Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 642 cases; Canadians, masked and maintaining a distance, attend Remembrance Day ceremonies – 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.

3:03 p.m. A crowd returned to the grounds of Ontario’s legislature on Thursday for the second Remembrance Day of the pandemic, with speakers highlighting the service of Canadian soldiers in conflicts abroad and at home during the fight against COVID-19, reports The Canadian Press.

Premier Doug Ford noted it had been 20 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the start of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. He also paid tribute to those who served in the First and Second World Wars, the Korean and Gulf wars, and “countless” peacekeeping missions around the world, according to CP.

“Remembrance Day is a time all Ontarians pay tribute and honour the memory of those who have sacrificed for us, and show our gratitude to those heroes who still walk among us,” Ford said.

Heritage Minister Lisa MacLeod commented on the size of the crowd, which was larger than last year when more restrictions were in place, and thanked people for coming to pay respects while the pandemic continues.

She also highlighted the work of Armed Forces members who provided relief and eyewitness accounts of the conditions in hard-hit Ontario long-term care homes that were struggling with deadly COVID-19 outbreaks early in the pandemic.

A barrier separated the speakers from the group of a few hundred people who wore poppies and masks under the autumn leaves.

Air Force Lt. Danny Wijoyo said the in-person gathering brought “another layer of reverence” to his experience of paying respect in uniform.

“I’m really glad there’s actually this many people out,” he said before the ceremony started. “It’s just really encouraging that there’s all this support.”

Daimian Boyne, who served with the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia in 1994, said he considers Remembrance Day an important time to remember Canada’s history.

“It’s a sad day for all of us. We remember our friends, we remember our family, but I think all told it’s a good reminder for people of what our history and our heritage was and is,” he said.

He said his own experience in Bosnia is a reminder of “the inhumanity that can happen in the world.

“If people don’t go to places like this and stand up for people’s rights, then we’re going to have a world that’s falling apart,” he said.

Across the city, Mayor John Tory highlighted the experience of Toronto veterans and Black and Indigenous veterans who challenged racism and discrimination within the Armed Forces and through their service.

He said those efforts should be remembered in an increasingly polarized world.

“Remembrance Day should inspire us to strengthen our commitment to respect, to affirm our rejection of hatred and division,” he said.

2 p.m. The Delta variant in the U.S. is driving up COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Mountain West and fueling disruptive outbreaks in the North, a worrisome sign of what could be ahead this winter in America.

While trends are improving in Florida, Texas and other Southern states that bore the worst of the summer surge, it’s clear that delta isn’t done with the United States. COVID-19 is moving north and west for the winter as people head indoors, close their windows and breathe stagnant air.

“We’re going to see a lot of outbreaks in unvaccinated people that will result in serious illness, and it will be tragic,” said Dr. Donald Milton of the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

In recent days, a Vermont college suspended social gatherings after a spike in cases tied to Halloween parties. Boston officials shut down an elementary school to control an outbreak. Hospitals in New Mexico and Colorado are overwhelmed.

1:45 p.m. An Ottawa doctor who organized mass vaccination clinics earlier this year is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do more to protect health care workers after she received a death threat.

Doctor Nili Kaplan-Myrth’s “jabapalooza” vaccine clinics got a lot of attention in the city last spring but she says after receiving the threatening letter she won’t be holding similar clinics when vaccines are approved for children.

The threat against her was made in a letter sent to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario which Kaplan-Myrth passed on to the Ottawa Police Service.

A police spokesperson confirms the service received the complaint but because the threat is targeted at one person it does not pose a risk to the safety of the broader community.

Kaplan-Myrth says she is afraid to walk outside of her office as a result of the threat, and she is appealing to Trudeau because she has not received support from the provincial government.

1 p.m. Donning masks alongside poppies in the November chill, Canadians returned to cenotaphs and monuments across much of the country on Thursday morning to remember and pay their respects to those who fought and died in service of the country.

This year’s Remembrance Day ceremonies stand in stark contrast to last year when organizers discouraged people from attending in person because of the second wave of COVID-19.

Since the country’s founding, more than 2.3 million Canadians have served in uniform, and more than 120,000 have made the ultimate sacrifice. Gov. Gen. Mary May Simon noted that many of those who did come home were not the same people they were before.

