September 25, 2022

First Washington News

We Do Spectacular General & News

Today’s coronavirus news: Dutch join Belgians in restoring restrictions amid surging cases; Ontario reporting 331 new cases; international flights to return to regional airports

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

4:11 p.m.: Brazil’s seven-day total for deaths from COVID-19 has fallen to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic, according to online research website Our World in Data.

In the seven days through Nov. 1 the nation recorded 2,188 deaths — a level unseen since April 2020 — amid increasingly widespread vaccination.

After a sluggish start, Latin America’s largest nation has now fully vaccinated more than half its population. That share is even higher in some large cities, such as Sao Paulo, where virtually 100 per cent of the adult population has had at least one shot and more than 90 per cent are fully vaccinated.

That has put the nation’s number of virus deaths on a downward trend for four months. The nation’s current daily toll is just one-tenth the gruesome peak witnessed in April 2021; that surge triggered the formation of a Senate committee to investigate the government’s handling of the pandemic.

After six months of hearings, the committee last week recommended President Jair Bolsonaro and dozens of others face criminal charges. Its nearly 1,300-page report drew attention to his government’s delayed response to pharmaceutical companies’ offers to sell millions of vaccines, as well as Bolsonaro’s insistent touting of dubious, unproven treatments such as hydroxychloroquine.

Brazil has recorded about 609,000 deaths, the world’s second-highest total after that of the U.S.

4:05 p.m.: The Saskatchewan government says the province’s fourth wave is waning as COVID-19 cases decline, but health officials say hospitals are still under significant pressure.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, says it will take four to six weeks to see hospitals return to sustainable levels — and that’s only if people remain vigilant by getting vaccinated and reducing their gathering sizes. The province is reporting 107 new cases, down from the peak of 650 cases reported five weeks ago.

According to the province’s website, active cases are down 121 on Tuesday to 1,829,the lowest since late August. Hospitalizations, which have reduced somewhat in recent weeks, are unchanged at 222.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it’s too early to tell if the drop in cases numbers is a trend.

Shahab says there are rural areas in the province where 30 to 40 per cent of the population remains unvaccinated, which is enough to drive more substantive waves.

3:30 p.m.: Faced with sharply rising coronavirus cases, the caretaker prime minister of the Netherlands said Tuesday that the Dutch government is reinstituting an order to wear face masks in public places like stores and libraries and mandating an extension for the use of COVID-19 passes.

COVID-19 cases have increased rapidly in the Netherlands for weeks. The country’s public health institute reported Tuesday that confirmed infections rose 39 per cent compared to the week before and hospital admissions were up 31 per cent. The upward trend began soon after the government ended most remaining lockdown restrictions in late September.

“It won’t surprise anybody that we again have a tough message this evening,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said during a nationally televised press conference. He urged people to socially distance, work from home at least half the time, and to avoid travel to busy places and during the morning and evening rush hours.

As part of the new restrictions, students will have to wear face masks at school when they walk between classes. The new mask rules and requirements for COVID passes to be shown at more public locations, including museums and theme parks, are set to come into force on Saturday.

Earlier Tuesday, the Dutch health council advised the government to begin giving vaccine booster shots to everyone age 60 and older and to nursing home residents. The health council said it was seeing indications that COVID-19 protection was waning among older people.

Just under 80 per cent of adults in the Netherlands are fully vaccinated. A week ago, neighbouring Belgium also ratcheted up its COVID-19 restrictions amid a spike in infections.

3:27 p.m.: New Brunswick is reporting 40 new cases of COVID-19 today and one more death attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Health officials say a person in their 80s in the Campbellton region is the 118th resident to die of the disease since the start of the pandemic. They say more than 85 per cent of people 12 and up are fully vaccinated and 92.7 per cent have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell said today in a statement that vaccination and so-called circuit-breaker measures are reducing transmission and allowing recoveries to outpace the number of new daily cases. Officials are reporting 75 more recoveries today, adding that New Brunswick has 470 active cases.

