COVID-19 live updates: Vaccine passport program removal date will be announced next week: Kenney; Health-care system still ‘under strain’: Hinshaw; Sohi urging province to keep COVID measures in place

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

Publishing date:

Feb 04, 2022  •  17 hours ago  •  21 minute read  •  16 Comments

A man uses a waste bin as the temperature hit -18 degrees Celcius along Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022.
A man uses a waste bin as the temperature hit -18 degrees Celcius along Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

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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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?
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Friday

Workers calling in sick in record numbers amid Omicron wave

Bianca Bharti, National Post

A pedestrian walks past a sign advertising COVID-19 testing on Toronto’s Queen Street in January. Employee absences hit a record high last month.
A pedestrian walks past a sign advertising COVID-19 testing on Toronto’s Queen Street in January. Employee absences hit a record high last month. Photo by Peter J Thompson/National Post

More employees missed work due to illness or disability last month than at the outset of the pandemic as the Omicron wave spread rapidly and forced semi-lockdowns in parts of the country.

Statistics Canada reported that 10 per cent of workers were absent from their job for all or part of the week in which it conducted its January labour force survey. That’s about a third higher than the average for January between 2017 and 2019 and higher than the 8.1 per cent seen in March 2020, the agency reported Friday.

“Absences from work due to illness or disability — that is, for any short or long term health-related reason — tend to follow a seasonal pattern, and typically peak in the winter,” Statistics Canada said in its report. “However, as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spread across the country, absences due to illness or disability reached record highs in January.”

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Friday

Scientists criticize flaws in study that found lockdowns do little to reduce COVID deaths

Tristin Hopper, National Post

A mostly deserted street in Montreal during a Quebec-wide COVID lockdown, January 10, 2021.
A mostly deserted street in Montreal during a Quebec-wide COVID lockdown, January 10, 2021. Photo by Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press/File

Following a Johns Hopkins University study showing that lockdowns only curbed COVID deaths by 0.2 per cent, some scientists are criticizing the report as fundamentally flawed.

“Smoking causes cancer, the earth is round, and ordering people to stay at home … decreases disease transmission. A study purporting to prove the opposite is almost certain to be fundamentally flawed,” reads a critique by the University of Oxford’s Seth Flaxman, the lead author on a 2020 study which estimated that lockdowns had likely saved up to three million lives across Europe.

The Johns Hopkins paper in question is a pre-print meta-analysis of 34 prior studies examining the link between lockdowns and COVID mortality. Its authors ultimately conclude that lockdowns have “little to no public health effects” and should be “rejected out of hand as a pandemic policy instrument.”

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Flaxman was among four prominent public health researchers who criticized the study in a Thursday post published by the Science Media Centre, a U.K. non-profit that works as a conduit between scientists and the media.

One of the other critiques was drafted by Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at the U.K.’s Imperial College London whose early modelling on COVID-19 was influential in driving the first major waves of pandemic lockdowns.

The U.K. had initially intended minor interventions on COVID-19, until persuaded otherwise by research from Ferguson’s COVID-19 Response Team, which claimed that a hands-off strategy could yield “hundreds of thousands of deaths.”

“Suppression will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members,” said the March 2020 paper.

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Thursday

Kenney says ‘firm date’ to remove vaccine passport will be announced early next week, Hinshaw says health-care system still ‘under strain’

Kellen Taniguchi

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provides an update on the province’s response to COVID-19 and the new Omicron variant, during a press conference in Edmonton on Nov. 29, 2021.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provides an update on the province’s response to COVID-19 and the new Omicron variant, during a press conference in Edmonton on Nov. 29, 2021. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia, file

A “firm date” for the lifting of Alberta’s restrictions exemption program will be announced early next week, Premier Jason Kenney said during a Thursday night Facebook Live.

Kenney also said a “simple phased plan” to remove almost all of the current public health restrictions will also be announced which could be implemented once the province sees a trend of declining pressure in hospitals.

Kenney said the vaccine passport requirement led to a major increase in Alberta’s vaccination rates, so it has “done its job.”

However, he said with higher vaccination rates and much lower levels of it preventing infection from the Omicron variant, the rationale for a proof of vaccination program is not as strong today as it was in September.

