COVID-19 update for Aug. 24: Here’s what you need to know

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the coronavirus situation in B.C. and around the world.

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Here’s your update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for Aug. 24, 2022.

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We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly every day this week, with developments added as they happen, so be sure to check back often.

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You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.

Here are the latest weekly B.C. figures given on Aug. 18:

• Hospitalized cases: 366
• Intensive care: 22
• New cases: 877 over seven days ending Aug. 13
• Total number of confirmed cases: 381,049
• Total deaths over seven days ending Aug. 13: 24 (total 4,037)

Read the full report here | Next update: Aug. 25

Headlines at a glance

• Germany to tighten travel rules for fall and winter
• MP says Ottawa underestimated Canadians’ desire to travel again
• Quebec reported 29 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 Tuesday
• Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine was 73 per cent effective in kids under five: Data
• Japan may lift travel testing and traveller restrictions: Media
• AstraZeneca, one of the earliest to develop a vaccine, might get out of them altogether
• U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is retiring in December
• Western University in Ontario stands firm on mask, vaccine mandates in fall
• Pfizer is seeking approval for a combo COVID vaccine protecting against newest Omicron variants
• Japan PM Fumio Kishida has tested positive for COVID-19
• Recovery still a tough go for B.C. businesses
• Canada approves Pfizer booster shot for five- to 11-year-olds
• For every reported case in B.C., 100 people get sick: Independent modelling group
• It’s almost back to school. What will it be like with COVID this year?
• COVID deaths in B.C. surpass 4,000 mark

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MP says Ottawa underestimated Canadians’ desire to travel again

A member of Parliament says Ottawa may have underestimated Canadians’ desire to travel when planning for a return to normal following the end of most pandemic restrictions.

Airlines and airports have been grappling with a surge in customers this summer, compounded by staffing shortages affecting both carriers and federal agencies.

As a result, travellers have experienced widespread flight cancellations, baggage delays and lengthy lineups, particularly at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

— The Canadian Press

Germany tightens COVID rules for travel during fall, winter

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Cabinet approved legislation Wednesday that ensures basic protective measures against the coronavirus pandemic are continued during the fall and winter when more virus cases are expected.

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The presentation of the rules — which also include the new obligation to wear N95-type face masks during all long-distance travel by train and bus as well as on planes — coincided with the publication of photos showing the chancellor and German Economy Minister Robert Habeck flying to Canada earlier this week without wearing masks.

The pictures triggered strong public criticism of an alleged double standard for politicians and regular people. Currently, medical face masks are mandatory on planes and public transport though N95-style masks are recommended.

— Reuters

Quebec reports 29 more deaths, slight dip in hospitalizations

Quebec has reported 29 new deaths attributed to COVID-19.

There were 1,959 hospitalizations, a decrease of 40 over the previous day, the Health Ministry announced Tuesday.

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A total of 46 people are in intensive care, an increase of four from the previous day.

— Montreal Gazette

Pfizer’s COVID vaccine 73.2% effective in kids under 5, new data shows

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s vaccine was 73.2% effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 6 months through 4 years, new data from the companies showed on Tuesday, two months after the U.S. rollout of the shots began for that age group.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for children under 5 years of age in June, based on data that showed the vaccine generated a similar immune response as in older age groups.

An early analysis based on 10 symptomatic COVID-19 cases in the study had suggested a vaccine efficacy of 80.3%. But experts had warned that the data was preliminary due to a low number of symptomatic cases.

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— Reuters

Japan weighs relaxing border rules on COVID: Media

Japan may lift requirements for pre-departure COVID-19 tests for travellers and raise daily caps on entrants, domestic media have reported.

Japan has some of the strictest pandemic border measures among major economies, requiring travellers to present a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure.

The government may soon waive tests for vaccinated passengers, with the change taking effect in a few weeks, Nikkei reported late Monday. A daily cap of inbound travellers may be raised from 20,000 to 50,000 as early as next month, Fuji News Network said on Tuesday.

