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Coronavirus  

B.C. set to provide details on vaccination rollout Monday morning

Vaccination details coming

Details about the next phase of British Columbia's COVID-19 vaccination plan will be announced Monday.

As of Friday, 252,373 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to British Columbians, largely to care home residents and staff, members of remote Indigenous communities and other population groups deemed highest priority.

Monday morning, Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and lead of the B.C. immunization rollout team Dr. Penny Ballem will hold an online press conference to lay out the province's immunization plan for people living in the community.

The province is expected to provide details about how those 80 years of age and older who live on their own will be able to get their vaccine.

Earlier this month, Dr. Henry said those 80 years of age and older should be able to receive their first dose of the vaccine between March 15 and the end of March.

From there, access to the vaccine will become available to the rest of British Columbians, with the oldest getting access first.

Dr. Henry has said that if the federal government delivers on their vaccine supply promises, every British Columbian who wants a vaccine will have it by the end of September.

Monday's press conference will be live streamed on Castanet at 10:30 a.m.



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Another COVID-19 exposure reported on a flight from Kelowna

Another local COVID flight

Another COVID-19 exposure has been reported on a recent Kelowna flight.

The BC Centre for Disease Control recently updated its list of COVID-19 exposures on B.C. flights, adding a Feb. 21 Air Canada/Jazz flight #8413 from Kelowna to Vancouver.

Rows 7-13 on the flight were impacted by the exposure.

Passengers who travelled aboard an impacted flight are encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms for the 14-day period following their flight.

The vast majority of recent exposures involved flights to and from Vancouver. The full list can be found here.

This year, 17 flights into or out of Kelowna had COVID-19 exposures on board. In all of 2020, 61 exposures occurred on Kelowna flights.



From lockdowns to spring break, provinces split on next steps in COVID-19 fight

Provinces split on next steps

Canada's pandemic hotspots are taking diverging approaches to handling the COVID-19 crisis, as Ontario prepares to trigger new lockdown measures in two public health units and Quebec enters a week of spring break.

Ontario passed the 300,000 case mark today, as the province prepares to hit a so-called 'emergency brake' in the Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka District health units on Monday in order interrupt transmission of COVID-19 at a time when new variants are gaining steam.

The province has also pushed back its spring break until April in an effort to limit community spread.

Prince Edward Island also implemented tighter health measures, barring indoor dining and halving retail and gym capacity as part of "circuit breaker" measures meant to stop a new outbreak in its tracks.

Quebec, meanwhile, has allowed movie theatres, pools and arenas to open with restrictions in place to give families something to do as the traditional winter break kicks off, even as most other health rules remain in place.

Premier Francois Legault has said he's worried about the week off and the threat posed by new more contagious variants, but says he's optimistic about the province's mass vaccination campaign which will begin inoculating older members of the general public on Monday.

Ontario reported 1,062 new infections linked to the pandemic today to push it over the 300,000 mark, while Quebec's health minister said the situation in the province is stable with 737 new cases and nine additional deaths.



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On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 'long haulers' hope specialized clinics will emerge

'Long haulers' seek answers

On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding and mind foggy from his yearlong battle with COVID-19, he wonders when a clinic to treat his symptoms might emerge in Atlantic Canada.

"My fear is that I'm going to be like this forever," the 50-year-old Halifax resident said in a recent interview.

The issue of a lack of timely treatment for the so-called "long haulers" — people who suffer symptoms such as shortness of breath and physical exhaustion months after their first bout of the illness — has been raised across the country by support groups.

Specialized clinics have opened in Western and Central Canada, in some instances offering access to occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, nurses and referrals to specialists. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service announced the formation of a network of 60 such clinics in December.

However, on Canada's East Coast, patients say they are still searching for a similar, one-stop site to treat symptoms that range from difficulty drawing a breath to tingling pain in their limbs.

"In Atlantic Canada, we're at the mercy of how well we've done containing the virus, leading to our low numbers of infected patients," Hoskin said. "It's had an impact on what we can expect to see from the provincial government in terms of specialized clinics."

International studies currently predict about 10 per cent of COVID-19 patients develop longer term symptoms. In Atlantic Canada, where about 4,100 cases have been officially documented, this suggests long haulers may eventually number in the hundreds, rather than the thousands expected in larger provinces.

But Hoskin argues the lower infection rates shouldn't mean he and others are left to rely solely on family doctors, who may be unaware of how to treat their symptoms, while they spend months awaiting appointments with cardiologists, neurologists and other specialists.

