Today’s coronavirus news: Three provinces pausing first-dose vaccinations over Pfizer shortage; Ontario hospitals get triage protocols as ICUSs fill u
1:38 p.m. Ontario is in discussions with Ottawa to get two field hospitals to help with COVID-19
10:09 a.m. Toronto surpassed 75,000 cases of COVID-19, with 892 new cases Monday
9:56 a.m. Ontario is reporting another 2,578 COVID-19 cases
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
8:50 p.m.: Some provincial authorities saw encouraging signs in the fight against COVID-19 on Monday, even as experts warned that it's too soon to draw conclusions from the data and provinces scrambled to deal with a looming shortage of Pfizer vaccines.
Officials in both Quebec and Manitoba noted that case numbers have dropped slightly in recent days and suggested that their populations' efforts to control the virus could be paying off.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said case numbers in his province appeared to be dipping.
"We’re definitely not out of the woods," he told a news conference as the province reported 118 cases. "We certainly still have a long way to go before we can return to normal."
Roussin said the province is looking at easing some restrictions in the coming days, but that any changes would be gradual.
Quebec reported 1,634 new COVID-19 cases, which included about 200 from the previous day that weren't noted because of a delay. The province had broken the 3,000-case mark in early January and has a seven-day rolling average of more than 1,900 cases a day.
Health Minister Christian Dube noted on Twitter that the Quebec City region in particular had seen a decline in the number of new infections recently, which he saw as a sign that "the sacrifices that we're asking of Quebecers are bearing fruit." However, he asked Quebecers to continue their efforts in order to reduce the number of hospitalizations, which rose Monday after three straight days of decline.
Universite de Montreal public health professor Benoit Masse said it will take another week or two to know whether the downward trend will be sustained and to gauge the impact of the recently imposed curfew. He said the province should know more by Feb. 8, when curfew restrictions are set to lift.
Ontario also reported its lowest number of COVID-19 cases since early January, with 2,578 new infections, but the province completed a little more than 40,000 tests Sunday, compared with more than 60,000 the day before.
British Columbia reported 301 new cases on Monday, its lowest increase in over two months. However, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the risk of spreading the virus remains high.
She said there is increased transmission in the Interior and Northern health regions because of social gatherings, which are what caused a jump in infections in B.C.'s Lower Mainland a few months ago.
Nova Scotia also reported no new cases for the second time this month.
The news was less positive in New Brunswick, where the Edmundston region entered the province's highest pandemic-alert level, ushering in new restrictions on businesses in the region after a record-breaking number of new cases on Sunday. The province reported 26 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday after recording 36 the day before.
Provinces were also reviewing their vaccine programs to contend with a reduced supply of Pfizer-BioNTech doses after the company said last week it was cutting back on promised deliveries over the next month as it works to expand production.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday that his province was pausing appointments for people to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine due to the supply shortage.
"Even with a new shipment of Pfizer expected later this week, we won't have enough supply to continue with new first-dose appointments," he said, adding that the province had set aside vaccines for people who were due for their second doses, and those appointments would continue.
Manitoba stopped booking new appointments over the weekend, but health officials announced Monday that those bookings would resume, with room for about 4,000 new appointments this week and next.
Ontario also acknowledged it was working with a supply crunch that would see its next two shipments of Pfizer vaccine reduced by 20 per cent and 80 per cent respectively.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the situation would last until late February or early March when larger shipments begin to arrive.
Ontario announced that a new hospital set to open in Vaughan, Ont., would be used to relieve a capacity crunch because of rising COVID-19 admissions. Elliott and Premier Doug Ford said the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital would add 35 new critical care beds and 150 medical beds to the province's bed capacity.
Hospital capacity has been a concern in many provinces, with doctors in Ontario and Quebec being told to prepare for the possibility of implementing protocols to decide which patients get access to life-saving care in the case of extreme intensive care unit overcrowding.
Nationally, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are still increasing, according to Canada's chief public health officer. Dr. Theresa Tam noted that hospitalizations tend to lag one or more weeks behind a surge in cases.
"These impacts affect everyone, as the health-care workforce and health system bear a heavy strain, important elective medical procedures are delayed or postponed, adding to pre-existing backlogs," she wrote in a statement.
She said an average of 4,705 COVID-19 patients a day were being treated in Canadian hospitals during the last seven days, including an average of 875 in ICUs.
8:45 p.m.: Anticipated delays for the next month to shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech dose — one of the two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada — are upending vaccination programs from coast to coast.
The delays, reportedly the result of production issues in Belgium, highlight the logistical challenges that lie ahead as a global vaccination effort unfurls.
But they also raise the question of when Canada will have more than two vaccines on tap.
The vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and American-based Moderna have been hailed around the world for their performance in clinical trials and the speed at which they were developed. They’re major scientific success stories — but they are only two of the dozens of vaccines still under development.
Canada’s plan has long been to lock down not one or two vaccines, but, hopefully, a portfolio of them.
To that end, federal officials have inked deals with seven different vaccine manufacturers that represent four different “platforms,” or ways of making vaccines.
Read the full story here: One dose is delayed — but where are Canada’s other COVID-19 vaccines?
8:30 p.m.: For the second weekend in a row, the number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Ontario dropped substantially compared to weekday vaccinations, a trend that is alarming experts as deaths from the virus in long-term care continue to mount.
