New modelling released yesterday predicts more infectious variants of COVID-19 will likely make up 40 per cent of cases in Ontario by the second week of March. The province’s science advisory group says declines in cases and hospitalizations that followed strict lockdown measures have begun to slow. Projections show hospitalizations will likely rise as variants spread, and intensive care capacity will be strained over the next month. The group says a risky period lies ahead and the province will need to react quickly with strong public health measures when flare-ups happen.
Here is the report:
The Vaccine Rollout Continues to be Slow:
The military commander in charge of the federal vaccine distribution program says he understands that provinces may not have a lot of confidence in the vaccine deliveries after the disappointing shipments this month. Major-General Dany Fortin says he has much more confidence in the situation now. He notes that Moderna has confirmed deliveries until the end of March and Pfizer-BioNTech into the middle of April. Fortin says provincial, territorial and federal governments are planning a virtual exercise early next month to plan for the increased deliveries that are coming in now and will get even bigger in April.
Here is yesterday’s federal update:
The Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Doesn’t Need to be That Cold:
Pfizer-BioNTech says it has officially asked Health Canada to change the label on the COVID-19 vaccine to reflect that it’s now safe to store for up to two weeks in regular freezers. Before this, the vaccine has been shipped and stored in ultra-low-temperature freezers. The head of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution program says if Health Canada is good with it, then provinces will have more flexibility in where they can use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Major-General Dany Fortin says it’s been limited to a smaller number of sites so far because there are only so many freezers capable of keeping it at the right temperature.
America Makes the Same Change:
Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration approved storage and transportation of COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE at standard freezer temperatures for up to two weeks instead of ultra-cold conditions. Last week, the companies asked the US health regulator to relax requirements for their COVID-19 vaccine to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, potentially allowing it to be kept in pharmacy freezers. It can now be stored at between -13°F to 5°F for up to two weeks, according to the new FDA guidance.
Province Aiming for a Smooth Rollout of the Vaccine Booking Portal:
Health Minister Christine Elliot says an online booking system for COVID-19 vaccination appointments is not yet available because the province doesn’t want to rush to failure. Elliott says more tests are needed to ensure the system can handle the large volume of requests expected. She says the aim is to ensure it won’t crash when it goes live. The head of the province’s vaccine task force has said people aged 80 and older will be able to access the system starting March 15th.
Here is yesterday’s vaccine update:
CPP Executive Traveled to Dubai and Got a Vaccine While There:
The man who heads-up Canada’s largest pension fund has taken what he calls a ”very personal” trip to Dubai – where he also received a COVID-19 vaccination. The Canadian Press has viewed an email that Mark Machin sent to staff at CPP Investments. In it, Machin says he and his partner are still in Dubai, and he notes that they followed all travel protocols. CPP Investments — the independent fund manager for the Canada Pension Plan — did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
California Hits 50,000 Deaths:
California became the first state to report 50,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The state’s death toll now stands at 50,994. The grim milestone occurred after 806 additional deaths were reported in Los Angeles County on Wednesday, due to a backlog from the holidays, with most deaths occurring between Dec. 3, 2020 and Feb. 3, 2021, according to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.
Universities Asking for More Funding:
An advocacy group representing Ontario’s 21 universities is asking the province for financial support to deal with the pressures of COVID-19. The Council of Ontario Universities says the sector is facing a shortfall of about half a billion dollars this year as a result of the pandemic. It says extra expenses combined with reduced revenues led to a loss of about one-billion dollars, but schools made one-time cuts and savings to bring that down by half. Steve Orsini, the organization’s president and CEO, says supporting the sector would in turn support the workforce, the economy and the province’s recovery.
“Two-thirds of emerging jobs are going to require some higher education. We’re thinking about how to design programs that retain agility that workers need and meets the needs of employers.”
— Ontario's Universities (@OntUniv) February 25, 2021
School Board in Thunder Bay Returning to Online:
A Thunder Bay school board says classes will move online next week on recommendation from the region’s top doctor. Lakehead Public Schools made the announcement yesterday based on a memo from Dr. Janet DeMille. The memo says all schools in the area should switch to virtual learning for two weeks amid rising COVID-19 cases.
Dr Williams’ Testimony Before the LTC Inquiry:
Ontario’s chief medical officer has told a public inquiry that the province had no updated plan for dealing with a pandemic when COVID-19 hit last spring. Dr. David Williams denied responsibility for the shortcoming in testimony released yesterday by the inquiry into the devastating impact of COVID-19 on long-term care homes. Williams said a pandemic response plan developed in 2006 was updated in 2013, but the process stalled after work began on a “Ready and Resilient” blueprint in 2016. He said pandemic preparation drifted down the priority list because things had been relatively quiet for several years and he took flak for pushing more robust preparation.
There were 1,138 new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario yesterday and 23 more deaths linked to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 339 new cases in Toronto, 204 in Peel Region and 106 in York Region. For the first time in several weeks, active cases in the Province increased after only 1,094 cases were marked as resolved. Across the province, hospitalizations increased by 12.
Ontario is reporting 1,138 cases of #COVID19 and nearly 66,400 tests completed. Locally, there are 339 new cases in Toronto, 204 in Peel and 106 in York Region.
As of 8:00 p.m. yesterday, 621,960 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) February 25, 2021
Waterloo Region / WDG Numbers:
There were 69 new COVID-19 cases reported yesterday by Waterloo Region Public Health. Active cases shot up to 357. There are now 32 people in hospital with seven of those in intensive care. There was also another death, raising the local toll to 223. The Region has now identified 67 cases of COVID variants. There were 35 new cases in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph yesterday. Active cases shot up to 120 and hospitalizations went up to 7.
The Vaccine Distribution Task Force is recruiting volunteers for COVID-19 immunization clinics. These non-medical roles include assisting as a clinic greeter, equipment/supply runners, and parking lot attendants. Read more: https://t.co/5FzX6AlQmM. pic.twitter.com/oQKXRGFzM0
— Region of Waterloo (@RegionWaterloo) February 25, 2021
Contains files from the Canadian Press
Photo Credit: CPAC via YouTube screenshot