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Coronavirus news and updates for Friday, April 15, 2022

Coronavirus news and updates for Friday, April 15, 2022

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

8:54 p.m.: It’s gonna be an egg-stra special day on Monday when the White House Easter Egg Roll returns from a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are expected to welcome some 30,000 kids and their adult chaperones for the egg roll, an egg hunt and other activities.

The annual egg rolling event was canceled by former President Donald Trump in 2020 and by Biden last year due to the pandemic that has killed nearly 1 million Americans.

First Lady Jill Biden, an educator, has dubbed this year’s all-day event the “Egg-ucation Roll,” aides said, turning the South Lawn into a school community with various educational stations.

Besides eggs-treme fun, the all-day event will include a schoolhouse activity area, reading nook, talent show, obstacle course and other exercise stations, and a cafe where kids will learn to make and eat supposedly healthy treats.

The shindig also includes celebs like “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, singer Ciara and actor/singer Kristin Chenoweth.

More than two dozen costumed characters will roam the grounds, including Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, the Racing Presidents mascots for the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball, Rosita and Cookie Monster from “Sesame Street” and Snoopy and Charlie Brown, among others.

8 p.m.: After a sustained pandemic-induced dip in air travel, Canadians are slowly starting to board flights again. International arrivals are up compared to last year, Statistics Canada data shows, although still significantly below pre-pandemic levels.

While people are on the move, the country is staring down a sixth wave of COVID-19 infections — driven by the BA. 2 variant spreads and the lifting of public health measures.

System-wide decisions, from mask mandates to access to testing, have a significant impact on overall safety, said Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan. These policies also reduce the chance that Canadian travellers will take the virus elsewhere.

Yet travellers can still make the best of the tools at their disposal to keep themselves and others safe. Speaking to the Star, Rasmussen — who is about to attend a work conference in Portugal — shared her advice on how to navigate travel in the age of Omicron.

Click here to read more of this story from the Star’s Sara Mojtahedzadeh.

7:22 p.m.: The 75-year-old Republican said in an announcement late Friday he was diagnosed by his personal physician after experiencing mild symptoms such as a runny nose, head ache, body aches and a sore throat.

DeWine was administered a monoclonal antibody treatment, which is designed to fight the infection. He said he is following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol and quarantining.

The governor’s office said First Lady Fran DeWine was experiencing no symptoms and has tested negative. Both the governor and his wife have received two coronavirus vaccines and a booster.

DeWine’s diagnosis comes just 18 days before Ohio’s May 3 primary, in which he faces two Republican challengers, and just eight days before former President Donald Trump plans an Ohio rally.

It was unclear whether his diagnosis would affect DeWine’s attendance at the rally, or if he would have attended in any case. He had previous plans to attend a celebration of the 200th birthday of President Ulysses S. Grant, an Ohio native, on that day.

DeWine tested positive for COVID-19 once before, in 2020, before testing negative later the same day. Those conflicting results came just before the governor was to meet with Trump, then the president, in Cleveland.

4:55 p.m.: Yet again, the U.S. is trudging into what could be another COVID-19 surge, with cases rising nationally and in most states after a two-month decline.

One big unknown? “We don’t know how high that mountain’s gonna grow,” said Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University.

No one expects a peak nearly as high as the last one, when the contagious omicron version of the coronavirus ripped through the population.

But experts warn that the coming wave – caused by a mutant called BA.2 that’s thought to be about 30 per cent more contagious – will wash across the nation. They worry that hospitalizations, which are already ticking up in some parts of the Northeast, will rise in a growing number of states in the coming weeks. And the case wave will be bigger than it looks, they say, because reported numbers are vast undercounts as more people test at home without reporting their infections or skip testing altogether.

2:02 p.m. A hospital in western Quebec is suspending its obstetrics services for the holiday weekend due to a lack of staff.

The health authority for the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region says the service at the hospital in Ville-Marie is suspended until Monday at 8 a.m. due to an unforeseen staffing issue.

The Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue says on Facebook that it has reached out to women who are affected by the closure, and those giving birth will be redirected to another hospital about 130 kilometres away.

The health authority also announced on Thursday that emergency services at the Témiscaming-Kipawa health facility would be closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday night from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

Quebec’s health minister has warned that the province’s health services are looking at a difficult few weeks ahead as they struggle with a sixth wave of COVID-19 coupled with a rise in influenza and other viruses.

While officials did not say what caused the closures in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the province has said about 13,000 health workers are off the job due to COVID-19.

1:08 p.m. Los Angeles County on Friday ended its order to quarantine asymptomatic people exposed to the coronavirus.

The rule change means anyone — even someone not vaccinated for COVID-19 or up-to-date with a booster shot — who is exposed to an infected person no longer needs to stay home for at least five days to see whether they will test positive or become sick, provided they remain symptom-free.

