Today’s coronavirus news: Unvaccinated workers force B.C. hospitals to delay surgeries; Amazon drops mask rule in U.S.; Ontario reporting 422 COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths – Toronto Star

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

5:34 p.m.: Biotechnology company Novavax Inc. says it has submitted its COVID-19 vaccine for approval in Canada, opening the prospect of another product on the country’s vaccine market that could win over a few more vaccine-hesitant residents.

The U.S. company said Friday it has completed submission of all modules required by Health Canada for evaluation of its protein-based COVID-19 vaccine — the first of its kind up for consideration in Canada.

The regulatory filings include clinical data from a trial of 30,000 participants in the U.S. and Mexico, which found 100 per cent protection against moderate and severe disease and 90.4 per cent efficacy overall, Novavax said. Infectious disease experts say the would-be arrival of another vaccine — particularly a non-mRNA one — could have several benefits.

“One of the many reasons driving that is a hesitation toward mRNA vaccines. And if we do approve of Novavax and roll this out, that may be a small piece of a much larger puzzle to facilitate uptake of COVID-19 vaccination in Canada,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and researcher based at Toronto General Hospital.

It’s not clear how long it will take Health Canada to evaluate Novavax’s submission.

5:15 p.m.: Surgeries in some British Columbia hospitals are being postponed due to staffing shortages created by more than 3,000 unvaccinated health-care workers who have been put on unpaid leave.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says there are currently 3,325 health-care workers across the province who have not been immunized against COVID-19 in violation of the government’s proof-of-vaccination policy for health-care workers.

Dix says the staffing shortages will result in reductions of operating services in hospitals in the Interior and Fraser health authorities, while added demand for health care has forced surgery postponements in many other parts of the province.

4:35 p.m.: Amazon.com Inc. says its vaccinated workers in the U.S. will no longer have to wear masks beginning on Tuesday, unless required to do so by federal or local rules.

“Vaccines are universally available across the U.S. and vaccination rates continues to rise which enables the ability to return to our previous mask policy,” the company said in a notice to employees on Friday. A spokesperson confirmed the decision.

The online retailer, the second largest U.S. employer after Walmart, in August ordered employees to resume masking up regardless of vaccination status, as the delta variant spread. The company has so far stopped short of mandating vaccinations in its ranks, instead offering cash raffles and other perks for vaccinated employees.

4:29 p.m.: Prince Edward Island is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 Monday. One new case involves a contact of a previously reported infection and the other is related to recent travel outside the province.

Prince Edward Island has four active reported infections. Officials say that as of Oct. 27, about 88 per cent of Islanders were fully vaccinated and 93.4 per cent had received at least one dose.

P.E.I. has reported 319 COVID-19 cases since the onset of the pandemic.

4:19 p.m.: Saskatchewan reported 128 new cases and three deaths on Monday as its active case total fell to 1,950, its lowest since Aug. 27.

The number of hospitalized cases in the province whose hospitals have been severely strained by the fourth wave recently is down four to 222, the lowest since mid-September.

3:50 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting 31 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 38 more recoveries from the disease.

Health officials say the number of active infections in the province stands at 506.

They say 16 of the new cases reported today involve people who are unvaccinated.

Officials say 24 people are in hospital with the disease, including 16 patients in intensive care.

The government says that beginning this week, people 65 and older and school personnel will be able to book appointments for mRNA COVID-19 booster vaccine doses if six months have passed since their second doses.

People who have received one or two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be able to book appointments for mRNA COVID-19 booster doses if 28 days have passed since their second doses.

3:20 p.m. Anyone wanting access to workplaces in Canada’s Senate will need to be fully immunized against COVID-19.

The Senate’s internal economy committee has announced a mandatory vaccination rule for all Senate staffers, journalists, visitors and anyone else wanting admittance to the parliamentary buildings that house the upper chamber and its offices.

Last week, Senate Speaker George Furey announced that all senators would have to be double vaccinated to participate in person in Senate proceedings.

That followed consultations with the leaders of the various groups in the Senate.