New Brunswick’s government says a strike involving public servants is reducing testing capacity and as a result, certain people such as long-term care residents and people who need a test for travel are being prioritized.

2:50 p.m. A Calgary pastor and his brother are appealing sanctions they received for violating Alberta’s COVID-19 rules.

Justice Adam Germain issued the sanctions for civil contempt last month for Pastor Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid Pawlowski, which included stiff fines, periods of probation and paying Alberta Health Services costs.

The two men, as part of their probation, were also ordered to include in any public speeches that criticize COVID-19 measures a reference to the fact their views are contradicted by the majority of scientific opinion.

In their appeal, the two argue that the punishments are unreasonable, excessive and violate their Charter rights by forcing them to give opinions which are not their own.

They have already filed appeals of their convictions for civil contempt.

Artur Pawlowski was fined $23,000 and Dawid Pawlowski $10,000 plus an additional $20,000 in costs to Alberta Health Services for holding church services that flouted rules on masking and physical distancing.

2:05 p.m. An Alberta member of the legislature says she is outraged after COVID-19 protesters came to her house on the weekend and hung up a noose.

Tracy Allard calls the threats and intimidation inexcusable and says her private life and her family are out of bounds to protesters.

Allard made the comments on her Facebook page where she described what happened at her home in Grande Prairie, Alberta on Sunday.

She says it began with a small group of protesters that soon grew to 30, prompting police to be called.

Allard says the protesters left behind a crude wooden gallows, with a noose, and the words “No to masks. End the gov’t. Hang ‘em all.”

Last summer, then-health minister Tyler Shandro and his family were publicly harassed at a Canada Day event by protesters upset by COVID-19 public health restrictions.

2 p.m. Dancing and karaoke will again be allowed in Quebec bars after the province Tuesday announced an end to several health measures introduced to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The requirement for high school students to wear masks in the classroom and a recommendation for employers to favour remote working are among the other restrictions that will be lifted as of Nov. 15.

Health Minister Christian Dubé says a high vaccination rate among Quebecers aged 12 to 17 — 86 per cent are fully vaccinated — means masks won’t be obligatory in class but will still be required in hallways and on school transit.

1:45 p.m. The ghost light that has illuminated the stage of the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto for the last year and a half will finally be turned off and put away as the theatre reopens, Mirvish Productions announced Tuesday.

Performances of the hit musical “Come From Away” will begin again in December.

The announcement comes after Ontario lifted some pandemic health measures on Oct. 25, allowing for most indoor settings that require proof of vaccination to operate at full capacity.

Performances of the successful musical ran for three years before the shows were abruptly halted in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

1:30 p.m. International air traffic will be returning to more regional airports soon, after flights were restricted for most of the year as part of the government’s efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a news conference Tuesday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said airports at eight mid-sized cities can reopen their runways to planes from across the border as of Nov. 30.

The airports range from Victoria to St. John’s, N.L. The other six are in Waterloo and Hamilton in Ontario, Abbotsford and Kelowna in British Columbia, as well as Saskatoon and Regina.

“I’m pleased that increased vaccination levels have allowed us to safely reopen these additional Canadian airports to international passenger flights,” Alghabra said on the tarmac at Waterloo International Airport.

“This move will help ensure travellers are able to access more regional airports for their international travels this winter, while continuing to support our government’s measured approach to reopening our borders.”

1 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. Officials have identified five cases in the Halifax area, four in the province’s eastern zone and two in the northern zone.

With 16 recoveries, there are a total of 161 active infections in the province. Officials say eight people are currently in hospital in the province with coronavirus. According to provincial data, 83.3 per cent of the province’s population has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 78.6 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Since Aug. 1, officials say there have been 1,528 positive COVID-19 cases and seven deaths.

12:45 p.m. Pfizer Inc. (PFE) posted stronger-than-expected third quarter earnings Tuesday, and boosted its full-year profit forecast while lifting its vaccine sales estimate to around $36 billion (U.S.).

