The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
8:17 p.m. Yukon reported its seventh death linked to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, The Canadian Press reports.
The territory’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, says in a statement that the person died in hospital Wednesday night, according to CP.
He says “an unfortunate fact was this person was not immunized.”
Hanley says unvaccinated Yukoners are at greatest risk from the illness.
Yukon also said Thursday it has diagnosed seven new cases as active infections have risen to 80.
The territory has reported 589 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, 526 of wich have been diagnosed since June 1.
7:26 p.m. British Columbia has surpassed 1,000 active cases of COVID-19, as daily infections continue to rise, particularly in parts of the province’s southern Interior, The Canadian Press reports.
Another 204 cases have been diagnosed, pushing the number of active cases to 1,055, according to CP.
A statement from the Ministry of Health shows more than half of the latest cases and overall active infections are located in the Interior Health region, where public health restrictions have been reinstated in several central Okanagan communities.
Masks are mandatory in indoor public places in those communities, including in Peachland, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country and the Westbank First Nation, and travel to those regions for non-essential purposes is discouraged for those who aren’t fully vaccinated.
The number of people in hospital has increased to 51, of which 20 are in intensive care.
The ministry says 81 per cent of eligible people in B.C. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and just over 64 per cent have had their second shot.
5:59 p.m. Alberta’s health minister says it was the idea of the province’s chief medical health officer to end isolation requirements for those who test positive for COVID-19 or who have been in close contact with someone who has, The Canadian Press reports.
Tyler Shandro said Dr. Deena Hinshaw came to the government with the plan. He said the government agreed with science and data supporting it and wanted to respect the independence of her position, according to CP.
“It came from Dr. Hinshaw,” Shandro said Thursday when asked about the province’s strategy. “This is work that was developed by those who are in public health.”
He acknowledged concerns about moving forward so quickly. “We have many different opinions in the medical community and that’s to be expected and that’s encouraged.”
He also said that while Alberta is alone in Canada in the approach, others will eventually follow suit.
“We are leading the way in moving to the endemic (phase of the COVID-19) response. We’ve led the way throughout in the response to the pandemic quite frankly.”
Hinshaw has always said she presents scientific evidence, numbers and trends, but the final decision on how to respond to pandemic developments lies with the government.
Close contacts of positive cases are no longer notified of exposure by contact tracers, nor are they required to isolate. The government has also ended asymptomatic testing.
As of Aug. 16, individuals who test positive won’t be legally required to isolate either, although it will still be recommended. Isolation hotels will close and quarantine supports will end.
Reaction to Hinshaw’s announcement Wednesday was swift and critical, much of it on Twitter.
Opposition politicians, the medical community and private citizens all weighed in.
On Thursday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it is insanity that Alberta is eliminating almost all of its remaining COVID-19 public health orders as cases climb in the province.
“It is inconceivable to me. It is the height of insanity to say we don’t even know what’s happening,” Nenshi said.
“It is putting the health of Albertans at risk to stop contact tracing, to stop testing people for the coronavirus and to become one of the first, if not the first, jurisdiction in the world to say that people who have tested positive, who are infectious, can just go about their lives.”
Nenshi, who was making an announcement at the Calgary airport, said if he were in another jurisdiction he would contemplate travel restrictions on Albertans starting Aug. 16.
“I’m aware of no science that backs this up. It is clear for the last month or so on this file our government has been grasping and struggling, just trying to get some good news out of something,” he said.
“Even the most fervent of the anti-maskers wouldn’t say (to) unleash people who are actually infectious into the population.”
Nenshi said he worries the decision to lift the health orders is politically motivated and has nothing to do with science at all.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said he was surprised by the timing of the government’s announcement as infections and highly contagious variants continue to spread in Alberta and globally.
“What is clear is that we need more Edmontonians to get vaccinated so that we can protect ourselves and our communities,” Iveson said in a statement Wednesday after Hinshaw’s media briefing.
5:52 p.m. The government of Nunavut says residents of the territory and of Arctic Quebec can now travel freely between both regions as long as they’ve been in a community for at least 14 days, The Canadian Press reports.
The government says people from either region must also be travelling from a community free from COVID-19, according to CP.
