June 30, 2022

Here’s your 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 the week of June 9-15, 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.

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 B.C. figures given on June 9 for May 29-June 4:

• Hospitalized cases: 325
• Intensive care: 28
• New cases: 895 over seven days
• Total number of confirmed cases: 372,611
• Total deaths over seven days: 43 (total 3,614)

Read the full report here | Next update: June 16 at 1 p.m. (or later)


Headlines at a glance

• Ottawa has announce the end of vaccine requirements for domestic travel and outbound international flights, as well as federally regulated workers.
• Canada’s travel industry calls for more measures to end airport gridlock.
• No need to panic about COVID reinfection, says UBC health expert after PM Justin Trudeau test positive again.
• Alberta is set to end the last of its COVID restrictions by the end of Tuesday, including masks on transit.
• Canada’s COVID Alert app expected to be discontinued in the coming days, according to a source in the federal government.
• Both commercially available mRNA vaccines are safe, with low risks of major adverse events, according to a large study.
• Pandemic stresses have been linked with disruptions in ovulation for many women without obvious changes to menstrual cycles, according to a new UBC study.
• Canadian Blood Services says it is struggling to replenish a critically low national supply caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new blood test that measures immune-system T cells may yield more accurate information about the body’s ability to control the coronavirus than tests that measure antibodies, researchers say.
• A ‘tsunami’ of long COVID cases is about to hit, and some say the health-care system isn’t ready.
• U.S. to drop COVID testing for incoming international air travellers.
• Weekly B.C. data show 43 more deaths, while hospitalizations and cases drop.
• Mounties in Surrey are probing allegations of fraud linked to COVID-19 paid sick leave program.
• A seventh COVID wave is possible this fall, Tam tells MPs: ‘The pandemic is not over.’

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LATEST NEWS

Federal vaccine mandates to be suspended for domestic, outbound travellers

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the Canadian government will suspend COVID-19 vaccine mandates for domestic and outbound international travellers and federally regulated workers.

The new rules will come into effect on June 20, though the requirements for foreign nationals coming to Canada will not change.

Intergovernmental affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc warns the government is prepared to “bring back” necessary policies if there’s a resurgence of the virus in the fall.

Travel industry groups have blamed federal public health measures and mandates for slowdowns at airport customs that have contributed to long waits for passengers and forced flight delays and cancellations.

LeBlanc says the decision to drop the federal mandate is not a response to the situation at Canada’s airports but rather is “based on science.”

The change will also affect federal workers who have been put on unpaid leave because of their vaccination status.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

More steps needed beyond suspended COVID-19 testing to ease delays: travel industry

Ottawa’s suspension of randomized COVID-19 testing at customs marks a major shift toward clearing clogged terminals, but more measures are needed to end airport gridlock, industry groups say.

Wait times and tarmac delays for arriving flights at large airports improved immediately after the move went into effect Saturday, according to the Canadian Airports Council and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

“We’re very encouraged by the news. It’s a big step forward in addressing the delay issues,” council head Monette Pasher said in an interview Monday.

“But there’s still a lot more work to do, as there were still gate holds, albeit for shorter periods of time. In our business we never want to see people waiting on the tarmac.”

On Friday, Ottawa announced it would pause COVID-19 tests of inbound international passengers selected at random, and that mandatory rapid tests for unvaccinated arrivals will happen off-site starting July 1.

The airports council and other industry groups are now calling for an end to vaccine mandates for passengers and aviation, security and customs employees, saying that hundreds more workers could be back on the job amid a labour crunch.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

UBC medical professor says no need to panic over COVID reinfection

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An expert says Canadians don’t need to panic about COVID-19 reinfections even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tested positive a second time for the virus.

Stephen Hoption Cann, a clinical professor with the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine, says it’s difficult to say how prevalent reinfections are because data is limited.

He says it should be expected people can get COVID-19 again — just like Trudeau, who said in a Twitter post Monday that he was isolating and feeling “OK.”

“The variant currently (circulating) does cause people to get hospitalized at a lower rate,” said Hoption Cann. ”The real concern is not that you get infected, but you get reinfected and develop a severe illness from that infection.”

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Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

Omicron sub-variants BA.4, BA.5 account for 21% of COVID variants in U.S.: CDC

The BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of Omicron are estimated to make up about 8.3 per cent and 13.3 per cent of the coronavirus variants in the United States as of June 11, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday.

“I’m very concerned,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic’s vaccine research group in Rochester, Minnesota, adding that data from South Africa shows the subvariants are better at circumventing immunity provided through vaccines and previous infections.

Vaccines or previous infection may provide a benefit against death or severe illness, but BA.4 and BA.5 could potentially cause a surge in infections during the summer, just as kids go back to school and people’s second booster may have worn off, he said.

