Today's coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 613 new cases - Toronto Star

Today's coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 613 new cases - Toronto Star


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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

8:25 p.m.: An elementary school in Etobicoke is being closed due to a COVID-19 investigation, Toronto Public Health said Tuesday.

The French-language École élémentaire Micheline-Saint-Cyr will be closed to in-person activities starting Wednesday to prevent further transmission of the coronavirus within the school community, the agency said. It’s not clear how long the closure will last.

This is the second school in Toronto to close this week due to outbreaks, after Grenoble Public School in Flemingdon Park announced its closure on Monday.

There are now 387 active COVID-19 cases among students and staff in the Toronto public and Catholic school boards.

6:36 p.m.: The U.S. is facing its second Thanksgiving of the pandemic in better shape than the first time around, thanks to the vaccine, though some regions are seeing surges of COVID-19 cases that could get worse as families travel the country for gatherings that were impossible a year ago.

Nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated. That leaves tens of millions who have yet to get a shot in the arm, some of them out of defiance. Hospitals in the cold Upper Midwest, especially Michigan and Minnesota, are filled with COVID-19 patients who are mostly unvaccinated.

Michigan hospitals reported about 3,800 coronavirus patients at the start of the week, with 20 per cent in intensive care units, numbers that approach the bleakest days of the pandemic’s 2020 start. The state had a seven-day new-case rate of 572 per 100,000 people Tuesday, the highest in the nation, followed by New Hampshire at 522.

Read the full story from The Associated Press

6:32 p.m.: Conservatives say all 338 members of Parliament should be able to vote on whether they must be fully vaccinated to enter the House of Commons.

Tory whip Blake Richards is asking the Commons Speaker, Anthony Rota, to rule that the the seven-member, multi-party body that governs the House does not have the authority to impose a vaccine mandate on all MPs.

He emphasizes that Conservatives believe in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and that the shots are the best way to end the pandemic.

But he says they question the way in which the decision to impose a vaccine mandate was made.

Read the full story from The Canadian Press

6:25 p.m.: Long-term care homes were almost totally forgotten in Quebec’s early COVID-19 planning, the province’s ombudswoman said Tuesday in a report that called for widespread changes to “humanize” the senior care model in the province.

Marie Rinfret’s report tabled Tuesday said government officials took a “hospital-centric” approach to preparing for the pandemic based on images of overwhelmed hospitals in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. The strategy neglected the danger posed to the vulnerable residents of long-term care homes, known in Quebec as CHSLDs, the report concluded.

“While Quebec’s eyes were turned toward Italy, no risk analysis tailored to Quebec’s residential-resource model and its specific features was carried out in crafting the strategy in response to the pandemic,” she wrote. “This is how CHSLDs slipped through the cracks of any scenario.”

Read the full story from The Canadian Press

6:19 p.m.: Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta will begin taking online COVID-19 vaccination bookings for youngsters starting Wednesday morning.

Kenney says the province has now received doses of the modified pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children age 5 to 11 and will distribute the vaccines to 120 locations provincewide over the next two days.

He says 391,000 children are now eligible for vaccines, meaning that 94 per cent of all Albertans can get them.

Alberta joins other provinces set to begin administering the vaccines to children this week, some as early as Wednesday.

6:10 p.m.: Quebec Premier François Legault spoke to parents directly on Tuesday evening, telling them he understood they may have worries about vaccinating their kids against the novel coronavirus but offering reassurances that the shots are safe.

Vaccination for children aged five to 11 — the latest cohort made eligible by Health Canada — will begin Wednesday at mass vaccination centres and next week in schools, Legault told a news conference. The two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be given eight weeks apart, the premier said.

“I am putting myself in the position of parents and I can imagine it can bring certain concerns,” he said. “I want to reassure parents.”

Read the full story from The Canadian Press

6:00 p.m.: Ontario school boards are wasting little time getting back to a normal semester model, with some resuming a regular class schedule starting next week.

Beginning Monday, both the Halton District School Board and the District School Board of Niagara will return to a traditional semester model for high school students, which means they will take four courses a day.

They are the first boards to ditch the modified semester adopted this academic year, which resulted in teens taking two courses a day on alternate weeks. Other boards have signalled they also intend to return to a normal semester.

Last week, the province gave school boards the green light to return to a normal semester, so long as the local medical officer of health is not concerned about COVID infection rates. Returning to a regular timetable is something many boards have been pushing for in light of growing fears that students and teachers are feeling stressed and burned out.

Read the full story from the Star’s Kristin Rushowy and Isabel Teotonio

5:14 p.m.: A small group of children between the ages of five and 11 in Toronto has become the first in that cohort to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Ontario.

A spokesperson for Mayor John Tory said the first shots went into little arms late in the afternoon at a city vaccine clinic after some of the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech shots arrived early.

