Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario is reporting 798 new cases of COVID-19; Biden requiring federal workers to get COVID shot – Toronto Star

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

10:25 a.m. Ontario is reporting 798 new cases of COVID-19; 620 cases are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 178 are in fully vaccinated individuals. In Ontario, 21,062,281 vaccine doses have been administered. 84 per cent of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 77.5 per cent have two doses.

10:20 a.m. Hamilton public health says it appears attendees at a wedding reception now linked to a COVID-19 outbreak weren’t following public health rules.

As of Tuesday, there are at least two outbreaks in the city connected to wedding receptions — spanning from the downtown core to Stoney Creek.

Twelve attendees at an Aug. 28 reception at LIUNA Station have been infected with the virus, while four others at another reception that same day at Galileo Gardens have also tested positive.

In an email Wednesday, public health spokesperson James Berry said the city is still investigating the outbreak but interviews with guests suggest not everyone was abiding by public health guidance.

“Through case interviews it appears a number of guests were not masking, even when not eating/drinking, nor maintaining physical distancing, which likely contributed to transmission,” Berry said.

Public health did not disclose if public health rules were followed at the gathering at Galileo Gardens. A manager who picked up the phone at the venue declined to comment on the outbreak.

In the city’s COVID update on Tuesday afternoon, Hamilton’s medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said the outbreaks at weddings in the city are “consistent” with others seen at bars and restaurants.

10:15 a.m. Several leading U.S. airlines warned Thursday that the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant is hurting their bookings and further delaying a recovery for the travel industry.

American Airlines said a slowdown that started in August has continued into September, and the airline further lowered its outlook for third-quarter revenue.

In another regulatory filing, United Airlines said its flying and revenue are both weaker than previously expected, and it is cutting its schedule for later this year to match the lower demand. United forecast a pretax loss in the third quarter that could extend into the fourth quarter if the virus outbreak continues.

Delta Air Lines said it still expects to post an adjusted pretax profit for the third quarter, but revenue will be toward the lower end of its previous forecast.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the rise in COVID-19 cases won’t derail the travel recovery but will delay it by 90 to 120 days. He said the variant has particularly affected business and international travel, which are both critical to the largest U.S. airlines.

10 a.m. The TTC is continuing its vaccination drive at its stations, with another clinic scheduled for Sheppard West Station from Sept. 10 to 12. The clinic is being hosted in partnership with Humber River Hospital, and is open to TTC customers, employees and members of the public.

The clinics will be located in the mezzanine area of the station, and will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, while supplies last. People visiting the vaccine clinics who are not travelling on the TTC will not be required to pay a fare. First and second doses will be offered to everyone born in 2009 or earlier (turning 12 or older this year). No appointments will be required, and both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be available.

9:50 a.m. The European Medicines Agency expects to decide on whether four more coronavirus vaccines, including ones made by China and Russia, should be recommended for authorization across Europe by the end of the year.

Dr. Marco Cavaleri, the agency’s head of vaccines strategy, says the regulator was currently reviewing results of the vaccines made by CureVac and Novavax. The agency officials plan to discuss the shots with both companies “in the coming weeks.”

Earlier this year, CureVac reported its vaccine was less than 50 per cent effective, while Novavax said its shot was about 90 per cent effective. Novavax said it would seek approval first in developing countries rather than focus on the EU or the U.S. markets.

Cavaleri says talks with the Chinese and Russian producers of vaccines had been “constructive,” but more data are needed.

9:35 a.m. President Joe Biden on Thursday is toughening COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers and contractors, according to a person familiar with the plans, as he aims to boost vaccinations and curb the surging Delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.

Just weeks after he mandated federal workers get a shot or face rigorous testing and masking protocols, Biden has signed an new executive order to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors that do business with the federal government.

The step comes in advance of a speech Thursday afternoon outlining a six-pronged plan to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 shots.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Biden’s order includes exceptions for workers or contractors seeking religious or medical exemptions from vaccination. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s plans before they were publicly released.

Biden has encouraged COVID-19 vaccine requirements in settings likes schools, workplaces and university campuses, and the White House hopes the strengthened federal mandate will inspire more businesses to follow suit.

9:20 a.m. With the rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks also comes an increase in infections in grocery stores, restaurants and other locations.