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BA.4 made up 5.4 per cent of the variants in the United States for the week of June 5, according to CDC estimates, while BA.5 made up 7.7 per cent of the variants.

— Reuters

Alberta to end the last of its COVID restrictions, including masks on transit

By the end of Tuesday, Alberta will lift its COVID-19 restrictions, the last of the measures that have become part of pandemic life for 27 months.

Late Monday afternoon, the province announced it was ending the few mandated protections from the illness that’s killed at least 4,567 people in Alberta.

That means masks will no longer be mandatory on public transit and mandatory isolation will only be voluntary and not required.

Read the full story here.

— Calgary Herald

Canada’s COVID Alert app will be discontinued as PCR testing becomes rare

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Canada’s COVID Alert app will be discontinued in the coming days, a federal government source tells The Canadian Press.

The app was launched in the summer of 2020 as the pandemic began and billed as a way to alert people if they’ve been in close contact with someone who’s been infected with COVID-19, without collecting personal data.

But it requires users to enter a one-time key, given to them when they receive a positive PCR test result, and with many provinces replacing PCR testing with rapid testing, the user keys are not being given out.

The app has been criticized as being ineffective and not living up to expectations, and while 6.89 million people had downloaded it as of Feb. 1, only 57,704 user keys have been used.

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Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

PM Justin Trudeau tests positive for COVID-19

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time.

“I feel OK, but that’s because I got my shots,” Trudeau said Monday on Twitter.

“So, if you haven’t, get vaccinated — and if you can, get boosted. Let’s protect our health-care system, each other, and ourselves.”

Trudeau said he will be following public health guidelines and isolating.

Read the full story here.

— Canadian Press

Pandemic stress may subtly impact ovaries: UBC study

Pandemic stresses have been linked with disruptions in ovulation for many women without obvious changes to menstrual cycles, according to a new study.

Nearly 66 per cent of 112 women studied during the pandemic had ovulation disturbances, compared to only 10 per cent of 301 women studied 13 years earlier, researchers reported on Sunday at ENDO 2022, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

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Ovulation, or the release of an egg from an ovary, generally occurs about two weeks before the start of the menstrual period. Disturbances seen during the pandemic included the egg being released before the uterus is ready for pregnancy to occur, and no egg being released at all. The women in both studies were ages 19 to 35 and were not using hormonal contraceptives. Menstrual diaries kept by participants showed significantly more anxiety, depression, frustration, negative moods, perceived outside stresses, sleep problems, and headaches during the pandemic.

“By comparing the two studies, and especially their daily diaries, we can infer that the SARS-CoV2 pandemic life disruptions cause silent ovulatory disturbances within mostly regular menstrual cycles,” study leader Dr. Jerilynn Prior of the University of British Columbia said in a statement. Over time, persistent ovulatory disturbances can increase women’s risks for infertility, bone loss, early heart attacks, and breast and endometrial cancers, the researchers said.

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— Reuters

Low risk of major health issues seen with mRNA vaccines

Both commercially available mRNA vaccines are safe, with low risks of major adverse events, according to a large study that tracked 433,672 U.S. veterans for 38 weeks following vaccination.

Half the group had received Moderna’s COVID vaccine and the other half with similar characteristics and risk factors had received Pfizer/BioNTech shots.

“Small-magnitude differences between the two vaccines were seen within 42 days of the first dose,” researchers reported on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. “Individuals receiving the Moderna vaccine were slightly less likely – a difference of less than two-tenths of one percent – to experience stroke, myocardial infarction, other thromboembolic events, or kidney injury,” said coauthor Dr. Arin Madenci of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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For example, among every 10,000 study subjects, there were roughly 11 more strokes and 11 more heart attacks over the ensuing months in Pfizer/BioNTech recipients than in Moderna recipients.

The study did not establish a causal link between the vaccines and heart attacks, strokes and the other major adverse events. One possibility, Madenci said, is that the differences his team observed “may be explained by a lower effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine in preventing COVID-19” and the resulting after-effects in patients who developed the disease.

— Reuters

Number of Canadian blood donors plummets to lowest point in decade during COVID-19

Canadian Blood Services says it is struggling to replenish a critically low national supply caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The organization says the virus that has persisted since March 2020 has resulted in the smallest donor base in a decade.

“The number of people across Canada who donate regularly has decreased by 31,000 donors since the start of the pandemic, which has put a strain on the existing donor community,” said Rick Prinzen, chief supply chain officer and vice-president of donor relations for Canadian Blood Services.

“Many of our regular donors already donate multiple times a year.”

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

Alberta to drop remaining COVID-19 restrictions, including masks on public transit

Mandatory isolation and masking on public transit will cease to be the law of the land in Alberta late Tuesday.