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“As COVID changes, our response to it must change as well,” said Kenney.

“After two years of this, we simply cannot continue to rely on the blunt instrument of damaging restrictions as a primary tool to cope with a disease that will likely be with us for the rest of our lives. We must find a way to get our lives back to normal.”

Alberta’s top doctor says health-care system still under strain

During Thursday’s COVID-19 update, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said she is not aware of any final decisions regarding the timing of the lifting of restrictions.

“I want to emphasize that the acute care system is under strain and it’s critical that all of us play a part in minimizing the spread of COVID to protect the system and that includes all of the actions we take every day and choices around vaccines,” said Hinshaw.

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Hinshaw said she has provided her recommendations to the provincial government, but they are under cabinet confidence. She added the government is aware of her recommendations and they have always been taken into consideration, however they are not the only factor in the decision-making process.

Thursday COVID-19 update

On Thursday, Alberta reported 1,584 people in hospital with COVID-19, a decrease of 14 from the previous day and the first time those numbers have dropped after weeks of pandemic-high COVID-19 hospitalizations.

While people in hospital with the virus dropped, the number of Albertans in intensive care units with COVID-19 increased by six, for a total of 112 people currently in ICU.

The province reported an additional 15 deaths on Thursday, bringing Alberta’s pandemic death total to 3,608.

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Active cases continued to drop across the province, with 33,879 active cases reported on Thursday, a decrease of 998 from the previous day. The Edmonton Zone is home to 10,415 of those cases.

Alberta reported 2,370 new cases of the virus on Thursday and a test positivity rate of around 32 per cent.

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Thursday

‘Too soon and too fast’: Mayor Sohi urging province to keep COVID-19 measures in place

Dustin Cook

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi takes part in an Edmonton City Council meeting on, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. Photo by David Bloom
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi takes part in an Edmonton City Council meeting on, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. Photo by David Bloom Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi is urging the province not to remove COVID-19 restrictions “too soon and too fast” after the Alberta government said it hopes to start lifting measures this month.

Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Sohi said he wants the public health measures to remain in place for a while longer to ensure the health and safety of residents and protect those under age five who still can’t be vaccinated.

“We all have a collective responsibility to do what we can to keep everyone safe and I ask that the provincial government keep this top of mind as they reconsider COVID-19 restrictions. These restrictions need to be in place for a little bit longer,” Sohi said. “The COVID-19 virus is showing that it is not finished with us yet with the rising spread of the Omicron variant throughout the province. We must do everything we can to ensure this is the last major wave of the virus and loosening restrictions may set us back.”

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Thursday

Alberta Health acknowledges excess deaths, defends COVID-19 deaths reporting

Jason Herring, Calgary

The Alberta Health Services building located on Southport Rd. S.W. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.
The Alberta Health Services building located on Southport Rd. S.W. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Alberta Health says it is not under-reporting deaths from COVID-19, following research from a University of Toronto infectious disease professor that found high rates of excess mortality in Alberta during the pandemic.

“We have compared the deaths we report daily to what is recorded on medical certificates of death (which is what we historically rely on to report mortality by cause of death), and there is significant agreement,” Alberta Health communications director Chris Bourdeau said in a statement.

“We cannot validate or confirm the methods used to determine excess deaths in this analysis.”

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That analysis, by Dr. Tara Moriarty at the U of T, concluded Alberta’s rates of age-adjusted excess mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic outpaced all other provinces.

Moriarty’s research found that from the start of the pandemic through Aug. 28, 2021, Alberta had reported about 4,800 more deaths than would be expected during the time period. Alberta’s official tally lists 2,370 COVID-19 deaths through that same period.

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Thursday

A sharp jump in Ottawa’s COVID-19 wastewater index when trucker convoy arrived

Postmedia

Trucks sit parked on Wellington Street near the Parliament Buildings as truckers and their supporters take part in a convoy to protest COVID vaccine mandates.
Trucks sit parked on Wellington Street near the Parliament Buildings as truckers and their supporters take part in a convoy to protest COVID vaccine mandates. Photo by PATRICK DOYLE /REUTERS

After weeks of steady decline, Ottawa’s wastewater signal — considered the most accurate reading of how much COVID-19 is in the community — took a sharp turn upward last weekend as thousands of vaccine mandate protesters came to the city.

