COVID-19 live updates: ‘Vax’ chosen as 2021 word of the year; Endemic, what does that mean?; Alberta announces 1,210 new cases over three days

Watch this page throughout the day for updates on COVID-19 in Edmonton

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COVID-19 news happens rapidly, we have created this file to keep you up-to-date on all the latest stories and information on the outbreak in and around Edmonton.

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Share your COVID-19 stories

As Alberta grapples with a fourth wave of COVID-19 at the start of another school year, we’re looking to hear your stories on this evolving situation.

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  • Have you or a loved one had a surgery rescheduled or cancelled in recent weeks?
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  • Are you a frontline health-care worker seeing new strains on the health system?
    Send us your stories via email at edm-feedback@postmedia.com

8:27 a.m.

‘No word better captures the atmosphere’: Oxford English Dictionary chooses ‘vax’ as 2021 word of the year

Bloomberg News

Shirley Banks, 88, flinches a bit in anticipation of getting her needle, wielded by public health nurse Stephanie McKee as the first COVID-19 vaccine was injected at the North London Optimist Centre on Cheapside Street in London, Ont.
Shirley Banks, 88, flinches a bit in anticipation of getting her needle, wielded by public health nurse Stephanie McKee as the first COVID-19 vaccine was injected at the North London Optimist Centre on Cheapside Street in London, Ont. Photo by Mike Hensen/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network

Vax has been chosen as the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year for 2021, with the term for vaccine capturing the essence of the past year during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The report by Oxford Languages found that by September “vax” was more than 72 times more frequent in our language than at the same time last year. Numerous derivatives of the word have appeared in informal contexts, such as “vax sites”, “vax cards”, “getting vaxxed” and being “fully vaxxed”.

“No word better captures the atmosphere of the past year than vax,” Oxford’s site notes, calling it a “particularly striking term.”

Senior editor Fiona McPherson told BBC that ‘vax’ was an obvious choice as it has made “the most striking impact”.

“It goes back at least to the 1980s, but according to our corpus it was rarely used until this year,” she said.

“When you add to that its versatility in forming other words – vaxxievax-a-thonvaxinista – it became clear that vax was the standout in the crowd,” she said.

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7:50 a.m.

COVID-19 could be endemic soon. What will that mean?

Joanne Laucius, Ottawa

A pedestrian wearing a mask walks past graffiti stating “How Much You Got Left?” outside of a TD Canada Trust location in Toronto during the pandemic. Peter J Thompson/ National Post
A pedestrian wearing a mask walks past graffiti stating “How Much You Got Left?” outside of a TD Canada Trust location in Toronto during the pandemic. Peter J Thompson/ National Post

Expect to hear the word “endemic” a lot more in the coming months as COVID-19 moves from a pandemic to something that is always lurking in the background.

Endemic COVID-19 will be back to normal — kind of.

“It will be part of our lives. But the goal will be to make it a less intrusive part of our lives. No more lockdowns. We will think about it the way we think about other infectious diseases,” said epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan, a global health researcher at the University of Ottawa.

“It is possible that we’ll get it to the level of the flu. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Flu is a killer.”

When will it happen?

“We won’t know until we’re there. Locally, it will probably be sometime next year. The big caveat is that there are no new variants, and that vaccines behave in predictable ways,” said Deonandan.

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“We’re anticipating that we will have COVID seasons for the next few years as we build up immunity. There will be no ticker tape parade, no sign that says ‘We’re endemic!’” said Dr. Doug Manuel, a senior scientist in the clinical epidemiology program at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute who sits on Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

Endemic COVID will likely be seasonal, similar to the flu, which shows up in the winter as people mingle inside and droplets travel faster because of dry indoor air. But outbreaks will not necessarily be limited to winter. Colds are seasonal, for example, but there are still summer colds.

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Monday

Up to 27,000 federal public servants miss deadline to affirm they are COVID vaccinated

Ryan Tumilty

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“If you want to continue to work for the public service in Canada, you’re going to need to be fully vaccinated,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said when introducing the COVID vaccine mandate.
“If you want to continue to work for the public service in Canada, you’re going to need to be fully vaccinated,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said when introducing the COVID vaccine mandate. Photo by Tony Caldwell/Postmedia/File

The federal government appears to have as many as 27,000 public servants who have yet to attest that they are vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving them with two weeks to get the shot or face suspension.

