Today’s coronavirus news: COVID-19 pandemic looms over final stretch of federal election campaign – Toronto Star

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

8:17 a.m. Toronto Public Health (TPH) has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at an Etobicoke elementary school.

The public health unit identified at least two cases linked within Elmlea Junior School and declared the outbreak on Twitter Saturday night.

“We’re carefully investigating & following our process of working with our school community to notify close contacts & ask them to stay home, monitor for symptoms & get tested,” TPH said.

Read the full story from the Star’s Anushka Yadav

8 a.m. Saturday marked Toronto’s biggest day of its #DaysofVaxtion campaign — an effort to help the city reach its 90-per-cent COVID-19 vaccination target.

With over twenty clinics operating throughout the day, residents were able to get the jab at pop-ups along Yonge St., four malls in Scarborough, three public schools, or even at three subway stations across the city.

The four-day campaign officially kicked off Thursday and has helped to administer 1,839 vaccines, according to Toronto Public Health. A total of 92 clinics will run during the #DaysofVaxtion duration.

Mayor John Tory and the chair of Toronto’s board of health, Joe Cressy, both visited an immunization clinic held at Olive Square Park on Saturday, where Tory was able to thank those working, along with those actually getting the jab themselves.

Read the full story from the Star’s Irelyne Lavery

6 a.m. COVID-19 vaccinations are lagging the most in younger Black and Latino residents of Los Angeles County in the U.S.

Vaccination rates among L.A. County’s Black residents up to age 49 remain below 50 per cent, and among Latino residents in the same age group, remain below 60%, health officials said this week.

These are rates far below that of older Black and Latino residents, as well as white, Asian American and Native American residents of all age groups in L.A. County.

“These persistent gaps need to worry all of us, as the unvaccinated people in each of these subgroups are still able to catch and transmit the virus very easily,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “And of even greater concern, they’re at risk for becoming severely ill or dying as a consequence of infection.

“Our collective health is also threatened by these gaps, which give plenty of opportunity for high transmission and the emergence of additional variants that may be resistant to our vaccines. Additional surges are likely in the absence of better vaccination coverage,” Ferrer added.

It’s essential that more people get vaccinated if we are to have any hope of ending the pandemic, Ferrer said.

“In many cases, the difficulty increasing vaccination uptake in low-coverage communities is linked with distrust in the medical system and in government — borne out by long histories of poor treatment,” Ferrer said. “Repairing the damage caused by health care inequities will not happen overnight, (but) we must not worsen these inequities by inaction in closing coverage gaps, which will further worsen existing disproportionality we see in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”

Unvaccinated Black and Latino residents are significantly more likely to contract the coronavirus compared with their white and Asian American counterparts, according to county data from August. Unvaccinated Black residents are also more likely to be hospitalized than other racial and ethnic groups.

Unfortunately, the pace of vaccinations is not nearly enough to dramatically help get L.A. County close to herd immunity, in which sustained transmission of the coronavirus is dramatically interrupted, any time soon.

“It is clear that our vaccination progress is stalling, and we need to move in a different direction to avoid future surges in cases,” Ferrer said, which is a big reason why she has supported targeted vaccination requirements for workers and for customers in certain high-risk public settings, such as bars and crowded settings.

In Orange County, deputy health officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong said there’s more work to be done getting vulnerable communities vaccinated. Even though cases and hospitalizations have begun to decline, she said, “now is not the time to relax. We really want everybody to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.”

Unfortunately, vaccination rates in the areas in Orange County with the lowest vaccination rates “have not really changed as much over the last couple of weeks,” Chinsio-Kwong said.

Sunday 6 a.m. An Idaho charter school principal and father of seven has died after reportedly contracting COVID-19.

“It is with shock and deep sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Javier Castaneda,” read a letter Heritage Community Charter School posted to students’ parents.

“We know that this announcement will be very difficult for you and your children. It is difficult for us to comprehend this loss and will be even more difficult for our students,” read the letter.

Although the school has “suffered a tremendous loss,” it pledged to “follow the example set so well by Dr. Castaneda – to strive to meet our Core Characteristics of responsibility, diligence/work, compassion, friendship, courage, loyalty, perseverance, and honesty. That is what Dr. Castaneda would want from us, and that is what we will do.”

The Caldwell school — about 30 miles west of Boise — focuses “on a classical liberal arts education with a strong foreign language emphasis through a dual language immersion program,” according to its site, on which it also translated the letter into Spanish.

Castaneda died Wednesday as “an unexpected result of COVID-19 illness,” and is survived by his wife and seven kids, according to a GoFundMe page created Thursday and linked to by the school.

Although the school has employed some COVID-19 restrictions, face masks are optional, according to The Associated Press.

