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.
9:30 p.m.: For the first time in more than a year and a half, Toronto restaurants and gyms can operate at full capacity Monday — but that doesn’t mean all of them will.
While some local business owners see this as a sign their historic ordeal is coming to an end, others say the change will be “scarcely noticeable,” thanks to Toronto’s deserted downtown core. And with an end to the vaccine mandate forecasted this winter, some restaurateurs are forgoing indoor dining altogether.
Amr Elimam, owner of Papyrus restaurant on Danforth, has been especially careful throughout the pandemic — he shut down indoor dining March of last year, before it was mandated, and has yet to reopen it.
But as COVID case numbers began to trend in the right direction and vaccine uptake increased over the past months, he decided he would invite patrons back inside once capacity restrictions were done away with.
7:45 p.m.: The Canadian Armed Forces says it’s prepared to support Saskatchewan with up to six critical care nursing officers, who it says will be deployed to intensive care units.
The military also says it will provide medical air transport for in-province and out-of-province critical care patient transfers, as capacity allows, and may also supply a pair of Multipurpose Medical Assistance Teams to backfill the province’s nurses.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted late Friday the federal government had approved a request for pandemic aid in Saskatchewan, including military support.
Blair also noted that Ottawa is also in talks with the province to provide additional help from the Canadian Red Cross and other health resources.
Saskatchewan reported Sunday that it transferred an additional patient to another province as its hospitals remain strained due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, making for a total of eight patients it has transferred out of province so far.
The military says it is expecting to support Saskatchewan until Nov. 17, but is prepared to extend that date if necessary.
“We are currently working with provincial authorities to ensure these medical professionals will be employed in the best possible location based on the needs of the people of Saskatchewan,” a statement from the military over the weekend said.
The statement said military personnel will only be employed at medical facilities after completing mandated training for their integration.
Data from the Saskatchewan Health Authority for this month shows Saskatchewan had the most residents in intensive care units per capita than any other province at any point in the pandemic.
The SHA said Sunday that 285 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, including 74 in intensive care. Those numbers do not include the patients who have been transferred out of the province.
Active cases on Sunday in Saskatchewan were at 2,963, down considerably from a month ago when the stood at 4,734 on Sept. 24.
4:00 p.m.: A person in their 80s in the Moncton area has died due to COVID-19, as 51 new cases of the illness were reported Sunday in New Brunswick.
But the province logged a drop in the total number of infections as it reported 112 people have recovered from the illness.
There were 627 active cases in New Brunswick as of Sunday, compared to 689 the day before.
Public Health says about half of the new cases are among unvaccinated residents, while about 20 per cent have only received one shot.
There are 41 patients still in hospital due to the virus including 11 in intensive care, 10 of whom are unvaccinated and one of whom is partially immunized.
Public Health reported Sunday that 83.7 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 92.1 per cent have received their first dose of a vaccine.
2:10 p.m.: German health officials and experts have raised concerns about a new surge of coronavirus cases. Infections in Germany — about 12,775 daily on average — have increased by 57 per cent in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Deaths on average in the same period have increased by 11 per cent.
12:53 p.m.: An internal government analysis on the Canada Recovery Benefit says the majority of recipients who received the federal help were continuous or repeat beneficiaries of the now-ended aid program.
The analysis from Employment and Social Development Canada found that by early June, 1.5 million, or about 75 per cent of the 1.8 million unique recipients of the benefit, were continuous or repeat beneficiaries. Among them were some 627,000 recipients who applied and received the benefit for months at a time, never once taking a break.
The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the briefing note to the top official at the department under access-to-information law.
Experts who reviewed the document suggest the analysis hints at the level of need for the income-support program, which came to an end over the weekend.
As of Oct. 10, the CRB had paid out just over $27 billion to nearly 2.2 million applicants since its launch in late September 2020.
12:28 p.m.: Florida’s top health official was asked to leave a meeting after refusing to wear a mask at the office of a state senator who told him she had a serious medical condition, officials have confirmed.
Florida Senate leader Wilton Simpson, a Republican, sent a memo to senators Saturday regarding the incident at the office of Democratic state Sen. Tina Polsky, asking visitors at the building to be respectful with social interactions. Polsky, who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, had not yet made public her breast cancer diagnosis.
Polsky told The Associated Press about the tense exchange with state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo that was first reported by the news site Florida Politics. She said Ladapo and two aides were offered masks and asked to wear them when they arrived for the Wednesday meeting, saying she had a serious condition.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cancer patients are at a higher risk to get severely ill from COVID-19 and may not build the same immunity to vaccines.
11:34 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 429 new COVID-19 cases today, along with two more deaths related to the virus. The seven-day average of cases stands at 422.
Health officials say hospitalizations fell by five to 250, while the number of patients in intensive care dropped by three to 65.
Of the latest reported infections, 266 were among people who were either unvaccinated or who had only received a first dose within the past two weeks.
