Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 653 new COVID-19 cases; Experts say Ontario case rates lower than expected due to public health measures

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.10:15 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 653 new cases of COVID-19. Across the province, 21,651,850 vaccine doses have been administered. Of eligible Ontarians (12 and older), 85.8 per cent have one dose and 80.2 per cent have two doses.10:01 a.m.: Ontario’s daily COVID-19 case counts are lower than what many experts had expected by now, and while they point to a number of factors for the relative relief, they say now is not the time to ease up on those measures.For much of the summer, the province’s top doctor warned of a September surge, followed by a bleak fall and winter. That has not materialized — yet — as the daily case counts remain under 1,000 and the graph of Ontario’s seven-day average roughly shows a plateau since the beginning of September.That’s well under the worst-case scenario in Ontario’s most recent modelling, which showed about 4,000 daily cases by now. Reality is more in line with the best-case scenario, in which cases would have steadily fallen since Sept. 1.Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said hospitalizations and ICU admissions are also stable even without more restrictions being introduced — noting the proof-of-vaccination system only took effect a few days ago. “There is a little bit of cautious optimism in that with society being more open, kids back to school, all of the things that we ... would have concerns about leading to escalating transmission, we’re not seeing,” he said.7:45 a.m.: More than 80 per cent of eligible Ontarians have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and, with the possibility that vaccines will be offered to young children in the coming months, the pandemic’s familiar wave-after-wave pattern of new infections could soon calm.Scientists believe that as more people increase their immunity to the virus either through vaccination or infection, cases in Ontario are on track to drop to endemic levels as early as spring, provided of course that a more transmissible and vaccine-evasive variant doesn’t rear its head in the meantime.The implication of COVID-19 becoming endemic — that is, infections of the virus occurring at some consistent baseline level in the population — is that we will simply have to learn to live with it.Read more from the Star’s Kenyon Wallace.7:05 a.m.: In late May, Samantha Yammine, a Toronto neuroscientist who advocates for vaccines, shared what had become, for her, a source of shame and embarrassment. For much of her life, Yammine had lived with a severe anxiety around needles — a phobia that led her to avoid vaccination for years.As a scientist, Yammine understood the toll of the pandemic and knew mass immunization was the way out. But she was crushed by fear and dread. How could she be a vaccine advocate if she didn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19?“I knew I had to get it, but I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to,” she said.Yammine, 31, known as Science Sam on social media, is not frightened of needles in the way some people become mildly distressed about spiders or thunderstorms. Her fear is rooted in childhood trauma and it activates the same fight-or-flight response that another person might have if they encountered a bear or a home intruder.But when Yammine shared her story on Twitter, it came with a positive development. After months of planning, therapy and an appointment at an accessibility clinic, she had done it: she was vaccinated.Read the full story from the Star’s Amy Dempsey.6:30 a.m.: Billions more in profits are at stake for some vaccine makers as the U.S. moves toward dispensing COVID-19 booster shots to shore up Americans’ protection against the virus.How much the manufacturers stand to gain depends on how big the rollout proves to be.U.S. health officials late on Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for all Americans 65 and older — along with tens of millions of younger people who are at higher risk from the coronavirus because of health conditions or their jobs. Officials described the move as a first step. Boosters will likely be offered even more broadly in the coming weeks or months, including boosters of vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. That, plus continued growth in initial vaccinations, could mean a huge gain in sales and profits for Pfizer and Moderna in particular.“The opportunity quite frankly is reflective of the billions of people around the world who would need a vaccination and a boost,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said.6 a.m.: Britons are encouraged these days — though in most cases not required — to wear face coverings in crowded indoor spaces. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson regularly appears in the packed, poorly ventilated House of Commons cheek-by-jowl with other maskless Conservative lawmakers.For critics, that image encapsulates the flaw in the government’s s

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 653 new COVID-19 cases; Experts say Ontario case rates lower than expected due to public health measures

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

10:15 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 653 new cases of COVID-19. Across the province, 21,651,850 vaccine doses have been administered. Of eligible Ontarians (12 and older), 85.8 per cent have one dose and 80.2 per cent have two doses.

10:01 a.m.: Ontario’s daily COVID-19 case counts are lower than what many experts had expected by now, and while they point to a number of factors for the relative relief, they say now is not the time to ease up on those measures.

For much of the summer, the province’s top doctor warned of a September surge, followed by a bleak fall and winter. That has not materialized — yet — as the daily case counts remain under 1,000 and the graph of Ontario’s seven-day average roughly shows a plateau since the beginning of September.

That’s well under the worst-case scenario in Ontario’s most recent modelling, which showed about 4,000 daily cases by now. Reality is more in line with the best-case scenario, in which cases would have steadily fallen since Sept. 1.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said hospitalizations and ICU admissions are also stable even without more restrictions being introduced — noting the proof-of-vaccination system only took effect a few days ago.

