Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 1,003 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 297 in ICU – Toronto Star

A pedestrian walks along Toronto’s Entertainment District.

Meanwhile, Germany’s health minister warned Friday the coronavirus pandemic is not yet over.

By Star staff

wire services

Fri., Feb. 25, 20227 min. read

Article was updated 43 mins ago

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

10:57 a.m. After giving birth, Macenzee Keller fought for her life against COVID-19 while under sedation and breathing with the help of machines.

She and her baby were reunited earlier this month when Keller’s mom brought the healthy baby boy, named Zachery, to her hospital bedside.

“It was very emotional because I was like, ‘Oh, I got to finally see my baby that I was waiting for so long to see,’” said Keller, who has since returned home to Manchester, New Hampshire.

10:43 a.m. Newly released documents show Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was given warnings about the complexity of plans to “build back better” from the pandemic that could lead to economic uncertainty.

The idea of strengthening economic shortfalls unearthed by the pandemic has become a rallying cry for Canada and many of its allies, such as the United States.

While there is a heavy focus on strengthening battered supply chains and building domestic capacity to produce essential goods, “build back better” also aims to address digital and green economic shifts accelerated by the pandemic.

The prime minister’s briefing binder notes that governments looking to “build back better” could create “uncertainty about rule and standards, create market distortions, and generate less of an even playing field.”

10:15 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting 1,003 people in hospital with COVID-19 and 297 in intensive care.

That’s slightly down from Thursday, when the province reported 1,066 hospitalizations and 302 people in ICUs.

Ontario also logged 35 new deaths from the virus.

There were 2,427 new cases of COVID-19, but provincial policies limiting access to testing mean that number is likely higher.

10:10 a.m. The founders of GiveSendGo preach a simple message: “The most valuable currency is God’s love.”

Since 2015, when siblings Jacob Wells and Heather Wilson founded the American crowdfunding site, GiveSendGo has become the Christian response to GoFundMe, a religiously-inclined platform devoted to collecting money for causes that other crowdfunding sites won’t touch.

The family-owned business hosts campaigns ranging from “Send a kid to Christian camp” — a fundraiser that purports to help prevent Gen Z students “from falling prey to the lies of secularist, Marxism and anti-Christian trends in culture” — to the “Enrique Tarrio Defence Fund,” a fundraiser that collected $113,056 (U.S.) after a member of the far-right Proud Boys was arrested en route to Washington, D.C., with high-capacity firearm magazines in his possession, two days before the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

GiveSendGo’s recent campaign for the “freedom convoy,” which shut down Ottawa’s downtown for nearly a month, may have been one of the company’s most profitable, not just for the fundraisers but also for the site’s founders.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jacob Lorinc

9:50 a.m. New York City public school students will be allowed to remove their masks outside starting next week but must keep them on indoors for now, Schools Chancellor David Banks said Friday.

“I am so pleased that we are able to make this exciting announcement and safely allow students and staff to remove their masks when outdoors at NYC public schools,” Banks said in a news release.

The move comes as COVID-19 infections in New York continue to decline after the emergence of the omicron variant fueled a December-January spike.

9:30 a.m. Health Canada is warning Canadians of the potential risks associated with accidentally ingesting or spilling COVID-19 rapid antigen test kit solutions on the skin after hearing about dozens of calls to poison control centres.

The agency issued a public advisory on the federal government’s website on Thursday, saying it is aware of approximately 50 calls related to accidental exposure, which have resulted in minor health outcomes.

Health Canada said it was advising Canadians on “a precautionary basis” of the risks associated with misuse, accidental ingestion or skin exposure.

The agency said the tests are safe and effective when used properly, but many kits include liquid solutions with chemical preservatives — including sodium azide and Proclin — that may be poisonous if swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Health Canada said small children and pets are especially vulnerable to adverse effects, even from small doses.