Just 11,007 shots of the new vaccine were given out on Saturday, down from 14,460 the previous day. On Sunday, the number of doses administered dropped again to 9,691. The dip was consistent with what occurred on the weekend of Jan. 9 to 10, when vaccine administration also took a steep drop.
In the last two weeks, weekday vaccine administration has averaged nearly 13,000 shots per day. But during the last two weekends, doses have averaged less than 10,000 per day.
“There should not be a dip on weekends. There just shouldn’t,” said Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto. “We’re going to have to get better at this and we’re going to have to get better at this really fast … Eventually, the vaccine is going to come really fast and we’re going to have to scale really high. And if we can’t figure out why we’re dipping on weekends, we have our head in the sands.”
When asked why the number of COVID-19 vaccinations has dropped on weekends, the Ministry of Health said its ability to administer vaccines is dependent on supply.
Read the full story here: ‘There should not be a dip on weekends’: Ontario once again reports weekend vaccination slowdown
8:12 p.m.: Frustrated by the flow of coronavirus vaccine from the U.S. federal government, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday floated the idea of buying shots for New Yorkers directly from one of the vaccine makers, Pfizer.
The idea seemed far from a sure bet, with the pharmaceutical giant saying it would need federal approval to sell to state governments. If that were to happen, the cost and amount have yet to be be discussed.
Regardless, Cuomo said he felt compelled to broach the idea as his state, like many others, faces tough vaccine math. At the current pace of federal vaccine shipments to New York, it could take six months or more to get shots to the 7 million residents already eligible under federal guidelines, let alone the roughly 12 million other New Yorkers. Residents have been scrambling to try to get the shots, with many getting shut out and upset.
“My job as governor of New York is to pursue every avenue, and that's what I'm doing,” the Democratic governor said at a virtual news conference as he released a letter he'd written to New York-based Pfizer about his idea. He told the company it “could help us save lives right here in New York.”
Pfizer Inc., which developed one of the current vaccines with German partner BioNTech, said in a statement that it appreciated Cuomo's praise and was open to working with the federal Health and Human Services Department on getting the shots as quickly as possible to as many Americans as it could.
“However, before we can sell directly to state governments, HHS would need to approve that proposal,” the company said.
An HHS spokesperson said via email that Cuomo is “trying to circumvent a long-planned federal allocation system by attempting to cut to the front of the line at the expense of fellow jurisdictions.”
The spokesperson said the top priority for HHS is "maximizing the availability of safe and effective vaccines in a manner which is responsible, fair and equitable for all Americans, not just to those in New York State.”
Under the current system, HHS allocates vaccine doses to states and ships them. The federal Food and Drug Administration's emergency-based authorization for the Pfizer vaccine specifies that it will be supplied “as directed by the U.S. government.”
The federal government has been paying $19.50 per dose for the Pfizer vaccine and has ordered 200 million doses so far, enough to give the two-shot regimen to 100 million people. Other nations around the world have also placed orders.
Earlier in the pandemic, Cuomo complained last spring about U.S. states competing against one another, or being outbid by the federal government, for then-scarce protective gear and ventilators. At the time, he called on the federal government to nationalize medical supply acquisition of those items.
7:22 p.m.: British Columbia's top doctor says production delays for thePfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are a temporary setback that will slow down the delivery of first doses in the province over the next few weeks.
But Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is still on track to vaccinate its most vulnerable residents by the end of March, ahead of a significant expansion of the province's immunization program in April.
She says a shortfall of about 60,000 doses of vaccine should be made up in March.
B.C. has recorded 1,330 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday, including 301 in the last 24 hours — the lowest single-day infection rate in more than two months.
The death toll from the illness rose to 1,078 as 31 more people died in the same three-day period.
The number of active cases dipped to 4,326, including 343 in hospital.
Henry says about 80 per cent of long-term care residents in the hard-hit Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions have received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with more being delivered across the province.
6:45 p.m.: Alberta is pausing appointments for people to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Premier Jason Kenney said Monday.
He said the province would run out of supply for first doses by the end of the day or early Tuesday.
"We'll get more vaccine in the coming weeks and some more doses this week, but we need to make adjustments today to accommodate this lack of supply," Kenney said.
"Even with a new shipment of Pfizer expected later this week, we won't have enough supply to continue with new first-dose appointments."
Pfizer-BioNTech indicated last week that it's cutting back on promised deliveries of its vaccine over the next four weeks as it works to expand production.
Kenney said no new appointments for first doses are being accepted and some appointments already booked will be rescheduled.
He said doses have been saved for those who have appointments for the followup shot Pfizer recommends.
"We believe that we can administer second doses to all those who need them within the recommended time frame."
Kenney said vaccines so far have been given to about 90,000 health-care workers as well as to staff and residents in continuing-care homes in Alberta.
"Yesterday, we completed the first dose of vaccination at all of Alberta's 357 long-term care and designated supported-living facilities," Kenney said.
"This is a tremendous milestone and I believe makes Alberta the first province in the country to complete the first-dose vaccine rollout for this important and highly vulnerable population."
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, reported 474 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. There were 739 infected people in hospital, 120 receiving intensive care. There were 11 more deaths for a total of 1,447.
Some COVID-19 restrictions were somewhat relaxed on Monday. Albertans are again allowed to visit hair salons and tattoo parlours, as well as receive wellness services — but only by appointment.
Outdoor social gatherings, which had been banned since early December, are again being allowed in groups of up to 10 people.