Pfizer said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in September were pegged at $1.34 per share, an 86 per cent increase from the same period last year and well ahead of the Street consensus forecast of $1.09. Group revenues, Pfizer said, nearly doubled from last year to $24.1 billion, again topping analysts’ estimates of an $22.71 billion tally. Around $13 billion of the topline came from vaccine sales, Pfizer said.

Looking into the final months of the year Pfizer said its sees adjusted earnings in the region of $4.13 to $4.18 per share, up from its prior forecast of $3.95 to $4.05 per share, on improved revenues of between $81 billion and $82 billion.

12:27 p.m. (updated) Low COVID-19 transmission, high testing capacity and a declining number of new cases in Prince Edward Island are allowing the province to ease restrictions, chief medical officer Dr. Heather Morrison said Tuesday.

Effective immediately, private gatherings are limited to 50 people, up from 20, Morrison told reporters. The government is also dropping restrictions around capacity and distancing for organized events that require proof of vaccination, she added.

“The downward trend of cases in Canada and the Atlantic region is encouraging,” Morrison said. “The easing of some measures is a positive sign that we are able to move in the right direction.

“We are moving toward the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The province’s proof-of-vaccination application for smartphones is expected to launch in the coming days, Morrison said.

Prince Edward Island has four active reported cases of COVID-19 and has reported a total of 319 infections since the onset of the pandemic.

11:50 a.m. Quebec is reporting 490 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and six more deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

Health officials say hospitalizations rose by six, to 250, after 22 people entered hospital and 16 were discharged.

The number of people in intensive care rose by four, to 71.

Health workers administered an additional 10,759 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including 10,063 in the previous 24 hours.

The province’s public health institute says about 90.6 per cent of residents aged 12 and over have received at least one vaccine dose and 87.9 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Quebec has 4,497 active reported cases of COVID-19.

11:15 a.m. Unvaccinated teenagers have been more likely to test positive for the coronavirus than unvaccinated adults in Los Angeles County, officials said.

The trend illustrates how a group less likely to have been vaccinated in the nation’s most populous county is playing an outsize role in continuing transmission of the Delta variant.

“The highest case rates have been among unvaccinated teens, who were eight times more likely than vaccinated teens to test positive for COVID and are important drivers of transmission across our communities,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a recent briefing.

Previously, health officials had noted that it was younger adults who were most likely to contract the coronavirus.

11 a.m. Pop-up and community clinics are open for walk-ins for both first or second doses, as well as appointments.

In an effort to boost vaccine rates and increase access to vaccines, York Region Public Health is hosting a series of walk-in, pop-up and community vaccination clinics.

Clinics are offering Pfizer for those 12-years (born in 2009) and older and Moderna to those 25-years and older.

10:41 a.m. Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann will return to the bench against Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday after missing four games with the coronavirus.

Bayern said Nagelsmann took charge of a training session on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after he had to step aside hours before the team’s last Champions League game. Bayern initially cited a “flu-like infection” and said a day later that Nagelsmann tested positive for the coronavirus.

10:19 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting another 331 COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths, according to its latest report released Tuesday morning.

Ontario has administered 13,774 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,535,918 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,504,396 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 88.3 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 77.4 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

9:35 a.m. A “mystifying” COVID-19 outbreak among fully vaccinated adult rec hockey players in York Region has led to calls for a full investigation.

The virus spread like wildfire among players in adult leagues earlier this month — with 15 confirmed cases and one 75-year-old’s death — and has raised a spiderweb of concerns about indoor sport safety, vaccine verification and dangers that might be lurking in the air, especially in hockey rinks and older facilities.

“It’s certainly eyebrow raising — not at all what one would expect,’ said Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto. “It’s mystifying and really worth investigating: genotypes, ring testing, vaccination verification, full contact tracing … We want to find the smoking gun.”

Furness said the outbreak is “disquieting” for a number of reasons.

“Is this an early warning for a new variant? That’s unlikely … but you want to know. Is this a change in the epidemiology of COVID? Do we have a big blind spot? What’s going on?”