“There is a little bit of cautious optimism in that with society being more open, kids back to school, all of the things that we ... would have concerns about leading to escalating transmission, we’re not seeing,” he said.

7:45 a.m.: More than 80 per cent of eligible Ontarians have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and, with the possibility that vaccines will be offered to young children in the coming months, the pandemic’s familiar wave-after-wave pattern of new infections could soon calm.

Scientists believe that as more people increase their immunity to the virus either through vaccination or infection, cases in Ontario are on track to drop to endemic levels as early as spring, provided of course that a more transmissible and vaccine-evasive variant doesn’t rear its head in the meantime.

The implication of COVID-19 becoming endemic — that is, infections of the virus occurring at some consistent baseline level in the population — is that we will simply have to learn to live with it.

Read more from the Star’s Kenyon Wallace.

7:05 a.m.: In late May, Samantha Yammine, a Toronto neuroscientist who advocates for vaccines, shared what had become, for her, a source of shame and embarrassment. For much of her life, Yammine had lived with a severe anxiety around needles — a phobia that led her to avoid vaccination for years.

As a scientist, Yammine understood the toll of the pandemic and knew mass immunization was the way out. But she was crushed by fear and dread. How could she be a vaccine advocate if she didn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19?

“I knew I had to get it, but I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to,” she said.

Yammine, 31, known as Science Sam on social media, is not frightened of needles in the way some people become mildly distressed about spiders or thunderstorms. Her fear is rooted in childhood trauma and it activates the same fight-or-flight response that another person might have if they encountered a bear or a home intruder.

But when Yammine shared her story on Twitter, it came with a positive development. After months of planning, therapy and an appointment at an accessibility clinic, she had done it: she was vaccinated.

Read the full story from the Star’s Amy Dempsey.

6:30 a.m.: Billions more in profits are at stake for some vaccine makers as the U.S. moves toward dispensing COVID-19 booster shots to shore up Americans’ protection against the virus.

How much the manufacturers stand to gain depends on how big the rollout proves to be.

U.S. health officials late on Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for all Americans 65 and older — along with tens of millions of younger people who are at higher risk from the coronavirus because of health conditions or their jobs.

Officials described the move as a first step. Boosters will likely be offered even more broadly in the coming weeks or months, including boosters of vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. That, plus continued growth in initial vaccinations, could mean a huge gain in sales and profits for Pfizer and Moderna in particular.

“The opportunity quite frankly is reflective of the billions of people around the world who would need a vaccination and a boost,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said.

6 a.m.: Britons are encouraged these days — though in most cases not required — to wear face coverings in crowded indoor spaces. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson regularly appears in the packed, poorly ventilated House of Commons cheek-by-jowl with other maskless Conservative lawmakers.

For critics, that image encapsulates the flaw in the government’s strategy, which has abandoned most pandemic restrictions and is banking on voluntary restraint and a high vaccination rate to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

As winter approaches, bringing the threat of a new COVID-19 surge, Britain’s light touch is setting it apart from more cautious nations.

“The story of this government in the pandemic is too little, too late,” said Layla Moran, an opposition Liberal Democrat lawmaker who heads the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus.

She said some U.K. hospitals are already seeing the number of virus patients in intensive care units that they would normally expect in the depths of winter, though overall daily hospital admissions are running at about a fifth of January’s peak.

4:05 a.m.: In the before times, Katie McCarron could count on her best Canadian customers to make the trip to her store in Portland, Oregon, to stock up on their favourite high-quality, human-grade pet food.

COVID-19 had other plans. Soon enough, though, so did Portland Pet Food Co.

“Some of them would just be shopping in Portland, and we’d hear that they had been here, or they’d write us and they’d be asking, ‘How can I order your food online with the border closed?” the B.C.-born McCarron said in a recent interview.

In the United States, however, every international shipment of pet food products requires a special health certificate, making it impossible for a small retailer like Portland Pet Food to offer online sales outside of the country.

“We can’t ship to Canada — it’s just too costly, and we do have to get these certificates issued each time we ship. So I just had to pursue getting into distribution.”

Today, thanks in large part to a deal with the Canadian chain Pet Valu, Portland Pet Food is available in more than 500 specialty retailers in Canada, an expansion that equates to about 25 per cent of the company’s worldwide retail footprint.

McCarron clearly already had expansion on her mind before the pandemic hit. Portland products are already available in Japan, and she recently signed an agreement for distribution in China. Korea and Taiwan are next on her list.

But the ongoing ban on non-essential land travel from Canada to the U.S., tentatively extended now for a 19th month until Oct. 21, drove home the importance of winning shelf space in a part of the world where crossing the border is no longer as easy as it once was.