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Today’s coronavirus news: Tensions high between vaccinated and unvaccinated in Canada: poll; B.C. Vaccine Card requirement as only acceptable proof of vaccine begins

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

9 a.m. Dalhousie University says it is strongly urging students who attended an unsanctioned street party in Halifax over the weekend not to attend classes.

In a Twitter statement, the university says students who went to the parties should avoid classes and general on-campus activities for one week and should get tested for COVID-19.

School officials say they are continuing to consider the implications of two street parties on Saturday that drew crowds estimated in the thousands to the Jennings and Larch Street neighbourhoods near campus.

Frank Harvey, university provost and vice-president, says the “illegal gatherings” pose a potential risk to Dalhousie’s ability to “continue with a safe, sustainable in-person learning experience this fall.”

Halifax Regional Police say they responded to a flood of noise complaints, arresting nine men and one woman for public intoxication and issuing numerous summary offence tickets for illegal possession of open liquor.

Police say they are continuing to investigate the incident and expect to hand out more tickets.

8:25 a.m. Albert Premier Jason Kenney rejected calls for a “hard lockdown” during an appearance on a radio program Sunday, the same day that his province’s former top doctor signed a letter calling for immediate “fire break” measures to deal with surging cases of COVID-19.

Kenney told radio host Roy Green that a lockdown would make “no sense for the 80 per cent of the population that is vaccinated,” and who he said are much less likely to transmit the disease and are far less likely to be hospitalized.

Further, he said the roughly 20 per cent who aren’t vaccinated and are behind the surge in cases are less likely to follow public health measures.

8:05 a.m. Starting Monday, the only acceptable proof of vaccination in British Columbia to dine at restaurants and attend indoor recreational events is the B.C. Vaccine Card.

The government says the transition period allowing people to present their vaccine records from their immunization appointments expired Sunday.

The vaccine card, under orders from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, is required at most restaurants and indoor events to help ensure businesses can stay open and people can feel safe in these settings.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says more than three million people in B.C. have already received their vaccine card.

7:40 a.m. In late May, Samantha Yammine, a Toronto neuroscientist who advocates for vaccines, shared what had become, for her, a source of shame and embarrassment. For much of her life, Yammine had lived with a severe anxiety around needles — a phobia that led her to avoid vaccination for years.

As a scientist, Yammine understood the toll of the pandemic and knew mass immunization was the way out. But she was crushed by fear and dread. How could she be a vaccine advocate if she didn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19?

“I knew I had to get it, but I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to,” she said.

Yammine, 31, known as Science Sam on social media, is not frightened of needles in the way some people become mildly distressed about spiders or thunderstorms. Her fear is rooted in childhood trauma and it activates the same fight-or-flight response that another person might have if they encountered a bear or a home intruder.

Read the full story from the Star’s Amy Dempsey

7:25 a.m. In a bid to get rapid tests into York Region schools, Muna Kadri hit a lot of dead ends. Wherever she looked, there seemed to be few options for asymptomatic students, other than to pay $40 a pop at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Now Kadri, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation District 16, says she’s ready, if she must, to rent a U-Haul and drive 130 kilometres to pick up rapid tests via a free program in Waterloo Region. While grateful for the resource, she says the situation can only be described as “mind-boggling.”

“How preposterous is it that these are the lengths we have to go through?”

Read the full story from the Star’s Sara Mojtehedzadeh

6:21 a.m.: The World Health Organization is launching a new investigation into the origins of COVID-19, months after an earlier probe ended without drawing firm conclusions, according to a report published on Sunday.

The WHO is putting together a team of some 20 scientists who will be charged with finding new evidence in China and other locales, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The group will examine whether the virus emerged from a laboratory, a theory that has been angrily rejected by China.

In December 2020, WHO investigators began visits to Wuhan, China, where the first known outbreak of the virus took place.

But their March 2021 report said they had gotten insufficient information from Chinese scientists to answer key questions about COVID-19’s origin.

In August, U.S. intelligence agencies issued a separate report saying they also couldn’t make firm conclusions about COVID-19’s origins.

6:19 a.m.: With more than 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines available, U.S. health authorities said they’re confident there will be enough for both qualified older Americans seeking booster shots and the young children for whom initial vaccines are expected to be approved in the not-too-distant future.

The spike in demand — expected following last week’s federal recommendation on booster shots — would be the first significant jump in months. More than 70 million Americans remain unvaccinated despite the enticement of lottery prizes, free food or gifts and pleas from exhausted health care workers as the average number of deaths per day climbed to more than 1,900 in recent weeks.

Federal and state health authorities said current supply and steady production of more doses can easily accommodate those seeking boosters or initial vaccination, avoiding a repeat of the frustratingly slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across the country early this year.

“I hope that we have the level of interest in the booster … that we need more vaccines,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday. “That’s simply not where we are today. We have plenty of vaccines.”

Robust supply in the U.S enabled President Joe Biden this week to promise an additional 500 million of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world, doubling the United States’ global contribution. Aid groups and health organizations have pushed the U.S. and other countries to improve vaccine access in countries where even the most vulnerable people haven’t had a shot.

Among the challenges states face is not ordering too many doses and letting them go to waste. Several states with low vaccination rates, including Idaho and Kansas, have reported throwing away thousands of expired doses or are struggling to use vaccines nearing expiration this fall.

