening they are “still finalizing details and look forward to sharing more information in the near future.”
9:28 p.m.: Brampton Transit will suspend service in the Steeles West corridor effective Wednesday, following a Peel Public Health investigation.
Peel Public Health said in a public notice that it has directed transit operators to get tested for COVID-19 and that medical-grade face masks be mandatory for all operators.
Peel Public Health said an investigation includes a “number of” Brampton Transit employees but did not provide specific numbers.
The 511 Züm Steeles and 11 Steeles and 51 Hereford stops will be affected. This suspension will last at least seven days, Brampton Transit said. Read the full story here.
7:10 p.m.: An Edmonton business owner is apologizing for renting out her nail salon for a large weekend party despite pandemic restrictions.
Police said they broke up a large gathering of at least 125 people who were partying with large amounts of alcohol and a DJ at the Khrome Beauty Lounge early Sunday.
Alberta public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 ban all indoor social gatherings.
Farida Hussaini, co-owner of the southeast salon, which is also licensed to sell cocktail drinks, said it was rented to a group of 15 people who wanted to celebrate a birthday. She said the business opened about six months ago and has been struggling.
Police said they are working with Alberta Health Services and the City of Edmonton to decide the next steps in the investigation. Health and city officials did not say Tuesday whether the salon would be fined.
5:09 p.m.: A COVID-19 outbreak at the Ontario Police College has now sickened 102 people, according to public health officials.
There are currently 33 active cases linked to the outbreak at the training facility in Aylmer, while the rest are considered resolved, the Southwestern Public Health unit said Tuesday.
The outbreak at the college was first declared on Feb. 24 and all in-person classes were suspended the same day, said a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
“The college is working with local public health to determine when it is feasible to return to the in-person format,” said Brent Ross. Classes are currently being held virtually, said Ross.
4:15 p.m.: British Columbia’s health minister is blaming Telus after call centres booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments were overwhelmed, especially in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
Adrian Dix says the company was contracted to provide call centres in all health authorities and there were problems across B.C. yesterday, resulting in only about 15,000 appointments being booked.
Vancouver Coastal Health had the lowest number of bookings at 369 and Dix says that’s because it was the only authority that did not have a backup call centre in addition to the one provided by Telus.
However, he says Vancouver Coastal is in the business of health care and Telus is in the business of call centres, and the company must be held accountable for letting down the health authority as well as everyone who was eligible for appointments.
Dix says the company assured the province as late as 9 p.m. Sunday night that the call centres were adequately staffed, but he says clearly that wasn’t the case and more people were trained overnight and today to answer calls.
Telus president Darren Entwistle says in a statement he is “incredibly sorry” for the frustrations that residents have experienced trying to connect to the call centres and the company can and will do better.
4:05 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden will not be attaching his signature to the $1,400 relief cheques that are expected to be mailed soon — a break with his predecessor who last year had “President Donald J. Trump” printed on the economic impact payments approved by Congress.
The next round of paper cheques will bear the signature of a career official at the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a Tuesday briefing. Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue plan is expected to be approved by the House this week with payments going out to eligible households afterward.
Psaki said the goal was to get the payments out quickly instead of branding them as coming from Biden.
3:53 p.m.: Quebec is ready to increase the pace of its vaccination campaign and could soon begin vaccinating people 65 and older in the Montreal area, Health Minister Christian Dubé said Tuesday.
Quebec has received around 200,000 doses of vaccines against COVID-19 that have not yet been administered and expects to receive another 1.1 million doses by the end of the month, Dubé told reporters in Quebec City.
He said he could announce the lowering of the minimum age for members of the general public in the Montreal area to be vaccinated as soon as Thursday.
Currently, vaccination is available to anyone 70 and up in the Montreal area, the most affected region in the province.
3:20 p.m.: Saskatchewan is relaxing some of its COVID-19 restrictions. The province says that starting today, it’s lifting a ban on household visitors and will allow up to 10 people inside a home at one time.
