A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada:
— A Canadian study suggests the antiviral medication remdesivir could have a "modest but significant effect" on COVID-19 patient outcomes, including decreasing the need for mechanical ventilation by approximately 50 per cent. The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, is billed as the largest single-country trial of remdesivir reported to date. Results are part of a larger study called the World Health Organization Solidarity, a randomized, controlled trial evaluating remdesivir's impact on COVID-19 patients in several countries.
— Ontario is seeing "glimmers of hope" in its fight against the Omicron variant, the health minister says, setting the stage for what the premier has called a positive announcement on restrictions later this week. COVID-19 cases are expected to peak this month, Christine Elliott says, with a peak in hospitalizations and ICU admissions to follow. New hospitalizations are doubling roughly every two weeks, instead of doubling every seven days, as was the case just a few weeks ago, she says. "I do want to be clear, February will continue to pose challenges, especially for our hospitals as people continue to require care for COVID-19," Elliott said. "But our goal has always been to ensure capacity is there to provide care for those who need it. Given current trends, we are increasingly confident in our ability to do so."
— Parents in Toronto expressed mixed emotions as they dropped their kids off at school for the first time in weeks, saying they were worried about COVID-19 but glad to have their children get back to in-person learning. The return to physical classrooms after two weeks of remote learning was delayed by two days for the Toronto District School Board after a major snowstorm hit on Monday. Outside an elementary school in the north end of the city, Natasha Chadenga said she was feeling "a lot of trepidation" sending her six-year-old daughter back. "It doesn't sound like the (education) ministry has put in everything that needs to be put in place to support the schools," she said. "I'm really concerned that in another one week or four days from now, they're going to be sent back home again, with some sort of outbreak in the school.”
— The NHL's plan to shoehorn nearly 100 pandemic postponements into its jam-packed schedule window has come into focus. The league unveiled new dates for 98 games scrubbed during a two-month stretch due to COVID-19 outbreaks — as well as coronavirus-related attendance restrictions in Canadian markets — with most being plugged into what would have been February's Olympic break. The NHL also announced date changes for 23 other games. The league and NHL Players' Association backed out of 2022 Beijing Olympics last month following a rash of coronavirus shutdowns that forced a string of postponements before and after an extended holiday pause.
— One of Alberta's largest school boards wants the province to open vaccine clinics in schools as the number of students and staff infected with COVID-19 rises. Trisha Estabrooks, chairwoman of the board for Edmonton Public Schools, says a letter will be sent to the UCP government by the end of the week. It comes after the board unanimously passed a motion Tuesday to try to get more five- to 11-year-olds vaccinated and prevent further spread of the Omicron variant in classrooms. Edmonton Public Schools says on its website that more than five per cent of its 105,787 students were absent Tuesday due to COVID-19 — up from four per cent a day earlier.
— More financial help is on the way for British Columbia businesses forced to stay closed for at least another month as the province tries to contain the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. A statement from the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation says businesses including event venues, bars, nightclubs and lounges that don't serve full meals are eligible for grants of up to $20,000, based on staffing levels. The funds, which double the amount available to those businesses, can be claimed through the provincial COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant. Businesses ordered by the provincial health officer to remain closed until at least Feb. 16 are eligible for the larger amount, while those that have been allowed to reopen can claim up to $10,000.
— Quebec's Nunavik region has moved into lockdown, as more than half the northern territory's 14 Inuit communities were dealing with community spread of COVID-19. "It is just a matter of time until Omicron will spread in all communities," reads a message on the Facebook page of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, referring to the highly transmissible mutation of the novel coronavirus. A 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is in effect across the region, which spans the northern third of the province. Schools and daycares remain open, but all non-essential public places are closed and private indoor gatherings are banned. Health officials reported 28 new cases on Tuesday in the region, which had 260 active infections.
— Quebec health officials were ill-prepared to weather the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with no coherent emergency plan and a health system that left vulnerable seniors in the lurch, the province's health and welfare commissioner says. Joanne Castonguay's final report into the care and service offered to seniors in the pandemic's early months was released Wednesday, highlighting a need to overhaul the provincial Health Department. In the 300-page report, Castonguay recommends transforming the health system from one that focuses primarily on providing medical and hospital services to one that gives priority to the patients' needs amid an increasingly aging population. She said that as the system is now designed, senior care, public health and prevention are in the government's blind spot.
— Manitoba recorded another 12 COVID-19-related deaths and saw hospitalizations rise again, as the province's top doctor said the peak of the Omicron wave might be close at hand. Health officials said the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 reached 631, an increase of 11 in one day to set yet another record. The number of people in intensive care, including non-COVID patients, fell by two to 100, which was still 28 above the province's pre-pandemic normal capacity.
— Public health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador say 18 people are in hospital because of COVID-19, the highest number since the pandemic began. The previous high for COVID-19 hospitalizations was 16 people on Oct. 7 last year. A government news release says four of the 18 patients hospitalized are in critical care. The province logged another 511 new COVID-19 cases, with 21 per cent of tests completed since Tuesday yielding a positive result.
— Health officials in Prince Edward Island are reporting the province's third death related to COVID-19. The death of the person between the ages of 60 and 79 follows news last week of P.E.I.'s first two COVID-19 deaths of the pandemic. Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison reported 304 new cases of COVID-19 on the Island, bringing the total number of active cases to 2,514.
— Nova Scotia's premier highlighted the severity of the COVID-19 situation in the province, after health officials reported three more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Eight people have died of COVID-19 in the last three days. The deaths reported Wednesday, all in the Halifax area, involved a man in his 60s as well as a man and a woman in their 80s. A total of 15 people have died since the onset of the Omicron variant-fuelled COVID-19 wave in Nova Scotia on Dec. 8. Tim Houston told reporters that 83 people have been admitted to hospital as a result of being no longer able to manage their COVID-19 symptoms at home. Twelve patients are in intensive care.
— New Brunswick's government says more than 1,600 people have responded in less than 24 hours to its call for volunteers to help support its COVID-19 response, as many health workers are off the job. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says she is encouraged so many people answered the government's call on Tuesday for help with clinical and non-clinical services. There are currently 342 health-care workers in the province who are isolating after testing positive for COVID-19.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2022.
The Canadian Press