— Reuters

AstraZeneca may not stay in vaccines, but CEO has no COVID regrets

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AstraZeneca may not stay in the vaccine business in the long run, its CEO told Reuters on Tuesday, showing how quickly fortunes have changed for the drugmaker that produced one of the first COVID-19 shots but has since lost out to rivals.

Production delays, probes by regulators following rare cases of severe side effects and concerns about its relatively short shelf life compared with other shots have stymied adoption of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Now, in the third year of the pandemic amid a global vaccine supply glut, its use has diminished in much of the developed world as countries have inoculated large numbers of people and prefer Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines as boosters.

AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine has still not won U.S. approval.

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— Reuters

Dr. Fauci, top U.S. infectious disease expert, to retire in December

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert who became a household name — and the subject of partisan attacks — during the COVID-19 pandemic, announced Monday he will depart the federal government in December after more than five decades of service.

Fauci, who serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation. He was a leader in the federal response to HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases even before the coronavirus hit.

“I will be leaving these positions in December of this year to pursue the next chapter of my career,” Fauci said in a statement, calling those roles “the honour of a lifetime.”

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— Associated Press

Ontario’s Western University stands firm on masks, COVID vaccines for students

Masks and proof of vaccination will be required when thousands of Western University students converge on campus for a new school year in two weeks.

Returning students, faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have received at least one booster.

Except where students can be two metres apart, students will have to don medical-grade masks in classrooms and seminar rooms.

— London Free Press

Pfizer seeks U.S. approval of updated COVID-19 vaccine for fall

Pfizer asked U.S. regulators Monday to authorize its combination COVID-19 vaccine that adds protection against the newest omicron relatives — a key step toward opening a fall booster campaign.

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The Food and Drug Administration ordered vaccine makers to tweak their shots to target BA.4 and BA.5 that are better than ever at dodging immunity from earlier vaccination or infection.

If the FDA quickly clears the combo shots made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, boosters could be offered within weeks. The U.S. has a contract to buy 105 million of the updated Pfizer doses as soon as health authorities greenlight them, and the company said doses are ready to ship.

Moderna is expected to file a similar application soon, and the U.S. has a contract to buy 66 million doses of its updated vaccine.

— Associated Press

Japanese PM Fumio Kishida tests positive for COVID-19

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been diagnosed with the coronavirus Sunday and canceled his planned travels while he isolates and recuperates.

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Kishida developed a slight fever and cough late Saturday and tested positive in a COVID-19 PCR test, said Noriyuki Shikata, the cabinet secretary for public affairs at the prime minister’s office.

“Prime Minister Kishida is isolated inside his residence,” he told The Associated Press on Sunday.

— Reuters

Recovery still a tough go for B.C. businesses

Darren Gay’s niche video-rental business had already become precarious by New Years 2020, but it was stable enough that he was thinking of ways to diversify Black Dog Video’s operations on Commercial Drive.

Instead, his business was crushed by a customer base that largely just stayed home during COVID-19 restrictions and haven’t returned in enough numbers to help with the rent increase he was hit with in January, rising insurance costs and increasingly expensive prices to stock inventory.

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“Our last day was June 25,” Gay said of his decision to finally pull the plug, “because I knew that I needed, like, five days to get everything out of there.”

Gay isn’t alone. There are signs a sizeable number of B.C. businesses are still under stress with sales that haven’t matched pre-pandemic levels while their costs are rising, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found in a recent survey.

Some 17 per cent of respondents admitted to considering winding up their operations, or even declaring bankruptcy.

Read the full story here.

 — Derrick Penner

Canada approves Pfizer booster dose for kids between five and 11 years old

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says Health Canada is authorizing a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children between five and 11 years old.

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Tam says the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends children with underlying health conditions be offered a booster no earlier than six months after their second dose.

NACI’s advice says all other children in that age group may also be offered a booster.

Vaccine uptake in that age group is much lower than in all older demographics, with 42 per cent of kids aged five to 11 vaccinated with two doses.

The vaccine rate in every older demographic is higher than 83 per cent.

