COVID-19 update for Oct. 4: COVID-19 increase in U.K. a bad sign for Canada | Canada's COVID measures avoided 800,000 deaths: Paper – Vancouver Sun

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the coronavirus situation in B.C. and around the world.
Here’s your update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for Oct. 4, 2022.

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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Quebec reported 18 more deaths attributed to COVID on Tuesday, as hospitalizations rose by 102
• U.K. begins COVID inquiry after more than 166,000 deaths
• Prairie premieres, governors push for longer hours at Canada-U.S. border crossings
COVID-19 increase in U.K. a bad sign for Canada
• With absolutely no public health measures and no vaccines, 800,000 people would have died from COVID-19 in Canada: Paper co-authored by Tam
• The next COVID wave is already starting in Canada. Here’s why this one should be different.
• The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away a challenge to Biden’s vaccine order for health workers
• A new study has found that those who had COVID-19 are at a higher risk for a number of brain injuries a year later
• Canada ends travel restrictions, mask mandates
 COVID hospitalizations rise 20 per cent from last week: BCCDC data
• Health officials in B.C. are urging the public to get flu shots and COVID boosters this fall

Quebec announced on Tuesday that 18 more deaths had been attributed to COVID-19, bringing the total to 16,816.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province increased by 102 since the province’s last update, to 1,757.

This is the highest level of hospitalizations reported in Quebec since Sept. 1. Of the hospitalized patients, 33 were in intensive care, a decrease of three.

— Montreal Gazette

LONDON — A public inquiry into Britain’s response to and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic got underway on Tuesday, with a promise it would get to the truth, and expose any wrongdoing or culpable conduct.

Britain has recorded almost 20 million COVID infections and more than 166,000 deaths — the seventh highest fatality total globally — and former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his ministers have faced criticism for their handling of the crisis.

Last year, Johnson ordered the inquiry to look into the preparedness of the country as well as the public health and economic response.

The investigation is being led by former judge Heather Hallett, who held a minute’s silence at the beginning of the hearing in memory of those who died.

“The inquiry will analyze our state of readiness for the pandemic and the response to it … and to determine whether that level of loss about which we’ve just been reflecting was inevitable, or whether things could have been done better,” she said.

She said she was determined the inquiry would not “drag on for decades” and her aim was to produce timely reports and recommendations “before another disaster strikes.”

— Reuters

WASHINGTON — Canada’s Prairie premiers and two U.S. governors want their respective countries to restore pre-pandemic operating hours at entry points along their shared land border.

The group of provincial and state leaders have written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden to argue that curtailed hours at border crossings are hurting the economy.

The letter is signed by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, as well as Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

It says travellers and businesses are being forced to go out of their way to find entry points with longer hours, driving up fuel and labour costs.

The leaders say that’s also hurting smaller border communities along the Canada-U.S. border that depend on international traffic for their economic livelihoods.

The letter does not mention that the U.S. still requires visiting foreign nationals to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a requirement Canada lifted over the weekend.

Read the full story here.

 — The Canadian Press

Reports from the U.K. suggest another COVID-19 wave has begun.

Canadians should take note as what happens with the pandemic in the U.K. is usually reflected here within several weeks.

Ontario entered a seventh wave in July that was driven by the Omicron BA.5 subvariant, according to Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore. The wave began about a month after public health measures such as masking were ended.

Without regular testing, it was difficult to get hard data, but wastewater surveillance showed rising numbers and the science table noted higher COVID hospitalizations this past summer than at any time in the summer of 2021.

If the U.K. can be considered a precursor to what Canadians will face, a difficult fall is on the horizon. Cases started rising in the U.K. in mid-September.

New variants are said to be able to evade the immunity built up by vaccinations and infections.

The Daily Mail reported that a drop in testing combined with the inadequate surveillance of new immune-evasive subvariants will create a “perfect storm” for another wave. After hospitalizations rose by 37% in the past week alone, U.K. health experts began calling for mask-wearing and urging COVID vaccinations, according to the Guardian.

— Postmedia News

A new paper from scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada, co-authored by Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, estimates that with absolutely no public health measures and no vaccines, 800,000 people would have died from COVID-19 in Canada.

The paper was published in the Canada Communicable Disease Report, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by PHAC. The article, which appeared in the July/August edition, presents a series of several counterfactual scenarios, from an approach with no public health measures or vaccines to scenarios where public health measures, like lockdowns and masks, were simply lifted earlier.

According to the paper, which had several authors including Tam, the worst-case scenario would have seen 34 million Canadians get the virus had it been allowed to run free. Two million of those people would have ended up in hospital and 800,000 would have died.

The paper used information up to April of this year, by which point 150,000 people had been hospitalized and 38,783 had died, a number which rose over the summer and now sits at just over 45,000 deaths.

Read the full story here.

— Ryan Tumilty, Postmedia News

COVID-19 is ticking up again and the country is barely into fall.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise, said McGill University genomic evolutionary biologist Jesse Shapiro. Forget, for a moment, all the alphanumeric subvariants, new and old, scientists are watching. “Even just based on waning immunity, the time since the average person had their last infection or their last booster, a wave was expected,” Shapiro said.

In most provinces, immunity isn’t as high as it could be, which is why Canada’s public health agency is appealing to people to get “up to date” with their vaccines. New bivalent shots that target the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, as well the original BA.1 strain of Omicron, are being rolled out, though Health Canada has yet to approve bivalent boosters targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 strains, which, along with BA.2, are currently the major circulating strains in Canada.

