COVID-19 live updates: ‘Feeling abandoned’: Alberta K-12 students return to the classroom; Rapid tests scarce in Alberta; 6,257 new cases on Friday, 500 hospitalizations

Watch this page throughout the day for updates on COVID-19 in Edmonton

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With COVID-19 news changing every day, we have created this file to keep you up-to-date on all the latest stories and information in and around Edmonton.

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What’s happening now

  • Alberta students, parents say they feel abandoned as K-12 kids return to school
  • Q and A: Emergency room doctor on how fifth wave, COVID-19 Omicron variant is affecting hospitalizations
  • Novak Djokovic wins in court but Australia says he’s not vaccinated, may still deport him
  • Rapid spread of Omicron showing ‘tale of two pandemics: rich and poor’
  • ‘Depending on the rumour mill’: Rapid test kits scarce in Alberta
  • Quebec sets new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, reports 23 deaths
  • Ontario reports 412 COVID-19 patients in ICU, 2,419 hospitalizations
  • Omicron cannot be underestimated, says infectious disease expert after leak of Alberta modelling
  • Cargill meat plant linked to 44 COVID-19 cases in latest outbreak: Union
  • Alberta reports 6,257 new cases, more than 500 hospitalizations
  • Edmonton Catholic Schools, rely on rapid tests, predict staffing crunch as students head back to class
  • Yamamoto pulled out of practice and put on COVID protocol; McDavid, Ryan, Barrie may play on Monday against the Senators
  • Alberta Premier Jason Kenney opposed idea of mandatory vaccinations proposed by federal health minister
  • Ontario reports 2,472 patients in hospital with COVID-19 surpassing record one day ago
  • Another tennis player joins Novak Djokovic in Australian detention hotel
  • How Omicron may ‘lift us out of the pandemic, so that this becomes the last wave of corona’
  • Moderna CEO says people likely to need another booster in fall of 2022 ‘and forward’
  • Production delayed at Federal government’s new $126M COVID vaccine plant in Montreal

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Help us tell the COVID-19 story in Edmonton

As Alberta continues to navigate the unpredictable waves of COVID-19, we’re looking to hear your stories on this evolving situation.

  • If you are a healthcare worker, how does the Omicron variant compare with past waves of the pandemic?
  • Did you or someone you love catch Omicron over the holidays? If so, how did you fare?
  • Are you a parent? How do you feel about your child/children returning to in-class learning?
  • Have you had any issues booking/receiving your COVID-19 booster shot? If so, tell us what happened?
  • Have you or a loved one had a surgery rescheduled or cancelled in recent weeks?

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8:58 a.m.

Alberta students, parents say they feel abandoned as K-12 kids return to school

The Canadian Press

A snowy playground at Sam Livingston School in the SE. Wednesday, December 29, 2021.
A snowy playground at Sam Livingston School in the SE. Wednesday, December 29, 2021. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Twelve-year-old Charlie Kozak wasn’t feeling safe about having to be in class today.

“It’s a chaotic mess,” Charlie said during a phone interview from his home as he prepared to return to his school in Calgary.

“I know some people in my class travelled out of country over Christmas break. Some people have done unsafe family gatherings. We’re allowed to take masks off at our desks next to them (that) aren’t six feet apart.

“It’s unsafe.”

While some parents are relieved that students in Grades K-12 are returning to classes after an extended holiday break, many say they are concerned and frustrated about unclear instructions from the Alberta government on how it plans to contain a surge in COVID-19 infections in classrooms caused by the Omicron variant.

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The province had analmost 40 per cent positivity rate last week. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange has promised thousands of test kits will be delivered to students and parents over the next few days, but has left it up to schools to report and track infections.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, has said a return to in-person learning is critical and necessary for students’ mental wellness.

“We know the COVID infection has a low — but not zero — risk for children. We also know in-person learning is critically important for many kids’ educational and social development and provides a sense of stability and normalcy in these challenging times,” she said last week.

Charlie’s mother, Dr. Stephanie Cooper, an obstetrician, said she agrees mental well-being is worsening among students, but “mental health is not just about being online or in-person.”

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“There’s a lot of other variables that include the stress of not feeling like you have all the information.”

She pointed to a promise made by LaGrange that students will go back to classes with more medical masks.

Schools have received their masks and test kits, but Edmonton Public Schools and the Alberta Teachers’ Association have said there are still kids who won’t get them until days after they return to classes, which could exacerbate the spread of the already highly contagious variant.