8:50 a.m. Daily COVID-19 cases may be trending down across the globe, but federal health officials advise U.S. travelers to avoid nearly 60 per cent of international destinations because of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added four Asian countries — Bhutan, Brunei, Iran and Malaysia — to its “level 4” travel health notice this week, a collection of destinations with “very high” levels of COVID-19.

“Avoid travel to these destinations,” the CDC says on its website. “If you must travel to these destinations, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.”

7:30 a.m. Calling it a “cornerstone for the social safety net for workers,” federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan will be urging his provincial and territorial counterparts this week to implement 10 paid sick days across the country.

The ministers’ meeting on Friday comes as the federal government has yet to fully deliver on a key Liberal campaign promise of 10 paid sick days for federally regulated workplaces. While legislation creating the policy was passed in December, there is no timeline for its implementation.

“It really seems like a missed opportunity to go into a meeting to convince people to put in place legislated paid sick days when the federal government has inexplicably continued to delay implementation,” said Dr. Monika Dutt, a member of advocacy group Decent Work and Health Network, which has pushed for paid sick leave.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jacques Gallant

5:44 a.m.: Sudbury’s health unit issued a reminder on Thursday that it’s important to continue protecting vulnerable members of the community as the provincial government lifts COVID-19 restrictions.

“Starting next week, it is expected that the government of Ontario will lift the requirement to show proof of vaccination for all remaining settings currently under provincial regulations,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe in the health unit’s weekly update.

“This will be in addition to further easing other public health measures. While this is welcome news, it may be concerning for some, recognizing the virus is still present around us.”

The Ontario government has announced the easing of restrictions is possible due to decreasing case counts and high vaccination rates.

“Please be reminded that it remains important to protect those in our community who are particularly vulnerable to severe disease, such as seniors and those with underlying medical conditions,” said Sutcliffe.

“Although COVID-19 will continue to circulate, we now have greater knowledge and tools to help keep us safe. The sacrifices and protective measures we have used have helped save lives.”

5:43 a.m.: Hong Kong on Friday reported another sharp jump in new COVID-19 cases to more than 10,000 in the latest 24-hour period as it battles its worst outbreak of the pandemic.

The new daily case count reached 10,010, health officials said, after topping 6,000 last week and 8,000 earlier this week in a spiralling outbreak. The city has been reporting about 50 deaths a day, many among the unvaccinated elderly.

The government has announced plans to test everyone in the semi-autonomous Chinese city of 7.4 million people next month as it tries to adhere to a zero-COVID policy modelled on the strict mainland China approach.

Mainland experts and builders are putting up temporary testing facilities and building isolation centres to handle the burgeoning caseload. The zero-COVID approach requires the isolation of anyone who tests positive, even without symptoms, to prevent spread.

5:42 a.m.: Germany’s health minister warned Friday that the coronavirus pandemic isn’t over yet, noting that the country is still seeing record infections and high numbers of deaths.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control agency, reported 210,743 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 226 deaths in the past 24 hours. Officials say laboratory data suggests there may be a large number of undetected cases.

“We need to be careful not to think that the pandemic is over,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told reporters in Berlin.

A subtype of the Omicron variant, dubbed BA.2, could lead to a further rise in cases, he said.

Lauterbach urged Germany’s 16 states not to relax restrictions faster than recently agreed.

Friday 5:41 a.m.: The Biden administration will significantly loosen federal mask-wearing guidelines to protect against COVID-19 transmission on Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter, meaning most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday will announce a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings, shifting from looking at COVID-19 case counts to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community. Under current guidelines, masks are recommended for people residing in communities of substantial or high transmission — roughly 95% of U.S. counties, according to the latest data.

The new metrics will still consider caseloads, but also take into account hospitalizations and local hospital capacity, which have been markedly improved during the emergence of the Omicron variant. That strain is highly transmissible, but indications are that it is less severe than earlier strains, particularly for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted. Under the new guidelines, the vast majority of Americans will no longer live in areas where indoor masking in public is recommended, based on current data.

Read Thursday’s coronavirus news.

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