Infections and hospitalizations are inching up in Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia, but wastewater signals are falling in Saskatchewan. Public Health Ontario reported Friday that it’s seeing a gradual increase in cases and the number of tests coming back positive, when looking back over the past two weeks. Ottawa is already in a “new wave” of COVID-19, the city’s public health department declared last week.

COVID-19 is persisting at a fairly high rate of infection across the country, experts said. “Here in British Columbia, it’s estimated we’re under-reporting cases by 100-fold,” said University of B.C. evolutionary biologist Sarah Otto who, like Shapiro, is a member of Canada’s national Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network, or CoVaRR-Net.

Based on the network’s data sharing, Shapiro predicts that, one by one, the provinces will acknowledge another wave. “As usual, it’s hard to say, will this be a big wave? Will it be a small wave. For sure it’s a wave of some kind.”

Should we worry? Science magazine dropped a piece last week warning one or more of several highly immune dodging strains of SARS-CoV-2 — BA. 2.75.2, BQ.1.1, BF.7 — “may well cause big, new COVID-19 waves this fall and winter.” What it means in terms of severe disease and deaths, Science said, is very much an open question.

Read the full story here.

— Sharon Kirkey, Postmedia News

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge by Missouri and nine other states — mostly Republican-led — to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers in healthcare facilities that receive federal funds.

The justices turned away an appeal by the states after a lower court declined to immediately consider their claims that the vaccine rule violates federal administrative law and tramples over powers reserved for the states under the U.S. Constitution. The Democratic president’s administration issued the rule in November 2021.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in January to let Biden enforce the healthcare worker mandate while litigation on its legal merits continued in lower courts. The justices at the same time decided 6-3 to halt his administration’s rule requiring vaccines or weekly COVID-19 tests for employees at businesses with at least 100 employees.

Biden’s administration had argued that the two mandates would save lives and strengthen the U.S. economy by increasing the number of vaccinated Americans. The United States leads the world in COVID-19 deaths, reporting more than a million since the pandemic took hold in the early months of 2020.

— Reuters

Those who had COVID-19 are at a higher risk for a number of brain injuries a year later, according to a new study.

The study, published in Nature Medicine, looked at brain health using medical records without patient identifiers from millions of U.S. veterans.

It found that brain or neurological disorders occurred in seven per cent more people who had been infected with COVID than with a similar group of veterans who had never been infected.

“The results show the devastating long-term effects of COVID-19,” senior author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, of Washington University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

The medical records of 154,000 U.S. veterans who had tested positive for COVID from March 1, 2020 to Jan. 15, 2021 were studied. Their records were compared with those of 5.6 million Americans who did not have COVID during that time frame, plus another 5.8 million people from the period just before COVID arrived in the U.S.

Memory issues, also known as brain fog, were the most common symptom. The study found that people infected with COVID had a 77 per cent higher risk of developing memory problems.

Strokes caused by blood clots were also 50 per cent more likely amongst those who had been infected, the study found. Seizures were 80 per cent more likely and mental health issues were 43 per cent more likely.

— Postmedia News

As of this morning, travellers to Canada do not need to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 — and wearing a mask on planes and trains is now optional, though it is still recommended.

People entering the country are no longer subject to random mandatory tests for the virus, and those who are unvaccinated will not need to isolate upon arrival.

Anyone who entered Canada in the last two weeks and was subject to quarantine or testing is off the hook as of today.

And inbound travellers do not need to fill out the controversial ArriveCan app anymore, although they can still use it to fill out their customs declarations at certain airports.

Federal ministers announced the end of the COVID-19 public health restrictions earlier this week, saying the latest wave of the disease has largely passed and travel-related cases aren’t having a major impact.

— The Canadian Press

B.C. reported 367 people in hospital on Thursday tested positive for COVID-19, a 20 per cent increase from the same time last week. Of these, 30 are in critical care.

Last Thursday, 305 patients were in hospital with the virus, while 22 required critical care.

The surge comes a day after health officials predicted a moderate surge from COVID-19 this fall and winter.

B.C. is preparing for an increase in hospital admission both from COVID-19 and from other respiratory illnesses including influenza, said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health minister, and Health Minister Adrian Dix. Some projections suggest up to 700 additional people may require hospitalization.

The number of reported cases of COVID-19 remained steady at 635 for the week of Sept. 18 to 24, one less than the previous week, according to the latest COVID-19 weekly report from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.The report indicates 150 people were in hospital from Sept. 18 to 24 and 16 people died with the virus during the same week.In total, 4,283 people have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The province switched to a weekly reporting system in April. For a primer on how to interpret data in the BCCDC weekly reports, click here.

— Cheryl Chan

Health officials say while B.C. is emerging from the pandemic, a moderate surge in cases is possible this fall and winter.

The good news is that most of the population has accrued some immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from vaccination or infection, health officials said at a news conference Wednesday.

However, that strong immunity will wane over time and so health officials are urging British Columbians to get a booster shot that protects against the Omicron variant.

Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are significantly down from a peak in January, according to B.C. government data. There was a slight surge in May and then there has been a steady decline.

Read the full story here.

— Tiffany Crawford

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 space.

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.

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.

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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