Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 694 new cases of COVID-19; U.S. hospitalizations reach level not seen since winter peak

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.11:35 a.m. Ontario is reporting another 694 COVID-19 cases and no new deaths, according to its latest report released Monday morning.Ontario has administered 17,767 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 20,726,778 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 10,803,172 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 82.9 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 72.7 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.The province says 9,923,606 people have completed their vaccinations, which means they’ve had both doses. That works out to approximately 76.1 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 66.8 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan11:20 a.m. A subset of COVID-19 patients who received infusions of laboratory-made antibodies ran a lower risk of requiring hospital care for their illnesses, according to a Mayo Clinic study released Monday.The report in the journal Lancet EClinical Medicine suggests that certain monoclonal antibody treatments can help patients with mild to moderate symptoms who are at high-risk of serious COVID-19 illness due to other health conditions.Mayo Clinic was the first health system in Minnesota last year to offer certain COVID-19 patients the antibody infusions, which must be given shortly after patients get sick. Former President Donald Trump received an early version of the treatment when he took ill with the pandemic virus last year."These are excellent results with reductions in hospitalizations," Dr. Raymund Razonable, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist and senior author of the study, said in an interview. "Among [high-risk] patients who develop COVID, they should seek this treatment as early as possible in order to prevent the disease from progressing to serious illness."While the treatment is promising, patients shouldn't view monoclonal antibodies as an alternative to vaccines, Razonable said."Monoclonal antibodies provide immediate but short-term immunity, while vaccination will provide longer-term immunity," he said in a statement.11:10 a.m. Albania’s health authorities reinstalled new tough restrictive measures and warned of a possible obligatory vaccine shot for some categories in their effort to prevent a further spread of the new Delta virus variant.Health minister Ogerta Manastirliu said that “soon we shall start the application to passing over to a new stage of the vaccination campaign, making obligatory the vaccines for some categories on behalf of the right of the other people not to get infected.”Albania has noted a significant rise of the daily cases this month to more than 900 from about 100 times less a month ago. August and September have been open months for vaccines for everyone over 18 years old.There were two deaths and 768 new cases on Sunday and about half of Albania’s 2.8 million population has had at least one shot of the vaccine.10:40 a.m. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge in North Carolina, the coronavirus and other respiratory diseases are causing sick children to fill up pediatric intensive care units in the Triangle.Among the three PICUs in the Triangle — WakeMed Children’s Hospital in Raleigh, Duke University Hospital in Durham and the University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill— WakeMed and UNC were full on Friday, and Duke had just one of 32 beds available. UNC has 20 beds and WakeMed has 10.Capacity numbers change day to day, hospital officials said.Dr. Benny Joyner, division chief of pediatric critical care medicine at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, told The News & Observer that they are no longer taking transfers from outside UNC into the PICU.“It is exhausting to have seen what potential we would have had with the introduction of the vaccine, with careful masking,” Joyner said. “And this, to be put in a position again where we’re having to say to outside referring hospitals, ‘We cannot take your child with a new cancer diagnosis, a new trauma’ — that’s a hard thing.”The rise in children needing intensive care is partly due to the delta variant, a mutation of the virus that’s more than three times as contagious as the original strain. Almost 94 per cent of sequenced virus in North Carolina is Delta, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.10:20 a.m. Ontario is reporting 694 new cases of COVID-19, 0 deaths Monday; 527 cases are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 167 are in fully vaccinated individuals. In Ontario, 20,726,778 vaccine doses have been administer

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 694 new cases of COVID-19; U.S. hospitalizations reach level not seen since winter peak

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

11:35 a.m. Ontario is reporting another 694 COVID-19 cases and no new deaths, according to its latest report released Monday morning.

Ontario has administered 17,767 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 20,726,778 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 10,803,172 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 82.9 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 72.7 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The province says 9,923,606 people have completed their vaccinations, which means they’ve had both doses. That works out to approximately 76.1 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 66.8 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

11:20 a.m. A subset of COVID-19 patients who received infusions of laboratory-made antibodies ran a lower risk of requiring hospital care for their illnesses, according to a Mayo Clinic study released Monday.