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“It was really coming down, but Friday and Saturday it stopped going down and started creeping up. On Sunday, it went up quite a bit,” said uOttawa engineering professor Rob Delatolla who is part of a team that developed the process of detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater.

After the weekend, that blip started to go back down and has now plateaued at a more moderate level, he said.

With only a small percentage of cases now being tested, wastewater testing is widely considered the best window into the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant in the city.

Delatolla said there are a number of factors that could have an impact on Ottawa’s wastewater signal right now — the easing of restrictions that allows restaurants and bars to reopen among those factors.

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Thursday

Premiers take different approach to freedom as provinces loosen COVID restrictions

The Canadian Press

Premier Scott Moe speaks at a press conference to provide an update on COVID-19 measures in the province. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Friday, September 10, 2021.
Premier Scott Moe speaks at a press conference to provide an update on COVID-19 measures in the province. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Friday, September 10, 2021. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Saskatchewan’s premier declared its time for freedom as he committed to ending all COVID-19 public health orders, while regions across the country are laying out plans to ease restrictions despite high rates of hospitalization.

“What’s necessary is your freedom. What’s necessary is getting your life back to normal,” Premier Scott Moe said in a video posted to social media.

“It’s time.”

Moe said COVID-19 is not going away but people are done with having to follow public health orders. He said “normalizing” COVID-19 and learning to live with it is the achievable option.

The premier’s message comes after Saskatchewan posted its highest level of hospitalizations in the pandemic. The Saskatchewan Medical Association has condemned loosening health measures, saying it would strain the health-care system.

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Thursday

Novak Djokovic will take the vaccine, says biographer, after Nadal’s record 21st Grand Slam win

National Post

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia after a sensational court battle over his choice to compete while unvaccinated.
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia after a sensational court battle over his choice to compete while unvaccinated. Photo by CHRISTOPHER PIKE /Reuters

Novak Djokovic will be getting the COVID-19 vaccine after all, his biographer believes.

Daniel Muksch said he has heard from the Serbian tennis star’s team that he will likely soon get vaccinated against COVID following his unceremonious deportation from Australia last month.

“From what I have heard from those around him, I think he is getting vaccinated,” Muksch reportedly said on Austrian TV station Servus TV, per News.com.au.

While COVID rules are in flux and vary across different countries, Djokovic’s chances to play in two of the season’s three remaining major’s—the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open—are slim. While COVID regulations could change before the French Open in May, the country’s sports ministry said last month there would be no exemptions to rules currently in the books requiring people to be vaccinated to enter public spaces, including for athletes competing in a sporting event.

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Thursday

New Zealand announces plans to reopen to the world after nearly two years of coronavirus travel restrictions

Washington Post

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media during a news conference on Aug. 27 in Wellington, New Zealand.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media during a news conference on Aug. 27 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo by Hagen Hopkins /Getty Images

New Zealand will ease its COVID border restrictions starting this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday.

The country will first allow in New Zealand citizens, residents and some visa holders who are fully vaccinated and coming from Australia, without requiring them to undergo a minimum 10-day quarantine at government-managed facilities, starting Feb. 27. But they must self-quarantine elsewhere and must have been in Australia for 14 days before arrival.

Two weeks later, the country aims to welcome New Zealanders from anywhere in the world, as well as skilled workers. In gradual steps, the country is set to lift all of its pandemic travel restrictions by October.

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The plan marks the first time since early 2020 that New Zealand will open its borders to travelers without requiring them to undergo quarantine at government-managed facilities, minus a short-lived quarantine-free travel corridor with Australia. Officials had recently suspended new bookings into the country’s mandatory quarantine system for returning citizens, worried the virus would leak out into the community from those government-run facilities.

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Thursday

Who really needs a COVID-19 booster shot? Not everyone, it turns out

Sharon Kirkey

Some experts are asking: Are we focusing too much on boosters?
Some experts are asking: Are we focusing too much on boosters? Photo by Getty Images

Rodney Russell sees a few explanations at play for the lagging uptake of COVID vaccine boosters, including that people like him worked hard, pre-Omicron, to convince others that two shots would help keep them alive and out of hospital.

