Canada

COVD-19: All Ontario school boards to offer virtual learning this fall; Daily case count in Ontario drops to 2,791; NACI ‘preferred’ vaccine message ignites controversy

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Every Ontario school board will provide students the option to learn virtually when they return to school in the fall, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Tuesday. And boards have been told not to require a decision by parents on whether their student will attend school in-person until June 1, at the earliest.

Asked at at his press conference whether remote learning will be a permanent part of the public school system after the 2021-2022 school year, Lecce said, “We’ve committed ourselves to consulting on providing that choice beyond this year.

“What we heard in the consultation, absolutely clearly, is that parents want that choice for this September, because we’re unsure of where this pandemic will take us.”

As for the question on the minds of parents everywhere –– When will in-class learning resume? –– Lecce said the advice from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health to the government hasn’t changed.

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“We continue to face real issues in the province of Ontario,” said Lecce. High rates of community transmission persist, and intensive care units are under immense strain

Stephen Lecce, Ontario Education Minister, made an announcement on Tuesday. Chris Young/Canadian Press
Stephen Lecce, Ontario Education Minister, made an announcement on Tuesday. Chris Young/Canadian Press Photo by Chris Young /The Canadian Press/File

Ontario reported 2,791 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, a markedly lower daily total than those seen through much of the third epidemic wave in the province.

The seven-day average for new cases is now 3,509 per day. Ontario last reported fewer than 3,000 new cases in early April.

Tuesday’s total includes 112 new cases in Ottawa, 19 in Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington, 11 in Eastern Ontario, seven in Leeds, Grenville & Lanark, and two in Renfrew County and District. 

While the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario rose in the last day, to a total of 2,167, the number of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients fell by three, to 886.

Twenty-five additional COVID-19 deaths were also reported, bringing the total number of lives lost to the disease in Ontario to 8,143.

On the vaccination front, the province is now reporting that more than 5.4 million vaccine doses have been administered in Ontario.

THE LATEST COVID-19 NEWS IN CANADA

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam on Tuesday provided little clarity to Canadians on how to decipher controversial messaging from the country’s immunization advisory body that vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were more preferable options than viral vector ones.

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Trudeau’s message to Canadians was to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. Tam, meanwhile, suggested people should follow local public health advice when it comes to vaccination, while noting Canadians’ right to informed consent, and individual risk-benefit factors to weigh when deciding on a shot. 

Trudeau repeatedly emphasized that all vaccines in the country have been approved by Health Canada.

“Our advice to provinces and territories and to Canadians has not changed… Make sure you get your shot, as soon as it’s your turn.”

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered.

NACI said Monday that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are “preferred” and that Canadians should weigh the risks of waiting for one of them before deciding whether to take a more immediate jab of either of the other two approved for use in Canada.

The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines have been linked to a new and extremely rare blood-clotting syndrome.

NACI’s advice appears to contradict Health Canada’s long-standing recommendation that the best vaccine is the first one available.

Some doctors took to social media to denounce NACI’s latest advice, warning that the committee is sowing confusion and exacerbating vaccine hesitancy.

“It pains me to say this but it’s past time to take NACI’s recommendations with a grain of salt,” emergency physician Dr. Brian Goldman said on Twitter.

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“For the good of your health, DO NOT be choosy when it comes to #covidvaccines. Take the first one you’re offered.”

When asked about NACI on Tuesday, Trudeau said that it was a “good thing to hear from a broad range of medical experts and doctors making recommendations to keep us safe.”

“The bottom line is, we need all of us (to) get vaccinated as quickly as possible so we can get back to normal,” he added.

Seven cases of the new blood-clotting syndrome, known as vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT, have been reported to date in Canada, all in people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Some 1.7 million doses of this vaccine had been given out as of April 24.

As of April 23, 17 cases of VITT had been confirmed out of more than eight-million doses of the J&J vaccine administered in the United States.Health Canada has approved J&J for use in Canada but no Canadian has yet received it as the first batch delivered last week is still being investigated following reports of safety and quality control violations at the American facility involved in its production.

NACI suggests that provinces and territories might want to prioritize J&J, the only single-shot vaccine approved in Canada so far, for people who have difficulty scheduling a second dose. It recommends that J&J, like AstraZeneca, be given only to people over the age of 30

Personally, Trudeau said he’s “extremely pleased” that he recently received a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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“It was extremely important to me to be able to protect my loved ones, protect my family and to do my part to ensure that all Canadians get through this as quickly as possibly.”

Tam said she thinks that all medical officers of health have taken into account NACI’s recommendations, and they’re rolling out vaccines according to their assessment of the benefit and risk. She told Canadians to follow local public health advice.

“If you’re asked to take your turn, please do so and line up. I think that’s the bottom line.

“There’s still an informed consent process though, everyone has the right to that. So go through your informed consent, in terms of understanding about the vaccine, your risk of exposure, your risk of severe illness from COVID. And the benefit of getting a vaccine and protecting yourself sooner, based on the … epidemiology around you.”

There are currently some 2.3 million doses of AstraZeneca in the country, according to Procurement Minister Anita Anand, and that amount is expected to almost double by the end of June.

— With files from The Canadian Press

THE LATEST COVID-19 NEWS IN OTTAWA

A city-run pop-up vaccine clinic in Overbrook is taking place between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The clinic offered 500 doses to anyone 18 and older in the neighbourhood. At 9:10 a.m., the City of Ottawa posted that the pop-up clinic was fully booked for the day.

#OttCitty‘s pop-up clinic for the Overbrook community is fully booked for today. Thanks to everyone who participated. We will continue to work with partners to spread the word within priority neighbourhoods when future pop-up clinics take place. pic.twitter.com/tGWXCT2kkd — City of Ottawa (@ottawacity) May 4, 2021

Ottawa Public Health reported 94 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, the lowest number of daily cases reported since March. The number of active cases across the city, a figure that’s been on the decline since surpassing 3,800 in mid-April, has dropped to 1,777.

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Five additional deaths were added to the total number of local lives lost to the disease, which now sits at 515. In hospital, there are 101 Ottawans with COVID-19 (down from 107 the previous day), including 28 in ICU (down from 30).

QUEBEC COVID-19 NEWS

Quebec reported 797 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, pulling down the seven-day average for new cases in the province to its lowest level since March.

The province also reported 16 additional deaths (three in the previous 24 hours).

The number of people in Quebec hospitalized with COVID-19 (594) and in ICU (155), both increased slightly in the last day.

In the Outaouais, 32 new cases were reported (the seven-day average for the region now sits at 50 daily cases). Four additional COVID-19 deaths were reported in the Outaouais, for a total of 201.

Quebec has now seen more than 3.3 million vaccines doses administered, including 50,379 in the previous 24 hours.

COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination in Ottawa

Updated information on COVID-19 testingwww.ottawatestingupdate.ca/

Ontario vaccination portalcovid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine

Provincial call centre: 1-888-999-6488. The Vaccine Information Line is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is capable of providing assistance in 300 languages.

Vaccine eligibility in Ottawa: Vaccine eligibility screening tool, from Ottawa Public Health https://vers.powerappsportals.com/en-US/

To find a pharmacy vaccine: Eligible adults aged 40 and over who are interested in getting vaccinated via pharmacy can visit ontario.ca/pharmacycovidvaccineto find a participating location. Contact the pharmacy directly to ask if they’re offering appointments, walk-in vaccination or both.

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