The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
8:00 p.m.: Three Alaska hospitals have now instituted crisis protocols that would allow them to ration care if needed as the state recorded the worst COVID-19 diagnosis rates in the U.S. in recent days.
According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, one person in every 84 in Alaska was diagnosed with COVID-19 from Sept. 22 to 29. The next highest rate was one in every 164 people in West Virginia.
Fairbanks Memorial Hospital activated the protocol Friday because of a critical shortage of bed capacity and staffing, along with the inability to transfer patients to other facilities. Two other Alaska hospitals, in Anchorage and Bethel, have invoked the same protocol.
Fairbanks Chief Medical Officer Dr. Angelique Ramirez said the decision to move to crisis standards was because of many factors, including community spread caused by the low vaccination rates and a high number of patients waiting to be admitted.
Statewide, 60% of eligible Alaskans are fully vaccinated. The Fairbanks North Star Borough is the third-worst region for vaccination rates in Alaska, with just under 52% of eligible residents vaccinated.
7:00 p.m.: Public Safety Canada says a contingent from the Canadian Armed Forces is expected to “be in position” Monday to decide where to deploy eight critical care nurses that will help Alberta combat the fourth wave of COVID-19.
The federal agency also says the Canadian Red Cross is planning to provide up to 20 medical professionals, some with intensive care unit experience, to augment or relieve existing staff working in Alberta’s hospitals.
Premier Jason Kenney announced Thursday that the province was finalizing a deal to secure eight to 10 intensive care ward specialists from the military, likely to be based in Edmonton, to help in hospitals.
He also said up to 20 trained Red Cross medical workers, some with intensive care experience, would be deployed in central Alberta.
Alberta is dealing with a COVID-19 crisis that has seen well over 1,000 new cases a day for weeks while filling intensive care wards to almost twice normal capacity.
The province’s health delivery agency has had to scramble and reassign staff to handle the surge of intensive care patients far above the normal capacity of 173 beds.
5:00 p.m.: New Brunswick is reporting a record-smashing 140 new COVID-19 infections and four deaths in a single day as the Maritime province continues to grapple with the the pandemic’s fourth wave.
Health officials say the deaths include a person aged 30 to 39 in the Fredericton region, a person aged 50 to 59 in the Edmundston region and two people aged 70 to 79 in the Fredericton and Moncton regions.
The four deaths bring the total number of COVID-19-related deaths in the province to 64.
Officials say among the 140 new cases, 94 are people who are unvaccinated, 34 are fully vaccinated and 12 are partially vaccinated.
New Brunswick currently has 44 people hospitalized due to the virus, with 17 in intensive care.
The province says 35 of the patients in hospital — or nearly 80 per cent — are unvaccinated while nine are either partially or fully vaccinated.
“Healthy younger people are getting sick as well as older individuals,” Premier Blaine Higgs said in a statement.
“Of the 140 cases announced, 88 are under 40. Those in that age bracket are less likely to end up in hospital but they still carry and can transmit the virus.”
In addition to the 140 new cases, the province reported 49 recoveries from COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the number of active cases to 764.
The province said public safety officers will be conducting spot checks at churches this weekend, many of which have been the sites of recent COVID-19 exposures.
Officials said while the vast majority of churches have been following the rules, concerns remain that not all are and fines will be issued to institutions and individuals who break the mandatory public health rules.
“Four more New Brunswickers lost to the virus is a grim reminder of the continuing toll COVID-19 is taking on our communities and on people at every stage of life,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said in a statement.
While the number of hospitalizations remains manageable for now, the admissions place an extreme burden on the province’s health-care system, she said.
“We expected cases to climb and they may continue to do so for the next little while until we see the impact of the additional measures brought in last week.”
New Brunswick reimposed a state of emergency in late September to deal with the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases.
That followed a decision two months earlier to drop all of its COVID-19 restrictions — the first jurisdiction in Atlantic Canada to do so.
At the time, some infectious disease experts warned New Brunswick would face a surge in Delta-variant cases in the fall, mainly because of the decision to drop mask requirements in indoor public places.