The limit on the number of people who can attend funerals has increased to 20, although receptions are still prohibited.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said last week that Alberta can't entirely ease up, but that it can make small adjustments to provide people with some limited activities.
Hinshaw has said that easing rules now will act as a test case, and that COVID-19 case numbers will have to be lower before any other restrictions are loosened.
Measures still in place limit restaurants and bars to takeout or delivery, and allow retail stores and churches to open, but only at 15 per cent capacity. Casinos, gyms, recreation centres, libraries and theatres remain closed.
6:25 p.m.: Ontario is getting ready for a bigger surge of COVID-19 patients by preparing a new hospital in Vaughan to handle overflow, and giving all hospitals the power to redeploy staff to facilities that are in “urgent need.”
The changes announced Monday include 500 more critical care and intensive beds in pandemic hot spots as public health officials revealed another case of the U.K. variant has been found in a London, Ont., resident with no travel history outside Canada or related contacts.
“There is evidence now of community transmission,” associate chief medical officer Dr. Barbara Yaffe said of the U.K. variant, which is 56 per cent more contagious.
“It could very well become the dominant strain.”
The new beds include 35 intensive care and 150 general beds at Mackenzie Health’s Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, which is slated to open on Feb. 7.
Read the full story here: New hospital in Vaughan will take patient overflow from other facilities as COVID-19 surges
6:00 p.m.: Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, some stores still aren’t getting the safety message.
Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors found just 70 per cent of big-box stores they visited this past weekend were complying with COVID-related safety regulations, including safe distancing, screening before letting people in, and proper mask wearing.
Provincial Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says it’s just not good enough.
“Every business out there knows exactly what they need to be doing to keep COVID-19 from coming into the workplace ... You need to be even more vigilant today than at any point during this pandemic. There’s no excuse now for ignorance by the big companies,” said McNaugton in an interview.
Roughly 50 inspectors fanned out across the GTA, Hamilton and Halton Region this past weekend, to look at 240 stores. They issued 23 tickets and fines, the biggest being $1,000.
While that’s far below the $1.5-million maximum, McNaughton said bigger penalties could still be coming.
Read the full story here: Weekend inspections catch retailers breaking COVID-19 rules
5:45 p.m.: Where are the COVID-19 rapid tests?
It’s a question that was repeatedly raised by health professionals and opposition politicians in the fall, as the country headed into the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal government has since procured about 38 million rapid tests, with about 14 million of them so far distributed across the country.
Now that they’re here, are they even being used?
As Canada grapples with the second wave of the pandemic — exacerbated by emerging new variants of the virus — usage of the rapid tests vary depending on the province, and they continue to divide health professionals.
One physician told the Star it’s disappointing that the tests have yet to be more widely used, while another said the tests are not the game-changers some governments have said they are.
Meanwhile, the federal expert advisory panel on testing and screening for COVID-19 released a report Friday recommending that the use of rapid tests as a screening tool be accelerated.
Read the full story here: Canada has tens of millions of COVID-19 rapid tests. Why aren’t we using them?
5:30 p.m.: COVID-19 cases in Ontario must fall below 1,000 per day before lockdown measures can be lifted, the province's top doctor said Monday as he expressed cautious optimism that infection rates may have plateaued.
Dr. David Williams said while the province's virus rates remain high - with 2,578 new cases reported Monday - he thinks the impact of a provincewide lockdown that started on Boxing Day is beginning to emerge.
Williams said Ontario's seven-day case average has dropped to just over 3,000 cases he said, down from the mid-3,000s in recent weeks.
He said he would like to see the province's new daily case counts move to levels last seen in late October before any pandemic measures are relaxed.
"It is achievable, we can get back there," Williams said. "I take that as a sign that Ontarians ... are making headway."
Williams said he would also like to see the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital intensive care units drop to 150 - from 395 reported Monday - before ending the lockdown.
"If you get below 150 COVID patients in ICU beds that starts to get you back down to where all the hospitals can start to do their other elective procedures," he said.
Williams said while people must continue to stay-at-home and follow public health rules, the latest numbers show that Ontario's per cent positivity has not risen in recent days.
His comments come less than a week after the province was plunged into its second state of emergency during the pandemic and Premier Doug Ford's government imposed a stay-at-home order.
Meanwhile, Ford said Monday a new hospital set to open in Vaughan, Ont., will be used to relieve a capacity crunch because of rising COVID-19 rates.
Ford said some patients from overcrowded Greater Toronto Area hospitals will be transferred to Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital when it opens on Feb. 7.
The hospital will add 35 new critical care beds and 150 medical beds to the province's bed capacity.
"When we're in the fight of our lives, this incredible, state-of-the-art hospital, it's like reinforcements coming over the hill," he said.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said some Toronto hospitals are already transferring patients to Kingston, Ont,. and Niagara Region to help ease crowding.
The province also said it will spend $125 million to create 500 additional beds to deal with the latest virus surge that could overwhelm hospitals.
"We're looking everywhere we can within the entire system, particularly in the hot spot regions, to create those beds," she said.
A spokeswoman for Ontario's long-term care minister said Monday that the Canadian Red Cross has been deployed to a nursing home in Barrie, Ont., that is struggling with a major COVID-19 outbreak.
Krystle Caputo said 57 residents, 43 staff, and two essential visitors have tested positive for COVID-19 at Roberta Place. Nine residents have died of the virus at the nursing home.
Several nearby hospitals and the local public health unit are also helping to manage the home during the outbreak.