— The Canadian Press

For every reported case in B.C., 100 people get sick: reports

The true number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. could be as much as 100 times higher than what is being reported publicly by the government, according to an assessment by independent modellers.

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The B.C. modelling group — which includes experts from the University of B.C., Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and the private sector — warned that under-reporting of COVID-19 cases makes it challenging for the public to understand the risks.

UBC epidemiologist Sarah Otto, a member of the modelling group, said it’s important for people to know that the infection rate is much higher than reported because it will influence their decisions on protecting themselves.

Using blood testing survey data from the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force and from Canadian Blood Services, the modelling group estimated that cases in B.C. are being under-reported by as much as 100-fold.

Read the full story here.

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— Gordon Hoekstra

B.C. kids will return to class under COVID cloud for third September since pandemic began

For the third straight fall, B.C. children will head back to school amid a global pandemic, although it is expected to be closer to “normal” this time around.

While September 2020 introduced “cohorts” and September 2021 began with a mask mandate, B.C.’s COVID-19 response has evolved, and protocols set by the Ministry of Education are expected to reflect that.

With two weeks remaining before school begins, the ministry told Postmedia it will share an update next week.

In the past, protocols have followed  B.C. Centre for Disease Control guidelines, said Clint Johnston, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. “We aren’t certain yet what will be in place in September.”

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Read the full story here.

— Glenda Luymes

COVID deaths in B.C. top 4,000

B.C.’s death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed the 4,000 mark.

On Thursday, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control reported 24 people have died within 30 days of a positive COVID-19 test from Aug. 7 to 13, bringing the provincial total to 4,037 since the pandemic began in early 2020.

Of these deaths, 3,002 were counted before the province switched to a weekly reporting system that counts all deaths that occur within 30 days from a positive COVID test result, regardless of the main cause of death.

“All-cause mortality is being used because cause of death takes approximately eight weeks to be recorded,” said the BCCDC in its weekly report.

It will conduct “retrospective evaluations of underlying causes of death … to better understand true COVID-19 mortality.”

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The BCCDC said the all-cause mortality count provided in its weekly report is expected to increase as data becomes more complete. The 28 deaths it reported last week for July 31 to Aug. 6 have risen to 40 as of this week’s report.

— Cheryl Chan

What are B.C.’s current public health measures?

MASKS: Masks are not required in public indoor settings though individual businesses and event organizers can choose to require them.Masks are also encouraged but not required on board public transit and B.C. Ferries, though they are still required in federally regulated travel spaces such as trains, airports and airplanes, and in health care settings.

GATHERINGS AND EVENTS: There are currently no restrictions on gatherings and events such as personal gatherings, weddings, funerals, worship services, exercise and fitness activities, and swimming pools.There are also no restrictions or capacity limits on restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs; and no restrictions on sport activities.

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CARE HOMES: There are no capacity restrictions on visitors to long-term care and seniors’ assisted living facilities, however, visitors must show proof of vaccination before visiting.

Exemptions are available for children under the age of 12, those with a medical exemption, and visitors attending for compassionate visits related to end-of-life. Visitors to seniors’ homes are also required to take a rapid antigen test before visiting the facility or be tested on arrival. Exemptions to testing are available for those attending for compassionate visits or end-of-life care.

How do I get vaccinated in B.C.?

Everyone who is living in B.C. and eligible for a vaccine can receive one by following these steps:

• Get registered online at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated to book an appointment in your community.
• Or, if you prefer, you can get registered and then visit a drop-in clinic in your health authority.
• The system will alert you when it is time to go for your second dose.
• The same system will also alert you when it is time for your booster dose.

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Where can I get a COVID-19 test?

TESTING CENTRES: B.C.’s COVID-19 test collection centres are currently only testing those with symptoms who are hospitalized, pregnant, considered high risk or live/work with those who are high risk. You can find a testing centre using the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s testing centre map.

If you have mild symptoms, you do not need a test and should stay home until your fever is gone. Those without symptoms do not need a test.

TAKE-HOME RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS: Eligible British Columbians over the age of 18 with a personal health number can visit a pharmacy to receive a free take-home test kit containing five COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.

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