May 17, 2022

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 daily update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for April 19, 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 throughout the day, with developments added as they happen, so be sure to check back often.

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


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE

• U.S. hospitalization rates for unvaccinated children ages 5 to 11 were twice as high as among those who were vaccinated during the record COVID-19 surge caused by the Omicron variant, according to a new study.
• As B.C. enters the sixth wave of the pandemic, critics say there’s a dearth of information due to the province’s switch to reporting COVID-19 data weekly instead of daily
• Almost one in four Canadian respondents to an online survey said they had been infected with COVID-19, while about three in four had not.
• Hospitals across Canada are facing a resurgence of patients with COVID-19 that some health officials say will likely continue for another month.
• Moderna Inc said a COVID-19 booster designed to target the Beta variant as well as the original coronavirus generated a better immune response against a number of virus variants, including Omicron.
• A judge in the U.S. has overturned federal mask mandates for people on planes, trains and taxis. The Trump appointee was responding to a Florida lawsuit arguing the Biden administration exceeded its authority.
• A new study suggests unvaccinated people infected with the Omicron variant are unlikely to develop immune responses that will protect them against other variants of the coronavirus.
• The average number of global deaths from COVID-19 were 6 per cent higher on weekends compared to weekdays throughout the pandemic, according to new research.

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Here are the latest figures given on April 14 for the week of April 3 to 9:

• Hospitalized cases: 364
• Intensive care: 36
• Total deaths over seven days: 23 (total 3,036)
• New cases: 1,770 over seven days
• Total number of confirmed cases: 359,002

Read the full report here | Next update: April 21 at 1 p.m. (or later)


LATEST NEWS on COVID-19 in B.C.

Breathalyzer test for COVID-19 wins approval in U.S.

A COVID-19 breathalyzer test with the ability to provide diagnostic results in three minutes has won emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency announced Thursday.

The test kit – the size of a piece of carry-on luggage – can be used 160 times a day and must be administered by a health-care professional.

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It works by detecting chemical compounds in breath samples associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The FDA said the test was validated in a study of 2,409 people, where it correctly identified 91.2 per cent of positive samples and 99.3 per cent of negative samples.

“Today’s authorization is yet another example of the rapid innovation occurring with diagnostic tests for COVID-19,” Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in the statement.

Unvaccinated children hospitalized at twice the rate during Omicron surge: U.S. study

Hospitalization rates for unvaccinated children ages 5 to 11 were twice as high as among those who were vaccinated during the record COVID-19 surge caused by the Omicron variant, according to a U.S. study released on Tuesday.

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For every 100,000 unvaccinated children in the age group, 19.1 per were hospitalized with COVID-19 between mid-December and late February, compared with 9.2 per 100,000 vaccinated kids, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The researchers looked at nearly 400 hospitalizations in 14 states during the period.

It found that among the 397 children who were hospitalized with COVID when Omicron was dominant, 87% were unvaccinated, one third had no underlying medical conditions, and 19% were admitted to an intensive care unit.

The highly contagious Omicron variant, which drove coronavirus infections to record levels in the United States in January, fueled an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations among those under age 18, leading to concerns about the impact on unvaccinated children.

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Read the full story here.

— Reuters

B.C.’s weekly COVID-19 data reporting leaves public in dark about next Omicron wave: Critics

The B.C. public could be entering the sixth wave of the pandemic in an information vacuum, say critics who decry the province’s decision to report COVID-19 data weekly instead of daily.

That reporting lag, along with a lack of contract tracing and PCR testing, will leave British Columbians in the dark and make it difficult for people to assess the rate at which the virus is transmitting in their community, said Andrew Longhurst, a health policy researcher and PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University.

On April 7, the province began releasing COVID data weekly instead of daily. The Health Ministry said the weekly reports will focus on key measures of severity and trends over time, similar to how other communicable diseases are reported.

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The B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s COVID dashboard also updates every Thursday, reporting the number of people in hospital and intensive care from the previous Sunday to Saturday. For example, there were 233 hospital admissions between April 3 and 9, a slight increase from 230 hospital admissions between March 27 and April 2, according to the B.C. CDC weekly report released April 14.

Longhurst is concerned that the public has far less information now than during the fifth wave of the pandemic late last year when the highly transmissible Omicron variant surged across B.C., crippling the province’s PCR testing capacity and marking a shift to self-diagnosis through rapid tests.

Read full story here.

— Katie DeRosa

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Provinces experiencing rise in COVID hospitalizations, but nothing like first Omicron surge: Docs

Hospitals across Canada are facing a resurgence of patients with COVID-19 that some health officials say will likely continue for another month.

Latest data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows hospitalizations due to COVID-19 rose about 18% across Canada between April 4 and April 11 — to 6,020 people needing beds from 5,109.

In the last week, Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Prairies have all reported an increase in hospitalizations from the virus and intensive care admissions have also inched slightly upwards in some provinces.

Latest available data from the provinces shows Quebec had 2,220 people in hospital and Ontario had 1,301. There were 1,053 hospitalizations in Alberta, 403 in Saskatchewan, 158 in Manitoba and 59 in Nova Scotia.

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Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

One-quarter of Canadians have gotten COVID-19, poll suggests

Almost one in four Canadian respondents to a new online survey said they had been infected with COVID-19, while about three in four had not.

As the country grapples with its sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and less data is shared with the public, the poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies offers a picture of how many people have been infected.