Here’s a list of new COVID-19 cases in some of Ontario’s big name stores

9:10 a.m. Toronto doesn’t have the beaches (well, not that kind, anyway), but its film festival is especially beloved both by filmmakers and less cynical journalists because it’s an event largely meant to serve a movie lover’s town — a cinema celebration for the people. A simultaneous film smorgasbord and party. And this year, for the second time, because of COVID-19, it’s primarily virtual rather than in person.This has led a lot of people to wonder what’s the point and where is the fun supposed to be.

Read the full story from Glenn Kenny

8:45 a.m. North Macedonia’s government was holding an emergency meeting Thursday over an overnight fire that ripped through a field hospital set up to treat COVID-19 patients, leaving 14 people dead.

The blaze broke out late Wednesday in the western city of Tetovo, where the hospital had been set up following a recent spike in infections in the region that left local hospitals full.

The main prosecutor’s office in the capital, Skopje, said 14 people had been killed in the blaze. There were no medical personnel among them.

The prosecutor’s office ordered forensic experts to identify the remains, with the process expected to take longer than usual due to special protocols required because the victims were COVID-19 patients.

About a dozen people were injured, though the exact figure wasn’t immediately available.

“We saw the explosion and when we came here everything was in flames,” said local resident Nexhmedin Haliti. “ Firefighters arrived and started to put the fire out, it lasted for 15- 20 minutes. Everything burnt out.”

8:30 a.m. The rate of Kentuckians testing positive for COVID-19 lurched above 14 per cent for the first time on Wednesday as Gov. Andy Beshear announced 4,468 new cases of the virus.

The governor also confirmed 30 more deaths from the virus, as well as a record number of people hospitalized with coronavirus, in addition to the peak positivity rate, which hit 14.17 per cent, up from 13.74 per cent on Tuesday. In a short video update, he again touted that vaccination and universal masking “are our two best tools to defeat the virus.”

Across the state, 2,424 people are in the hospital with the virus — an increase of 71 people from Tuesday — while 674 are in intensive care units (an increase of 13) and 431 are relying on ventilators to breathe (two fewer). Just over 90 per cent of the state’s ICU beds are filled, leaving a total of 151 available statewide, and 71 per cent of inpatient beds are occupied, leaving 3,907 open.

8:15 a.m. All Los Angeles public school children 12 and older would have to be fully vaccinated by January to enter campus — sooner for students involved in many extracurricular activities — under a proposal to be voted on Thursday by the Board of Education.

If approved as expected, the requirement would catapult the L.A. Unified School District into the forefront of school systems nationwide with the most sweeping and aggressive safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation’s second-largest school system has moved faster and more comprehensively than most others, testing all students and employees for infection every week, requiring masks indoors and outdoors and ordering employees to get vaccinated.

The student vaccine mandate is scheduled to be debated and voted on during a special and quickly scheduled school board meeting.

Under the proposal, the first students affected would be those involved in activities such as sports. Those students who are 12 or older would have to receive a first vaccine dose no later than Oct. 3 and a second dose no later than Oct. 31.

8:05 a.m. The European Central Bank says it is dialing back some of its massive emergency pandemic support for the economy. The move comes amid signs of increasing business activity and consumer readiness to spend as the 19 countries that use the euro rebound from the coronavirus recession.

The bank said Thursday that it could conduct its bond purchase stimulus at “a moderately lower pace” than in recent months.

Since March the statement has said that the bank would purchase bonds at a “significantly higher pace” than in the first three months of the year.

7:30 a.m. The U.S. state of Hawaii is launching a program that will allow people to use their smart phones to prove they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The move comes shortly before Honolulu and Maui begin instituting vaccine requirements for patrons of restaurants and other businesses.

State officials say people who have been vaccinated in Hawaii will be able to upload a photo of their paper vaccination card to the Safe Travels Hawaii website to create a digital vaccination record. The website will crosscheck the information with data in the state’s vaccination database.

Diners may show the record to restaurants in lieu of their paper vaccination card.

7:10 a.m. As COVID-19 patients fill Philippine hospitals to the brim, officials say the virus has hit an orphanage and infected almost 100 children.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said the outbreak in the orphanage could have been prevented and “the children could have been saved from the life-threatening risks of COVID” had minimum health standards been followed strictly.

Of the 122 people infected, 99 are age 18 and younger while the rest are personnel of the Gentlehands Orphanage, the mayor said in a statement Thursday.