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“Throw in a milder variant, and they’re now saying, ‘I don’t need a third dose,’” said Russell, a professor of virology and immunology at Memorial University in Newfoundland and editor-in-chief of the journal Viral Immunology.

Third doses aren’t required for vaccine passports and certificates. “I think the slightly hesitant is the group not bringing the numbers up,” Russell said. “They’re saying, ‘I’m 45 years old, I’ve had my two shots, I have my vaccine pass, I’m slightly concerned about vaccines, so why get a third one?’” Younger people have never been at high risk of severe outcomes, though they can be hit with long COVID. “They feel, ‘OK, now we’ve got two doses, we don’t need a third,’” Russell said.

Unlike the earlier “Hunger Games” rollout, there’s now ample supply of third doses. As of Feb. 1, about 41 per cent of Canada’s population had been boosted, according to Our World In Data. The most recent breakdown by Health Canada shows that, as of Jan. 22, fewer than a third of females, and only 20 per cent of males aged 18 to 29 had been fully vaccinated with an additional dose. Among the 30- to 39’s, 34 per cent of females and 28 per cent of males were three-times vaccinated. Among the 50 to 59’s, the rate was just over half (53 per cent) for females, and 47 per cent of males. The most boosted (more than 75 per cent) are the 80 and older.

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Russell believes everyone benefits from a third shot. “Definitely. No doubt.”  Whether everyone needs one is a different question. Here’s what we know about COVID-19 booster shots.

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Thursday

Lockdowns only reduced COVID deaths by 0.2 per cent, Johns Hopkins study finds

Tristin Hopper

In both Europe and the United States, researchers found that a lockdown could only be expected to bring down mortality rates by 0.2 per cent “as compared to a COVID-19 policy based solely on recommendations.”
In both Europe and the United States, researchers found that a lockdown could only be expected to bring down mortality rates by 0.2 per cent “as compared to a COVID-19 policy based solely on recommendations.” Photo by PETER J. THOMPSON/NATIONAL POST

A new study out of Johns Hopkins University is claiming that worldwide pandemic lockdowns only prevented 0.2 per cent of COVID-19 deaths and were “not an effective way of reducing mortality rates during a pandemic.”

“We find no evidence that lockdowns, school closures, border closures, and limiting gatherings have had a noticeable effect on COVID-19 mortality,” reads the paper , which is based on a review of 34 pre-existing COVID-19 studies.

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Given the “devastating effects” that lockdowns have caused, the authors recommended they be “rejected out of hand as a pandemic policy instrument.”

In both Europe and the United States, researchers found that a lockdown could only be expected to bring down mortality rates by 0.2 per cent “as compared to a COVID-19 policy based solely on recommendations.” For context, 0.2 per cent of total Canadian COVID-19 fatalities thus far is equal to about 70 people.

The impact of border closures was found to be even less effective, with death rates only going down about 0.1 per cent.

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Letter of the day

Wishy-washy Erin O’Toole pleases no one except Justin Trudeau. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)
Wishy-washy Erin O’Toole pleases no one except Justin Trudeau. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes) Malcolm Mayes

Drop restrictions to end protests

Dear Mr. Kenney, I realize that this might be difficult for you, but if you drop all the COVID restrictions, the truckers will go home peacefully without you having to resort to violence and the RCMP and further damaging your reputation. Unfortunately, it looks like you want to be Mr. Big Man, instead of being rational and reasonable, one more time.

Give us back the freedom you have stolen against my human rights and the protests will stop. It’s easy and only you can stop the protests.

B.B Rose, Hinton

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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


Wednesday

Hospitalizations continue to rise in Alberta, restrictions could be lifted later this month

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

The number of Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 neared a high of almost 1,600 for the first time on Wednesday as the province is considering the easing of public health restrictions later this month.

There is a pandemic-high 1,598 Albertans in hospital with the virus, an increase of 13 from the previous day. While there was a slight jump in hospitalizations, intensive care units saw a decrease of three patients with 106 reported in ICU on Wednesday.

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The province will look at easing the current public health restrictions later this month if there is a sustained decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Premier Jason Kenney said during Tuesday’s COVID-19 update.

