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Coronavirus news for May 12, 2022

Coronavirus news for May 12, 2022

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.

7:47 p.m.: British Columbia is seeing an increase in the number of hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19.

Weekly numbers released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control show 596 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Thursday compared with 331 last week.

The centre says 54 patients were in intensive care.

It says 59 people who had COVID-19 died in the week that ended May 7, bringing the total number of deaths in B.C. to 3,307 since the start of the pandemic.

It says 1,987 COVID-19 cases were detected in the first week of this month, although health officials and experts have said the actual number of cases may be much higher.

The centre says both hospitalization and death numbers may be underestimated because of “data systems timing and processes.”

7:45 p.m.: Little over a week after York Region formally lifted its COVID-19 State of Emergency after more than two years, positive signs continue to be seen on the horizon, according to Dr. Barry Pakes, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health.

The Region of York lifted the State of Emergency on April 26 after first declaring it on March 23, 2020.

“More than two years ago, for the first time in the 51-year history of York Region, a Regional state of emergency was declared,” said Regional Chair Wayne Emmerson in a statement. “At the time, no one could have predicted the devastating impact the COVID-19 global pandemic would have on our residents and communities.

“As we look forward to resuming services, I again thank and acknowledge our staff, municipalities, residents, business owners and the countless community partners for their commitment and resiliency during these turbulent times.”

Since then, Dr. Pakes says wastewater signals have stabilized and are trending towards a decrease.

7 p.m.: On the very day the United States convened a global summit to demonstrate its leadership in fighting COVID-19, it marked a grim milestone illustrating its world-leading failure to fight the virus at home, writes the Star’s Edward Keenan.

One million American deaths from the coronavirus. The loss is staggering. In just over two years, more people than the population of San Francisco — gone.

“Today, we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States: one million COVID deaths, one million empty chairs around the family dinner table — each irreplaceable. Irreplaceable losses, each leaving behind a family, a community forever changed because of this pandemic,” President Joe Biden said in his speech kicking off the summit Thursday. “Around the world, many more millions have died. Millions of children have been orphaned. And with thousands still dying every day, now is the time for us to act — all of us — together.”

The summit meeting, attended virtually by leaders from around the world and “hosted” by Germany, Belize, Senegal, Indonesia and the U.S., focused its energy on fighting the virus by sharing access to vaccines and treatments with developing countries, and preparing for future pandemics by tracking pathogens worldwide.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought a commitment of $512 million, in addition to an earlier announced $220 million. “We must continue to work together and support the international response to end this pandemic everywhere and for everyone,” Trudeau said in a statement issued by his office.

Read the full story here from Edward Keenan.

7 p.m.: White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha issued a dire warning Thursday that the U.S. will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments.

In an Associated Press interview, Jha said Americans’ immune protection from the virus is waning, the virus is adapting to be more contagious and booster doses for most people will be necessary — with the potential for enhanced protection from a new generation of shots.

His warning came as the White House said there could be up to 100 million infections from the virus later this year — and as President Joe Biden somberly ordered flags to half-staff to mark 1 million deaths.

Jha predicted that the next generation of vaccines, which are likely to be targeted at the currently prevailing Omicron strain, “are going to provide a much, much higher degree of protection against the virus that we will encounter in the fall and winter.” But he warned that the U.S. is at risk of losing its place in line to other countries if Congress doesn’t act in the next several weeks.

6:30 p.m.: With Ontario’s mask mandate in the rearview mirror and a lack of widespread provincial testing, you may be wondering about the COVID-19 spread in your community.

United States President Joe Biden appealed to world leaders on Thursday for a renewed international commitment to attacking COVID-19 as he led the U.S. in marking the approaching “tragic milestone” of 1 million deaths at home from the virus. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In the absence of any official public database of COVID signals in the GTA’s sewage, the Toronto Star brings you its own COVID wastewater signal map to give you a sense as to whether cases are increasing, decreasing or remaining stable in your area.

The Star’s signal map uses data sourced from each GTA public health unit and the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table showing trends in sewersheds or wastewater catchment areas for each treatment plant across the region.

This week, of 20 GTA plants analyzed, COVID wastewater signals are increasing at two in the city of Toronto, while levels are stable at 13 and decreasing at five.

According to the latest Toronto data, the two wastewater treatment plants seeing increases this week are Highland Creek and Humber.

Check out the Star’s interactive wastewater map here.

5:22 p.m.: Thousands of Toronto students who have been at home learning virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic will shut off their devices and head back to the classroom next fall.

Registration figures for September 2022 at the public and Catholic school boards reveal students plan to return in droves to in-person learning.