Christian Bourque, Leger executive vice-president, said it was notable that the rate of reported infection sat higher than what the official data has suggested.

Thirty per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 said they had been infected with COVID-19, while 12% of those 55 years and older had contracted the disease.

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“What was really striking was the difference when it comes to age,” Bourque said.“It seems to match the patterns that we’re seeing, that the more social you are — going out to restaurants, bars, and concerts — makes you a little bit more vulnerable to getting the disease.”

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

Moderna says dual variant booster with Beta more effective vs Omicron than current shot

Moderna Inc on Tuesday said a COVID-19 booster designed to target the Beta variant as well as the original coronavirus generated a better immune response against a number of virus variants, including Omicron.

Moderna said the results were a good sign for the company’s plans for future shots targeting two COVID-19 variants.

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Dr. Jacqueline Miller, a top Moderna scientist, said the company had no immediate plans to file for authorization of the bivalent vaccine including the Beta variant. It will submit the data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in order to lay the groundwork for a future bivalent vaccine candidate that includes the Omicron variant as a target.

The company said the bivalent vaccine with Beta generated higher neutralizing antibody titers against the Omicron variant at one and six months after the shot was given than the booster of its original vaccine currently in use.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

U.S. will no longer enforce mask mandate on airplanes, trains

The Biden administration will no longer enforce a U.S. mask mandate on public transportation, after a federal judge in Florida on Monday ruled that the 14-month-old directive was unlawful, overturning a key White House effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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Soon after the announcement, all major carriers including American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, as well as national train line Amtrak relaxed the restrictions effective immediately.

Uber Technologies has scrapped mandatory face masks for its riders and drivers in the United States, the ride-hailing company said on Tuesday, adding that riders have the option to cancel their trip if they feel uncomfortable with its move.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday it had dropped its “Do Not Travel” recommendations for about 90 international destinations.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

Shanghai urges cooperation with COVID tests

The Chinese city of Shanghai on Tuesday pleaded for public cooperation with a massive new push to test most of the population for COVID-19 as it tries to bring community transmission down to zero after nearly three weeks of lockdown.

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The plea came as some people refused to join PCR testing queues out of weariness after weeks of such requirements, or fear it puts them at greater risk of infection.

— Reuters

J&J suspends sales forecast for COVID vaccine

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday suspended its sales forecast for its COVID-19 vaccine due to a global supply surplus and demand uncertainty and cut its adjusted profit expectation.

The company had earlier predicted as much as $3.5 billion in sales from the shot, which has fared poorly compared to rivals due to low demand in the United States and safety concerns.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

Demand for Pfizer’s COVID pills lags around the world

Worldwide demand for Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid has been unexpectedly light due to complicated eligibility requirements, reduced testing, and potential for drug interactions, a Reuters review of data and interviews with experts has found.

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Demand also has been hampered by the perception that Omicron infections are not that severe.

— Reuters

Omicron infection induces limited immune response

Unvaccinated people infected with the Omicron variant are unlikely to develop immune responses that will protect them against other variants of the coronavirus, a new study suggests.

Unlike antibodies induced by COVID-19 vaccines or infections with earlier SARS-CoV-2 variants, antibodies induced by the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants do not neutralize other versions of the virus, researchers found when they analyzed blood samples obtained after Omicron infection.

People with Omicron “breakthrough” infections after three doses of the mRNA vaccines designed to neutralize earlier versions of the virus had high levels of neutralizing antibodies against the two Omicron variants, although the efficiency was lower than against previous SARS-CoV-2 versions, according to a report undergoing peer review at Nature Portfolio and posted on unlikely to develop immune responses.

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But among those whose immune systems had not been primed to recognize the virus through vaccination or by natural infection, antibodies after Omicron infection “were very specific for the respective Omicron variant, and we detected almost no neutralizing antibodies targeting non-Omicron virus strains,” said Karin Stiasny and Judity Aberle of the Medical University of Vienna, Austria in a joint email.

BA.2-induced antibodies appeared to be particularly unlikely to defend against any other variant, they added. The study “emphasizes the importance of booster vaccinations for immune protection.”

— Reuters

COVID-19 hospital death rates go up on weekends

The average number of global deaths from COVID-19 were 6 per cent higher on weekends compared to weekdays throughout the pandemic, according to statistics reported to the World Health Organization between March 2020 and March 2022.

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The research, scheduled for presentation this month at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, found that worldwide there were on average 449 more COVID deaths on weekends than weekdays (8,532 vs 8,083). The highest absolute increase in weekend COVID-19 deaths was in the United States (average 1,483 weekend deaths vs 1,220 weekday deaths), followed by Brazil (1,061 vs 823), the U.K. (239 vs 215) and Canada (56 vs 48 deaths).

Only Germany reported significantly fewer average deaths at weekends compared to weekdays. The increase in COVID-19 deaths on weekends may reflect reporting delays, but it also is likely due to hospital staffing levels and other organizational factors, the researchers said in a statement.

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The data does not take into account patients’ individual risk factors, local policies and public health interventions, which could have affected the outcomes. “Further studies, with detailed clinical data are needed to investigate the drivers of and causes for the risk of death on weekdays and weekends from COVID-19,” the researchers said in the statement.

— Reuters


WHAT’S HAPPENING ACROSS CANADA


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.

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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.

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.

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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.


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.

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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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