In New Brunswick, which is fighting a second wave of infections that emerged earlier in the year, Emily Bodechon says she has largely assembled her own treatment effort.

"While it's great that our COVID-19 case count is low, it's not been great as a patient to find out nobody knows how to treat you," she said in an interview last week.

Almost a year since her infection, the 45-year-old health worker still has respiratory issues, searing headaches and "brain fog" that makes it hard to process new information.

Bodechon sought online information from a post-COVID-19 clinic in New York and took part in video calls for patient information. "I went through a six-week program on my own, and it was the most helpful thing I had," she said.

She said she hopes provincial governments in the region collaborate to set up centralized clinics that employ telemedicine, so that she can actually speak to doctors with expertise.

In Halifax, a senior physician with Nova Scotia Health says doctors with the province's health authority are turning their attention to potential pilot projects.

Dr. Christy Bussey, the medical lead for COVID-19 in-patient care in the authority's central zone, said in an interview on Thursday that in the longer term, family doctors will need training on how to care for the lingering impacts of the illness.

But in the short term, she's advocating for a post-COVID-19 clinic, potentially attached to an existing clinic in Fall River, N.S., which already treats people with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome.

She said she has noticed "a gap in the system for following patients who developed new or ongoing symptoms."

The physician added it's too early to know how much additional provincial or national funding is needed for an Atlantic post-COVID-19 clinic, as a formal proposal has yet to be completed, but she argues the need for added resources is evident.

"Some of these patients are nearly completely disabled by the symptoms they're having," she said.

Dr. Alexis Goth, a lead physician at the Fall River clinic, said the first long haulers are starting to trickle into her clinic. She is hopeful resources can be added to pay for a larger numbers of patients by early summer.

She said one model for COVID patients may be an adapted version of an eight-week, Zoom-based treatment the clinic uses for fibromyalgia, an illness that can cause muscle pain, fatigue and sleep issues. She said the online treatment could be combined with one-on-one therapy, making use of the occupational therapist, nurses and other experts at the clinic.

Susie Goulding, the leader of a national long-haulers support group, cautions that as new clinics and research projects emerge, they should be open to the many patients who didn't receive a formal diagnosis of COVID-19, often due to a lack of testing in the early months.

“Most people don’t have a positive test,” she said in a recent interview. “They should still be included."

Meanwhile, Hoskin said he's continuing to search for placement in a research study that includes treatment, finding he still feels like collapsing after a brief trip to buy groceries.

"At 50 years old, my heart rate is often at 110 (beats per minute) when I stand up, and I still can't smell and taste other than very basic odours," he said. "We really need to find out what is causing this."



Long wait times, lack of options frustrate travellers booking hotel quarantines

Quarantine hotels frustrate

Before flying to visit relatives in Taiwan during a family health scare earlier this year, Dr. Rosa Wu, a psychotherapist who lives in the Vancouver area, weighed the pros and cons of travelling as Canada promised to implement stricter travel measures in the coming weeks.

What she didn’t anticipate was how difficult it would be to comply with those measures, which include a requirement that travellers book hotel stays for three days on arrival. When Dr. Wu’s husband called the government phone line set up for travellers to make the bookings, it took him three tries and nearly 10 hours to get through to an agent, she said.

“I’m not angry at the fact that we have to do this,” Dr. Wu said from her room at the Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver airport. “I think it’s about time Canada implemented strict measures. I just wish the measures worked.”

Travellers like Dr. Wu say they have paid the price of a chaotic rollout for the quarantine program even as they travel to Canada for reasons other than vacations.

Gogul Kumar, who flew to Vancouver this week from India to start a new job, said he spent hours on hold on the phone only to be disconnected each time. Some calls lasted as long as 10 hours and were never answered by an agent, he said.

The hotel requirement went into effect on Monday, as the federal government cracks down on non-essential travel amid increasing concern about more infectious variants of COVID-19. Flights on Canadian airlines to sun destinations have been suspended until April 30, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging Canadians to postpone their vacation plans.

Under the new program, travellers must show proof of a three-day hotel booking before boarding their flight to Canada. The only way to book a room is through a dedicated phone line run by the Public Health Agency of Canada. There is no online option.

Upon landing, travellers undergo COVID-19 testing at the airport and have to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense for three days, or until they receive a negative test result.

