Tag Archives: Deaths

Doctor charged with murder after multiple deaths at Hawkesbury, Ont., hospital

A doctor has been charged with first-degree murder as police investigate multiple suspicious deaths at the eastern Ontario hospital where he works, CBC News has learned.

Ontario Provincial Police were called to the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital, which is between Ottawa and Montreal, on Thursday evening, police said in a news release.

At a court appearance on Friday, Brian Nadler, 35, who lives in the western Montreal suburb of Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, was charged with one count of first-degree murder.

“Dr. Nadler maintains his innocence and the charges will be rigorously defended,” Ottawa defence lawyer Alan Brass told CBC News.

Nadler, photographed here in a thumbnail on the Alberta Medical Association’s website for a 2013 article, is scheduled to be in court on April 6. (Alberta Medical Association)

His next court appearance is scheduled for April 6.

Police didn’t say how long the investigation has been going on or how many deaths are being investigated. Ontario’s Office of the Chief Coroner is involved, it confirmed in an email.

“At this point in time, while we don’t know exactly how big this investigation will be, we are looking at other suspicious deaths that have occurred recently at the Hawkesbury hospital,” said OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson.

“Whether it proves that they are indeed something criminal or not, we will have to wait and see.”

He encouraged anyone with information to contact the local detachment.

“We promise we’ll conduct a complete and thorough investigation that you deserve to make sure that you in the Hawkesbury area and everyone else gets the answers,” Dickson said.

Police were called to the hospital, which is between Ottawa and Montreal, on Thursday evening, and cruisers were still there into Friday morning. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada)

The hospital said in a statement that all patient services are being maintained and all appointments are being kept.

“We want to reassure our patients, their families and the entire community that the hospital campus is a safe place,” it said in its message released in French.

The hospital said it is working with police and is in touch with the families that have been affected. It’s also offering counselling and other services to its staff.

The hospital has also been dealing with two active COVID-19 outbreaks.


Doctor has Saskatchewan ties

Nadler has been licensed in Ontario since Feb. 4, 2020. He graduated from Montreal’s McGill University in 2010.

He was a resident at the University of Saskatchewan’s medical school from July 2014 to September 2018, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan told CBC in an email.

During that time, he faced two unprofessional conduct charges, the college said.

Documents show one charge was for allegedly calling a female colleague a “bitch” after an argument and telling someone else he “felt like slapping” that colleague. Another charge involved patient record-keeping.

The incidents linked to both charges allegedly occurred the same day in August 2014.

The college said he apologized and took a pair of courses about ethics and record-keeping. It did not proceed any further with the charges.

WATCH | Hawkesbury mayor urges calm: 

Paula Assaly, mayor of Hawkesbury, says the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital remains open as provincial police investigate several suspicious deaths there. Police have charged a doctor with one count of first-degree murder. 0:30

The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, which regulates and investigates doctors, said in a statement it will immediately look into “these extraordinarily disturbing allegations.”

Mayor Paula Assaly asked people to remain calm and not be afraid of seeking care at Hawkesbury and District General Hospital.

She also said she didn’t know the accused.

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CBC | Health News

More racially diverse areas reported much higher numbers of COVID-19 deaths: StatsCan 

The most racially diverse neighbourhoods in Canada reported COVID-19 mortality rates more than twice as high as those reported by districts that are overwhelmingly white, according to new data released Wednesday by Statistics Canada.

The report, titled Year in Review, lays bare the uneven effects of this pandemic on Canadians of different racial backgrounds.

The data affirms what some Canadians have reported anecdotally for months: Black people in particular have been far more likely to succumb to the virus than members of other groups.

In areas where a quarter of the population or more identified as “visible minorities” — the term the government uses for non-white and non-Indigenous people — the mortality rate averaged 35 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to an average of 16 deaths per 100,000 people in regions where less than one per cent of the population was composed of racial minorities.

The data account for deaths between January 2020 and January 2021.

Women from areas where racial minorities are most prevalent reported mortality rates nearly three times higher than women from predominantly white areas — the places where just between one and 10 per cent of the population was made up of people of colour.

People wear face masks as they wait to be tested for COVID-19 at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, January 3, 2021. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

In B.C. and Quebec, the racial contrasts were particularly stark. Despite having much lower mortality rates than most of the country, B.C. posted 10 times more deaths in diverse areas (5.6 deaths per 100,000 population) than in places that were virtually all white (0.5 deaths per 100,000 population).