The report in the journal Lancet EClinical Medicine suggests that certain monoclonal antibody treatments can help patients with mild to moderate symptoms who are at high-risk of serious COVID-19 illness due to other health conditions.

Mayo Clinic was the first health system in Minnesota last year to offer certain COVID-19 patients the antibody infusions, which must be given shortly after patients get sick. Former President Donald Trump received an early version of the treatment when he took ill with the pandemic virus last year.

"These are excellent results with reductions in hospitalizations," Dr. Raymund Razonable, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist and senior author of the study, said in an interview. "Among [high-risk] patients who develop COVID, they should seek this treatment as early as possible in order to prevent the disease from progressing to serious illness."

While the treatment is promising, patients shouldn't view monoclonal antibodies as an alternative to vaccines, Razonable said.

"Monoclonal antibodies provide immediate but short-term immunity, while vaccination will provide longer-term immunity," he said in a statement.

11:10 a.m. Albania’s health authorities reinstalled new tough restrictive measures and warned of a possible obligatory vaccine shot for some categories in their effort to prevent a further spread of the new Delta virus variant.

Health minister Ogerta Manastirliu said that “soon we shall start the application to passing over to a new stage of the vaccination campaign, making obligatory the vaccines for some categories on behalf of the right of the other people not to get infected.”

Albania has noted a significant rise of the daily cases this month to more than 900 from about 100 times less a month ago.

August and September have been open months for vaccines for everyone over 18 years old.

There were two deaths and 768 new cases on Sunday and about half of Albania’s 2.8 million population has had at least one shot of the vaccine.

10:40 a.m. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge in North Carolina, the coronavirus and other respiratory diseases are causing sick children to fill up pediatric intensive care units in the Triangle.

Among the three PICUs in the Triangle — WakeMed Children’s Hospital in Raleigh, Duke University Hospital in Durham and the University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill— WakeMed and UNC were full on Friday, and Duke had just one of 32 beds available. UNC has 20 beds and WakeMed has 10.

Capacity numbers change day to day, hospital officials said.

Dr. Benny Joyner, division chief of pediatric critical care medicine at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, told The News & Observer that they are no longer taking transfers from outside UNC into the PICU.

“It is exhausting to have seen what potential we would have had with the introduction of the vaccine, with careful masking,” Joyner said. “And this, to be put in a position again where we’re having to say to outside referring hospitals, ‘We cannot take your child with a new cancer diagnosis, a new trauma’ — that’s a hard thing.”

The rise in children needing intensive care is partly due to the delta variant, a mutation of the virus that’s more than three times as contagious as the original strain. Almost 94 per cent of sequenced virus in North Carolina is Delta, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

10:20 a.m. Ontario is reporting 694 new cases of COVID-19, 0 deaths Monday; 527 cases are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 167 are in fully vaccinated individuals. In Ontario, 20,726,778 vaccine doses have been administered. Nearly 82.9 per cent of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 76.1 per cent have two doses, according to a tweet from Health Minister Christine Elliott.

The seven-day average is up to 696 cases per day or 33.5 weekly per 100,000 and flat at 6.4 deaths per day. Labs are reporting 18,561 completed tests and a 3.6 per cent positive, according to the Star’s Ed Tubb.

Ontario administered 17,767 vaccine doses Sunday, fewest on any day since March 1. 6,075 were first doses and 11,692 were second. Ontario is averaging 34,000 doses per day.

10 a.m. A conservative Florida radio host who was dead-set against taking a coronavirus vaccine has died.

Marc Bernier died Saturday of COVID-19 after a three-week battle, his bereft radio station announced. He was 65.

“It’s with great sadness that WNDB and Southern Stone Communications announce the passing of Marc Bernier, who informed and entertained listeners on WNDB for over 30 years,” WNDB radio’s News Daytona Beach announced Saturday. “We kindly ask that privacy is given to Marc’s family during this time of grief.”

Bernier had been afflicted three weeks earlier after hosting radio talk shows in Daytona Beach for 30 years, and after dubbing himself “Mr. Anti-Vax.” He also said the U.S. government was “acting like Nazis” for insisting people get the shot.

That airtime included a morning comment, three-hour afternoon show, and weekend shows and specials. Longtime radio show guest and Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood was gutted after learning that the host had died sometime after 6 p.m. on Saturday.

