Today’s coronavirus news: Lockdowns in Toronto, Peel to continue; Hamilton to move into lockdown Monday; Ontario to hold emergency cabinet meeting as
8:28 p.m.: The NHL and players reached a tentative deal to hold 56-game season in 2021, pending approval of each side’s executive board and Canadian health officials
1:15 p.m.: Lockdowns in Toronto, Peel will continue past Monday
10:10 a.m.: Ontario reporting another 2,290 cases, 40 more deaths
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
10:30 p.m.: A liquor licence suspension has been placed on Toronto’s Bar Karma, after it failed to comply with the Reopening Ontario Act.
The Registrar of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)issued an order of “interim suspension” on the bar located at 512 Queen St. W. for “reasons of public interest and safety.”
This comes after Toronto Police responded to a complaint of a noisy party at the bar on the night of Dec. 13.
After gaining access, police found more than 10 people inside, not wearing masks or social distancing. According to police, they also observed alcohol being consumed.
Read the full story here: Bar Karma has liquor licence suspended for not following COVID-19 restrictions
9:32 p.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020.
There are 495,346 confirmed cases in Canada.
_ Canada: 495,346 confirmed cases (75,695 active, 405,611 resolved, 14,040 deaths).The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.
There were 6,708 new cases Friday from 88,821 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 7.6 per cent. The rate of active cases is 201.37 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 46,505 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,644.
There were 124 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 789 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 113. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.3 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 37.35 per 100,000 people.
There have been 12,948,837 tests completed.
_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 372 confirmed cases (27 active, 341 resolved, four deaths).
There were five new cases Friday from 607 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.82 per cent. The rate of active cases is 5.18 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 17 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people.
There have been 69,461 tests completed.
_ Prince Edward Island: 90 confirmed cases (17 active, 73 resolved, zero deaths).
There were zero new cases Friday from 397 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 10.83 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.
There have been 75,421 tests completed.
_ Nova Scotia: 1,443 confirmed cases (48 active, 1,330 resolved, 65 deaths).
There were seven new cases Friday from 904 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.77 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 41 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is six.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people.
There have been 167,239 tests completed.
_ New Brunswick: 573 confirmed cases (53 active, 512 resolved, eight deaths).
There were zero new cases Friday from 370 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 6.82 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 19 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 1.03 per 100,000 people.
There have been 111,512 tests completed.
_ Quebec: 172,801 confirmed cases (17,732 active, 147,398 resolved, 7,671 deaths).
There were 1,773 new cases Friday from 11,165 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 16 per cent. The rate of active cases is 208.98 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,778 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,825.
There were 36 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 236 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 34. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.4 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 90.41 per 100,000 people.
There have been 2,382,661 tests completed.
_ Ontario: 151,257 confirmed cases (17,742 active, 129,417 resolved, 4,098 deaths).
There were 2,290 new cases Friday from 66,014 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 121.8 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14,626 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,089.
There were 40 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 182 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 26. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.18 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 28.13 per 100,000 people.
There have been 6,998,331 tests completed.
_ Manitoba: 22,397 confirmed cases (5,602 active, 16,248 resolved, 547 deaths).
There were 350 new cases Friday from 2,106 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 17 per cent. The rate of active cases is 409.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,005 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 286.
There were 10 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 82 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.86 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 39.94 per 100,000 people.
There have been 389,259 tests completed.
_ Saskatchewan: 13,077 confirmed cases (3,736 active, 9,234 resolved, 107 deaths).
There were 245 new cases Friday from 1,649 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 15 per cent. The rate of active cases is 318.1 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,602 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 229.
There were two new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 32 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.39 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 9.11 per 100,000 people.
There have been 289,625 tests completed.
_ Alberta: 87,581 confirmed cases (19,607 active, 67,159 resolved, 815 deaths).
There were 1,413 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 448.54 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 10,789 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,541.
There were 25 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 131 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 19. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.43 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 18.64 per 100,000 people.
There have been 1,547,298 tests completed.
_ British Columbia: 45,400 confirmed cases (11,087 active, 33,589 resolved, 724 deaths).
There were 624 new cases Friday from 5,523 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 11 per cent. The rate of active cases is 218.62 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,603 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 658.
There were 11 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 126 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.35 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 14.28 per 100,000 people.
There have been 899,338 tests completed.
_ Yukon: 59 confirmed cases (one active, 57 resolved, one death).
There were zero new cases Friday from seven completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.45 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of one new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people.
There have been 5,822 tests completed.
_ Northwest Territories: 24 confirmed cases (nine active, 15 resolved, zero deaths).
There was one new case Friday from 41 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.4 per cent. The rate of active cases is 20.08 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been four new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.
There have been 7,635 tests completed.