Racially diverse areas of Quebec experienced many more COVID-19-related deaths than nearly all-white census districts (123 per 100,000 versus 35.1 per 100,000). In Montreal, the mortality rate was 149.3 deaths per 100,000 in areas with the highest percentages of Black Canadians, compared with 88.1 per 100,000 in areas with the lowest percentages.

The data include one particularly alarming statistic for public health officials: Black Canadians, the people who have been hardest hit by the pandemic, are also the group most likely to say they are reluctant to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine hesitancy rates higher among Black people

Based on data collected in September 2020, at a time when comparatively little was known about the prospects of a COVID-19 vaccine, 77 per cent of Black respondents to a StatsCan survey said they were “not very likely to take a vaccine” — a rate nearly 20 points higher than similar responses from white, Chinese and South Asian populations.

People with a high school education or less also reported higher rates of vaccine hesitancy: 64 per cent of them told StatsCan they were not likely to get the shot when it’s made available, which is double the rate reported in people with higher levels of formal education.

Members of racial minorities are also reporting higher unemployment rates and higher levels of financial stress because they’re more likely to work in low-wage jobs that can’t be performed remotely, StatsCan reported.

Twelve per cent of visible minority members reported being out of work as of January 2020, compared to 9 per cent of white Canadians. StatsCan found that Black Canadians and Canadians of Arab, southeast Asian, Latin American and Filipino extraction were more much more likely to report finding it “difficult” or “very difficult” to meet basic financial commitments over the past month.

Mental health-related police calls spike

The national statistics agency also has published new figures that quantify the mental health impact of this pandemic and the resulting public health measures that have kept family and friends apart.

StatsCan found that calls to police for mental health-related concerns have spiked at a time of severe disruptions to social and economic life.

Compared with 2019, the number of calls for service increased by 8 per cent during the first eight months of the pandemic. Substantial increases were seen in wellness checks (up 13 per cent), mental health-related calls such as a person in emotional crisis (up 12 per cent) and reports of domestic disturbances (up 8 per cent).

There were also notable drops in the frequency of certain crimes between March and October 2020. Shoplifting incidents declined 47 per cent, breaking-and-entering cases dropped 27 per cent and sexual assaults have declined 20 per cent since last year — all of which likely reflects social distancing efforts that kept shops closed and people at home.

The agency found that the mental health of Canadians improved in the fall with the return of school and as some public health restrictions were eased, only to deteriorate again in November and December as lockdowns were implemented in some jurisdictions.

‘Surge’ in cancer cases expected: StatsCan

As has been previously reported, the number of opioid-related overdoses has increased dramatically nationwide over the last year, but there are other physical health consequences of COVID-19.

Because a number of elective procedures and screening appointments have been cancelled or postponed, the statistics agency said Canada should brace for a spike in cancer diagnoses.

A cancer simulation model, OncoSim, shows a “surge” of projected cancer cases when screening resumes, the agency said.

A six-month suspension of screening for colorectal cancers could lead to an increase in the cancer incidence rate by 2,200 cases, with 960 more cancer deaths.

For breast cancer screening, a three-month interruption could also increase the number of cases diagnosed at advanced stages and cancer deaths over the next ten years, StatsCan said.

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CBC | Health News

Guinea declares Ebola outbreak after 3 deaths

Guinea declared a new Ebola outbreak on Sunday, as tests came back positive for the virus after at least three people died and four fell ill in the country’s southeast — the first resurgence of the disease there since the world’s worst outbreak from  2013 to 2016.

The seven patients fell ill with diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding after attending a burial in Gouéké sub-prefecture. Those still alive have been isolated in treatment centres, the Health Ministry said.

It was not clear if a person buried on Feb. 1 had also died of Ebola. She was a nurse at a local health centre who died from an unspecified illness after being transferred for treatment to Nzérékoré, a city near the border with Liberia and Ivory Coast.

“Faced with this situation and in accordance with international health regulations, the Guinean government declares an Ebola epidemic,” the ministry said in a statement.

The 2013-16 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa started in Nzérékoré, whose proximity to busy borders hampered efforts to contain the virus. It went on to kill at least 11,300 people, with the vast majority of cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Fighting Ebola again will place additional strain on health services in Guinea as they battle the coronavirus. Guinea, a country of about 12 million people, has so far recorded 14,895 coronavirus infections and 84 deaths.

