COVID-19 live updates: Dr. Hinshaw to speak at 3:30 p.m. today; Health Canada mulling Moderna youth vaccine approval; Alberta reports 1,068 new cases over the weekend

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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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What’s happening now

  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw will provide an update on the province’s COVID-19 situation at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
  • A study released from the University of Calgary this week shows that a drug used to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients has had little to no benefit for women
  • Health Canada says it has received a submission from Moderna to authorize use of its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged six to 11.
  • Pfizer has struck a licensing agreement to supply its experimental antiviral COVID-19 pill — under the brand name Paxlovid — to 95 low- and middle-income countries.
  • Germany recorded 32,048 new infections on Tuesday, a rise of 47% compared to a week ago, and another 265 deaths, bringing Germany’s total during the pandemic to 97,980.
  • Alberta reported 1,068 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend — 286 cases on Friday, 353 on Saturday and 429 on Sunday.
  • Starting Monday, Albertans entering businesses participating in the province’s vaccine passport program will need to show a QR code as proof of vaccination.
  • Austria locks down unvaccinated as COVID cases surge across Europe.
  • From Keith Gerein: The number of Edmontonians experiencing homelessness has exploded during the COVID era, which will hardly come as a shock to anyone who has visited the core or certain other areas of the city in recent months.
  • Employees in the core federal public sector who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be put on unpaid leave today, unless they were already granted an accommodation.
  • The National Hockey League (NHL) has postponed next three Ottawa Senators games due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • What is sotrovimab? An Alberta physician explains how the new COVID-19 drug approved by Health Canada works

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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.

  • Have you or a loved one had a surgery rescheduled or cancelled in recent weeks?
  • Are you someone who has decided to get vaccinated after previously being skeptical of the vaccines?
  • Have you changed your mind about sending your children back to school in person?
  • Have you enrolled your children in a private school due to COVID-19?
  • 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


Tuesday

Dr. Hinshaw to speak at 3:30 p.m. today

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw will provide an update on the province’s COVID-19 situation Tuesday afternoon.

Hinshaw is scheduled to appear at 3:30 p.m.

On Monday, patients in Alberta intensive care units hit a two-and-a-half month low.

The province reported that 519 people were hospitalized, and 100 of those were in ICUs, the lowest since the province reported 98 in ICU on Aug. 30.

Watch the live stream here.

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We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

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Study shows steroid therapy for severely ill COVID-19 patients has had little to no benefit for Alberta women

Stephanie Babych, Calgary Herald

Teams in a crowded Calgary ICU work on a patient on a ventilator.
Teams in a crowded Calgary ICU work on a patient on a ventilator. Photo by supplied by AHS

A study released from the University of Calgary this week shows that a drug used to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients has had little to no benefit for women, according to researchers.

One of the main treatments for severe COVID-19 lung infections, dexamethasone, alters how immune cells work, and research into the way people’s immune system responds to COVID-19 shows that the sex of a patient might impact the effectiveness of certain drugs, including dexamethasone. The study found the drug may only be benefiting male patients.

“We found that the males derived benefit from the steroids and the females, at both the cellular level and at the population level, received limited benefit,” said Dr. Bryan Yipp, associate professor with the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.

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“Currently, it’s possible the mainstay therapy for severe COVID-19 that we’re giving everybody is only benefiting half the population. This is a big problem.”

Yipp led the multidisciplinary study alongside Dr. Jeff Biernaskie, a professor of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

When physicians and researchers were scrambling for effective treatment of COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic in 2020, steroids were first to be identified as a treatment that helped patients with severe illness. However, steroids were only moderately successful at reducing COVID deaths and it wasn’t clear how they were benefiting patients.

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Fauci says U.S. can reach COVID endemic level next year

Reuters

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Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci is seen in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on January 21, 2021.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci is seen in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on January 21, 2021. Photo by MANDEL NGAN /AFP via Getty Images

NEW YORK — Top U.S. infectious disease official Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday it is “conceivable” the spread of COVID-19 could decline to the point that the country experiences it as endemic rather than a pandemic next year.

“To me if you want to get endemic, you have got to get the level of infection so low that it does not have an impact on society, on your life, on your economy,” Fauci said in an interview during the Reuters Total Health conference, which runs virtually from Nov. 15-18.


Health Canada receives submission to approve Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids

The Canadian Press

This file photo taken on October 14, 2021 shows boxes containing vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine stored at the Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles, California.
This file photo taken on October 14, 2021 shows boxes containing vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine stored at the Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles, California. Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON /AFP via Getty Images

OTTAWA — Health Canada says it has received a submission from Moderna to authorize use of its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged six to 11.

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The agency says it will prioritize the review of the submission, while maintaining high scientific standards for safety, efficacy and quality.

It says the assessment will consider clinical trial data and emerging research about the impacts of COVID-19 in children to determine if the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks in this age group.

Health Canada is currently reviewing Pfizer-BioNTech’s submission for approval of its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11, and officials have indicated that a decision could come within the month.