"We remain committed to doing everything we can, along with our partners, to help stabilize the home and have it return to normal operations,” Caputo said in a statement.
A clinic dedicated to administering COVID-19 vaccines opened in a Toronto convention centre on Monday. City officials said the "proof-of-concept" clinic will help Ontario's Ministry of Health test and adjust the setup of immunization clinics in non-hospital settings.
The clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is in the downtown core, aims to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city noted that is entirely dependent upon vaccine supply.
Pfizer-BioNTech, which manufactures one of the two Health Canada-approved vaccines, announced last week that it was temporarily delaying international shipments of the shots while it upgraded production facilities in Europe.
The Ontario government has said that will affect the province's vaccine distribution plan, and some people will see their booster shots delayed by several weeks.
5:04 p.m.: Manitoba health officials say the province has enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to honour all existing appointments and to start booking new ones.
Dr. Joss Reimer, a member of the provincial vaccine committee, says Manitoba is to receive about 28,000 fewer doses over the next four weeks.
That's because Pfizer-BioNTech is cutting back on promised deliveries as it works to expand production.
Manitoba temporarily stopped booking new appointments on the weekend, but Reimer says bookings are to start again Tuesday, and there's room for about 4,000 new appointments this week and next.
Manitoba's chief public health officer is reporting 118 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths.
Dr. Brent Roussin says the province's COVID-19 numbers are heading in the right direction, but any easing of restrictions on businesses and public gatherings will be done prudently.
"We're going to start our reopening process. We need to do it in a continuous fashion, in a cautious fashion," Roussin said Monday.
"We don't want to have openings and then require closures again if our numbers get high, so we're going to do so very cautiously."
The province's current set of public health orders, which includes tight restrictions on non-essential store openings and public gatherings, expires Friday.
The government put up an online survey last week to ask people what rules they would like to see eased, and Roussin said he'll outline some details Tuesday.
4:30 p.m. Dr. Lisa Salamon has long known that Scarborough was hurtling towards a deadly second wave.
At Scarborough Health Network, where she works in the emergency department, intensive care units have been filling with COVID-19 patients since September. While other hospitals have only recently hit capacity issues, SHN first started offloading patients in November. Positivity rates at the hospital are hovering around 20 per cent or higher — and have been for weeks.
But nothing prepared Salamon for what she saw on a recent shift. “It was the most difficult shift of my career,” she said. “The patients were so sick.
“I just felt like everyone around was dying, or had died.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Jennifer Yang: ‘The most difficult shift of my career.’ A Scarborough ER doctor describes work at the hospital some call Ontario’s COVID ‘ground zero’
3:35 p.m. A distribution workplace in Caledon is in week 13 of a COVID-19 outbreak, with a cumulative total of 178 employees testing positive for the virus since it began.
The outbreak that began on Oct. 15, 2020, has seen 22 new cases since the data was updated last week.
According to Peel Region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, “the majority of these cases are resolved.”
A workplace outbreak is when two or more people test positive for COVID-19 “with an epidemiological link in the workplace (e.g., same work area) within a 14 day period.”
There is also an outbreak at another Caledon distribution workplace, and one at a manufacturing/industrial workplace.
3:14 p.m. Hospitals in Ontario have received a triage protocol that lays out the criteria to be used if intensive care units fill up and medical resources are scarce.
The memo by the province's critical care COVID-19 command centre says patients will be scored on a short-term mortality risk assessment that assigns a percentage to the odds a patient will live a year.
It says patients who have a high likelihood of dying within a year will be lower priority and may not receive treatment at all if ICUs are full.
The document also says random selection for life-saving care could also be used if there is no difference in score when ICUs are overwhelmed.
The province warned last week that ICUs could be full by mid-February.
Several ICUs in Toronto-area hospitals are already transferring patients to other hospitals to help ease the burden.
3:10 p.m. Prince Edward Island is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 today.
Three of the infections are linked to travel outside Atlantic Canada while the fourth case is a close contact of a previously reported case.
Prince Edward Island has 10 active reported COVID-19 infections.
The province has identified a total of 108 infections since the start of the pandemic.
2:40 p.m. Health officials are reporting 290 new COVID-19 infections in Saskatchewan.
The province says four more residents have died from the virus, all of whom were 60 and older.
Federal data shows Saskatchewan has the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada.
There are 210 people in hospital, with 30 people in intensive care.
As of Monday, the province reports having administered more than 22,000 vaccine shots.
2:37 p.m. Weeks after COVID-19 swept through the Toronto South Detention Centre, jails in Milton and Thunder Bay are reporting several positive inmate and staff cases.
As of the latest available numbers from last week there were 14 inmate cases at the Thunder Bay jail.
As of Saturday, at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, there were four inmate cases and five staff cases, prompting staff concerns about unsafe work conditions, inadequate PPE and a lack of contact tracing to prevent further spread within the workplace and community. According a message sent out by the union on Monday seen by the Star, the case count had grown to seven inmates and eight staff, the majority tied to a single unit.
In an interview Sunday, Peter Figliola, the president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 234, which represents correctional officers at Maplehurst, said there needs to be more transparency about where the positive cases are so that appropriate contact tracing and self-isolation can occur.
Read the full story from the Star’s Alyshah Hasham: Positive COVID-19 cases are reported in jails in Milton and Thunder Bay
2:30 p.m. At current rates of infection in Toronto, the number of COVID-19 patients could swamp ICU capacity before the end of January, the city’s medical officer of health warned Monday.
