https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2022/05/09/covid-19-coronavirus-news-omicron-ontario-toronto-canada-may-9.html

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.

12 p.m. A new study by Quebec’s blood services organization estimates that more than one in four adults in the province developed COVID-19 antibodies between January and mid-March of this year.

The study by Héma-Québec, which was carried out at the request of the province’s Health Department, used a test that was able to detect COVID-19 antibodies in adult blood donors.

Researchers compared the presence of antibodies to an earlier sample from the same person taken before the arrival of the Omicron variant.

Using samples donated to the province’s plasma bank, the organization concluded that some 27.8 per cent of Quebec’s adult population was infected with COVID-19 in the first two and a half months of the year.

Meanwhile, the Quebec government is reporting four more deaths due to COVID-19 today and a 16-person drop in the number of people hospitalized with the virus.

10:30 a.m. (updated) Toronto Mayor John Tory has announced the end of the city of Toronto’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, which was first imposed on March 23, 2020.

The city had been under an emergency declaration for 777 days.

“There is no doubt that our collective efforts have been successful in getting us to a better place,” said Tory at a COVID-19 briefing Monday morning with Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health.

Tory cited the city’s high vaccination rates, among other factors, as to why the city is lifting the emergency declaration, which was the first issued in the city’s history.

Read the full story from the Star’s Joshua Chong

10:17 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting 201 people in ICU due to COVID-19 and 1,213 in hospital overall testing positive for COVID-19, according to its latest report released Monday morning.

The numbers represent a 2.9 per cent decrease in the ICU COVID-19 count and a 3.9 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 1,206 on Wednesday, down 37.8 per cent from the previous day – are also not considered an accurate assessment of how widespread COVID-19 is right now. No new deaths were reported in the latest numbers.

Read the full story from the Star’s Dorcas Marfo

9 a.m. When the pandemic struck more than two years ago, the opioid crisis that has devastated communities was quickly overshadowed by the fast-growing impacts of COVID-19.

But that does not mean overdoses and deaths caused by potentially fatal drugs, like fentanyl, have receded.

If anything, the problem has worsened.

“It’s more of a crisis than it was before the pandemic,” said Evelyn Pollock, whose son, Daniel, died of an accidental overdose in 2017 at age 43.

The Oro-Medonte woman said the issue became magnified during the pandemic as support systems shut down or became hard to access.

Now, with Ontario’s election looming, Pollock is urging whichever party forms the next government to substantially address an issue that continues to claim lives.

8:30 a.m. After months of struggling with long COVID, 25-year-old Ibrahim Rashid was excited to be vaccinated, seeking to prevent reinfection and perhaps ease his symptoms.

To his delight, the deep fatigue, chest pain and “brain fog” suddenly lifted. But within a month, the symptoms returned with a vengeance – accompanied by a shocking loss of balance and leg strength.

“After I got the vaccine, I was having the best time of my life. I was the happiest person in the world,” said Rashid, a graduate student at the University of Chicago who once excelled at skateboarding and martial arts.

“Then it all just started roaring back,” he said. “And my walking disappeared. … One day I was reading a book underneath a tree, and I just couldn’t get up.”

He’s among the many long COVID patients who report mysterious changes in their health after they get the vaccine. Some improve; others, like Rashid, worsen.

To study the phenomenon, a new nationwide project is being launched by Yale School of Medicine scientists. Expanding on an initial pilot project of 20 patients, they hope to recruit at least 100 people to determine the influence of vaccination on symptoms that persist months after COVID-19 infection. The effort uses cutting-edge immune profiling techniques to get a snapshot of each person’s cellular reaction to the shots.

8 a.m. Almost 400 years ago, the Catholic residents of a small Bavarian village vowed to perform a play of “the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ” every 10 years, if only God would spare them any further losses from the plague known as the Black Death.

Legend has it that ever since 1634, when the villagers of Oberammergau first performed their passion play, no more residents died of that pestilence or any other plagues — until 2020, when the world was hit by a new plague, the coronavirus pandemic. Oberammergau, like so many places worldwide, suffered some COVID-19 deaths, though residents who confirmed that were unsure how many.

Another consequence: The villagers could not fulfill their vow to stage the play after a 10-year interval. It was set to open in the spring of 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

Now, after a two-year delay, the famous Oberammergau Passion Play is finally opening on May 14 — the 42nd staging since its long-ago debut. Almost half of the village’s residents — more than 1,800 people, including 400 children — will participate in the play about the last five days before Christ’s crucifixion.

It’s a production modernized to fit the times, stripped of antisemitic allusions and featuring a diverse cast that include refugee children and non-Christian actors.