A group of 10 patients at the Hospital for Sick Children and their families were invited to participate.

Health Minister Christine Elliott, Tory and Toronto’s medical officer of health were on site for the event.

The city of Toronto said a small number of clinics would vaccinate children on Wednesday before appointments for more of that cohort pick up on Thursday.

4:35 p.m.: A man who worked in Ontario’s vaccination booking call centre is one of two facing criminal charges in a security breach of the provincial COVID-19 immunization system.

Charges of unauthorized use of a computer were laid after police executed search warrants following an investigation into spam text messages sent to a number of people who had booked shots or downloaded their proof-of-vaccination certificates, Ontario Provincial police said Tuesday.

“Ontarians should be aware these texts are financial in nature and that the government will never conduct a financial transaction through these methods,” said Marion Ringuette, director of communications to Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.

The police investigation began last Wednesday, after several Ontario residents reported receiving text messages that used their full names, as they appear in vaccination documentation.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson

3:00 p.m. Parents seeking to book more than one child for a COVID-19 shot can use the provincial telephone hotline to get appointments together, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday amid concerns about difficulties with the online system.

Her advice came after the NDP revealed many parents could not get back-to-back appointments for their kids through the province’s online portal as bookings for the Pfizer vaccine opened for kids aged five to 11.

The snag has left busy moms and dads with appointments for different kids at different times, on different days and in different places, New Democrat MPP Catherine Fife (Waterloo) charged in the legislature’s daily question period, calling the problem a “design flaw.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson.

2:35 p.m. Ontario parents rushed online in the tens of thousands Tuesday to book long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines for their young kids, with many expressing relief at finally having the shots in their calendars.

More than 68,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids aged five to 11 were booked by 10 a.m., a spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford said in a social media post. That figure doesn’t include bookings through individual health units, pharmacies and primary care sites offering the shots.

The online booking portal officially opened for appointments at 8 a.m., though some eager parents reported they were able to sign on slightly earlier.

1:50 p.m. Doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children have begun arriving in Atlantic Canada and will be ready for use before the end of the week.

In New Brunswick, children aged five to 11 can start getting vaccinated on Friday at clinics operated by regional health authorities, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said Tuesday. Two doses eight weeks apart are recommended, she added.

“We have seen increased cases of COVID-19 in children in New Brunswick in recent months,” Shephard told a news conference. “Approximately 30 per cent of cases reported since the beginning of September are among the youth under 20.”

1:40 p.m. The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it has resumed nearly half the health-care services that were cut during the province’s fourth wave of COVID-19.

IT says high hospitalization rates in urban areas are preventing the remaining services from returning.

As of this week, 193 of the 395 services cut since Sept. 1 have resumed, with another 68 services partially back.

The services include pediatric programming, home care, medical imaging and therapies.

The health authority says surgeries are also increasing across the province, although rural areas are experiencing a quicker return compared with Regina and Saskatoon.

1:22 p.m. The head of a trucking industry association says thousands of Canadian truckers won’t be vaccinated against COVID-19 by a deadline imposed by governments on both sides of the border, throwing a supply chain already stretched thin by the global pandemic into even more chaos.

“This is making a bad situation a lot worse. It’s the perfect storm,” said Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

A mid-January deadline for the vaccine mandate was announced by the U.S. in mid-October. Last week, Canada announced a Jan. 15 deadline for truckers crossing into this country.

Read the full story from the Star’s Josh Rubin

12:30 p.m. Ontario Provincial Police say they’ve arrested two people, including a government employee, after an alleged security breach of the province’s COVID-19 immunization system.

Police say they began investigating last week after the Ontario government received reports of spam text messages from people who had scheduled appointments or accessed vaccine certificates through the portal.

OPP say they searched homes in Ottawa and Quebec.

They say they seized a number of devices, including computers and laptops.

Police charged 22-year-old Ayoub Sayid, of Gloucester, Ont., and 22-year-old Rahim Abdu of Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que., with one count each of unauthorized use of a computer.

11:45 a.m. PayPal’s new survey released Tuesday offers a bit of insight into some of the ways the pandemic has affected people’s spending habits.

The Generosity and Giving 2021 survey which consisted of 1,500 people polled in November found that 58 per cent of Canadians plan to only celebrate with guests who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Nearly 9 per cent say they plan to ask their guests to take a COVID-19 test before arriving, regardless of their vaccination status. One in five, or 21 per cent, feel anxious about hosting guests during the holidays because of health concerns.

Despite the financial toll felt by many during the global pandemic, the survey indicates Canadians are still feeling generous. Eighty per cent of respondents said they felt motivated to support charitable causes. Nearly a third of Canadians said they supported mental health related charities, 27 per cent have supported causes related to homelessness and 21 per cent had contributed to children’s health charities.

