The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for August 11
- Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
- Highlights from latest Ontario, Quebec guidelines for elementary, secondary school students.
- Setting the scene amid some signs that Canada is in the beginning stages of another coronavirus wave.
- World roundup: Alarming U.S. stats regarding pregnant Americans and vaccine uptake; signs of concern in the Caribbean, Central America and Russia.
- Explore: Extension regarding U.S. land border closures lapses in about 10 days.… Loosening of Canadian border restrictions this week has led to reunion stories like this one.… There is a wide gulf in vaccine philosophy between Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole and one of his Alberta MPs.
Ontario, Quebec release more details on COVID-19 and the upcoming school year
The country's two most populous provinces released more details about their back-to-school plans on Wednesday.
Quebec won't require students in primary and secondary schools to wear masks once they are sitting at their desks this fall as the province seeks to create a more normal classroom setting for the coming academic year.
Teachers will also not be required to wear masks if they can maintain the two-metre distance, and students will no longer need to stay in their classroom bubbles throughout the day. Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced the changes Wednesday in laying out his back-to-school plan.
At a news conference, Roberge said the high vaccination rate among 12- to 17-year-olds allowed for an easing of restrictions, despite the province heading into the beginning of a fourth wave of COVID-19.
As it stands, 82 per cent of teens in that age group have received a dose of vaccine, and 48 per cent have received both. Roberge said he expects at least 77 per cent will be fully vaccinated by the time classes resume. But he said the increased presence of the more contagious delta variant led the province to maintain mask requirements in common areas.
Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, said she's skeptical the mask rules will be enough to contain a fourth wave.
"I'm very concerned," she said.
Ontario's guidelines, in total, will see those vaccinated subjected to fewer restrictions and more lenient isolation requirements if they come into contact with a person who tests positive, compared to people who are unvaccinated.
The province said that it expects the whole dismissal of a school because of COVID-19 cases to be rare.
"It is anticipated that the likelihood of whole school dismissal will be exceptionally low in schools with high immunization coverage among students," the documents say, without referencing the fact that children 11 and younger are currently not eligible to be vaccinated.
However, it's not clear that there are substantial differences compared to last year with respect to how class cohorts will be tested and treated when a child tests positive. Last year, entire classes were usually sent to a local lab for polymerase chain reaction tests, but it could be the case that more parents are coaxed back to their workplaces over the next several months, potentially complicating mass testing efforts.
The province has said previously said this summer it won't employ rapid tests as a screening tool, citing the occasional false positive and negative results that can transpire with the antigen tests currently on the market. The province has also said students will wear masks come September.
From The National
Canada may have entered a 4th coronavirus wave, but it could look different
Canada's seven-day average for new daily cases is now close to 1,300, an increase of nearly 60 per cent over the previous week, with British Columbia in particular dealing with a spike in cases.
If Canada is in a fourth coronavirus wave — Dr. Peter Juni of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said Tuesday he believes the country is — there is hope that this wave won't overwhelm hospital systems.
High vaccination uptake across the country has changed the game: Roughly 60 per cent of Canadians are now fully vaccinated, and research continues to show leading vaccines offer high levels of protection from serious illness, even against the fast-spreading delta variant. Countries that sped ahead of Canada earlier this year in vaccinations have been seeing the unvaccinated comprise an overwhelming percentage of cases and hospitalizations, which experts believe will largely be repeated here.
"We can effectively have more cases in our population without having as severe an impact on our health-care system," said Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist with the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "But that doesn't mean that we're out of the woods."
Multiple experts who spoke to CBC News stressed the need to keep precautions like mask-wearing in place to avoid the worst of what this wave could bring, while also striving to ensure as many Canadians as possible get their shots.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and member of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine task force, stressed that as more and more people get vaccinated, the hope is the total number of people falling seriously ill or dying from infection will remain relatively low, even if overall COVID-19 cases continue to spike.
"We'll still see positive cases in the vaccinated," he said. "But proportionally those won't amount to hospitalizations."
Dr. David Naylor, who led the federal inquiry into Canada's national response to the 2003 SARS epidemic and now co-chairs the federal government's COVID-19 immunity task force, said there could be "serious pressure" on hospitals if case counts get high enough, at a time when front-line staff are already exhausted. Throughout the pandemic, Canada has been affected by the fact that it ranks toward the lower end among rich countries in terms of its number of hospital beds.
A shorter synopsis of this article was included in today's Morning Brief, which provides an early look at the day's top stories. You can subscribe to that email newsletter here.
World roundup: CDC urges pregnant Americans to get COVID-19 vaccines, Philippines undertakes vaccine blitz
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday urged all pregnant women in the U.S. to get the COVID-19 vaccine as hospitals in hot spots are seeing alarming cases of unvaccinated mothers-to-be seriously ill with the virus.
Only about 23 per cent of expectant women have received at least one dose, according to CDC data. Over the entire course of the pandemic, according to the CDC, almost 18,000 have been hospitalized, and 124 died.
For some pregnant patients critically ill with COVID-19, organs begin to fail and doctors induce labour early or deliver babies by cesarean section as a last resort, said Dr. Jeannie Kelly, an obstetrician at Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis. At that hospital, about 20 per cent of all patients admitted for labour and delivery last week were COVID-19 positive, she said, with about one-third of those patients critically ill.
The Pan American Health Organization said Wednesday that in the past week, more than 1.3 million COVID-19 cases and 19,000 deaths were reported overall in North, Central and South America.
PAHO was encouraged by positive case trends in South American countries such as Brazil and Colombia, but said Central American and Caribbean countries like Honduras, Belize, Cuba and Jamaica are seeing notable case increases since their last briefing, with El Salvador recording a 30 per cent jump in deaths. Overall, the organization said, fewer than 20 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully immunized, but that average obscures some significant disparities, with some countries having vaccinated less than five per cent of their eligible population.
Russia reported 799 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, an all-time high it has reached four times over the past month after a surge in cases that authorities blamed on the infectious delta variant.
The coronavirus task force in Russia says more than 167,000 people have died during the pandemic, but the federal statistics agency there has kept a separate death toll and has said that Russia had recorded around 315,000 virus-related deaths by June 2021.
Vaccination centres across Manila are trying to speed up inoculation rates, including by staying open 24 hours, to help combat a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections linked to delta.
Slightly more than 10 per cent of the 110 million people in the Philippines are fully vaccinated. The positivity rate this week in the country has been measured at 21.9 per cent, up from the start of August, data from the Health Ministry showed, and far above threshold that the World Health Organization sets for considering an outbreak under control. WHO considers that to be the case if the positivity rate is less than five per cent for two weeks running.
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With files from Reuters, The Canadian Press, The Associated Press