8:32 a.m. Romania reported a record daily number of 591 COVID-19 deaths Tuesday amid a persistently low vaccination rate and a wave of coronavirus infections that has overwhelmed the country’s ailing health care system.

Only 37 per cent of adults in Romania, a European Union member with around 19 million people, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to an EU average of 75 per cent. Within the 27-nation EU, only Bulgaria has a smaller share of its population vaccinated.

Romanian authorities said Tuesday that 541 of the 591 people who had died of COVID-19 since the day before were unvaccinated.

The unfolding disaster prompted authorities to impose tighter restrictions starting last week. Vaccination certificates are required for many day-to-day activities, such as going to the gym, the cinema or a shopping mall. For everyone, there is a 10 p.m. curfew.

8:15 a.m. Nearly two dozen Hamilton businesses were charged for alleged COVID-19 violations last week, despite no change in the city’s level of enforcement.

During the city’s COVID-19 update Monday, Emergency Operations Centre director Jason Thorne said bylaw officers have been conducting the “same level” of pandemic-related enforcement over the past few weeks. That includes both reactive and proactive enforcement.

Thorne noted that bylaw has shifted their focus from education to enforcement, as current COVID rules and regulations “have been in place for some time,” and both patrons and businesses “should be well aware of them.”

Twenty-two businesses were charged last week, according to the city’s online enforcement list, which is updated weekly.

7:25 a.m. Air Canada reported a loss of $640 million in its latest quarter as its operating revenue nearly tripled compared with a year ago as the airline ramped up capacity.

The airline says the loss amounted to $1.79 per diluted share for the quarter ended Sept. 30 compared with a loss of $685 million or $2.31 per diluted share a year earlier.

Revenue totalled $2.10 billion, up from $757 million in the same quarter last year.

Air Canada increased its capacity in the quarter as measured by available seat miles by 87 per cent compared with the third quarter of 2020, however it was still down 66 per cent when compared with the third quarter of 2019.

6:40 a.m.: Mayor John Tory tweeted early Tuesday morning that 84 per cent of eligible Torontonians have now received two doses of the vaccine.

“I want to thank everyone who has stepped up to get vaccinated and all involved in the #TeamToronto effort that has administered more than 4.9 million doses of the vaccine so far,” Tory wrote in his tweet.

6:15 a.m.: Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said Monday that the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States is a “mixed bag” entering the holiday season and that Americans should get their vaccine booster shots as soon as they are eligible.

More than 64 million U.S. adults are not vaccinated, and the Biden administration is preparing for significant resistance from parents as vaccines become available to children ages 5 to 11 this week.

“It’s a mixed bag,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told McClatchy in an interview. “I feel good that the cases, the hospitalizations and the deaths are coming down. I’m still concerned that we have 64 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not been vaccinated.

“So it’s a mixed feeling in reaction to where things are,” he added. “It’s good news that we’re continuing to come down. It’s a bit frustrating when we have so many people who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not.”

Those who are vaccinated can plan to celebrate the holidays with a greater sense of normalcy, he said.

6:11 a.m.: According to the Peel board, 519 full-time teachers took a sick leave for three months or longer in the last school year, almost double the number of teachers who were on sick leave before the pandemic. And it’s not just Peel: at York Region District School Board, 711 teachers were on sick leave for three months or longer in the 2020-21 school year — an increase from 372 from 2018-19, before the pandemic.

At the Toronto District School Board, 808 elementary school teachers took a sick leave for three months or longer in the last school year — up from 388 in 2019-2020. GTA schools spent the majority of the second half of last school year learning online due to province-wide lockdowns amid rising COVID-19 cases. A similar increase in sick leaves, however, was not observed among secondary teachers at the TDSB.

It’s difficult to ascertain how many of those teachers went on sick leave for mental-health-related reasons, boards and teachers unions said, because the paperwork for long-term disability leave does not clearly distinguish between mental and physical ailments. But teachers continue to be absent at higher rates than before, both at the elementary and secondary level, and many of them due to stress.