May Simon, who wore the uniform of the Royal Canadian Air Force, attending her first Remembrance Day as the country’s commander-in-chief, acknowledged the long history and sacrifice of Indigenous Peoples in uniform.

She noted that this year marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong during the Korean War and 15 years since the first Canadian woman died in combat, Capt. Nichola Goddard.

12:15 p.m. Chorus Aviation Inc. is riding a fledgling recovery in the airline business driven by the return of traffic in Canada and abroad.

The company, which leases planes across the globe and provides regional service for Air Canada, says its fleet saw far greater use on both those fronts last quarter, with a further uptick on the near horizon.

Chief executive Joe Randell says its Jazz Aviation subsidiary carried more than doubled the number of passengers on its Air Canada routes in the third quarter than it did in the first half of the year.

“Change is in the air and our industry has arrived at an important inflection point,” he told investors on a conference call Thursday.

“The regional aviation sector is leading the recovery of domestic air transportation in many parts of the world.”

11:55 a.m. Quebec is reporting 663 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and four more deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

Health officials say COVID-19-related hospitalizations dropped by five from the day before, to 215, and 42 people were in intensive care, a drop of three.

Authorities say 13,545 doses of vaccine were administered in the past 24 hours.

Quebec’s public health institute says 90.8 per cent of residents 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine and 88.3 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated.

The institute says Quebec’s northern Nunavik territory remains the most-affected region in the province on a per-capita basis, with 1,318 active cases per 100,000 people. There are 64.5 active COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people across Quebec.

10:26 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting another 642 COVID-19 cases and five more deaths, according to its latest report released Thursday morning.

Ontario has administered 15,962 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,668,228 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,550,229 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 88.6 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 77.7 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

9:05 a.m. Cineplex Inc. reported a loss of $33.6 million in its latest quarter as movie audiences grew with all of its theatres open again.

The movie theatre company says the loss amounted to 53 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Sept. 30 compared with a loss of $121.2 million or $1.91 per diluted share a year ago.

Revenue totalled $250.4 million, up from $61.0 million in the same quarter last year, while theatre attendance rose to 8.3 million compared with 1.6 million a year ago.

Cineplex says it reopened its entire circuit of theatres as of July 17.

8:50 a.m. Austria’s chancellor on Thursday stepped up threats of lockdown measures for unvaccinated people, as new coronavirus cases in the Alpine country are soaring.

Austria has taken a series of measures in recent weeks in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 and encourage more people to get vaccinated. On Monday, new rules took effect barring unvaccinated people who haven’t recovered from an infection from restaurants, hotels, hairdressing salons and large public events.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said late last month that unvaccinated people in Austria could face new lockdown restrictions if infection numbers continue to rise — which they have. Figures released Wednesday showed 710.8 reported new cases per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days — a rate far higher than that of neighboring Germany, where record numbers also are causing alarm.

8:35 a.m. Carnival revelers in the western Germany city of Cologne were lining up Thursday to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccinations before they could begin the start of the outdoors celebrations — after a hiatus due to the pandemic last year.

Despite strict pandemic rules, the start of the carnival season was overshadowed by a coronavirus infection of Cologne’s official head of celebrations. Carnival Prince Sven I. announced Tuesday that he had tested positive despite being vaccinated and canceled all public appearances including the traditional reception at Cologne’s city hall, German news agency dpa reported.

On Cologne’s Heumarkt square in the old city, however, thousands of revelers dressed up as clowns, bees, pirates or tigers and seemed unfazed by the country’s spiking virus numbers as they danced tightly to brass band live music.

8 a.m. Slow TV is the broadcast documentation of ordinary activities over a long period in real time. It’s seemingly mundane content with no storyline. In recent years, Slow TV has been adapted on platforms like BIGO, TikTok, YouTube and more, with influencers and content creators recording themselves travelling, doing chores, painting a picture and so much more.

Amid the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders, viewers have pressed play on this type of programming as a way to distract themselves, create a normal ambience and keep them connected to the outside world.

Read the full story from the Star’s Danica Samuel

7:30 a.m. For the first year and a half of the coronavirus pandemic, it seemed that Taiwan would remain largely unscathed by the devastation playing out elsewhere. Aside from near-universal mask wearing, people went about their lives as normal.