Saturday 9 p.m. Dozens of anti-vaccination protesters gathered for a rally Saturday in front of Los Angeles City Hall, but unlike previous gatherings no counter-demonstrators turned out and things remained mostly peaceful.

Some of those attending the “World Wide Rally for Freedom” carried American flags and signs that read “COVID 1984,” “Informed Dissent,” “I’m Not a Lab Rat” and “Forced Penetrations Are Always Wrong.” The crowd numbered about 200.

Several speakers alternately recited psalms, praised members of the Los Angeles police and fire departments for refusing to submit to vaccine mandates, and urged demonstrators to persevere in their resistance to vaccines “no matter what names they call us.”

One woman, who was introduced as a doctor, told the crowd: “If you silence your voices, you are giving your power away to the authorities who pretend they have your best interest in mind.” She urged the crowd to recognize what she described as “tyranny” masquerading as public health protections.

At one point a caravan of cars pulled to the curb across the street from the demonstration, with signs taped to their sides that read, “Fascists out of LA.” A group of demonstrators ran across the street to confront them, middle fingers extended, but the cars drove off before the confrontation escalated further.

About 10 LAPD officers stood watch over the demonstrators from across the street.

Health experts have said the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and save lives. Data released by Los Angeles County last month showed that hospitals are seeing a greater number of unvaccinated people who are younger and otherwise healthy. Currently 67% of L.A. County residents are at least partially vaccinated, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

Protests over vaccinations and other regulations intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 have been widespread through the pandemic, at times leading to physical altercations among attendees. Last month, a man was stabbed and a reporter was assaulted during a melee at an anti-vaccination rally in downtown Los Angeles.

Saturday 5:30 p.m. The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic coloured some heated political debate Saturday in the final stretch of the federal election campaign.

Justin Trudeau touted the importance of getting vaccinated as key to a safer future, while the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh criticized the Liberal leader for failing to push harder for paid sick leave and proof-of-vaccination certificates.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, insisted his party was running a safe campaign but would not say how many of his candidates are fully immunized against the virus.

O’Toole has repeatedly taken Trudeau to task for calling an election during the pandemic.

“I will not use a health crisis to divide Canadians as Mr. Trudeau has with this election,” the Conservative leader said during a swing through southern Ontario.

O’Toole tried to cast the debate forward, citing a need to be ready for the possibility of another pandemic.

He pointed to the Tory platform, which includes promises to ramp up domestic vaccine research, trials and manufacturing capacity as well as domestic production of critical supplies and better means of detecting and assessing health-related threats.

The goal is “to be more prepared for a pandemic, to not be relying on others, to rely on ourself,” O’Toole said.

Campaigning north of Toronto, Trudeau accused O’Toole of telling his party’s candidates to hide their vaccination status.

The question of who Canadians trust to get through the pandemic is a core one for voters, because everyone wants to see the end of COVID-19, he said.

“We are seeing a fourth wave. It is concentrated amongst unvaccinated people — it is concentrated, actually, in those conservative western provinces that didn’t move forward as strongly on vaccination as other parts of the country,” Trudeau said.

“The reality is Canadians deserve to make a clear choice.”

Voters head to the polls on Monday, though many have already cast ballots in advance polls or through the mail.

Opinion polls generally place the Liberals and Conservatives in a deadlock, with notable leads for Trudeau’s party in vote-rich Ontario and Quebec.

Saturday 4 p.m. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been spending even more time on their social media and all the political parties are hoping to take advantage to tap directly into their voter base. But just because someone likes or shares a political post doesn’t necessarily translate at the polls.

Experts across the country are watching to see which party’s social media strategy paid off the most on election day.

Half of Canadians, regardless of age, use Facebook weekly to get news on current events and politics, said Oksana Kishchuk, a consultant with Abacus Data.

Social media has become a vital player in building support. It’s not just about posting either, she said, as parties have to consider good photos, snappy clips and current trends.

“Mastering these techniques will be important,” Kishchuk said.

As election day comes closer, she says all three main parties are taking the strategy of “target and spend.” In the last week or so, each has spent $400,000 to $600,000 on advertisements on Facebook and Instagram. The Liberals and NDP are using that cash to share messages focusing mainly on their own strengths, while the Conservatives have put a focus on Justin Trudeau, she said.

The most recent polling by Abacus shows Liberals in the lead with their social media strategy, Kishchuk said, but impressions of Singh and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole rose significantly during the election.

In particular, Kishchuk said she’s interested to see the outcome of the New Democrats focus on TikTok to connect with younger voters.

“Very few (users) are using TikTok as a main source for news,” she added.

Read Saturday’s rolling file