The Independent Senators Group, the Progressive Senate Group and the Canadian Senators Group have said all their members are fully vaccinated.

Conservative Senate leader Don Plett’s office won’t say how many of the 18 Tory senators have received two shots of an approved vaccine.

2:30 p.m. A former Quebec health minister told a coroner’s inquest today that “systemic ageism” and outdated health-care facilities contributed to the tragedy that unfolded in the province’s long-term care homes during the first wave of COVID-19.

Réjean Hébert, who is also a gerontologist, told coroner Géhane Kamel that nearly 10 per cent of the province’s long-term care patients died of COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic, which is a rate five times higher than that in Canada as a whole.

The former health minister said that even before the pandemic there was a tendency to shift health-care resources toward other priorities, leading to a lack of doctors and nurses to care for vulnerable seniors in care homes.

Hébert also pointed to outdated facilities where patients were subjected to inadequate ventilation and forced to share bedrooms and bathrooms as factors that contributed to Quebec’s high mortality rate.

The coroner’s inquest is examining the deaths of elderly and vulnerable people in residential settings during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to formulate recommendations to avoid future tragedies.

About half the province’s COVID-19 deaths during the first wave occurred in long-term care homes, and some 92 per cent of victims who died between Feb. 25 and July 11 2020 were 70 and older, according to the province’s public health institute.

2:05 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 since its last update on Friday.

One case involves a resident under the age of 20 in the eastern health region who is a contact of a previously reported infection.

The other new case is related to travel within Canada and involves a man in his 50s.

Officials say there had been 10 new recoveries from the disease as of Saturday, adding that one person is in hospital with COVID-19.

The province has 91 active reported infections.

Officials say data on COVID-19 testing isn’t available due to a suspected cyberattack that has damaged the province’s IT infrastructure.

2 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting its 101st death related to COVID-19. Health officials said Monday a man in his 70s died from the disease in the eastern region of the province.

Officials are also reporting 59 new cases of COVID-19 and 61 recoveries since their last update on Oct. 29.

Five new cases are in the eastern zone, 44 in the central zone, six in the northern zone and four are located in the western zone.

1:55 p.m. As of Nov. 1, cruise ships are no longer banned in Canadian waters. “Canada is looking forward to welcoming them back into our waters for the 2022 cruise season,” says a tweet from Transport Canada.

1:40 p.m. Anticipating a green light from vaccine advisers, the Biden administration is assembling and shipping millions of COVID-19 shots for children ages 5-11, the White House said Monday. The first could go into kids’ arms by midweek.

“We are not waiting on the operations and logistics,” said coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients.

By vaccinating children, the U.S. hopes to head off another coronavirus wave during the cold-weather months when people spend more time indoors and respiratory illnesses can spread more easily. Cases have been declining for weeks, but the virus has repeatedly shown its ability to stage a comeback and more easily transmissible mutations are a persistent threat.

1:25 p.m. A transit agency serving the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area says 89 bus trips were cancelled Monday as its COVID-19 vaccine mandate took effect.

Metrolinx says the number represents approximately six per cent of daily bus trips, and some train cancellations are also possible.

Employees at the transit agency had until Nov. 1 to get vaccinated, provide a medical exemption or be placed on leave without pay.

Spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins says the agency was gathering final numbers Monday but estimated that between two and three per cent of staff were on leave.

1:10 p.m. Ontario’s health minister says she now has enough responses from hospitals and health-care groups across the province to inform her decision on a mandatory vaccine policy at hospitals.

Premier Doug Ford sent a letter last month to hospital CEOs, local medical officers of health and other related organizations asking for input on mandating vaccines for staff at hospitals.

He had asked for responses by Oct. 19, but last week Health Minister Christine Elliott said they were still waiting for responses from some hospitals so the government could make its decision.

She says today that she has now received most of them and is reviewing them in detail, so she can make a decision.

Elliott says one factor to consider is whether a vaccine mandate would lead to staff shortages affecting patient care, such as needing to cancel surgeries.

Several hospitals who have already implemented their own mandates have seen roughly two per cent of staff being placed on unpaid leave or terminated because of the policies.

