The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
12:15 p.m. Saskatchewan is a few intensive care patients away from having to activate its triage protocol, which means doctors in the province could soon have to decide who can and cannot get care in intensive care units.
Data from the Saskatchewan Health Authority shows there were 114 people in ICUs across the province yesterday afternoon and 79 of those patients had COVID-19.
The ICU numbers change throughout the day, but the province was just two patients away from having to activate its “red zone,” which is triggered when there are 116 people in intensive care.
John Ash, executive director of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said last week that additional nurses would need to be brought in, more surgeries would have to be cancelled and ICU patients would need to be transferred out of province when the red zone is triggered.
Saskatchewan has already stopped all elective surgeries, started cancelling urgent surgeries and admitted adults into its children’s hospital.
Hospital data shows the province was also about five ICU patients away from having a 150 per cent surge capacity in its ICUs — a number that would trigger the province to activate its triage protocol.
The province is expected to provide more information during a COVID-19 briefing later Wednesday.
12 p.m. Twenty-three of the 24 new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday in Nova Scotia are in the central health zone, which includes Halifax.
Health officials say the remaining new case is in the western zone.
They say the coronavirus continues to circulate in the central zone among people aged between 20 and 40 who are unvaccinated.
Officials are also reporting 32 more recoveries.
Nova Scotia has 187 active reported cases of COVID-19 and 16 people in hospital with the disease, including two in intensive care.
Officials say there have been COVID-19 exposures at five more schools in the province.
11:40 a.m. Quebec is delaying its deadline for health-care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 until Nov. 15.
Health Minister Christian Dubé says the potential departure of thousands of health-care workers presents too great a risk for the province’s health system.
He told reporters today that starting Monday, all unvaccinated health-care workers in the public sector will be tested for COVID-19 at least three times a week.
The province had imposed a deadline of this Friday for all health-care workers in the public and private sector to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face suspension without pay.
11:25 a.m. Ontario is reporting another 306 COVID-19 cases and 12 more deaths, according to its latest report released Wednesday morning.
Ontario has administered 29,857 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,119,312 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.
According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,362,377 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 87.2 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 76.4 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan
11:10 a.m. Starting in November, fully vaccinated Canadians will be allowed entry into the United States by land or ferry ports of entry.
The land border has been closed to Canadians since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
The U.S. lifting land border restrictions in November coincides with the new international air travel system that will also be implemented next month, which will allow fully vaccinated, foreign national air travellers into the country.
Read the full story from the Star’s Ivy Mak
10:30 a.m. A Texas man will have to appear in Baltimore to answer a charge of threatening a Maryland doctor who has been a prominent advocate for COVID-19 vaccines, federal prosecutors said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore announced that Scott Eli Harris, 51, of Aubrey, Texas, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of sending a threat across state lines. He was expected in court in Plano, Texas, on Wednesday ahead of an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore at a later date, according to the news release.
The one-count indictment alleges that on July 12, Harris sent a threat from his cell phone to the doctor, identified in court documents only as “Dr. L. W., who had been a vocal proponent of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
10:05 a.m. Ontario is reporting 306 COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths, according to Dr. Jennifer Kwan; 202 cases are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 104 are in fully vaccinated individuals.
In Ontario, 22,119,312 vaccine doses have been administered. 87.1 per cent of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 82.5 per cent have two doses, according to a tweet from Health Minister Christine Elliott.
10 a.m. Nearly 1,500 hospital staff and physicians are unvaccinated against COVID in Hamilton and potentially face termination after November.
The stricter staff vaccine policies come as Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and St. Joseph’s Healthcare already have hundreds of unfilled jobs between them.
It’s also at the same time that the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has warned that burnout has increased over the pandemic “to levels that pose a threat to maintaining a functioning health-care workforce.”
“Health worker burnout is now threatening Ontario’s overall health workforce, and will probably outlast the pandemic,” the science table said in a tweet Tuesday. “Ontario needs to pay particular attention to those most at risk of burnout: nurses, ICU and emerg staff, women, recent graduates and trainees. Even small changes have big effects on patient safety, absenteeism and mental health.”