The Ministry of Health says guests should be from the same two or three households. It also says that starting March 19, worship services can have up to 150 people or 30 per cent capacity, whichever is less.
2:20 p.m.: Nunavut health officials say some restrictions will be lifted in Arviat, more than 110 days after the community went into lock down.
Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says businesses, workplaces and daycares can reopen, while schools can reopen part-time.
Outdoor gatherings are to be limited to 25 people, while indoor gatherings are to be capped at five people with masks mandatory for everyone outside their homes.
Social gatherings had previously been prohibited.
1:55 p.m.: Some Ontario public health units will continue to use their own vaccination booking systems even after a provincial portal becomes available next week.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones says approximately six units, including Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, will stick with their own systems.
She says the rest will merge with the province’s online portal or use a combination of both systems.
Several public health units have started using their own booking systems to make vaccination appointments for eligible residents in recent weeks in the absence of a provincial system.
The news comes as the province prepares to expand its vaccine rollout into pharmacies in three regions on Friday — a pilot project that’s taking appointments for people aged 60 to 64.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says Ontario is expected to receive 190,000 AstraZeneca vaccines today, which are slated for use in the pharmacy pilot.
1:50 p.m.: Manitoba is reporting one new COVID-19 death and 62 additional cases.
The province says testing has confirmed five more cases involving the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom and eight more cases involving the B.1.351 variant first seen in South Africa.
Health officials say there is no sign of community transmission of the variants.
1:45 p.m.: Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.
Health officials say the case involves a male under the age of 20 who is a close contact of a previously reported infection.
There are now 80 active known cases of COVID-19 in the province, down from 203 last Tuesday.
The province is still recovering from an outbreak that swept through the St. John’s metro area last month, and lockdown measures remain throughout the Avalon Peninsula, which includes the capital.
At the outbreak’s peak, there were 434 active reported cases in the province, with 100 of those reported on a single day: Feb. 11.
Officials say the outbreak was caused by the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.
1:35 p.m.: A constitutional rights advocacy group is mounting a legal challenge to the Canadian government’s quarantine hotel policy.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation has filed an application with Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice along with five individuals, seeking an end to the policy.
A government order that went into effect on Feb. 14 mandates that anyone entering Canada from abroad must stay in a federally approved hotel for the first three nights of a 14-day quarantine.
Travellers may leave the hotels once a COVID-19 test taken at their point of entry comes back negative.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation argues in its legal application that hotel quarantine requirements are “overbroad, arbitrary and grossly disproportionate.”
It argues the hotel policy detains people without COVID-19 symptoms who would be able to safely quarantine outside of government-approved accommodation at minimal or no expense.
The Ministry of the Attorney General did not immediately provide comment on the legal action.
All five individuals who are part of the legal challenge had to travel outside Canada for compassionate purposes and stay in the quarantine hotels on their return, the CCF said.
1:30 p.m.: A federation representing several Quebec teachers unions is seeking a court order that would require the provincial government to retest air quality in schools.
The Federation autonome de l’enseignement says a government report on air quality in schools released in January didn’t accurately measure the concentration of carbon dioxide in classrooms.
That data is crucial because “the higher the CO2 level, the more it encourages the spread of the virus,” federation president Sylvain Mallette said in an interview Tuesday.
The federation — which commissioned a report from engineering firm EXP criticizing the government’s air quality study — said it’s worried poor ventilation puts students and teachers at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Mallette said the federation waoutnts air quality in schools to be tested using criteria set out in the EXP report and for the government to create a timeline to address air quality issues in schools and to share the results of the new tests with the federation.
Quebec reported 650 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and 12 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including four within the previous 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 14, to 576, and 110 people were in intensive care, a rise of two.
Officials said 16,357 doses of vaccine were administered Monday for a total of 581,028.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2021.
1:20 p.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada has been warned of manufacturing problems plaguing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The viral vector vaccine developed by J&J’s subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, was authorized by Health Canada as safe and effective last week.
Canada pre-ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine, which is the first and only one in Canada’s vaccine plan that requires only one dose.
