March 4, 2022

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for June 25 | CBC News

Participants attend Tel Aviv Pride on Friday. Organizers in Israel called it the largest parade of its kind held worldwide since the outbreak of COVID-19. Officials recommended that those attending wear masks amid a recent increase in infections due to the delta variant. (Oded Balilty/The Associated Press)

Public health agency gives guidance for the vaccinated, serves up warning about delta variant

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on Friday warned that if the delta variant becomes the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Canada, it could lead to a resurgence in case numbers this fall.

Health officials have previously said that 75 per cent of all Canadians must be fully vaccinated before indoor protective measures can be fully lifted.

But if the delta variant becomes the dominant strain in Canada, PHAC says, 80 per cent of the population will have to be fully vaccinated before those measures are lifted in order to avoid a fall resurgence.

“With the delta variant, I think our bottom line is to get as high as possible, as much as we can get past that 75 per cent goal post for both first and second doses,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

Nationally, according to CBC News tracking, 76.4 per cent of eligible Canadians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, while 27.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Dr. Tam said that an increased uptake among younger adults is key to help avoid a resurgence. She said Canadians under 40 are the only adult demographic who haven’t hit the 75 per cent mark on first doses, but she expects the pace to pick up.

Federal health officials have come in for criticism especially as second-dose vaccination has progressed, for not preparing a framework for the road ahead in terms of how Canadians should approach real-life scenarios.

On Friday, PHAC released some of that guidance in chart form — see the document here — as it pertains to fully vaccinated individuals, and situations where people at different stages of vaccination may interact. The agency said a group of fully vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks or physical distancing, but stressed that Canadians should follow the public health regulations specific to their region and province or territory.

The guidance affects not just individuals, but industries. For example, lobbyists for the arts and culture sector in Ontario just met with provincial and municipal leaders including Toronto Mayor John Tory over concerns about an unclear roadmap for reopening in the third step of the pandemic recovery and beyond.

The resounding message was that arts industries that hope to welcome live audiences back into venues want some notice from health authorities on potential easing of restrictions as they struggle to book musical acts and plan live stage shows.

Back in Ottawa, Tam said average daily COVID-19 case counts in Canada are down by more than 90 per cent since the peak of the third wave in April. The average number of people in hospital and ICU with COVID-19 has also declined significantly, she said, albeit at a slower pace.

From The National

More than three-quarters of adults in British Columbia have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but in areas with lower vaccination rates health authorities are holding drive-thru and pop-up clinics to try to get more shots in arms. 2:01


Unity around Atlantic bubble bursts over differences in ‘risk calculation’

The cohesive regional approach to COVID-19 fractured this week over New Brunswick’s early opening of its borders to the rest of Canada, and Nova Scotia’s de facto expulsion of its Maritime neighbour from the Atlantic bubble.

It led to a daylong disruption at the shared border and an exchange of recriminations.

“If you had asked me this question a week ago before it happened, I would have said it’s pretty inconceivable,” said Erin Crandall, a political scientist at Acadia University.

Last week, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs opened his province to all Canadians with one dose of vaccine, citing progress in vaccinations, before other Atlantic provinces were willing to do the same.

That led Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin to put restrictions on those travelling from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. Even people two weeks past their second dose — in other words, those with maximum vaccine protection — would still have to isolate there until they got a negative COVID-19 test.

Rankin backtracked on that decision Thursday: New Brunswickers who got their second dose two weeks ago can now enter Nova Scotia, and everyone in New Brunswick can go to Nova Scotia without restrictions as of June 30.

Rankin took over as premier in February, and Crandall says that may also explain some of the lack of co-ordination.

Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said Thursday that he had a difference of opinion with his counterpart, Dr. Jennifer Russell from New Brunswick, and that he believes New Brunswick’s one-dose rule for visitors from the rest of Canada is “not sufficient” to keep the more contagious delta variant at bay.

“Our margins of error right now are big. It depends how people interpret that risk, and that’s why policy and public health decision can be a bit different: different goals, different outcomes and different risk tolerance, really,” said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious diseases specialist at the Dalhousie University School of Medicine.

This story was first mentioned in the CBC Morning Brief on Friday, which you can subscribe to here.

Read for more about the situation

Edmonton city council meets to discuss mask bylaw ahead of July 1 reopening

Edmonton city council is holding a final vote Friday to decide if its current mask bylaw should end on July 1 when the Alberta government ends the province-wide mandatory masking requirement.