9:45 a.m. 4,556,066 vaccine doses have been administered to date in the City of Toronto.

9 a.m. The Edmonton Elks say they have gone three-straight days without recording a new positive COVID-19 test.

The news comes a week after Edmonton's game against the Toronto Argonauts, initially scheduled for Aug. 26, was postponed.

The Elks said in a release Sunday that the number of confirmed positive cases among the team has dropped to 13 after a player was deemed to be a false positive.

The team says the player's initial test on Aug. 24 was positive, but three subsequent PCR test results all came back negative.

All players and coaches will remain at home in isolation through Tuesday, and will continue to receive daily tests.

The Elks (1-2) plan to return to their facilities at Commonwealth Stadium on Wednesday ahead of their next game against the Stampeders in Calgary on Sept. 6.

8:42 a.m. Elementary and secondary school classes begin in just over a week, and with over 80 per cent of students at the Peel District School Board returning to in-person learning, updates have been provided on ventilation at the schools.

On Aug. 25, the PDSB held a board meeting and summarized the ventilation improvements made to date since June 2020.

The board said they’re working closely with the Ministry of Education and utilizing all available provincial and federal funding to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The funding used comes from the Ministry of Education’s Optimizing Air Quality funding for 2020–21 with approximately $5.9 million, with additional funds of $417,000 made available in August 2021.

8:10 a.m. Premier Doug Ford is reversing course and bringing a COVID-19 vaccination passport system to Ontario in hopes of avoiding another round of restrictions and lockdowns as new cases continue to rise, the Star has learned.

“The guidance will be clear. In order to access some non-essential services and events you will have to be vaccinated,” a senior government source said Friday.

The passports are expected to be used for indoor restaurant dining, gyms, theatres, concert venues and sporting events.

No specific date has been set for the system to go into effect, but the goal is to have it ready “within weeks,” added the source, speaking anonymously to discuss internal deliberations.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson

8:05 a.m. Amid slowing demand for the shot, authorities in Berlin, Germany offered a special train service Monday for anyone interested in getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The service operated on a circular commuter line that runs around the center of the German capital for two hours.

Officials invited anyone aged 18 or older to step aboard and receive a dose of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Health authorities are trying to make it easier for people to get the shot, as the pace of vaccination has declined noticeably in recent months. Slightly more than 60% of the German population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while infection rates are rising strongly again.

The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Germany has more than doubled over the past two weeks from almost 5.2 new cases per 100,000 people on Aug. 15 to nearly 11 on Aug. 29.

7:55 a.m. Thousands of vaccine opponents took to the streets in two Greek cities on Sunday to demonstrate against the government's coronavirus policies.

Local media outlets estimated that 3,000 people took part in Athens, and more than 5,000 in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.

Some 200 people broke away from the demonstration in Athens after dark, when it was nearly over, and hurled incendiary devices and stones at police outside the parliament. Officers responded with stun grenades, tear gas and water cannon, causing the rioters to disperse.

By law, only vaccinated people are allowed inside restaurants and cultural institutions. Unvaccinated employees in the health sector are to be released from their work starting from Sept. 1 and — as long as they are not vaccinated — will not be paid. This policy has been in place for people who work in elderly care since Aug. 16.

The number of new coronavirus infections in Greece has skyrocketed in recent weeks, mainly because of the holiday season. In large parts of Crete and other islands in the south of the Aegean Sea, a nighttime curfew between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. has already been in force for days.

7:45 a.m. A third COVID-19 vaccination shot appeared to significantly curb a Delta-led surge in cases and prevent severe illness, according to a study in Israel, the first country to offer boosters to seniors.

Twelve days or more after a booster dose of vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE, the risk of a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection decreased 11.4-fold relative to people given only two jabs, researchers from Israel’s Ministry of Health and key scientific institutes found. A third dose was associated with at least a tenfold reduction in the risk of falling seriously ill, according to the research released Friday.

The more-infectious Delta variant has fueled a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in many countries, including Israel, prompting plans to administer extra doses to those already immunized. Israeli authorities approved a Pfizer-BioNTech booster jab for vulnerable citizens on July 12 and began offering it on July 30 to all people 60 or older who had been immunized for at least five months.

