Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 934 cases of COVID-19, 420 in Toronto which is a new daily record; Mask usage at 98 per cent on TTC, audit shows

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.12:30 p.m.: The number of new COVID-19 cases in public schools across Ontario jumped by 99 from the previous day, to a total of 923 in the last two weeks and 2,098 overall since school began.In its latest data released Thursday morning, the province reported 55 more students were infected for a total of 493 in the last two weeks; since school began there have been an overall total of 1,157.The data shows there are nine more staff members infected for a total of 100 in the last two weeks — and an overall total of 283.The Star’s Rhythm Sachdeva has more details.11:30 a.m. (updated): The TTC reported Thursday that its latest audit shows mask adoption at 98 per cent across the system with 91 per cent of customers wearing them properly.The news comes as the agency announces that it is expanding its free mask giveaway program for transit users. Roaming ambassadors will be assigned to rotate through the 25 busiest spots on the bus network in shifts on weekdays when ridership is highest, the TTC said.11:30 a.m.: Public health authorities in Quebec are attributing 25 more deaths to COVID-19 and reporting 1,030 new infections.The Health Department said the number of hospitalizations decreased by 17, to 509, while the number of intensive care patients dropped by 11, to 78.Authorities say there are five long-term care homes where more than 25 per cent of residents have active cases of COVID-19 — down from eight care homes the day before.They say there are six private seniors residences where more than 25 per cent of residents have active infections, a situation they describe as “critical.”As of Tuesday, 1,934 elementary and high school students had active cases of COVID-19 in addition to 421 staff members.Quebec has reported a total of 103,844 cases of COVID-19 and 6,214 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.11 a.m.: Health Canada has issued an expanded recall notice for a brand of hand sanitizer sold at Dollarama and other locations.The agency says Daily Shield-branded products are being pulled off store shelves across the country.Health Canada says the products, manufactured by Mississauga, Ont.-based Bio Life Sciences Corp., were found to contain methanol, an unauthorized ingredient that can cause severe health issues.Testing also revealed that the product’s ethanol content is not high enough to be effective in killing germs.Health Canada says it also discovered a number of code violations at Bio Life and has suspended its product licences.The Daily Shield brand was at the centre of an earlier recall notice that described one product as a “counterfeit,” but Health Canada says that’s no longer the case.10:50 a.m.: An international group of scientists has concluded pandemic problems are just starting unless the world moves to deal with the issues creating them.“The factors driving pandemics are human activities — unsustainable growth in livestock production, deforestation, the wildlife trade and global connectivity,” says Peter Daszak, a British expert on disease ecology and head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.The panel, which has 137 member nations, commissioned a report into the environmental roots of pandemics and new diseases including AIDS, H1N1, SARS, Ebola and COVID-19. The authors of the peer-reviewed report drew on the findings of more than 700 journal articles — about a third published in the last year.“Pandemics are becoming more frequent, driven by a continued rise in the underlying emerging disease events that spark them,” the report says.“Pandemic risk could be significantly lowered by promoting responsible consumption and reducing unsustainable consumption.”The report estimates mammals and birds host about 1.7 million undiscovered viruses. Somewhere between 540,000 and 850,000 could infect humans.10:22 a.m. (will be updated) Ontario is reporting 934 cases of COVID-19 and 10 new deaths. Locally, there are 420 new cases in Toronto (a new one-day high), 169 in Peel, 95 in York Region and 58 in Ottawa. More than 35,600 tests were completed.10:09 a.m. Long Island, New York, health officials scrambled to contain a coronavirus outbreak in Suffolk County when dozens of people tested positive for the virus after attending a high-end Sweet 16 party in September that violated state restrictions on gatherings.On Wednesday, county officials said they were coping with the fallout from two more so-called superspreader events that left 56 people with the virus and nearly 300 in quarantine: a wedding that exceeded the state’s 50-person limit and a birthday party that did not.“This kind of blatant disregard for the well-being of others is not only extremely disappointing, it will not be tolerated,” Steven Bellone, the Suffolk County executive, said at a news conference, referring specifically to the wedding. “If you violate th

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 934 cases of COVID-19, 420 in Toronto which is a new daily record; Mask usage at 98 per cent on TTC, audit shows

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

12:30 p.m.: The number of new COVID-19 cases in public schools across Ontario jumped by 99 from the previous day, to a total of 923 in the last two weeks and 2,098 overall since school began.

In its latest data released Thursday morning, the province reported 55 more students were infected for a total of 493 in the last two weeks; since school began there have been an overall total of 1,157.

The data shows there are nine more staff members infected for a total of 100 in the last two weeks — and an overall total of 283.