Read the full story from the Star’s Nadine Yousif here.

6:10 a.m.: Hawaii remains among the most restrictive states for COVID-19 mandates, despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.

Various state and county rules have changed often, leaving some businesses, travellers and residents confused and frustrated.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said earlier this year that all restrictions would end once 70% of the population was fully vaccinated. But a surge of delta variant cases filled hospitals and extended rules to guard against COVID-19.

Now, case counts have dropped and about 83% of eligible Hawaii residents are fully vaccinated. But many rules remain in place.

6:10 a.m.: Unvaccinated teenagers have been more likely to test positive for the coronavirus than unvaccinated adults in Los Angeles County, officials said.

The trend illustrates how a group less likely to have been vaccinated in the nation’s most populous county is playing an outsize role in continuing transmission of the highly contagious delta variant.

“The highest case rates have been among unvaccinated teens, who were eight times more likely than vaccinated teens to test positive for COVID and are important drivers of transmission across our communities,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a recent briefing.

Previously, health officials had noted that it was younger adults who were most likely to contract the coronavirus.

Not coincidentally, it’s young L.A. County residents who are least likely to be vaccinated. While 80% of L.A. County residents eligible for vaccination have received at least one shot, only 70% of 12- to 15-year-olds have done so, as have 76% of those age 16 to 17. By comparison, 98% of residents age 65 to 79 have received at least one shot.

6:07 a.m.: Elections Canada was curious to know how many Canadians believed in conspiracy theories in the lead up to the recent federal vote.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had two years left in his minority mandate in August when he plunged the country into an election while a fourth wave of COVID-19 raged.

Protesters opposed to public health measures like masking and mandatory vaccinations staged demonstrations, some of them following Trudeau as he crisscrossed the country, hurling obscenities at him and, at one point, even gravel.

Months before triggering the vote, the federal agency in charge of running elections commissioned its first stand-alone survey into the level of trust Canadians had in the electoral process. That included finding out how many held a “conspiracy mindset.”

“Questions about conspiracies allow for a better understanding of what can trigger distrust toward electoral administration,” Elections Canada spokeswoman Natasha Gauthier said in a statement, adding the “COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant social and economic changes, including in the realm of election administration.”

“Looking at mistrust in general also helps us better understand what sorts of information and communication approaches can be effective in instilling trust in elections.”

Conducted by the firm Leger over 10 days in April, the poll surveyed 2,500 Canadians online and through computer assisted interviewing technology.

It found a majority of respondents trusted Elections Canada and believed the voting system was “safe and reliable.”

When it came to conspiracy beliefs, the study, recently posted to a government website, reported 17 per cent believed the government was trying to cover up the link between vaccines and autism, and 30 per cent thought new drugs or technologies were being tested on people without their knowledge.

The research also found 40 per cent of respondents subscribed to thinking that certain big events have been the product of a “small group who secretly manipulate world events.”

6 a.m. Authorities in Beijing halted classes at 18 schools in one district after a teacher was infected with Covid-19, days before a key Communist Party meeting in the city.

6 a.m. Bulgaria reported record daily COVID-19 deaths. Infections in Thailand declined to a four-month low and new cases fell in Australia’s two most-populous states as both nations ease international border restrictions.

6 a.m. Japan plans to let business travellers and students enter the country but isn’t loosening curbs for tourists, Nikkei reported.

6 a.m.: Singapore expects 2,000 coronavirus deaths each year, even after achieving one of the world’s highest vaccination rates.

7:24 p.m. Monday: Close to 300 employees of WestJet, Canada’s second-largest airline, have been suspended for failing to meet the company’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy and may face termination if they do not comply.

The airline said Monday that “less than four per cent” of its 7,300 active employees, representing about 290 people, are being placed on a one-month unpaid leave of absence for not being fully vaccinated. The company warned that those who do not comply with its vaccination mandate “may face termination of employment.”