But Trudeau says Canada still doesn’t have a date for when it should receive the first deliveries.
12:50 p.m.: Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting another death related to COVID-19 in the province, as well as one new infection.
The death of a resident in their 70s at the Manoir Belle Vue long-term care home in Edmundston brings the number of deaths from COVID-19 in New Brunswick to 29.
The new case involves a person in their 60s in the Bathurst region and is travel-related.
There are 35 active cases in the province, with three people in hospital, including two in intensive care.
12:45 p.m.: Newfoundland and Labrador public health officials are reporting one new case of COVID-19.
Authorities say the case involves a male under 20 who is a close contact of a previously identified infection.
There are now 80 active reported COVID-19 cases across the province, down from 203 active infections last Tuesday.
The province is still recovering from an outbreak that swept through the St. John’s metro area last month, and Newfoundland’s eastern region remains in lockdown.
12:45 p.m.: Health officials on Prince Edward Island say they are expanding access to COVID-19 vaccination because supply is set to increase over the coming weeks.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison said today she expects the Island to receive 30,000 doses by mid-April.
She says Islanders over the age of 75 will be able to make vaccination appointments starting Thursday.
Morrison says 2,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine were delivered today and will be reserved for people aged 18-to-29 years who work in the food and beverage sector. She says those people can begin booking appointments this week.
Health officials are reporting no new cases of COVID-19 today; there are 28 active reported cases in the province.
Morrison says a travel-related case from last week has been confirmed to involve the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.
12:40 p.m. Canada and the U.S. will renew their cricket rivalry this summer in the Auty Cup, which was first contested in 1844.
Pending final approval by Canadian health authorities, the 50-over series will be played in Canada from July 26-30 at a venue to be determined later.
The historic series, which resumed in 2011 after a 17-year absence, will follow the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Americas Qualifier, which Canada is hosting from July 17-23.
Canada will use the Auty Cup series to prepare for its ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League series while the U.S. looks ahead to the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 series in the same month.
Both teams have been sidelined for a year due to the global pandemic.
12:36 p.m.: Nova Scotia residents aged 63 and 64 will be the first to receive the recently approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine starting next week.
Officials say 13,000 doses of the vaccine will be administered on a first-come, first-served basis in 25 locations across the province, starting March 20.
Canada’s national vaccine expert panel recommends against use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over the age of 65.
Nova Scotia also opened its first prototype pharmacy vaccination clinic today in central Halifax as health officials reported five new cases of COVID-19 in the province.
All of the new cases involve contacts of previously reported cases — three were identified in the region including Halifax and the other two were in the western health region.
Officials also reported five new variant cases in the province — three of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom and two of the variant connected to South Africa — but they say there is no sign of community spread.
12:35 p.m.: Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says as more Canadians get vaccinated, guidelines on whether people need to mask or physically distance will evolve.
American officials are saying this week that in very specific situations, fully vaccinated people can engage with others without wearing masks.
Tam says Canada will look at making adjustments when it is safe to do so, noting that jurisdictions here are only just beginning to ease restrictive measures.
She says Canada still has significant community-level transmission and health officials don’t know how fully variants may take hold.
12:30 p.m. Opposition parties are pushing the federal Liberals for targeted COVID-19 relief for some badly hit sectors. The Conservatives advanced a motion Tuesday calling on the Liberals to implement supports for the hospitality, tourism and charity sectors decimated by the pandemic.
“We cannot allow the pandemic to permanently kill these jobs,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said.
The Conservatives also want airlines to commit to providing consumer refunds, restrict executive pay and restore regional routes in exchange for repayable loans.
The Liberals have already promised some sector-specific support and have accused the Conservatives of deliberately holding up those programs by stalling on passing measures through the House of Commons. O’Toole said his party is doing its job by pressing to ensure the existing programs are meeting existing needs, which he said they aren’t.
The New Democrats also reiterated their ideas for small business relief Tuesday.
12:25 p.m.: Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says recommendations to space out doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by as much as four months are being driven by real-time science.