The Star’s Rhythm Sachdeva has more details.

11:30 a.m. (updated): The TTC reported Thursday that its latest audit shows mask adoption at 98 per cent across the system with 91 per cent of customers wearing them properly.

The news comes as the agency announces that it is expanding its free mask giveaway program for transit users.

Roaming ambassadors will be assigned to rotate through the 25 busiest spots on the bus network in shifts on weekdays when ridership is highest, the TTC said.

11:30 a.m.: Public health authorities in Quebec are attributing 25 more deaths to COVID-19 and reporting 1,030 new infections.

The Health Department said the number of hospitalizations decreased by 17, to 509, while the number of intensive care patients dropped by 11, to 78.

Authorities say there are five long-term care homes where more than 25 per cent of residents have active cases of COVID-19 — down from eight care homes the day before.

They say there are six private seniors residences where more than 25 per cent of residents have active infections, a situation they describe as “critical.”

As of Tuesday, 1,934 elementary and high school students had active cases of COVID-19 in addition to 421 staff members.

Quebec has reported a total of 103,844 cases of COVID-19 and 6,214 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.

11 a.m.: Health Canada has issued an expanded recall notice for a brand of hand sanitizer sold at Dollarama and other locations.

The agency says Daily Shield-branded products are being pulled off store shelves across the country.

Health Canada says the products, manufactured by Mississauga, Ont.-based Bio Life Sciences Corp., were found to contain methanol, an unauthorized ingredient that can cause severe health issues.

Testing also revealed that the product’s ethanol content is not high enough to be effective in killing germs.

Health Canada says it also discovered a number of code violations at Bio Life and has suspended its product licences.

The Daily Shield brand was at the centre of an earlier recall notice that described one product as a “counterfeit,” but Health Canada says that’s no longer the case.

10:50 a.m.: An international group of scientists has concluded pandemic problems are just starting unless the world moves to deal with the issues creating them.

“The factors driving pandemics are human activities — unsustainable growth in livestock production, deforestation, the wildlife trade and global connectivity,” says Peter Daszak, a British expert on disease ecology and head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

The panel, which has 137 member nations, commissioned a report into the environmental roots of pandemics and new diseases including AIDS, H1N1, SARS, Ebola and COVID-19. The authors of the peer-reviewed report drew on the findings of more than 700 journal articles — about a third published in the last year.

“Pandemics are becoming more frequent, driven by a continued rise in the underlying emerging disease events that spark them,” the report says.

“Pandemic risk could be significantly lowered by promoting responsible consumption and reducing unsustainable consumption.”

The report estimates mammals and birds host about 1.7 million undiscovered viruses. Somewhere between 540,000 and 850,000 could infect humans.

10:22 a.m. (will be updated) Ontario is reporting 934 cases of COVID-19 and 10 new deaths. Locally, there are 420 new cases in Toronto (a new one-day high), 169 in Peel, 95 in York Region and 58 in Ottawa. More than 35,600 tests were completed.

10:09 a.m. Long Island, New York, health officials scrambled to contain a coronavirus outbreak in Suffolk County when dozens of people tested positive for the virus after attending a high-end Sweet 16 party in September that violated state restrictions on gatherings.

On Wednesday, county officials said they were coping with the fallout from two more so-called superspreader events that left 56 people with the virus and nearly 300 in quarantine: a wedding that exceeded the state’s 50-person limit and a birthday party that did not.

“This kind of blatant disregard for the well-being of others is not only extremely disappointing, it will not be tolerated,” Steven Bellone, the Suffolk County executive, said at a news conference, referring specifically to the wedding. “If you violate the rules, you’ll be caught and held responsible.”

9:46 a.m. It’s unlikely most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, carolling and travel, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead.

As the pandemic’s second wave maintained its grip in many parts of the country, political leaders acknowledged this week that recent limits on social gatherings, restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues in some hot spots have not significantly changed the trajectory of COVID-19 infections.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo and Quebec Premier Francois Legault were among those urging Canadians to step up efforts that could flatten the curve and allow for some modified festivities by Dec. 25.

The warning followed weeks of unclear messages and confusing advice that likely played a role in cases now being linked to Thanksgiving weekend, says Toronto infectious diseases expert Dr. Andrew Morris, who stresses the importance of frank talk about the severity of the pandemic.

“We need to be able to say when there’s uncertainty but we also can’t have comments like (Monday) at the provincial press conference, when the Ontario health minister said that there are some hints of things on a decline (in Ontario hot spots). That is very misleading information and all it does is it sows doubt in the public,” says Morris, a physician at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

“Or even to suggest that we’re still waiting to see the effect of our measures, (that) it’s too early to tell, when I think everyone around us — most people — should recognize that things are still rising substantially.”