Nunavut has been COVID-free for well over a month, while Nunavik, Quebec’s northern region, had its last case in June.
The Nunavik Regional Board of Health says the bubble only applies to people travelling by charter flight or boat, since there are no direct flights between the regions.
Nunavut residents travelling to Nunavik will be tested on arrival, while Nunavik residents travelling to Nunavut will not.
In June, Nunavut announced that anyone who was fully vaccinated could enter the territory without isolating for 14 days.
2:47 p.m. Many British Canadians are frustrated after being snubbed by a new plan to ease quarantine restrictions for entry to England and Scotland.
The United Kingdom countries announced Wednesday that travellers who were fully vaccinated in the United States or Europe will not have to quarantine upon arrival as of Monday.
Shaun Campbell says he came to Canada as a student from the U.K. in February 2020 and has not been able to visit his family since — even when his uncle died after he was infected with COVID-19 last year.
He has written to government officials including the English transport secretary to express his “extreme disappointment” over the decision to exclude travellers from Canada from the new changes.
The English and Scottish governments did not provide a reason why Canada was not included in the new quarantine exceptions.
2:46 p.m. A prominent business group is calling for clarity on what’s next in Ontario’s reopening plan as the province meets a major target for further lifting restrictions.
The province announced Thursday that 80 per cent of residents aged 12 and older have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, meaning one of three conditions the province has set for moving beyond Step 3 of its reopening plan has been met.
In light of the news, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business called on the province to communicate its plans for pandemic rules going forward and how it will respond if infections spike again.
“Many businesses are hanging on by their fingernails right now and are super anxious to know what the pathway is to remove these remaining restrictions and what restrictions will stick around,” Dan Kelly, president of the group, said in an interview Thursday.
“Government has provided no clarity on that question.”
2:45 p.m. As New Brunswick prepares to drop virtually all of its COVID-19 restrictions Friday night, some infectious disease experts are warning the province should prepare for a surge in cases this fall because of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Allison McGeer, an infectious disease physician with the Sinai Health System in Toronto, says she is sympathetic to Premier Blaine Higgs’ decision to loosen health protection measures — including mask wearing — given the fact that case numbers in New Brunswick remain low.
McGeer, however, says it is clear the Delta variant is on the move in British Columbia, Alberta and much of the United States, where the U.S. Centers for Disease Control now says fully vaccinated Americans should go back to wearing masks in indoor public spaces in regions where the virus is spreading rapidly.
McGeer says she has no problem with easing restrictions in Atlantic Canada — where case numbers remain low — so long as residents understand that mask wearing and other protection measures will likely be reimposed in the fall.
2:43 p.m. Like many students eyeing in-class learning this fall, Nyle Maker is on the hunt for his second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine before starting university in Hamilton.
But unlike most, the 18-year-old McMaster University student has already received a full series of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V in his home country of Pakistan and is embarking down a murky road of not just mixing shots, but effectively doubling them.
Maker says he was led to believe he didn’t meet the vaccine requirements to secure a room under McMaster’s shifting campus housing policy, because Sputnik hasn’t received the rubber stamp from Health Canada or the World Health Organization.
The university recently revised its rules to give international students a little more leeway, but these changes were too little and too late to help Maker.
By the time he had one dose of Pfizer under his belt, Maker says McMaster’s residences had filled up, leaving him and many other students on a waiting list.
“My biggest concern for when I arrive in Canada is my accommodation,” says Maker.
“Renting a house (or) flat from abroad is really difficult, so I will have to do that when I get there.”
2:42 p.m. Calgary’s mayor says it’s the “height of insanity” that Alberta is moving ahead with removing almost all of its remaining COVID-19 public health orders.
As of today, close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 will no longer be notified of exposure by contact tracers nor will they be legally required to isolate.
The province is also ending asymptomatic testing.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says it inconceivable that the announcement would be made at the same time as cases have nearly tripled from recent weeks.
2:34 p.m. Israel’s prime minister on Thursday announced that the country would offer a coronavirus booster to people over 60 who have already been vaccinated.
The announcement by Naftali Bennett makes Israel, which launched one of the world’s most successful vaccination drives early this year, the first country to offer a third dose of a Western vaccine to its citizens on a wide scale.