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Pfizer to allow generic versions of its COVID pill in 95 countries

Reuters

A syringe and vial are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration PHOTO taken June 24, 2021.
A syringe and vial are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration PHOTO taken June 24, 2021. Photo by Dado Ruvic / Illustration /REUTERS / FILES

Pfizer Inc said on Tuesday it will allow generic manufacturers to supply its experimental antiviral COVID-19 pill to 95 low- and middle-income countries through a licensing agreement with international public health group Medicines Patent Pool (MPP).

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The voluntary licensing agreement between Pfizer and the MPP will allow the UN-backed group to grant sub-licenses to qualified generic drug manufacturers to make their own versions of PF-07321332. Pfizer will sell the pills it manufactures under the brand name Paxlovid.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said it was “disheartened” by the deal which it said was restrictive and excluded countries such as Argentina and China with established capacity for producing generic drugs.

“The world knows by now that access to COVID-19 medical tools needs to be guaranteed for everyone, everywhere, if we really want to control this pandemic,” said Yuanqiong Hu, MSF Senior Legal Policy Adviser.

Pfizer, which also makes one of the mostly widely used COVID-19 vaccines, has said the pill cut the chance of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of severe disease by 89% in its clinical trial. The drug will be used in combination with ritonavir, an HIV drug that is already available generically.

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Pfizer’s version of the drug will be in high demand. The company has said it expects to manufacture 180,000 treatment courses by the end of next month and at least 50 million courses by the end of 2022.

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Letter of the day

Re. “Would Notley have done a better job than Kenney?” David Staples, Nov. 10

Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday that Albertans would be able to begin booking second doses of COVID-19 vaccines beginning Tuesday afternoon.
Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday that Albertans would be able to begin booking second doses of COVID-19 vaccines beginning Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Chris Schwarz /Government of Alberta

David Staples’ worship of Jason Kenney seems to know no bounds. Now he is trying to say Rachel Notley would have not done any better than Jason Kenney in dealing with the pandemic.

In his usual way, he cherry-picks his facts. Fascinating that Staples skips over the whole “Best Summer Ever” fiasco. Ms. Notley would not have abandoned all reasonable precautions for the summer to impress rich friends at the Stampede. Ms. Notley would not have gone on holidays and left no one in charge. Ms. Notley would not have lied about being in communication with the office regularly. Ms. Notley would not have stayed out of touch with Albertans for 10 days after returning to Canada.

Ms. Notley would not have set up a lottery or a $100 payment to lure the unvaccinated — American-style bribery that is actually a disincentive to vaccination. She would have set up more mobile and culturally sensitive programs that are proven to encourage vaccination. So David Staples, the answer your question: yes, Notley would have done a better job.

Charlotte Bragg, Edmonton

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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


Monday

Alberta reports 1,068 new cases over the weekend

Kellen Taniguchi

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized and in intensive care units in Alberta decreased over the weekend, with ICU numbers hitting a 2 1/2-month low.

On Monday, the province reported there were 519 people in hospital, a decrease of 35 from Friday. There was also a decrease of 10 patients in ICU, with 100 currently admitted.

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The 100 Albertans in ICU is the lowest since the province reported 98 in ICU on Aug. 30.

Alberta reported 1,068 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend — 286 cases on Friday, 353 on Saturday and 429 on Sunday.

While hospitalizations and ICU numbers continued to decrease in the province, active COVID-19 cases saw a small uptick. There are 5,828 active cases in Alberta, an increase of 83 from Friday’s numbers.

The Calgary Zone has 1,848 active cases and the Edmonton Zone has 1,249.

An additional 17 deaths were reported on Monday.

Read More.


NHL postpones next three Ottawa Senators games due to outbreak

Calgary Flames goalie Dan Vladar (80) makes a save in front of Ottawa Senators left wing Nick Paul (21) in the third period at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Calgary Flames goalie Dan Vladar (80) makes a save in front of Ottawa Senators left wing Nick Paul (21) in the third period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Photo by Marc DesRosiers /USA TODAY Sports

The NHL has approved a three-game postponement for the COVID-strapped Ottawa Senators, beginning with their Tuesday night game at New Jersey, multiple outlets reported.

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The Senators currently have nine players — and an associate coach — in the league’s COVID-19 protocol.

The league also will postpone Ottawa’s home game against Nashville on Thursday, and Saturday’s contest vs. the New York Rangers, per the reports.

Ottawa is coming off a 4-0 loss to Calgary on Sunday.

The Senators played shorthanded with these nine players sidelined in the COVID protocol: forwards Austin Watson, Alex Formenton, Dylan Gambrell and Connor Brown; defensemen Nick Holden, Victor Mete, Nikita Zaitsev and Josh Brown; and goalie Matt Murray.

“Some guys have symptoms and some don’t so I’m not going to get into details,” defenceman Michael Del Zotto said Sunday night. “But when you’re coming to the rink you’re almost crossing your fingers every single day hoping you get through with a negative. It’s been unfortunate and a good learning experience for everyone.”

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“We”re just trying to keep every one safe, not just the players, but also our families. It’s also a great opportunity for guys to learn the mental side of the game and to be prepared for what’s out of your control. We’re trying to learn from the on-ice stuff but the off-ice stuff as well.”