A medical worker checks the quarantine area of the Matanda Hospital in Butembo on Feb. 11. Guinea and the Congo are both battling cases of Ebola and the novel coronavirus simultaneously. (Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/The Associated Press)

The Ebola virus, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, is spread through contact with body fluids. It has a much higher death rate than COVID-19, but unlike the coronavirus it is not transmitted by asymptomatic carriers.

The ministry said health workers are attempting to trace and isolate the contacts of the Ebola cases and will open a treatment centre in Gouéké, which is less than an hour’s drive from Nzérékoré.

The authorities have also asked the World Health Organization (WHO) for Ebola vaccines, it said. The new vaccines have greatly improved survival rates in recent years.

“WHO is ramping up readiness & response efforts to this potential resurgence of #Ebola in West Africa, a region which suffered so much from Ebola in 2014,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said on Twitter.

The vaccines and improved treatments helped efforts to end the second-largest Ebola outbreak on record, which was declared over in Democratic Republic of the Congo last June after nearly two years and more than 2,200 deaths.

But on Sunday, DRC reported a fourth new case of Ebola in North Kivu province, where a resurgence of the virus was announced on Feb. 7.

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Roche arthritis drug cuts deaths in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, study suggests

Roche’s arthritis drug tocilizumab cuts the risk of death among patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19, also shortening the time to recovery and reducing the need for mechanical ventilation, results of a large trial showed on Thursday.

The findings — from the U.K.-based RECOVERY trial, which has been testing a range of potential treatments for COVID-19 since March 2020 — should help clear up confusion about whether tocilizumab has any benefit for COVID-19 patients after a slew of recent mixed trial results.

“We now know that the benefits of tocilizumab extend to all COVID patients with low oxygen levels and significant inflammation,” said Peter Horby, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford University and the joint lead investigator on the RECOVERY trial.

In June last year, the RECOVERY trial found that the cheap and widely available steroid dexamethasone reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients. That drug has since rapidly became part of standard-of-care recommended for severe patients.

Tocilizumab, sold under the brand name Actemra, is an intravenous anti-inflammatory monoclonal antibody drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It was added to the trial in April 2020 for patients with COVID-19 who required oxygen and had evidence of inflammation.

The study included from 2,022 COVID-19 patients who were randomly allocated to receive tocilizumab by intravenous infusion, and who were compared with 2,094 patients randomly allocated to usual care alone. Researchers said 82 per cent of all patients were taking a systemic steroid such as dexamethasone.

Results showed that treatment with tocilizumab significantly reduced deaths — with 596 (29 per cent) of the patients in the tocilizumab group dying within 28 days, compared with 694 (33 per cent) patients in the usual care group.

This translates to an absolute difference of four per cent. It also means that for every 25 patients treated with tocilizumab, one additional life would be saved, Horby and his co-lead investigator Martin Landray said.

They added that benefits of tocilizumab were clearly seen to be in addition to those of steroids.

WATCH | Progress and setbacks in treating COVID-19:

While vaccines can prevent recipients from getting sick, finding and approving treatments for the virus has been difficult. 2:06

“Used in combination, the impact is substantial,” said Landray, who is also an Oxford professor of medicine and epidemiology.

Roche’s drug division chief Bill Anderson said last week that previous mixed results were likely due to differences in the type of patients studied, when they were treated, and the endpoint — the juncture at which success or failure is measured.

“We think we’re sort of zooming in on both the most relevant endpoints and relevant patient population,” Anderson said. “It seems like the ideal candidates are patients who are really in that acute phase of inflammatory attack.”

Drug used for some patients with COVID-19 in Canada

Actemra, along with Sanofi’s similar drug Kevzara, was authorized by Britain’s NHS in early January for COVID-19 patients in intensive care units after preliminary data from a smaller study called REMAP-CAP indicated it could reduce hospital stays by about 10 days.

The researchers said preliminary results will be made available on the medRxiv preprint server shortly and submitted to a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Dr. Niall Ferguson, head of critical care at Toronto’s University Health Network and Sinai Health System, sees potential in early data for tocilizumab, which is approved for use in Canada to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Although evolving data has been mixed and is still emerging, Ferguson noted last week that the monoclonal antibody is already being used off-label for some severe patients in Toronto.

