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.
9:20 a.m.: I live in a world where Mike McCarthy kept his job as my boss for 13 years. I don’t trust authority.
If Aaron Rodgers had just said that, maybe the rest would have been an easier ride. But then again, he may be the greatest quarterback in the biggest pro sports league of a country where at least 775,000 people have died during the pandemic, and Friday he spent 45 minutes pumping out the kind of misinformation that can get people killed. You know what that means? Rodgers could be president, one day.
All grim, tight-faced jokes aside, the Green Bay Packers great has had himself a week. Rodgers contracted COVID, it turned out he wasn’t vaccinated, and Friday he went on former punter and current shouty bro Pat McAfee’s Sirius XM show and delivered almost every anti-vaccine talking point you can imagine.
8:40 a.m. Unvaccinated people in Austria who also haven’t had COVID-19 will no longer be allowed to enter restaurants, hotels and hair salons or attend public events larger than 25 people under new rules that take effect Monday, the government said.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg outlined the rules Friday night after a meeting with state-level leaders to discuss the country’s response to rapidly rising coronavirus cases.
“It is simply our responsibility to protect the people in our country,” Schallenberg told reporters, noting the case numbers and increasingly full hospital intensive care units.
7:30 a.m.: You can almost forget about the ongoing collective nightmare of the pandemic when you’re sipping a mojito in the pink twilight on the edge of the undulating Atlantic, and a long arc of surf foams over the distant reef, and a soft breeze rustles the palm fronds and laps against your sun-tender skin.
But you can’t.
For despite having to navigate a whole bureaucracy of attestations and electronic paperwork to embark abroad these days, there’s no guarantee the people around you are COVID-free. You hope everyone is vaccinated. But you can’t be sure. And even then, it’s still possible to get infected.
Yet after almost two years living with the coronavirus, we are experiencing a cautious re-emergence. And the door is open to vacation again.
7:15 a.m. Russia’s COVID-19 cases hit another one-day record as the country struggles to contain a wave of infections that has persisted for more than a month.
The national coronavirus task force on Saturday reported 41,335 new cases since the previous day, exceeding the previous daily record of 40,993 from Oct. 31. The task force said 1,188 people with COVID-19 died, just seven fewer than the daily death record reported Thursday.
Officials cite Russia’s low vaccination rate as a major factor in the sharp rise in cases that began in mid-September. The task force reported about 57.2 million full-course vaccinations, or less than 40% of the country’s 146 million people.
7 a.m. Several groups of high-risk Ontarians will be eligible to book COVID-19 booster shots starting this morning at 8 a.m.
An additional 2.75 million people become eligible for boosters today, following the quarter of a million people already eligible who include certain immunocompromised individuals and residents of long-term care and retirement homes.
Starting today, people can book an appointment for a booster dose if they are aged 70 and older, health-care workers or essential caregivers in congregate settings, people who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of Janssen, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis adults and their non-Indigenous household members.
They can make appointments that are at least six months after their second dose. Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says evidence suggests that’s when immunity starts to wane.
Dr. Kieran Moore says those groups of people are at an increased risk of waning immunity and greater risk of exposure and serious illness.
Ontario officials say the protection from two doses is still very high for the general population after six months, especially against severe illness and death, so a booster dose would provide additional protection against more mild illness.
The province is planning to eventually offer booster doses to everyone, and is eyeing early 2022 to start the broader rollout.
6:45 a.m.: The United States is steadily chipping away at vaccine hesitancy and driving down COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to the point that schools, governments and corporations are lifting mask restrictions yet again.
Nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated and the nation’s over-65 population, which bore the brunt of the pandemic when it started nearly two years ago, is enthusiastically embracing vaccines.
Nearly 98% of the over-65 population has received at least one COVID-19 shot and more than 25% of them have gotten boosters, just weeks after they were authorized. The improving metrics could get a boost from President Joe Biden’s workplace mandate unveiled Thursday and the launch of COVID-19 shots in elementary-age students.
6:30 a.m. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Friday he sought alternative treatments instead of the NFL-endorsed COVID-19 vaccinations because he is allergic to an ingredient in two of the FDA-approved shots.
Speaking on SiriusXM’s “Pat McAfee Show,” Rodgers said: “I’m not an anti-vax, flat-earther. I have an allergy to an ingredient that’s in the mRNA vaccines. I found a long-term immunization protocol to protect myself and I’m very proud of the research that went into that.”
Rodgers, who turns 38 on Dec. 2, did not say what ingredient he was allergic to, or how he knows he is allergic.
Rodgers, who has been tested daily as part of NFL protocols for the unvaccinated, found out he contracted COVID-19 on Wednesday. The reigning NFL MVP said he didn’t feel well on Thursday but was much better on Friday.
6 a.m. Monday’s reopening of the Canada-U.S. land border is sparking a mixed reaction among Canadian business leaders: They’re excited that people and not just goods will be crossing the border again but are wary of remaining red tape.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of Canada say the Canadian requirement for returning travellers to provide a recent, negative molecular test is an unnecessary obstacle to kick-starting business travel and tourism.
They say proof of vaccination is all that should be needed and the test requirement should be scrapped.
They argue that the continued testing requirement is too cumbersome for Canadian business travellers wanting a quick visit to an American destination, and too expensive for families who want a vacation or reunion with loved ones.
“If we believe, as we should, that being fully vaccinated is the best way of minimizing risk, we should be trusting the vaccination systems. We should be monitoring what’s taking place in terms of outbreaks in the two countries,” chamber president Perrin Beatty said in an interview.
5:45 a.m. As Ontario slowly creeps toward the goal of having 90 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated against COVID-19, new data shows vaccine rates are stubbornly lagging in some neighbourhoods and among groups of people across the province.
The latest numbers from non-profit research group ICES, formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, out Friday, show there are still stark differences hiding behind the overall vaccination rate.
“There is a huge range, with some areas hovering around 50 per cent of the population fully vaccinated and some areas as high as 90 per cent,” said Dr. Jeff Kwong, lead of the Populations and Public Health Research Program at ICES.
“The risk of outbreaks in these areas with low vaccination coverage is worrisome. It means there is a lot of fuel for a fire to burn.”
5:30 a.m. Eleven patients died Saturday after a fire broke out in a hospital’s COVID-19 ward in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, police said.
An official told New Delhi Television that around 17 patients were in the ward when the fire broke out. The remaining patients have been moved to a COVID-19 ward in another hospital, district collector Rajendra Bhosle said.
While the fire has since been brought under control, the cause was not immediately clear, he added, saying officials will carry out an investigation.
The former chief minister of the state, Devendra Fadnavis, took to Twitter to express his condolences and called for “strict action” against those responsible.
Such incidents are not uncommon in India. In May, when the country was battling a devastating surge in coronavirus cases, a fire in a COVID-19 ward in western India killed at least 18 patients.
Poor maintenance and lack of proper firefighting equipment often cause deaths in India.