12:45 p.m. A judge on Monday suspended a Dec. 31 deadline for Chicago police officers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but didn’t interfere with a requirement that they be regularly tested.

Disputes over vaccinations should be submitted to an arbitrator as a labor grievance, Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell said.

“The effect of this order is to send these parties back to the bargaining table and to promote labor peace by allowing them to pursue“ remedies under Illinois law, Mitchell said.

12:26 p.m. Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane has been removed from the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

Assistant coaches Tomas Mitell and Matt Meacham also have left the protocol.

The move means Kane is cleared to play when Chicago tries for its first win of the season Monday night against the Ottawa Senators.

11:55 a.m. Authorities in Russia’s Novgorod region on Monday ordered most residents to stay off work for one more week starting Nov. 8 as coronavirus infections and deaths remained at all-time highs.

The Novgorod region was the first region to extend the nationwide non-working period between Oct. 30-Nov. 7 that was ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force on Monday reported more than 40,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases for the third straight day and more than 1,100 deaths for the seventh day in a row — the highest levels in each category since the start of the pandemic.

Putin has said that governments in regions where the situation is the most dire could start the non-working days earlier and extend them if needed.

In Moscow, the non-working period started on Oct. 28, with city authorities shutting down many non-essential businesses. In the Novgorod region roughly 500 kilometers (310 miles) northwest of the Russian capital, non-working days began on Oct. 25.

On Monday, Novgorod’s regional coronavirus task force reported 284 new infections — double the daily tally from a month ago when just over 140 new confirmed cases were reported each day. Governor Andrei Nikitin said there is no reason to expect the situation improving any time soon.

Russia’s daily numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths have been surging for weeks amid low vaccine uptake, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions. Less than 35 per cent of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated so far, even though Russia was among the first in the world to approve and roll out a coronavirus vaccine.

11:35 a.m. Peel Public Health (PPH) has announced its ambitious fall and winter COVID-19 vaccination plan, with aims to open a combination of large and small vaccine clinics.

As Dec. 1 draws closer, PPH is expected to double its vaccine system as new directives, including third and pediatrics doses, are approved by the province.

Top priorities include the “final push” for 90 per cent vaccine coverage, pediatric first doses for children aged 5-11 upon approval and expanded eligibility for third doses.

To achieve this, large and small clinics will be sprouting up across Peel so residents can choose the settings that best fits their needs.

11:10 a.m. Airlines are adding flights and capacity in the hope that passengers are eager to jump back onto flights after more than 18 long months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been going through the equivalent of about 11 years of historical growth over the past six months, so the growth has been really tremendous over a very, very short period of time,” says John Weatherill, chief commercial officer at WestJet.

After a near-grounding of flights, the Calgary-based airline expects to be at about 70 per cent its pre-COVID capacity by the end of December, fully restore its domestic business by next summer and see its international capacity fully return by the end of 2022.

10:45 a.m. When, not if, the next pandemic strikes, Canada and the United States need to work more closely together on a mutual, integrated strategy for managing risk at the shared border, rather than trying to shut it down entirely, a new report says.

A task force assembled by the D.C.-based Wilson Center, which included former Quebec premier Jean Charest and former Canadian justice minister Anne McLellan, concluded in its final report that closing the border entirely to non-essential travel likely did as much harm as good.

Next time — and there will be a next time, the panel warns — a plan to mitigate risk rather than trying to reduce it to zero would ultimately be a better solution, its members said Friday.

10:22 a.m. Biotechnology company Novavax Inc. says it has submitted its COVID-19 vaccine for approval in Canada.

The U.S. company says it has now completed the submission of all modules required by Health Canada for the regulatory evaluation of its protein-based COVID-19 vaccine.

The submission includes clinical data from a trial of 30,000 participants in the U.S. and Mexico.

The company says the trial found 100 per cent protection against moderate and severe disease and 90.4 per cent efficacy overall.

Novavax also recently announced regulatory filings for its vaccine in the United Kingdom and Australia and expects to complete additional regulatory filings shortly in several additional markets.

