Politics

COVID-19 Live Updates: News on coronavirus in Calgary for April 14


Watch this page throughout the day for updates on COVID-19 in Calgary

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COVID-19 anti-viral Paxlovid goes largely unused in Alberta as virus spread grows

An anti-viral drug that significantly reduces risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 is going largely unused in Alberta, even as a sixth wave of virus transmission continues.

Only about 670 prescriptions for Paxlovid have been dispensed in Alberta since late January when it first became available. The province currently has more than 16,000 courses of treatment of the drug in its supply.

Paxlovid is an oral antiviral that was found in clinical trials to reduce risk of hospitalization or death from the novel coronavirus by nearly 90 per cent if taken within five days of symptoms beginning.

The drug is designed for people who have a higher risk of those severe outcomes. In Alberta, it’s available to people with some underlying health conditions including those who are immunocompromised, as well as older, unvaccinated individuals.

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Health Canada greenlights AstraZeneca COVID-19 drug to prevent infection

The German branch of British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is pictured in Wedel near Hamburg, Germany on March 1, 2021.
The German branch of British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is pictured in Wedel near Hamburg, Germany on March 1, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Cathrin Mueller

Health Canada has approved AstraZeneca’s antibody combination to prevent symptomatic COVID-19 infection in immunocompromised people.

The drug, named Evusheld, is intended for people who cannot receive a typical vaccine or for whom vaccines alone won’t provide enough immunity.

The drug was not approved as a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19 for most people.

“Both the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada continue to strongly recommend up-to-date vaccination for all eligible Canadians,” Health Canada said in a news release Thursday.

While a vaccine effectively teaches the body to make its own antibodies over a short period of time, AstraZeneca’s product delivers ready-made antibodies to immediately start fighting off the virus.

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Pfizer says booster increases protection against Omicron in young kids

A young girl receives her vaccine shot in Cambodia, where inoculations are approved for children aged from six to 12.
A young girl receives her vaccine shot in Cambodia, where inoculations are approved for children aged from six to 12. Photo by TANG CHHTANG CHHIN SOTHY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

A third dose of Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s COVID vaccine produced significant protection against the Omicron variant in healthy children aged between five and 11 years in a trial, the companies said on Thursday.

Blood serum analysis of a few paediatric participants who received a booster dose in the study showed a 36-fold increase in Omicron neutralizing antibodies, the drugmakers said.

Neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 wild-type strain rose six-fold following the booster shot.

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Existing COVID vaccines won’t deliver herd immunity, but that doesn’t mean they’re failing

A patient receives a third vaccine dose at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, Israel, on July 12, 2021.
A patient receives a third vaccine dose at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, Israel, on July 12, 2021. Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

It annoys Rodney Russell when people say the COVID vaccines are failing. If that were true, “we would be in a much worse place that would look nothing at all like ‘normal.’”

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Still, with a sixth COVID wave now officially washing over parts of Canada, with reports of people being reinfected with COVID only months after their first go around and jumbled messaging around boosters, some are wondering why vaccines aren’t doing more to put the pandemic behind us.

The virologist/immunologist in Russell wants the perfect vaccine, one that “completely shuts the door,” a vaccine better able to block infections altogether and able to handle a range of variants. Because it’s entirely reasonable to assume the virus will keep evolving to skirt immunity acquired from vaccinations and infections.

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Toronto mayor tests positive for COVID-19, isolating at home

Toronto Mayor John Tory.
Toronto Mayor John Tory. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Toronto Mayor John Tory tested positive for COVID-19 this morning.

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Tory says he feels fine, describing his symptoms as “extremely mild.”

In a statement, the mayor says he has spoken with the city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, and is following her advice to isolate at home.

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Long COVID: The invisible public health crisis fuelling labour shortages

Policy-makers are starting to suspect long COVID is a factor behind the labour shortages seen in the U.S. and U.K.
Policy-makers are starting to suspect long COVID is a factor behind the labour shortages seen in the U.S. and U.K. Photo by Peter J. Thompson /National Post

When Katie Lazell-Fairman returned to work after recovering from a COVID-19 infection, she quickly discovered that the virus had taken a much heavier toll on her body than she initially realized.

“I woke up suddenly feeling incredibly exhausted, dizzy. My heart rate was 135 beats per minute standing, 140-150 walking,” says the 35-year-old, a data scientist from New York. “I couldn’t think straight and struggled to code on my laptop.”

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Lazell-Fairman, who caught COVID during the city’s first wave in 2020, says she had to quit a contract job and stop working on a startup she founded to develop software for art collectors. Her doctor diagnosed her with a blood circulation disorder and other COVID-related conditions, which left her bedridden on some days and housebound on others.

She is one of an estimated 100 million people worldwide suffering from long COVID, a debilitating condition where COVID symptoms linger for 12 weeks or more, frequently leaving them unable to return to their previous working lives.