Tam is addressing concerns being raised by some in the scientific community that use of the vaccines wasn’t studied that way when they were developed.
They say that carries risks, including that people won’t take the vaccine because they don’t trust it.
Tam says since a first dose of vaccines can provide strong protection and help slow mortality rates it is important to try to get that first shot to as many people as possible.
Tam says supply issues will resolve as more vaccines come online and that interval of four months could be scaled back.
12:22 p.m. The City of Brampton and Peel Public Heath have both issued notices warning residents that Brampton Transit service could be affected after a COVID-19 investigation started on Monday.
According to the notice, Peel Public Health (PPH) has directed transit operators to get tested for the virus and that medical-grade face masks be mandatory for all operators.
In a notice provided by PPH, they said an investigation includes a “number of” Brampton Transit employees but did not provide specific numbers. No outbreak has been declared.
Public health says the testing has been undertaken out of an abundance of caution and have asked those who refuse to get tested to self-isolate.
Specific information regarding how the investigation started, potential bus routes impacted and total number of people being investigated have not been provided by either the city or public health.
12:20 p.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there’s still no firm date for when Johnson & Johnson will send its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada.
Health Canada approved the vaccine for use last week but the company has reported production delays could threaten delivery dates in the European Union.
Trudeau says he is aware of those issues and as soon as Canada’s dates are confirmed, the government will share that information.
12:17 p.m.: The president of the Ontario Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is applauding the province’s move to include pregnant women on its priority list of recipients in the next phase of its COVID-19 vaccination plan.
Dr. Constance Nasello, the group’s president, said it’s a big win for pregnant women and for public health. The decision, she said, reflects increasing evidence that vaccines are safe for pregnant women and that those infected with COVID-19 while pregnant run a higher risk of being hospitalized and requiring intensive care.
“I would like to think that’s a result of the advocacy of Ontario’s (obstetricians and gynecologists),” Nasello said in an interview Sunday. “The problem was the Canadian guidelines were so unclear, that nobody put them on their priority list for vaccination at all.”
11:55 a.m.: Prince Edward Island is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 today.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says a travel-related case from last week has been confirmed to involve the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.
Morrison says officials have identified four cases of the B.1.1.7 mutation on the Island.
There are now 28 active reported cases of COVID-19 in P.E.I.
11:45 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam are marking Thursday’s one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the spread of the novel coronavirus a pandemic.
Tam says it is time for remembering the lives lost, but it is also clear the work is not done.
She says Canadians must commit to sustaining their efforts until the crisis of COVID-19 is behind us.
Trudeau is calling on all Canadians to use the newly created day of remembrance for those who died during the pandemic to remember and salute all who have sacrificed so much during the last year.
Over 22,000 Canadians have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began and there has been a total of nearly 895,000 cases in Canada.
11:40 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will receive more than three million doses of vaccine over the next three weeks for a total of eight million doses before the end of March alone.
11 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 650 new cases of COVID-19 today and 12 more deaths, including four within the past 24 hours.
Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 14, to 576, and 110 people were in intensive care, a rise of two.
Officials say 16,357 doses of vaccine were administered Monday for a total of 581,028.
Quebec has reported 293,860 COVID-19 infections and 10,493 deaths linked to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
The province has 6,765 active reported cases of COVID-19.
10:45 a.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting five new cases of COVID-19 today involving contacts of previously reported infections.
Health officials say three new cases were identified in the health region including Halifax and the other two were reported in the western health region.
Officials are also reporting five new cases of novel coronavirus mutations, three of which involve the variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom and two involving the mutation first detected in South Africa.
They say there is no sign of community spread involving variants in the province.
10:40 a.m.: For the fourth straight day, Ontario is reporting that there are no new COVID-19 deaths among residents in long-term care so the total remains at 3,748 since the pandemic began.
There’s one more long-term-care home in outbreak for a total of 85 or 13.6 per cent of all LTC homes in the province.
10:18 a.m.: Locally, there are 343 new cases in Toronto, 235 in Peel and 105 in York Region.