At the Toronto District School Board there are about 17,000 elementary and 8,000 secondary students learning virtually in this 2021-2022 school year. By comparison, about 3,300 elementary and 1,500 secondary students have registered for online learning in the 2022-23 academic year.

“As we adjust to the new reality of living with COVID, I think people are more open to coming back to in-person learning,” said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird. “There are some students who have thrived in virtual learning; however, for the most part we do know that in-person learning is the best for students.”

Read the full story here from Isabel Teotonio.

2:37 p.m. Health officials say 18 more Nova Scotians died of COVID-19 last week, reports The Canadian Press.

A news release today says 65 people were admitted to hospital because of the disease in the week ending Monday, down from 77 the week before, according to CP.

Officials confirmed 3,118 new cases with PCR testing in that period, which is a drop from the 3,415 cases reported last Thursday.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, says the continued decline in COVID-19 cases is “great news,” but the number of deaths and hospitalizations remains high.

He said in a statement that keeping in mind the severity of the illness is important, “as we make our way out of the sixth wave.”

Nova Scotia Health is reporting that 253 health staff are off work due to COVID-19.

2:26 p.m. Ontario’s top doctor says COVID-19 indicators are heading in the right direction ahead of what looks to be a “calm summer,” although he is concerned about BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, reports The Canadian Press.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the chief medical officer of health, says COVID-19 levels in wastewater are declining, as is the test positivity rate, and the number of people hospitalized due to the virus, according to CP.

Moore predicts a “low level of endemic activity” throughout the summer, but is already preparing for the fall as more activities take place indoors, where the risk of transmission is higher.

He says keeping up to date with vaccinations is key in stopping the spread, whether virus activity is high or low, and encouraged people to get booster doses because immunity wanes four to six months after the last dose.

Ontario has been offering fourth doses to everyone 60 and older since early April, but Moore says only 21.8 per cent of people in that age group have received four shots.

Moore says the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, which have been detected in South Africa, are 10 per cent more transmissible than the already highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant that took off in late winter in Ontario.

Ontario reported 14 new deaths linked to COVID-19 Thursday, after reporting 29 new deaths on Wednesday.

The province said there are 1,451 people hospitalized with the virus, down from 1,528 the previous day. The number of people in intensive care decreased slightly to 175 from 176 the day before.

2 p.m. The sixth wave of COVID-19 is starting to recede and Ontario’s political parties are offering ideas for how best to prepare the province for a future pandemic.

The Progressive Conservatives made billions in hospital funding commitments in the weeks leading up to the election and added more than 3,000 acute care beds during the pandemic in order to shore up the health system.

The Tories also tout work they have done to bolster domestic production of personal protective equipment, boost personal support worker wages, and give nurses a $5,000 retention bonus.

But the NDP and Liberals say the wage commitments for personal support workers fall short and have promised more, and that a one-time bonus for nurses won’t help retention as much as repealing Bill 124, which capped compensation increases for public sector workers.

Both parties are promising 10 paid sick days so that workers can be secure in staying home while ill, while a temporary program from the Progressive Conservatives involving three paid sick days is set to expire in July.

The NDP and Liberals are also promising to hold a public inquiry into the province’s COVID-19 response.

1:30 p.m. Blanche Dingle was the happiest she’d been in a long time during her eight-month stay at the Amica Dundas retirement home.

Living among friends in her new home, the 91-year-old retired bookkeeper was freed from the pandemic isolation that had steadily chipped away at her mental and emotional well-being.

Her son Jeff Dingle saw the fog lift from his mother’s spirit every week he visited her.

Until the day he found her dead in her room on April 2.

Three wellness checks were missed by staff — no one found her for the better part of two days.

Read the full story from the Standard’s Grant LaFleche

1:15 p.m. President Joe Biden on Thursday marked the “tragic milestone” of 1 million American lives lost to COVID-19, calling each death an “irreplaceable loss.”

“One million empty chairs around the dinner table,” Biden said in a statement. “Each leaving behind a family, a community, and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic. Jill and I pray for each of them.”

Biden directed flags on government buildings to be flown at half-staff for five days.

Though COVID-19 counts vary, the White House uses data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins University, which showed deaths approaching the 1 million mark Thursday morning.

Biden said he understands those who are grieving, asking themselves how they can go on without a loved one.

“I know the pain of that black hole in your heart,” said Biden, who has dealt with the loss of two of his children and his first wife. “But I also know the ones you love are never truly gone. They will always be with you.”

12:55 p.m. Ontario is reporting 175 people in ICU due to COVID-19 and 1,451 in hospital overall testing positive for COVID-19, according to its latest report released Thursday morning.

