Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario case counts continue to be lower as Toronto changes reporting system; Ford to announce whether schools in regions hardest hit by COVID-19 can reopen next week – Toronto Star
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.
10:15 a.m.: Locally, there are 444 new cases in Toronto, 199 in Peel and 110 in York Region.
10 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 1,172 COVID-19 cases and another 67 deaths.
The numbers are lower as Toronto switches its reporting of data over to the provincial system.
The seven-day average is down to 1,675 cases daily or 81 weekly per 100,000.
The seven-day average for deaths is up to 49.6 per day.
Labs are reporting 52,418 completed tests with a 3.3 per cent positivity rate.
9:23 a.m. One in four COVID-19 cases identified through contact tracing were individuals who had gone to work with symptoms, the most recent Peel Health data shows. Sixty-six per cent of confirmed community outbreaks in Peel reported between September and December 2020 occurred in the workplace. This is not shocking given that more than half of workers are still denied access to paid sick days.
Peel region has had strict lockdown measures in place for months, yet has the highest persistent positivity rate in Ontario. Paid sick days are a basic necessity for mitigating workplace transmission and ensuring people can safely test and isolate. Unfortunately, some of the most vulnerable workers don’t have access to them.
Paid sick days legislation was tabled in December under Bill 239: Stay Home When You Are Sick Act, 2020. This would provide workers with seven permanent paid sick days and 14 additional days during infectious disease emergencies. It can be passed immediately with the recall of the legislature and all party support.
Immediately legislating paid sick days is an urgent matter of socioeconomic and racial justice. As long as growing calls for paid sick days from GTA mayors, top public health and medical officials are not acted upon, racialized and low-income people will continue to be left behind.
Read the op-ed
9:21 a.m. Britain’s health chief has hailed a new study suggesting that a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine provides a high level of protection for 12 weeks, saying it supports the government’s contentious strategy of delaying the second shot so it can protect more people quickly with a first dose.
Britain’s decision has been criticized as risky by other European countries, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday that the study “backs the strategy that we’ve taken and it shows the world that the Oxford vaccine works effectively.”
Hancock’s comments came after Oxford University released a study showing the vaccine cut transmission of the virus by two-thirds and prevented severe disease.
Mene Pangalos, executive vice-president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, said no patients experienced severe COVID-19 or required hospitalization three weeks after receiving a first dose, and that efficacy appeared to increase up to 12 weeks after the initial shot.
“Our data suggest you want to be as close to the 12 weeks as you can” for the second dose, Pangalos said during a news conference.
The study has not been peer-reviewed yet, and it did not address dosing of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the other one currently in use in the U.K. Pfizer recommends that its shots be given 21 days apart and has not endorsed the U.K. government’s decision to lengthen the time between doses.
8:30 a.m. The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca not only protects people from serious illness and death but also substantially slows the transmission of the virus, according to a new study — a finding that underscores the importance of mass vaccination as a path out of the pandemic.
The study by researchers at the University of Oxford is the first to document evidence that any coronavirus vaccine can reduce transmission of the virus.
Researchers measured the impact on transmission by swabbing participants every week seeking to detect signs of the virus. If there is no virus present, even if someone is infected, it cannot be spread. And they found a 67 per cent reduction in positive swabs among those vaccinated.
The results, detailed by Oxford and AstraZeneca researchers in a manuscript that has not been peer-reviewed, found that the vaccine could cut transmission by nearly two-thirds.
Matt Hancock, the British health secretary, hailed the results on Wednesday as “absolutely superb.”
“We now know that the Oxford vaccine also reduces transmission and that will help us all get out of this pandemic,” Hancock said in an interview Wednesday with the BBC.
The results, he said, “should give everyone confidence that this jab works not only to keep you safe but to keep you from passing on the virus to others.”
8:20 a.m. Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are fundraising off of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the next provincial election 484 days away, the Conservatives are urging supporters to bolster party coffers.
On Tuesday night, the Tories fired off an email blast entitled “Tighter controls at our borders.”
“For months, our PC government has been calling for stronger COVID-19 border protections,” says the missive, which is signed “Doug.”
“So I was pleased to see the federal government announce they will be testing international travellers landing at Canadian airports.This is a good first step — but we should do more to protect Canadians,” the premier’s message continues.
Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie
7:49 a.m. Musician Carrie Chesnutt was ready to do a livestream event last week, dressed up in one of her signature colourful outfits with saxophone in hand ready to make music for an audience on Facebook. But then the jack-hammering started.
It was an unmistakable sound, a continuous drilling and pounding that not only echoed in her ears but reverberated up through the floor of her downtown Toronto apartment where construction workers are digging out the concrete in the basement garage and renovating 100 apartment units, replacing windows, installing flooring and fixing balconies.