10:15 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 31,047 more vaccine doses were administered since its last daily report for a total of 943,533 as of 8 p.m. Monday.
The province says 276,193 people are fully vaccinated, which means they’ve had both doses.
10:10 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 1,185 additional COVID-19 cases, with six deaths.
The seven-day average is up to 1,187 cases daily or 57 weekly per 100,000, and down to 12.4 deaths per day.
The labs report 33,264 completed tests, and a 3.7 per cent positivity rate.
10:06 a.m.: British Columbians eligible to make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment are being urged to keep trying if they failed to get through Monday on phone lines overwhelmed by calls.
The Health Ministry confirms just under 15,000 appointments were booked on the first day residents over the age of 90 or Indigenous elders over 65 could make appointments.
Only Fraser Health offered an online option for booking appointments and 8,722 were made there, while the Interior and Vancouver Island health authorities each recorded just under 2,500 bookings and residents in the north made just over 1,000,
The ministry says only 369 bookings were made in Vancouver Coastal, and officials pledged to work with that health authority to get those bookings “back on track.”
About 80,000 B.C. residents are eligible for appointments this week but many have already been vaccinated at their care facilities
The ministry says there is “more than enough time” to add the remaining eligible seniors and elders to the booking list.
10 a.m.: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has acquired the vial that contained the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine administered in the United States as part of its plans to document the global pandemic and “this extraordinary period we were going through.”
The acquisition, along with other materials related to that first vaccine dose, was announced by the museum on Tuesday to mark the upcoming one-year anniversary of the pandemic. Associated Press journalists were given an exclusive backstage look at the newly obtained materials, which include vials, special shipping equipment and the medical scrubs and ID badge of the New York City nurse who was America’s first coronavirus vaccine recipient.
“We wanted objects that would tell the full story,” said Anthea M. Hartig, the museum’s director. “Everything from the scrubs to the freezer unit that shipped the vaccines.”
Although there are a host of coronavirus-related anniversaries taking place, the museum is choosing to mark Thursday — March 11, the day last year that the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. That’s also the week that much of American life shut down as the virus made inroads into offices, homes and sporting events.
9:55 a.m.: To the surprise of nobody and misfortune of many, Golf Canada, RBC and the PGA Tour on Tuesday announced the cancellation of a second straight RBC Canadian Open due to COVID-19.
While the PGA Tour has been back in business for nine months, with recent tournaments welcoming thousands of fans daily, the current government-mandated quarantine placed on travellers coming to Canada, plus the City of Toronto’s ban on permits for outdoor events through the Canada Day long weekend — one of which the mid-June RBC Canadian Open needs to close a portion of Islington Avenue on which host St. George’s Golf and Country Club sits — left organizers no choice.
9:45 a.m.: Mexico announced a huge bet on Chinese vaccines Tuesday, without making public any information about their efficacy.
Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the Mexican government has signed agreements for 12 million doses of the yet-unapproved Sinopharm vaccine and increased to a total of 20 million doses its contracts for the Coronavac dose made by China’s Sinovac.
The total of 32 million doses, plus at least 4 million doses of the CanSino shot, would dwarf the estimated 5 million vaccine doses Mexico has acquired from other sources.
However, Ebrard’s office has repeatedly refused to answer questions about the efficacy of the Chinese shots.
Sinopharm has claimed its vaccine was 79 per cent effective based on interim data from clinical trials, but like other Chinese firms, it has not publicly released its late-stage clinical trial data.
Mexico has suffered almost 190,100 confirmed deaths. However, Mexico does so little testing that government excess-death figures suggest the real toll was well above 220,000 at the start of January, when the government stopped releasing that data. Test-confirmed cases total over 2.1 million.
8:50 a.m. Canada needs to focus its recovery efforts on child care and employment protections, and centre — not just include — the voices of the most vulnerable, including people of colour, gender-diverse people, and otherwise marginalized communities, according to a new report.
The report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPPA) came Monday on International Women’s Day — the same day that the federal government announced the 18 members of its task force to address gender equality in the economic recovery from COVID-19.