Of the people hospitalized, 40.3 per cent were admitted for COVID-19 and 59.7 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive. For the ICU numbers, 61.2 per cent were admitted for COVID-19 and 38.8 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive.

The numbers represent a 0.6 per cent decrease in the ICU COVID-19 count and a 5.0 per cent decrease in hospitalizations overall. 26 per cent of the province’s 2,343 adult ICU beds remain available for new patients.

Read the full story from the Star’s Ande Fraske-Bornyk

11:40 a.m. Quebec is reporting 25 more deaths linked to COVID-19 and a 26-patient drop in the number of hospitalizations associated with the disease.

The Health Department says 1,821 people are in hospital with COVID-19, after 117 patients were admitted in the past 24 hours and 143 were discharged.

It says 60 people are in intensive care, a decline of two from the day before.

The number of health-care workers off the job due to COVID-19 declined by 99 from Wednesday, to 6,412. The province is reporting 767 new cases of the disease confirmed through PCR testing, with 8.6 per cent of tests analyzed Wednesday coming back positive.

9:40 a.m. The Toronto Zoo will be lifting the mandatory vaccination policy for visitors as of May 13.

The mandatory vaccination policy remains in effect for zoo staff and volunteers.

“We will continue to take precautions to protect our animals onsite including recommending our guests wear face coverings inside our pavilions with COVID-19 susceptible animals and placing barriers in specific areas to ensure physical distancing. We are confident the lifting of the policy and our continued efforts to maintain certain safety protocols will continue to protect our COVID-19 susceptible animals,” the zoo said in a statement.

Through the pandemic, your Toronto Zoo has been consistently reviewing operations and developing processes to ensure the safety of all staff, volunteer teams, our guests, COVID-19 susceptible animals, and our broader community.

9:15 a.m. Myanmar announced Thursday it will resume issuing visas for visitors in an effort to help its moribund tourism industry, devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and violent political unrest.

Starting on Sunday, tourist “e-Visas” will be provided online in a move also intended to harmonize tourism with neighboring countries, according to a government notice in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

Visitors need a certificate of vaccination, negative results from a COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken shortly before their flight and a travel insurance policy. They must also take an ATK rapid test after arrival.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared wearing a face mask for the first time on state television at a meeting that acknowledged the first COVID-19 outbreak in the country. (May 12 / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Myanmar on April 1 had already resumed issuing business visas, and on April 17 dropped a ban on international commercial flights. It had stopped issuing visas and suspended flight arrivals in March 2020.

8:45 a.m. Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh visited the campaign office of Peterborough-Kawartha NDP provincial candidate Jen Deck on George Street on Tuesday afternoon and after making remarks to a roomful of supporters was met outside by a protest.

Among the protesters were some people who’ve been outspoken at rallies and online about their objections to COVID-19 health measures such as vaccines.

Protesters on the sidewalk yelled “Traitor!” and “Not welcome!” as Singh exited the office to a waiting SUV on George Street following the rally.

8:25 a.m. Toronto Public Health will be offering a mobile clinic at Michael Power St. Joseph on Saturday. The clinic will include a various vaccination opportunities including COVID-19 vaccines and a dental screening.

8 a.m. When Humber River Hospital’s Humber Meadows Long-Term Care Home opens in February 2023, staff will not be wearing uniforms, the nursing stations will be called help desks, and every resident will have their own address.

Each floor of the six-storey building has a street name, named after a flower or tree, and each of the 320 resident rooms will have a street number.

“Every resident will live on a street inside the home so that they can orient themselves better and really have a feeling that they live in a community,” said Ruben Rodriguez, Humber River Hospital’s program director of post-acute and reactivation care. “If I have to compare, (the resident rooms) will be almost like a suite in a hotel but with a home feeling, but definitely we have tried to stay away from the hospital feeling as much as we can.”

The project, announced in August 2020, was supposed to have been completed this spring but faced significant delays related to supply chain issues due to the pandemic, said Rodriguez.

7:20 a.m. The number of fines issued over breaches of coronavirus regulations at British government offices, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official residence, has expanded to more than 100, London’s Metropolitan Police force said Thursday.

Johnson admitted last month that he was among dozens of people who paid a police fine for attending lockdown-breaching parties and gatherings, making him the first British leader to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office.

Revelations that Johnson and other senior officials gathered illegally in government buildings in 2020 and 2021 — when millions in the country were told to restrict their lives to slow the spread of COVID-19 — has angered voters and triggered calls for Johnson to resign.

