The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Oct. 23
- Coronavirus tracker: Follow the spread of COVID-19 as western provinces see some of their highest daily-case numbers and Ontario hits a new record for active cases.
- Le Château goes bust, becoming latest retail victim of COVID-19.
- U.S. at near-record level for coronavirus cases.
- Cases of COVID-19 among school-aged kids surge to new heights in Alberta even as testing declines.
- Read more: EU shutting the door to Canadians is a wake-up call to ramp up our COVID-19 efforts; In Quebec, the battle against COVID-19 shifts to workplaces; She's 28, survived COVID-19 and is living in a long-term care home with 200+ violations.
Trudeau announces plan to purchase 76 million doses of Canadian-made COVID-19 vaccine
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday announced another contract to buy a promising COVID-19 vaccine now in development — part of a plan to secure millions of vaccine doses to inoculate Canadians against the novel coronavirus. Trudeau said the government has signed a contract to procure 76 million doses from Quebec City-biotech company Medicago.
Medicago is developing the vaccine in partnership with the British drug company GlaxoSmithKline. The two companies have said that pre-clinical results show the vaccine demonstrated a "high level of neutralizing antibodies following a single dose." If the vaccine also performs well in a clinical setting, the companies are on track to make it available in the first half of 2021. Medicago has said it has the manufacturing capacity to produce as many as 100 million doses in 2021.
The federal government is spending $173 million to help Medicago develop the vaccine and build a large plant in Quebec to produce it. Trudeau also announced an $18.2-million investment in Vancouver-based Precision NanoSystems, which offers technology to produce vaccines and therapeutic drugs.
Canada already has signed contracts for tens of millions more vaccine doses with other pharmaceutical giants, such as AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer. All told, the federal government has secured 358 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine — an insurance policy if some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective in clinical trials.
No COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the Western world. Trudeau said he's hopeful that vaccines can be deployed in early 2021. To start, he said that front-line health workers and vulnerable populations, such as seniors living in long-term care homes, will have priority access.
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Le Château goes bust, becoming latest retail victim of COVID-19
Retailer Le Château is seeking court protection from its creditors while it winds down its operations and liquidates its assets. The Montreal-based fashion chain with 123 locations across Canada and 1,400 employees said in a release Friday that it has applied for protection from its creditors under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, or CCAA.
In a release, management said it had "come to the very difficult decision that the company can no longer continue its operations as a going concern after having used its best efforts over the preceding months, with the assistance of professional advisers, to refinance or sell the company to a third party that would continue operating the business."
The chain said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had an "evident impact on consumer demand for Le Château's holiday party and occasion wear, which represents the core of our offering. ... Regrettably, these circumstances leave the company with no option other than to commence the liquidation process."
In the three-month period up until July 25, Le Château made just $14.7 million in sales across its network of stores and online. That's down from almost $50 million in the same period last year. The company said that as of July, it had about $118 million in assets, against $201 million worth of liabilities.
U.S. at near-record level for coronavirus cases
The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States on Thursday was the second highest on record, coming in just short of their midsummer peak as the spread of the novel coronavirus accelerates in nearly every region of the country. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all accelerating as cooler weather descends on much of the country.
With 76,195 new cases on Thursday, the United States was approaching its one-day record high of 77,299 new cases on July 16, according to a Reuters analysis. Only India has reported more cases in a single day: 97,894 on Sept. 17, although the U.S. is testing at a much higher rate than the South Asian country.
U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar attributed the increase in cases to the behaviour of individuals, saying household gatherings have become a "major vector of disease spread."
Asked about an assertion by President Donald Trump during Thursday night's presidential debate that the United States is "rounding the turn" on coronavirus, Azar told CNN Trump was trying to provide hope to Americans waiting for therapeutics and a vaccine. "But we do need to acknowledge, and he does acknowledge, that we're in a very serious moment right now," he said.