A year into the pandemic, report author Katherine Scott said she felt it was important to encompass the entirety of COVID-19’s impact on women and gender-diverse people — defined by Statistics Canada as those “whose gender is either not disclosed, or is non-binary” — with an eye to the future and what governments need to do to ensure the disproportionate impact doesn’t result in longer-term damage.
8:30 a.m. Now that Canada has an expanding menu of COVID-19 vaccines, you’re probably hearing chatter about how this one is better and that one is worse.
Dr. Alan Bernstein has this advice for you: take the first shot you can.
That’s what he’s going to do.
“All the vaccines are working really well — that’s the bottom line,” said Bernstein, the president of the research organization CIFAR and member of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine task force.
“I will take the first vaccine I’m offered,” he said.
It’s a message that health officials are trumpeting after Health Canada authorized the country’s fourth COVID vaccine last week, deeming the Johnson & Johnson shot safe and effective against the deadly coronavirus. Yes, each shot comes with a different “efficacy” rate — but that doesn’t mean you can easily conclude one is better than others.
“I just wanted to caution against this sort of ‘good or bad vaccines,’” Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, told reporters recently. “If there’s a vaccine and it’s been authorized by Health Canada, it means that it’s met standards.”
8:20 a.m. Public health officials are confusing Canadians with different advice on delaying a second COVID-19 shot, which risks undermining confidence in vaccines, two health researchers told MPs Monday.
The “confusion of messages” is a major challenge to leading a successful national immunization strategy and risks contributing to vaccine hesitancy, said Nathalie Grandvaux, a professor in biochemistry and molecular medicine at Université de Montréal, and co-director of Quebec’s COVID-19 pandemic research network.
Grandvaux weighed in on a debate that has broken out as provinces scramble to make a little vaccine supply go a long way.
“Canada does not speak with a single strong voice,” she said.
Her advice to the government: follow the evolving science but get all the agencies — Health Canada regulators, Public Health Agency of Canada chief public health officers, and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization on the same page, so that they deliver a “unified message.”
8:12 a.m. Oakville Mayor Rob Burton has announced that the town’s first COVID-19 mass vaccination site will open Tuesday.
The clinic, which is only open to those with pre-booked appointments, is located at the St. Volodymyr Cultural Centre at 1280 Dundas St.
“This is an exciting day for our community, particularly those aged 80 and over who are eligible for vaccination in this part of the Province’s Phase Two rollout,” said Burton.
Halton’s first mass vaccination clinic opened at Georgetown’s Gellert Community Centre on March 6.
Over the next two weeks, all of the region’s vaccination clinics will gradually open.
Burton noted there are appointments available for all permanent Halton residents born in 1941 or earlier.
8 a.m. As he stood in line outside the Eaton Centre Nike store Monday afternoon, James Reese was less concerned with COVID-19 than he was with getting his hands on a pair of new Air Jordan XXVs.
“I know they’re a lot, but they’re awesome shoes. I’ve been looking forward to getting them for a while,” said Reese.
So why not just buy them online?
“They’re $235. I wanted to make sure I could try them on, first,” said Reese, who was lined up with about a dozen other people outside the store.
It was the first day Toronto and Peel Region entered the grey zone, meaning non-essential retailers could let customers into their stores for the first time since mid-November.
7:50 a.m. Ontario is relying on the honour system when it comes to people with underlying medical issues such as cancer and diabetes being able to get early COVID-19 vaccinations regardless of age, says Health Minister Christine Elliott.
Her critics say that opens the door to potential abuse when shots begin in April for residents of the province with specific health conditions.
“Given the fact that we want to protect the most vulnerable first, the province should have had provisions in place to prevent that from happening,” said Green Leader Mike Schreiner, echoing concerns from other opposition parties.
Elliott said the government is relying on Ontarians not to game the system when they show up for vaccination appointments as the province otherwise concentrates on its oldest residents most at risk from the virus, with ages 60 and up being the priority.