7:25 a.m. Wellness webinars. Corporate mental health officers. Redesigned benefits. Extra long weekends.

Twenty-six months into a gruelling pandemic, with many Canadians facing the added challenge of navigating a return to the office, companies are embracing a range of approaches to help workers coping with mental health challenges. But experts say lip service remains a hazard too many boardrooms still fall back on.

A top-to-bottom shift in corporate attitude is key to easing emotional strain in the workplace, where mental health should be viewed as essential to success rather than a side note, says Denis Trottier, chief mental health officer at KPMG Canada.

“It’s changing that culture, getting away from, ‘Oh, it’s Mental Health Week, so let’s do something about mental health,’ and moving that to a culture where you put this on the agenda every day,” he said.

6:55 a.m. Videos of people being dragged from their homes by health workers in hazmat suits coursed through Chinese social media Sunday before being pulled down on some platforms, as Shanghai’s lockdown enters its seventh week and pandemic restrictions continue to be intensified in Beijing.

The videos — which purported to show COVID-19 positive patients and their close contacts tussling with the workers — come as Shanghai tightens some aspects of its intensive lockdown despite a drop-off in new infections.

People living in the same building as confirmed virus cases now also risk being transported to government-run quarantine facilities, according to local residents and widely circulated social media posts. Previously, only people living in the same apartment or the same floor as positive cases would likely be considered close contacts and put in official quarantine.

The ramping up of curbs comes even as the city reported its fewest cases in more than six weeks, with 3,947 new infections on Sunday, down slightly from 3,975 on Saturday.

Social media posts questioning the legality of forcibly removing people from their homes and taking them to quarantine facilities, or seizing their keys to allow health workers to disinfect apartments, also appear to have been removed in some cases.

6:30 a.m. It’s been a while since a whole new COVID-19 variant burst onto the scene, but like a pop star with staying power, good old Omicron keeps finding new ways to reinvent itself.

A new iteration of BA.2 — BA.2.12.1 — is rapidly growing in the Northeastern U.S., and is already spreading in Canada. Meanwhile, scientists are keeping an eye on two other members of the crew, BA.4 and BA.5, that are causing some concern in South Africa and have been detected in several other countries.

The ability that this group of Omicron sub-variants has to continuously evolve — getting more contagious with each new mutation and finding ways to get around vaccination — has left vaccine researchers scrambling to keep up and an increasingly weary public wondering if this game of viral whack-a-mole will ever end.

Read the full story from the Star’s May Warren and Kenyon Wallace.

6:26 a.m. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has tested positive for COVID-19, she tweeted Sunday.

“Today I tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, I’m vaccinated and boosted, and I’m asymptomatic. I’ll be isolating and working remotely this week,” the Democratic governor stated.

“A reminder to all New Yorkers: get vaccinated and boosted, get tested, and stay home if you don’t feel well,” she added.

A Hochul spokesperson said the governor will “be following the guidance” on how long to isolate, without specifying the number of days. Hochul cancelled a planned Monday trip to Washington, D.C.

She is the latest elected official to test positive for the disease as COVID-19 case numbers have been rising in New York and beyond.

6:25 a.m. Shanghai’s strict COVID-19 curbs are disrupting health care services halfway across the world, with hospitals in New York suffering a shortage of chemicals used in imaging tests — the latest example of how the city’s five-week-long lockdown is snarling global supply chains.

Health care facilities have seen shortages of an iodinated contrast medium known as Omnipaque, that’s produced at a GE Healthcare factory in Shanghai, the Greater New York Hospital Association said in a May 4 statement. The chemical agent is widely used in X-rays, radiography and CT scans.

The hospital body also warned that supplies may be curtailed by as much as 80% for the next two months even though the factory has resumed production. It recommended health care providers ration existing stock for essential use only while seeking out other suppliers and considering alternative scanning tests for patients.

A representative for GE Healthcare, the $17.7 billion unit of General Electric Co., said in an emailed response that the firm was “working around the clock to expand capacity” of the imaging chemical. “After having to close our Shanghai manufacturing facility for several weeks due to local COVID policies, we have been able to reopen and are utilizing our other global plants wherever we can,” GE Healthcare said in the email. “We are working to return to full capacity as soon as local authorities allow.”

China’s dogged pursuit of its COVID-zero strategy, exemplified in the stringent lockdown of its financial and trade hub since early April, has hobbled global supply chains and hurt companies from Tesla Inc. to Apple Inc. Critical components for PCs to smartphones and automobiles are either being produced in insufficient quantities or are stuck in a logjam at the Shanghai port, the world’s biggest container terminal.