The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for June 8


  • Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
  • Manitoba to employ immunization card to enable residents to travel, visit health-care facilities.
  • Some Ontarians call for return to hotspot prioritization in 2nd-dose strategy.
  • Outdoor concerts planned for Edmonton as premier urges Albertans to cross the vaccination threshold finish line.
  • Read more:  Some Quebec neighbourhoods that were hardest hit by the pandemic are trailing behind in vaccination rates; Calgary Stampede organization asks city for help after losing $26.5 million last year.

High school seniors celebrate after receiving their diplomas as the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston held its graduation ceremonies Tuesday at Fenway Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Red Sox. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Asymmetrical border reopening possible as U.S., Canadian officials continue to talk

The pace of Canada-U.S. discussions about reopening the shared land border has intensified lately, as more people in both countries are vaccinated and as frustration grows on the American side over the continued border closure.

The broad themes of those conversations were described to Alex Panetta of CBC News by several border town mayors who have been consulted on the talks, and by one federal official.

Several aspects of the reopening plan remain up in the air, and the countries are at different points in the mass vaccination drive: Canada now has a higher percentage of its population with a single vaccine dose than does the U.S., but the share of the U.S. population that’s fully vaccinated is nearly six times higher.

The reopening date itself is not set in stone. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told a group of border mayors in a meeting last month that it was uncertain whether the first phase could happen in late June, when the current border restrictions expire. An official aware of the Canada-U.S. talks, who asked to remain anonymous, said he doubts a June reopening is likely and suggested July would be a likelier starting date for the first phase.

Other technical details still have to be worked out, such as the form proof of vaccination would take. The same official said that proof would require, at a minimum, a vaccination card and perhaps another form of evidence.

That leads to another significant possibility — an asymmetrical reopening of the Canada-U.S. border, with each country applying different rules, given a strong Republican pushback to the idea of proof of vaccination being used for access.

The possibility of different rules came up in a consultation session late last month between Blair and Ontario border-town mayors. Bernadette Clement, mayor of Cornwall, Ont., expressed some frustration with the pace of talks.

“These conversations every month are exhausting,” said Clement. Some people will like the plan, some people will dislike the plan. But let’s at least get a plan out there so that we can start talking with our own communities about something concrete…. Put in some timeline.”

Meanwhile, prominent Republicans such as congresswoman Elise Stefanik and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie are among those blasting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government, saying it’s wrong for Canadians to get vaccinated in the U.S. and receive vaccine shipments from that country while delaying entry for Americans into Canada.

The border story was briefly mentioned in our CBC Morning Brief, which you can subscribe to here.

From The National

As Canada reopens, about 88 per cent of the world hasn’t had a single COVID-19 shot and experts warn the glaring inequality is a threat to everyone trying to escape the pandemic. 7:26

IN BRIEF

Fully vaccinated Manitobans will be exempt from self-isolation after travelling

Manitobans will be able to travel without having to self-isolate for two weeks if they’ve been fully vaccinated, the province announced on Tuesday.

An immunization card will be provided to individuals two weeks after they’ve received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, Premier Brian Pallister said, referring to the time period it takes for the vaccine’s antibodies to be built up in the recipient.

“We hope this is a temporary measure, of course, as we get to the point where everybody is vaccinated. But in the interim period, this is an important additional thing that’ll benefit you,” Pallister said.

Provincial restrictions currently require every visitor or resident entering the province to isolate for two weeks upon their return. Those orders have been in place in one form or another since April 2020.

The digital and physical vaccination cards contain no personal health information or data. They only show the person’s first and last names and a QR code that, when scanned, will show the person is fully vaccinated.

“Manitobans have also told us that getting back to the things they love is one of the biggest incentives to getting vaccinated,” the premier said.

Manitoba health-care facilities, including hospitals and personal care homes, will also permit expanded visitation if both the patient or resident and visitor are fully vaccinated. That rule change is expected sometime in the coming week.

As of Monday, 946,611 vaccine doses had been administered in Manitoba, with 66 per cent of eligible people — anyone age 12 and up — having received a first dose.

Read more about the pandemic in Manitoba

Ontario hears calls to shift COVID-19 vaccine strategy on 2nd doses 

With case counts in Ontario decreasing but largely concentrated in a handful of regions, a Peel Region doctor, a Brampton MPP and Toronto’s mayor say it’s time for the Ontario government to make second shots in hotspot areas a priority.

Dr. Raj Grewal, medical director of Embassy Grand COVID-19 testing and vaccination centre in Brampton, said he understands that the provincial government wants to have an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines based on age groups, but said it cannot ignore the pressing needs of hotspot communities.

