Canada

COVID-19: Ottawa pharmacies selected for vaccination program, when vaccines arrive; Ontario reports 2,453 cases

File: A pharmacist prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with a syringe

• Ottawa Public Health reported 133 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday, with no new deaths

• Quebec has been hit with a ‘wave of variants’ that will only intensify if the government doesn’t impose additional restrictions, epidemiologist says

• Dr. Theresa Tam says public health measures “must be stronger, stricter and sustained long enough to suppress” growth of variants of concern”

Select Ottawa pharmacies have been identified as being among the next group of drug stores to offer COVID-19 vaccinations under a provincial program, Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s heritage, sport, tourism and culture minister, has confirmed.

But delayed shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine used in the program mean the jabs are not expected to start before April.

“When Feds get AZ supply — which they said (was coming in) April — Ottawa pharmacies, which have already been identified, will receive supply. I informed OPH yesterday,” MacLeod tweeted.

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday that 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca were expected to arrive in Canada via truck from the United States next Tuesday.

“That’s when (the federal government) is getting the shipment,” Premier Doug Ford’s spokesperson, Ivana Yelich, tweeted Saturday. “Last time, provinces waited more than week before receiving the doses. We are being told the same will happen again.”

Pharmacies in Toronto, Kingston, and Windsor-Essex have been administering the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in a pilot project for a number of weeks.

The provincial government has said it plans to add about 700 pharmacy outlets in the next stage, then increase the numbers again to about 1,500 pharmacies across Ontario.

Ford said pharmacies, both chain operations and independents, were “ready to go.”

Mayor Jim Watson sent a letter to the health ministry on Wednesday calling for Ottawa to be “urgently prioritized” in the delivery project allowing pharmacies to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Ottawa Public Health reported 133 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday for a cumulative total of 16,755 since the pandemic began. The death toll remained unchanged at 459.

There were 954 active cases with 30 people in hospital, 10 of them in intensive care.

OPH reported one new outbreak at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, involving one patient and two staff members, with 27 ongoing outbreaks in health-care institutions.

There was a new outbreak, involving two student cases, at École secondaire publique Louis-Riel, with 12 ongoing outbreaks in child care and schools.

There were no new outbreaks in community, but six were ongoing in workplaces, including one each in construction, recreation and health and services, and two in restaurants.

The capital’s weekly incidence rate continued to climb, at 71.9 per 100,000 residents on Saturday. Test positivity level was 4.6 per cent. The seven-day average reproductive level was at 1.18.

The threshold for the red (control) levels is a weekly incidence of 40 or more per 100,000, a test positivity rate of 2.5 per cent or more and a reproduction number of 1.2 or more.

The reproduction number is the average number of secondary cases resulting from an infected person.

In other health regions in the Ottawa area, Public Health Ontario reported 23 new cases from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, which on Monday will join Ottawa in the red level of provincial public health restrictions.

There were eight new cases reported from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, five from Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington, 17 from Leeds, Grenville and Lanark district and eight from Renfrew County and District.

Meanwhile, an OC Transpo bus driver who last worked March 23 has tested positive for COVID-19, the City of Ottawa said Saturday. The operator has been self-isolating since then and the transit service is working with Ottawa Public Health on tracing anyone who might have had close contact with that individual in the 48 hours before their symptoms appeared.

On Tuesday, the driver operated bus #4370 from the Merivale Garage on routes including:

Latest COVID-19 news in Ontario

Ontario reported 2,453 cases of COVID-19 Saturday — the highest daily tally since January — with Ottawa again making the grim leader board.

There were 16 new deaths across the province for a death toll of 7,308 since the pandemic began.

More than 61,000 tests were completed, with 814 new cases in Toronto, 411 in Peel, 263 in York Region, 156 in Hamilton and 139 in Durham, Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

As of 8 p.m. Friday, 1,916,332 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered.

There were 985 patients with the virus in Ontario hospitals, 365 of them in intensive care and 192 on ventilators.

A total of 1,481 cases were newly resolved, the province reported, for a total of 315,865 cases resolved among 340,692 total cases overall.

Latest COVID-19 news from Quebec, Outaouais

Quebec reported 1,009 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, with eight more deaths, including two in the previous 24 hours.

Health officials said hospitalizations remained stable at 481 and 108 people were in intensive care, a drop of seven.

The province said it administered 53,796 doses of vaccine Friday for a total of 1,176,670.

Quebec has reported a total of 307,394 COVID-19 infections and 10,645 deaths linked to the virus. The province had 7,617 active reported cases.

In the Outaouais, 68 more people tested positive for the virus for a total of 17,248 cases since the pandemic began.

In addition, one more person died, bringing the region’s toll to 172.

The Quebec government has said the Outaouais could be placed in the red zone of pandemic restrictions unless conditions improve.

Meanwhile, Quebec has been hit with a “wave of variants” that will only intensify if the government doesn’t impose additional restrictions, a top epidemiologist at the province’s public health institute has warned.

Gaston De Serres said the current measures “are not sufficient to control transmission of the variants,” which are already predominant in some regions of Quebec.

“In the past two days, we have seen a marked increase in cases. I don’t know at what stage we will start talking about a third wave, but we certainly have a wave of variants … that will lead us to have more cases in the short term.”

At present, 85 per cent of presumptive variant cases that have been genetically sequenced in Quebec turned out to be the B.1.1.7 strain that originated in the U.K.

The variants have already become predominant in Montreal, while a high proportion of the new strains have been identified in the Outaouais and Bas-St-Laurent regions.

Latest COVID-19 news in Canada

Officials may have to increase public health controls in the fight against the COVID-19 virus, Canada’s top doctor warned Saturday.

“The latest longer-range forecast models that account for transmission dynamics of both non-variant COVID-19 and new variants of concern predict that current community-based public health measures will be insufficient to control rapid growth and resurgence” of COVID-19, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement.

“Measures must be stronger, stricter and sustained long enough to suppress rapid epidemic growth of variants of concern,” Tam said.

There have been 956,655 cases of COVID-19, including 22,826 deaths reported in Canada as of Saturday.

As vaccinations ramp up, Tam noted there is cause for optimism that widespread and lasting immunity can be achieved through COVID-19 vaccination.

“However, with COVID-19 activity increasing and a high proportion of cases involving more contagious variants of concern, strong public health measures and individual precautions must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating.” she said.

Testing and vaccines

Ottawa’s testing network expanded weekend hours and days of operation. The new weekend hours are:

Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Ottawa:https://www.ottawatestingupdate.ca

-With files from Postmedia and The Canadian Press

  1. Marilyse Dufresne-Cater, seen here on March 3, 2021, is a respiratory therapist at the Queensway Carleton Hospital.

    Fear, fatigue and hope: Hospital workers are living the pandemic timeline

  2. Patrons flocked to the market patios to support restaurants as Ottawa was in the red zone on the first day or spring, Saturday, March 20, 2021.

    Province loosens restrictions amid new evidence that risk of death from COVID variants is 60 per cent higher

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