An additional 14 COVID-related deaths were reported on Wednesday, bringing the province to 3,593 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Alberta reported 3,024 new cases of the virus and a test positivity rate of 39.5 per cent while active cases continued to drop across the province.

There are currently 34,877 active cases in Alberta, a decrease of 445 from the previous day. The Edmonton Zone, which includes the city of Edmonton and surrounding municipalities, is home to 10,954 of the active cases, while the Calgary Zone has 14,306.

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Of Albertans aged 12 and up, 89.8 per cent have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 86.1 per cent are fully immunized and 39.1 per cent have received their booster shot.

Nearly half, 45.5 per cent, of children aged five to 11 have received one dose of a vaccine, while 14.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Information about easing restrictions on the way

On Wednesday afternoon, Kenney tweeted a video telling Albertans to stay tuned in “the coming days” for more information regarding the end of COVID-19 restrictions.

Kenney has said COVID-19 restrictions, including the restrictions exemption program, could be eliminated by the end of February.

“I just ask people to be a little more patient as we are still at a record high number for non-ICU COVID hospital admissions. We need to see those numbers start to come down. And then I am confident we’ll be able to move forward safely and prudently with reducing the burden of public health measures on Albertans,” Kenney said on Tuesday.

I get the frustration out there, but the end of COVID-restrictions is near.

Please stay tuned in the coming days for more information.

📽 WATCH: ⬇ pic.twitter.com/AxnUZlLoiw

— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) February 2, 2022

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Wednesday

U of A students ‘furious’ with quality of school’s online courses, students’ union says

Kellen Taniguchi

University of Alberta Students’ Union president Rowan Ley talks on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, about a virtual meeting planned for Thursday about how disappointed students are with virtual learning at the university.
University of Alberta Students’ Union president Rowan Ley talks on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, about a virtual meeting planned for Thursday about how disappointed students are with virtual learning at the university. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

Students at the University of Alberta are “furious” with the school’s failure to meet basic standards for online courses, said the university’s students’ union.

The president of the University of Alberta Students’ Union said students accept that they need to be online right now due to the Omicron variant, however, he said students do not accept the “incredibly poor quality” of online learning they are currently receiving.

“There is no reason that after two years, the university is still not able to do things like oversee the use of invasive online proctoring tools,” said students’ union president Rowan Ley.

“Students generally feel they have not gotten what they have paid for, they have gotten an online education that is substantially worse than it had to be, and they’re upset and frustrated and demanding the university to do something about it.”

Ley said the quality of the previous year of online learning was better and more consistent, while this year students are widely telling the students’ union that it has been “terrible.” He added students are paying 14 per cent more in tuition this year compared to two years ago.

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Wednesday

Edmonton defence lawyer unsuccessfully objects to requirement jurors be vaccinated

Jonny Wakefield

The inside of an Edmonton courtroom.
The inside of an Edmonton courtroom. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia, file

Excluding unvaccinated people from serving on a jury did not undermine an Edmonton man’s right to a fair trial, a judge has ruled.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Avril Inglis on Tuesday shot down a defence lawyer’s bid for a mistrial in the case of Daniel Eserjose, who faces trial on a charge of sexual assault.

Rory Ziv, Eserjose’s lawyer, learned just before trial that the court had dismissed anyone from the jury pool who had not received at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. In an eleventh-hour bid for an adjournment or a mistrial, Ziv argued he had not received proper notice, and that the court had no authority “for the broad exclusion of potential jurors who are unvaccinated.”

Inglis disagreed, saying there was no evidence excluding unvaccinated people impacted Eserjose’s right to be tried by a jury of his peers.

“No evidence has been offered and no argument made regarding prejudice as a result of the exclusion of unvaccinated jurors, or as a result of the limited notice of the decision of the court,” she wrote .

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Wednesday

One in four B.C. residents affected by hate, violence during pandemic: poll

Vancouver Sun

File photo: Protesters rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery last March.
File photo: Protesters rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery last March. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG files

A new poll suggests one in four B.C. residents have been impacted by hate rhetoric or violence during the pandemic, in what B.C.’s human rights commissioner calls a disturbing trend.