The deadline for public servants to attest that they had been vaccinated passed last Friday, with people working across the core public service and the RCMP having to sign an attestation by that date.

According to the government’s website, as of Oct. 27, two days before the deadline, 240,000 of the approximately 267,000 people in the public service and the national police force had signed the attestation.

Public servants who don’t sign the attestation or aren’t vaccinated have until Nov. 15 to do so before they could be suspended without pay. If they have received at least one dose by Nov. 15, they will have another 10 weeks to get a second dose before again facing suspension.

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When he introduced the policy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the exemptions for medical or religious reasons would only be granted in rare circumstances. He also said the attestations would be audited to ensure people had not lied about their vaccination status.

“The attestation for the public service is the first step. There will be severe consequences for anyone who is found to have been misrepresenting themselves.”

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Monday

Hospitalizations, active cases still falling as 1,210 cases found over last three days

Lauren Boothby

A health-care worker prepares a vaccination dose at a drive-thru vaccination station, on March 5, 2021.
A health-care worker prepares a vaccination dose at a drive-thru vaccination station, on March 5, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File

Another 1,210 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the province since Friday, as Alberta’s hospitalizations and active cases continued to drop.

Cases reported on Monday include 533 on Friday, 335 on Saturday, and 342 on Sunday, provincial data shows. Eighteen COVID-19 deaths were reported to provincial health officials in the previous three days.

Hospitalizations fell by 76 to 689, including 23 fewer COVID-19 patients needing intensive care. By Monday, 157 COVID-19 patients were in ICU.

Active cases declined by 578 to 7,580 province-wide. Every health zone has fewer cases.

The Edmonton Zone — which includes the city of Edmonton and surrounding municipalities — had 1,724 active cases by Monday, while the Calgary Zone had 1,985. The North Zone had the third-highest active cases at 1,606.

Both hospitalizations and cases have been dropping steadily in recent weeks since Alberta passed the height of the pandemic’s fourth wave. The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU peaked at 267 on Sept. 28, and new cases reported peaked at 2,000 on Sept. 16, the province’s adjusted data shows.Read more

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Monday

Ski hills to require proof of vaccination

Daniel Austin

Nakiska Ski Area
Nakiska Ski Area Photo by AL CHAREST /Postmedia file

Skiers and snowboarders will need to have their proof of COVID-19 vaccination ready at some of the country’s major alpine resorts this season.

On Monday afternoon, the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) announced proof of vaccination will be required for all guests before they can get on the mountain. A couple of weeks ago, the company confirmed that all its staff would need to be double vaccinated.

That means that skiers and snowboarders wanting to spend the day shredding the slopes at Nakiska Ski Area, Fernie Alpine Resort, Kimberley Ski Resort and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort will need their COVID-19 immunization record on-hand when they head to the hills.

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“There’s a couple ski areas in Canada that are doing it, (and) a few in North America, but it’s following the guidelines that the B.C. Health Authority and Alberta Health (have put in place),” said Matt Mosteller, senior vice-president of marketing and resort experience with RCR. “We think this assists the efforts and the good they’re doing; as well, our communities are small mountain communities and we need to make sure (we’re keeping them safe).”

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Letter of the day

China sells solar panels then blots out the sun with coal emissions. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)
China sells solar panels then blots out the sun with coal emissions. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes) Malcolm Mayes

New police force part of ‘Conservative way’

From 2010 until 2015 under Harper’s administration (that included Premier Kenney), budget cuts to the RCMP and adjusted for inflation amounted to a 26-per-cent cutback. It’s no coincidence that the Mounties killed in New Brunswick did not have carbines, body armour and training as recommended by the Mayerthorpe study.

The “Conservative way” is to underfund a service, highlight the lack of service and then recommend a new service/solution that “could” be an improvement. Déjà vu?

No media report has made any reference to recruitment and training costs associated with the provincial police model. What additional expense might that accrue?