“I’m announcing this evening the beginning of the campaign to receive the booster vaccine, the third vaccine,” Bennett said in a nationally televised address. “Reality proves the vaccines are safe. Reality also proves the vaccines protect against severe morbidity and death. And like the flu vaccine that needs to be renewed from time to time, it is the same in this case.”
The decision comes at a time of rising infections and signs that the vaccine’s efficacy dwindles over time.
1:03 p.m. Outside the Tokyo Olympics bubble, the coronavirus situation in Japan has never been worse. Both the city and the country reported record numbers of new infections Thursday as the Delta variant outpaced vaccinations, straining the health-care system.
Inside the bubble, a handful of new cases continue to emerge every day. The most prominent one yet, involving world champion pole-vaulter Sam Kendricks, came Thursday, knocking him out of the Games and briefly sending dozens of other athletes into isolation.
All along, Olympic organizers have insisted that these two worlds, inside the bubble and outside, can be kept sealed off from each other, with neither posing a significant risk to the other. But as the Games approach their midway point, the promises of a “safe and secure” Games are being put to the test.
With Tokyo still under a state of emergency, the city reported 3,865 new cases Thursday. A day earlier, Tokyo had reported more than 3,000 new infections for the first time, warning that the city was running out of hospital beds to treat not only coronavirus patients but those with other medical emergencies, too.
1:00 p.m. Applications for U.S. state unemployment fell last week, signaling that the labor market continues to improve even as the Delta variant of Covid-19 rages amid sustained vaccine hesitancy.
Initial jobless claims in regular state programs totaled 400,000 in the week ended July 24, down 24,000 from the prior week, Labor Department data showed Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 385,000 new applications.
Weekly unemployment claims have fallen considerably since the beginning of the year against a backdrop of elevated labor demand. At the same time, the Delta variant that’s fueled a recent surge in new infections across the country poses a risk.
As the threat of renewed restrictions looms and large swaths of the country remain unvaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on indoor masking to include K-12 classrooms and inoculated people who live in Covid-19 “hot spots.”
Ontario has administered 89,157 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 19,293,701 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.
According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 10,441,944 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 80.1 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 70.9 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.
The province says 8,851,757 people have completed their vaccinations, which means they’ve had both doses. That works out to approximately 67.9 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 60.1 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.
The province has now met one of three conditions set for moving beyond Step 3 of its reopening plan with more than 80 per cent of people in the province aged 12 and older having received at least one dose, but the Ontario government has also said 75 per cent of those eligible must have received their second dose, and no public health unit can have less than 70 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated.
12 p.m. A spot check of U.S. stores and other data sources shows mask sales are rising again amid concerns about surging coronavirus cases from the delta variant.
Retail analysts expect mask sales will increase further after The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week recommended vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the cases are surging.
Sales of masks rose 24 per cent for the week ending Tuesday, compared to the prior week, reversing weekly declines since May, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.
The coronavirus is especially surging among the unvaccinated and in states with low vaccination rates.
Stores face challenges in figuring how much they should order, given so much uncertainty regarding the virus.
11:55 a.m. Quebec is reporting 138 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and no new deaths attributed to the coronavirus.
Health officials have reported more than 100 new cases for two consecutive days but haven’t reported a death linked to the virus since July 22.
Officials say hospitalizations rose by one, to 62, and 20 people were in intensive care, a rise of one.
The province’s public health institute says 83.8 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 65.1 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated.
The province says 69,723 doses were administered on Wednesday.
Health officials say 920,268 people have so far registered for the province’s vaccination lottery, the first draws for which take place Aug. 6.
11:45 a.m. Public health in London, Ont., is asking residents to choose the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before thousands of doses expire.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit says more than 21,300 doses of the mRNA shot have been thawed and need to be used by Aug. 12.
It says vaccinations have declined over the last two weeks and the available Moderna shots are “above and beyond” shots already allocated for second doses.
The region’s top doctor is asking people who visit clinics for their shots in the next two weeks to take the Moderna vaccine and help avoid wastage.
Ontario and other Canadian provinces have been offering Moderna shots after a first dose of Pfizer and vice-versa in order to quickly vaccinate as many people as possible.
The London health unit says mRNA interchangeability is at “the foundation of its vaccination program” and says they can be mixed without concern.
