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.
4:30 p.m. As of June 1, Newfoundland and Labrador will no longer require that certain public and private sector employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, reports The Canadian Press.
The government said today in a news release the decision is based on the low number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the province, according to CP.
The province has required proof of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for workers in the public sector, as well as employees of certain businesses including bars, restaurants and facilities catering to vulnerable populations.
The rules came into effect on Dec. 17.
Health officials say they will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in the province and the rules could be reinstated if deemed necessary.
On Wednesday there were 13 people hospitalized in the province due to the disease, down from a peak of 47 hospitalizations in early April.
2:15 p.m: A day after the school massacre in Texas, Ohio teacher Renee Coley thought her sixth grade students would need time to process, so she opened class with a video about the news and started a discussion. Some students said they were sad. Some were dismayed the 19 slain children were so young.
After a few minutes, though, the conversation fizzled. Students were ready to move on with their day. To Coley, it was a grim reminder that the students had seen it all before, had grown accustomed to the ever-present threat of guns in school.
“They have no questions because these kids have grown up their entire lives and this has been the reality for them,” said Coley, who teaches in Reynoldsburg, outside Columbus. “They’ve processed this so many times. … It’s just another news day for them.”
The interaction highlights how students across America have grown up numb to the violence that has been playing out throughout their lives in schools and communities — and in much greater frequency since the pandemic.
12 p.m. The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths are still falling globally after peaking in January, the World Health Organization said.
In its latest weekly assessment of the pandemic, the U.N. health agency said there were more than 3.7 million new infections and 9,000 deaths in the last week, drops of 3 per cent and 11 per cent respectively. COVID-19 cases rose in only two regions of the world: the Americas and the Western Pacific. Deaths increased by 30 per cent in the Middle East, but were stable or decreased everywhere else.
WHO said it is tracking all omicron subvariants as “variants of concern.” It noted that countries which had a significant wave of disease caused by the omicron subvariant BA.2 appeared to be less affected by other subvariants like BA.4 and BA.5, which were responsible for the latest surge of disease in South Africa.
Salim Abdool Karim, an infectious diseases expert at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said it appeared that South Africa had passed its most recent wave of COVID-19 caused by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants; the country has been on the forefront of the pandemic since first detecting the omicron variant last November.
11:30 a.m. Eight of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. lost population during the first year of the pandemic, with New York, Los Angeles and Chicago leading the way. Between July 2020 and July 2021, New York lost more than 305,000 people, while Chicago and Los Angeles contracted by 45,000 residents and 40,000 people, respectively.
Although San Francisco’s not among the 10 largest cities, almost 55,000 residents left that city, or 6.3% of its 2020 population, the highest percentage of any U.S. city.
Among the 10 largest U.S. cities, only San Antonio and Phoenix gained new residents, but they added only about 13,000 people each, or less than 1% of their populations, according to 2021 vintage population estimates.
11 a.m. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends isolating COVID patients for at least five days, preferably in a separate room with access to their own bathroom, as well as diligent mask-wearing for both patient and caregiver. But for many families, those aren’t easy options. Not everyone has an extra bedroom to spare, let alone a free bathroom. Young children should not be left alone, and the youngest can’t tolerate masks.
“For parents of a young child, it’s pretty difficult not to be exposed,” said Dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer at the University of Michigan. “You have to work back from the perfect to the possible and manage your risk the best you can.”
But take heart. Scientists say there is still a lot people can do to protect their families, chief among them improving ventilation and filtration of the air.
“Ventilation matters a lot,” said Dr. Amy Barczak, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “If you’re taking care of someone at home, it’s really important to maximize all the interventions that work.”
10:50 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting 154 people in ICU due to COVID-19 and 1,005 in hospital overall testing positive for COVID-19, according to its latest report released Thursday morning.
Of the people hospitalized, 42 per cent were admitted for COVID-19 and 58 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive. For the ICU numbers, 60.2 per cent were admitted for COVID-19 and 39.8 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive.
The numbers represent a 3.5 per cent decrease in the ICU COVID-19 count and a 7.1 per cent decrease in hospitalizations overall. 24 per cent of the province’s 2,343 adult ICU beds remain available for new patients.
Given new provincial regulations around testing that took effect Dec. 31, 2021, case counts – reported at 1,217 on Thursday, up 57 per cent from the previous day – are also not considered an accurate assessment of how widespread COVID-19 is right now. 20 new deaths were reported in the latest numbers.