But Taiwan was caught off guard when the virus came. The health system couldn’t handle the number of COVID tests needed and doctors lacked the right medications. The death toll rose quickly from just 12 to more than 800.

Bereaved families that are seeking an apology and 60 million new Taiwan dollars in compensation from the government, saying it was underprepared — despite it being a year and a half into the pandemic — leading to unnecessary deaths and suffering.

Lawyers for the families submitted their case Thursday to the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Executive Yuan, Taiwan’s Cabinet.

6:08 a.m.: Health Sciences North said Wednesday that it is “feeling the impact” of the rapid rise in local COVID-19 cases as admissions have been steadily increasing in recent weeks.

As a result, the hospital is reintroducing COVID-19 measures for visitors as of Nov. 11 “until further notice,” it said in a release.

The hospital currently has 20 admitted patients, including one in the ICU and 19 in other units, who have tested positive for COVID-19.

There are also 38 admitted patients, including one in the ICU and 37 in other units, who have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting results.

Public Health Sudbury and Districts declared a COVID-19 outbreak on level four of the north tower on Oct. 30.

The hospital said these numbers are some of its “highest COVID-19 admissions since the pandemic began.”

“Our occupancy continues to be well over 100 per cent,” the hospital said, adding that the numbers put everyone at risk of further transmission and outbreaks going forward.

“In order to help the situation and reduce risk for our patients and staff, HSN is reverting back to measures for visitor allowances that were introduced at previous points of the pandemic.”

6:08 a.m.: Canadians will return to cenotaphs and monuments across much of the country on Thursday morning to remember and pay their respects to those who fought and died in service of Canada.

This year’s Remembrance Day ceremonies will stand in stark contrast to last year, when organizers discouraged people from attending in person because of the second wave of COVID-19.

Royal Canadian Legion spokeswoman Nujma Bond is expecting a return to some semblance of normalcy, including at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, where people are being welcomed to attend.

Some restrictions and changes will nonetheless remain in place as COVID-19 continues to pose a threat, Bond said, with masks and physical distancing requirements in place for anyone planning to attend ceremonies.

6:06 a.m.: Belgian authorities said on Wednesday they approved plans to have a COVID-19 booster shot for all who would want one.

Health ministers from the nation’s different regions said that on top of the booster shots for health professionals and the over-65 age group which are already being administered, it will start preparing a booster vaccination campaign for those younger.

It also approved a booster jab for those who have received the one-dose J&J vaccine.

Even though Belgium has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe, it is currently struggling to contain a fourth spike of the pandemic.

6:04 a.m.: Universities that adopted COVID-19 vaccine mandates this fall have seen widespread compliance even though many schools made it easy to get out of the shots by granting exemptions to nearly any student who requested one.

Facing pockets of resistance and scattered lawsuits, colleges have tread carefully because forcing students to get the vaccine when they have a religious or medical objection could put schools into tricky legal territory. For some, there are added concerns that taking a hard line could lead to a drop in enrollment.

Still, universities with mandates report much higher vaccination rates than communities around them, even in places with high vaccine hesitancy. Some universities have seen nearly complete compliance, including at state flagship schools in Maryland, Illinois and Washington, helping them avoid large outbreaks like those that disrupted classes a year ago.

6:03 a.m.: The campaign to vaccinate elementary school age children in the U.S. is off to a strong start, health officials said Wednesday, but experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.

About 900,000 kids aged 5 to 11 will have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in their first week of eligibility, the White House said, providing the first glimpse at the pace of the school-aged vaccination campaign.

“We’re off to a very strong start,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients, during a briefing with reporters.

Final clearance for the shots was granted by federal regulators on Nov. 2, with the first doses to kids beginning in some locations the following day.

The estimated increase in vaccinations in elementary school age children appears similar to a jump seen in May, when adolescents ages 12 to 15 became eligible for shots.

Now nearly 20,000 pharmacies, clinics and physicians’ offices are offering the doses to younger kids, and the Biden administration estimates that by the end of Wednesday more than 900,000 of the kid doses will have been given. On top of that, about 700,000 first-shot appointments are scheduled for the coming days.