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford countered bleak outlooks on Christmas by noting “people get tired, but I’ve got to give them hope.”

“Let’s all work together and let’s make Christmas happen. Let’s always think of the glass as half full,” said Ford. “Let’s not think the glass is half empty — we can do it. We will do it by working together.”

Morris says it’s unfair to impose a timeline on hoped-for victories, pointing to many uncertainties that make it hard to predict what infections will look like in December. He also questions how accurate Ontario’s data was to begin with, noting he continues to hear about some people waiting days for a test — a problem that would make it “near impossible” to get a handle on COVID-19’s spread.

But he doesn’t expect much will change over the next two months.

“Fast-forward six weeks, we’re going to be seeing waves pretty substantially rising, if not cresting,” Morris predicts.

“I would be absolutely shocked if we aren’t seeing really high peaks in six weeks’ time.”

9:25 a.m. When it comes to getting hit by COVID-19, Canada’s top public health doctor says your postal code matters as much as your genetic code.

“Where you live … or where you don’t have a home” is a critical factor affecting health, said Dr. Theresa Tam, as she released a sobering report that outlined the destructive swath cut by COVID-19 across Canada, with worse outcomes in neighbourhoods of cities like Toronto and Montreal, where lower income and racialized workers often don’t have the luxury of working from home, and face worse outcomes from the disease.

Using data from the start of the pandemic to the end of August, Tam said COVID-19 slammed Canada’s socially and economically disadvantaged groups, with seniors, women, disabled people, and immigrant or racialized workers who deliver essential services in health care and agriculture all bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

Read the full story by Tonda MacCharles

9:04 a.m. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 751,000, the lowest since March, but it’s still historically high and indicates the viral pandemic is forcing many employers to cut jobs.

Applications for unemployment aid fell 40,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. They fell in 30 states, including big drops in California, Florida and Texas. Claims rose in Arizona, Illinois, and Michican.

Rising confirmed virus cases in nearly every state, along with a cutoff in federal aid, are threatening to weaken the economy in the coming months. As temperatures fall, restaurants and bars will likely serve fewer customers outdoors. And many consumers may increasingly stay home to avoid infection. Those trends could force employers to slash more jobs during the winter.

The seven-day rolling average for confirmed new cases in the U.S. soared over the past two weeks from 51,161 to 71,832, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

9 a.m. The European Central Bank held off from strengthening its stimulus programs despite growing concern that a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases could stall the economy’s recovery from the deep downturn in the first part of the year.

But the ECB signalled that more stimulus could be coming at its December meeting, given that risks are “clearly tilted to the downside” and new staff projections would make possible “a thorough reassessment.”

Demand from China has helped keep some European businesses afloat but rising infections have raised concert that the last three months of the year could see far slower growth. Germany is implementing a “lockdown light” under which theatres, bars and restaurants must close for almost a month.

The ECB’s key goal is to raise inflation toward its target of below but close to 2 per cent, the level considered best for the economy. Inflation was minus 0.3 per cent in September, partly a result of temporary measures such as a value-added tax cut in Germany but also a sign of weaker than optimal demand.

8 a.m. With winter on the horizon and more Canadians contemplating a potentially long season of pandemic isolation, a Toronto company is purchasing one of the world’s most iconic toys, which some say meets one of our core human needs — to make “order out of chaos.”

Its appeal could not come at a better time.

Spin Master, a children’s entertainment company, announced on Tuesday it was acquiring the Rubik’s Cube brand for $50 million. It also owns brands such as Paw Patrol and Etch A Sketch.

Read the full story from the Star’s Omar Mosleh

7:45 a.m. On a recent evening, TTC bus route 6 was detoured around the intersection of Bay and Richmond St. W. for a reason that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow in pre-COVID times: to accommodate a film shoot.

After a lockdown that lasted from mid-March to the end of June, one bright spot in the Toronto economy is that film and television production is coming back strong, with at least 23 projects currently shooting across the city, including the on-location shoot of the film “Slumberland” at Bay and Richmond St. W.

“I would say that the industry is definitely coming back and getting back into production and ramping back up,” said Marguerite Pigott, Toronto’s film commissioner.

Read the full story from the Star’s Bruce DeMara

6:56 a.m.: A total of 44 confirmed COVID-19 cases are being related to a two-day wedding event in Vaughan dating back to mid-October.

In a news release by York Region Public Health, over 100 people attended a large wedding at the Avani Event Centre, between Oct. 14 and Oct. 18.