“It’s happening on a bit of an ad hoc basis when patients are caught at the right time and look like they may have a bit of
additional inflammation going on that could be set aside with this drug,” said Ferguson, who looks after the most severe COVID-19 cases at Toronto General Hospital.

Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who was not directly involved in the U.K. trial, said its results were important.
“It is a large trial and the benefits were seen both on earlier discharge from hospital and mortality,” he said. “The 
magnitude of benefit is not startling but is clinically important, with a reduction in deaths from 33 per cent to 29 per cent.” 

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Ontario sees 5,839 new cases of COVID-19, 95 deaths over 2 days

Ontario is reporting a two-day total of 5,839 cases of new COVID-19 cases and 95 additional deaths linked to the illness.

The Ministry did not release COVID-19 daily figures on New Year’s Day.

The province saw 2,476 cases on Friday and 3,363 cases on Saturday. 

Saturday’s figure is a new single-day record for the province as the previous record was set on Thursday with 3,328 novel coronavirus cases.

Saturday’s numbers include 713 new cases in Peel, 700 in Toronto, 395 in York Region, 226 in Windsor-Essex County and 171 in Hamilton.

Friday’s numbers include 480 in Peel, 499 in Toronto, 200 in York Region , 175 in Windsor-Essex County and 111 in Hamilton.

A total of 61,401 tests were completed as of Saturday and 70, 570 the day before.

The seven-day average is now at 2,655.

The ministry of health noted that the increase in cases for Saturday may have been the result of over-reported numbers due to a “data issue” by one local public health unit.

“Due to a data issue, cases for Toronto Public Health were underreported on December 31 and overreported on January 1,” a spokesperson said on Saturday.

There are currently 1,003 patients in hospital with COVID–19. Of those, 322 are being treated in intensive care, the most at any time during the pandemic, and 220 require a ventilator to breathe.

The province’s death toll has now reached 4,626, with a combined 95 deaths reported in the last two days.

Calls to redeploy military to hard-hit facilities

A non-profit that represents health-care professionals and patients called Friday for military intervention to help control outbreaks of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes.

Redeploying the Canadian Armed Forces to the hard-hit facilities is not the Ontario Health Coalition’s first choice, the group’s executive director said, but short-term options are scarce.

“The issue is that we’re in such an emergency,” Natalie Mehra said. “There are so many homes with outbreaks that are growing extremely quickly, the death counts are mounting, and the hospitals are overstretched now.”

Mehra said hospitals are treating a worrying number of patients, and some are experiencing outbreaks of their own.

On Saturday, an outbreak was declared at the Pembroke Regional Hospital after a second employee tested positive for COVID-19.

The outbreak has been contained to the emergency department, where a positive case was first identified on Dec. 27, according to a news release from the hospital. 

The hospital said no patients have been identified as high-risk contacts of the two staff members. 

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Ontario reports record high 3,328 new COVID-19 cases, 56 new deaths

Ontario reported a single-day record of 3,328 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and 56 new deaths related to the illness. 

The figure marks the first time the province has reported more than 3,000 cases in a single day, and the third consecutive day Ontario has recorded a record-breaking case count.

A record number of patients were also hospitalized and admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) on Thursday. Currently, there are 1,235 patients in hospital. Of those, 337 are in intensive care.

Forty-five patients were admitted to Ontario ICUs on Wednesday, another record during the pandemic.

The number of ICU patients being treated for COVID-19 has doubled since the last day of November, when hospitals were treating 168 patients.

Residents of long-term care homes accounted for 28 of the newly tallied deaths. There are now active COVID-19 outbreaks in 187 LTC facilities, a decrease of five since Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s network of labs processed 63,858 test samples for the novel coronavirus while another 72,283 tests are in the queue waiting to be completed.

The province’s test positivity rate now sits at 5.7 per cent.

Of Thursday’s newly confirmed infections, there were 888 in Toronto, 431 in Peel Region, 418 in York Region, 257 in Windsor-Essex, and 194 in Ottawa. 

Ontario’s cumulative case count now sits at 182,159. The province’s seven-day average has also reached a new record-high, climbing to 2,436.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:

  • Hamilton: 156 
  • Waterloo: 127
  • Durham: 114
  • London: 112
  • Niagara: 110
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 83
  • Southwestern: 79
  • Halton: 79
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 58
  • Eastern Ontario: 58
  • Brant County: 26
  • Lambton: 25
  • Huron Perth: 19
  • Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington: 13
  • Haldimand-Norfolk: 12
  • Chatham-Kent: 12
  • Leeds, Grenville and Lanark: 10

[Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.]  

