Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 486 new cases; New Zealand administers record number of jabs at ‘Vaxathon’; Russia’s daily death toll soars above 1,000

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

10:20 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 486 new COVID-19 cases today and five more deaths.

The province says 329 of those cases are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or who have an unknown vaccination status, and 157 are in fully vaccinated individuals.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 164 people in intensive care units with COVID-19, 18 of whom have received both doses of the vaccine.

Of the 242 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 211 are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 31 are fully vaccinated.

The province says more than 22.2 million vaccine doses have been administered so far.

Nearly 87.4 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 12 have one dose and about 83 per cent have two doses.

8 a.m.: Russia’s daily death toll from COVID-19 has exceeded 1,000 for the first time as the country faces a sustained wave of rising infections.

The national coronavirus task force on Saturday reported 1,002 deaths in the previous day, up from 999 on Friday, along with 33,208 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, more than 1,000 higher than the day before.

Authorities have tried to speed up the pace of vaccination with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives, but widespread vaccine skepticism and conflicting signals from officials stymied the efforts.

The government said this week that about 43 million Russians, or about 29% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

Despite the mounting toll, the Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one early on in the pandemic that badly hurt the economy, eroding President Vladimir Putin’s popularity. Instead, it has delegated the power to enforce coronavirus restrictions to regional authorities.

7:59 a.m.: The COVID-19 vaccination rate is lower among California state workers than among the state’s general population, according to data from the state Human Resources Department.

Fewer than two-thirds of state workers — about 62% — were vaccinated as of Oct. 7, according to preliminary figures provided by department spokeswoman Camille Travis. That compares to a rate of about 72% among all Californians, according to state data.

The employee data is incomplete, accounting for about 213,000 of the state’s 238,000 employees, Travis said. But the relatively low rate identified so far suggests many workers weren’t moved by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s July orders to workers to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing.

Several of the largest state departments shared vaccination rates for their staff: 52% of California Highway Patrol employees, 60% of Department of Motor Vehicles employees and 60% of prison employees have received the shots. Caltrans reports a higher rate, with 70% of its employees vaccinated against COVID-19.

7:58 a.m.: It isn’t just people who are unvaccinated using Florida’s 25 monoclonal antibody treatment clinics, according to Florida officials.

About 45% of the more than 135,000 people who have received the COVID-19 treatment were fully vaccinated, state officials estimate. In parts of the state with higher vaccination rates, such as Miami-Dade County, the percentage has been as much as 60%.

But do vaccinated people with breakthrough cases and mild symptoms need to get monoclonal antibody treatment? The question of who should be prioritized is drawing debate in the medical community. The pricey drug cocktail is free to patients but costs taxpayers about $2,100 a dose.

Patients should talk with their doctor, but people who are fully vaccinated and otherwise healthy don’t benefit much from getting the treatment if they develop a breakthrough case of COVID-19, said Michael Teng a virologist at the University of South Florida.

Although people can still get sick, the COVID-19 vaccines have been highly effective in protecting against serious disease and hospitalization, he said.

“The monoclonal antibodies are not going to add too much to that protection,” Teng said. “If you are in a really high-risk group and it’s been a while since you have had your second dose of vaccine, that may be something to talk with your physician about, but generally speaking, it is not really going to do that much for normal, healthy people.”

Saturday 7:55 a.m.: New Zealand health care workers administered a record number of vaccine jabs Saturday as the nation held a festival aimed at getting more people inoculated against the coronavirus.

Musicians, sports stars and celebrities pitched in for the “Vaxathon” event which was broadcast on television and online for eight hours straight. By late afternoon, more than 120,000 people had gotten shots, eclipsing the daily record of 93,000 set in August. The event stretched into the evening.

A throwback to TV fundraising “telethon” events that were popular from the 1970s through the 1990s, it comes as New Zealand faces its biggest threat since the pandemic began, with an outbreak of the Delta variant spreading through the largest city of Auckland and beyond.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who chatted with motorists at a drive-through vaccination centre in Wellington, initially set a target of 100,000 jabs for the day but upped that to 150,000 after the first target was met.

She also set a target of 25,000 shots for Indigenous Maori, whose vaccination numbers have been lagging and who have been hit hard by the latest outbreak.

National carrier Air New Zealand converted a Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane into a vaccination clinic for the day, issuing people boarding passes on “Flight NZVAX.”

Singer Lorde beamed in from abroad, saying she couldn’t wait to come back home to play a concert and have everyone get sweaty and dance.

“I am the first person to admit that I find getting injections really icky, but ever since I was a kid, I have treated myself by going to the bakery after an injection, normally for a custard tart,” she said. “So you could do that.”

Read Friday’s coronavirus news.

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