“Also, kids can’t go outside in Alberta, It’s -30 C,” Cooper said.

‘They’re going to take off their masks and eat in a classroom for the lunchtime period,“ she said. ”None of this makes any sense. Certainly, a lot of parents are left with a lot of questions as to the logistics of how this is going to happen.“

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“I don’t have the best mental health either but I feel like COVID wasn’t the thing that affected that,” Charlie added.

“It was the constant fear of what if I get COVID and then someone else gets it? It’s (would be) my fault that I put someone in hospital because I wasn’t careful enough at school, because someone didn’t want to wear a mask.”

Wing Li, an Edmonton-based parent and a volunteer with advocacy group Support Our Students Alberta, said she will continue tracking outbreaks in schools since the government has stopped contact tracing.

Li said she is able to keep tabs on infections because parents forward letters to her sent by schools reporting an outbreak.

She said she has heard from parents who are relieved their kids are returning to school because they don’t have the resources to keep an eye on them and work at the same time.

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“I think the narrative is sold that some of us want to shut the school down, but that’s not the case at all,” Li said.

“We just want safety measures so that it’s not a complete disaster.”

Edmonton Public Schools has written a letter to the United Conservative government saying that despite the extension to winter break, “our concerns with staffing and division operations have not changed.”

The school division along with the Calgary Catholic School District have said they are anticipating to once again scramble to find teachers to fill in for those who can’t come in because they are sick.

“We’re just even more exhausted every year that this drags on,” Li said. “We know that we have to maintain normalcy for the kids when it hasn’t been normal for us at all.

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“Not having any support adds to that exhaustion and feeling abandoned by policy-makers.”


Monday

Q and A: Emergency room doctor on how fifth wave, COVID-19 Omicron variant is affecting hospitalizations

Anna Junker

Dr. Shazma Mithani poses for a photo in Edmonton on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022.
Dr. Shazma Mithani poses for a photo in Edmonton on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Hospitalizations in Alberta have grown more than 50 per cent over two weeks , as the province begins to feel the effects of the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Omicron variant.

According to the latest provincial data, there are 504 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, compared to 324 two weeks ago.

Postmedia spoke with Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency room physician who practices at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Stollery Children’s Hospital on current hospitalization trends and what to expect from the fifth wave.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are you seeing in hospitals right now?

There’s certainly a lot of confusion around what testing is available in the city. A lot of that is simply people coming in to get tested because they don’t know where to go, they can’t get an appointment for PCR, or they don’t have rapid tests at home. I have admitted patients who are positive for COVID who are requiring supplemental oxygen. We’re definitely seeing more of those.

When do you test someone?

Everyone that I’m testing, I have a reason to test them. So they either have one of the core symptoms, or they tested positive on a rapid test at home and are coming in with worsening symptoms. It’s not that I’m just testing people, and they happen to have COVID. It’s that they have core symptoms and I’m testing to see if they have it.

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Who is being hospitalized right now?

I’m seeing patients across all age groups right now. I’m seeing people with more severe symptoms who are unvaccinated. For the most part, the people who are either double or triple vaccinated are being sent home with mild symptoms. Thankfully, for pediatric patients, even with most of them being unvaccinated, I’m able to discharge home. The people that are tending to get admitted are those who have two or less vaccines. I myself haven’t seen a single person who has had three doses admitted to hospital.

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Monday

Novak Djokovic wins in court but Australia says he’s not vaccinated, may still deport him

Reuters

Serbian tennis fans march in Melbourne, Australia on January 10, 2022 in support of Novak Djokovic, who is fighting to play in the Australian Open which begins on January 17.
Serbian tennis fans march in Melbourne, Australia on January 10, 2022 in support of Novak Djokovic, who is fighting to play in the Australian Open which begins on January 17. Photo by Diego Fedele/Getty Images

World men’s number one Novak Djokovic returned to training after being released from Australian immigration detention on Monday, posting a picture with his team from Melbourne Park and thanking the judge for overturning his visa cancellation.

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“I’m pleased and grateful that the judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete in the Australian Open. I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans,” the Serbian wrote on Twitter.

“For now I cannot say more but thank you all for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong.”