Speaking at a board of health meeting, Dr. Eileen de Villa said Toronto has topped 75,000 cases since the epidemic began. The reproductive rate is currently at 1.01 per cent, meaning the outbreak remains in growth mode locally.
This is despite the fact that mobility data from Jan. 3-9 shows residents seemed to be responding to public health appeals to remain indoors — they are staying home at levels close to March 2020 lockdown levels.
“It will take time to bring this down,” said de Villa, referring to the reproductive rate, and adding that there is a lag between new behaviours and infection rates.
Read the full story from the Star’s Francine Kopun: Toronto to see up to 80 per cent drop in vaccine deliveries due to production slowdown, public health chief warns
2:29 p.m. At least three provinces are now temporarily delaying or pausing COVID-19 vaccination programs amid fallout from Pfizer's decision to reduce Canada's vaccine deliveries over the next month.
More than half a million Canadians have been vaccinated against COVID-19 thus far, and more than 822,000 doses of the two approved vaccines have been delivered from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
But all provinces are being forced to revisit their vaccination programs after Pfizer suddenly told Canada on Friday morning it would be cutting the doses delivered in half over the next four weeks, while it upgrades its factory in Belgium. Pfizer was to ship 735,150 doses to Canada between Jan. 18 and Feb. 14.
Canada's deliveries after the partial pause will be bigger than previously expected so Pfizer can fulfil its contract to deliver four million doses by the end of March.
About 600,000 doses have been delivered from Pfizer so far.
The new delivery schedule has not yet been posted publicly, but provinces are preparing for the temporary downturn anyway.
Manitoba stopped making appointments for first doses Friday but will honour appointments already made.
Ontario's chief medical officer Dr. David Williams said Saturday his province would delay giving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 42 days, instead of the recommended 21 days. The 28-day schedule for Moderna's vaccine will remain intact, said Williams.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday his province has "quite simply run out of supply" of COVID-19 vaccines and is no longer making appointments for people to get their first doses.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said his province is considering whether to adjust the dosing schedule. B.C. had already changed the 21-day second-dose schedule to 35 days, but Dix said that may change again because of the delivery shortages.
2:15 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 today.
Health officials say the number of active cases has also fallen to 25 from 29 yesterday.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang notes that it's the second time this month the province has reported no new cases but it's not a sign that the virus is no longer in the province.
Strang is urging the public to continue to follow public health measures.
2:05 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting 26 new cases of COVID-19 today.
There are now 304 active reported cases in the province, including one person in hospital with the disease.
As of today, 10,436 doses of vaccine have been administered in New Brunswick and 7,339 people have received two doses.
The province has reported 973 infections since the start of the pandemic and 12 COVID-19 related deaths.
1:45 p.m. Manitoba health officials are announcing 118 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths.
Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief public health officer, says case numbers have been dropping, but Manitoba is not out of the woods yet.
He says the province is looking at easing some restrictions in the coming days, but any changes will be done cautiously.
1:38 p.m. Ontario is in discussions with Ottawa to get two field hospitals to help with COVID-19, says Health Minister Christine Elliott.
1:30 p.m. Ontario has cleared the way for hospitals to redeploy staff to other hospitals where needed and to retirement homes if necessary, Health Minister Christine Elliott announced. This in addition to previously allowing transfers to nursing homes. Ontario has also earmarked $125 million to create 500 new hospital beds in Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa, Durham and Kingston to help with influx of COVID-19 patients. This includes the beds at the new Cortellucci Hospital in Vaughan.
1:05 p.m. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his province is putting a pause on administering the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines because of the uncertainty about when more doses will start arriving in large numbers.
Kenney says he is "deeply disappointed" by pharmaceutical company Pfizer's decision to cut back on promised deliveries of vaccine doses to Canada over the next four weeks, especially now that the expected slowdown for deliveries to Europe has been resolved.
Pfizer is trying to double its production of vaccine doses to two billion this year and is planning to temporarily curb production at its Belgian facility to make upgrades that will allow for that increase.
Canada appears right now to be the only country that will suffer from the decision for more than a week.
Pfizer told Europe Friday that delays to its dose deliveries would end Jan. 25, while Canada expects to be affected until mid-February.
A Pfizer spokeswoman says there will be an update on Canada's situation later today.
11:55 a.m. Backers of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V say it has been approved in Turkmenistan, an ex-Soviet nation in Central Asia that hasn’t officially reported any infections so far.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the development of the shot announced Monday that health officials in Turkmenistan approved Sputnik V “under the emergency use authorization procedure.” It wasn’t immediately clear whether Russia would ship the vaccine to Turkmenistan any time soon.
The vaccine is still undergoing advanced studies among tens of thousands of people needed to ensure its safety and effectiveness. Nevertheless, the shot last month was rolled out in a large-scale vaccination campaign in Russia. It has also received regulatory approval in several other countries, and immunization with Sputnik V has started in Belarus and Argentina.
Turkmenistan, a gas-rich nation of 5.9 million, hasn’t reported any coronavirus infections, but authorities have shut restaurants and non-food stores and recommended that the population wears masks to protect against dust and unspecified infectious agents. However, the British ambassador to the capital, Ashgabat, said last month that he had contracted the virus.
11:32 a.m. Quebec is reporting 1,634 new COVID-19 cases and 32 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.