Johnson apologized for attending his own surprise birthday party at 10 Downing St. in June 2020, but insisted that it “did not occur” to him that the gathering was a party.

Johnson’s wife, Carrie, and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak also said they were fined for attending the same event.

The police force’s update doubled the number of fixed-penalty notices issued so far over the scandal that has been dubbed “partygate.” Last month, the force said it had given about 50 such fines as a result of its investigation.

Police do not identify the recipients of the fines.

6:23 a.m. U.S. COVID-19 cases are up, leading a smattering of school districts, particularly in the Northeast, to bring back mask mandates and recommendations for the first time since the omicron winter surge ended and as the country approaches 1 million deaths in the pandemic.

The return of masking in schools is not nearly as widespread as earlier in the pandemic, particularly as the public’s worries over the virus have ebbed. But districts in Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have brought masks back, with a few in Massachusetts also recommending them even as the school year enters its final weeks.

Maine’s largest school district, in Portland, said this week masks would return, with Superintendent Xavier Botana saying that was the “safest course at this time” amid rising cases. Bangor, Maine, schools also brought back a universal mask requirement.

High schools in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and in Montclair, New Jersey, a commuter suburb of New York City, also announced a return to masking, albeit temporarily through this week. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most of the counties in the country considered to have “high” levels of COVID-19 are in the Northeast.

In parts of Massachusetts that have seen high levels of COVID-19 transmission, authorities are also recommending masks in schools.

Reactions have ranged from supportive to angry. On the Facebook page of Woodland Hills High School in suburban Pittsburgh, one woman called the change “#insane.”

6:21 a.m. The European Commission said on Thursday it will gradually put an end to the temporary rules that allowed the 27 EU member countries to benefit from extra public support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Adopted in March 2020, the so-called State Aid COVID Temporary Framework relaxed the European Union’s strict state-aid regulations to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

In light of the improving economic situation in the region, coupled with the lifting of restrictions put in place to contain the spread of the virus over the past two years, the commission said that another prolongation of the scheme is not necessary.

The mechanism won’t be extended beyond it expiry date on June 30, but the commission insisted the phaseout will take place gradually and businesses won’t be suddenly cut off from support.

During the pandemic, the EU approved a multibillion rescue package and member states agreed on a 1.8 trillion euro recovery plan and long-term budget for the 2021-2027 period.

6:21 a.m. North Korea imposed a nationwide lockdown Thursday to control its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak after holding for more than two years to a widely doubted claim of a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.

The outbreak forced leader Kim Jong Un to wear a mask in public, likely for the first time since the start of the pandemic, but the scale of transmissions inside North Korea wasn’t immediately known. A failure to slow infections could have serious consequences because the country has a poor health care system and its 26 million people are believed to be mostly unvaccinated. Some experts say North Korea, by its rare admission of an outbreak, may be seeking outside aid.

The official Korean Central News Agency said tests of samples collected Sunday from an unspecified number of people with fevers in the capital, Pyongyang, confirmed they were infected with the Omicron variant.

In response, Kim called at a ruling party Politburo meeting for a thorough lockdown of cities and counties and said workplaces should be isolated by units to block the virus from spreading. He urged health workers to step up disinfection efforts at workplaces and homes and mobilize reserve medical supplies.

Kim said it was crucial to control transmissions and eliminate the infection source as fast as possible, while also easing inconveniences to the public caused by the virus controls. He insisted the country will overcome the outbreak because its government and people are “united as one.”

6:20 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden will appeal for a renewed international commitment to attacking COVID-19 as he convenes a second virtual summit on the pandemic and marks 1 million deaths in the United States.

“As a nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow,” Biden said in a statement Thursday. “To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible.”

The president called on Congress to provide more funding for testing, vaccines and treatments, something lawmakers have been unwilling to deliver so far.

The lack of funding — Biden has requested another $22.5 billion of what he calls critically needed money — is a reflection of faltering resolve at home that jeopardizes the global response to the pandemic.

Eight months after he used the first such summit to announce an ambitious pledge to donate 1.2 billion vaccine doses to the world, the urgency of the U.S. and other nations to respond has waned.

Momentum on vaccinations and treatments has faded even as more infectious variants rise and billions of people across the globe remain unprotected.

The White House said Biden will address the opening of the virtual summit Thursday morning with pre-recorded remarks and will make the case that addressing COVID-19 “must remain an international priority.” The U.S. is co-hosting the summit along with Germany, Indonesia, Senegal and Belize.

The U.S. has shipped nearly 540 million vaccine doses to more than 110 countries and territories, according to the State Department — by far more than any other donor nation.


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