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Monday

Rapid spread of Omicron showing ‘tale of two pandemics: rich and poor’

The Canadian Press

People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site in Montreal, Wednesday, December 29, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada
People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site in Montreal, Wednesday, December 29, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

As parts of Canada see staggering rises in COVID-19 activity amid Omicron’s rapid spread, experts say the highly transmissible variant is training a spotlight on social inequities across the country.

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Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician in Mississauga, Ont., and Dr. Andrew Boozary, who leads the Social Medicine Program at Toronto’s University Health Network, both say Omicron’s rise continues to show “a tale of two pandemics,” with those who can afford to better protect themselves pitted against those who can’t.

Arya said lower-income populations often don’t have the funds to buy upgraded masks or rapid antigen tests, nor can they easily take time off work to isolate or get their booster doses.

“If you have money, you’re able to afford the protection you need to survive and be safe,” he said.

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Sunday

‘Depending on the rumour mill’: Rapid test kits scarce in Alberta

Ashley Joannou

People line up to get a free box of 5 Covid-19 Antigen rapid tests at a Capilano pharmacy on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021 .
People line up to get a free box of 5 Covid-19 Antigen rapid tests at a Capilano pharmacy on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021 . Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

Pharmacies across the province are completely out of rapid test kits to detect COVID-19, according to data collected by the Alberta Blue Cross, and the government says additional supplies for pharmacies aren’t expected until at least Jan 17.

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The website for Albertans to find the free kits at pharmacies shows zero available tests in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer. The site was not updated at all over the first week of January.

Renee Ignacio, a spokesperson for Alberta Blue Cross, which manages and updates the site , says they get their information on pharmacy supply from Alberta Health.

“At this time, the information we have is that all pharmacies in the province have used their supply and this has been the case for the last week,” he said Friday.

“When new shipments are sent to pharmacies, our site will be updated to reflect the new information.”

In a statement, Alberta Health spokesperson Christa Jubinville said supplies to pharmacies may be limited in the first part of January because of “anticipated delivery dates from manufacturers and Health Canada.”

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Sunday

Quebec sets new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, reports 23 death

Montreal Gazette

A patient is taken into a hospital by a paramedic in Montreal, December 29, 2021. Quebec is experiencing its third-highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began. But this is despite a rate of new cases that is at least four times higher than anything yet seen.
A patient is taken into a hospital by a paramedic in Montreal, December 29, 2021. Quebec is experiencing its third-highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began. But this is despite a rate of new cases that is at least four times higher than anything yet seen. Photo by Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

The number of patients in Quebec hospitalized with COVID-19 has risen by 140 to an all-time high of 2,436, the province reported on Sunday.

Of those patients, 256 are in intensive care, which is 11 more than the previous day and also a new record.

Unvaccinated Quebecers, who make up just 17.5 per cent of the province’s population, accounted for 35 per cent of new hospital admissions, according to health ministry data.

The rise in hospitalization came as Quebec reported reported 11,007 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.

The seven-day rolling average for new infections, which only factors in PCR tests conducted by the province, now stands at 14,751.

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A total of 739,293 infections have been confirmed in the province since the first one was reported in February of 2020.

Quebec also announced that 23 more fatalities had been attributed to the virus, bringing the province’s death toll to 11,940.

Quebec has now reported more than 20 deaths in six consecutive days after reporting a lower figure every day between March 5, 2021, and Jan. 3, 2022.

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Sunday

Ontario reports 412 COVID-19 patients in ICU, 2,419 hospitalizations

The Canadian Press

Ontario reported Sunday that there were 412 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, a jump from 385 a day earlier.
Ontario reported Sunday that there were 412 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, a jump from 385 a day earlier. Photo by Johanna Geron /REUTERS

Ontario reported Sunday that there were 412 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, a jump from 385 a day earlier.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 2,419 patients were hospitalized due to the virus –down from the nearly 2,600 reported Saturday. Elliott noted that not all hospitals report their numbers on the weekends.

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There were 20 new deaths linked to the virus.

The seven-day rolling average of COVID-19-related patients in Ontario’s ICUs stands at 322.

Provincial data revealed 11,959 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, but Public Health Ontario said the actual case count is likely higher due to current testing policies that limit access for many residents.

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Sunday

Omicron cannot be underestimated, says infectious disease expert after leak of Alberta modelling

Josh Aldrich, Calgary

The City of Edmonton will deactivate its extreme weather response as of Monday with warmer temperatures in the forecast.
The City of Edmonton will deactivate its extreme weather response as of Monday with warmer temperatures in the forecast. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

Leaked Alberta Health Services modelling that shows a large spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations should be a warning to the public not to underestimate the Omicron variant, said an infectious disease expert out of the University of Manitoba.