Read the full story from the Star’s Dorcas Marfo
10:16 a.m. Retail sales in Canada were virtually unchanged in March at $60.1 billion as sales at new car dealers fell, offsetting gains elsewhere as consumers showed a willingness to keep spending, Statistics Canada reported Thursday.
The result compared with the federal agency’s initial estimate for the month that suggested sales rose 1.4 per cent. The preliminary estimate for April suggests retail sales rose 0.8 per cent for the month, but the agency cautioned the figure will be revised.
Statistics Canada said sales in March were up in 10 of the 11 subsectors it tracks, representing 75 per cent of retail trade.
9 a.m. The UK recorded a loss of European Union nationals in the year through June 2021, reflecting the combined impact of Brexit and the coronanvirus pandemic.
The number of EU citizens who left the country during the period outnumbered arrivals by 12,000, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday.
The net outflow partly explains why companies are struggling to recruit workers, particularly in sectors such as hospitality and retail that relied heavily on EU workers before the pandemic struck. Britain’s tight labor market is helping drive up wages and inflation, ringing alarm bells at the Bank of England.
The migration data cover a period when the UK was subject to on-and-off lockdowns and restrictions, including curbs on international travel, to stop the spread of Covid-19. It also coincided with a tightening in immigration rules following the end of the Britain’s transition period for leaving the EU, which ended in December 2020.
8:21 a.m. Hamilton council has given hundreds of municipal workers facing termination for resisting the city’s COVID-19 vaccination policy more time to fall in line before getting the axe.
The decision to extend the deadline to Sept. 30 from May 31 came Wednesday as dozens of workers and supporters toting signs filled the public gallery at city hall while councillors deliberated on the question for hours.
The testy, drawn-out debate peppered with heckles from the audience also marked the first time a clutch of councillors sat around the horseshoe with senior staff present since the pandemic struck in March 2020.
Thursday 7:20 a.m. Thousands of children are waiting months too long for surgeries in Ontario — most beyond the safe clinical window — prompting pediatric experts to demand additional funding to help clear the pandemic-fuelled backlog
The growing wait lists, which ballooned due to impacts from COVID-19, mean kids in line for surgery are coping with chronic pain and missing key developmental milestones. Experts say many face long-term health problems from delayed care.
At the Hospital for Sick Children, the number of children waiting for scheduled surgeries, including those for skull, spine and hip correcting procedures, has gone up 50 per cent since the start of the pandemic.
Read the full story from the Star’s Megan Ogilvie
Wednesday 8 p.m. Barbora Krejcikova, last year’s French Open champion in singles and doubles, says she has tested positive for COVID-19 and will withdraw from the tournament.
She already lost in the first round of singles but said Wednesday in a posting on Instagram that now she will need to drop out of trying to defend the doubles title she won in 2021 with Katerina Siniakova.
“Last night I started to feel bad and this morning I woke up with fever. I decided to get tested for Covid and it came back positive,” Krejcikova wrote. “I am extremely sad that I won’t be able to defend my title in doubles here, but on the positive side, I am glad I am injury free and can’t wait to get healthy and back to training.”
The 26-year-old from Czech Republic is the second player to announce she tested positive for the illness caused by the coronavirus since the year’s second Grand Slam tournament began on Sunday.
Another Czech player, Marie Bouzkova, pulled out of the clay-court event before her second-round singles match.
After two years of pandemic-related restrictions at the French Open, including COVID-19 testing for players and limits on the numbers of spectators allowed, there has been a return to normalcy around the tournament, with full-capacity stands at matches and no mask requirement.
Krejcikova was seeded No. 2 in singles at Roland Garros but in her first match since February because an injured right elbow, she lost 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Monday to Diane Parry, a 19-year-old from France who is ranked 97th.
Wednesday 7 p.m. Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region’s medical officer of health, is leaving his post to become the executive director and CEO of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
Loh, who led the public health response in one of the regions hit hardest in the pandemic, will take on his new role in September.
The college, which represents more than 42,000 doctors, cited Loh’s leadership during the COVID-19 crisis in its announcement of his appointment, noting decisions he made as Peel’s top doctor “saved lives.”
During his time as the region’s top doctor, Loh imposed public health measures, such as banning large wedding receptions and shuttering non-essential businesses, that often came sooner and went further than those made by the province.
Read the full story from the Star’s Megan Ogilvie
Read Wednesday’s coronavirus news.
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