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A look at the latest COVID-19 developments in Canada

A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada:

— Some Ontario school boards say classes could be cancelled with very little notice if they don't have enough teachers available due to high rates of COVID-19. Classes are set to resume in-person on Monday after schools began the term with online learning. In a message to parents, the Toronto District School Board -- the province's largest -- says it's taken numerous steps to ensure staffing levels are as high as possible, but last-minute class cancellations could happen. The Rainbow District School Board in northern Ontario says there may be same-day class cancellations if there aren't enough teachers.

— The scientific director of Ontario's expert pandemic advisory group says some indicators suggest COVID-19 hospitalizations could peak in the next few weeks. Dr. Peter Juni says while the province lacks accurate numbers on COVID-19 cases, data on mobility and test positivity are offering some clues on the current trajectory. He says people’s mobility outside of their homes, which is strongly correlated with their number of contacts, has dropped significantly since late last month. Test positivity has also started to decrease.

— Botched messaging from the federal government is wreaking havoc among the transport community, and could choke already strained supply chains, says the head of a Canadian trucking organization. The Canada Border Services Agency said Wednesday that a vaccine mandate for truckers crossing into Canada from the United States would not come into effect Saturday as planned. But the government backtracked the next day and stated the rule would go into force this weekend after all. The end of the exemption for truck drivers and other non-essential workers means they must be fully vaccinated if they want to avoid a two-week quarantine and pre-arrival molecular test for COVID-19.

— Alberta’s big three research universities are extending online learning because the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. The University of Alberta, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge say virtual classes will continue for another six weeks. Students who have been online since their return from the holiday break are to go back to their campuses on Feb. 28.

— Health officials in Prince Edward Island are reporting the first two COVID-19 deaths of the pandemic. Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says a person between the ages of 60 and 79 and a person over the age of 79 have died of COVID-19. Premier Dennis King issued a statement extending condolences to the families of the two people. Officials are also reporting 225 new cases of COVID-19 on the Island.

— While Quebec Premier François Legault says he's hopeful about the COVID-19 situation in the province, doctors at Montreal-area hospitals are preparing for the number of patients in their care with the disease to keep rising. Dr. Joseph Dahine, an intensive care physician at the Cité-de-la-Santé hospital in Laval, Que., says he and his colleagues are feeling a "mix of fatigue, apprehension, resignation and frustration" as the number of COVID-19 patients continues to rise. There are about eight patients with active COVID-19 cases in the 22-bed ICU at his hospital north of Montreal. Another three ICU patients who were admitted with COVID-19 have been in the unit for more than 28 days, the point at which cases stop being considered active, but involve people too unwell to be discharged. One of his ICU patients has been in hospital since September. 

— When news of the first cases of COVID-19 began cropping up in Canada in early 2020, Linda Silas was one of the first to ring alarm bells about the lack of proper personal protective equipment for health workers. While early indications showed the virus was spread by droplets that settled on surfaces, Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses, urged health authorities to learn from the SARS outbreak of 2003 and take the highest level of precaution. Now she knows she was right — the virus is airborne — but she is still desperately calling for more protective equipment for nurses two years later. Regional unions across the country report that nurses who have requested fit-tested respirators still can't get them in some cases, despite the Omicron variant being far more transmissible than previous strains.

— The Department of National Defence says formal proceedings have been launched against more than 900 members of the Canadian Armed Forces for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre ordered all military personnel to attest to having been fully vaccinated by mid-October. The deadline was later extended to mid-December. Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier says reviews had been launched against 100 Armed Forces members by the end of December for repeatedly refusing to get their jabs. Another 800 had received warnings, orders to attend counselling and other remedial measures, and could also be forced to hang up their uniforms if they refuse to get the shot.

— COVID-19 modelling released by the British Columbia government shows challenging days ahead for the health-care system even though the latest wave propelled by the Omicron variant may have peaked in parts of the province. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the wave has spread faster than previous ones and their research shows the top of the latest surge was likely reached last weekend. However, the data also shows hospital admissions are expected to peak in the next week with a lag time of about six to eight days after community transmissions, she told a news conference. 

— Tourism operators in British Columbia can apply for financial help from a $15-million relief fund to cover some of their losses due to COVID-19. The provincial government says B.C.-owned hotels or motels that employ more than 150 people, Indigenous-owned resorts on reserves with over 100 employees and tourism operators who hold tenure or BC Parks permits can all apply for grants. The fund was suggested by a task force established in September 2020 to look at ways of helping tourism operators during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. 

— Alphonso Davies' return from a bout of COVID-19 has been put on hold, with Bayern Munich saying the Canadian star shows signs of an inflammation of the heart muscle. Canada Soccer says the 21-year-old from Edmonton has been ruled out of Canada's three World Cup qualifiers in the FIFA international window that straddles January and February. Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann told a pre-match news conference that the problem was detected in the followup examination that all players who have had COVID undergo.

— The Toronto Maple Leafs have added three more players to the NHL's COVID-19 protocol as an outbreak on the team that started in December continues to drag on. The Leafs announced Friday that forwards Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie and defenceman Justin Holl have been added to the list. The announcement comes two days after the Maple Leafs dropped a 2-1 road decision to the Arizona Coyotes, who are in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak.

— Nova Scotia is reporting 891 new cases of COVID-19 and four outbreaks at long-term care homes in the province. Officials say the new clusters at the care homes involve a total of 23 staff members and 20 residents who have now tested positive for the disease. The affected residences are in Wolfville, New Glasgow, Sydney and Sydney Mines.

— The government of Nova Scotia did not disclose a recent outbreak of COVID-19 at a large facility housing people with intellectual disabilities, Citing the privacy of residents for the decision that's dismayed disability rights advocates. Documents from the facility obtained by The Canadian Press reveal that in the days after Christmas, two workers at the Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Waterville, N.S., and one resident had contracted COVID-19. The centre, which is home to 159 residents, declined all comment, referring the matter to public health.

— Newfoundland and Labrador health officials say a 70-year-old woman in the western region of the province has died of COVID-19. She is the 24th person to die from the disease in the province. Public health officials said in a news release Friday there were eight COVID-19 patients in hospital, three of whom were in intensive care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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