ICUs nearing capacity, hospitals say

Ontario hospitals continue to warn that intensive care units are reaching maximum capacity and threatening to overwhelm the wider health-care system.  

In a statement to CBC Toronto on Wednesday, Anthony Dale, CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association said the situation grows “ever more serious by the day.” 

“Do not celebrate the holidays with people outside your own household. It would be the ultimate tragedy if the worst consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic happened just as vaccines arrived on Canadian soil,” Dale said.

Health Minister Christine Elliott is also urging people to celebrate New Year’s Eve only with people in their own households. 


LTC residents receive first shots of Moderna vaccine

A small number of Ontario long-term care (LTC) residents were the first people in Ontario to be inoculated with Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

A shipment of approximately 50,000 doses arrived in Ontario Wednesday. A select number of long-term care homes are participating in a pilot project that aims to iron out logistical challenges as the province begins rolling out the vaccine.

Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Ontario received earlier this month, the Moderna vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, making it more suitable for transportation to LTC facilities.

Ontario has now administered 23,502 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. Both vaccines it has in stock require two doses to achieve maximum protection from the virus.

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Health authorities confirm first COVID-19-related deaths in Nunavut

Nunavut’s health authorities have confirmed the territory’s first-ever deaths from COVID-19.

A news release issued Sunday morning said a resident of Arviat and another from Rankin Inlet died of complications related to COVID-19 Saturday.

“This is a very sad day,” the release said. “On behalf of the Government of Nunavut, we send our thoughts and condolences to the family, communities of Arviat and Rankin Inlet and all Nunavummiut during this difficult time.”

Nunavut did not report its first case of COVID-19 until Nov. 6. But since then, the disease has spread rapidly in a small number of communities.

Arviat is currently in the midst of an outbreak, which began on Nov. 13 with a single case related to travel. Since then, more than 200 residents in the community of fewer than 3,000 people have tested positive for the disease.

The news release says the Arviat resident was medevaced to a hospital in southern Canada before dying in hospital late Saturday afternoon.

The Rankin Inlet resident contracted the disease in southern Canada, the release says, and also died late Saturday after developing complications.

“Out of respect for both individuals and their families, we will not be releasing additional information,” the release says.

“We ask Nunavummiut to stay strong and remain vigilant to limit the spread of the virus.”

As of Friday, the territory had 34 active cases of COVID-19. Health authorities last identified a new case of COVID-19, in Arviat, on Thursday.

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U.S. surpasses 300,000 COVID-19 deaths as vaccine rollout begins

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 300,000 on Monday, just as the country began a monumental vaccination campaign against the virus.

The number of dead rivals the population of St. Louis or Pittsburgh. It is equivalent to repeating a tragedy on the scale of Hurricane Katrina every day for five and a half months. It is more than five times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It is equal to a 9/11 attack every day for more than 100 days.

“The numbers are staggering — the most impactful respiratory pandemic that we have experienced in over 102 years, since the iconic 1918 Spanish flu,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said recently.

The milestone came on the same day health-care workers rolled up their sleeves for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, marking the start of the biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. If a second vaccine is authorized soon, as expected, 20 million people could be immunized by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, a change in Washington is fast approaching after an election that was, in large part, a referendum on the Trump administration’s handling of the virus. President-elect Joe Biden has made clear that his first priority will be a comprehensive and disciplined effort to defeat the outbreak.

The death toll was reported by Johns Hopkins University from data supplied by health authorities across the U.S. The number of lives lost is believed to be much higher, in part because of deaths that were not accurately recorded as coronavirus-related during the early stages of the crisis.

Globally, COVID-19 is blamed for more than 1.6 million deaths.

A woman writes a tribute to her cousin, who died of COVID-19, at a symbolic cemetery in Miami. (Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press)

Experts say it could take well into spring for the shots and other measures to bring cases and deaths under control in the U.S.

With cold weather driving people inside, where the virus spreads more easily, and many in the U.S. disdainful of masks and other precautions, some public health authorities project 100,000 more could die before the end of January.

“We are heading into probably the worst period possible because of all the things we had in the spring, which is fatigue, political resistance, maybe the loss of all the good will we had about people doing their part,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins.