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Hospitalizations begin to rise again in Alberta

The South Health Campus in Calgary.
The South Health Campus in Calgary. Photo by Brendan Miller /Postmedia


COVID spikes in schools as doctors warn of sixth wave

Desks positioned for physical distancing are seen inside a St. Marguerite School classroom in New Brighton on Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
Desks positioned for physical distancing are seen inside a St. Marguerite School classroom in New Brighton on Tuesday, August 25, 2020. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia file

COVID cases and absence rates are rising again in Calgary schools as doctors warn of a sixth wave and government officials make no moves to increase protections.

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Absence rates at the Calgary Board of Education reached 8.4 per cent among K-3 students Wednesday, averaging nearly 6.3 per cent for K-12 students overall. As well, up to 1,106 school-based staff were away due to illness, with only 847 positions filled with substitutes and casual employees.

Two months ago, just before the UCP government lifted mask mandates in schools, student absences hovered around four per cent with about 600 staff away.

The CBE does not track COVID cases reported by parents to schools, saying they are not official since the province no longer reports for schools.

But parents say the lack of information is raising fears over increased illness while staff shortages continue to cause disruptions for individual learning.

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“There is still so much scrambling, so much disruption in the system. It’s the only thing that has been consistent throughout this pandemic — the constant disruptions,” said Medeana Moussa, spokeswoman for the Support Our Students advocacy group.

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Wednesday

Alberta reports 6,181 new cases, 37 deaths over seven days

Here are COVID-19 numbers released today by Alberta Health, covering a seven-day period from April 5 to April 11:

  • The province is reporting 6,181 new COVID-19 cases over seven days, through 23,399 tests completed.
  • There are 1,053 people in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 63 since April 6. There are 48 people in ICU, an increase of four since April 6.
  • There were another 37 COVID-related deaths reported to Alberta Health Services, bringing the total to 4,141 since the start of the pandemic. There have been 826 deaths reported in Alberta since Jan. 1.
  • Alberta’s two-dose vaccination rate for the population age 12 and over is 86.8 per cent.

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Wednesday

Drones, separated kids and food shortages: Shanghai lockdown brings COVID-zero into question

Nearly-empty roads in Shanghai, China, during a COVID-19 lockdown on April 12.
Nearly-empty roads in Shanghai, China, during a COVID-19 lockdown on April 12. Photo by Qilai Shen /Bloomberg

If there was ever any doubt about how seriously China took the idea of COVID-19 containment, the drones probably erased it.

As Shanghai’s 25-million-strong population entered a total lockdown recently in response to a spike in new cases, many citizens pushed back at the tough restrictions. There were protests, cursing at officials and angry social media posts — unusual for a country where dissent is rarely tolerated.

Then the drones started circulating in Shanghai neighbourhoods.

“Please comply with COVID restrictions,” urged the flying loudspeaker, according to the Economist magazine. “Control your soul’s thirst for freedom,” the female voice implored, reported the Times of London. “Do not open your windows and sing.”

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Meanwhile, the residents of China’s commercial hub were confined to their homes, able to get food only by delivery and often running short of something to eat.

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Wednesday

COVID-19 vaccines in national stockpile starting to expire as uptake slows

Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021.
Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021. Photo by Dado Ruvic /REUTERS

Health Canada says almost 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines held in a national inventory have expired since January.

That includes more than 420,000 doses of Moderna’s Spikevax that hit the end of their shelf life on Tuesday. Those doses had already seen their expiration date pushed back two months.

The government says this is a relatively new issue because dose deliveries were aligned with demand until late last year. But uptake of vaccines has slowed even as governments and public health authorities urge people to get a booster shot.

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More than 80 per cent of Canadians are considered fully vaccinated, while 57 per cent of adults and 15 per cent of teenagers have received a third dose.

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Wednesday

Federal government paid $20M for Ottawa company’s COVID-19 test that flopped and was never delivered

Spartan Bioscience Inc. CEO Paul Lem holds a Spartan Cube, a portable, rapid COVID testing device the company developed.
Spartan Bioscience Inc. CEO Paul Lem holds a Spartan Cube, a portable, rapid COVID testing device the company developed. Photo by Mark Holleron/Spartan Bioscience Inc./The Canadian Press/File

The federal government pre-paid $20 million for COVID-19 tests from Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience that it never received because they never worked as promised, according to new documents.

Now, the Public Health Agency of Canada says it is writing off the amount as a loss pending the company’s liquidation, according to information recently tabled in the House of Commons and in the 2021 federal public accounts.

“The company went through insolvency proceedings and is now being liquidated. By law, once a person or a company is in the insolvency process, no one can sue or attempt any other form of recovery. No litigation is allowed and all procedures go through the Trustee and is a public process,” reads the document.

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Wednesday

Vaccines have halved Italy’s COVID-19 death toll, study shows

A medical worker administers a COVID-19 vaccination.
A medical worker administers a COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images

Vaccines against COVID-19 have roughly halved the death toll from the disease in Italy, preventing some 150,000 fatalities and 8 million cases last year, the National Health Institute (ISS) estimated on Wednesday.

The ISS study, which ran from the start of 2021 until the end of January this year, concluded the inoculation campaign also prevented more than 500,000 hospitalizations and over 55,000 admissions to intensive care.

Italy has registered 161,032 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth highest in the world. The country has reported 15.4 million cases to date.

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