Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario is reporting 4,156 COVID cases Wednesday with 28 deaths; Centennial College and Centenary Hospital vaccine sites temporarily close

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.10:12 a.m. Ontario is reporting 4,156 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, with a third wave-high of 28 deaths. The seven-day average is a record 4,003 cases daily or 192 weekly per 100,000, and up to 19.3 deaths per day. Labs report 54,211 completed tests, the highest for a Wednesday and 8.6% positivity rate, also another grim record high. Locally, there are 1,254 new cases in Toronto, 593 in Peel, 476 in York Region, 340 in Ottawa and 248 in Durham.As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, 3,422,974 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.9:30 a.m. The head of the European Union’s executive arm has announced plans for a major contract extension for COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer stretching to 2023.European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the EU will start negotiating to buy 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer vaccine through 2023. Pfizer has been a mainstay of the EU’s vaccination drive so far.Von der Leyen expressed full confidence in the technology used for the Pfizer vaccine, which is different from the technology behind the AstraZeneca vaccine.Pfizer plans to provide the EU with an extra 50 million doses in the second quarter of this year, on top of 200 million doses already earmarked for the bloc. The deliveries will be especially welcomed by the EU’s 27 member nations considering supply delays and concerns about rare blood clots potentially linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.9:20 a.m. Over 800,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date in Toronto.9:10 a.m. Ottawa is providing $525.2 million to help Ontario schools cover COVID-19 costs such as improving ventilation or boosting broadband — with the provincial government pitching in an additional $131.3 million.That means boards will receive $656.5 million for upgrades, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna announced Wednesday morning at a virtual press conference along with Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott and Education Minister Stephen Lecce.“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the well-being of students, parents and teachers. As we continue to battle this crisis, ensuring a safe learning environment for our kids is critical,” McKenna said in a written release.“...These projects will improve air quality, install more hand washing stations and support better physical distancing. They are part of the federal government’s support to help Canadians get through the pandemic safely, create good jobs across the province, and build stronger, more resilient communities.”Most of the money will go towards ventilation projects, but it can also be used for remote learning and “space reconfigurations such as new walls and doors to enhance physical distancing,” said a written statement from the federal government.Read the full story from the Star’s Kristin Rushowy9 a.m. Quebec City has done what Toronto says is not yet possible — opened an overnight clinic to get more residents vaccinated.While the rest of the region slept, Quebec’s historic capital city vaccinated 950 people overnight Saturday to Sunday morning at the ExpoCité Fair Centre, the largest COVID-19 vaccination site in area.“This idea was in our minds for a while: the vaccine doses were the only thing missing. But an impromptu large delivery of AstraZeneca shots gave us an occasion to get going,” said Mathieu Boivin, a media relations officer at CIUSS de la Capitale-Nationale, the integrated university health and social services centre that serves Quebec City.“It was a huge success that we look forward to repeat as much as possible, provided we receive enough shots,” Boivin added. An “exception” allows people with appointments to travel overnight to the clinic, as the entire province is under a curfew that begins at 8 p.m., said Quebec public health in a statement.Read the full story from the Star’s Olivia Bowden 8:45 a.m. Police and local bylaw enforcement were nowhere in sight as the owners of a Mississauga boxing gym defied provincial orders by opening their fitness facility Tuesday afternoon.Speaking to the Star, Teresa Heron, a co-owner of Huf Gym, said there were no efforts made by police or Mississauga bylaw enforcement to block the advertised reopening of the boxing gym located in the vicinity of Dundas Street East and Cawthra Road. She confirmed that about six people were at the gym working out after they opened at 4 p.m., adding there was the capacity to fit 14 more.Heron made the argument that gyms should be deemed essential because people need to exercise to combat, stress, anxiety and depression, which is shown to have increased during the pandemic.“I don’t think our government has done a very job at encouraging people to take their vitamins and get outside and exercise, and keep their body strong and healthy,” she said.She urged bylaw enforcement and poli

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario is reporting 4,156 COVID cases Wednesday with 28 deaths; Centennial College and Centenary Hospital vaccine sites temporarily close

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

10:12 a.m. Ontario is reporting 4,156 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, with a third wave-high of 28 deaths. The seven-day average is a record 4,003 cases daily or 192 weekly per 100,000, and up to 19.3 deaths per day. Labs report 54,211 completed tests, the highest for a Wednesday and 8.6% positivity rate, also another grim record high.

Locally, there are 1,254 new cases in Toronto, 593 in Peel, 476 in York Region, 340 in Ottawa and 248 in Durham.

As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, 3,422,974 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.