But unlike the California Department of Public Health, which universally relaxed its quarantine recommendations for the public earlier this month, L.A. County has established a few conditions for waiving the waiting period.

The county will require, not merely recommend, that people who were in close contact with an infected person “wear a highly protective mask around others, especially indoors, for a total of 10 days after the last contact with a person infected” with the coronavirus, and get tested within three to five days after their last exposure to the infected person.

Anyone who lives or works in L.A. County is subject to that masking order.

Someone is considered exposed to the coronavirus if they share the same indoor airspace — like a home, clinic waiting room or airplane — with an infected person during his or her contagious period for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

12:46 p.m. Yet again, the U.S. is trudging into what could be another COVID-19 surge, with cases rising nationally and in most states after a two-month decline.

One big unknown? “We don’t know how high that mountain’s gonna grow,” said Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University.

No one expects a peak nearly as high as the last one, when the contagious omicron version of the coronavirus ripped through the population.

But experts warn that the coming wave – caused by a mutant called BA.2 that’s thought to be about 30 per cent more contagious – will wash across the nation and push up hospitalizations in a growing number of states in the coming weeks. And the case wave will be bigger than it looks, they say, because reported numbers are vast undercounts as more people test at home without reporting their infections or skip testing altogether.

At the height of the previous omicron surge, reported daily cases reached into the hundreds of thousands. On April 14, the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases rose to 39,521, up from 30,724 two weeks earlier, according to data from Johns Hopkins collected by The Associated Press.

11:41 a.m. Starting Monday, Minneapolis students will no longer have to wear masks at school or on buses, the school district said Thursday as it announced changes to its COVID-19 protocols.

The news came two days after St. Paul’s school board voted 6-1 to change the mask policy for that district, removing the mandate and allowing students and faculty to choose whether or not to wear a face covering in school buildings.

Besides dropping its mask mandate, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) will discontinue universal contract tracing, officials said. That means families may not be notified if someone in their student’s class tests positive for COVID-19.

District officials also said that beginning Monday, fully vaccinated students and staff will no longer be required to isolate after COVID-19 exposure and the quarantine time for unvaccinated students and adults in the schools will drop from 10 days to five days.

10:27 a.m. A Toronto public school board committee that advocates on behalf of students with special needs wants to bring back mandatory masking and vaccination for those who work with medically fragile children.

The Special Education Advisory Committee has written to the province’s top doctor requesting permission for the board to reintroduce masking rules and its vaccination policy at congregated schools that serve students with complex special needs, many of whom have multiple disabilities.

“Recent changes to COVID-19 safety measures, specifically regarding masking and vaccination requirements, have put these students at great risk of contracting the virus,” say SEAC members in a letter to the chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore. “The COVID-19 virus poses great risks for any of these students, as it may exacerbate existing symptoms of their already complex disabilities and medical fragilities.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Isabel Teotonio

5:58 a.m.: Small business owners have made a plea to the federal finance minister to consider more help paying off their pandemic-related debts as the sixth wave of COVID-19 causes customers to stay home and sales to fall.

The request is one Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has faced repeatedly in recent days during a cross-country post-budget tour.

Her response has been that emergency measures are no longer needed with the crisis passed, the economy running hot and the government needing to tighten its fiscal belt.

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said underneath the headline economic numbers only two in five of his members report being back to normal sales.

He said more are worried about the impact on revenues and their ability to repay loans with people staying home despite provinces removing public health restrictions.

His members put those concerns to Freeland during a webinar on the budget and Kelly said he walked away believing the finance minister heard their concerns.

The budget doesn’t include any further extensions of emergency benefit programs that will come to a close on May 7, but Freeland told those on the webinar, “I hear you,” when asked about debt relief, adding a moment later, “let’s keep on talking.”

Thursday, 9:35 p.m.: California is sticking with its coronavirus vaccine mandate for schoolchildren, but it won’t happen until at least the summer of 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced Thursday.

Last year, California was the first state to announce it would require all schoolchildren to receive the coronavirus vaccine. But it hasn’t happened yet because Newsom said he was waiting for regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to give final approval to the vaccine for school-aged children.

At the time, Newsom estimated the mandate would take effect for the start of the 2022-23 school year. But while federal regulators have authorized use of the coronavirus vaccine for children as young as 5 in an emergency, it has still not given final approval to anyone younger than 16.

As the calendar inches closer to the fall, school administrators had worried they would not have enough time to implement the vaccine mandate.

“So based on these two facts — we don’t have full FDA approval, and we recognize the implementation challenges that schools and school leaders would face — that we are not moving to have a vaccine requirement for schools in this coming academic year and no sooner than July 2023,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in an interview.

Read Thursday’s coronavirus news.

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