Prices for the non-refundable hotel stay range from roughly $1,000 to $2,000 depending on the hotel, according to staff members and travellers who spoke to The Canadian Press.

However, the logistical difficulties have led to headaches for travellers. At the time Dr. Wu’s hotel was booked, the Westin was the only hotel in Vancouver listed on the Public Health Agency of Canada website, she said. But when several cheaper options were added, Dr. Wu’s husband tried to call back to change the reservation, but wasn’t able to get through despite several hours of waiting, she said.

Dr. Wu ended up paying nearly $2,000 for three nights in the hotel, even though she received her test result after one night. Kumar also received his test result after one night in the hotel.

Keta Ketrushi, who travelled to Albania after her mother’s death, said she was prevented from boarding her flight home to Canada on Feb. 22 because she did not have a hotel booking. Her husband waited hours on the phone to book a hotel for her, she said, but when he wasn’t able to get through he managed to book a room with a hotel directly.

And David Anjo, who is moving back to Canada in July after 10 years of living in Vietnam, estimates that he has spent a total of 12 hours on the phone trying to make a hotel booking, but has yet to reach anyone.

“The experience calling on a phone system that really wasn’t designed from the get-go to be very effective has been pretty frustrating,” Anjo said. “There’s no doubt in my mind they could have done this a lot better.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada says the average wait time to reach an agent is two hours, down from the first two days of the program, according to spokesman André Gagnon. Once a call is answered, it takes on average 20 minutes to make a booking, he said.

The phone line received 20,000 calls on Feb. 19, the first day it was introduced. That figure was 15,000 on Feb. 20 and 10,000 on Feb. 21, Gagnon said. In total, 1,492 rooms have been booked for February, he said.

Megan Kat, a spokeswoman for American Express Global Business Travel, which is running the phone line for hotel bookings, said the company was aware of the high volume of inquiries and the wait times that callers were experiencing. The company didn’t respond to a question about the average wait time experienced by callers.

“We will continue to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada to mitigate caller wait times and provide the necessary support to those people arriving in Canada that need to book a hotel room,” Kat said.

Instructions to people in quarantine at the Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver airport, which were reviewed by The Canadian Press, offer a window into the quarantine experience, with intensive staffing and cleaning protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Those measures include providing each guest with a cleaning kit consisting of sanitizing spray, gloves, cloths and garbage bags, since hotel staff do not enter the rooms to clean them. Public areas are disinfected every hour, with special attention to door handles and elevator buttons, the memo says.

Hotel guests are entitled to one 20-minute “supervised outdoor visit” per day, which they can arrange by dialing hotel guest services, whose staff will accompany guests outside via the hotel’s fire exit, the memo says. Elevators and stairwells are disinfected after each scheduled outing or arrival, it says.

"I’m just hoping that they’ll figure out something more efficient, in terms of booking the hotels," Dr. Wu said, "because right now, it’s a complete disaster."



More than 2,000 new COVID cases from Ontario and Quebec

Ontario nears 300k cases

Ontario's COVID-19 case count is nearing the 300,000 mark.

The province reported 1,185 new infections today for a total of 299,754 since the onset of the pandemic.

Ontario also reported 16 new virus-related deaths over the past 24 hours.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says Toronto saw 331 new cases in the past 24 hours, nearby Peel Region recorded 220 and York Region logged 119.

Hospitalizations in the province declined by three to 680, with 276 patients in intensive care and 182 on a ventilator.

Meanwhile, Quebec is reporting 858 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including five deaths in the past 24 hours.

The Health Department reported 599 hospitalizations today, a drop of 21 patients. There are also seven fewer people requiring intensive care, bringing the total to 112.

Quebec administered 15,902 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Friday for a total of 418,399.

The latest numbers come one year after the first case of COVID-19 was declared in Quebec.

The province has reported 287,003 confirmed infections and 10,385 deaths since the pandemic began.



13 more Vancouver flights added to COVID exposure list

Flights on exposure list

COVID-19 exposures on board flights to and from Vancouver continue despite restrictions on travel and constant requests to not go on any non-essential trips out of the province.

Over the past two weeks, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has identified 13 exposed flights and encourages recent airline passengers to check if they were on any of these flights.

