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Today’s coronavirus news: Canadian parents concerned about spread in schools, support mask mandates, survey says; B.C. officials to update COVID-19 situation

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

5:55 a.m. The United Nations chief says the pandemic has forced more than 100 million people into poverty and left over 4 billion people with little or no social support, health care or income protection.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an International Monetary Fund panel Monday that global solidarity “is missing in action” and people living in conflict-affected and poor countries are suffering most of all.

In Guterres’ words, “Vaccine inequality is a moral outrage that is condemning the world to millions more deaths and prolonging an economic slowdown that could cost trillions of dollars, hitting the poorest countries hardest of all.”

Guterres says indications the world is in a substantial economic recovery mask the huge divergence between the situations in rich countries and in the least developed nations.

5:50 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he has a cold and he isn’t suffering from COVID-19, after he was heard repeatedly coughing at a televised meeting with officials.

“Don’t worry, everything’s fine,” Putin told a videoconference Monday with his Security Council, also shown on state television. “They do tests practically on a daily basis not only for COVID-19 but for all other infections and everything is OK.”

That unannounced broadcast followed an earlier one Putin held with officials to discuss agriculture, in which he was seen and heard coughing on numerous occasions.

5:47 a.m. California’s coronavirus death toll reached another once-unfathomable milestone — 70,000 people — on Monday as the state emerges from the latest infection surge with the lowest rate of new cases among all states.

Last year at this time, cases in the state started ticking up and by January California was in the throes of the worst spike of the pandemic and was the nation’s epicenter for the virus. Daily deaths approached 700.

The latest surge started in summer and was driven by the delta variant that primarily targeted the unvaccinated. At its worst during this spike, California’s average daily death count was in the low 100s.

Data collected by Johns Hopkins University showed the state with 70,132 deaths by midday Monday. It’s the most in the nation, surpassing Texas by about 3,000 and Florida by 13,000, although California’s per capita fatality rate of 177 per 100,000 people is well below the overall U.S. rate of 214.

5:45 a.m. Job vacancies in the U.K. rose to a record high of nearly 1.2 million, official figures showed Tuesday, a further sign that the British economy is experiencing worker shortages in an array of sectors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Following weeks of long lines at gas stations as motorists struggle to fill up their cars amid a shortage of truck drivers to deliver the fuel and empty shelves at supermarkets, the Office for National Statistics pointed to shortages across the whole economy, including hospitality and transport.

It’s become increasingly evident in recent weeks that the British economy is experiencing shortages of labor, and not just of truck drivers. The causes are widespread but it’s clear that the combination of Brexit and the pandemic prompted many EU workers to leave the U.K. and head home.

The Institute for Employment Studies estimates that the U.K. has a shortfall of 900,000 workers between the number of people in the labor market now and what would have been expected based on pre-pandemic trends.

5:40 a.m. British Columbia’s health minister and top public health doctor are set to provide an update Tuesday on the COVID-19 situation.

Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry are due to speak at noon.

The province last reported daily case numbers on Friday, when there were 743 new COVID-19 diagnoses and five added deaths.

As of Friday, 88.6 per cent of eligible B.C. residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 82.2 per cent were fully vaccinated.

As it stands, only those 12 and up are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Canada, but the province confirmed over the weekend that it had opened up registration for younger kids through the Get Vaccinated portal.

5:30 a.m. The majority of respondents in a newly released Canada-wide survey say they are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in schools and want children and staff to wear masks.

The survey by the Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research at the University of Saskatchewan was done by phone between Sept. 3 and Sept. 28. It asked 1,000 people about any worries in sending kids to school and their thoughts on what public health orders should be in place.

Most respondents (89 per cent) said they were vaccinated. Of those with children 12 and older who are eligible to get a dose, 81 per cent said their kids were also vaccinated.

“Those who are vaccinated are more likely to have kids who are vaccinated and want to see the kids in the schools and staff wearing masks,” said research director Jason Disano.