Edmonton’s bylaw expires at the end of 2021. An amendment to move the expiry date to Canada Day passed first and second reading by a narrow margin earlier this week.

The Old Strathcona Business Association, which represents more than 500 businesses in the Whyte Avenue area, is urging council to consider keeping the bylaw in place until the impacts of lifting restrictions can be assessed.

“Even with vaccination rates on the rise, many of our businesses are expressing concern about staff safety and being exposed to the new delta variant,” the association said Thursday in a letter to council.

Hospitality businesses already deal with “hostile customers not wanting to comply with public safety rules,” the letter said. Without a bylaw to back them up, business owners who keep masking requirements in place could face further conflict, the association said.

Fort Saskatchewan city council voted unanimously to repeal its mask bylaw on June 22, and Mayor Gale Katchur acknowledged that some people are a little uneasy, but the city decided to follow the province’s lead on masking.

“Because we have followed the [provincial] regulations, that’s the status that we want to follow,” she said. “So basically, after July 1st, it becomes personal choice.”

Other municipalities in the province, including Leduc and St. Albert, have let mask bylaws lapse or have repealed them.

Follow to see what Edmonton council decides

Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in U.S. are now among people who aren’t vaccinated

An Associated Press analysis of available U.S. government data from May shows that “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 853,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

That translates to just 0.1 per cent of all the infections.

About 63 per cent of all vaccine-eligible Americans — those 12 and older — have received at least one dose, and 53 per cent are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While vaccine remains scarce in much of the world, the U.S. supply is so abundant and demand has slumped so dramatically that shots sit unused.

It has become clear that the U.S. won’t meet the White House’s aspirational goal of 70 per cent with at least one shot by July 4. Officials are trying to hammer home the importance of getting jabbed as the available evidence indicates the delta variant can be highly transmissible in areas where vaccination rates lag.

Earlier this month, Andy Slavitt, then adviser to the Biden administration on COVID-19, suggested that 98 to 99 per cent of the Americans dying of the novel coronavirus are unvaccinated.

The preventable deaths will continue, experts predict, with unvaccinated pockets of the nation experiencing outbreaks in the fall and winter.

Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, said modelling suggests the nation could hit 1,000 deaths per day again next year if the current trend line in vaccination rates continues.

There were caveats to the AP analysis.

Only 45 states are reporting breakaway infections, so the total number of breakaway cases is understated, though it’s unclear if the percentage would be significantly affected.

And no vaccine is 100 per cent effective. About 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people, or 0.8 per cent, though the patient profiles in these cases are unclear in terms of age or potential comorbidities.

Read more about the situation

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.


Valedictorians offer messages of hope and positivity after a challenging academic year

Ontario has seen multiple disruptions to the school year due to the pandemic, with more days away from in-person learning than most other provinces.

But as the rollercoaster academic year ends, several Kitchener-Waterloo students spoke with CBC News, reflecting on what has transpired and how it may guide them going forward with preternatural humility, perspective and a bit of humour.

Ian Willcock, class valedictorian at Forest Heights Collegiate in Kitchener says the pandemic made him miss the sense of community he embraced when he entered Grade 9.

“It’s been kind of lonely because the social interaction was a big part of what made school enjoyable,” he said.

He admits he “kind of took it for granted” until the pandemic hit.

Blake Gill says if he hears the word unprecedented one more time, he’ll scream. The graduating student at Bishop MacDonell High School said that while the senior high school years didn’t go as planned, the out-of-classroom experience during COVID-19 helped him and his peers be more resilient.

“The coronavirus was a wake-up call for us — 2020 and 2021 have taught us to appreciate the simplest of things because you never know when they may be taken from you,” the incoming Queen’s University student will say in his valedictorian speech.

Mela Gebremichael will attend Resurrection Catholic High School in the fall after finishing her time at St. John’s Catholic Elementary School.

Gebremichael came to Canada from Eritrea with her family when she was seven years old and only spoke Tigrinya, the language of her birth country. As she leaves Grade 8, the valedictorian reflected on her fear of coming to Canada as a young Black girl who didn’t speak any English.

“But get a load of me now,” reads her speech. “This might help you understand why this moment feels like I won the Olympics.”

Read more and listen to interviews with some of the students

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