Nuzzo contrasted the government’s scattershot response with the massive mobilization undertaken after nearly 3,000 Americans were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“To think now we can just absorb in our country 3,000 deaths a day as though it were just business as usual, it just represents a moral failing,” she said.

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More than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths recorded in U.S. yesterday, a record

The latest:

U.S. public health officials stepped up preparations for a historic coronavirus vaccine campaign ahead of imminent federal regulatory approval, while lawmakers on Capitol Hill wrangled on Wednesday over the terms of a COVID-19 economic relief package.

The U.S. has seen more than 15.3 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with more than 289,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracking tool. On Wednesday alone, more than 3,000 lives were lost to the virus — more than any other single day.

Steady movement toward a vaccine rollout and fitful congressional negotiations on a relief bill came as COVID-19 infections surged ominously higher, straining health-care systems in some pandemic hot spots to the breaking point.

Ten mostly rural counties scattered across California reported having no intensive care unit beds available, according to state health data analyzed by Reuters.

In the agricultural heartland of California’s Central Valley, COVID-19 admissions have overwhelmed some individual hospitals altogether. In Fresno County, home to one million people, only seven ICU beds remained unfilled on Wednesday.

A medical worker sorts wires and tubes connected to a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center earlier this week in Houston, Texas. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

Besides the monumental cost in human lives, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, forcing millions out of work as public health authorities have imposed sweeping restrictions on social and economic life in an effort to tamp down the contagion.

Congress, meanwhile, struggled to end a months-long political stalemate over economic assistance.

Offering a new glimmer of hope, some officials said vaccinations could begin as soon as this weekend, and states have escalated plans for what is likely to be a distribution effort of unprecedented dimensions.

“I can’t think of a government operation that has been commenced that is more difficult and intricate than what governments will be asked to do here,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a briefing on Wednesday.

A panel of independent medical experts was due to meet on Thursday to decide whether to recommend that a vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech should receive emergency use authorization of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

WATCH LIVE | U.S. panel discusses Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine:

The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel is meeting to discuss the data behind the new vaccine. 0:00

In a sign that approval could come swiftly, documents released by the FDA on Tuesday in preparation for the advisory review raised no new red flags over the safety or efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine.

FDA approval could come as early as Friday or Saturday, followed by the first U.S. injections on Sunday or Monday, Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine development program, told Fox News on Tuesday.

Britain became the first Western nation to begin mass inoculations with the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday. Canada on Wednesday approved the Pfizer vaccine after an accelerated review process.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 10:20 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 437,313, with 72,480 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,018.

In Ontario, health officials reported 1,983 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with more than 1,000 of those cases in hard-hit Toronto and Peel Region. Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet that the province had completed more than 61,800 tests.

The province also reported 35 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 3,871.

Quebec reported 1,728 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 37 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,349. Hospitalizations were also on on the rise, with 844 in hospital — including 121 people who were in intensive care units.

WATCH | Quebec postpones surgeries amid COVID-19 2nd wave:

Quebec has been forced to postpone surgeries again to make room for the rising wave of COVID-19 patients. With a lingering backlog from the first wave, doctors fear delaying even non-essential procedures comes with real risks. 1:29

Premier François Legault warned on Wednesday that people who don’t adhere to public health restrictions will face fines.

“We cannot allow a minority of people to put the majority at risk,” he said.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador each reported one new case. 

There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island. 

Across the North, there were nine new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nunavut on Wednesday, all of them in Arviat. Health officials said there were 48 active cases in the small community on the western shore of Hudson Bay.

There were no new cases reported in Yukon or the Northwest Territories. But the government of N.W.T. said it has found COVID-19 in wastewater in Yellowknife.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said this means there is likely an undetected case of COVID-19 in the capital. The virus was detected through a wastewater monitoring program, which analyzed samples taken between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2.

As a result, the government asked anyone self-isolating in Yellowknife since Nov. 30 to get a COVID-19 test, even if they don’t have symptoms. Essential workers who have been in Yellowknife since Nov. 30 should also get a test.

WATCH | COVID-19: Can you choose which vaccine to get?

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Susy Hota answers viewer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine including whether people will be able to choose which vaccine they get and whether they can be mixed and matched. 4:21

In British Columbia, health officials reported 619 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 16 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 559. The province reported 338 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 75 in intensive care.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday that the upcoming vaccination rollout will be the “most complex and comprehensive immunization program ever delivered in B.C.” Vaccines will save lives and ease the “immense pressure” on the province’s health-care system, she said.