Is Premier Kenney’s obstinate vision to replace the RCMP with a provincial police force a legacy of misguided, budget-cutting strategies learned during his tenure in federal politics?

M.L. Clark, Camrose

Read more letters to the editor

Letters Welcome

We invite you to write letters to the editor. A maximum of 150 words is preferred. Letters must carry a first and last name, or two initials and a last name, and include an address and daytime telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. We don’t publish letters addressed to others or sent to other publications. Email: letters@edmontonjournal.com

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Monday

Novavax COVID-19 ‘protein’ vaccine completes submission to Health Canada for approval

Reuters

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Novavax logo in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Novavax logo in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Novovax Inc. has completed its rolling submission to Health Canada for approval of its COVID-19 vaccine,  the company said in a statement on Monday.

The company said it also expects regulators in India, the Philippines and elsewhere to make a decision on its vaccine within “weeks,” its chief executive told Reuters, after the shot on Monday received its first emergency use authorization (EUA) from Indonesia.

Novavax Inc has also filed an application for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine to the European Medicines Agency. The company said it has completed the submission of all data and modules to the EMA to support the final regulatory review.

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“Novavax continues to deliver regulatory filings that we expect will bring the first protein-based COVID-19 vaccine based on Phase 3 data to the world,” said   Stanley C. Erck , president and chief executive officer of Novavax said in a statement. “We thank the Government of  Canada   and the European Commission for their ongoing partnership and confidence in our COVID-19 vaccine program.”

For Indonesia, the shot will be manufactured by the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute in India (SII), and sold under the Indian company’s brand name, Covovax. Novavax said initial shipments into Indonesia are expected to begin imminently.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also reviewing Novavax’s regulatory filing and the U.S. drugmaker expects that review to be resolved in the coming weeks, chief executive Stanley Erck told Reuters on Monday.

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A green light from the WHO would set the stage for Novavax to begin shipping doses to the COVAX program that supplies shots to low-income countries. Novavax and SII have together committed to providing more than 1.1 billion doses to COVAX, which is co-led by the WHO.

“I think we’ll get some doses to COVAX this year,” Erck said. “But I think (Novavax is) going to really start being able to ship large quantity to COVAX in the first quarter” of 2022.

Erck said Novavax has resolved all of its manufacturing challenges and does not expect regulators to have any further concerns about its production processes.

He said Novavax is “in dialog with the U.S. FDA and … we expect a full submission within the next several weeks.”

Novavax had delayed filing for U.S. approval, and Politico reported last month that the company faced production and quality problems.

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SII is authorized to make the Novavax vaccine and the U.S. company said it will apply for regulatory authorization for other facilities, such as its plant in the Czech Republic, in the coming weeks.

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Monday

Five million dead (and rising) since COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China two years ago

Bloomberg News

Commuters walk along a railway platform after stepping out from a suburban local train in Kolkata on Nov. 1, 2021 as train services returned to normal.
Commuters walk along a railway platform after stepping out from a suburban local train in Kolkata on Nov. 1, 2021 as train services returned to normal. Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP via Getty Images

More than five million people worldwide have died from COVID-19 since the novel pathogen first emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 — despite the arrival of vaccines that have slashed fatality rates across the globe, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The latest one million recorded deaths came slower than the previous two. It took more than 110 days to go from four million deaths to five million, compared to less than 90 days each to reach the three- and four-million marks. The rate has returned to what was seen during the first year of the pandemic, when the virus was still taking hold.

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“With almost 50,000 deaths a week, the pandemic is far from over — and that’s just the reported deaths,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the World Health Summit in Berlin on Oct. 24.

Billions of people remain unvaccinated either because they lack access to the shots or are unwilling to receive them, leaving them vulnerable to an infection that has grown more dangerous over time. Transmission of the virus continues, driven by the emergence of the more infectious delta variant.

The U.S. alone accounted for 14 per cent of the last million deaths — the highest share of any country. Russia posted 10 per cent of the total, while Indonesia and Brazil were each responsible for eight per cent. India and Mexico are among the nations with the largest cumulative numbers of cases.