Out of the residents exposed to the virus, five are confirmed to be from the York Region area while 39 are from outside of the region, according to York Region Public Health.

Those that attended the wedding are considered to be a high risk of exposure, as a public notice of the outbreak was released.

Read Libaan Osman’s full coverage

5:55 a.m.: It’s unlikely most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, carolling and travel, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead.

As the pandemic’s second wave maintained its grip in many parts of the country, political leaders acknowledged this week that recent limits on social gatherings, restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues in some hot spots have not significantly changed the trajectory of COVID-19 infections.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo and Quebec Premier François Legault were among those urging Canadians to step up efforts that could flatten the curve and allow for some modified festivities by Dec. 25.

The warning followed weeks of unclear messages and confusing advice that likely played a role in cases now being linked to Thanksgiving weekend, says Toronto infectious diseases expert Dr. Andrew Morris, who stresses the importance of frank talk about the severity of the pandemic.

“We need to be able to say when there’s uncertainty but we also can’t have comments like (Monday) at the provincial press conference, when the Ontario health minister said that there are some hints of things on a decline (in Ontario hot spots). That is very misleading information and all it does is it sows doubt in the public,” says Morris, a physician at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

“Or even to suggest that we’re still waiting to see the effect of our measures, (that) it’s too early to tell, when I think everyone around us — most people — should recognize that things are still rising substantially.”

5:54 a.m.: The Ontario government is expected to release new COVID-19 projections today.

Premier Doug Ford said yesterday the modelling will show the number of new daily infections moving “in the right direction.”

The figures are expected to be released this afternoon at a news conference involving several health officials, including the province’s top public health doctor.

The previous projections, released late last month, showed the province recording 1,000 new daily cases by mid-October.

Ontario passed that threshold last weekend but the numbers have since dropped.

The province recorded 834 new infections yesterday, and five new deaths related to the novel coronavirus.

5:53 a.m.: There are 225,586 confirmed cases in Canada.

Quebec: 102,814 confirmed (including 6,189 deaths, 87,638 resolved)

Ontario: 72,885 confirmed (including 3,108 deaths, 62,303 resolved)

Alberta: 26,565 confirmed (including 313 deaths, 21,459 resolved)

British Columbia: 13,875 confirmed (including 261 deaths, 11,244 resolved)

Manitoba: 4,701 confirmed (including 61 deaths, 2,306 resolved)

Saskatchewan: 2,908 confirmed (including 25 deaths, 2,217 resolved)

Nova Scotia: 1,102 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,032 resolved)

New Brunswick: 337 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 284 resolved)

Newfoundland and Labrador: 291 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 282 resolved)

Prince Edward Island: 64 confirmed (including 63 resolved)

Yukon: 22 confirmed (including 17 resolved)

Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

Northwest Territories: 9 confirmed (including 8 resolved)

Nunavut: No confirmed cases

Total: 225,586 (0 presumptive, 225,586 confirmed including 10,032 deaths, 188,866 resolved)

5:52 a.m.: Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health broadened the criteria for COVID-19 testing Wednesday in order to encourage more people to come forward.

Starting Monday, Nov. 2, anyone experiencing either a fever or a new or persistent cough is advised to call 811 to arrange for a test.

Until now, the threshold has always been that someone should be experiencing two or more symptoms before calling 811.

That guideline still applies to the following symptoms:

• Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing;

• Runny, stuffy or congested nose;

• Sore throat or difficulty swallowing;

• Headache;

• Loss of taste or smell;

• Unusual fatigue/lack of energy;

• New onset of muscle aches;

• Loss of appetite;

• Vomiting or diarrhea for more than 24 hours.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the province should expect to see a steady trickle of new cases from those travelling back to the province from hot spots across the country.

5:51 a.m.: You can be an evil goblin, a wicked witch or anything else you want to be this Halloween.

Just don’t be sick.

That’s a last-minute reminder from Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health as the big night approaches.

“The most important thing to remember is that if you are feeling ill, or self-isolating for any reason, you must refrain from trick-or-treating activities,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday during the weekly COVID-19 briefing.

5:50 a.m.: Science’s steady march to find a vaccine capable of ending the coronavirus pandemic may come at the expense of another species: sharks.

Miami shark researchers say they’re concerned about a key ingredient used to make vaccines more effective, squalene — an oily substance found in plants and even human skin — but is particularly concentrated in shark livers.

The practice of using shark-derived squalene as a booster to stimulate a stronger immune response to a vaccine is not unique to the coronavirus vaccine. The compound has been shown to be safe and effective in millions of doses of vaccines, primarily in Europe, said Liza Merly, a shark immunologist at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

“We don’t exactly know what it is about this oil that allows that to work the way it does,” Merly said.