10:09 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting another 422 COVID-19 cases and three more deaths, according to its latest report released Monday morning.

Ontario has administered 7,427 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,522,144 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,499,285 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 88.2 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 77.4 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

10 a.m. Canadian musician Bryan Adams ducked out of a scheduled performance at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday night after testing positive for COVID-19.

His management team says Adams is fully vaccinated against the virus and is not experiencing any symptoms.

The rocker was to sing “It’s Only Love,” a duet he recorded with Tina Turner, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the ceremony.

9:36 a.m. With COVID-19 cases holding steady in Ontario, and the provincial government allowing full capacity for music venues and event spaces as of Nov. 15, concerts and other live events are happening once again, slowly creeping up to pre-pandemic levels.

Venues such as the Scotiabank Arena are mandating all guests 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated before attending events.

Whether you’re looking for a comedy show or a concert, here are several events worth checking out during the month of November.

8:45 a.m. Israel on Monday began welcoming individual tourists for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities hope that opening the country’s gates to solo travelers will breathe new life into the struggling tourism industry. Before the pandemic, the Christmas season saw hundreds of thousands of people visit Bethlehem, believed to be birthplace of Jesus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel had planned to reopen to tourists last spring but delayed the move amid a spike in cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant. Israel has since rolled out a booster campaign in which nearly half the population has received a third vaccine dose, driving cases back down.

Travelers must show proof of vaccination, a booster shot, or recovery from coronavirus within the last six months. Authorities recognize most vaccines, but those vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik must undergo a serological test upon arrival. Travelers must also present a negative coronavirus test before boarding their flights and take another one upon arrival.

8:25 a.m. At a Georgia state House of Representatives hearing on prison conditions in September, a corrections officer called in to testify, interrupting his shift to tell lawmakers how dire conditions had become.

On a “good day,” he told lawmakers, he had maybe six or seven officers to supervise roughly 1,200 people. He said he had recently been assigned to look after 400 prisoners by himself. There weren’t enough nurses to provide medical care.

“All the officers … absolutely despise working there,” said the officer, who didn’t give his name for fear of retaliation.

Staff shortages have long been a challenge for prison agencies, given the low pay and grueling nature of the work. But the coronavirus pandemic — and its impact on the labor market — has pushed many corrections systems into crisis. Officers are retiring and quitting in droves, while officials struggle to recruit new employees. And some prisons whose prisioner populations dropped during the pandemic have seen their numbers rise again, exacerbating the problem

7:25 a.m. A move by Swiss police in a resort town to shutter a restaurant because its owners flouted a government requirement to check patrons’ COVID-19 passes has again brought to the forefront tensions with some people who view such measures as infringing on civil rights.

Swiss media reported on Monday that police in Zermatt, a resort town at the foot of the famed Matterhorn peak, swept into the 19th century Walliserkanne restaurant a day earlier and sealed it off after its owners had defied a closure order and kept serving.

The three owners who were taken into custody, had reportedly transformed a stack of cinder blocks that police had used to block off the front entrance into a makeshift bar and let patrons to enter from the back.

The showdown points to renewed tensions in Switzerland and beyond over government measures aimed to fight the coronavirus pandemic that some people claim are treading on civil liberties. The reports said dozens of people over the weekend turned out at the restaurant to protest the arrests.

7 a.m.: Researchers at McMaster University and the Offord Centre for Child Studies are tracking the impact of the pandemic on the health and well-being of families. In some key areas parents were worse off this year than last year.

“The overall depressive and anxiety symptoms were higher than our original findings during the first wave,” said lead researcher Andrea Gonzalez, associate professor and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Family Health and Preventative Interventions.

During the first wave they surveyed 7,434 parents and caregivers with children up to age 17. This year, between May 4 and July 3, during the third wave, they garnered input from 10,778 respondents.

Last year, 57 per cent of caregivers reported feeling significant depressive symptoms in the previous week, compared with 69 per cent this year. Also last year, 30 per cent reported moderate to high levels of anxiety, compared with 38 per cent this year.