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The screenshot, shared Friday night on social media, shows three projections of rising hospitalizations due to the novel coronavirus in Alberta, and even the most cautious projection suggests the province could have 968 non-intensive-care patients in hospital within 14 days. The modelling did not show ICU projections.

To this point, the common refrain had been that while Omicron is far more transmissible than previous variants it does not come with as high a risk of severe outcomes .

“You don’t want people to get overly scared of what they’re seeing because there are a lot of things we don’t know, but we also don’t want them to underestimate what Omicron is,” said Dr. Jason Kindrachuk in an interview with Postmedia on Saturday. “I think we just need to take it seriously.”

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Saturday

Cargill meat plant linked to 44 COVID-19 cases in latest outbreak: Union

Dylan Short, Calgary

The Cargill meat packing plant near High River, where more than 900 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in April and May 2020.
The Cargill meat packing plant near High River, where more than 900 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in April and May 2020. Photo by Jim Wells/Postmedia

The Cargill meat-packing plant near High River has been linked to 44 cases of COVID-19 in latest outbreak at the site, says the union representing the plant workers.

Scott Payne, spokesperson for United Food and Commercial Workers Local No. 401, confirmed the latest number of cases at the site. Payne shared a letter UFCW sent to employers for all workers they represent to discuss a number of safety protocols to be put in place as the Omicron variant is driving cases to record highs.

The letter asked employers if they had completed independent ventilation and air quality assessments at their worksites and if they would provide high-quality masks to employees. The letter also asked if sick pay and absence from the workplace had been adjusted and if rapid testing was being done at their worksites.

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Payne said Cargill has not yet responded to the letter.

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Letter of the day

Alberta Traffic Court cuts corners on justice. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)
Alberta Traffic Court cuts corners on justice. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)

Schools need better COVID resources

Minister LaGrange is not indicating actions to provide a safe learning place. Previous outbreaks and modelling for Omicron call for effective preventative actions. Masks and tests are a last-ditch defence for staff and students. Actions on engineering controls are needed, including updated ventilation, and simple, effective portable air purifiers with HEPA filters to reduce virus concentrations.

Many advocated this since fall and these points are included in department COVID documents. It seems the government has no planning or action on these protective measures. Also, vaccinations are crucial and need to be clearly promoted and organized for staff and students. Instead, with a nod to the unvaccinated, a mild suggestion that people “take precautions that make sense to them.”

This is not leadership and does not address this serious situation. We expect better tools and resources for those
considered essential workers, and the children who attend. They are working hard to be safe and keep operating. Deliver the resources they need to do this.

Brent Dane, Edmonton

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Letters Welcome

We invite you to write letters to the editor. A maximum of 150 words is preferred. Letters must carry a first and last name, or two initials and a last name, and include an address and daytime telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. We don’t publish letters addressed to others or sent to other publications. Email: letters@edmontonjournal.com


Friday

Alberta reports 6,257 new COVID-19 cases, more than 500 hospitalizations

Kellen Taniguchi

The new variant – identified as B.1.1.529 has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization and assigned the name Omicron. GETTY
The new variant – identified as B.1.1.529 has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization and assigned the name Omicron. GETTY SunMedia

Alberta broke the 6,000 mark in daily cases for the first time on Friday, as hospitalizations climbed above 500 for the first time since mid-November.

The province reported 6,257 in the past 24 hours, pushing Alberta’s active case load to 43,514, an increase of 3,617 from the previous day.

The Calgary Zone has 20,633 cases, while the Edmonton Zone has 16,269.

There are now 504 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of six from the previous day and the most since 516 were reported in hospital on Nov. 17, 2021.

There was no change in the number of patients in intensive care units, with 64 currently admitted.

Two additional deaths were reported on Friday.