Cases of COVID-19 among school-aged kids surge to new heights in Alberta even as testing declines
As Alberta sets new records for COVID-19 cases, the number of cases among school-aged children has also surged to unprecedented heights, even as the number of kids and teens being tested has declined. Data from Alberta Health shows the number of new daily cases has continued to rise among five- to nine-year-olds and has shot up, especially, among 10- to 19-year-olds.
In-person classes resumed at many Alberta schools on Sept. 1, and for several weeks the number of new daily cases had been on the decline. That changed during the last week in September when cases started to rise. The trend has continued through October. Over the past week on record, an average of 62 cases were recorded per day among school-aged kids and teens.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, has previously noted there was "a massive increase in the number of children who are getting tested" in September compared with the spring and summer. But testing volumes have been declining throughout October. The proportion of tests coming back positive, meanwhile, has been growing. In late September, it was below one per cent. By the third week in October, it was up to 2.7 per cent.
Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world.
U.S. FDA approves antiviral drug remdesivir to treat COVID-19
U.S. regulators on Thursday approved the first drug to treat COVID-19: remdesivir, an antiviral medicine given through an IV for patients needing hospitalization. The drug, which California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. is calling Veklury, cut recovery time by five days in a large study led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. It had been authorized for use on an emergency basis since spring, and now becomes the first drug to win full Food and Drug Administration approval for treating COVID-19. U.S. President Donald Trump received it during treatment for COVID-19 earlier this month.
Health Canada in July approved the use of remdesivir to treat COVID-19 in adults and youth 12 years and older with pneumonia requiring supplemental oxygen.
In the U.S., Veklury is approved for people at least 12 years old and weighing at least 40 kilograms who need hospitalization for their coronavirus infection. For patients younger than 12, the FDA will still allow the drug's use in certain cases under its previous emergency authorization. The drug works by inhibiting a substance the virus uses to make copies of itself. Certain tests are required before starting patients on it. The label also warns against using it with malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, because that can curb its effectiveness.
No studies have found that remdesivir improves survival. Last week, a large study led by the World Health Organization found the drug did not help hospitalized COVID-19 patients, but that study did not include a placebo group and was less rigorous than previous ones that found a benefit.
Only one treatment — steroids such as dexamethasone — has been shown so far to cut the risk of dying of COVID-19. The FDA also has given emergency authorization to use the blood of survivors and two companies are currently seeking similar authorization for experimental antibody drugs.
Only reachable through Manitoba, U.S. township frustrated by law barring other Americans access
One of the most remote areas in the United States has become more isolated than ever. Thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, the Northwest Angle cannot currently welcome any visitors by road — even those from its own country.
The Angle is a geographical oddity, created by surveying errors stretching back more than 200 years. Part of Minnesota, it's surrounded on three sides by Canada, and by a body of water to the south. Its only land link is its western border with Manitoba. But pandemic-related border restrictions mean American visitors can't take the nearly barren road in southeastern Manitoba into this isolated slice of their own country.
The ban is devastating for fishing lodge owners in the Angle, as upwards of 90 per cent of their normal customers cannot return. "We've only had like seven parties all summer — we've had a week's worth of business," said Paul Colson, who owns Jake's Northwest Angle resort with his wife, Karen.
Ahead of the lucrative winter fishing season, residents are pleading with Canadian officials to exempt an 80-kilometre stretch of road in Manitoba from travel restrictions, allowing tourists to drive from the rest of Minnesota into the Northwest Angle.
Aside from essential travellers, the only people currently permitted entry by road are the 120 residents of Angle Inlet, Minn. Some visitors have travelled by boat through Lake of the Woods, but Colson said that mode of transportation is neither practical nor safe for many people.
The closure of the Canada-U.S. land border came into effect in March and has been repeatedly extended. Public opinion polls found the ban is popular in Canada as COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in the United States. The Canadian government says it isn't entertaining a border exemption for the Angle, nor at Point Roberts, Wash., a community similarly cut off from the United States.
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With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters