The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
9:40 p.m.: State health officials on Tuesday reported a continuing jump in new coronavirus cases, as COVID-19 hospitalizations also ticked up.
The state Department of Public Health reported 1,116 COVID-19 cases, a 27 per cent increase from 882 infections recorded last Tuesday. Health officials are warning that the omicron BA.2 “stealth” variant is spreading around the region.
The Boston-area COVID-19 wastewater data recently started to rise again. State health officials have been encouraging people to get a booster shot to get more protection from the variants.
The state’s average percent positivity is now 2.67 per cent, up from the rate of 1.60 per cent three weeks ago. The positive test average for Tuesday’s count was higher at 3.40 per cent.
State health officials reported 12 COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state’s total recorded death toll to 20,134. The 12 new deaths are from Saturday through Monday. The daily average of COVID-19 deaths is now three. The death rate had been much higher after omicron hospitalizations surged.
After COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by 21 patients, the state’s overall patient count is now 237 patients. Hospitalizations had been spiking in January but plunged as the omicron variant receded.
There are now 27 coronavirus patients in intensive care units, and 20 patients are intubated across the state.
Of the total 237 hospitalized patients, 35 per cent of the patients were primarily hospitalized for COVID, while 65 per cent of the patients were considered incidental cases.
9 p.m.: One indication of where COVID-19 stands in the current American political priority list was the news Tuesday from the U.S. Senate of a deal to finally fund President Joe Biden’s ongoing pandemic measures.
Biden had asked for $22 billion; he’s going to get $10 billion. Only 60 per cent of his domestic program will be funded. For foreign aid, he’s getting nothing.
Playing politics with the pandemic is nothing new in the U.S., but the old saying, “show me your budget and I’ll show you you’re priorities” is apt. The pandemic may not be over, but many Americans and their representatives sure feel they’re over it.
If you wandered out of that congressional announcement into the streets of Washington, you’d see a similar attitude on display: proof-of-vaccine requirements have been lifted at restaurants, masks are few and far between, the topic of conversation at the playgrounds has turned to the Supreme Court and Ukraine.
7:17 p.m.: British Columbia is offering a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines to seniors, starting with residents of long-term care and assisted-living homes as the level of protection since their last shot up to six months ago is waning.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that people over age 70 in the community, Indigenous people 55 and up and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will also be included in a vaccination campaign that will ramp up through the spring.
Henry said a second booster shot is not expected to be offered to younger people, who are less likely to be hospitalized.
“I don’t foresee that in the near future. We don’t know what’s going to happen when we come up to late summer, early fall when we expect to be back in respiratory season,” she said.
It’s possible that an annual booster shot will be needed, though maybe only for people who are most at risk of infection, Henry said.
About 50 per cent of B.C.’s population has developed antibodies to the virus through vaccination or infection, Henry said.
Transmission, hospitalizations and deaths have levelled off markedly, she said.
Henry said that means it’s time to move away from public health orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
4:50 p.m.: Canada should get ready to rapidly deploy fourth doses of COVID vaccine in the coming weeks as protection against the virus continues to wane, particularly for those 80 and older, the national body responsible for vaccination advice said Tuesday.
For many who have rolled up their sleeves for a first, second and even third, the news has been met with some confusion. What happened to vaccination being just two shots?
4:27 p.m.: Nearly two weeks after it opened for its spring sitting, the Nova Scotia legislature is scaling back to a hybrid sitting because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The change does not limit the number of members who can attend in person, but it gives members the option of participating via video link.
Kim Masland, the Progressive Conservative government’s house leader, told the legislature Tuesday that a quorum for in-person proceedings will constitute 15 of the 55 members, including the Speaker. Masland said the hybrid option will be used for the rest of the sitting.
Outside the chamber, she said the intent is to allow members who are sick to participate from home if they’re able.
“If the member is well enough to appear virtually, I think that’s what Nova Scotians want,” said Masland, who added it’s her expectation that Tory caucus members who are not ill will attend in person.
“But we’re all adults here,” she said. “No one is going to be checking up on everyone to see exactly why they are away.”
As of late last week, as many as six members and staff had reportedly been sidelined after contracting COVID-19. There was no update Tuesday on whether that number has changed.
4:26 p.m.: The Biden administration on Tuesday unveiled a plan to increase awareness and response to the long-term effects of COVID-19, directing Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to helm an interagency effort to coordinate research and support for long-term patients.
The initiative builds on a series of steps the administration has already launched, including a wide-ranging, $1.15 billion study known as the RECOVER Initiative, through the National Institutes of Health last year.
The presidential memorandum directs HHS to coordinate a broad range of educational efforts aimed at boosting research, tracking and coverage of long COVID-19 patients. An estimated 7.7 million to 23 million individuals suffer from long COVID-19, with symptoms that include extreme fatigue, heart and breathing problems, brain fog, or loss of sense and smell.
The memo also focuses on rural and minority populations. Initiatives include incorporating more multilingual translators into helplines run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services while increasing cultural competency educational resources provided by agencies such as CMS and the Indian Health Service.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will study the mental effects that long-term symptoms can cause and promote mental health resources for individuals suffering from long COVID-19.
The Labor Department is also expanding an early intervention pilot program to aid workers experiencing injuries or illnesses like long COVID-19. HHS and the Justice Department have already released guidance on how some long COVID-19 patients are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality plans to use $20 million included in the president’s fiscal 2023 budget request to help launch centers of excellence on long COVID-19 and update clinical guidance for better treatments, should Congress appropriate the funds.
Lawmakers are still working on a $10 billion agreement to reprogram previously appropriated funds toward more COVID-19 activities, although the deal does not contain explicit funding for long COVID-19.
4:18 p.m.: GlaxoSmithKline’s IV drug for COVID-19 should no longer be used because it is likely ineffective against the omicron subvariant that now accounts for most U.S. cases, federal health regulators said Tuesday.
The Food and Drug Administration announced that the company’s antibody drug sotrovimab is no longer authorized to treat patients in any U.S. state or territory. The decision was expected, because the FDA had repeatedly restricted the drug’s use in the Northeast and other regions as the BA.2 version of omicron became dominant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that BA.2 accounts for 72% of the COVID-19 cases sequenced by health authorities. Some experts have warned of a BA.2-driven surge similar to those that have hit European countries, though U.S. case counts have yet to rise.
Glaxo’s drug is the latest antibody medication to be sideline by the mutating coronavirus, which previously rendered drugs from Eli Lilly and Regeneron obsolete. The FDA pulled their authorization in January after concluding they were ineffective against the original version of omicron.
The decision leaves doctors and hospitals with only one antibody still authorized for use: a different Eli Lilly drug that regulators say appears effective against BA.2.
4:16 p.m.: British Columbia is offering a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines to seniors, starting with residents of long-term care and assisted-living homes.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says those vaccinations have already begun and people over age 70 in the community will be getting invitations in the coming weeks for a second booster shot.
She says the province will also be considering a fourth dose for Indigenous people over the age of 55, as well as those who are clinically extremely vulnerable in order to reduce hospitalizations.
Henry says immunity is expected to be waning in all these groups, which started getting their last vaccination about six months ago.
She says the province is in a reasonably good position with transmissions, hospitalizations and deaths all down.
Henry says that means it’s time to move away from public health orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended a fourth dose for those who are more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19.
Quebec said Tuesday that it would be expanding access to fourth doses, while Ontario said it would announce a plan Wednesday to start offering an additional booster to people 60 and older.
2:35 p.m.: On March 29, on the eve of my 27th birthday, I tested positive for COVID, writes Star contributor Teagan Johnston. As a healthy, three-times vaccinated person I shrugged off my diagnosis, expecting no more than a few sniffles and the familiar feeling of isolation.
My birthday came the next day, friends delivered gifts, I ordered take out, drank some wine, watched a movie and went to bed. What I would experience next, would be nearly 20 hours of sleeping and feverish dreaming.
1:50 p.m. With declining cases of COVID-19, South Africa on Tuesday ended its national state of disaster, the legal framework used for two years to impose restrictions to combat the pandemic.
South African sports fans can now return to stadiums in large numbers to watch soccer, rugby and cricket matches. Sports venues can take up to 50% of capacity with people who show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test done within 72 hours.
Most restrictions will be lifted, but people will be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces. International travellers must provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test done within 72 hours.
1:35 p.m. The Nova Scotia legislature has decided to scale back to a hybrid sitting because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The change does not limit the number of members who can attend in person, but it gives members the option of participating via video link.
The move comes nearly two weeks after the House of Assembly convened for its spring sitting on March 24.
Government house leader Kim Masland told the legislature today that a quorum for in-person proceedings will constitute 15 of the 55 members, including the Speaker.
Masland says the hybrid option will be used for the rest of the sitting.
1:10 p.m. Quebec and Prince Edward Island have extended their provincial mask mandates until later this month as they try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The decisions Tuesday came several days after the Public Health Agency of Canada said a resurgence of COVID-19 is likely to be underway and encouraged Canadians to be vigilant to help curb spread of the latest variant.
P.E.I.’s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, said masks are more effective against the virus when there is a universal requirement to wear them.
“Masks do matter,” she said. “Masks will be one of the last measures lifted.”
12:20 p.m. (updated) Ontario will offer a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 60 and older, says Health Minister Christine Elliott.
While the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that a fourth dose — in the form of a second booster shot — of COVID-19 vaccine be made available to those aged 80 or older, the province has decided to lower the eligibility age, Elliott said Tuesday.
“Our medical advisers recommended that Ontario … go to 60 to provide an added a level of protection,” Elliott told reporters after the latest NACI recommendations were issued.
Details on Ontario’s expanded eligibility will be released Wednesday.
12 p.m. (updated) Provinces and territories should quickly get ready to offer fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks starting with people over the age of 80 and long-term care residents, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended Tuesday.
NACI strongly recommended a second booster for people between 70 and 79 years of age, and said they may also be offered to people from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities.
“Preliminary data indicate that a second booster dose provides additional protection, including against severe disease,” the committee reported Tuesday.
In general, a second booster dose should be given 6 months after the patients got their first booster shots, NACI says, though that optimal timeline will need to be weighed against how rampant COVID-19 is at the local level.
The committee also suggests a recent COVID-19 infection should be factored in, since boosters are best offered at least three months after symptom onset or a positive test.
11:15 a.m.(updated): Ontario is reporting 173 people in ICU due to COVID-19 and 1,091 in hospital overall testing positive for COVID-19, according to its latest report released Tuesday morning.
Of the people hospitalized, 46 per cent were admitted for COVID-19 and 54 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive. For the ICU numbers, 67 per cent were admitted for COVID-19 and 33 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive.
The numbers represent a 3 per cent increase in the ICU COVID-19 count and a 27.3 per cent increase in hospitalizations overall. 27 per cent of the province’s 2,343 adult ICU beds remain available for new patients.
Given new provincial regulations around testing that took effect Dec. 31, 2021, case counts – reported at 1,991 on Tuesday, down 11.4 per cent from the previous day – are also not considered an accurate assessment of how widespread COVID-19 is right now. 9 new deaths were reported in the latest numbers.
Read the full story from Dorcas Marfo here.
11 a.m. The Ontario police watchdog says a woman who claimed she was injured by a police horse during the “freedom convoy” protest was not hurt seriously enough to warrant an investigation.
The Special Investigations Unit was looking into police behaviour during the large-scale police operation to disperse the protests in downtown Ottawa that gridlocked the city’s downtown for more than three weeks.
The blockades, which at times also shuttered several border crossings, were demanding an end to all COVID-19 mandates, but some also wanted to force the Liberal government out of office.
A 49-year-old woman said she was hurt by a Toronto Police Service officer on horseback on Feb. 18.
10:50 a.m. Ontario health officials are reporting 1,091 people in hospital with COVID-19 Tuesday, including 173 patients in intensive care. There are 1,991 new COVID-19 cases reported with limited testing available.
Hospitalizations are up 37 per cent in a week.
10:22 a.m. (updated) The Toronto District School Board will begin sharing COVID-19 notification letters with the larger school community to inform families about impacted classes.
“This updated process will provide a more comprehensive picture and continue until the end of this school year,” said the largest school board in Canada, Monday.
9 a.m. Shanghai reported more than 13,000 daily COVID-19 cases for the first time, as a sweeping lockdown of its 25 million residents and mass testing uncovered an extensive spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.
The outbreak in the Chinese financial hub pushed the national total to 16,412 local infections for Monday, the highest one-day figure recorded in the world’s second-largest economy during the pandemic — clouding its growth outlook and threatening to disrupt the global supply chain.
China’s current outbreak is surpassing a level not seen since February 2020, when a one-day correction in the way it tracked cases pushed daily infections past 15,000, largely concentrated in Wuhan. The ballooning number in Shanghai, despite a citywide lockdown, underscores the challenge the nation faces in returning to President Xi Jinping’s COVID Zero goal.
8:45 a.m. Real Madrid will likely be without coach Carlo Ancelotti for the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals against Chelsea because of COVID-19.
Ancelotti tested positive for the coronavirus last week and did not travel to London with the rest of the squad on Tuesday.
There was a possibility he could still make it for Wednesday’s match if he tests negative in time to travel.
Ancelotti had already missed the team’s 2-1 win over Celta Vigo in the Spanish league on Saturday, when assistant coach Davide Ancelotti, his son, was among those in charge.
8:32 a.m. There are nearly $216,000 worth of unpaid provincial COVID fines for alleged pandemic rule-breakers in Hamilton, according to the province.
Brian Gray, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, told The Spectator that between March 2020 and December 2021, more than 1,360 charges were laid for offences under both the Emergency Management Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) and the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) in the city.
And of those tickets, 285 remain unpaid — totalling at least $215,985 (excluding other fees such as court costs), according to Gray.
7:55 a.m. A group of Ontario breweries say their applications for a $10,000 relief grant were “unfairly” rejected by the province days before Monday’s deadline to appeal the decision.
The Star spoke to numerous brewery operators who received rejection letters last Thursday and said they spent the weekend scrambling to appeal the decision before midnight on Monday.
The businesses were denied from accessing the Ontario Small Business Relief Grant, a one-time payment of $10,000 to eligible small businesses that were required to close indoor operations during the Omicron wave of COVID-19 in January.
7:10 a.m. An estimated 73,000 students in Toronto from Grades 7 to 12 are currently behind on one or more vaccine doses for Hepatitis B, HPV and meningococcal disease.
Toronto Public Health in a report said it was unable to administer these vaccines due to COVID-19-related disruptions including lockdowns, which have “prevented the assessment of routine vaccinations among child-care centre attendees and students for three consecutive school years.”
Unless they have a valid exemption, children in Ontario who attend primary or secondary school must be vaccinated against tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, diphtheria, whooping cough and chickenpox, according to the government of Ontario.
5:44 a.m.: The likelihood of British Columbia introducing a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose will be part of the government’s first Health Ministry briefing since early last month.
Health Minister Adrian Dix says the possibility of a second booster dose is on the agenda for today’s COVID-19 briefing with provincial health officer Dr. Bonne Henry.
Last week, Dix said the ministry was thinking about providing a fourth dose to people who are clinically vulnerable, such as those in long-term care.
On Monday, Dix said the government would like more people to get their third COVID-19 shot as the current numbers show almost 58 per cent of eligible people 12 and older have received their booster.
Tuesday 5:41 a.m.: Senate bargainers have reached agreement on a slimmed-down $10 billion package for countering COVID-19 with treatments, vaccines and other steps, the top Democratic and Republican negotiators said, but ended up dropping all funding to help nations abroad combat the pandemic.
The compromise drew quick support Monday from President Joe Biden, who initially pushed for a $22.5 billion package. In a setback, he ended up settling for much less despite administration warnings that the government was running out of money to keep pace with the disease’s continued — though diminished — spread in the U.S.
“Every dollar we requested is essential and we will continue to work with Congress to get all of the funding we need,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “But time is of the essence. We urge Congress to move promptly on this $10 billion package because it can begin to fund the most immediate needs.”
Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., his party’s lead bargainer, abandoned Biden’s request to include $5 billion to help countries — especially poorer ones — where the disease is still running rampant.