Authorities say today’s numbers include about 200 infections that were left out of Sunday’s tally due to a transmission delay.
Hospitalizations had been dropping for three consecutive days until today, when officials reported a rise of 31 patients, for a total of 1,491, and a rise of two people in intensive care, to 217.
Quebec has reported 244,348 infections and 9,087 deaths linked to the virus since the start of the pandemic.
11:01 a.m. Quebec high school students are back in the classroom today after a month-long layoff imposed by the government to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
All students are required to wear procedural masks inside high school buildings and the government is providing each student two masks per day.
Premier Francois Legault closed primary and high schools on Dec. 17 and extended the winter break; primary school students returned to in-person learning last Monday.
Quebec is reopening schools despite imposing a provincewide curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. until at least Feb. 8. and despite ordering most businesses deemed non-essential closed.
Legault has said schools aren’t primary drivers of COVID-19 transmission and that the benefits to children of keeping them open outweigh the risks of contagion.
A recent study by a group of researchers, including from the Universite de Montreal, indicated schools were, in fact, a significant vector of transmission in the community.
10:30 a.m. A long-term care home in Woodbridge, Ont., and a local hospital have agreed to a voluntary management contract.
Mackenzie Health in Richmond Hill, Ont., will provide enhanced support to Villa Leonardo Gambin, according to the Ministry of Long-Term Care.
The voluntary management contract will be in effect for 90 days as the facility grapples with a COVID-19 outbreak.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health says there are 15 confirmed cases of the virus among its residents and 13 staff members.
Twenty-one residents at the home have died during the current outbreak.
The Ministry of Long-Term Care says that if necessary, the voluntary management contract can be extended beyond its initial 90-day term.
10:09 a.m. Toronto surpassed 75,000 cases of COVID-19 today, according to Dr. Eileen de Villa. There are 892 new cases Monday. The COVID-19 reproductive number is 1.05, mean the epidemic will continue to grow, says Dr. de Villa, at a Board of Health meeting. Current projections suggest Toronto will surpass ICU capacity before the end of January. Mobility data between Jan. 3 and 9 indicates people have finally gotten the message and are staying at home at levels close to March 2020 lockdown levels, says de Villa.
9:56 a.m. Ontario is reporting another 2,578 COVID-19 cases Monday with 24 deaths, according to its latest report released Monday.
The seven-day average is down to 3,035 cases daily, or 146 weekly per 100,000.
The labs are reporting 40,301 completed tests with a 6.6 per cent positivity rate.
Locally, there are 815 new cases in Toronto, 507 in Peel, 151 in York Region, 151 in Niagara and 121 in Hamilton.
The province is reporting another 27 deaths in long-term care. This data is self-reported by the long-term care homes to the Ministry of Long-Term Care. Daily case and death figures may not immediately match the numbers posted by the local public health units due to lags in reporting time.
Read more from the Star’s Zena Salem: Ontario reports 24 more deaths, 2,578 of COVID-19 new cases including 815 in Toronto
9:20 a.m. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the annual pace of housing starts in December fell compared with November.
CMHC says the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts for all areas in Canada, excluding Kelowna, B.C., fell 12.2 per cent in December from November.
The December survey was not conducted in Kelowna due to the pandemic.
The annual pace of urban starts fell 12.8 per cent in December as urban starts of apartments, condos and other types of multiple-unit housing projects dropped 15.1 per cent. Single-detached urban starts fell 5.5 per cent.
Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 22,373 units.
Despite the drop in December, CMHC says the six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts climbed to 239,052 units for the final month of 2020, up from 236,334 in November.
9:12 a.m. The new Vaughan Cortellucci Hospital at Jane Street and Major MacKenzie Drive is expected to be redeployed and open Feb. 7 to function as a surge facility, a COVID-care hospital that other sites can send their overflow patients to.
Early information indicates the hospital will have 180 dedicated COVID-19 beds including 35 ICU beds; the emergency centre will not open as an emergency unit. Premier Doug Ford is expected to make the announcement in Vaughan this afternoon.
9:05 a.m. Expect the pandemic to cause “RRSP season” to play out a bit differently this year.
To be sure, the financial rules around making tax-advantaged contributions haven’t changed. Canadians commonly use the lead-up to the annual RRSP contribution deadline as a time to review their investments and top-up tax-advantaged savings. This year the deadline for making an RRSP contribution that can be applied to your 2020 tax return is March 2.
But your best choice on what to do depends on where you stand in the COVID economy. If you’ve been earning a fairly good salary from a secure job but are stuck at home with limited opportunities to spend it, then this might be a golden opportunity to load up your RRSP with a pile of tax-advantaged retirement savings. On the other hand, if your income has suffered or your job security is uncertain, then it might be better to keep what money you have closer-to-hand in a TFSA.
Read the full story from the Star’s David Aston
9:02 a.m. If you received any COVID-19 benefits from the government during 2020, chances are you’re wondering how they will affect your tax filing and return.
Here are three tax experts with advice on how to prepare for the upcoming tax season, and what to expect if you received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit or the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.
Read the full story from Rosa Saba
8:26 a.m. A year into the pandemic, it’s not just frigid air and dark days that have got people down.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, and orders to stay at home, this year might seem particularly blue.
So, is this third Monday of January — “Blue Monday” — the epitome of doom and gloom?
The Star spoke with Dr. Katy Kamkar, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and wellness coach Kasandra Monid, the founder of ThinkLife Coaching, about what you can do to avoid having the bluest Monday yet.