  • Feb. 12: Air Canada 124, Vancouver to Toronto (Rows affected 2-8)
  • Feb. 13: WestJet 129, Calgary to Vancouver (Rows affected 9-15)
  • Feb. 13: Air Canada/Jazz 8239, Terrace to Vancouver (Rows affected 2-8)
  • Feb. 15: Air Canada 114, Vancouver to Toronto (Rows affected 20-26)
  • Feb. 15: Air Canada 224, Vancouver to Calgary (Rows affected 28-34)
  • Feb. 15: Air Canada 314, Vancouver to Montreal (Rows affected 1-3)
  • Feb. 17: Air Canada 242, Vancouver to Edmonton (Rows affected 19-25)
  • Feb. 17: WestJet 136, Vancouver to Calgary (Rows affected 18-24)
  • Feb. 17: Air Canada 123, Calgary to Vancouver (Rows affected 21-27 and 29-35)
  • Feb. 18: Air Canada 115, Toronto to Vancouver (Rows affected 30-36)
  • Feb. 18: WestJet 115, Calgary to Vancouver (Rows affected 18-24)
  • Feb. 18: WestJet 3450, Abbotsford to Calgary (Rows affected 16-19)
  • Feb. 19: Aeromexico 9644, Mexico City to Vancouver (Rows affected 15-21)

Passengers who travelled aboard the flights identified for carrying one or more confirmed cases of the virus are encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days following their flight.



Health Canada approves AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine

Canada OK's AZ vaccine

Health Canada has approved AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, adding a third vaccine to the list available in Canada and potentially quickening the pace at which Canadians can be vaccinated against the virus.

The Canadian authorization allows the vaccine to be used immediately on people over 18, including seniors.

"Based on the totality of the information, the benefit-risk profile of AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine is positive for the proposed indication in adults 18 years and over," reads the Health Canada authorization published Friday morning.

That decision is in line with authorizations in the United Kingdom, where the vaccine was approved Dec. 30, the European Medicines Agency, which approved it Jan. 29, and the World Health Organization, which listed it among vaccines authorized for use Feb. 15.

Several countries in Europe broke with that guidance. France, Germany, Spain and Poland only allow it to be used on people under 65, and Italy and Belgium limit it to those under 55.

Health Canada's authorization says the clinical trial data was limited for people over the age of 65, but that blood tests showed seniors did produce COVID-19 antibodies from the vaccine. Also "real world evidence and post-market experience" in places the vaccine is already in use show "a potential benefit and no safety concerns" with giving the vaccine to seniors.

AstraZeneca is to provide monthly safety reports to Health Canada.

Canada is to get 20 million doses of AstraZeneca — which is administered in two doses — between April and September. Those doses are manufactured in the United States.

Another 1.9 million doses are expected before the end of June through the international vaccine sharing program known as COVAX, with the first 500,000 of those potentially arriving before the end of March.

Canada has been criticized for taking doses from COVAX, when it has so many doses coming from private deals with vaccine makers.

AstraZeneca is the most flexible of the vaccines now approved in Canada, able to be shipped and stored in refrigerators, rather than freezers. Open vials can be saved for up to 48 hours in a refrigerator as long as they haven't been out of the fridge for more than six hours total before being used.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are shipped frozen, with the former requiring ultracold storage in special freezers, and both must be used entirely after a vial is opened.

More than 30 countries, as well as the 28 members of the European Union use the AstraZeneca vaccine, though South Africa stopped using it earlier this month after concerns it wasn't protecting people from the b 1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 now dominating infections there.

More than 1.7 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have been injected in Canada, with about 700,000 people getting one dose so far, and almost 500,000 now fully vaccinated with two doses.

Before AstraZeneca's approval, Canada anticipated receiving another four million doses of Pfizer and Moderna in March, and hoped to vaccinate at least three million people by the end of the month.

Another 11.5 million people are in line to be vaccinated by the end of June, with the remaining Canadians by September. All of that depends on no further production delays.

Canada hasn't given a specific schedule for the AstraZeneca doses to be shipped.



Union asks why junior school mask rule wouldn't work in B.C. if it does elsewhere

Kids and masks can work

As British Columbia teachers argue for broader mask requirements in elementary schools, some families and educators say it's been easy for kids to adapt to the rules in other provinces.

Heather Thompson, a special-education teacher at Whitehorn Public School in Mississauga, Ont., said masks were introduced to students from grades 1 through 12 in September in Peel's school district.

"Kids are easier than adults, frankly," said Thompson, who works with Grade 4 and 5 students.

"I find once they’re told a rule, they’re pretty compliant. We don't often give kids credit where credit is due."

B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside announced an expansion of indoor mask-wearing rules for middle and high schools on Feb. 4, but elementary students were excluded.