_ Nunavut: 259 confirmed cases (34 active, 225 resolved, zero deaths).
There were zero new cases Friday from 38 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 87.67 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.
There have been 5,159 tests completed.
8:28 p.m.: The National Hockey League and players reached a tentative deal Friday to hold a 56-game season in 2021, pending the approval of each side’s executive board and Canadian health officials.
The season would start Jan. 13. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the sides have an agreement, pending the approval of various executive boards.
The NHL Players’ Association’s board is meeting Friday night to discuss, while the league’s Board of Governors could vote on the plan soon. Approval from health officials in the five Canadian provinces that have teams is still needed before the NHL can go ahead with the season.
Training camps for the seven non-playoff games would open Dec. 31 and then Jan. 3 for the other 24 teams. It’s unclear whether teams would play in their home arenas or in “hub” cities, though an all-divisional schedule is expected.
7:49 p.m. The U.S. added a second COVID-19 vaccine to its arsenal Friday, boosting efforts to beat back an outbreak so dire that the nation is regularly recording more than 3,000 deaths a day.
Much-needed doses are set to arrive Monday after the Food and Drug Administration authorized an emergency rollout of the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health.
The move marks the world’s first authorization for Moderna’s shots. The vaccine is very similar to one from Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech that’s now being dispensed to millions of health care workers and nursing home residents as the biggest vaccination drive in U.S. history starts to ramp up.
The two work “better than we almost dared to hope,” NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told The Associated Press. “Science is working here, science has done something amazing.”
Early results of large, still unfinished studies show both vaccines appear safe and strongly protective although Moderna’s is easier to handle since it doesn’t need to be stored at ultra-frozen temperatures.
A second vaccine represents a ray of hope amid despair as the virus continues to spread unabated even before holiday gatherings that are certain to further fuel the outbreak.
The scourge has claimed more than 312,000 U.S. lives and killed 1.7 million people worldwide. New cases in the U.S. are running at over 216,000 per day on average. Deaths per day have hit all-time highs, eclipsing 3,600 on Wednesday.
California has emerged as one of the most lethal hot spots, with hospitals running out of intensive care beds and ambulances lining up outside emergency rooms in scenes reminiscent of the calamity around New York City last spring. California on Friday reported over 41,000 new cases and 300 more deaths.
When New York’s hospitals were in crisis, health care workers from across the country came to help out. This time, “there’s no cavalry coming” because so many hospitals are swamped, said Dr. Marc Futernick, an emergency room physician in Los Angeles.
The nation is scrambling to expand vaccinations as rapidly as Moderna and Pfizer can churn out doses. Moderna’s is for people 18 and older, Pfizer’s starts at age 16.
4:35 p.m. Hamilton is going into lockdown, and Brant and Niagara are moving to red zone, one stage short of lockdown, the Star’s Rob Ferguson reports. All effective Monday. Durham, Halton remain in red zone for now despite calls from some mayors for a GTA-wide lockdown.
Residents of the province can expect more news on wider lockdowns Monday, when Premier Doug Ford said he will reveal more details following an emergency cabinet meeting to take place over the weekend.
“The trends we’re seeing throughout Ontario are very, very concerning,” Ford said Friday as he announced the lockdowns of Toronto and Peel invoked four weeks ago will remain in place, and the number of daily infections stayed above 2,000 for the fourth day in a row, at near-record levels.
Toronto Mayor John Tory and his Mississauga counterpart have been calling on the Province to put the entire GTA in lockdown to stop trips to Durham and Halton for shopping, haircuts and dinners out that can increase spread of the virus.
“We know people are travelling and region-hopping,” said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.
Critics said the lack of detail about what to expect Monday will fuel more such trips discouraged by public health officials along with panic shopping for holiday gifts and food this weekend as consumers fear closures or longer lineups to come.
The Ontario government said it is moving Hamilton into the grey zone effective Monday, The Hamilton Spectator reports.
“In Hamilton, the number of cases and hospitalizations are trending upwards and further action is required to help stop the spread of the virus,” the province said in the release. “The case rate increased by 25.8 per cent, to 103.3 cases per 100,000 people and the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region have more than doubled in the last two weeks. In addition, the positivity rate is well above the high alert threshold and is at 4.2 per cent.”
The announcement comes as Hamilton hit a record 877 active cases Friday.
4:34 p.m. Federal officials say they’re pushing manufacturers to accelerate shipments of more COVID-19 vaccine doses as calls grow to lock down more parts of the country for the holidays, The Canadian Press reports.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is running ahead of schedule in its vaccine rollout, which is set to ramp up next month with scheduled deliveries of 125,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses per week, for a total of 500,000 doses in January, according to CP.