9:30 a.m. The head of the European Union’s executive arm has announced plans for a major contract extension for COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer stretching to 2023.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the EU will start negotiating to buy 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer vaccine through 2023. Pfizer has been a mainstay of the EU’s vaccination drive so far.

Von der Leyen expressed full confidence in the technology used for the Pfizer vaccine, which is different from the technology behind the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Pfizer plans to provide the EU with an extra 50 million doses in the second quarter of this year, on top of 200 million doses already earmarked for the bloc. The deliveries will be especially welcomed by the EU’s 27 member nations considering supply delays and concerns about rare blood clots potentially linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

9:20 a.m. Over 800,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date in Toronto.

9:10 a.m. Ottawa is providing $525.2 million to help Ontario schools cover COVID-19 costs such as improving ventilation or boosting broadband — with the provincial government pitching in an additional $131.3 million.

That means boards will receive $656.5 million for upgrades, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna announced Wednesday morning at a virtual press conference along with Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott and Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the well-being of students, parents and teachers. As we continue to battle this crisis, ensuring a safe learning environment for our kids is critical,” McKenna said in a written release.

“...These projects will improve air quality, install more hand washing stations and support better physical distancing. They are part of the federal government’s support to help Canadians get through the pandemic safely, create good jobs across the province, and build stronger, more resilient communities.”

Most of the money will go towards ventilation projects, but it can also be used for remote learning and “space reconfigurations such as new walls and doors to enhance physical distancing,” said a written statement from the federal government.

Read the full story from the Star’s Kristin Rushowy

9 a.m. Quebec City has done what Toronto says is not yet possible — opened an overnight clinic to get more residents vaccinated.

While the rest of the region slept, Quebec’s historic capital city vaccinated 950 people overnight Saturday to Sunday morning at the ExpoCité Fair Centre, the largest COVID-19 vaccination site in area.

“This idea was in our minds for a while: the vaccine doses were the only thing missing. But an impromptu large delivery of AstraZeneca shots gave us an occasion to get going,” said Mathieu Boivin, a media relations officer at CIUSS de la Capitale-Nationale, the integrated university health and social services centre that serves Quebec City.

“It was a huge success that we look forward to repeat as much as possible, provided we receive enough shots,” Boivin added. An “exception” allows people with appointments to travel overnight to the clinic, as the entire province is under a curfew that begins at 8 p.m., said Quebec public health in a statement.

Read the full story from the Star’s Olivia Bowden

8:45 a.m. Police and local bylaw enforcement were nowhere in sight as the owners of a Mississauga boxing gym defied provincial orders by opening their fitness facility Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking to the Star, Teresa Heron, a co-owner of Huf Gym, said there were no efforts made by police or Mississauga bylaw enforcement to block the advertised reopening of the boxing gym located in the vicinity of Dundas Street East and Cawthra Road. She confirmed that about six people were at the gym working out after they opened at 4 p.m., adding there was the capacity to fit 14 more.

Heron made the argument that gyms should be deemed essential because people need to exercise to combat, stress, anxiety and depression, which is shown to have increased during the pandemic.

“I don’t think our government has done a very job at encouraging people to take their vitamins and get outside and exercise, and keep their body strong and healthy,” she said.

She urged bylaw enforcement and police “to please work with us.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Jason Miller

8:40 a.m. A total of 1,628 complaints have been made to city officials about lockdown rules being broken since the “emergency brake” was pulled by the province on April 3 – resulting in 59 charges being laid.

Most complaints were about provincial orders on the size of gatherings with 648 being made from the beginning of the shutdown to April 12. An additional 191 complaints were also made about large gatherings in parks but no charges were laid.

Six charges were laid regarding business operations while 391 complaints were made.

There were 27 complaints made about physical distancing in parks and public squares with one charge laid.

Read the full story from the Star’s Irelyne Lavery

8:30 a.m. It’s a fight that has all the trappings of a culture-war showdown: claims of persecution, crowds tearing down fences, shoutouts from reality stars, a pastor sent to jail.

A cavernous church on the outskirts of Edmonton has played host to a months-long battle between public health officers and those breaking pandemic rules in the name of religious freedom.

But in recent days, the tone of protest has turned darker. Dozens of the people who showed up to pray and carry a giant cross in protest of the forced closure of GraceLife Church this past weekend also ripped down barricades and trespassed on a neighbouring First Nation, some vandalizing a vehicle and hurling racial epithets at residents. The next day, a crowd at a rally where the case of the church was at times raised shouted for Alberta’s top doctor to be locked up.

Even Premier Jason Kenney, who has repeatedly lamented the need to impose COVID-19 restrictions on his province, appears fed up. He lambasted “unhinged conspiracy theorists,” hours after the protest outside the legislature in Edmonton turned ugly Monday.