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The world has already been through three major COVID infection waves, and fatality rates have gradually fallen with each successive one.

Many countries have started reopening their economies, easing pandemic curbs and re-engaging with the rest of the world as they accept the virus is now endemic. The immunity gained from inoculations will be put to the test in the coming months, however, as the vaccinated in the northern hemisphere face their first full winter since getting the shots.

The new demand from high-income countries for both booster shots and vaccines for children has increased competition for doses, often leaving low- and middle-income nations further down the line. The WHO-backed COVAX effort has struggled with supply and funding issues.

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Monday

Thousands of guests locked in Shanghai Disneyland after woman test COVID-19 postitive

Bloomberg News

This photo taken on October 31, 2021 shows medical personnel preparing to test visitors for the Covid-19 coronavirus at Disneyland in Shanghai after a single coronavirus case was detected at the park on the weekend.
This photo taken on October 31, 2021 shows medical personnel preparing to test visitors for the Covid-19 coronavirus at Disneyland in Shanghai after a single coronavirus case was detected at the park on the weekend. Photo by AFP

While thousands of visitors to Shanghai Disneyland on Sunday were queuing for roller coasters and watching fireworks above the fairytale castle, staff quietly sealed the amusement park. People in Hazmat suits streamed in through the gates, preparing to test everyone for Covid-19 before they could leave for the day.

Nearly 34,000 people at Disneyland underwent testing, which ended close to midnight, long after the festivities at the park are usually finished. Ferried home on 220 special buses, all were found Monday to be negative but are still required to isolate at home for two days, and be re-tested for the coronavirus in two weeks.

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The shutdown of one of Walt Disney Co.’s most lucrative parks came after a positive case in a woman who traveled to Shanghai from nearby Hangzhou over the weekend. While officials are yet to confirm whether she visited Disneyland, her infection sparked an aggressive contract tracing effort across China, which eventually ensnared the park-goers, their families and Disneyland staff.

To people in parts of the world where Covid is already endemic, the reaction may seem extreme, but it’s emblematic of China’s increasingly hardcore approach to keeping the pathogen out at any cost.

Since containing its initial outbreak in Wuhan last April, China has sought to not just quell the virus but eliminate it. To do that it’s deployed a raft of measures from border curbs and compulsory quarantines, to localized lockdowns and mass testing, aimed at hunting out cases before an outbreak takes root — and quashing them. It was a strategy used successfully in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region, from Singapore and Taiwan to Australia and New Zealand, before the delta variant made it almost impossible to execute.

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China and its territory Hong Kong are now the last real Covid Zero proponents left as other places look to open their borders and live with the virus. But instead of slowly easing toward reopening, too, China is doubling down, even as waves of the more contagious delta come more frequently and with the current resurgence — totaling some 480 cases — spreading to more than half of the country’s provinces.

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Monday

COVID ‘more likely lab leak than weapon,’ U.S spies find

The Telegraph

The Wuhan Institute of Virology pictured in February.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology pictured in February. Photo by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Coronavirus was not designed as a biological weapon but could have leaked from a Chinese lab, according to a declassified report from US intelligence.

The Office of the US Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said the lab leak or animal-to-human transmission were both plausible explanations for how coronavirus first infected humans.

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The report, which China branded a “farce”, said agencies may never be able to identify the source of the pandemic but dismissed accusations that coronavirus was developed as a bioweapon.

Those pushing that theory have been accused of disinformation and had “no direct access” to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, it said.

One intelligence agency said it had “moderate confidence” that the first infection was probably because of a laboratory accident involving experiments and animals at the Wuhan Institute.

The report updates a review ordered by President Joe Biden amid political infighting over how much to blame China rather than governments that may not have moved quickly enough to protect citizens.

Former Republican president Donald Trump — who lost his bid for re-election as the deadly pandemic ravaged the US economy — and many of his supporters referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus”.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said: “The US moves of relying on its intelligence apparatus instead of scientists to trace the origins of COVID-19 is a complete political farce. We have been supporting science-based efforts on origins tracing, and will continue to stay actively engaged. That said, we firmly oppose attempts to politicise this issue.”

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