Jan. 22 COVID-19 update: 87 new cases, community spread story, vaccine delays worse than first reported

OTTAWA – Ottawa Public Health (OPH) says local COVID-19 hospitalizations and the number of active cases in the city are down slightly today (Jan. 22), reporting 87 new cases and another death related to the highly contagious coronavirus.

Hospitalizations are down by two, to 36, while the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care is also down to six. OPH says the number of active cases in the community is down to 1,037, Friday, January 22, from 1,056 In Thursday’s report. The latest COVID-19 death brings Ottawa’s pandemic death toll to 416.

There are still 31 ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at local healthcare institutions, seven at childcare centres and six in the community (all stemming from workplaces).

OPH says there have been 12,761 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa since March of 2020, with 11,308 resolved.

The City of Ottawa has received 25,350 COVID-19 vaccines to date, and has administered 22,981 of those doses.

Ontario is reporting 2,662 new cases of COVID-19 today, including 37 in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, two in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark areas, and one case has been removed from COVID-19 data in Renfrew County.

OPH shares recent COVID-19 community spread example

OTTAWWA – OPH is sharing another example of how COVID-19 is spreading in the community.

The health organization told reporters today, one person went to work with COVID-19 before developing symptoms. Two days later, after mild symptoms had developed, they attended a family gathering and had a friend over.

Within two weeks these actions resulted in 15 people testing positive for COVID-19, and 40 people at high-risk who needed to self-isolate. OPH says, at the workplace, there was inconsistent mask use, inconsistent physical distancing, and some employees shared a meal indoors.

Meanwhile, no masks were worn when this person’s family got together, there was no physical distancing and people from four households gathered to celebrate and share a meal.

“We’re naturally more relaxed around people we’re close to, but this cluster is a reminder that COVID-19 doesn’t care how well we know someone,” the OPH released in a statement. “Whether around coworkers we’ve known for years, friends or family members, we must remain vigilant.”

Hospital leaders plea with public to stay home

OTTAWA – Medical chiefs of staff at Ottawa’s hospitals are joining the chorus of voices asking residents to follow current COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, so hospitals can continue to offer in-person services.

The group of healthcare leaders say they want their teams to be able to continue surgeries, diagnostic tests and specialist appointments.

“We can do this, Ottawa,” the chiefs of staff wrote in a joint statement released today (Jan. 22). “We’ve done it before – like after Thanksgiving, when we brought case numbers back into the double digits – and we are beginning to make progress again.”

The statement goes on to say the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare services goes far beyond those who contract the coronavirus.

“It affects everyone who needs hospital services,” the doctors said.

The chiefs of staff say they’ve learned a lot about the coronavirus since last spring’s shutdown, like how to keep everyone safe while providing care that must happen in person. 

“So, this time around, we are proceeding with in-person care, such as surgeries, diagnostic procedures and various specialty care appointments,” the joint statement reads. “We are also continuing with virtual care first, whenever possible.”

Despite the progress made, the group says more than 17,000 patients in the Ottawa region are waiting for surgery.

“Our ability to make up this ground is in your control,” they said. “We must all do everything we can to keep down the level of COVID-19 in the community. Failure to do so will lead to staffing and bed shortages, which will force us to cancel surgeries, diagnostics and other in-person care appointments, once again. These appointments could be yours, your parents’ or your own child’s. We don’t want that.”

The statement lists the following ways residents can help:

Ensure you and your family get tested when someone has any possible COVID-19 symptoms. Testing, tracing and identification is critical to stopping the spread. If we don’t know who has it, we can’t manage it.

Don’t socialize in person. This is the major source of spread right now.

Be careful during your breaks and in break rooms if you are at work. Stay two metres apart. Mask when you’re not eating or drinking. 

The chiefs of staff are also reminding members of the public hospitals are safe places.

“Don’t wait to seek medical attention. Some people are waiting too long to come to hospital, arriving with conditions that are more severe than is usually the case. Please seek medical attention if you think you need it,” reads Friday’s statement. “We know this a stressful time for everyone. But the sooner we get through this pandemic, the sooner the health of our community can recover from this difficult time, whether that is our physical, mental or economic health. Let’s all pull together and stay home, stay safe, save lives.”

Vaccine delay worse than first reported

CANADA – The delivery slowdown of COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer-BioNTech is going to be far worse than the companies first warned Canada last week.

But the bad news is not just hitting Canada, as much of Europe now braces for longer delays than it expected. Mexico doesn’t think it’s going to get any doses at all for almost three weeks, and Saudi Arabia cancelled new vaccine appointments because its shipments are being curtailed as well.

“We are not the only country not to receive any doses next week,” said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander now overseeing the vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

But on Thursday (Jan. 21) Fortin had to deliver bad news on vaccine deliveries to Canada for the third time in less than a week. 

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Jan. 15 they were expanding the Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium, causing a temporary slowdown in production and reducing deliveries to all countries but the United States over the next month.

Initially Fortin said the companies were cutting deliveries to Canada in half over four weeks.

On Tuesday (Jan. 19), he said this week’s deliveries are down by about 20 per cent, next week Canada wouldn’t get any at all, and deliveries were to be about half of what was anticipated for the two weeks after that.

But now Fortin says the deliveries in the first week of February will be 79,000 doses, which is only one-fifth of what had previously been promised. All told, Canada is getting only one-third of its previously expected doses between this week and Feb. 7, with no indication yet of how many doses will come the week after that.

Fortin said Pfizer has promised to deliver four million doses to Canada by the end of March. With the current known delivery schedule, the company will have to ship more than 3.1 million doses over seven-and-a-half weeks to meet that commitment.

Deliveries from Moderna, the other company that has a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada, are not affected. Canada has received about 176,000 doses from Moderna to date, with deliveries arriving every three weeks.

Moderna has promised two million doses by the end of March.

Both vaccines require first doses and then boosters several weeks later for full effectiveness. Together Pfizer and Moderna intend to ship 20 million doses to Canada in the spring, and 46 million between July and September. With no other vaccines approved, that means Canada will get enough doses to vaccinate the entire population with two doses by the end of September.

Provinces have already been cancelling new appointments or delaying second doses, as they grapple with getting smaller supplies than expected. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been criticized for not doing more to fix the situation, including calling Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla directly. Trudeau’s office wouldn’t confirm if he had made such a call, but a Pfizer Canada spokeswoman said all the company’s dealings with Canada’s cabinet thus far have been through Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

European leaders last week were warned they’d be affected for four weeks too, but after a call to Bourla from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, that seemed to be cut to just one week.

Many European countries are now saying they expect to receive fewer shipments next week as well. Italy is threatening legal action against Pfizer for the delays.

Mexico said this week its doses were cut in half and it doesn’t expect to get any more from Pfizer until Feb. 15. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia also reported delays in their shipments.