The Research Co. poll, conducted for the B.C. Office of the Human Rights Commission, found nine per cent of respondents directly experienced a hateful action during the pandemic, including 20 per cent of Indigenous respondents, and 15 per cent of East Asian origin.

Twenty-six per cent of respondents witnessed hate rhetoric or violence concerning the pandemic. Of those who witnessed a hate incident, 50 per cent were youth between the ages of 18 and 24, while 16 per cent have been affected by hate incidents involving racism, according to the poll.

“Those are astounding numbers that are going to have long-term effects on our population,” commissioner Kasari Govender said Wednesday.

Govender doesn’t know why so many young people are witnessing incidents of hate but said it could have something to do with them spending more time online.

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Wednesday

Manitoba outlines plan to loosen COVID-19 restrictions

Winnipeg Sun

Dr. Brent Roussin.
Dr. Brent Roussin. Photo by KEVIN KING /Winnipeg Sun

Manitoba plans to ease public health restrictions beginning next week, Premier Heather Stefason and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced on Wednesday.

Based on current COVID-19 projections, the Manitoba government is taking a cautious path towards reducing public health restrictions over the next several weeks Stefanson said noting the province will also make $16.3 million available to businesses and the arts and culture sector that have been affected by public health orders.

“Last week, we chose to extend public health orders to ensure the COVID-19 situation in Manitoba was stabilizing or improving, and we can see that continues to be the case,” said Stefanson. “This means we can be confident in moving forward with the next phase in our pandemic response, which is a gradual and cautious reopening. New public health orders will reduce restrictions over the next two weeks for private gatherings and begin a shift in how we address capacity limits and how and when we gather in public spaces.”

Roussin also said if all goes well in the next few months, Manitoba could be restriction-free by spring.

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Wednesday

‘Quite plausible’ hospitalizations will rise as Quebec eases restrictions

Montreal Gazette

Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim chief public health officer, said there are several signals that merit attention in the coming days.

They include a “slight increase” in the number of children under 12 going to hospital emergency rooms after testing positive, Boileau said at a pandemic briefing in Montreal.

He said it’s “quite plausible” that the easing of restrictions that began this week and will continue over the next two weeks will cause more contagion, with a risk of seeing more hospitalizations.

“It’s obvious that there will be more contacts between people across the province but we certainly hope that those contacts will be limited by the willingness of the population to be very careful,” Boileau said.

Among other things, that wearing a mask as much as possible, he added.

Quebec hospitals are still in a fragile state, Boileau said.

At the same time, he understands that Quebecers want to “go back to a more normal life” by having access to the arts, culture, sports, restaurants and socialization.

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Wednesday

These doctors and COVID-19 experts are pushing for quicker return to pre-pandemic normal

Tom Blackwell, National Post

Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng of Ottawa is among the leaders of a U.S. group pushing to end COVID restrictions.
Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng of Ottawa is among the leaders of a U.S. group pushing to end COVID restrictions. Photo by Julie Oliver/Postmedia

It’s been a tough two years in the intensive care unit of Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng’s Ottawa hospital.

The hours have been horrendous and burnout among staff widespread, not least due to a unique characteristic of the COVID-19 sufferers who have flooded the ward.

While the typical ICU patient is unconscious for much of his or her stay, those with COVID often arrive awake and can chat with the doctors and nurses, which makes it all the harder when some grow desperately ill and succumb to the virus, said Kyeremanteng, the unit’s head.

“You could have a conversation with them, they’re relatable,” he said. “That was a very under-recognized source of stress.”

But despite the pressures of grappling head-on with the world’s worst public-health crisis in generations, Kyeremanteng has a perhaps surprising take on the pandemic and its impact.

As some of his colleagues balk at any easing yet of public-health restrictions, the critical-care specialist is pushing for schools to move more quickly toward open, pre-pandemic norms, and questions the need for some of the other limits still in place.

“The approach moving forward with COVID needs to be more sustainable,” he said. “What we’re doing right now, closing economies, restaurants, gyms, schools, that is not a sustainable solution.”

He is one of the leaders of a controversial new U.S.-based group — the Urgency of Normal  — that’s pushing for a rapid return to unrestricted in-person learning for children, whom they argue have suffered unduly because of pandemic lockdowns.

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