Trudeau told reporters that 200,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive next week. And pending Health Canada approval, he said 168,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine candidate will be shipped by the end of the year.
The federal government is also investing about $9 million through the National Research Council of Canada to support the development of treatments for COVID-19 and other viral infections, Trudeau said. The funding will go to four Canadian companies working on therapies, including two in Montreal and two in Vancouver.
Trudeau warned that vaccines won’t reach the broader population fast enough for a Christmas miracle.
He urged Canadians to limit the size of their holiday celebrations.
“As much as many of us want to see our loved ones this Christmas ... we also want to be able to see them and give them big hugs next Christmas.”
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday that Canada is on track to receive 255,000 doses from Pfizer-BioNTech in December, up from an expected 249,000 doses.
Massachusetts-based biotech firm Moderna also revealed that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is expected to soon be authorized in Canada and the U.S., can now be shipped without it needing to be frozen.
The development looks to ease the logistics of getting the vaccine to remote locations, a Moderna spokeswoman said.
Previously, it was believed the vaccine had to remain frozen to at least -20 C until shortly before use, but the company said it can now safely transport liquid doses as refrigerated at between 2 C and 8 C.
But Anand noted that the new requirements don’t apply to vaccine storage, saying the government is still working to procure freezers to store them once they arrive at their destination, when Health Canada gives the regulatory all-clear.
She said this excess provides a “buffer zone” to account for potential losses that can occur during storage, preparation and injection of the vaccine.
Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada, said the nation’s COVID-19 caseload continues to rise, with an average of more than 6,650 infections reported daily over the past seven days.
The number of people experiencing severe illness is also on the rise, she said, with an average of 4,000 patients being treated in hospital over the past week, including 650 in critical care and 115 deaths reported each day.
Tam said the rapid spread of the virus continues apace in many parts of the country, and she worries the holiday season will only accelerate that trajectory.
“I believe that in many areas of the country, stricter measures should be put in place as soon as possible,” she said.
Ontario is set to reveal new measures Monday as the province extended its lockdowns in two COVID-19 hotspots.
Premier Doug Ford said Friday that restrictions set to expire next week in Toronto and Peel Region will remain in place, and his government will contemplate new measures during emergency talks on COVID-19 this weekend.
Ontario reported 2,290 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 40 new deaths due to the virus.
3:55 p.m. New Brunswick is preparing to vaccinate front-line health-care workers and others against COVID-19 on Saturday, The Canadian Press reports.
The province is the last in the country to begin its vaccination campaign. It plans to inoculate 1,950 workers with their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, to be followed by a second shot three weeks later.
2:30 p.m.: New Brunswick’s health minister says there is excitement and anticipation as public health officials prepare to vaccinate frontline health-care workers against COVID-19 on Saturday.
Dorothy Shephard says the vaccine clinics are the start of a new path to recovery from the pandemic.
The province, the last in the country to begin its vaccination campaign, plans to inoculate 1,950 workers with their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, to be followed by a second shot three weeks later.
Meanwhile the province has accepted an offer from the owner of a bluefin tuna exporting company in eastern Prince Edward Island to loan New Brunswick two freezers for storage of the vaccine, which has to be kept frozen below -70 C.
2:15 p.m. (updated): Vice-President Mike Pence became the highest ranking U.S. official to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday in a live-television event aimed at reassuring Americans the shot is safe. He celebrated the milestone as “a medical miracle” that could eventually contain the raging pandemic.
Conspicuously missing from the victory lap: President Donald Trump, who has remained largely out of sight five days into the largest vaccination campaign in the nation’s history.
Pence, meanwhile, has taken an increasingly visible role in highlighting the safety and efficacy of the shots, including touring a vaccine production facility this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also received COVID-19 vaccinations Friday. And President-elect Joe Biden and his wife will be getting the vaccine Monday, while Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband are set to receive it the week after next.
2:05 p.m.: Four COVID-19 cases are now reported in staff at a prison in Kingston, Ont., where 80 inmates tested positive.
Correctional Service Canada says the employees work at Joyceville Institution, where a major outbreak was declared Thursday.
The outbreak has been linked to eight cases at two other prisons in Ontario.
The federal agency has suspended all in-person visits at its facilities in the province.
Prison authorities say all employees are actively screened for COVID-19 before entering the institutions.
They say all staff and inmates have been offered testing.
1:35 p.m.: Manitoba health officials are reporting 350 new COVID-19 cases and 10 additional deaths.
Dr. Jazz Atwal, the province’s acting deputy chief public health officer, says hospitalization rates remain high.
He is urging people to avoid any non-essential travel over the holidays.
1:25 p.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting seven new cases of COVID-19 today and now has 48 active cases.
All the new cases are in the Halifax area.
Health officials say five of the cases are close contacts of previously reported cases, while the other two are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.
No one is currently in hospital.
1:25 p.m.: A high volume of online applications for the British Columbia COVID-19 recovery benefit has slowed the process.
Some users have reported getting an error on the site when making their application for the benefit of up to $1,000.
A Finance Ministry spokeswoman says there were about 2,500 applications in the first few minutes of the site opening on Friday, but the page hasn’t crashed and those applying are being urged to be patient.
Finance Minister Selina Robinson has asked the public to be respectful to staff at a Service BC call centre as they help people apply for the benefit, which was promised by the NDP during the election campaign.
Families, including single parents, with an annual income under $125,000 last year can expect to receive $1,000 while those earning up to $175,000 qualify for a reduced amount.
Single people earning an income under $62,500 have been promised $500 and those who earned up to $87,500 qualify for less than that.
An estimated 90 per cent of adults in the province are eligible for the benefit, and applications will be accepted until June.
Applicants for the benefit must be at least 19 years old by Dec. 18 unless they are the primary caregiver of a child or living with a spouse.
1:15 p.m. (updated): Ontario is extending lockdowns in Toronto and Peel Region that are currently set to expire on Monday.
Premier Doug Ford says restrictions in those two hot spots will continue and his government will make an announcement about new measures on Monday afternoon.
He says that will come after the government holds an emergency meeting on COVID-19 over the weekend.
Ford made the comments on his way into a meeting with health officials and hospital leaders today regarding the province’s surging infections.
Those talks are coming amid calls from hospitals, doctors and nurses for stricter lockdowns in hard-hit regions.
The province is considering new measures but Ford has offered few details about what those might be.
Ontario reported 2,290 new cases of COVID-19 and 40 new deaths due to the virus.
1 p.m.: Canada’s chief public health officer says recent data suggesting opioid-related deaths are at an all-time high is a sobering reminder of how the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the overdose crisis.
Dr. Theresa Tam says there were more than 1,600 opioid-related deaths in Canada between April and June, the highest number recorded in a quarter since national surveillance began in 2016.
Tam says prior to the pandemic’s onset, some parts of the country were seeing early signs that opioid-related deaths were on the decline, but the COVID-19 crisis seems to have reversed those gains.
She says Canada’s COVID-19 caseload is also on the rise, with an average of more than 6,650 infections reported per day over the past week.
12:50 p.m.: Ontario provided details on Friday about the 17 hospitals that will be distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.
The facilities, which include hospitals from Windsor to Thunder Bay, Ont., will join the University Health Network in Toronto and the Ottawa Hospital in giving the vaccine to health-care workers.
The hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa began administering the shots Monday, and the government said Friday that they have given over 2,300 doses to health-care workers thus far.
The province expects to receive an additional 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of the month.
12:45 p.m.: Health Minister Christian Dube is imploring Quebecers to limit their social contacts as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to rise.
COVID-related hospitalizations in Quebec have risen 50 per cent in the past three weeks, for a total of 1,011. The number of patients in intensive care rose by seven compared with Thursday, to 141.
Dube said today in a statement that Quebecers need to make an effort to lessen the burden on the health-care network by reducing their contacts, despite the upcoming holidays.
Quebec reported 1,773 new COVID-19 cases today and 36 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, five of which occurred in the past 24 hours.
12:30 p.m.: The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is calling on the Saskatchewan government to consult with First Nations before shutting down casinos.
Premier Scott Moe announced a new public health order to close casinos and bingo halls starting Saturday until at least mid-January.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron says Indigenous communities benefit from the revenue made at casinos operated by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority
Cameron says the organization’s seven casinos already have strict safety protocols in place and their closures could have a lasting impact on communities.
12:25 p.m.: The U.S. stood on the verge of adding a second COVID-19 vaccine to its arsenal Friday as the outbreak descended deeper into its most lethal phase yet, with the nation regularly recording over 3,000 deaths per day.
The Food and Drug Administration was evaluating a shot developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health and was expected to give it the green light soon, clearing the way for its use to begin as early as Monday.
That would give the U.S. a critical new weapon against the coronavirus in addition to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine now being dispensed to millions of health care workers and nursing home patients as part of the biggest vaccination drive in U.S. history.
11:45 a.m.: More than 13,000 people in Puerto Rico have received the COVID-19 vaccine since the first dose was administered earlier this week, with the U.S. territory expecting tens of thousands of additional vaccines to arrive in upcoming weeks, officials said Friday.
Dr. Iris Cardona, sub-secretary of Puerto Rico’s Health Department, said some 21,400 Pfizer vaccines will be delivered weekly for the next four to six weeks. If the Moderna vaccine is approved, she said the island will receive the first 47,500 doses next week of a total of 60,400 requested.