Read the full story from the Star’s Alex Boyd and Kieran Leavitt

8:03 a.m. Allowing everybody in Ontario to pre-register for COVID-19 vaccination now could help the province with its supply issues as well as overcome any vaccine hesitancy, says a Toronto councillor and health experts in an open letter to the premier.

In a letter published Wednesday, Coun. Josh Matlow (Ward 12 Toronto-St. Paul’s) along with a group of doctors, epidemiologists and researchers, urges Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and members of the province’s science advisory table to open up the province’s online and call-in booking systems to allow residents to add their information — even if they aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine.

“While the vaccine rollout offers an end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, too many Ontarians who have yet to be eligible for the current phase of the vaccination plan are left feeling anxious about when, and how, they’ll learn that their turn will finally come,” the letter, viewed by the Star, says.

Pre-registration could ask residents for date of birth, postal code and contact information to register and the resident would receive an acknowledgement they’re on the list, as well as eventually being notified when it’s their turn to book the jab.

Read the Star Exclusive from Jennifer Pagliaro

7:22 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he got his second COVID-19 vaccine shot, three weeks after getting the first dose.

The Russian leader announced getting the jab, which was kept out of the public eye, at a session of the Russian Geographical Society, in which he took part via video link.

“Right now, before entering this hall, I have also gotten the second jab. I hope everything will be fine. I don’t even hope as much as I'm sure of it,” Putin said.

Putin got his first coronavirus shot on March 23, also out of sight of the cameras, and the Kremlin wouldn't reveal which of the three vaccines currently approved for use in Russia the president has taken.

The Russian leader's vaccination comes several months after widespread immunization against COVID-19 started in Russia — a delay that puzzled many, with some critics arguing that it was contributing to the already existing public hesitancy about the vaccine.

7 a.m. In pausing the use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday to investigate reports of six cases of dangerous blood clots occurring among the roughly 6.8 million people who have received it, U.S. medical authorities in part wanted to maintain confidence in the safety of the vaccine supply. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease official, said it was “testimony to how seriously we take safety.”

The risk is that rather than instilling confidence in the vaccine, the move could undermine it among people who have already read plenty of headlines about blood clots and improperly reported numbers related to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I think that the public needs to understand that this is probably beyond an abundance of caution,” said Dr. Howard Forman, a professor of public health at Yale University. Forman says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control are trying to “reset public confidence” with their call for the pause.

“People are going to criticize this for messaging, and they may be right. Maybe it does more harm to hesitancy than it does to benefit confidence in our public health agencies,” he said.

Read the full story from the Star’s Edward Keenan

6:35 a.m. Poland plans to go ahead with immunizations using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after receiving its first batch of 120,000 doses on Wednesday.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said Poland is following the latest recommendations from the European Medicines Agency, which said it is “currently not clear” whether the J&J shot caused rare blood clots reported in some recipients. The EMA approved the vaccine for use in the European Union last month.

“In line with these recommendations, we will want to use it in inoculations,” Niedzielski said.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday temporarily paused Johnson & Johnson shots in the United States to investigate possible links to blood clots in six women six to 13 days after vaccination.

Poland is trying to speed up its vaccination drive amid high numbers of daily coronavirus cases and COVID-19-related deaths. Niedzielski said some 75% of COVID-19 hospital beds are taken.

The country of some 38 million people has administered almost 8 million doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

5:45 a.m. Following an almost $6-billion bailout by the government, Air Canada is now promising to provide refunds to all passengers whose flights are cancelled due to the pandemic.

But at the very same time it received the taxpayer-funded bailout and made that promise, the airline has quietly added new language to its terms and conditions that experts say could give it the legal right to refuse future refunds, saying that it still needs to “maintain some protections” from insolvency.

According to experts, the new language — which states that no refund is owed if a “cancellation or delay outside of Air Canada’s control was caused by a force majeure event” — could give the airline the legal right to refuse refunds in the event of a flight cancellation due to the pandemic.

John Gradek, a former Air Canada executive and head of McGill University’s Global Aviation Leadership Program, said the intent of the addition to the airline’s tariff document is not clear, but the new “force majeure” exception leaves too much open to interpretation.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba

5:40 a.m. Ontario’s test positivity rate has hit an all-time high of 10.3 per cent. In Toronto, however, some neighbourhoods have trended far beyond that at many points in the pandemic.

The high rates of positivity in these neighbourhoods reflect historical data showing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in the city’s northwest corner and some parts of Scarborough. In the neighbourhood of Humbermede, near Weston Road and Highway 400, test positivity is at 17.6 per cent. In neighbouring Downsview and Maple Leaf, positivity is at 15.7 per cent in both areas.