Alberta reported 1,460 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 13 additional deaths, which brings the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in the province to 653. The province reported having 685 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 121 people in intensive care units.

The province imposed tough new restrictions earlier this week, including a mask mandate and a ban on social gatherings, in a bid to get control on rising case numbers.

In Saskatchewan, health officials reported 302 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and five additional deaths, bringing the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in the province to 71. 

Manitoba health officials reported 280 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths on Wednesday. The province — which has now seen 438 deaths since the pandemic began — reported having 300 patients in hospital with COVID-19, including 38 in intensive care.

What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:30 a.m. ET

As of early Thursday morning, more than 68.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, with more than 44.4 million of those cases considered resolved or recovered, according to Johns Hopkins. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Thursday pledged an additional $ 250 million US to support the development of low-cost and easier to deliver treatments and vaccines against COVID-19.

The Gates Foundation’s latest contribution, its largest to date, comes on top of the $ 70 million funding that it added in November. This brings its total commitments to the global pandemic response to $ 1.75 billion, the foundation said. The contribution will also support the delivery of tests and vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, the foundation noted.

A leading public health official said “it will be extremely terrible to see” rich countries receiving COVID-19 vaccines while African countries go without.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said it will sting, especially as a second surge in cases begins on the continent of 1.3 billion people. He called it a “moral issue” and urged the United Nations to summon a special session to discuss the ethical, fair distribution of vaccines to avoid “this North-South distrust in respect to vaccines, which is a common good.”

In the Asia-Pacific region, the governor of South Korea’s most populous province called for mass testing for coronavirus.

An employee disinfects handles as a precaution against the coronavirus on a subway train at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea on Thursday. (Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press)

South Korean officials were scrambling to build hospital beds in shipping containers to ease strains on medical facilities stretched by the latest coronavirus wave.

Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus infections in Japan’s capital topped 600 in a day for the first time. Experts on Tokyo’s virus task force said the surge in infections has placed an added burden on hospitals, making it difficult for many of them to carry out treatment for ordinary patients.

Tokyo reported 602 new cases Thursday, while the daily tally for the entire nation was 2,810. Japan has reported 168,573 infections since the pandemic began, with 2,465 deaths.

In Europe, Germany has reported its highest one-day total of new coronavirus cases, while the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 has climbed above 20,000.

The national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said Thursday that 23,679 new cases were confirmed over the previous 24 hours. That’s just above the previous record of 23,648 from Nov. 20.

A partial shutdown that started Nov. 2 has succeeded in keeping the surge from picking up speed, but the number of daily new cases has remained around the same high level in recent weeks rather than falling. Momentum is building for a harder lockdown over Christmas and New Year’s, and some regions already are introducing new restrictions.

WATCH | U.K. warns those with severe allergies to avoid COVID-19 vaccine for now:

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine caused an allergic reaction in two health-care workers in the U.K. prompting warnings from health officials there for people with severe allergies to hold off taking the vaccine. 3:23

That’s partly because deaths, which have been relatively low in Germany compared with several other European countries, have increased markedly. Another 440 deaths were reported on Thursday, following a single-day record of 590 on Wednesday. That brought the total so far to 20,372. Germany has reported some 1.24 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

In the Americas, Brazil will “quite likely” begin vaccinations to stem the pandemic in January or February, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said.

Mexico on Wednesday signed an agreement to buy 35 million doses of Chinese firm Cansino Biologics’ COVID-19 vaccine.

In the U.S., the usually stoic health director of Los Angeles County became emotional while describing “a devastating increase in deaths,” with the total hitting 8,075. Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that this week the county recorded an average of 43 daily deaths — up from about 12 a day in mid-November.

Test specialist Lester Gopar works at a COVID-19 testing site in Los Angeles on Dec. 9. Most of California entered a new lockdown this week in an effort to curb spiralling coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

Ferrer fought back tears as she called the deaths “an incalculable loss to their friends and their family and the community.”

Hospitals in Los Angeles are dealing with a surge in COVID-19 patients, with new admissions running near 500 a day. Officials anticipate that number will increase to 700 a day by next week.

In the Middle East, Israel received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines on Wednesday and a distributor predicted the country would have enough for about a quarter of the population by the end of the year.

Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, said it will resume economic, tourist and entertainment activity within two weeks, while Oman said it will exempt nationals of 103 counties from needing an entry visa for a stay of up to 10 days.

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Daily coronavirus cases, deaths on the rise in almost every U.S. state

Texas on Wednesday became the first state with more than one million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and California closed in on that mark as a surge of coronavirus infections engulfs the U.S.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all restaurants, bars and gyms statewide will have to close at 10 p.m. starting Friday, a major retreat in a corner of the U.S. that had seemingly brought the virus largely under control months ago. He also barred private gatherings of more than 10 people.

Texas, the country’s second-most populous state, has recorded 1.02 million coronavirus cases and more than 19,000 deaths since the outbreak began in early March, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. California, the most populous state, has logged more than 995,000 cases.

The U.S. has recorded more than 240,000 deaths and more than 10.3 million confirmed infections, with new cases soaring to all-time highs of well over 120,000 per day over the past week. Health experts have blamed the increase in part on the onset of cold weather and growing frustration with mask-wearing and other precautions.

Cases per day are on the rise in 49 states, and deaths per day are climbing in 39. A month ago, the U.S. was seeing about 730 COVID-19 deaths per day on average. It has now surpassed 970.

According to the COVID Tracking Project by The Atlantic, there have been about 15,000 new hospitalizations since the Nov. 3 election.

Among the many health officials sounding the alarm is Dr. Julie Watson of Integris Health in Oklahoma.

“We are in trouble,” she said. “If nothing is done soon to slow the rise in cases, our hospitals will be more overwhelmed than they already are and we won’t be able to be there for all of those who need it.”

Subdued Veterans Day ceremonies

Oklahoma’s health department said Wednesday that 1,248 people were hospitalized for confirmed or probable coronavirus, shattering the previous one-day record of 1,055.

Texas reported 10,865 new cases on Tuesday, breaking a record set in mid-July. One of the hardest-hit places is the border city of El Paso; its county has nearly 28,000 active cases and has suffered more than 680 COVID-19 deaths.

A person enters a tent for a coronavirus test at a test site in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The United States recorded its 10 millionth case of the coronavirus this week. (Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images)

The American Medical Association renewed its plea for mask-wearing, physical distancing and frequent hand-washing.

“With the holidays quickly approaching, each of us must do everything possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” AMA president Susan Bailey said. “Failing to do our part will prolong the suffering and disruption to our lives and inevitably lead to more deaths of our friends, neighbours and loved ones.”

Meanwhile, many traditional Veterans Day celebrations gave way to sombre virtual gatherings on Wednesday. Many veterans homes have barred visitors to protect their residents from the virus.

In New York City, a quiet parade of military vehicles, with no spectators, rolled through Manhattan to maintain the 101-year tradition of veterans marching on Fifth Avenue.

Medical workers operate a COVID-19 mobile testing site in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on Wednesday. Restaurants, bars and gyms will have to close at 10 p.m. across New York state in the latest effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)

More than 4,200 veterans have died from COVID-19 at hospitals and homes run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and nearly 85,000 have been infected, according to the department.

Here are some other steps being taken around the country:

Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine issued new orders on mask enforcement at businesses, while threatening to close bars, restaurants and fitness centres if infections keep surging. The Republican governor shifted the authority over mask enforcement from the counties to the state. But DeWine’s orders Wednesday were not as far-reaching as in March, when Ohio became one of the first states to go into lockdown.

Nebraska: New restrictions took effect Wednesday, including a requirement to wear masks at businesses where employees have close contact with customers for more than 15 minutes, such as barbershops, and a limit on large indoor gatherings to 25 per cent of a building’s capacity. Gov. Pete Ricketts and his wife have gone into quarantine after being exposed to someone with the virus.

Kentucky: The governor implored people to wear masks as the state posted a record daily high for new confirmed cases, at 2,700.

Minnesota: The NFL’s Vikings will close their remaining home games to fans, as the state blew past its record for new deaths in a day. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced new restrictions on bars and restaurants and said he wishes the neighbouring Dakotas would take more aggressive steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He said this summer’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota was “absolutely unnecessary” and helped spread the virus beyond that state.

South Dakota: Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken cast a tie-breaking vote that defeated a proposed mask mandate. 

North Dakota: The state continues to have the most new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation, according to Johns Hopkins data, with one in every 83 residents testing positive in the past week.

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