While elementary teachers are required to wear masks in common indoor areas, it remains a personal choice for elementary students and their families.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said young children don't get as sick with COVID-19 and don't pass it on as well as others. Data from around the world support the importance of other safety measures, but masks are more complicated for kids, she said.

"Masks can be counterproductive, particularly for young people who have challenges with keeping it on all the time or not fiddling with it and it can cause more challenges in a class setting," Henry said.

Demands from teachers for increased safety measures like stronger mask rules have grown louder since variants of the COVID-19 virus were identified at several schools on the Lower Mainland.

On Tuesday, teachers marched outside an elementary school in Surrey, B.C., where a confirmed case of a COVID-19 variant had been reported.

Matt Westphal, the president of the Surrey Teachers Association, said teachers are concerned that there is just a single set of health and safety rules for every school in the province, regardless of how severe the pandemic is in each community.

“We think that school districts should be permitted to establish more strict rules, if they think they need to,” Westphal said, adding Surrey has far more cases than some other jurisdictions.

In Ontario, teachers and students in grades 1 to 12 are required to wear non-medical face masks inside and when physical distancing isn't possible outdoors.

In Quebec, mask rules depend on whether a school is located in high-risk areas. In "red zones" like Montreal, all students must wear masks in common areas, while those in Grade 5 and up must also wear them in classrooms.

The in-class rule will be expanded to all elementary students in red zones March 8.

Felix Joubarne, 9, said he understands why he has to wear a mask on the bus and in corridors. He goes to Ecole du Grand-Boise in Chelsea, Que., which was in a "red zone" for several months before recently transitioning to an "orange zone" with fewer restrictions.

"When they first started, it was kind of hard and you always forgot your mask, but you get used to it," he said.

He doesn't believe it's changed the way he interacts with his friends.

His father, Simon Joubarne, said he supports mask policy in schools if it reduces the risk of transmission.

"At the beginning, I would say I was a bit worried when they told us that my daughter had to wear a mask," parent Jenny Gignoux said.

Masks are uncomfortable, she thought, and she wondered if it would be difficult to communicate or for her daughter, Lyra, to understand her teacher. But Lyra never mentioned masks after the policy kicked in, only saying that she got used to it after Gignoux asked her.

BC Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring said teachers are frustrated that they haven't received a straight answer on the rationale behind why masks aren't required for elementary students.

If kids fiddle too much, she questioned how young children in other jurisdictions seem to have successfully learned to wear masks.

Mooring said she has heard no evidence that wearing masks would harm children. But a recent survey showed teachers are experiencing high levels of stress due to a lack of confidence in the health and safety measures, Mooring said.

"Their stress levels are directly connected to the health and safety measures," she said.



The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Friday, Feb. 26

COVID-19: latest numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.

_ Canada: 858,217 confirmed cases (30,335 active, 806,017 resolved, 21,865 deaths).The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 3,094 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 79.82 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,722 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,960.

There were 59 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 367 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 52. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.53 per 100,000 people.

There have been 24,030,155 tests completed.

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 973 confirmed cases (338 active, 630 resolved, five deaths).

There were 10 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 64.74 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 170 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 24.

There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 0.96 per 100,000 people.

There have been 183,360 tests completed.

_ Prince Edward Island: 117 confirmed cases (three active, 114 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 1.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 100,063 tests completed.

_ Nova Scotia: 1,624 confirmed cases (27 active, 1,532 resolved, 65 deaths).

There were eight new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.76 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 22 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people.

There have been 320,343 tests completed.

_ New Brunswick: 1,427 confirmed cases (50 active, 1,351 resolved, 26 deaths).

There was one new case Thursday. The rate of active cases is 6.4 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 16 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.33 per 100,000 people.

There have been 234,030 tests completed.

_ Quebec: 285,330 confirmed cases (8,090 active, 266,879 resolved, 10,361 deaths).

There were 858 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 94.35 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,443 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 778.

There were 16 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 97 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 120.83 per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,150,337 tests completed.

_ Ontario: 297,311 confirmed cases (10,071 active, 280,324 resolved, 6,916 deaths).

There were 1,138 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 68.35 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,690 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,099.

There were 23 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 143 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 20. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 46.94 per 100,000 people.

There have been 10,659,698 tests completed.

_ Manitoba: 31,657 confirmed cases (1,206 active, 29,563 resolved, 888 deaths).

There were 70 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 87.44 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 514 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 73.