So far, officials have delivered nearly 30,000 Pfizer vaccine doses to hospitals across the island this week, with only a couple of hundred doses withheld because they didn’t come with the solution required to dilute them. Cardona said the problem resulted from a distribution chain error.
11:20 a.m.: Public Health officials in New Brunswick reported no new cases of COVID-19 today.
There have been eight deaths and the number of active cases is 52.
Three patients are hospitalized of which two are in intensive care.
This weekend 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be administered in Miramichi to priority groups.
11:15 a.m.: There are no new cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut today.
There are 34 active cases in the territory, all in Arviat.
To date, 225 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Nunavut.
11:10 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 1,773 new COVID-19 cases and 36 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including five that occurred in the past 24 hours.
Health officials say hospitalizations rose by nine, to 1,011, and 141 people were in intensive care, a rise of seven.
The province says it inoculated another 896 people for a total of 3,305 since the campaign began on Monday.
Quebec has reported a total of 172,801 COVID-19 infections and 7,671 deaths linked to the virus.
10:50 a.m.: In Ontario’s long-term care homes, 757 residents currently have COVID-19 and 11 new deaths have been reported today.
The province says 139 of its 626 long-term care homes are experiencing an outbreak.
10:40 a.m.: Ontario is reporting an additional 133 cases in public schools across the province, bringing the total in the last two weeks to 1,833 and 7,151 overall since school began.
In its latest data released Friday morning, the province reported 111 more students were infected for a total of 1,529 in the last two weeks; since school began there have been an overall total of 4,996.
The data shows there are 22 more staff members infected for a total of 297 the last two weeks — and an overall total of 1,060.
There are 957 schools with a reported case, which the province notes is 19.82 per cent of the 4,828 public schools in Ontario.
Twenty-two schools were closed because of an outbreak. The data doesn’t indicate where they are but it does note that all schools in the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit area are currently closed for in-person learning.
There is a lag between the daily provincial data at 10:30 a.m. and news reports about infections in schools. The provincial data on Friday is current as of 2 p.m. Thursday. It doesn’t indicate where the place of transmission occurred.
The Toronto District School Board updates its information on current COVID-19 cases throughout the day on its website. As of 8 a.m. on Friday, there were 448 students infected, 97 staff and 833 resolved cases.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board also updates its information on its website. As of 9:25 a.m. Friday, there were 75 schools with at least one active case. There are 115 active student cases and 23 staff.
Epidemiologists have told the Star that the rising numbers in the schools aren’t a surprise, and that the cases will be proportionate to the amount of COVID in the community.
In an exclusive story Thursday night, the Star’s Kristin Rushowy reported that Ontario’s asymptomatic COVID-19 school testing program has so far found 57 cases after more than 3,600 tests in hot spots in Toronto, York, Peel and Ottawa.
Almost half of those COVID cases were at one Toronto school, Thorncliffe Park Public School, which closed earlier this month after 26 were uncovered through the voluntary testing introduced by the government late last month.
The province is awaiting results on an additional 890 swabs, for a total of 4,544 tests conducted.
That means that so far, the positivity rate is less than two per cent, said a government source.
“It underscores what doctors have said all along: students aren’t getting COVID-19 in schools, they bring it into schools from the community,” said the source.
10:22 a.m.: American biotech firm Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine can now be shipped locally without it needing to be frozen at all.
The messenger RNA vaccine from the Massachusetts-based company is on the verge of being authorized for use in Canada and could be approved for use in the United States as early as today.
Until now, it was believed the vaccine had to remain frozen to at least -20 C until shortly before use, but the company says it can now safely transport liquid doses as refrigerated at between 2 C and 8 C.
A Moderna spokeswoman says this makes the logistics easier of getting the vaccine to remote locations.
Moderna was already considered less risky to ship than a similar vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech, which must be kept frozen between -60 C and -80 C, and Canada is planning to send it to the territories, remote Indigenous communities and for use at long-term care homes.
Health Canada’s review team is still waiting for final data on Moderna’s manufacturing process before making its decision but the company plans to start shipping the first 168,000 doses within 48 hours of getting the green light.
10:10 a.m.: Ontario is reporting another 2,290 COVID-19 cases and 40 more deaths.
The seven-day average is up to a record 2,089 cases daily, or 100 weekly per 100,000, the Star’s Ed Tubb reports.
Locally, Toronto has 691 new cases, Peel (361), York (296), Windsor-Essex (207), Hamilton (126) and Durham (89).
There were 68,246 completed tests, with 3.9 per cent positivity; tests “under investigation” are at 81,235.