Adding to the noise was a condo build at nearby Church and Charles Sts. Even 28 floors up, the usual sounds of Chesnutt’s saxophone have been replaced by the amplified grumbling and grinding of machinery and other heavy-duty equipment.
“The level of noise has never been like this,” she says in frustration. “It is impossible to be comfortable in the most anxiety provoking time.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Brian Bradley
6:49 a.m.: China on Wednesday announced a plan to provide 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses to developing nations through the global COVAX initiative as part of its ambitious diplomatic and business efforts to distribute Chinese vaccines around the world.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China is responding to a request from the World Health Organization as developing countries seek to fill shortages predicted to run through March. He did not offer details on which vaccine China was providing to COVAX, or whether it was a donation.
China has already shipped large numbers of doses of its own vaccines, mainly to developing countries. It has pursued deals or donations with more than 30 nations far exceeding the 10 million doses it is providing to COVAX. In Turkey alone, Chinese company Sinovac Biotech Ltd. has struck a deal to sell 50 million doses.
6:22 a.m.: World Health Organization investigators on Wednesday visited a research centre in the Chinese city of Wuhan that has been the subject of speculation about the origins of the coronavirus, with one member saying they’d intended to meet key staff and press them on critical issues.
The WHO team’s visit to the Wuhan Institute of Virology was a highlight of their mission to gather data and search for clues as to where the virus originated and how it spread.
“We’re looking forward to meeting with all the key people here and asking all the important questions that need to be asked,” zoologist and team member Peter Daszak said, according to footage run by Japanese broadcaster TBS.
Reporters followed the team to the high security facility, but as with past visits, there was little direct access to team members, who have given scant details of their discussions and visits thus far. Uniformed and plainclothes security guards stood watch along the facility’s gated front entrance, but there was no sign of the protective suits team members had donned Tuesday during a visit to an animal disease research centre. It wasn’t clear what protective gear was worn inside the institute.
The team left after around three hours without speaking to waiting journalists.
5:56 a.m.: Britain’s health chief said Wednesday that a new study suggesting that a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine provides a high level of protection for 12 weeks supports the government’s strategy of delaying the second shot so more people can quickly be protected by the first dose.
Britain’s decision has been criticized as risky by other European countries, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the study “backs the strategy that we’ve taken and it shows the world that the Oxford vaccine works effectively.”
Hancock’s comments came after Oxford University released a study showing the vaccine cut the transmission of the virus by two-thirds and prevented severe disease.
The study has not been peer-reviewed yet and does not address the efficacy of the other vaccine currently in use in the U.K., made by Pfizer. Pfizer recommends that its shots be given 21 days apart and has not endorsed the U.K. government’s decision to lengthen the time between doses.
5:38 a.m.: In the year since California saw its first coronavirus case, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has gone from a governor in command to one lurching from one political crisis to the next.
Just in recent weeks, he drew surprise and pushback for abruptly lifting stay-at-home orders; he overhauled the state’s vaccine system as California lags behind smaller states in getting shots out; his effort to reopen schools foundered; and state audits revealed missteps that contributed to at least $10 billion in unemployment fraud.
It all provided fresh fodder for a recall petition that’s circulating — started by Republicans before the pandemic — and on Monday former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, launched a bid against Newsom. Some Democrats are now starting to whisper about the need for a backup plan should voters decide the first-term governor needs to go.
Newsom’s slide from the early days of the pandemic points to the pain facing leaders, particularly Democrats who avoided early political backlash, as virus fatigue takes hold, vaccines remain elusive and voters stop blaming the Trump administration for their trouble.
4:01 a.m.: Ontario will announce today whether schools in regions hardest hit by COVID-19 can reopen next week for in-person learning.
The decision will follow a recommendation from the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce says parents need to know if schools will reopen for in-person learning so they have time to prepare.
The province has previously said that schools in five COVID-19 hot spots as well as several other regions would reopen for in-person learning by Feb. 10.
All students in Ontario began January with online learning as part of a provincial lockdown.
The province has since taken a staggered approach to reopening physical classrooms, starting first with Northern Ontario and rural schools where case rates are lower.
4 a.m.: Advocates say homeless people should get priority to COVID-19 vaccines given how at risk they are to the virus and how much more likely they are to get severely ill if infected.
“We as a society set the moral tone by who we provide supports for and who we prioritize,” says a position statement released Wednesday by two national groups who work with street populations.
“It’s imperative that we include the most vulnerable who can benefit most from the protection afforded by COVID vaccination.”
The groups cite research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Open that found the homeless in Ontario were 20 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than the general public, 10 times more likely to end up in intensive care and five times more likely to die within 21 days of a diagnosis.
While vaccinations for the homeless population have begun in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, the groups are calling for an urgent, consistent Canada-wide effort.
Click here to read more of Sunday’s COVID-19 coverage.
Published at Wed, 03 Feb 2021 15:11:15 +0000