“The results of such a policy are of importance for countries that seek strategies to mitigate the pandemic,” said Yinon M. Bar-On from the Weizmann Institute of Science and colleagues in the paper. “Our findings give clear indications of the effectiveness of a booster dose even against the currently dominant delta variant.”

The analysis is based on medical findings from the health ministry database extracted on Aug. 24. The researchers chose 12 days as the time it took the booster to curb confirmed infections.

7:30 a.m. As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Hawaii continues to rise, Gov. David Ige is calling on all residents and visitors to delay all nonessential travel through the end of October 2021.

According to Reuters.com, Ige revealed expanded restrictions on restaurant capacities and limited access to rental cars, informing potential travelers that visiting the tropical paradise now would not provide the typical Hawaii vacation experience.

“Our hospitals are reaching capacity and our ICUs are filling up,” Ige said at an Aug. 23 media briefing. “Now is not a good time to travel to Hawaii.”

“It will take six to seven weeks to see significant change in the number of COVID cases,” Ige continued. “It is a risky time to be traveling right now. Everyone, residents and visitors alike, should reduce travel to essential business activities only.”

The governor also voiced his support for Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, who recently announced that indoor gatherings in the city would be limited to just 10 people, while outdoor events would be limited to 25.

5:55 a.m.: The daily average for hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the United States is now more than 100,000. That average, calculated over the past seven days, is higher than in any previous surge except last winter’s, before most Americans were eligible to get vaccinated.

The influx of patients is straining hospitals and pushing health care workers to the brink as deaths have risen to an average of more than 1,000 a day for the first time since March.

Hospitalizations nationwide have increased by nearly 500% in the past two months, particularly across Southern states, where intensive care unit beds are filling up, a crisis fueled by some of the country’s lowest vaccination rates and widespread political opposition to public health measures like mask requirements.

With the surge pummeling the nation and overwhelming hospitals, a shortage of bedside nurses has complicated efforts to treat hospitalized coronavirus patients, leading to longer emergency room waiting times and rushed or inadequate care.

5:45 a.m.: Lilia Spagnuolo is excited that her daughter, Marianna, will finally be back in the classroom with her friends to start Grade 1 in a couple of weeks.

The six-year-old is “fantastic” about wearing her mask and handwashing, and Spagnuolo says she trusts that the principal at St. André Catholic School, near Jane and Wilson, has their backs when it comes to COVID-19 safety protocols.

But alongside the anticipation is knowledge that the one thing that could best protect her little girl and her classmates from the virus — a vaccine — is out of reach.

Experts say community vaccination rates are one of the most important indicators of COVID transmission risk among unvaccinated kids. Torontonians can expect to see more school outbreaks in neighbourhoods with lower vaccination coverage and fewer in areas where most of the residents have been fully vaccinated.

In a pattern that mirrors the spread of the virus to vulnerable and racialized communities seen at the beginning of the pandemic, mapping of neighbourhood vaccination rates by the Star reveals similar disparities. Vaccination rates among the general population remain lower in the city’s northwest corner, parts of Scarborough and around Thorncliffe Park, and higher in more affluent areas, such as midtown and parts of Etobicoke. For example, M4H, the neighbourhood around Thorncliffe Park public school, has the lowest percentage of residents fully vaccinated, at 51.9 per cent. But in M8X, the Kingsway/Lambton Mills, 74 per cent of the residents have both shots.

Read the full interactive article from the Star.

5:30 a.m.: Malaysia's new prime minister missed the swearing-in ceremony of his new government on Monday after coming into contact with someone infected with COVID-19, his office said.

Ismail Sabri Yaakob has begun self-isolating and will virtually attend Tuesday's official National Day celebrations, according to a statement from his office. It did not say whom he came in contact with, whether he was tested and how long he would remain in self-isolation.

Ismail took office Aug. 21 amid public anger over the previous government's failure to control a raging pandemic. Daily cases have soared above 20,000 since August 5, with total infections surpassing 1.7 million. Vaccinations are moving rapidly, with 62% of the adult population fully inoculated.

His predecessor, Muhyiddin Yassin, resigned on Aug. 16 after less than 18 months in office as infighting in his coalition cost him majority support in Parliament.