11:35 a.m. New York City’s daily average cases passed 1,000 for the first time in almost three months, though hospitalizations remain relatively low. Diners will be required to be vaccinated to eat indoors at some of the city’s most famous restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café.
President Joe Biden called on Congress to extend a moratorium on home evictions that is set to expire on July 31 as the delta variant continues to spread throughout the U.S.
Citigroup Inc. has gone back to requiring employees to wear masks when they’re in the office, regardless of vaccination status.
11:25 a.m. Federal regulators will allow Emergent Biosolutions to resume production of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after production woes, officials said Thursday.
The Food and Drug Administration ordered the plant to pause production of the vaccine in April after ingredient mix-ups ruined 75 million doses. The FDA’s review of the plant found problems with cross contamination and mismanagement. About 10 million doses produced at the factory were salvaged.
The greenlight from the FDA is just the first step in the plant’s return. The vaccines produced must also receive authorization from the agency in order to be released to the public.
“The American people should have high expectations of the partners its government chooses to help prepare them for disaster, and we have even higher expectations of ourselves,” said Emergent CEO Robert Kramer. “We have fallen short of those lofty ambitions over the past few months but resumption of manufacturing is a key milestone and we are grateful for the opportunity to help bring this pandemic to an end.”
11 a.m. The Biden administration will allow a nationwide ban on evictions to expire Saturday, arguing that its hands are tied after the Supreme Court ruled it could only be extended until the end of the month.
In a statement Thursday, the White House said President Joe Biden would have liked to have extended the federal eviction moratorium due to spread of the Delta variant. Biden called on “Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay.”
The moratorium was put in place put in place last September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
10:40 a.m. With California’s summer coronavirus surge worsening, officials are unveiling new rules, redoubling efforts to get more people to wear masks and even employing some pointed remarks as part of an urgent campaign to boost vaccinations and slow the rapid spread of the highly infectious delta variant.
The state Wednesday urged everyone — even those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — to wear masks indoors while in public, joining a renewed national push to increase protection amid an ongoing spike in cases.
But the ultimate goal is to convince those who have not been vaccinated to get their shots, which experts say is vital to reverse the surge.
And there are some early signs of movement among Californians who, to this point, have remained on the fence.
From July 18 to 24, providers throughout the state administered an average of just more than 64,000 vaccines a day — about 3,100 more daily doses than the week before.
10:21 a.m. Ontario is reporting 218 COVID-19 cases and three deaths. Locally, there are 38 new cases in Toronto, 38 in Peel Region, 25 in Hamilton, 19 in the Region of Waterloo and 13 in Grey Bruce; over 19,400 tests completed.
10:20 a.m. Vaccination rates are picking up again in France as the government requires a virus pass for more and more activities — but social workers worry that the measure will further marginalize migrants and other poor populations.
So aid group Doctors Without Borders has set up a tent this summer in northeast Paris to vaccinate migrants, homeless people and others without access to state or private health insurance. Aid groups are carrying out similar actions in other countries, too.
“People think that these people wouldn’t need a vaccine passport,” Cristiana Castro, who oversees Doctors Without Borders’ COVID operations in France, told The Associated Press. But “they often need to access public places for housing, administrative processes, and they worry that one day the passport would be required to access those, and it creates a lot of anxiety.”
A line of about 30 people had already started to form when the tents opened Thursday, most of them migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan African countries. Many of them arrived only recently in France.
“I’m feeling good because today I’m getting the COVID vaccine, and after I’ll feel safe,” Mdamasud Parves, a migrant from Bangladesh who arrived six months ago, told the AP. Doctors Without Borders gave Parves his first shot of a Pfizer vacine, and an appointment for the second dose in three weeks.
9:50 a.m. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says more than 80 per cent of people in the province aged 12 and older have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
That means one of three conditions the province has set for moving beyond Step 3 of its reopening plan has now been met.
The government has also said 75 per cent of people 12 and older must have received their second dose, and no public health unit can have less than 70 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated.
Elliott says other key health indicators must also be stable.
The province has said that if all of those conditions are met, the majority of restrictions can be lifted as early as 21 days after entering this phase, but some are calling for more details on what a post-Step 3 Ontario will look like.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is calling on the government today to communicate its plan for lifting business restrictions and ensure they won’t be subject to lockdowns in the event of a fourth wave.