Read the full story from the Star’s Manuela Vega
7:55 a.m. An enforcement blitz that uncovered numerous violations of COVID-19 prevention protocols across big-box retailers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas will broaden its scope to include the rest of the province in the weeks ahead, the province’s labour minister said Sunday.
Monte McNaughton said the initial wave of inspectors combing retailers for those eschewing masks and ignoring physical distancing guidelines found only 70 per cent of sites they visited were adhering to the public health measures intended to curb the spread of the virus. He called the results disappointing, pledging to expand the enforcement efforts to other parts of the province as well as additional industries at risk from COVID-19 outbreaks.
“We’ll be expanding that in the days and weeks to come across the whole province,” McNaughton said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to continue targeting bad actors and we’ll continue issuing fines and close them down if we have to.”
The initial blitz involved 50 inspectors fanning out across Toronto, Hamilton and surrounding municipalities to observe the scene at multiple big-box retailers, which are among the businesses allowed to keep their doors open under Ontario’s current stay-at-home order.
McNaughton said big-box stores would remain a key target during the provincewide expansion. The ministry issued a document late last week saying inspections would also involve workplaces which reported COVID-19 outbreaks and businesses focused on manufacturing, warehousing, distribution centres and food processing.
Word of the expansion comes amid growing pressure to quell soaring COVID-19 case counts across Ontario, which showed little sign of abating over the weekend.
7:48 a.m. The race director of the men’s World Cup will miss the biggest race in skiing after testing positive for COVID-19.
The International Ski Federation says Markus Waldner is self-isolating ahead of the Hahnenkamm races this weekend in Kitzbühel, Austria.
FIS says Waldner tested positive while overseeing slalom races in Flachau, Austria.
Kitzbühel’s schedule changed after an outbreak of virus cases at Switzerland’s signature men’s venue Wengen last week. Kitzbühel will now host an extra downhill on Friday to replace Wengen’s main race.
7:14 a.m. As positive tests for COVID-19 have increased across York Region in recent weeks, one grocery store has been particularly hard hit.
The Fortinos located at 8585 Hwy. 27 in Vaughan has had 14 employees test positive for COVID-19 recently, according to York Region Public Health.
Of the 14 cases, public health said 10 are York Region residents. Regional spokesperson, Patrick Casey, said regional staff have been in touch with the grocery store and say the location is stable with no evidence of workplace transmission.
“With widespread community transmission in York Region, everyone needs to take precautions when making essential trips in the community,” Casey said.
The same location had 4 employees test positive for COVID-19 within 10 days in November.
A spokesperson for Loblaws said at this point, most of those cases are more than two weeks old, and are considered to be resolved. Of the remaining 4 cases, they were last in the store between January 2-5.
7 a.m.: Studies have suggested previous COVID-19 infections may result in promising levels of immunity to the virus, leading to questions of whether those who’ve already recovered from the disease still need a vaccine.
And is there urgency to inoculate them, or can they move to the back of the vaccination line?
Experts say a vaccine will likely offer the safest bet for longer-term protection, meaning those with previous infections should still get them. And prior COVID illness shouldn’t determine someone’s place in the queue.
The exact level of immunity acquired from a natural infection is yet to be fully determined, says Dr. Andre Veillette, a professor of medicine at McGill who’s also on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine task force.
It may be that protection begins to wane quicker in some people, or that those with previous mild infections aren’t as protected as someone who had more severe symptoms, he says. Still others may think they’ve had a COVID-19 infection but can’t be sure if they didn’t get tested at the time.
6:30 a.m.: Educators have raised safety concerns about special needs students being back in the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some parents are saying that their kids need the support.
Read the full story from the Star’s Olivia Bowden here.
6:30 a.m.: A “total rethink” of the design and function of long-term-care facilities and nursing homes in Ontario is urgently needed to fight the spread of diseases like COVID-19, says a Toronto expert in the industry.
Irka Dyczok, whose firm DesignFarm creates designs for retirement homes and long-term-care facilities, says the price tag to make the changes involves capital funding — everything from the creation of wings that house fewer residents — but staffing and operations are also key.
“It’s obvious things aren’t working right now,” says Dyczok, referring to the shocking daily death rates in seniors homes across Ontario.
Read the full story from the Star’s Donovan Vincent here.
6:09 a.m.: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed Monday to get the pandemic under control and hold the already postponed Olympics this summer with ample coronavirus protection.
In a speech opening a new Parliament session, Suga said his government would revise laws to make anti-virus measures enforceable with penalties and compensation.
Early in the pandemic, Japan was able to keep its virus caseload manageable with non-binding requests for businesses to close or operate with social distancing and for people to stay home. But recent weeks have seen several highs in new cases per day, in part blamed on eased attitudes toward the anti-virus measures, and doubts are growing as more contagious variants spread while people wait for vaccines and the Olympics draw closer.
Suga said his government aims to start vaccinations as early as late February.
6:09 a.m.: A Chinese province grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases is reinstating tight restrictions on weddings, funerals and other family gatherings, threatening violators with criminal charges.
The notice from the high court in Hebei province did not give specifics, but said all types of social gatherings were now being regulated to prevent further spread of the virus.
Hebei has had one of China’s most serious outbreaks in months and it comes amid measures to curb the further spread during February’s Lunar New Year holiday.
Authorities have called on citizens not to travel, ordered schools closed a week early and conducted testing on a massive scale.