The mask order has now been reinstated, along with a number of other health-protection measures. They include new rules to limit contacts, ensure physical distancing and require certain businesses and events to have vaccination or masking-and-testing policies.
3:45 p.m.: A one-day vaccine campaign, with more than 35 clinics across the City of Toronto, got underway on Saturday.
Mayor John Tory announced the launch of #Vax25, a COVID-19 inoculation push to promote vaccine clinics in the city’s 25 wards.
“I continue to urge eligible residents to get vaccinated now to help protect themselves and the progress we have made fighting this pandemic and reopening schools and businesses,” Tory said as he thanked city councillors for teaming up for the initiative.
#Vax25 features at least one clinic per ward supported and promoted by the ward’s councillor.
Read the full story here: Toronto launches one-day #Vax25 vaccine push throughout the city’s 25 wards
2:30 p.m.: Health Canada has received drugmaker Pfizer’s preliminary research on the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine in children aged five to 11.
The drugmaker confirmed Saturday it provided the initial trial data to the federal department for review as it prepares to make a formal submission — possibly later this month — seeking authorization to use the product in children.
Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said the submission will be a request for full authorization.
She said the new drug submission process for COVID-19 vaccines offers the same flexibility as the interim order authorization pathway did, including allowing the company to submit a rolling submission.
“In other words, [it’s] not an emergency use authorization but a full approval under which we would continue to submit new data as it becomes available,” Antoniou said in an email.
Pfizer’s vaccine was initially given the green light for use in Canada last December. The two-shot vaccine, developed in partnership with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, is currently available for those aged 12 and older.
Pfizer and BioNTech said last week that researchers found the vaccine antibody responses in children were just as strong as those found in teenagers and young adults getting regular-strength doses.
The companies submitted the research to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week and plan to request emergency use authorization of their vaccine in children ages five to 11 “in the coming weeks.”
Pediatric studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in children aged six months to age five is ongoing, with initial results expected before the end of the year, Antoniou said.
12:15 p.m.: Quebec is reporting 640 additional cases of COVID-19 today and five more deaths due to the pandemic.
The vast majority of cases are due to the contagious Delta variant, which accounted for 86.9 per cent of infections sequenced between Sept. 12 and Sept. 18.
Overall hospitalizations declined by nine to 301, while the number of people in intensive care dropped by one to 83.
About 89 per cent of Quebec’s eligible population 12 and over have received one shot of vaccine, and 84 per cent have received two doses.
11:15 a.m.: Ontario is reporting another 704 COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths, according to its latest report released Saturday morning.
The province reports 401 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in unvaccinated people, 44 were partially vaccinated, and 198 cases in fully vaccinated people.
There are 274 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, including 141 patients in intensive care testing positive for COVID-19. There are 110 people on ventilators. Locally, there are 150 cases in Toronto, 67 in Peel Region, 46 in York Region with 70 cases in Ottawa, 44 in Hamilton, 32 in Windsor and 32 in Niagara.
Ontario has administered 37,333 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with a total 21,847,046 vaccines given as of 8 p.m. Friday night.
According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,263,479 people in Ontario have received at least one shot, or about 86.4 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older. The province says 10,583,567 people have completed both vaccination shots, or approximately 81.2 per cent of the eligible population.
7:44 a.m.: Canadians overwhelmingly support the idea of requiring vaccine passports to gain admittance to public places such as restaurants, bars and gyms, a new poll suggests.
Fully 78 per cent of respondents to the Leger poll said they strongly support (56 per cent) or somewhat support (22 per cent) requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to visit non-essential public places where numerous people typically congregate, including concert halls and festivals.
Just 13 per cent said they strongly oppose a proof-of-vaccination requirement, variations on which are being introduced by provincial governments across the country. Another nine per cent said they’re somewhat opposed.
Support ranged from a low of 70 per cent in the Atlantic Provinces to a high of 86 per cent in British Columbia. Eighty-one per cent of Alberta respondents also supported the move, although their province has been the most reluctant to adopt a vaccine passport system.