Read the full story from the Star’s Ivy Mak

11:35 a.m. Dutch coronavirus infection numbers hit a new weekly record Tuesday, climbing 39 per cent while hospital and intensive care unit admissions also rose sharply, prompting the government to make social distancing mandatory again for all adults.

The latest report by the country’s public health institute on a surge in COVID-19 cases came a day after the Dutch government introduced legislation that would clear the way to restrict access for unvaccinated people to indoor venues such as bars, restaurants and museums if infections keep rising.

The legislation would limit the country’s COVID-19 pass system to people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from a coronavirus infection. People could no longer get the health pass with negative tests. The bill is expected to be debated by lawmakers next week.

11:20 a.m. More than 68,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments were booked by 10 a.m. Tuesday for Ontario kids aged five to 11.

A spokeswoman for Premier Doug Ford shared the figure on Twitter.

Families could book vaccine appointments for kids in that age group starting this morning at 8 a.m., though some parents said the provincial booking portal opened slightly earlier.

11:10 a.m. Nova Scotia’s auditor general is commending the province for quickly establishing COVID-19 relief funds, but she questions a $100-million contract given to Dalhousie University to administer some programs.

Kim Adair says that ceding control of the programs helping individuals and businesses meant the province was no longer able to redirect money if all the funding earmarked for relief programs was not needed.

She says in her report released Tuesday that the program was well managed by the university, but her office is concerned that unspent funds will never return to the province.

11 a.m. Quebec has started booking appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged five to 11.

The province’s online vaccination portal today opened up appointments for the age group, with the shots beginning Wednesday.

Premier François Legault, Health Minister Christian Dubé and senior health officials will outline the vaccination plan this afternoon during a news conference in Quebec City.

Authorities have said they’re aiming to administer first doses to about 700,000 eligible children in the province by Christmas.

The province intends to use its mass vaccination centres to allow parents to accompany their children as well as providing vaccinations at schools.

10:19 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting another 613 COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths, according to its latest report released Tuesday morning.

Ontario has administered 11,096 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,820,451 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,604,876 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 89.0 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 78.1 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

10:15 a.m. Spanish government researchers have agreed to allow other manufacturers to make their coronavirus antibody test, in a move that could significantly boost testing in poor countries with limited COVID-19 surveillance.

In a statement on Tuesday, the World Health Organization and the U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool said the Spanish National Research Council had signed a licensing agreement for its COVID-19 antibody test. It is the first time any manufacturer has allowed its coronavirus test to be included in a technology pool set up by WHO.

The U.N. agency started a COVID-19 pool last year, hoping to convince makers of virus tests, treatments and vaccines to share their licenses so that products could be produced and used globally to stop the pandemic. Until this week, not a single manufacturer had agreed to help.

10:10 a.m. Santa is back this year, but he pleads caution as he continues to tiptoe through the pandemic.

“Be smart. Be caring. If you have the tiniest tickle in your throat, the tiniest feeling, worry about yourself and worry about everybody else, and know Santa will always be there next year,“ said 57-year-old Kevin Chesney, who’s been donning the big red suit since he was a kid.

Amid a downturn in Jolly Old Elves — about 15 percent fewer in one large database — Chesney is busier than ever from his North Pole in Moorestown, N.J. The photo studio where he works quickly sold out its 4,500 appointments to sit with him and the seven other Santas in the studio’s stable.

They’re among the brave in Santa’s ranks with full-contact visits, lap sitting included, though Chesney wears a mask until just before the photos are taken.

9:34 a.m. Coronavirus cases in children in the United States have risen 32 per cent from about two weeks ago, a spike that comes as the country rushes to inoculate children before the winter holiday season, pediatricians said.

More than 140,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus from Nov. 11-18, up from 107,000 in the week ending Nov. 4, according to a statement Monday from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

These cases accounted for about a quarter of the country’s caseload for the week, the statement said. Children younger than 18 make up about 22 per cent of the U.S. population.

9 a.m. Justin Trudeau’s third term is starting off in reactive mode.

Now, it’s devastating B.C. floods that will cost hundreds of millions to mitigate and that threaten to further weaken supply chains already disrupted by COVID, and gas pipeline protests reminiscent of the winter of 2020 when train blockades paralyzed passenger and rail shipping in eastern Canada.

Add in another protectionist U.S. president — Joe Biden and his Buy American agenda — and the stage seems set for the federal government to again struggle to control its direction, let alone be proactive.

Read the full story from the Star’s Tonda MacCharles

8:40 a.m. Israel on Tuesday began administering the coronavirus vaccine to children age 5 to 11.

The country recently emerged from a fourth COVID wave and daily infections have been relatively low for the last few weeks. But Health Ministry statistics show that a large share of the new infections have been in children and teenagers.

Children age 5 to 11 make up nearly half of active cases. Officials hope the new inoculation campaign will help bring down the numbers and perhaps stave off a new wave.