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The province announced Monday afternoon that it would be moving to the third and final step in its pandemic restriction lifting plan at 11:59 p.m. June 14 as the rate of new COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to drop, from 20.7 per million population per day on April 26 to a weekly average of 6.6 per day per million population as of June 9.

PCR test positivity and wastewater surveillance also show a continuing trend of declining COVID-19 transmission, according to Minister of Health Jason Copping.

Read the full story here.

— Edmonton Journal

New blood test could improve COVID-19 defenses assessment

A new blood test that measures immune-system T cells may yield more accurate information about the body’s ability to control the coronavirus than tests that measure antibodies, researchers say.

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Unlike antibodies, T cells do not prevent infection from occurring, “but they protect from disease,” said study co-author Dr. Antonio Bertoletti of Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, in an email. They “recognize the infected cells… and destroy them. T cells are also important for the efficient maturation of B cells, (which) also help to produce antibodies,” he said.

Antibody levels often wane over time, while T cells remain on the alert. In some people with weakened immune systems, COVID-19 vaccines can induce T cell responses even if they do not induce antibody responses.

“Measuring T cell activation is critical to assess the full extent of a person’s immunity,” said coauthor Ernesto Guccione of The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai in a statement. Coronavirus variants like Omicron evade most of the neutralizing ability of antibodies, but T cells are still able to recognize the virus despite the mutations, he noted, making it even more important to have tests that can measure T cells.

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The new test is presently available only for research purposes but is scalable to use broadly in the population, the researchers reported on Monday in Nature Biotechnology.

— Reuters

A ‘tsunami’ of long COVID cases is about to hit, and some say the health-care system isn’t ready

Advocates, scientists, patients and others are warning of a coming tsunami of people with disabilities as a result of long COVID. And there are growing fears that the health system is not prepared.

“It is predicted that long-term COVID will lead to a substantive and sustained impact on our health system,” Senator Stan Kutcher told a long COVID awareness conference this week. “And let’s remember this is a system that can be currently characterized as running on empty.”

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Kutcher, a psychiatrist specializing in adolescent mental health who serves as an independent senator, has focused on issues such as vaccine disinformation since being appointed to the Senate. He is calling for changes — including a focus on health system readiness and better disability support — to help people suffering from long COVID.

— Ottawa Citizen 

U.S. to drop COVID testing for incoming international air travellers

The Biden administration will drop pre-departure COVID-19 international air testing requirements effective Sunday at 12:01 a.m. after heavy lobbying from airlines and the travel industry, a senior administration official told Reuters.

The Biden administration will announce on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will no longer require pre-departure COVID-19 testing for travellers coming to the United States after it determined based on the science and data that this requirement is no longer necessary. CDC will do a reassessment of this decision in 90 days, the official said.

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Since December, the CDC has required travellers to test negative within one day before flights to the United States but does not require testing for land border crossings.

The official said, “If there is a need to reinstate a pre-departure testing requirement — including due to a new, concerning variant — CDC will not hesitate to act.”

— Reuters

B.C. weekly report: 43 more deaths, hospitalizations and cases drop

The daily death toll from COVID-19 in British Columbia has remained stubbornly consistent even as the number of new cases and hospitalizations are dropping as we head toward summer.

Weekly data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control released Thursday show 43 more lives were lost from May 29 to June 4. That’s markedly similar to the previous two weeks, when 44 deaths were reported for both May 22-28 and May 15-21.

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In other words, B.C. continues to average just over six deaths a day through the past three weeks, down slightly from a month ago when 59 deaths were reported for the week.

The numbers of people in hospital and in intensive care are down from last week. The BCCDC says 325 were in hospital as of Thursday, down nearly 100 from a week earlier. ICUs had 28 admissions, down from 41 in both of the previous two weeks.

The week saw 895 reported new cases, though that number undercounts the true prevalence of cases in the province due to limited PCR testing.

— Joseph Ruttle

RCMP probing allegations of fraud linked to COVID-19 paid sick leave program

Surrey RCMP is investigating a security breach at WorkSafeBC after the discovery of alleged fraudulent activity related to the government’s COVID-19 paid sick leave program for businesses.

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The fraudulent activity was flagged late last year, but WorkSafeBC and the government didn’t inform the public.

The detachment’s financial crime unit is investigating alleged fraud involving the COVID paid sick leave employer reimbursement program, Surrey RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Vanessa Munn told Postmedia News on Wednesday. Police were made aware of the allegations in December 2021.

Munn said no charges have been laid and the investigation is still in the evidence gathering phase, so no additional details could be provided.

“We are limited in the information we can provide as no charges have been laid,” Munn said.

Read the full story here.

— Katie DeRosa


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.

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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.

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.

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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.


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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