The poll of 1,537 Canadians was conducted Sept. 24-26, as health care systems in both Alberta and Saskatchewan were being overwhelmed by soaring cases of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The online poll cannot be assigned a margin of error as internet-based surveys are not considered random samples.
Seventy-four per cent of respondents said governments should not lift all public health restrictions now. Just 18 per cent supported lifting them.
Opposition to relaxing public health orders included 76 per cent of respondents in Alberta, where Premier Jason Kenney lifted most restrictions over the summer, only to have to reimpose some recently as the fourth wave of the pandemic swept the province.
Unsurprisingly given their provinces’ struggles with the fourth wave of the pandemic, Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe ranked the lowest among provincial first ministers for their handling of the health crisis.
Fully 80 per cent of Alberta respondents said they were very or somewhat dissatisfied with Kenney’s performance, and 74 per cent of Saskatchewan respondents felt the same about Moe.
By contrast, 74 per cent of Quebec respondents expressed satisfaction with Premier François Legault’s handling of the pandemic, 61 per cent of British Columbians were satisfied with Premier John Horgan and 52 per cent of Ontarians were satisfied with Premier Doug Ford’s performance.
Fifty-seven per cent nationally said they were satisfied with the federal government’s handling of the pandemic while 61 per cent expressed satisfaction with their municipal governments.
Respondents were split over the state of the pandemic in Canada, with 39 per cent saying they think the worst is over, 22 per cent saying we’re in the worst period of the crisis now and another 21 per cent saying the worst is yet to come. Nineteen per cent didn’t know.
7:43 a.m.: When Russians talk about the coronavirus over dinner or in hair salons, the conversation often turns to “antitela,” the Russian word for antibodies — the proteins produced by the body to fight infection.
Even President Vladimir Putin referred to them this week in a conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, bragging about why he avoided infection even though dozens of people around him caught the coronavirus, including someone who spent a whole day with the Kremlin leader.
“I have high titres,” Putin said, referring to the measurement used to describe the concentration of antibodies in the blood. When Erdogan challenged him that the number Putin gave was low, the Russian insisted, “No, it’s a high level. There are different counting methods.”
But Western health experts say the antibody tests so popular in Russia are unreliable either for diagnosing COVID-19 or assessing immunity to it. The antibodies that these tests look for can only serve as evidence of a past infection, and scientists say it’s still unclear what level of antibodies indicates protection from the virus and for how long.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention says such tests should not be used to establish an active COVID-19 infection because it can take one to three weeks for the body to make antibodies. Health experts say tests that look for the virus’s genetic material, called PCR tests, or ones that look for virus proteins, called antigen tests, should be used to determine if someone is infected.
7:42 a.m.: It’s a milestone that by all accounts didn’t have to happen this soon.
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed 700,000 late Friday — a number greater than the population of Boston. The last 100,000 deaths occurred during a time when vaccines — which overwhelmingly prevent deaths, hospitalizations and serious illness — were available to any American over the age of 12.
The milestone is deeply frustrating to doctors, public health officials and the American public, who watched a pandemic that had been easing earlier in the summer take a dark turn. Tens of millions of Americans have refused to get vaccinated, allowing the highly contagious Delta variant to tear through the country and send the death toll from 600,000 to 700,000 in 3 1/2 months.
Saturday 7:42 a.m.: California will become the first U.S. state to require COVID-19 vaccinations for children to attend public and private schools in person in a mandate that could effect millions of students.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced that the coronavirus shot will be added to 10 other immunizations already required for school kids, including those for measles and mumps.
Exemptions would be granted for medical reasons or because of religious or personal beliefs but the exemption rules haven’t been written yet pending public comment.
Any student without an exemption who refuses to get the vaccine would be forced to do independent study at home.
“We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it,” Newsom said during a news conference at a San Francisco middle school after visiting with seventh graders.
“Vaccines work. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates,” Newsom said.
Read Friday’s coronavirus news.