10 a.m. (updated): The latest surge in COVID-19 cases and pressures from the medical community for wider and stricter lockdowns have prompted Premier Doug Ford to convene an “emergency” meeting with hospital leaders Friday afternoon.
It comes exactly one week before Christmas and follows four months of increasing spread of the virus as the second wave arrived, from fewer than 100 cases daily in mid-August to 2,432 on Thursday, when the seven-day moving average was almost 9 per cent higher than the same point last week.
Infection levels have continued to climb despite a number of interventions by the province through increased public health restrictions — which several medical groups and doctors and epidemiologists outside the government have repeatedly criticized as not aggressive enough.
Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson.
9:30 a.m.: As French President Emmanuel Macron rides out the coronavirus in a presidential retreat at Versailles, critics on Friday called out slip-ups in his virus-prevention behaviour, from a close-quarters handshake to repeated big-group meals over the past week.
A fellow European leader who spent time with Macron at an EU summit last week, Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic, tested positive for the virus Friday. Some other leaders present at the summit reported testing negative, while some were not getting tested and others haven’t yet announced results from their tests.
In France, Macron faced criticism for actions that were seen as setting a bad example as the country sees a new uptick in confirmed cases and doctors warn families to take precautions this holiday season — especially at the dinner table.
9:20 a.m.: One in every five state and federal prisoners in the United States has tested positive for the coronavirus, a rate more than four times as high as the general population. In some states, more than half of prisoners have been infected, according to data collected by The Associated Press and The Marshall Project.
As the pandemic enters its 10th month — and as the first Americans begin to receive a long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine — at least 275,000 prisoners have been infected, more than 1,700 have died and the spread of the virus behind bars shows no sign of slowing. New cases in prisons this week reached their highest level since testing began in the spring, far outstripping previous peaks in April and August.
“That number is a vast undercount,” said Homer Venters, the former chief medical officer at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex.
8:24 a.m.: U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence was vaccinated for COVID-19 on Friday in a live-television event aimed at reassuring Americans the vaccine is safe.
In remarks after his shot, Pence called the speed with which the vaccine was developed “a medical miracle.”
“The American people can be confident: we have one and perhaps within hours two” safe vaccines,” Pence said, referring to expected FDA approval for Moderna’s vaccine. Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine was the first to be approved.
“Building confidence in the vaccine is what brings us here this morning,” he added.
Pence’s wife Karen and Surgeon General Jerome Adams also received shots during the televised White House event.
8:16 a.m.: As the end of a roughly 28-day lockdown in Peel nears, the region’s top doctor said he’s not anticipating an easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s medical officer of health, said at a Dec. 16 press conference that the benefits of the lockdown are only now starting to appear and that COVID-19 cases across Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga “seem to be reaching a plateau but our hospital picture is yet to stabilize.”
“I’d be very surprised if there was a loosening of measures at this point in time,” he said.
Hospitals in Mississauga and Brampton have started transferring patients following a recent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations and, as of Dec. 17, Trillium Health Partners has begun to reduce elective surgeries.
Peel was ordered into lockdown by the province starting Nov. 23 for a period of at least 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods.
Read the full story here.
8:14 a.m.: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says shipments of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine will begin this weekend if the FDA grants emergency use authorization as expected on Friday.
“Trucks will roll, planes will fly this weekend, 5.9 million doses of Moderna vaccine allocated for next week,” Azar told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday.
Azar said the Moderna vaccine is “shockingly effective” and he expected to get vaccinated next week, if the White House physician cleared him to do so. Azar’s wife has tested positive for COVID-19 and he is quarantining at the moment.
Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams are getting vaccinated on live TV Friday morning.
8:13 a.m.: Germany’s health minister urged for patience on Friday as the country prepares to start vaccinating people against COVID-19, saying those most at risk should be immunized first.
Jens Spahn said people in nursing homes would be the first to receive shots on Dec. 27, when Germany expects to roll out the vaccine.
About half of all Germany’s nearly 25,000 COVID-19 deaths were in people over 80 years of age, many of them in nursing homes.
Shortly after that, others in the top priority category will be able to get vaccinated, including medical staff working in critical care. Others, including police officers and teachers won’t receive the vaccine until later.
Spahn said Germany, a country of 83 million, expects to receive 11-13 million vaccine doses during the first quarter of 2021, but that the number can rise if further vaccines are approved by regulators.
8 a.m.: At least half of the attendees at a private birthday party in Vaughan have contracted COVID-19.
York Region Public Health is investigating a party held in a private residence Sunday, Dec. 6 that led to 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases — nine residents from York Region and two from the City of Toronto.
Those who tested positive range in age from three years to 54 years of age.
A total of 22 people attended the party at a time when York Region was under Red-Control Zone restrictions limiting indoor gatherings to five people.