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Friday

Edmonton Catholic Schools, rely on rapid tests, predict staffing crunch as students head back to class

Ashley Joannou

Edmonton Catholic’s chief superintendent Robert Martin said schools will continue using the three-case benchmark while they wait for Alberta Education to provide an update.
Edmonton Catholic’s chief superintendent Robert Martin said schools will continue using the three-case benchmark while they wait for Alberta Education to provide an update. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia, file

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Edmonton Catholic Schools will begin the second half of the school year relying on parents and the results of rapid tests to decide whether to move classes online while waiting for the province to provide updated instructions amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

Alberta students are scheduled to return to in-person classes Jan. 10. Prior to the current wave of the pandemic, classes were moved online if they had three confirmed positive cases over the span of five days. Despite the spread of Omicron and a decision by the province to limit those who can access PCR tests, that metric has not been updated.

At a press conference Friday, Edmonton Catholic’s chief superintendent Robert Martin said schools will continue using the three-case benchmark while they wait for Alberta Education to provide an update. Positive rapid tests will count as positive cases, Martin said.

“We want to err on the side of abundant caution and prudence in terms of mitigating the spread as best as we can. We feel that’s a very reasonable dynamic that we have with our parents…. We need to make sure that we have that cooperation and collaboration moving forward,” Martin said.

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Friday

Yamamoto pulled from Oilers practice and enters COVID protocol; McDavid, Barrie and Ryan may play on Monday

National Post

Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto in February 2021.
Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto in February 2021. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia, file

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Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Friday.

Head coach Dave Tippett said Yamamoto left practice after a rapid test came back positive.

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Yamamoto, 23, has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in 34 games this season.

Edmonton’s 2017 first-round draft pick has 64 points (27 goals, 37 assists) in 139 career contests.

The Oilers aren’t scheduled to play again until Monday against the visiting Ottawa Senators.

The good news for the struggling Oilers is that Connor McDavid, Tyson Barrie and Derek Ryan are eligible to come out of protocol on Sunday and may be available to play in Monday’s game against the Ottawa Senators.


Friday

Alberta Premier opposes idea of mandatory vaccinations proposed by federal Health Minister

Premier Jason Kenney provides an update on Alberta’s COVID-19 response at McDougall Centre on Tuesday, January 4, 2022. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Premier Jason Kenney provides an update on Alberta’s COVID-19 response at McDougall Centre on Tuesday, January 4, 2022. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney opposes the idea of mandatory vaccinations proposed by federal health minister.

Jason Kenney reacted to comments made by the federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in a tweet Friday, saying that they ‘strongly encourage’ those who are eligible to be vaccinated to do so, they feel it is ultimately a personal choice.

“Alberta’s Legislature removed the power of mandatory vaccination from the Public Health act last year and we will not revisit that decision, period,” said the tweet.

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Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic and the omicron variant, in Ottawa, on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic and the omicron variant, in Ottawa, on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. Photo by Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said he believes mandatory vaccinations will happen in Canada.

Duclos said it was a matter for the provinces but he personally believed that compulsory vaccination would happen.

At a press conference Friday, he said the only way out of the current crisis was vaccination, despite all the other tools such as masking and testing.

Asked about mandatory vaccination, he said in French, “I personally think we will get there at some point.”

According to a translation on CBC, he added: “I see it coming personally. Not now. I don’t think we are there yet. But I think decisions need to be had about mandatory vaccinations because we have to get rid of Covid 19.

Mandatory vaccination is emerging elsewhere in the world as an attempt to dampen the pandemic’s growth.

-With files from Michael Higgins, National Post

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Friday

Ontario reports 2,472 patients in hospital with COVID-19 surpassing record one day ago

The Canadian Press

Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Health Christine Elliott watch as a healthcare worker administers the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to personal support worker Anita Quidangen, who is the first person in Ontario to receive both doses, on January 4, 2021.
Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Health Christine Elliott watch as a healthcare worker administers the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to personal support worker Anita Quidangen, who is the first person in Ontario to receive both doses, on January 4, 2021. Photo by Carlos Osorio /Reuters

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Ontario is reporting 2,472 patients in hospital with COVID-19, including 338 people in intensive care.

That’s up from 2,279 patients hospitalized and 319 in ICUs one day ago, and surpasses the previous peak of 2,360 people in hospital on April 20.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 232 ICU patients are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status, and 106 are fully vaccinated.

Forty-two new deaths were reported, which a spokeswoman for Elliott says occurred over the past 10 days and were added today due to a data clean-up.

The province is reporting 11,899 new COVID-19 cases, but Public Health Ontario says the actual case count is likely higher due to the current testing policy.

Provincial data shows 81.7 per cent of Ontarians aged five and older have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 87.5 per cent have at least one dose.