8:45 a.m. Need new snow tires? Better start shopping now before the opportunity rolls away.
The same COVID-related supply-chain woes that have hit everything from microchips to food to used cars means it will be harder than usual to get winter tires this year. (You can also thank a lousy harvest for rubber trees in Southeast Asia, the world’s largest source of natural rubber.)
A director at one of Canada’s biggest tire retailers said the company has been working hard to keep an adequate supply on hand. Still, Ron Pierce says customers should probably hedge their bets.
Read the full story from the Star’s Josh Rubin
8 a.m. TTC stations are holding vaccination clinics this week, Mayor John Tory tweeted Wednesday:
They will be held at Wilson station Oct. 13 – Oct. 15 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. and at Victoria Park station Oct. 14 – Oct. 15 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
7:50 a.m. Russia on Wednesday reported another record of daily coronavirus deaths amid a slow vaccination rate and authorities’ reluctance to tighten restrictions.
The government coronavirus task force reported 984 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the pandemic’s new high. The country has repeatedly marked record daily death tolls over the past few weeks as infections soared to near all-time highs, with 28,717 confirmed new cases reported Wednesday.
The Kremlin has attributed the mounting contagion and deaths to a laggard vaccination rate. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Tuesday that about 43 million Russians, or about 29 per cent of the country’s nearly 146 million people, were fully vaccinated.
President Vladimir Putin has emphasized the need to speed up the vaccination rate, but he also has cautioned against forcing people to get the shots by applying administrative pressure. Experts have attributed the slow pace of vaccination to widespread vaccine skepticism and disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.
The Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one during the first months of the pandemic that badly crippled the economy and dented Putin’s ratings, delegating the power to enforce coronavirus restrictions to regional authorities.
Some Russian regions have restricted attendance at large public events and limited access to theaters, restaurants and other places to people who have been vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative in the previous 72 hours.
7:35 a.m. Puerto Rico’s governor announced Tuesday that he would be lifting a curfew and a ban on alcohol sales as the U.S. territory reports a drop in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
Current restrictions prohibit certain businesses from operating between midnight and 5 a.m. and also bar alcohol sales during that time, two measures that will be lifted Thursday.
However, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said other restrictions, including an indoors mask requirement, remain in place.
He noted that 70 per cent of the island’s 3.3 million people are vaccinated, and that the positivity rate for coronavirus tests dropped to 3 per cent, compared with 10 per cent in August.
Puerto Rico has reported more than 150,500 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the virus.
7:22 a.m. Florida has issued its first fine to a county it accuses of violating a new state law banning coronavirus vaccine mandates and for firing 14 workers who failed to get the shots.
The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday issued the $3.5 million fine for Leon County, saying the home to the state capital of Tallahassee violated Florida’s “vaccine passport” law that bars requiring people to show proof of vaccination.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says that “no one should lose their jobs because of COVID shots.”
The law is being challenged in court and conflicts with a Biden administration order that companies with more than 100 employees require their workers to be vaccinated or face weekly testing.
The Leon County administrator says the county believes its vaccination mandate is legally justifiable and necessary to keep people safe.
6:15 a.m.: A growing chorus of health experts and business groups are questioning the recent decision by the Ford government to allow large venues to return to 100 per cent capacity while leaving strict capacity rules in place for bars, restaurants and gyms.
The announcement, which came into effect Friday at midnight, means that large venues where proof of vaccination is required — including movie theatres, concert halls and arenas — can now fill every seat. Masks are recommended but are not required for patrons who are enjoying a cold beer or hot dog in the stands, perplexing many who say such venues are less safe than restaurants where patrons can also remove masks to eat and drink.
Epidemiologist Colin Furness said the announcement doesn’t make sense to him.
“It’s anti-science,” said Furness, a professor at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. “What you don’t want is large gatherings. You want small gatherings.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba.
6 a.m.: The puck will drop on a new NHL season tonight for most of Canada’s teams.