The virus apparently spread when an adult who was infected but didn’t have symptoms visited the orphanage in the city in metropolitan Manila.

The Philippines reported 12,751 new cases and 174 deaths on Wednesday and has now counted 2.1 million cases with 34,672 deaths.

6:21 a.m.: Education Minister Stephen Lecce makes no apologies for keeping Ontario schools closed for months longer than those in any other province — it was the right decision at the time, he says.

But now, as the fourth wave continues to hit the province, he’s committed to keeping them open. He calls it a cautious approach, but back to normal is his goal — and he wants to achieve it as quickly as possible.

“It’s a different reality this September than last,” Lecce told the Star in an exclusive interview as most of Ontario’s two million students return to class this week, after experiencing a year and a half of more shutdowns than those in any other province because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full story from the Star’s Kristin Rushowy here.

6:20 a.m.: There’s no question COVID-19 has upended the lives of students and teachers across the country, but there are still some positive developments to have come out of the pandemic.

Virtual field trips, online parent-teacher interviews and smaller cohorts are among the pandemic-related changes principals across the province hope to see continue in a non-COVID context, according to a new report.

Advocacy group People for Education surveyed 1,173 elementary and secondary school principals last fall about positive changes that benefited schools, and challenges that intensified as the year went on. This spring, a smaller group of more than 200 principals completed a followup survey and one-on-one interviews.

Read the full story from the Star’s Maria Sarrouh

6:17 a.m.: Japan announced Thursday it is extending a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other areas until the end of September as health care systems remain under severe strain, although new infections have slowed slightly.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said serious cases remain high and are still overwhelming many hospitals.

The current state of emergency, which was to end on Sunday, was issued first in Okinawa in May and gradually expanded. Despite the prolonged emergency, the largely voluntary measures have become less effective as the exhausted public increasingly ignores them.

The extension will cover a period when Japan’s government is in transition. Suga has announced that he will not run in a Sept. 29 race for his party’s leadership, and his successor in that race will likely become the next prime minister.

Suga’s government has faced sharp criticism over its handling of the virus.

6:17 a.m.: The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off today with an emphasis on the big screen and big pandemic precautions.

This year’s 10-day hybrid event will offer screenings at more indoor venues than last year’s smaller showcase, which was largely held online as COVID-19 ramped up.

Venues including the Princess of Wales Theatre and Roy Thomson Hall will operate at half capacity and forgo rush ticketing, indoor lineups and food and drink sales.

Anyone entering TIFF venues must wear masks, socially distance and show proof they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or proof they have tested negative for the virus within 48 hours beforehand.

Red-carpet galas and press conferences, which were absent last year, will also return with international stars, but without the usual crowds.

6:17 a.m.: All 17 counties in Nevada will be subject to an indoor mask mandate by the end of the week.

Rural Eureka County is the state’s only jurisdiction currently not subject to such a requirement, but its report of high transmission of coronavirus infections for the second week in a row have triggered the mandate to take effect Friday.

The reintroduction of masks and the debut of vaccine requirements in venues like sporting events, conventions and some schools has been met with resistance across the state. In the Las Vegas area, Clark County School District Board of Trustees President Linda Cavazos has received death threats since the district approved a requirement for employees to get vaccinations.

6:17 a.m.: New Zealand is buying an extra 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from Spain as it tries to keep a surge in vaccination rates going during an outbreak of the coronavirus in Auckland.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the doses will arrive Friday and she has also got a second, larger deal in the works with another country.

New Zealand was slow to get its vaccination rollout going but has been catching up to other developed since the outbreak of the delta variant began last month. About 55% of New Zealanders have received at least one dose.

New daily community cases have been decreasing and were down to 13 Thursday. Auckland remains in a strict lockdown and health authorities try to extinguish the outbreak entirely.

6:16 a.m.: Parts of Australia’s New South Wales state will come out of lockdown Saturday and the government plans to ease restrictions in Sydney once 70% of its residents aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated.

The government on Thursday outlined plans to ease restrictions in Sydney, which has been locked down since June, but it also warned that COVID-19 hospitalizations won’t plateau until next month.

Coastal areas north of Sydney, the Murrumbidgee region south of the city and the Riverina to the west will be released from the statewide lockdown Saturday.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says Australia’s most populous state will exit lockdown in a “cautious and staged” way as vaccination rates rise. In New South Wales, 43% of the population aged 16 and older is fully vaccinated.