9:40 a.m. Fueled by vaccinations and government aid, the U.S. economy grew at a solid 6.5 per cent annual rate last quarter in another sign that the nation has achieved a sustained recovery from the pandemic recession. The total size of the economy has now surpassed its pre-pandemic level.
Thursday’s report from the Commerce Department estimated that the nation’s gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — accelerated in the April-June quarter from an already robust 6.3 per cent annual growth rate in the first quarter of the year.
9:25 a.m. One of the Republican Party’s most prominent rising stars is mocking new government recommendations calling for more widespread use of masks to blunt a coronavirus surge.
“Did you not get the CDC’s memo?” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis joked Wednesday before an almost entirely unmasked audience of activists and lawmakers crammed into an indoor hotel ballroom in Salt Lake City. “I don’t see you guys complying.”
From Texas to South Dakota, Republican leaders responded with hostility and defiance to updated masking guidance from public health officials, who advise that even fully vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors if they live in areas with high rates of virus transmission. The backlash reopened the culture war over pandemic restrictions just as efforts to persuade unvaccinated Americans to get shots appeared to be making headway.
9:15 a.m. For the first time in a month, COVID-19 deaths in the United States are once again over 2,000 per week, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data found. New cases are also averaging more than 60,000 per day for the first time in more than three months.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus has caused a concerning new wave of the pandemic as unvaccinated people bear the brunt of its effects. While breakthrough cases are possible in vaccinated individuals, the unvaccinated account for virtually all hospitalizations and deaths.
The worrying trend comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new mask guidance Tuesday recommending fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in public in areas with high transmission.
8:35 a.m. Production of movies and TV shows is getting disrupted again because of COVID-19 and uncertainty over vaccination protocols, a setback as networks and streaming services remain hungry for fresh content.
Among shows that recently suspended shooting as members of the production tested positive for COVID0-19 is “House of the Dragon,” the much-anticipated prequel to HBO’s smash hit “Game of Thrones.” Hulu’s comedy “Woke” also had to stop filming because of positive COVID-19 cases.
Both shows have resumed production.
Movie projects that have been suspended include “God Is a Bullet,” starring Jamie Foxx and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. The production, which is filming in Mexico, shut down this week after actors who had been vaccinated tested positive for COVID-19. Recently production on Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible 7” film shut down briefly because of positive tests.
8:10 a.m. For three decades he came to Canada to work our farms. Then the pandemic changed the landscape. Would new appreciation of his essential role finally help this migrant worker put down roots?
8 a.m. Burundi’s government now says it will accept COVID-19 vaccines, becoming one of the last countries in the world to embrace them. But the health ministry says it will not take responsibility for any side effects they might cause.
Health Minister Thaddee Ndikumana on Wednesday said the vaccines will arrive with the support of the World Bank. It was not immediately clear how many doses the East African country will receive or when.
“The vaccine will be given to those who need it,” the health minister said. The government will store the doses but will not take responsibility for any side effects, he added.
Burundi’s announcement came the same day that neighboring Tanzania launched its vaccination campaign, retreating from former President John Magufuli’s denial of the pandemic. He died in March and the presidency went to his deputy Samia Suluhu Hassan, who has since reversed course on COVID-19 in one of Africa’s most populous countries.
7:45 a.m. Spain’s prime minister on Thursday announced that existing measures to protect the most vulnerable from the pandemic’s economic fallout will be prolonged until the end of October.
Spain, one of the country’s that was hardest hit at the beginning of the health emergency, has extended subsidies for the unemployed and furloughs for companies that have gone out of business to try to cushion an economic drop of 11 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2020.
As a national lockdown extended in March last year, the government also rolled out a series of social measures, including a ban on leaving impoverished families without utilities and a moratorium on forced evictions for those who saw their income vanish.
During a televised briefing on Thursday to summarize progress during the first 1 1/2 years of his left-wing coalition, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that the so-called social shield will be extended beyond the current Aug. 9 expiration date to Oct. 31.
6:55 a.m. Starting Friday, Disney guests will have to wear masks while indoors and on resort transportation, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings are optional when outside, and visitors younger than 2 will not be required to wear a mask.