6:01 a.m.: A coalition of 10 states sued the federal government on Wednesday to try to block a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers, marking a new front in the resistance by Republican-led states to the pandemic policies of President Joe Biden’s administration.

The lawsuit filed in a federal court in Missouri contends that the vaccine requirement threatens the jobs of millions of health care workers and could “exacerbate an alarming shortage” in health care fields, particularly in rural areas where some health workers have been hesitant to get the shots.

The suit follows similar ones by Republican-led states challenging new Biden administration rules that will require federal contractors to ensure their workers are vaccinated and that businesses with more than 100 employees require their workers to get vaccinated or wear masks and get tested weekly for the coronavirus. All of the mandates are scheduled to take effect Jan. 4.

Biden’s administration contends that the federal rules supersede state policies prohibiting vaccine mandates and are essential to slowing the pandemic, which has killed more than 755,000 people in the U.S. But the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals already has temporarily blocked the business vaccine rule, saying it raises “grave statutory and constitutional issues.”

6 a.m.: A fire at a COVID-19 hospital in Romania killed two people Thursday, authorities said. It was the fourth fatal fire at a Romanian COVID-19 hospital during the pandemic.

The blaze broke out in the infectious disease wing of the hospital in the city of Ploiesti as 21 patients were receiving care, authorities said. Officials identified the two victims as men in their 70s. A nurse who reportedly suffered serious burns was transferred to a hospital in Romania’s capital of Bucharest.

The cause of the fire, which was quickly extinguished, was not yet known, but an investigation was underway.

Interim Prime Minister Florin Citu sent his condolences Thursday morning to the families of the fire victims and said “such tragedies must not be repeated.”

“I always asked that the hospitals be prepared for wave four,” Citu said during a news conference. “We are facing an overload of the medical system due to wave four, and everyone involved must ensure that all measures are taken for the safety of patients.”

5:59 a.m.: Can at-home COVID-19 tests make holiday gatherings safer?

Yes, combined with vaccination, home test kits for COVID-19 can add a layer of safety and reassurance by providing on-the-spot results during this second year of pandemic holidays.

“We will be using rapid tests to doublecheck everybody before we gather together,” says Dr. Emily Volk, president of the College of American Pathologists, who is planning a holiday meal with six vaccinated family members. “We’ll be doing it as they come in the door.”

Home kits are not as accurate as the PCR tests done in hospitals and at testing sites, Volk says. But they have the advantage of giving results within minutes instead of days.

5:57 a.m.: Germany’s national disease control center reported a record-high number of more than 50,000 daily coronavirus cases Thursday as the country’s parliament was set to discuss legislation that would provide a new legal framework for coronavirus measures.

The Robert Koch Institute registered 50,196 new cases, up from 33,949 daily cases a week earlier. Infections have risen so quickly in recent days that hospitals in especially affected regions canceled planned surgeries again so medical personnel could focus on COVID-19 patients.

The institute also reported 237 daily COVID-19 deaths, bringing Germany’s pandemic death toll to 97,198. One of the country’s top virologists, Christian Drosten, warned Wednesday that another 100,000 people could die in coming months if the country’s vaccination rate didn’t accelerate quickly.

Unlike some other European countries, Germany has balked at making vaccinations mandatory for certain categories of workers. Yet the country has struggled to find ways to persuade more people to get shots voluntarily.

5:55 a.m.: The National Institutes of Health is prepared to aggressively defend its assertion that its scientists helped invent a crucial component of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine — including taking legal action if government lawyers deem it necessary, the agency’s director, Dr. Francis Collins, said Wednesday.

Moderna’s vaccine, which appears to provide the world’s best defense against COVID-19, grew out of four years of collaboration with research scientists at the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the company has blocked three NIH researchers from being named on a key patent application.

Much more than scientific recognition is at stake. If federal researchers were named as co-inventors in the patent, the government would have a nearly unfettered right to license the Moderna vaccine to other manufacturers, which could expand access to it in poorer nations and bring the government millions in revenue.

Collins declined to be interviewed. But speaking to Reuters in advance of a virtual health conference hosted by the news service, he made clear that the NIH, the government’s biomedical research agency, was not backing down.

Read Wednesday’s coronavirus news.