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Unvaccinated federal employees not granted exemptions to be put on unpaid leave today

The Canadian Press

Canada Revenue Agency national headquarters in Ottawa on March 8, 2021.
Canada Revenue Agency national headquarters in Ottawa on March 8, 2021. Photo by Errol McGihon /Postmedia Network / Files

OTTAWA — Employees in the core federal public sector who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be put on unpaid leave today, unless they were already granted an accommodation.

The policy could potentially leave more than 1,000 workers without pay and unable to access employment insurance benefits.

As of Nov. 3, the vast majority — about 95 per cent — of federal public servants were reported to be fully vaccinated.

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Of the 267,222employees who declared their status, a little over 3,150 have requested some kind of accommodation so they can work without a full slate of vaccines.

The government said 1,255 workers reported that they are completely unvaccinated, which represents about 0.5 per cent of employees who’ve declared their vaccine status.

There are 7,284 workers with only one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. They have been given 10 weeks after their first dose to receive their second shot before they are also put on unpaid leave.


QR codes now required as vaccine proof in Alberta

Jason Herring

The Alberta government is rolling out a verification app, enabling businesses to scan proof-of-vaccination with a QR code. Photo taken on Tuesday, October 12, 2021.
The Alberta government is rolling out a verification app, enabling businesses to scan proof-of-vaccination with a QR code. Photo taken on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

As of Monday, Albertans entering businesses participating in the province’s vaccine passport program will need to show a QR code as proof of vaccination.

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The change means previous provincial immunization records, including those issued at the time of vaccination and saved from MyHealth Records, will no longer count as valid proof for businesses taking part in the Restrictions Exemption Program.

The QR code can be accessed via alberta.ca/CovidRecords, where it can be printed or saved to a phone. A free printed vaccine record with a QR code can also be obtained by calling 811 or visiting a registry office.

Businesses are expected to download the AB COVID Records Verifier app on an Apple or Android device to scan QR codes. After scanning a code, the app displays a green check mark or a red X to indicate vaccination status.


Keith Gerein: Shelter crisis in Edmonton exacerbated by pandemic

A man sleeps on the street in downtown Edmonton. Homelessness is becoming a major concern in Edmonton with the onset of winter.
A man sleeps on the street in downtown Edmonton. Homelessness is becoming a major concern in Edmonton with the onset of winter. Photo by Larry Wong /Postmedia

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The number of Edmontonians experiencing homelessness has exploded during the COVID era, which will hardly come as a shock to anyone who has visited the core or certain other areas of the city in recent months.

Officials believe this population has doubled, and then some, over the last couple of years to around 2,800 people, more than enough to fill an entire section at Commonwealth Stadium, upper and lower bowls.

Exactly why this happened and why we weren’t better prepared for it are questions worthy of further investigation, though the most pressing matter is on finding enough warm, safe spaces for this crowd during the winter. And right now, the numbers are nothing less than alarming.

In the report, city administrators say about 1,600 people experiencing homelessness are being “provisionally accommodated,” which means they are finding places to crash on friends’ couches or in short-term or transitional housing.

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(Of note, social service officials estimate just 30-40 per cent of homeless Edmontonians are COVID vaccinated. As such, there is a significant risk of outbreaks in shelter facilities, which could affect how many people they can safely take.)

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What is sotrovimab? An Alberta physician explains how the new COVID-19 drug approved by Health Canada works

Anna Junker

COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy, sotrovimab, developed by GSK and Vir Biotechnology.
COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy, sotrovimab, developed by GSK and Vir Biotechnology. Photo by supplied

This week, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Alberta is rolling out sotrovimab, a new drug recently approved by Health Canada to treat COVID-19.

Postmedia spoke with infectious disease physician Dr. Ilan Schwartz to learn about sotrovimab, how it works and who is eligible to receive it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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What is sotrovimab?

Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody, a lab-made version of a protein your body would typically make to fight off the virus. Antibodies are the artillery that we use against foreign invaders like viruses and they’re trained by prior immunization or infection. Individuals who have not been vaccinated or infected with COVID-19 don’t have antibodies against the virus, hence a role for augmenting their own immune response by providing an exogenous source of these antibodies.

How is the drug provided?

It’s a one-time intravenous infusion that needs to be given in the first five days of symptom onset. To date, there’s been logistical challenges for patients infected with COVID-19 and at an early enough phase, which also corresponds to the period of highest infectivity. The idea of bringing such patients into an IV infusion site, which is primarily used for people with cancer, has been very problematic.

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It’s been overcome now by Alberta Health Services through the deployment of mobile integrated health (MIH) units — community paramedics who go into patients’ homes to provide treatment. It’s an exciting and innovative use of these health professionals. It’s also not a particularly efficient or scalable solution. Fortunately, most of the population has become vaccinated and there’s only a small portion that will still benefit from this.

Who is eligible to receive sotrovimab?

Individuals who are unvaccinated and are over 65 as well as individuals who are recipients of organ or bone marrow transplants irrespective of age or vaccination status are eligible at this time. The patients or their physicians are encouraged to either self refer or to refer patients through Health Link.

Read more.

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