“That’s an attack rate of almost 50 per cent and serves to remind others planning to break rules over Christmas that this virus enters rather surreptitiously and claims victims,” Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s medical officer of health, said.
Read the full story here.
7:54 a.m.: All four Halton mayors and the Regional chair sent a stern message to the community this evening on where they all stand regarding a GTA-wide lockdown.
The joint statement came this evening in response to news reports giving Halton residents an “inaccurate suggestion” that they have been consulted about and are in support of a GTHA-wide lockdown, the mayors and chair said.
“We the locally elected Heads of Council of Halton Region, Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton, and Oakville are not in support of a GTHA-wide lockdown. We were not consulted nor were any of us a party to any discussions on the topic,” reads the statement from mayors Rob Burton, Marianne Meed Ward, Gord Krantz, Rick Bonnette and Gary Carr.
“We follow the direction and advice of our local medical officer of health and will continue to do so. We encourage the heads of councils from other municipalities to focus on their own areas of jurisdiction.”
The statement comes after Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said a GTA-wide lockdown is needed to bring the number of COVID-19 cases down, saying there is evidence people are “region-hopping.”
The Halton mayors and chair however, do not agree.
Read the full story here.
7:30 a.m.: Ontario’s premier says he’s called an emergency meeting with health officials to tackle rising hospitalizations from COVID-19.
Doug Ford says the meeting with the province’s health minister, chief medical officer of health and hospital leaders today will concern next steps to break the trend.
As of yesterday morning, 919 Ontarians were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 263 in intensive care and 172 on ventilators.
The meeting follows calls from the Ontario Hospital Association for the government to implement lockdowns in more public health units, and to consider stronger measures.
The province is considering new measures but Ford has offered few details about what those might be.
He says “everything is on the table” to protect people’s health.
6:54 a.m.: Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’ll be convening an “emergency meeting” with Health Minster Christine Elliott, medical officer Dr. David Williams and hospital leaders to discuss the province’s next steps in addressing the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Everything is on the table when it comes to protecting the health of Ontarians,” Ford tweeted Friday morning.
6:50 a.m.: Tens of millions of people are expected to travel to family gatherings or winter vacations over Christmas, despite pleas by public health experts who fear the result could be another surge in COVID-19 cases.
In the U.S., AAA predicts that about 85 million people will travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, most of them by car. If true, that would be a drop of nearly one-third from a year ago, but still a massive movement of people in the middle of a pandemic.
Jordan Ford, 24, who was laid off as a guest-relations worker at Disneyland in March, said he plans to visit both his and his boyfriend’s families in Virginia and Arkansas over Christmas.
“It is pretty safe — everyone is wearing a mask, they clean the cabin thoroughly,” said Ford, who has travelled almost weekly in recent months from his home in Anaheim, California, and gets tested frequently. “After you get over that first trip since the pandemic started, I think you’ll feel comfortable no matter what.”
Experts worry that Christmas and New Year’s will turn into super-spreader events because many people are letting down their guard — either out of pandemic fatigue or the hopeful news that vaccines are starting to be distributed.
6:18 a.m.: More than 10,000 elderly people living in Belgian rest homes have died from COVID-19 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yves Van Laethem, a spokesman at Belgium’s coronavirus crisis centre, told a news conference on Friday that the death of 10,270 rest home residents accounts for 56 per cent of all the victims.
In a report published last month, Amnesty International said Belgian authorities “abandoned” thousands of elderly people who died in nursing homes and did not seek hospital treatment for many who were infected, violating their human rights.
One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported more than 618,000 confirmed virus cases and 18,371 deaths linked to the coronavirus.
During the first wave of the epidemic last spring, the European nation of 11.5 million people recorded a majority of its COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes. Van Laethem said the situation has improved, but remains “precarious and difficult.”
5:58 a.m.: Thailand is easing travel restrictions on visitors from 56 countries, including the U.S., Japan and Singapore, ahead of the peak holiday season to boost the nation’s ailing tourism sector.
Tourists are allowed to enter Thailand without prior visas but will need to carry a health certificate to prove they are free of Covid-19 and undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival, according to Taweesilp Witsanuyotin, a spokesman for the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration. Visitors will also undergo three virus tests while in quarantine, an increase from the two mandated earlier, Taweesilp said.
5:58 a.m.: South Korea has reported 1,062 new cases of the coronavirus, its third straight day of over 1,000, as authorities in Seoul warn that hospital beds are in short supply.
Seoul City said a COVID-19 patient in his 60s died at his home on Tuesday after officials failed to find him a hospital bed for days. The city said an “explosive growth” in patients this month has resulted in an “overload in administrative and medical systems.”