Fans attending the games in Toronto and Edmonton in person will be subject to restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
This campaign is also the end of the one-and-done North Division, which had all seven Canadian teams play each other — and no one else — last season. The North Division was necessary as the Canadian-American border was closed to non-essential travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the border has reopened, Canada’s NHL teams are returning to their usual divisions.
5:40 a.m.: Wages and COVID-19 restrictions pushed workers out of the restaurant and food services industry and into professional service roles in white-collar sectors, according to an analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
By February 2021, almost a quarter-million workers in Canada who used to be employed in food and accommodation had found new jobs outside that sector, many of them switching to roles as secretaries or assistants for accountants, lawyers, architects and more, the study finds.
Employment in food services is now 14.8 per cent below its pre-pandemic level, according to Canada’s September labour-force survey. That’s an improvement from the worker shortages during third-wave restrictions earlier this year, but it means there are still 180,000 workers who left food-service positions in February 2020 and never returned.
Read more from the Star’s Jacob Lorinc.
5:20 a.m.: Yvonne Binda stands in front of a church congregation, all in pristine white robes, and tells them not to believe what they’ve heard about COVID-19 vaccines.
“The vaccine is not linked to Satanism,” she says. The congregants, members of a Christian Apostolic church in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, are unmoved. But when Binda, a vaccine campaigner and member of an Apostolic church herself, promises them soap, buckets and masks, there are enthusiastic shouts of “Amen!”
Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into a Pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical in Zimbabwe when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, with an already strong mistrust of modern medicine. Many followers put faith in prayer, holy water and anointed stones to ward off disease or cure illnesses.
The congregants Binda addressed in the rural area of Seke sang about being protected by the holy spirit, but have at least acknowledged soap and masks as a defense against the coronavirus. Binda is trying to convince them to also get vaccinated — and that’s a tough sell.
Read more from The Associated Press.
5:15 a.m.: It’s hard to know where Kyrie Irving is getting his vaccination information. Hope it’s not the same sources that had him convinced for a while the Earth was flat.
So maybe it wasn’t much of a surprise Tuesday, when science tripped up the seven-time All-Star again. Hemmed in by a New York COVID-19 vaccine mandate that covers pro athletes and would have limited Irving to playing road games only, the Brooklyn Nets gave him an ultimatum: a.) take the shot; or b.) take the 2021-22 season off.
The argument for a.) is pretty straightforward. The Nets are paying Irving $34 million per year to blend with Kevin Durant and James Harden — two of the best players in the game — and maybe deliver an NBA title to Brooklyn. But b.) is not bad, either.
Irving can stay glued to his couch and still collect a cool $16 million or so. That’s because Nets general manager Sean Marks and owner Joe Tsai, who together decided the “half-a-loaf” approach wasn’t worth the disruption, also said Irving would be paid for road games where he would have been eligible to play.
“Will there be pushback from Kyrie and his camp?” Marks said at a news conference. “I’m sure that this is not a decision that they like. … But again, this is a choice that Kyrie had, and he was well aware of that.”
Irving has ducked questions about whether he was vaccinated, saying three weeks ago in a Zoom interview with reporters, “I think I just would love to just keep that private, handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with the plan.”
Whatever that plan is, Marks made clear that Irving, a vice president of the NBA Players Association, was not among the 96% of players the union said had taken the jab. “If he was vaccinated,” Marks said, “we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
5 a.m.: The U.S. government is planning in early November to allow fully vaccinated Canadians to cross its land border with Canada, officials said Tuesday night. The border has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
In a statement, New York Rep. Brian Higgins broke the news, which was also confirmed by senior Biden administration officials who previewed the new policy to the Associated Press.
“At long last, there is action by the United States to open the doors and welcome back our Canadian neighbours,” Higgins said in the statement. The U.S. lawmaker, a Democrat, has been pushing for the border between the two countries to re-open for months now.
According to The Associated Press, the U.S. will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel in November, as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the U.S., such as truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.
Read more from the Star’s Maryam Shah and Erin LaBlanc.