“We are full of essential workers who don’t have the luxury of working from home,” said Grewal. “Most of them come from multi-generational families. We have a huge pocket of international students here that also live in crowded basement apartments. Those factors, I think, we have to take into account.”

The province prioritized hot spots in late April, which meant sending half of doses to be administered in 114 provincially designated postal codes. Ontario reverted back to a per capita distribution schedule in mid-May.

According to Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, the delta variant is expected to become the dominant strain in the province. The variant, known as B.1.617, was first identified in India and has become the fourth variant of concern. One COVID-19 vaccine dose does not appear to be as effective against the delta variant as two doses, according to one study.

In light of that possibility, Sara Singh, the Ontario NDP deputy leader and MPP for Brampton Centre and Toronto Mayor John Tory each put out calls on Monday for the prioritizing hotspots in terms of second dose vaccine allocation.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician based out of Toronto General Hospital, said officials are discussing the issue.

“It’s no secret that the vaccine task force and the province and the science table have all been discussing how to operationalize this. I think we’re going to hear some details soon,” he said.

The latest coronavirus report from the province on Tuesday saw Ontario’s seven-day average of daily cases fall to 703, its lowest point since Oct. 10, 2020.

Read more about the situation

Jason Kenney urges Albertans still without a 1st dose to help province in its reopening

Alberta is seeing a diminishing demand for first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that could translate into a longer wait for the province to fully reopen, Premier Jason Kenney warned on Monday.

The premier made his comments the day after 9,179 people in the province received their first vaccine shot on Sunday, the lowest single-day total since early April.

“We’re getting to that critical point right now where every additional person who decides to get their first dose is going to be able to accelerate the full openness of Alberta,” Kenney said. “If you’ve been holding back for one reason or another, now is the time to get the jab.”

Alberta’s reopening plan is tied directly to vaccination and hospital rates.

Stage 2, starting Thursday, required 60 per cent of eligible Albertans aged 12 and older to be vaccinated and for hospitalization numbers to be below 500 and declining. Stage 3, when most of Alberta’s public health restrictions are set to be lifted, will begin two weeks after the province hits the 70 per cent threshold.

As of Monday, 66.7 per cent of people over 12 had their first dose, while 14.3 per cent were fully vaccinated with two doses.

For some organizers, there’s no time to wait around and track the numbers.

Organizers for the Edmonton Folk Festival, which was cancelled for the second straight year in April, announced plans Tuesday for Taking it to the Streets, a new concert series that would see more than 40 street concerts performed across the city this July and August.

Edmonton-based production company Trixstar, meanwhile, announced plans on Tuesday for the Together Again Outdoor Concert Series to take place at the city’s Exhibition Lands. The concerts in July and August will have limited capacity to ensure distancing, and fans who attend will be seated at reserved tables with dedicated seating, with mandatory masking also to be enforced.

Read more about the pandemic in Edmonton

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

AND FINALLY…

Pandemic like a global experiment on how human activity affects wildlife, researcher says 

Snow geese are typically culled in Quebec as they migrate up to Nunavut, but that wasn’t the case this year due to the pandemic. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Early in the pandemic, Amanda Bates from Memorial University in St. John’s launched the PAN-Environment working group with American biologist Richard Primack and Spanish marine ecologist Carlos Duarte to explore how lockdown measures are affecting the environment.

The team also co-authored a paper published in the journal Biological Conservation on the immediate impacts of changes in human activities on wildlife and the environment during the early lockdown months

The pandemic appears to have had an impact on snow geese, for example. They often fly over Quebec when they migrate north to Nunavut. This is normally dangerous territory for the geese, as they’ve essentially been culled by Quebec hunters since 1998.

“This year, that didn’t happen,” Bates told CBC’s The Current.

Bates, the Canada Research Chair in marine environmental physiology at Memorial, said because the snow geese didn’t face the prospect of untimely death quite as much, they could “feed where they wanted.”

“So these geese gained a lot of weight.”

But other animals on land and in water were relatively underfed as there were fewer humans around to intentionally or unintentionally leave behind scraps of food.

“People are leaving food everywhere, and we’re doing it just inadvertently because we’re dropping food when we’re eating our lunch,” she said. “And if you have even just a few crumbs from hundreds or thousands of people in a city … that’s going to change where things like pigeons are located,” Bates said.

Although she does question if the natural changes we’ve seen occur in the pandemic will be fleeting, Bates is optimistic that people have learned of the importance of humanity’s role in nature’s healing.

Listen to the entire segment from The Current

Find out more about COVID-19

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