The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Friday brought the national caseload to 47,515.
The death toll rose to 645 after 11 more patients died overnight. Among 12,888 active patients, at least 246 were in serious or critical condition, the largest number since the emergence of the pandemic.
5:57 a.m.: The number of COVID-19 infections from a cluster in Sydney’s northern coastal suburbs continued to grow on Friday and the strain appeared to have originated in the United States, authorities said. Testing on Thursday and early Friday found 28 new infections.
Several had attended the Avalon Beach R.S.L. Club on Dec. 11 and a nearby lawn bowling club called Avalon Bowlo on Dec. 13, New South Wales state Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said. More than 250,0000 residents of Sydney’s Northern Beaches Local Government Area were advised on Thursday to work from home and remain at home as much as possible for three days. Others were advised to avoid travelling to the area. Authorities have yet to identify the source of the cluster, but New South Wales will next week tighten hotel quarantine rules for international aircrews flying between Sydney and the United States.
Australia’s largest city had gone 12 consecutive days without community transmission until Wednesday when a driver who transported international aircrews in a van to and from Sydney Airport tested positive. His strain was also from the United States. Australian states have responded to the Sydney cluster by introducing various travel restrictions.
Western Australia state, which has not had a case of community transmission since April 11, requires all travellers from New South Wales to quarantine in hotels for 14 days.
5:56 a.m.: As French President Emmanuel Macron rides out the coronavirus in a presidential retreat at Versailles, French doctors are warning families who are heading for the holidays to remain cautious because of an uptick in infections — especially at the dinner table.
While Macron routinely wears a mask and adheres to social distancing rules, he hosted or took part in multiple group meals in the days before testing positive Thursday. Critics say that’s a bad example for compatriots advised to keep their gatherings to six people.
Macron is suffering from fever, cough and fatigue, officials with the presidency said Friday. They wouldn’t provide details of his treatment. He is staying at the presidential residence of La Lanterne in the former royal city of Versailles.
Macron’s positive test comes as French health authorities are again seeing a rise in infections and warning of more as French families prepare to get together for Christmas and New Year festivities. France reported another 18,254 new infections Thursday and its death toll is just under 60,000.
5:54 a.m.: Several states say they have been told to expect far fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in its second week of distribution, prompting worries about potential delays in shots for health care workers and long-term care residents.
But senior Trump administration officials on Thursday downplayed the risk of delays, citing a confusion over semantics, while Pfizer said its production levels have not changed.
The first U.S. doses were administered Monday, and already this week, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly health care workers, have been vaccinated. The pace is expected to increase next week, assuming Moderna gets federal authorization for its vaccine.
Efforts to help ward off the coronavirus come amid a staggering death toll that surpassed 300,000 on Monday. Johns Hopkins University says about 2,400 people are dying daily in the U.S., which is averaging more than 210,000 cases per day.
5:52 a.m.: The secretary general of the United Nations on Friday stressed that as wealthy nations roll out the coronavirus vaccine for their citizens, the world also needs to ensure it is available for “everyone, everywhere.”
In an address to Germany’s Parliament, Antonio Guterres praised the researchers from Germany’s BioNTech who teamed up with U.S. giant Pfizer and beat rivals in the race to put the first thoroughly vetted vaccine on the market.
He said that every German should be “very proud of their achievements.”
“Our challenge now is to ensure that vaccines are treated as a public good — accessible and affordable to everyone, everywhere,” he said according to his prepared remarks.
“A people’s vaccine.”
He said the UN was also committed to providing news and advice people can trust and working to build confidence in the vaccine “guided by science, grounded in facts” to combat what he called the “virus of misinformation.”
5:50 a.m.: U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration helped deliver vaccinations against the coronavirus earlier than even some in his administration thought possible, but the president has been largely absent from the effort to sell the American public on what aides hope will be a key part of his legacy.
Trump launched Operation Warp Speed — the government campaign to help swiftly develop and distribute vaccines — this spring with great fanfare in the White House Rose Garden.
But now, five days into the largest vaccination campaign in the nation’s history, Trump has held no public events to trumpet the rollout. He hasn’t been inoculated himself. He has tweeted only twice about the shot. Vice-President Mike Pence, meanwhile, has taken centre stage — touring a vaccine production facility this week and preparing to receive a dose himself on live television Friday morning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said Thursday that they will get vaccinated in the next few days.
Trump’s relative silence comes as he continues to stew about his defeat in the Nov. 3 election and embraces increasingly extreme efforts to overturn the people’s will. He’s pushed aside the plans of aides who wanted him to be the public face of the vaccination campaign, eschewing visits to labs and production facilities to thank workers, or hosting efforts to build public confidence in the shot, according to people familiar with the conversations.