The updated guidelines, announced by the theme park Wednesday night, are in alignment with the CDC’s latest recommendations on mask wearing following a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases due to transmission of the delta variant. On Tuesday, the agency updated its guidance to urge fully vaccinated people to wear masks while indoors in areas of high COVID-19 transmission. CDC data shows Orange County is located in an area of high transmission.
Disney’s updated mask policy reverses its June guidelines that allowed vaccinated guests to go maskless in most places in the resort. After it re-opened in July 2020 following a COVID-19 hiatus, Walt Disney World required guests to wear masks throughout the resort, but Disney relaxed the mandate June 15.
Until Friday, guests will operate under the same procedures: masks are optional for fully vaccinated guests in most areas except on resort transportation, including the Skyliner, monorail and buses. Guests who are not fully vaccinated are expected to wear face coverings while indoors and upon entering attractions and transportation, per Disney’s guidelines. Disney does not require proof of visitor vaccination.
Disney’s announcement came the same day Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings reinstated a state of emergency due to high COVID-19 transmission.
6:40 a.m. Japanese officials sounded the alarm Thursday as Tokyo reported record-breaking coronavirus cases for the third straight day with the Olympics well underway.
“We have never experienced the expansion of the infections of this magnitude,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters. He said the new cases were soaring not only in the Tokyo area but across the country.
Tokyo reported 3,865 new cases Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and double the numbers a week ago, setting an all-time high since the pandemic began early last year.
Japan has kept its cases and deaths lower than many other countries, but its seven-day rolling average is growing and now stands at 28 per 100,000 people nationwide and 88 in Tokyo, according to the Health Ministry. This compares to 18.5 in the United States, 48 in Britain and 2.8 in India, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“While almost nothing is helping to slow the infections, there are many factors that can accelerate them,” said Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical adviser, noting the Olympics and summer vacation. “The biggest risk is the lack of a sense of crisis and without it, the infections will further expand and put medical systems under severe strain.”
Tokyo has been under its fourth state of emergency since July 12, ahead of the Olympics, which began last Friday despite widespread public opposition and concern that they Games could worsen the outbreak.
6:30 a.m. The prospect of in-person classes and access to vaccines — as well as clear vaccination and quarantine policies — are key to keeping Canada a top destination for foreign students despite the global pandemic, a new international survey suggests.
Uncertainty caused by border closures and travel restrictions has greatly disrupted the lucrative international education sector since the onset of the health crisis, but interest in studying in Canada has remained strong, says the study by U.K.-based IDP Connect.
The online survey examined the attitudes and intentions of more than 4,000 international student applicants, individuals with admission offers and current students from 20 countries in July.
Other destinations rated included Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Out of those, Canada was ranked second to New Zealand for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
6:20 a.m. Calls for the Ontario government to take leadership on vaccine credentials or so-called “vaccine passports” are increasing from both business and health advocates, who say the province needs to either create its own program or at least give clear direction on dealing with customers and employees as the province reopens.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said the province won’t be creating a proof-of-vaccination system, deferring to the federal government instead.
Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said he’s frustrated at how long it’s taking both levels of government to move on a solution. Months ago, Beatty was urging secure digital vaccination certificates and still believes they are necessary.
“So little has been done,” he said, adding that the federal and provincial governments aren’t in sync on the issue.
Quebec has said it will require vaccine certifications for non-essential activities if COVID-19 rates increase, and Manitoba is issuing vaccine cards.
Beatty said Quebec’s strategy is a potential way to deal with a fourth wave that doesn’t require closing businesses.
Nitin Mohan, a physician epidemiologist and partner at ETIO Public Health Consultants, said he’s concerned about equity if governments decide to implement a digital vaccine credential, as not everyone has access to a smartphone.
Thursday 6:10 a.m. A return to a somewhat normal summer as COVID-19 restrictions are eased is putting a strain on Canada’s blood supply.
Several provinces have started lifting restrictions — most notably Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan — and demand is up as a result.
“As provinces slowly open up, there’s some return to normal activities. Hospital demand is increasing,” said Tracy Smith, the Prairies and Northwest Territories donor relations director for the Canadian Blood Service.