While most vaccines can stay on the shelf unopened for months, once a vial is opened the clock starts ticking. Vaccines are only usable for six to 12 hours, depending on the manufacturer, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

6:18 a.m.: Public health officials have identified more than 200 coronavirus outbreaks at police or fire agencies throughout Los Angeles County since the start of the pandemic, according to data obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The 211 outbreaks, accounting for more than 2,500 cases between March 2020 and last month, represent 9% of total workplace outbreaks across the county, the newspaper reported Sunday. However, they have continued to occur regularly even as vaccination rates increased among police and fire personnel and the number of individual coronavirus cases per outbreak has fallen since last winter.

The data showed 38 outbreaks at public safety agencies were identified in April of this year — the most in any month since the start of the pandemic. A month later, 35 outbreaks — the second most — were recorded by the county Department of Public Health.

Overall, more than half of the outbreaks occurred at the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department, where some employees have filed lawsuits challenging a new rule requiring them to be vaccinated by next month. Thousands have filed notice that they intend to claim a medical or religious exemption from the mandate.

Vaccination rates for LAPD an LAFD employees generally lag behind the 68% of eligible county residents who have gotten their shots.

Critics have accused the police officers and city firefighters of ignoring public safety — and their sworn duties to uphold it — by refusing to get vaccinated.

6:17 a.m.: A Washington state trooper who helped develop the agency’s use of drones has died after a battle with COVID-19 contracted on duty.

The Washington State Patrol said Detective Eric Gunderson died Sunday surrounded by his family and friends. He was 38. Gunderson frequently travelled around the country to speak about the state patrol’s use of drones.

The patrol said he contracted COVID-19 on one of those trips. Gunderson helped investigate the 2017 Amtrak derailment in DuPont and his work is credited with reopening roads more quickly after crashes.

He is survived by a wife and two sons. Gunderson’s death is the first line of duty death for the agency since it marked its 100th anniversary a few weeks ago, Chief John Batiste said. “How I had hoped our second century of service would be more forgiving. But serving the public, as we do, has inherent dangers and this pandemic has been a foe to our agency and indeed our state and nation,” he said.

Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted his condolences to Gunderson’s family, friends and colleagues.

6:17 a.m.: Australia’s prime minister says he expects his country to open its international border well before the end of the year.

Australian governments have agreed to ease tight restrictions on overseas travel when 80% of the population aged 16 and older was fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the first steps would allow Australians to leave and

fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents to return home.

“That will occur before the end of the year. It could happen well before that,” Morrison told American broadcaster CBS News.

More than 90% of the target age group in Australia’s most populous state and the worst impacted by the nation’s COVID-19 outbreak, New South Wales, will be vaccinated by the end of November, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

New South Wales reported 787 new locally acquired infections on Monday and 12 deaths in the latest 24-hour period.

Sydney’s lockdown would ease on Oct. 11 after 70% of the state’s population had received second doses of vaccine, Berejiklian said. With 85% of the target population already injected with at least a single vaccine dose, the 80% target is expected to be reached two weeks after the 70% benchmark.

On Dec. 1, unvaccinated people are expected to have their pandemic restrictions lifted.

State Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said she expected 92% of the target population would eventually be vaccinated.

New South Wales has the fastest vaccination rollout in Australia after the Australian Capital Territory.

6:16 a.m.: New Zealand’s prime minister says the government will start a pilot program of home-isolation for overseas travellers, ahead of what she expects to be increasing vaccination levels.

Currently New Zealanders have to quarantine in hotels for two weeks when they return home from abroad.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday a pilot program that will allow New Zealanders to quarantine at home will include 150 business travellers who arrive between Oct. 30 and Dec. 8. The program will involve monitoring and testing.

“The only reason that we are running this self-isolation pilot now is in preparation for a highly vaccinated population,” Ardern said.

“The intention is that in the first quarter of 2022 when more New Zealanders are vaccinated, it will be safer to run self-isolation at home,” she added.

Of the eligible population in New Zealand aged 12 and older, 43% had been fully vaccinated, Ardern said.

In Auckland, the nation’s most populous city which has been locked down since Aug. 17 after the highly-contagious Delta variant leaked from hotel quarantine, 82% of the eligible population had at least a single dose of the double-shot Pfizer vaccine, she said.

New Zealand has taken an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the coronavirus and has been trying to completely eliminate the delta variant.

6:15 a.m.: A new poll suggests tensions over COVID-19 vaccines in Canada are high as frictions grow between those who are vaccinated against the virus and those who are not.

The Leger survey, conducted for the Association of Canadian Studies, found that more than three in four respondents hold negative views of those who are not immunized.

Association president Jack Jedwab says the relationships between vaccinated and unvaccinated Canadians are also viewed negatively by two out of three survey participants.

The online poll surveyed 1,549 Canadians between September 10 and 12.

A margin of error cannot be assigned to online polls, as they are not considered truly random samples of the population.

The survey found vaccinated people consider the unvaccinated as irresponsible and selfish, a view contested by those who are not immunized.

Some members of the latter group have been staging demonstrations outside hospitals and schools in recent weeks to protest vaccine passports and other public health measures.

“There’s a high level of I would say antipathy or animosity toward people who are unvaccinated at this time,” Jedwab said. “What you are seeing is the tension played out among family members and friends, co-workers, where there are relationships between people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated.”

The situation creates friction and it is persistent, he added.




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