“People are asked a series of questions when they come in,” she told reporters Monday. “In some cases they can probably verify that with their primary-care physicians but in most cases people are honest.”
7:40 a.m. St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in North York has temporarily closed after six new COVID-19 cases were reported over the weekend.
Toronto Public Health and the Toronto Catholic District School Board posted the announcement late Monday night, citing an ongoing investigation.
As of Monday, there were eight active COVID-19 cases among students at the elementary school and three among staff, according to the TCDSB database.
The school board says students will attend classes online while St. Francis Xavier is closed.
“We are unaware of any identified (COVID variants of concern) and dismissing the school is a precautionary measure recommended by (Toronto Public Health),” a TCDSB spokesperson told the Star in an email. “We believe testing is being finalized and details will be shared once available.”
7:35 a.m. Without a central booking system for COVID-19 vaccine appointments, Toronto hospitals have scrambled to ramp up their own clinics for those 80 and older, but the patchwork approach has left at least one of the city’s harder hit neighbourhoods without access.
Rexdale, an Etobicoke neighbourhood that’s part of the city’s hard-hit northwest corner, where there’s a large population of essential workers and people living with extended family — conditions for COVID to thrive — has so far been overlooked.
The area is “kind of in no man’s land” for 80+ vaccine bookings, said Althea Martin-Risden, director of health promotion at Rexdale Community Health Centre.
The city is not yet booking appointments for mass vaccination clinics. But in the meantime, hospitals and Ontario Family Health Teams have been developing their own appointment and registration systems.
On Monday, they launched https://vaccineto.ca, a website that pulls these individual links into one central site. There are links for downtown hospitals, Sunnybrook, North York and some clinics in Scarborough. However, Martin-Risden said Rexdale is not part of the catchment area for either Humber River Hospital or William Osler, which is so far only booking at its Brampton and Mississauga hospitals.
7:25 a.m. The largest mass vaccination program in Canada’s history began on Dec. 14, 2020. With more than 70 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine required for everyone in the country, health officials are facing a logistical challenge of colossal proportions.
Adding to the complexity is the fact that the vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca require two doses administered several weeks apart. A fourth vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, was approved in early March and provides the logistical advantage of requiring only one dose to be effective.
Here the Toronto Star presents our vaccine gap tracker, which tracks the gap between the number of vaccines Ontario is administering everyday and what it needs to be administering to meet the stated goals of retired general Rick Hillier, head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.
6:25 a.m. The 160-bed hospital in the Po River Valley town of Chiari has no more room for patients stricken with the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first identified in Britain that has put hospitals in Italy’s northern Brescia province on high alert.
That history was repeating itself one year after Lombardy became the epicenter of Italy’s pandemic was a sickening realization for Dr. Gabriele Zanolini, who runs the COVID ward in the M. Mellini Hospital in the once-walled city that maintains its medieval circular street pattern.
“You know that there are patients in the emergency room, and you don’t know where to put them,” Zanolini told The Associated Press.
“This for me is anguish, not to be able to respond to people who need to be treated. The most difficult moment is to find ourselves again in a state of emergency, after so much time.”
The U.K. variant surge has filled 90% of hospital beds in Brescia province, bordering both Veneto and Emilia-Romagna regions, as Italy crossed the grim threshold of 100,000 pandemic dead on Monday and marks the one-year anniversary Wednesday of Italy’s draconian lockdown, the first in the West.
While Zanolini was able to offer a safety valve to hard-hit Bergamo during last spring’s deadly surge, and to Milan and Varese in the fall, now he must ask hospitals elsewhere in the region to take virus patients he himself cannot admit.
New measures are again being considered in Rome to tamp down the increase in new cases attributed to virus variants, including also those identified in South Africa and Brazil. With the U.K. variant prevalent in Italy and racing from school age children and adolescents through families, Lombardy has again put all schools on distance learning, as have several regions in the south where the health care system is more fragile.