The province says it vaccinated 9,099 people on Saturday, including up to 5,729 second doses.
11:27 a.m.: The mayor of a small town in Newfoundland says an outbreak of COVID-19 in his community and the surrounding area has resulted in 39 confirmed cases as of last night, with more expected to be confirmed later today.
Mayor Brian Keating says there is “an anticipation of more positives as contact tracing is ongoing” in Marystown and nearby communities located on the Burin Peninsula.
Keating says public health officials have informed municipal leaders that 974 people have been tested for the virus, and over 400 are booked for testing today in the town — which has a population of about 5,000 people.
During a briefing on Friday in St. John’s, provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said many of the initial cases occurred at Sacred Heart Academy in Marystown but the original source of the outbreak was under investigation.
10:16 a.m. (updated): There are 370 new cases of COVID-19 reported today, and one new death. Of those, 247 cases are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 123 are in fully vaccinated individuals.
On Saturday, there were 373 new cases, bringing the seven-day average below 400. By comparison, last Sunday, the number of new cases was 443.
There were 138 people reported hospitalized with COVID; 137 in ICU. Hospital figures on the weekend are incomplete.
With more than 25,000 tests completed, the positivity rate was 1.2 per cent.
The latest death brings the province’s total to 9,846 since the start of the pandemic.
Ontario administered 19,285 vaccines Saturday. Read the full story.
7:42 a.m.: Jennifer Hubert jumped at the opportunity to get her COVID-19 vaccine, but she’s not looking forward to having to make the decision about whether to vaccinate her three-year-old son Jackson.
She recognizes the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, but said she also understands her son is at a much lower risk for serious illness than older adults.
“To me it’s not a clear benefit,” she said.
While many parents were overjoyed at the news that Health Canada is considering approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine for kids age five to 11 in Canada, parents like Hubert are feeling more trepidatious, and public health officials said they are going to have a much more nuanced conversation with parents about vaccination than they did with adults.
While 82 per cent of eligible Canadians aged 12 and up are already fully vaccinated, a recent survey by Angus Reid shows only 51 per cent of parents plan to immediately vaccinate their kids when a pediatric dose becomes available.
Of parents with children in the five-to-11-year age range, 23 per cent said they would never give their kids a COVID-19 vaccine, 18 per cent said they would wait, and nine per cent said they weren’t sure, according to the survey of 5,011 Canadians between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3, which cannot be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered random samples.
“Most of the research that I’ve seen sort of indicates that parents are more hesitant to vaccinate their kids against COVID than themselves,” said Kate Allan, a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Vaccine Preventable Diseases of the University of Toronto.
7:41 a.m.: British Columbia is set to lift capacity restrictions on gatherings across much of the province Monday, though some say not everyone will be ready to party like it’s early 2020 while still wearing a mask.
Residents in swaths of the province will be allowed to attend events like hockey games, concerts and weddings without any limits on numbers, but capacity will be capped at 50 per cent in areas where vaccination rates are low, including parts of the Fraser, Northern and Interior health regions.
Attendees at all organized events in B.C. will be required to wear face coverings and show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
The move was eagerly anticipated by businesses, including those that require bookings well in advance for events like weddings.
But Harpal Sooch, owner of the Grand Taj Banquet Hall in Surrey, said not everyone is ready for pre-pandemic-type parties while they still need to wear masks, especially seniors waiting for booster shots and families with children under 12 who can’t yet be vaccinated.
“They’re not getting into it. But hopefully everything goes on so by next summer we’ll be fine,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Heidi Tworek, a professor who specializes in health communications at the University of British Columbia’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, said employers, businesses expecting more customers and even individuals inviting someone over for dinner should expect a range of reactions because the lack of regular contact with people after nearly two years will have impacted some people’s mental health.
“There’s sometimes a baseline assumption that every single person is eager to go back immediately to full capacity,” she said, adding that while most people will have to get used to gathering with others outside their usual circle of contacts, those with an anxiety disorder will have a more difficult time being around those they don’t know.
Sunday 7:37 a.m.: In a pair of Cape Town warehouses converted into a maze of airlocked sterile rooms, young scientists are assembling and calibrating the equipment needed to reverse engineer a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to reach South Africa and most of the world’s poorest people.
The energy in the gleaming labs matches the urgency of their mission to narrow vaccine disparities. By working to replicate Moderna’s COVID-19 shot, the scientists are effectively making an end run around an industry that has vastly prioritized rich countries over poor in both sales and manufacturing.
And they are doing it with unusual backing from the World Health Organization, which is co-ordinating a vaccine research, training and production hub in South Africa along with a related supply chain for critical raw materials. It’s a last resort effort to make doses for people going without, and the intellectual property implications are still murky.
“We are doing this for Africa at this moment, and that drives us,” said Emile Hendricks, a 22-year-old biotechnologist for Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, the company trying to reproduce the Moderna jab. “We can no longer rely on these big superpowers to come in and save us.”