Friday

Another tennis player joins Novak Djokovic in Australian detention hotel

Reuters

Czech tennis player Renata Voracova has ended up in the same detention as Serbian star Novak Djokovic in the run-up to the Australian Open, the Czech foreign ministry said on January 7, 2022.
Czech tennis player Renata Voracova has ended up in the same detention as Serbian star Novak Djokovic in the run-up to the Australian Open, the Czech foreign ministry said on January 7, 2022. Photo by JIJI PRESS / AFP

Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic was joined in Australian immigration detention by Czech women’s player Renata Voracova on Friday in a row over COVID-19 vaccines that could scupper the Serbian’s shot at a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open.

Unlike Djokovic, the 81st-ranked Voracova planned to leave the country after being placed into detention in a sweep by authorities on those who entered the country under the same vaccination exemption given to Djokovic.

“Renata Voracova decided to drop out of the tournament due to limited possibilities for training and to leave Australia,” the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that it had made a diplomatic protest and that several other players were also at the modest Park Hotel.

Djokovic, widely criticised in 2020 for hosting a tournament as the COVID-19 pandemic was first raging, was detained at Melbourne’s airport on Wednesday. Authorities revoked a visa granted on the basis of a medical exemption from Australia’s strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

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Friday

How Omicron may ‘lift us out of the pandemic, so that this becomes the last wave of corona’

Tristin Hopper, National Post

Illustration of coronavirus , covid-19, with tentacles on red background. Contagion and propagation of a disease. 3D illustration.
Illustration of coronavirus , covid-19, with tentacles on red background. Contagion and propagation of a disease. 3D illustration. Photo by hadkhanong_Thailand /Getty Images/iStockphoto

As Omicron continues to surge through global populations with unprecedented speed, health officials in one of the world’s harder-hit countries are already sounding a note of optimism that the variant could spell humanity’s deliverance from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(Omicron) may be what is going to lift us out of the pandemic, so that this becomes the last wave of corona,” Tyra Grove Krause, technical director with Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut (SSI), told the country’s TV2 broadcaster on Monday.

Last week, Denmark was posting the world’s highest rate of COVID-19 infections , with roughly one in every 60 Danes nursing an active case of the disease.

While the Danish health-care system is still bracing for Omicron hospitalizations to peak in mid-January, Krause argued that the uniquely mild variant is poised to infect so many Danes in the coming days that it will impart a kind of herd immunity shielding the country from future variants.

Within two months, said Krause, “I hope the infection will start to subside and we get our normal lives back.”

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Friday

Moderna CEO says people likely to need another booster in fall of 2022 ‘and forward’

Reuters

Moderna booster shots come in two strengths — full and half doses.
Moderna booster shots come in two strengths — full and half doses. Photo by Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

The efficacy of boosters against COVID-19 is likely to decline over the next few months and people may need another shot in the fall of 2022, Moderna Inc Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel said at a Goldman Sachs-organized healthcare conference on Thursday.

Bancel said the company is working on a vaccine candidate tailored to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but is unlikely to be available in the next two months.

“I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ’22 and forward,” Bancel said.

His comments on needing a fourth shot come on the back of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett citing a study on Tuesday that a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine boosts antibodies five-fold a week after the shot is administered.

Moderna, which benefits by repeat inoculations, during its third quarter earnings results said commercial booster market sales could be up to $2 billion in the United States in 2022.

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Friday

Production delayed at federal government’s new $126M COVID vaccine plant in Montreal

Ryan Tumilty, National Post

The new vaccine plant at the National Research Council facility in Montreal, on January 6, 2022.
The new vaccine plant at the National Research Council facility in Montreal, on January 6, 2022. Photo by Allen McInnis/Postmedia/File

A $126 million plant in Montreal that the government hoped would be making COVID-19 vaccine by now is not yet up and running.

There is also no clear timeline for when it will start producing vaccines.

Early in the pandemic, the government gave the National Research Council $126 million to build a new Biologics Manufacturing Centre at the NRC’s existing facility in Montreal. It then signed an agreement with Novavax to make its vaccine at the facility.

The government finished construction of the facility and the set up of vaccine manufacturing equipment in June.

When the deal with Novavax was first announced last February, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he was hopeful the facility would be making vaccines in December.

“We expect by the end of the year to be in a position to be producing vaccines. We’re talking around two million doses a month based on the process and the design we have seen so far,” he said at the time.

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