Almost half of parents surveyed this year said they had sought help from a mental health professional and 40 per cent reported needing help at least once during the pandemic, but not getting it.

Read the full story from the Star’s Isabel Teotonio.

6:47 a.m.: Quebec is lifting capacity restrictions in bars and restaurants starting Monday, more than a year after imposing the limits to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Health Minister Christian Dubé announced last month that bars and restaurants across the province could operate at full capacity and resume normal operating hours starting Nov. 1.

Bars and restaurants gradually reopened in Quebec over the summer after being shuttered to in-person dining, but some restrictions remained.

Establishments that serve alcohol will now be allowed to stay open until 3 a.m. and the distance between tables will drop from two metres to one metre.

But there are still some rules in place — each table is limited to 10 people from no more than three different households.

The ban on dancing and singing remains in effect until further notice, and Quebecers are still required to present their vaccine passport before entering and wear masks when moving around indoors.

6:45 a.m.: South Korea on Monday began to allow larger social gatherings and lifted business-hour restrictions on restaurants in what officials described as the first step toward attempting to restore some pre-pandemic normalcy.

The capital area has been under the country’s strongest social distancing measures short of a lockdown since July. Citing pandemic fatigue and economic concerns, officials had eased the measures in mid-October to allow for gatherings of up to eight people if at least four were fully vaccinated.

Under the changes starting Monday, the limit on private social gatherings in the capital, Seoul, and nearby metropolitan areas was raised to 10 people and 12 in other regions, regardless of whether participants are fully vaccinated or not.

Restaurants and coffee shops are now allowed to open for 24 hours, rather than being forced to close at 10 p.m. in the greater Seoul area and at midnight in the rest of the country. However, high-risk entertainment venues such as nightclubs are required to close at midnight.

To use indoor sports facilities or visit patients at hospitals, people must show smartphone apps or documents issued by public health authorities proving that they are fully vaccinated or were tested negative for the virus within 48 hours.

The gathering limits on political rallies or social events such as exhibitions or weddings were raised to a maximum of 499 people if all the participants are fully vaccinated. Larger crowds will also be allowed at professional sports.

6:45 a.m.: Fireworks boomed as visitors at Shanghai Disneyland waited for COVID-19 test results, surrounded by health care workers dressed from head to toe in white protective suits.

Shanghai Disneyland announced suddenly Sunday evening that it was no longer accepting any new visitors and was cooperating with an epidemiological investigation from another province. They then locked down the park as Shanghai city healthcare workers and police rushed to conduct a mass testing of the visitors already inside.

After testing everyone, the park will remain shut on Monday and Tuesday as it continues to cooperate with pandemic prevention efforts, Shanghai Disneyland said in a statement Monday.

The park’s sudden lockdown and temporary closure underscored just how serious China is about enforcing its zero-tolerance pandemic prevention strategy.

Globally, many countries have turned to living with the virus, whether out of choice or necessity, although as virus surges come and go, many face overburdened health care systems and additional deaths.

6:45 a.m.: Sydney’s international airport came alive with tears, embraces and laughter on Monday as Australia opened its border for the first time in 20 months, with some arriving travelers removing mandatory masks to see the faces of loved ones they’ve been separated from for so long.

Australia and other countries in the Asia-Pacific have had some of the world’s strictest COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures and travel restrictions, but with vaccination rates rising and cases falling, many are now starting to cautiously reopen.

Some, like China and Japan, remain essentially sealed off to foreign visitors, but Thailand also started to substantially reopen Monday and many others have already started, or plan to follow suit.

6:45 a.m.: The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 5 million on Monday, less than two years into a crisis that has not only devastated poor countries but also humbled wealthy ones with first-rate health care systems.

Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil — all upper-middle- or high-income countries — account for one-eighth of the world’s population but nearly half of all reported deaths. The U.S. alone has recorded over 740,000 lives lost, more than any other nation.

“This is a defining moment in our lifetime,” said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. “What do we have to do to protect ourselves so we don’t get to another 5 million?”

The death toll, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco combined. It rivals the number of people killed in battles among nations since 1950, according to estimates from the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Globally, COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and stroke.