6:16 a.m.: As COVID-19 patients fill Philippine hospitals to the brim, officials say the virus has hit an orphanage and infected almost 100 children.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said the outbreak in the orphanage could have been prevented and “the children could have been saved from the life-threatening risks of COVID” had minimum health standards been followed strictly.

Of the 122 people infected, 99 are age 18 and younger while the rest are personnel of the Gentlehands Orphanage, the mayor said in a statement Thursday.

The virus apparently spread when an adult who was infected but didn’t have symptoms visited the orphanage in the city in metropolitan Manila.

The Philippines reported 12,751 new cases and 174 deaths on Wednesday and has now counted 2.1 million cases with 34,672 deaths.

6:16 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden is set to outline a six-pronged federal effort to boost COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant of the coronavirus that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.

The White House says Biden’s afternoon speech Thursday will encourage vaccinations for those who haven’t had a shot and promote new ways to protect those who are vaccinated. He’ll also push efforts to safely keep schools open, as well as new ways to boost testing and promote mask requirements. And he’ll emphasize steps to boost the economic recovery and moves to improve treatment for those with COVID-19.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Biden would encourage vaccine mandates for workforces and schools.

She says: “We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life. That’s what our objective is. So we want to be specific about what we’re trying to achieve.”

6:15 a.m.: The average cost of treating a COVID-19 patient who needs intensive care in Canada is estimated at over $50,000 compared with $8,400 for someone who’s had a heart attack, a new report says.

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show the average cost for patients being treated for the virus is more than $23,000, which is four times higher than a patient with influenza.

Ann Chapman, interim director of health spending and primary care at the agency, said the report reinforces the economic consequences of a serious illness, though it does not include the cost for doctors.

The report released Thursday says those with COVID-19 remain in hospital for about 15 days, twice as long as the typical pneumonia patient whose treatment cost is about $8,000, and that more of those sick with the virus are admitted to ICU and ventilated. One out of every five of them dies in intensive care.

The agency estimated the cost of COVID-19-related hospitalization in Canada, excluding Quebec, at nearly $1 billion between January 2020 and March 2021, the period covered by the report. It says the cost tripled between November 2020 and March.

6:15 a.m.: Alberta’s health-care system is on the verge of collapse, warns a group of physicians who are pleading with the government to strengthen public health measures to fend off a relentless fourth wave of COVID-19.

Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency room physician in Edmonton, said a staffing crisis, overwhelmed intensive care units and mixed messaging from the province has created a “dire” situation.

Her biggest fear, she said, is that doctors will need to triage patients should hospitalizations continue to mount.

“We don’t want to have to make these decisions where we’re choosing who gets to have (intensive) care or not. And we’re getting closer and closer to that every day,” Mithani said in an interview.

Alberta Health Services, the province’s health-care provider, said in a statement Wednesday there were 258 intensive care beds in the province, which includes 85 added spaces. It said intensive care unit capacity sat at 87 per cent — just slightly below a seven-day average of 91 per cent.

Mithani said the government needs to listen to front-line health-care workers and implement stronger public health restrictions to prevent the health system from crumbling.

“This is much, much worse than I think people understand,” she said. “We, as health-care workers, are telling you that things are very dire, that ICU beds are running out, that we are stretched very thin in terms of our hospital capacity.”

On Friday, the Government of Alberta reinstated an indoor mask mandate for public spaces and an alcohol sales curfew at 10 p.m. It also announced a $100 incentive for unvaccinated Albertans who get their shots in response to an intensifying crisis.

6:15 a.m.: Students in some of Ontario’s largest school boards head back to class today amid a fourth wave of COVID-19.

Some boards started their school years earlier this week, but today marks the first day of class for students in the Toronto, Peel, York and Durham boards.

It will be the third school year affected by the pandemic, though this year the province’s science experts are calling for schools to stay open in all but the most catastrophic circumstances.

COVID-19 safety will be top of mind for parents and students, and Ontario’s education minister says all 72 publicly funded school boards have achieved the goal of a stand-alone HEPA filter installed in every learning space that isn’t mechanically ventilated.

The Ministry of Education has sent guidelines to schools in a bid to slow the spread of the virus, which include requirements that staff and students self-screen for COVID-19 each day and wear masks indoors.

The province recently removed runny nose and headache from the list of COVID-19 symptoms that require children to stay home from school and get tested for COVID-19.