“You can imagine that they are trying to catch up with some of the backlogs, some of those surgeries that were put on hold during the pandemic. They’re trying to get those in … (and) blood products are becoming more in demand.”
The need for blood products tailed off dramatically 16 months ago as the pandemic brought travel to a near standstill and all but the most critical surgeries were cancelled.
At the same time, Canadian Blood Services wasn’t able to accommodate as many donors because of physical-distancing requirements at clinics, so the two balanced each other out.
About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million population give blood on a regular basis.
Canadian Blood Services operates a national inventory that allows products to be regularly shifted around the country to meet hospital and patient needs.
But the inventory has a shelf life — a year for frozen plasma, 42 days for red blood cells and five days for platelets — so it takes some work to ensure supply continues to meet demand.
Smith said the blood agency has made some changes in anticipation of an increased need, including extending hours at some donation centres and mobile clinics, but many pandemic safety precautions remain in place, including limiting the number of donors allowed inside at one time.
“We’re only accepting appointments from donors. We’re not accepting walk-ins in order to manage our physical distancing,” Smith said. “It’s more important for donors to fill the appointments for us.”
Smith couldn’t say how much the demand for blood has increased in the last six weeks, but she said the need is evident in supplies of O negative blood, the universal blood type used primarily in emergency rooms.
“We have just over four days supply and at times it’s dipped to between three and 3 1/2,” she said. “That gives you an indication of the increase in demand that we’ve seen.”
A Calgary vascular and trauma surgeon said operating rooms have been a lot busier in the last six weeks.
“There’s certainly no slowdowns. It’s more in the other direction trying to catch up,” said Dr. Paul Cantle.
Wednesday 8:30 p.m.: The huge increase in government aid prompted by the coronavirus pandemic will cut poverty nearly in half this year from prepandemic levels and push the share of Americans in poverty to the lowest level on record, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of a vast but temporary expansion of the safety net.
The number of poor Americans is expected to fall by nearly 20 million from 2018 levels, a decline of almost 45 per cent. The country has never cut poverty so much in such a short period of time, and the development is especially notable since it defies economic headwinds — the economy has nearly 7 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic.
The extraordinary reduction in poverty has come at extraordinary cost, with annual spending on major programs projected to rise fourfold to more than $1 trillion. Yet without further expensive new measures, millions of families may find the escape from poverty brief. The three programs that cut poverty most — stimulus checks, increased food stamps and expanded unemployment insurance — have ended or are scheduled to soon revert to their prepandemic size.
While poverty has fallen most among children, its retreat is remarkably broad: It has dropped among Americans who are white, Black, Latino and Asian, and among Americans of every age group and residents of every state.
The Biden administration has started making monthly payments to most families with children though an expansion of the child tax credit. Democrats want to make the yearlong effort permanent, which would reduce child poverty on a continuing basis by giving their families an income guarantee.
Wednesday 8:06 p.m.: Alberta is ending isolation requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19 and their close contacts as cases climb in the province.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, announced a two-phased approach Wednesday to eliminate the few remaining public health orders in the province.
Starting Thursday, close contacts will no longer be notified of exposure by contact tracers nor will they be legally required to isolate — although it still recommended. The province will also end asymptomatic testing. Further measures will be eliminated Aug. 16. People who test positive for the virus will not be mandated to isolate at that time. Isolation hotels will also close as quarantine supports end.
The changes came as the province recorded 194 cases of COVID-19 — the highest daily case count since early June. Active cases now total 1,334 across Alberta. Eighty-four people are in hospital, including 18 in intensive care.
Hinshaw said COVID-19 will not disappear but suggested the steps are crucial to manage health-care resources.
Wednesday 5:26 p.m.: The top doctor of a COVID-19 hot spot in Ontario says data shows that all of the people in the region who were hospitalized recently with COVID-19 had not been fully vaccinated.
Dr. Lawrence Loh says between June 1 and July 9, 81 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Peel Region, which includes the cities of Brampton and Mississauga. He says two thirds of those patients were unvaccinated, and one third had received only one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Loh says the data shows how severe the Delta variant can be even if you’re only partially immunized against the virus.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is pleading with residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19. He says the data shows that vaccines work, they save lives and keep the community safe.