Parents have been watching closely as children returned to classrooms across the country during the fourth wave of the pandemic.

The survey said respondents were largely confident in the safeguards at their children’s schools.

Disano said it was interesting to see that unvaccinated parents were more likely to trust other parents to keep kids home if they are showing symptoms.

“That’s aligning with the views of those who are unvaccinated … that there’s a level of person responsibility,” he said.

Tuesday 5:30 a.m. A Federal Court judge is set to rule today on Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin’s request for reinstatement as the head of Canada’s vaccine distribution campaign.

The ruling by Justice Ann Marie McDonald follows a two-day hearing last month in which Fortin’s legal team and the government argued over who removed him from the high-profile post in May — and why.

Fortin’s legal team alleged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his government secretly decided to have the senior military officer turfed from his temporary position at the Public Health Agency of Canada for purely political reasons.

They argued that constituted inappropriate political interference in the military’s internal affairs, violated Fortin’s own rights to due process, presumption of innocence and privacy — and is why he should be reinstated as head of the vaccine rollout campaign, or a similar post.

Government lawyers in turn asked McDonald to throw out Fortin’s lawsuit.

They maintained that acting defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre made the decision to remove Fortin in the interests of the vaccine rollout effort and a police investigation into Fortin’s conduct. And they said that if he wasn’t happy with the move, he should have taken it up with the military.

The Federal Court decision is separate from the battle that Fortin is fighting in criminal court after Quebec police charged him last month with one count of sexual assault in relation to an alleged incident dating back to 1988 that was initially investigated by military police.

That case is due back in a Quebec court on Nov. 5.

Monday 9 p.m.: For the first time this school year, an entire high school in Etobicoke has been shut down by Toronto Public Health following a COVID-19 outbreak.

All students at Silverthorn Collegiate Institute on Mill Road have been dismissed from in-person classes and activities, the health unit announced Monday night.

This means the entire school will learn remotely for the timebeing, according to the Toronto District School Board.

Read the full story here: Toronto Public Health shuts down entire high school for the first time this school year over COVID-19 outbreak

7:15 p.m.: A man serving time in an Alaska corrections facility died in a Soldotna hospital and his death was related to COVID-19, the state Department of Corrections announced Monday.

The department, in a statement, said the 68-year-old man died Friday. He had been in the department’s custody for 10 years.

Betsy Holley, a department spokesperson, said in an email that the man was being held at the Wildwood Correctional Center in Kenai before his death.

Holley said the facility is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, with about 187 inmates having tested positive. She said the department does not track positive cases among staff, “as they are not required to report their COVID status when they call out sick.”

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been six COVID-19-related deaths among people in department custody, she said.

5:00 p.m.: The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it’s limiting the number of family members who can be present in critical care units due to “the extremely high number of patients.”

The province’s health delivery agency says in a news release Monday that all provincial ICUs and cardiac care units in Saskatoon and Regina will implement what it calls “temporary enhanced surge family presence restrictions.”

It means ICU patients will be able to designate only two essential family or support people, with just one person present at a time.

There is no change to end-of-life family presence, which still allows two designated people at a time, in ICUs or elsewhere.

The release explains the change will help ensure proper physical distancing and help mitigate the risk of COVID transmission.

It says there are currently more patients in ICUs across the province than there have been at any other time during the pandemic, and that the vast majority of them are COVID-19 positive.

“These limitations will be reviewed regularly but will remain in place until it is safe to return to the previous level of family presence,” the release states, noting the decision was not made lightly.

“ICU teams will work to support phone and virtual connections with family/support persons as much as they are able to.”

Saskatchewan reported 425 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and four additional deaths from the virus.

It said there were 347 patients with COVID-19 in the province’s hospitals, an increase of 14 from Sunday. Seventy-nine of those patients in hospital are in intensive care.

Read Monday’s rolling file

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