But squalene in vaccines has been shown to create more robust immune responses, and there are a handful of COVID-19 vaccine candidates that use it for that purpose, most of them partnered with GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures a squalene-derived component for vaccines.

If one of the vaccine candidates using that component proves to be effective, it could create a global demand for squalene that might threaten wild shark populations, according to Shark Allies, a non-profit dedicated to protecting wild sharks.

The non-profit produced a crude estimate: It would take about 500,000 sharks to produce squalene for the billions of vaccine doses needed to inoculate everyone on the planet twice.

5:48 a.m.: Taiwan hit 200 days without any domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, highlighting the island’s continued success at keeping the virus under control even as cases surge in other parts of the world.

Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control last reported a domestic case on April 12. CDC officials noted the milestone and thanked the public for playing a role, while urging people to continue to wear masks and to wash their hands often.

Since the pandemic began, Taiwan has recorded 553 cases of COVID-19, and just seven deaths. While it has stopped domestic transmission, it continues to record new cases in people arriving from abroad.

5:47 a.m.: Soldiers in Poland are giving coronavirus tests. American National Guard troops with medical training are headed to the Czech Republic to work alongside doctors there. A Czech university student is running blood samples to labs, and the mayor of the capital is taking shifts at a hospital.

With cases surging in many central European countries, firefighters, students and retired doctors are being asked to help shore up buckling health care systems.

“This is actually terrifying,” Dr. Piotr Suwalski, the head of the cardiac surgery ward at a Polish hospital said on a day when daily COVID-19 cases rose 20 per cent nationwide. “I think if we continue to gain 20 per cent a day, no system can withstand it.”

5:46 a.m.: How does COVID-19 affect the heart?

Even though it’s known as a respiratory virus, doctors believe the coronavirus can directly infect the heart muscle and cause other problems leading to heart damage.

In some people, as COVID-19 decreases lung function, it may deprive the heart of adequate oxygen. Sometimes it causes an overwhelming inflammatory reaction that taxes the heart as the body tries to fight off the infection.

The virus can also invade blood vessels or cause inflammation within them, leading to blood clots that can cause heart attacks.

Clots throughout the body have been found in many COVID-19 patients. That has led some doctors to try blood thinners, although there is no consensus on that treatment.

Dr. Sean Pinney of the University of Chicago says people with heart disease are most at risk for virus-related damage to the heart. But heart complications also have been found in COVID-19 patients with no known previous disease.

A recent review in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology notes that evidence of heart involvement has been found in at least 25 per cent of hospitalized coronavirus patients. At some centres, the rate is 30 per cent or higher. And some studies have found elevated enzyme levels and other signs suggesting heart damage even in patients with milder disease. It is not known whether that damage is permanent.

One small study found evidence of the virus in the hearts of COVID-19 patients who died from pneumonia. Another, using heart imaging, found inflammation of the heart muscle in four college athletes who had recovered from mild COVID-19 infections. There were no images available from before the athletes got sick, and therefore no way to know if they had pre-existing heart problems.

Dr. Tom Maddox, an American College of Cardiology board member, says it’s unclear if the virus can cause a normal heart to become dysfunctional.

“There’s still so much we don’t know,” Maddox said.

5:44 a.m.: Long Island, New York, health officials scrambled to contain a coronavirus outbreak in Suffolk County when dozens of people tested positive for the virus after attending a high-end Sweet 16 party in September that violated state restrictions on gatherings.

On Wednesday, county officials said they were coping with the fallout from two more so-called superspreader events that left 56 people with the virus and nearly 300 in quarantine: a wedding that exceeded the state’s 50-person limit and a birthday party that did not.

“This kind of blatant disregard for the well-being of others is not only extremely disappointing, it will not be tolerated,” Steven Bellone, the Suffolk County executive, said at a news conference, referring specifically to the wedding. “If you violate the rules, you’ll be caught and held responsible.”

Bellone said the venue where the wedding was held, the North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue, would be fined $17,000. Ninety-one people attended the wedding, on Oct. 17, officials said. Thirty guests later tested positive for the virus, as did several country club employees, and 156 people wound up under quarantine, officials said.

Thursday 5:43 a.m.: India’s confirmed coronavirus toll has crossed 8 million with daily cases dipping to the lowest level this week.

The Health Ministry reported another 49,881 infections in the past 24 hours. India is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country in coming weeks, surpassing the U.S. with more than 8.8 million infections.

The ministry on Thursday also reported 517 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 120,527.

Read Wednesday’s coronavirus file

Source : Toronto Star More