In Humbermede, 22 per cent of workers are in manufacturing, previous reporting by the Star shows. In Downsview and Maple Leaf, that number is 16 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jenna Moon

5:35 a.m. Over 20,000 adults under 50 in Toronto COVID-19 hot spots have signed up on a vaccine registry, but they won’t be able to actually get shots unless University Health Network gets more vaccines, says its president.

The province announced last week that people aged 18 and up in high-risk forward sortation areas (FSAs), known by the first three letters of postal codes, are eligible to get the vaccine.

But how and where has been left to hospitals and local boards of health, which have been encouraging people in that group to look out for pop-up sites. They cannot register for city-run mass vaccinations clinics on the provincial portal.

UHN opened up registration to this group in three hot zones late Monday afternoon in order to get an idea of how many people want the vaccine, CEO Kevin Smith told the Star.

“We saw basically a hundred people every five minutes signing up,” he said.

“We went out with a view to cross our fingers and hope that we would see people sign up, and it’s fantastic that we have. The bad news is that now that they’ve signed up we’d really like to find the vaccine to get those people inoculated ASAP.”

Read the full story from the Star’s May Warren

5:30 a.m. Thailand reported more than 1,300 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, setting another daily record and adding pressure on the government to speed up a nearly nonexistent vaccination drive and do more to control a surge that comes amid mass travel as the country celebrates its traditional New Year festival.

The 1,335 new infections brings the number of new cases to nearly 7,000 since April 1, when a cluster linked to nightclubs and bars in central Bangkok was found. Most of the new cases reported Wednesday were yet again in Bangkok, but also seeing hefty increases were the northern province of Chiang Mai and the southern seaside province of Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Many of the new infections are a more contagious variant of the virus first found in the U.K. and that coupled with widespread travel for the Songkran festival, or Thai New Year, is fueling the surge, said Dr. Opas Karnkavinpong, director-general of the Disease Control Department. The festival officially began Tuesday and lasts for three days, but many people travel for a week.

Large daily increases in new infections had been rare for Thailand, which has weathered the pandemic far better than many nations through measures including strict border controls that have decimated the country’s lucrative tourism industry. Thailand has also experimented at times with everything from curfews and alcohol bans to closures of schools, shopping malls and restaurants.

Thailand has reported just 35,910 infections and 97 deaths since the pandemic began, yet it has vaccinated less than 1 per cent of its population and on Wednesday reported fewer than 800 people had been given vaccine doses in the past day.

5:25 a.m. Spain’s prime minister says his government is maintaining its goal of immunizing 70 per cent of the nation’s adult population, some 33 million people, by the end of the summer despite the delay in the European rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Spain was expecting to receive 300,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine on Wednesday, the first delivery of the jab produced by Johnson & Johnson. The country wants to prioritize people aged between 70 and 79 to receive the single-dose vaccine.

But those plans had to be put on hold after the pharmaceutical company delayed delivery of the vaccine to European countries following the decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to pause the shots in the United States to investigate possible links to very rare blood clots.

5:20 a.m. Concerns about vaccine safety emerged again Tuesday, as Canada reported its first case of vaccine-induced blood clots linked to Oxford-AstraZeneca, and the United States put the brakes on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following six reports of blood clots there.

Officials in both countries, however, continued to stress the vaccines are safe, and their benefits outweigh their risks, even as investigations into what is causing the clots continue.

The vaccine news is also dropping as the third wave of COVID-19 is exploding. Canada now has one of the highest rates of new cases in the world, and a record number of patients in critical care.

The Quebec health ministry and Public Health Agency of Canada reported the Canadian blood clot in separate statements Tuesday afternoon. The woman, whose age was not specified, received the AstraZeneca vaccine made at the Serum Institute of India, known by the brand name Covishield.

"The person was taken care of by the health and social services network and received the care appropriate to their condition," said Quebec's statement. "She is now recovering at her home and there is no fear for her life."

Quebec said it has given out 185,000 doses of AstraZeneca so far, and this is the first and only blood clot report, making it an extremely rare event. Nationally, Health Canada only has data up to April 3, which showed less than 500,000 doses had been given out at that point. Updated data is expected Wednesday.

Last week, Europe and the United Kingdom reported 222 cases of blood clots out of more than 34 million shots given.

Health Canada said with all the information it has, the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh its risks, particularly as the risk of a vaccine-induced clot is less than one in 100,000.

Blood specialists, infectious disease experts and the drug regulators say the risk of blood clots is vastly lower from the vaccines than from COVID-19 itself. The syndrome is treatable if caught.

Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Canadians can trust that the monitoring system for any safety concerns with the vaccines is working.

Tam got vaccinated herself Tuesday. She received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Health Canada has added a warning about the potential risk of clots to the AstraZeneca label. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended that vaccine not be used on people under 55, because most reports thus far showed patients with blood clots were younger. Health Canada is also getting a risk analysis by age and gender from AstraZeneca that could inform future decisions about the vaccine's use.

In a tweet Tuesday, Health Canada said it was also aware the U.S. had paused the use of J&J's vaccine because of clots. The U.S. has six reports out of more than 6.8 million shots given. Health Canada has asked the drug maker for more information, and is in touch with U.S. officials as well.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the U.S. pause is out of an abundance of caution, and a desire to quickly get to the bottom of what might be going on.

Canada has approved J&J but isn't expecting any deliveries until the last week of April.

Johnson & Johnson issued a written statement Tuesday saying they are working with U.S. authorities, and have also decided to pause the rollout of their vaccine in Europe for now, as investigations on the blood clots are completed.

Wednesday 5:16 a.m. The teeming metropolis of Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, the Indian state worst hit by the pandemic, face stricter restrictions for 15 days starting Wednesday in an effort to stem the surge of coronavirus infections.

Top state officials stressed that the closure of most industries, businesses, public places and limits on the movement of people didn't constitute a lockdown.

Last year, a sudden, harsh, nationwide lockdown left millions jobless overnight. Stranded in cities with no income or food, thousands of migrant workers walked on highways to get home. Since then, state leaders have repeatedly stressed that another lockdown wasn't on the cards.

The distinction did little to allay Ramachal Yadav's anxieties. On Wednesday morning, he joined thousands of others at a Mumbai railway station getting on a train back home. "There is no work,” said the 45-year-old.

India has detected over 180,000 new infections in the past 24 hours, about a third in Maharashtra state. India has so far confirmed over 13.9 million cases and 172,000 dead in what is l ikely an undercount.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that most public places, shops and establishments will be shut starting 8 p.m. Wednesday, expect essential services like grocery shops and banks.

Although the state has announced a relief package of $728 million that will include assistance for the poor, industry experts say that the new restrictions might prove fatal for businesses that were only just recovering from last year's economic recession.

“Livelihoods are important, but life is more important,” Thackeray said, echoing a difficult choice faced by other states in India.

The scenes playing out in Maharashtra in the past week mirror those developing in other parts of the country: patients gasping for air turned away from hospitals that are running out of oxygen and weeping families waiting their turn to bid farewell to their loved ones at crematoria.

Compounding concerns is the question of whether India, despite being the world's largest maker of vaccines, will have enough to immunize its vast population swiftly enough to slow down the virus.

India said Tuesday that it would authorize vaccines that had been given an emergency nod by the World Health Organization or regulators in the United States, Europe, Britain or Japan. Indian regulators also approved Russia’s Sputnik V for emergency use. But experts said that the decision was unlikely to have any immediate impact on supplies available in the country.

12:00 a.m.: (updated) The Scarborough Health Network told the Star late Tuesday night that it has temporarily closed the mass vaccination clinics at Centennial College and Centenary Hospital due to a lack of vaccines. A SHN spokesperson said the closure would affect approximately 2,000 vaccine appointments a day.

SHN plans to reopen both sites on April 19, when it receives its next vaccine shipment.

In a statement released late Tuesday night, SHN chair Maureen Adamson said that “Scarborough continues to struggle with the incomprehensible disparity in vaccine distribution for Canada’s most diverse community and one of Ontario’s most severe hot spots.”

SHN has vaccinated more than 90,000 residents so far.

Read the full story from the Star’s Breanna Xavier-Carter

Earlier Tuesday, Ontario said that two shipments of the Moderna vaccine scheduled to arrive in April have each been delayed by a week.

10:30 p.m.: Food giant Cargill Limited says it has temporarily closed its London, Ont., poultry processing plant due to a COVID-19 outbreak among some of its workers. The company says there is an active case count of 82 and that 900 people work at the facility.

Read the story here.

10:00 p.m.: It’s a critical move to slow the spread of COVID-19: vaccinating residents of hotspot neighbourhoods, including essential workers.

But in at-risk communities, there is still little clarity or consensus on who exactly those workers are.

Read the full story from the Star’s Sara Mojtehedzadeh.

9:30 p.m.: Quebec City has done what Toronto says is not yet possible — opened an overnight clinic to get more residents vaccinated.

Read the full story from the Star’s Olivia Bowden.

Read Tuesday’s rolling file

Source : Toronto Star More