Hebei recorded another 54 cases over the previous 24 hours, the National Health Commission said on Monday, while the northern province of Jilin reported 30 cases and Heilongjiang further north reported seven.
Beijing had two new cases and most buildings and housing compounds now require proof of a negative coronavirus test for entry.
6:08 a.m.: Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved the urgent use of coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, enabling Latin America’s largest nation to begin an immunization program that’s been subject to months of delay and political disputes.
Brazil currently has 6 million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days, and is awaiting the arrival of another 2 million doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and partner Oxford University.
On Saturday night, the health regulator Anvisa rejected an application for use of a Russian vaccine called Sputnik V, submitted by Brazilian company União Química. Anvisa said it didn’t evaluate the application because it didn’t meet minimum requirements to start an analysis.
Vaccination in Brazil is beginning later than neighbours such as Argentina and Chile despite a robust public health system and decades of experience with immunization campaigns. The process to present and approve the COVID-19 vaccines was fraught with conflict, as allies of President Jair Bolsonaro sought to cast doubt on the efficacy of the Sinovac shot backed by his political rival, Sao Paulo state’s Gov. João Doria.
6:08 a.m.: Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain says the coronavirus pandemic will get worse before it gets better, projecting another 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the first five weeks of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union,” Klain said Biden was inheriting a dire situation, saying even with vaccines, “It’s going to take a while to turn this around.”
Biden has set a goal of injecting 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine in his first 100 days in office, a goal Klain said they were on pace to meet.
Klain added he believed there was enough supply of the pair of vaccines currently granted emergency approval to ensure that those who have received their first shot will get the required second.
6:07 a.m.: Coronavirus infections in the Philippines have surged past 500,000 in a new bleak milestone, with the government facing criticism for failing to immediately launch a vaccination program amid a global scramble for COVID-19 vaccines.
The Department of Health reported 1,895 new infections Sunday, bringing confirmed coronavirus cases in the country to 500,577, the second highest in Southeast Asia.
The Philippines has been negotiating with seven Western and Chinese companies to secure vaccines but the effort has been fraught with uncertainties and confusion.
6:07 a.m.: Pakistan has started reopening schools in phases after about two months of closure despite a steady increase in infections and fatalities from the coronavirus.
Wearing masks, children entered schools on Monday with smiles on their faces, as teachers welcomed them back to their classes.
To lower the spread of the virus, students are being kept at a distance from each other in classrooms.
Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood wished good luck to students who return to their classes.
Pakistan has reported 10,997 deaths from the coronavirus among 521,211 cases since February, when the first case was detected in the country.
6:03 a.m.: As new cases of COVID-19 surge across Canada, the federal government and the provinces have been imposing stricter measures to try to limit the illness’s spread.
The Canadian Press interviewed three leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology, asking their thoughts on Canada’s handling of the pandemic, the new restrictions on activities — and what else can be done. Here’s what they had to say.
Read the full story from the Canadian Press here.
6 a.m.: The Edmundston region of New Brunswick is officially in the red alert phase of pandemic precautions.
The move comes a day after the province logged the highest number of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
New Brunswick saw 36 new diagnoses yesterday, with 24 alone in the Edmundston-Grand Falls area.
Red-level rules specify that many businesses will be required to close or to reduce services to essential levels and residents will be asked to stay home in single family bubbles as much as possible, though schools remain open.
Outdoor gatherings are limited to five people or fewer with masks and physical distancing measures in place, while in-person dining at restaurants is prohibited.
5:58 a.m.: A clinic dedicated to administering COVID-19 vaccines opens in a Toronto convention centre today.
City officials say the “proof-of-concept” clinic will help Ontario’s Ministry of Health test and adjust the setup of immunization clinics in non-hospital settings.
The clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is in the downtown core, aims to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city notes that is entirely dependent upon vaccine supply.
Pfizer-BioNTech, which manufactures one of the two Health Canada-approved vaccines, announced last week that it’s temporarily delaying international shipments of the shots while it upgrades production facilities in Europe.
The Ontario government has said that will affect the province’s vaccine distribution plan, and some people will see their booster shots delayed by several weeks.
5:50 a.m.: Albertans will be able to visit hair salons and tattoo parlours today as the province relaxes a few of its COVID-19 restrictions.
Starting today, personal and wellness services, including hair salons and tattoo parlours, can open by appointment only.
Outdoor social gatherings, which were previously banned, will be allowed in groups of up to 10 people.
And the limit on the number of people who can attend funerals is increasing to 20, although receptions are still prohibited.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said last week that Alberta can’t entirely ease up, but that it can make small adjustments to provide Albertans with some limited activities.
4 a.m.: The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 18, 2021.
In Canada, the provinces are reporting 27,451 new vaccinations administered for a total of 570,742 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,505.944 per 100,000.
There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 761,500 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 74.95 per cent of their available vaccine supply.
Ontario: Ontario is reporting 11,007 new vaccinations administered for a total of 200,097 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.622 per 1,000.
There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.22 per cent of its available vaccine supply.
4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 18, 2021.
There are 708,619 confirmed cases in Canada (75,281 active, 615,324 resolved, 18,014 deaths).The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.
There were 6,436 new cases Sunday from 70,499 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 9.1 per cent. The rate of active cases is 200.27 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 47,285 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,755.
There were 149 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 1,001 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 143. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.92 per 100,000 people.
There have been 16,557,083 tests completed.