Israeli media reported low demand for the shots on the first day they were available to this age group. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accompanied his son David, 9, on Tuesday to get his jab in a bid to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated.

8:25 a.m. The prime minister of France, who tested positive for COVID-19 Monday, is being singled out on social media and beyond as the prime example of what not to do in the pandemic.

Multiple videos are being circulated widely of a maskless Jean Castex vigorously shaking hands with elected officials in an enclosed space at a Paris mayoral congress on Nov. 16. Angry users are pointing out that that goes against the official line that everyone should continue taking preventative measures.

They also noted that Castex had called French territory Guadeloupe “irresponsible” in the enforcement of COVID measures when he cannot abide by the rules himself.

Gabriel Attal, the French government’s spokesman, had leaped to Castex’s defense at the time the video first began circulating. “We are all only human,” he said.

But the Castex’s positive test is a potential embarrassment for the French government and President Emmanuel Macron ahead of April’s presidential election.

8:05 a.m. The provincial registration system has begun booking COVID-19 appointments for kids aged 5 to 11.

6:04 a.m. The German military is poised to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for troops as COVID-19 infections continue to rise across the country.

The Defense Ministry on Tuesday confirmed a report in the German military blog Augen Geradeaus that officials and soldiers’ representatives agreed late Monday to add the coronavirus shot to the list of vaccines soldiers must get. The measure still needs to be formally added to military regulations, the ministry said in a statement.

There were 1,215 active COVID-19 cases as of Monday reported within the military and the ministry’s civilian staff.

The nationwide tally of newly confirmed cases rose by 45,326 in the past 24 hours, the country’s disease control agency said Tuesday. A further 309 deaths from COVID-19 were reported, taking the total toll since the start of the outbreak to 99,433.

5:45 a.m. With the province opening up COVID-19 vaccine appointments for children aged five to 11 Tuesday, you may be wondering when, where and how to book a shot for your kid.

Last week, Health Canada gave the go-ahead for the use of Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine, which consists of a dose one-third the size of the adult version and will require two shots, which in Ontario will be at least eight weeks apart.

The province has received its first shipment of over 400,000 doses that are now ready to be administered through a variety of clinics.

The Star’s Kenyon Wallace and May Warren combed through all of the vaccine booking information out there to date to bring readers a comprehensive guide for those looking to vaccinate their children.

5:40 a.m. Ontario families can book COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids aged five to 11 starting Tuesday.

The provincial booking portal will open for those appointments at 8 a.m.

People can make appointments through the online portal and contact centre, public health units’ booking systems, some pharmacies and primary care providers.

The province has said it expects to start administering the first shots on Thursday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 400,000 doses of the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were expected Monday, with more than 600,000 more to come in a later shipment.

Children turning five in the remainder of 2021 are also eligible to start booking shots today.

5:30 a.m. Promises to follow all public health guidance on vaccines amounted to not much politically for the federal Conservatives Monday as Parliament resumed with a cloud of suspicion still hovering over the party’s approach to COVID-19.

That fully-vaccinated Conservative MP Richard Lehoux was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the weekend became swift political ammunition for rival parties.

The Liberals seized upon the potential he’d infected other Conservative MPs who may not be vaccinated, and in turn they were putting everyone at risk as MPs crammed into the House of Commons for the return of Parliament.

But how many unvaccinated MPs remain is still the issue.

Read more from the Star’s Stephanie Levitz.

5:15 a.m. The Public Health Agency of Canada says it hopes to keep the number of wasted doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada under five per cent.

That would amount to 3.7 million of the 73.7 million vaccines that have been distributed to provinces and territories, used by the federal government or held in the central vaccine inventory as of Nov. 18.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments aim to keep vaccine wastage as low as possible.

The Public Health Agency of Canada would not release the total number of wasted doses to date, but a Canadian Press survey of provincial governments shows an average of about 2.6 per cent of distributed doses in responding jurisdictions have been discarded.

5 a.m. Almost half of Canadians plan to abandon social distancing during holiday gatherings and hug, kiss and shake hands with friends and family, a new poll shows.

The poll by Leger in collaboration with The Canadian Press found that 45 per cent of Canadians say they will “greet others with a handshake, hug or kiss” at Christmas parties and other holiday gatherings.

In Ontario, the number prepared to ditch social distancing over the winter vacation rose to 50 per cent, compared to only 37 per cent in B.C.

Among 18- to 34-year-olds, the proportion comfortable with hugging friends and relatives over the holidays rose to 52 per cent.

Christian Bourque, Leger’s executive vice-president, said the finding suggested that Canadians may be becoming complacent about the risk of COVID-19 because they are vaccinated.

Forty-nine per cent of Canadians confessed they were not afraid of catching the virus.

At the same time, 81 per cent of Canadians asserted that they would respect all “remaining” safety measures during the holiday season.