There was one new reported death Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 64.38 per 100,000 people.

There have been 524,667 tests completed.

_ Saskatchewan: 28,191 confirmed cases (1,493 active, 26,318 resolved, 380 deaths).

There were 211 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 126.67 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,092 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 156.

There was one new reported death Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 18 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.22 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.24 per 100,000 people.

There have been 564,295 tests completed.

_ Alberta: 132,432 confirmed cases (4,484 active, 126,074 resolved, 1,874 deaths).

There were 399 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 101.4 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,402 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 343.

There were eight new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 69 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 10. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.22 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 42.38 per 100,000 people.

There have been 3,369,409 tests completed.

_ British Columbia: 78,673 confirmed cases (4,544 active, 72,781 resolved, 1,348 deaths).

There were 395 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 88.27 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,346 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 478.

There were 10 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 27 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.07 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.19 per 100,000 people.

There have been 1,892,930 tests completed.

_ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people.

There have been 8,096 tests completed.

_ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (four active, 38 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 8.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 14,327 tests completed.

_ Nunavut: 355 confirmed cases (25 active, 329 resolved, one deaths).

There were four new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 63.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people.

There have been 8,524 tests completed.



No risk of 'viral shedding' after COVID-19 vaccine: IH

No risk of viral shedding

A Kelowna hair salon's policy refusing service to those recently vaccinated is based on bad science, according to Interior Health.

NJ's Organic Hair Salon touts itself as "a new, organic hair salon. Our mission is to create a salon experience natural and healthy for you, your family and the planet."

The salon owner, Najim tells Castanet he added a notification to his online booking process to keep himself, his clients and staff safe.

Now when you book an appointment online, before you proceed to the booking page you are asked to agree to the terms and conditions which include this statement:

"Please note, if you have been sick or tested positive with SARS-CoV-2 or received a vaccine within two weeks prior to a scheduled appointment, including the flu shot or Covid Vaccine. We request that you notify the salon to change your appointment to reschedule, to protect the staff and client from the potential of viral shedding."

According to WebMD, "viral shedding occurs when a virus replicates inside your body and is released into the environment. At that point, it may be contagious. For the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, it's not known exactly when this occurs after someone is infected."

We asked Interior Health's chief medical health officer, Dr. Albert de Villiers if the salon's policy was necessary, or if it's possible to shed the virus because of the vaccine.

"There are some vaccines that are live vaccines, where you can actually after you get the vaccine, you can shed the virus because it's an actual live vaccine. With the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot — no."

Dr. de Villiers says the COVID-19 vaccine contains pieces of the RNA (Ribonucleic acid) of the virus, rather than the whole thing.

"To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies," says the U.S. CDC.

Najim told Castanet he added the notification after he spoke to a naturopath.

But as Dr. de Villiers says, "we do not give you the live virus, so you cannot shed the virus."



Number of new weekly COVID-19 cases still falling in the Okanagan

New local cases still falling

New weekly cases of COVID-19 continue to drop significantly in the Okanagan and across much of the Interior, while numbers slowly creep up in the Lower Mainland.

New detailed geographic data released by the BC CDC shows just 36 new COVID-19 cases were identified in the Central Okanagan between Feb. 14 and 20, almost half the weekly cases the region saw the week prior.

This continues the downward trend in new weekly cases in the Central Okanagan since hitting a high of 349 in early December.

While the Penticton region saw just three new cases last week, the South Okanagan, which includes Oliver and Osoyoos, had 10.

To the north, the Vernon region had nine new cases last week, down two from the week prior, while Salmon Arm had eight new cases, down from 14 the week before.

Between Feb. 7 and 13, the Revelstoke region had 22 new cases, but the following week, the region recorded just four new cases.

The decreasing trend has also been seen in the Kamloops region, which saw 78 new cases, down from 116 the week prior.

During Thursday's press conference, Health Minister Adrian Dix acknowledged the efforts people in the Interior have made to bring case counts down.

“We saw in the post-Christmas period a significant increase in cases in the Interior Health authority at times, both in cases and in hospitalizations, and we've seen that come down in terms of active cases, in terms of the number of daily cases,” Dix said.

“It shows that when we act together as communities we can reduce transmission and Interior Health has shown that in the last couple weeks.”

Twenty-four people in the Interior remain hospitalized with COVID-19.

But while it's largely great news in the Interior, the new data shows weekly cases continuing to rise in the Lower Mainland.



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