5:12 a.m. Estonia’s government has decided on further coronavirus restrictions due to a rapid rise in cases, especially the variant first detected in Britain, and the Baltic country will effectively enter lockdown as of Thursday.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas unveiled the new measures in an interview with the Estonian public broadcaster ERR late Monday saying “the situation with COVID-19 in Estonia is extremely critical.”
Kallas said Estonia’s pandemic situation needs to be addressed quickly to avoid further escalation and hence “we have decided to lock the country in as much as possible.”
With exception of grocery and other essential stores such as pharmacies, all stores and restaurants throughout Estonia are required to remain closed and all indoor sport activities cease as of Thursday. Restaurants will, however, be able to serve food for takeaway and drive-in customers.
Kallas said the new restrictions would be in place for a minimum of one month.
5:01 a.m. New Zealand has opened its first large vaccination clinic as it scales up efforts to protect people from the coronavirus.
The clinic in south Auckland will initially target household members of border workers. New Zealand has stamped out community spread of the virus and considers border workers and their families the most vulnerable to catching the disease from infectious travellers.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said that initially about 150 people a day will get vaccinated at the clinic, although the numbers will be rapidly increased. Health officials plan to open two more clinics in Auckland over the next few weeks.
“I know a lot of our old people are probably scared of getting the vaccine but getting it today, it doesn’t hurt, and it is important for everybody to get it,” said Denise Fogasavaii, the sister of an Air New Zealand employee who has already been vaccinated.
New Zealand this week announced it plans to use the Pfizer vaccine for all inoculations, and it hopes to complete its vaccination program by the end of the year.
4:55 a.m. Several million people stand to save hundreds of dollars in health insurance costs, or more, under the Democratic coronavirus relief legislation on track to pass Congress.
Winners include those covered by “Obamacare” or just now signing up, self-employed people who buy their own insurance and don’t currently get federal help, laid-off workers struggling to retain employer coverage, and most anyone collecting unemployment. Also, potentially many more could benefit if about a dozen states accept a Medicaid deal in the legislation.
Taken together, the components of the coronavirus bill represent the biggest expansion of federal help for health insurance since the Obama-era Affordable Care Act more than 10 years ago. Obamacare not only survived President Donald Trump’s repeated attempts to tear it down but will now get a shot of new life.
Consider a couple of examples: A hypothetical 45-year-old making $58,000 now gets no aid under the ACA. With the bill, they’d be entitled to a $1,250 tax credit, or 20% off their premiums, according to the Congressional Budget Office. A 64-year-old making $19,300 already gets generous subsidies that reduce premiums to $800 a year. But with the bill, that person would pay no premiums for a standard plan.
Because health insurance is so complicated, consumers are going to have to do their homework to figure out if there’s something in the bill for them. And health care benefits are not like stimulus checks that can be blasted out. There will be a lag as government agencies, insurers and employers unpack the bill’s provisions.
Tuesday 4 a.m. The president of the Ontario Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is applauding the province’s move to include pregnant women on its priority list of recipients in the next phase of its COVID-19 vaccination plan.
Dr. Constance Nasello says that although pregnant women were excluded from initial trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, there is increasing evidence that the vaccines are safe for them.
Ontario health authorities listed pregnancy as a factor putting someone at risk for hospitalization or death from COVID-19 as they released details of the province’s vaccination plan Friday.
That means pregnant women would be eligible for a vaccine during the second phase of the vaccine rollout.
Nasello says there’s evidence indicating that while many people who contract COVID-19 while pregnant have mild symptoms, pregnancy is a risk factor for more severe symptoms requiring hospitalization.
Saskatchewan is the only other province to explicitly include pregnant people in its priority list for vaccines, listing pregnant women with significant heart disease in the second phase of the provincial vaccination plan.
Monday 11:30 p.m.: The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 11 p.m. ET on Monday March 8, 2021.
In Canada, the provinces are reporting 78,246 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,465,435 doses given. Nationwide, 569,009 people or 1.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 6,505.23 per 100,000.
There were no new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,938,570 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 83.9 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 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. In the province, 1.61 per cent (8,427) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 41,470 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 59.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply.