Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 740 new COVID-19 cases; Local businesses expect subdued TIFF to generate fewer sales, less foot traffic

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.11:58 a.m.: On the ground floor of a parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, there are coronavirus patients where the cars should be — about 20 of them on any given day, laid up in air-conditioned tents and cared for by a team of medical personnel from a Christian charity group. Another garage nearby has been transformed into a staging area for a monoclonal antibody clinic for COVID-19 patients.These scenes, unfolding in the heart of Mississippi’s capital city, are a clear indication that the health care system in the nation’s poorest state is close to buckling under the latest avalanche of cases triggered by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus.“We have reached a failure point,” LouAnn Woodward, the medical centre’s top executive, said late last week. “The demand has exceeded our resources.”The current coronavirus spike has hit the South hard, but a combination of poverty and politics made Mississippi uniquely unprepared to handle what is now the worst coronavirus outbreak in the nation. The state has fewer active physicians per capita than any other. Five rural hospitals have closed in the past decade, and 35 more are at imminent risk of closing, according to an assessment from a non-profit health care quality agency. There are 2,000 fewer nurses in Mississippi today than there were at the beginning of the year, according to the state hospital association.10:15 a.m.: Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott said Sunday that there are 740 new COVID-19 cases in the province — 551 cases of which are individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status.Elliott tweeted that 214 people are hospitalized with COVID, with 158 in intensive care. In Ontario, 20,709,011 vaccine doses have been administered, Elliott said. Roughly 82.8 per cent of Ontarians 12 years of age and up have one dose and 76 per cent have two doses.Sunday’s case count is down slightly from Saturday’s total of 835 new infections, the province’s highest daily count since June.9:37 a.m.: The capital of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday ordered all residents who received the Chinese state-backed Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine over six months ago to get a booster shot by September 20, adding that recipients of other vaccines do not need the third dose.The UAE became the first country worldwide to formally offer the booster regimen earlier this year, following reports of Sinopharm recipients seeking the third shot amid concerns about an insufficient antibody response. Abu Dhabi, which imposed some of the region’s most stringent vaccine restrictions this summer, hardened its stance on Sunday, saying that those who received two doses of Sinopharm will no longer be able to access places like malls, schools and gyms without a third booster shot.The new rule adds to growing questions over the coronavirus protection offered by China’s Sinpoharm vaccine. Aside from basic efficacy numbers, the Chinese manufacturer has released very little public data about its vaccine, prompting criticism for its lack of transparency. Nonetheless, the shot is at the heart of China’s own mass immunization campaign and became the linchpin of the UAE’s rollout, among the world’s fastest per capita.8:15 a.m. Two state government websites in Georgia recently stopped posting updates on COVID-19 cases in prisons and long-term care facilities, just as the dangerous Delta variant was taking hold.Data has been disappearing recently in other states as well.Florida, for example, now reports COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations once a week, instead of daily, as before.Both states, along with the rest of the South, are battling high infection rates.Public health experts are voicing concern about the pullback of COVID-19 information. Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the trend “not good for government and the public” because it gives the appearance of governments “hiding stuff.”A month ago, the Georgia agency that runs state prisons stopped giving public updates on the number of new COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff members. The Department of Corrections, in explaining this decision, cited its successful vaccination rates and “a declining number of COVID-19 cases among staff and inmates.”Now, a month later, Georgia has among the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S. — along with one of the lowest vaccination rates. But the corrections department hasn’t resumed posting case data on its website.Read Saturday’s rolling fileWhen asked by KHN about the COVID-19 situation in prisons, department spokesperson Joan Heath said last Monday that it currently has 308 active cases among inmates.“We will make a determination whether to begin reposting the daily COVID-19 dashboard over the next few weeks, if the

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 740 new COVID-19 cases; Local businesses expect subdued TIFF to generate fewer sales, less foot traffic

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.

11:58 a.m.: On the ground floor of a parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, there are coronavirus patients where the cars should be — about 20 of them on any given day, laid up in air-conditioned tents and cared for by a team of medical personnel from a Christian charity group. Another garage nearby has been transformed into a staging area for a monoclonal antibody clinic for COVID-19 patients.

These scenes, unfolding in the heart of Mississippi’s capital city, are a clear indication that the health care system in the nation’s poorest state is close to buckling under the latest avalanche of cases triggered by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus.

“We have reached a failure point,” LouAnn Woodward, the medical centre’s top executive, said late last week. “The demand has exceeded our resources.”

The current coronavirus spike has hit the South hard, but a combination of poverty and politics made Mississippi uniquely unprepared to handle what is now the worst coronavirus outbreak in the nation. The state has fewer active physicians per capita than any other. Five rural hospitals have closed in the past decade, and 35 more are at imminent risk of closing, according to an assessment from a non-profit health care quality agency. There are 2,000 fewer nurses in Mississippi today than there were at the beginning of the year, according to the state hospital association.

10:15 a.m.: Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott said Sunday that there are 740 new COVID-19 cases in the province — 551 cases of which are individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status.

Elliott tweeted that 214 people are hospitalized with COVID, with 158 in intensive care.

In Ontario, 20,709,011 vaccine doses have been administered, Elliott said. Roughly 82.8 per cent of Ontarians 12 years of age and up have one dose and 76 per cent have two doses.

Sunday’s case count is down slightly from Saturday’s total of 835 new infections, the province’s highest daily count since June.

9:37 a.m.: The capital of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday ordered all residents who received the Chinese state-backed Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine over six months ago to get a booster shot by September 20, adding that recipients of other vaccines do not need the third dose.

The UAE became the first country worldwide to formally offer the booster regimen earlier this year, following reports of Sinopharm recipients seeking the third shot amid concerns about an insufficient antibody response.

Abu Dhabi, which imposed some of the region’s most stringent vaccine restrictions this summer, hardened its stance on Sunday, saying that those who received two doses of Sinopharm will no longer be able to access places like malls, schools and gyms without a third booster shot.

The new rule adds to growing questions over the coronavirus protection offered by China’s Sinpoharm vaccine. Aside from basic efficacy numbers, the Chinese manufacturer has released very little public data about its vaccine, prompting criticism for its lack of transparency. Nonetheless, the shot is at the heart of China’s own mass immunization campaign and became the linchpin of the UAE’s rollout, among the world’s fastest per capita.

8:15 a.m. Two state government websites in Georgia recently stopped posting updates on COVID-19 cases in prisons and long-term care facilities, just as the dangerous Delta variant was taking hold.

Data has been disappearing recently in other states as well.

Florida, for example, now reports COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations once a week, instead of daily, as before.

Both states, along with the rest of the South, are battling high infection rates.

Public health experts are voicing concern about the pullback of COVID-19 information. Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the trend “not good for government and the public” because it gives the appearance of governments “hiding stuff.”

A month ago, the Georgia agency that runs state prisons stopped giving public updates on the number of new COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff members. The Department of Corrections, in explaining this decision, cited its successful vaccination rates and “a declining number of COVID-19 cases among staff and inmates.”

Now, a month later, Georgia has among the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S. — along with one of the lowest vaccination rates. But the corrections department hasn’t resumed posting case data on its website.

Read Saturday’s rolling file

When asked by KHN about the COVID-19 situation in prisons, department spokesperson Joan Heath said last Monday that it currently has 308 active cases among inmates.

“We will make a determination whether to begin reposting the daily COVID-19 dashboard over the next few weeks, if the current statewide surge is sustained,” Heath said.

Another state website, run by the Department of Public Health, no longer links to a listing of the number of COVID-19 cases among residents and staffers of nursing homes and other long-term care residences by facility. The data grid, launched early in the pandemic, gave a running total of long-term care cases and deaths from the virus.

Asked about the lack of online information, public health officials directed a reporter to another agency, the Department of Community Health, which explained that COVID-19 information on nursing homes could be found on a federal health website. But locating and navigating that link can be difficult.

“Residents and families cannot easily find this information,” said Melanie McNeil, the state’s long-term care ombudsman. “It used to be easily accessible.”

Georgia gives updates on overall numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state five days a week but has recently stopped its weekend COVID-19 reporting.

Other states also have cut back their public case reporting, despite the nation being engulfed in a fourth, delta-driven COVID-19 surge.

Florida had issued daily reports on cases, deaths and hospitalizations until the rate of positive test results dropped in June. Even when caseloads soared in July and August, the state stuck with weekly reporting.

Florida has been accused of being less than transparent with COVID-19 health data. Newspapers have sued or threatened to sue the state several times for medical examiner reports, long-term care data, prison data and weekly COVID-19 reports the state received from the White House.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor in 2022, has repeatedly questioned Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to delay the release of public data on COVID-19 cases and has called for restoring daily reporting of COVID-19 data.

Nebraska discontinued its daily COVID-19 dashboard June 30, then recently resumed reporting, but only weekly. Iowa also reports weekly; Michigan, three days a week.

Public health experts said full information is vital for a public dealing with an emergency such as the pandemic — similar to the government reports needed during a hurricane.

“All the public health things we do are dependent on trust and transparency,” Benjamin said.

7:45 a.m. Most years, Beck Taxi will have logged hundreds of fares from people preparing for the Toronto International Film Festival weeks before red carpets have even been unfurled and lines snake out theatres.

But this year is different. The company says it’s barely seen any TIFF-related trips and expects only a small fraction of pre-pandemic business to materialize when the 10-day event begins Sept. 9.

“I can’t even describe the ripple effect that this has,” Kristine Hubbard, Beck’s operations manager, said of a second COVID-curbed fest set for next month.

“For drivers, frankly, these major events really, really help maintain their income.”

The outlook is similar at hotels, restaurants and other businesses across the city that typically experience a jump in sales, reservations and attention when stars and their fans flock to the festival.

A 2013 study from TIFF and the research firm TNS Canada Ltd. said the festival delivers at least $189 million in annual economic activity to Toronto businesses.

TIFF still plans to welcome the world’s film community next month, and has promised a return of some red carpet glitz.

However, virtual screenings introduced last year will return, while in-person screenings at theatres, drive-ins and open-air cinemas will limit capacity and require social distancing, masks and proof of full-vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

TIFF accredited 1,400 journalists and 4,000 industry members, but a fourth wave of the virus has businesses lowering expectations for a return of the usual showbiz largesse of industry parties, swanky dinners and swag bags.

“We’re just a little hesitant this year to get our hopes up,” said Dean Harrison, national director of marketing at Aburi Restaurants Canada, which opened Japanese restaurant Minami in November.

Aburi thought a location by Roy Thomson Hall’s red carpet area would help Minami take advantage of TIFF and the theatre district, but by mid-August, hadn’t received any festival bookings.

“There’s no question that TIFF brings big money to Toronto’s small businesses ... but clearly, these aren’t normal times and sadly, what we’re hearing is that small businesses won’t benefit fully from TIFF,” said Julie Kwiecinski, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ director of provincial affairs for Ontario.

7:40 a.m. A Texas man who led a group of “Freedom Defenders” against mask restrictions died of COVID-19 on Saturday at age 30.

Caleb Wallace left behind three children and a pregnant wife.

His wife, Jessica, announced her husband’s death on a GoFundMe page that had detailed his fight with COVID-19 the past few weeks.

“Caleb has peacefully passed on. He will forever live in our hearts and minds,” she wrote.

Wallace had been unconscious since Aug. 8, The San Angelo Standard-Times reported.

Wallace helped organize “The Freedom Rally” on July 4, 2020 — a gathering described in a flyer as a peaceful protest by people “sick of the government being in control of our lives,” the Standard-Times reported.

He also founded “The San Angelo Freedom Defenders,” a group “to educate and empower citizens to make informed choices concerning local, statewide, and national policy and to encourage them to actively participate in their duty to secure God-given and constitutionally protected rights,” the group’s Facebook page stated.

Jessica Wallace said her husband got sick in late July, but “was so hard-headed.”

“He didn’t want to see a doctor, because he didn’t want to be part of the statistics with COVID tests,” she said.

He then tried unproven ivermectin — a livestock dewormer that has been denounced by the FDA — high doses of vitamin C, zinc aspirin and an inhaler, the Standard-Times reported.

Jessica Wallace told the newspaper she didn’t always share her husband’s views and that she wears a mask.

7:30 a.m. Now that the Biden administration has determined that Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 should get booster shots, state health officials say they can avoid a repeat of the chaos that accompanied the first months of vaccinations.

The primary reason for that optimism? “Now supply is stable,” said Michele Roberts, an acting assistant health secretary in the Washington State Department of Health. “There’s more than enough vaccines, and the feds say supplies will continue to be good.”

Still, the expected launch of boosters Sept. 20 will further burden an already strained public health system that has been battling the pandemic for more than 18 months and is still struggling to persuade nearly 40% of the eligible population to get even a first COVID-19 shot.

“There is a sense of utter exhaustion among public health workers and health workers,” Roberts said. When the Biden administration announced the booster plan, she continued, “There was a level of ‘Ugh, we’re doing this again?’”

Meanwhile, some people already may be jumping the line. ABC News reported earlier this month on an internal document at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document that said an estimated 1.1 million people already had gotten a third shot weeks before the Biden administration announced plans for a booster. And many others will likely fail to get their boosters because of inattention, indifference or misinformation.

White House health officials said they issued the booster recommendation in reaction to studies showing waning protection against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, over time. That and the dominance of The Delta variant prompted the booster decision, they said.

Sunday 5:36 a.m. Two U.S. state government websites in Georgia recently stopped posting updates on COVID-19 cases in prisons and long-term care facilities, just as the dangerous Delta variant was taking hold.

Data has been disappearing recently in other states as well.

Florida, for example, now reports COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations once a week, instead of daily, as before.

Both states, along with the rest of the South, are battling high infection rates.

Public health experts are voicing concern about the pullback of COVID-19 information. Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the trend “not good for government and the public” because it gives the appearance of governments “hiding stuff.”

A month ago, the Georgia agency that runs state prisons stopped giving public updates on the number of new COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff members. The Department of Corrections, in explaining this decision, cited its successful vaccination rates and “a declining number of COVID-19 cases among staff and inmates.”

Now, a month later, Georgia has among the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S. — along with one of the lowest vaccination rates. But the corrections department hasn’t resumed posting case data on its website.

When asked by KHN about the COVID-19 situation in prisons, department spokesperson Joan Heath said last Monday that it currently has 308 active cases among inmates.

“We will make a determination whether to begin reposting the daily COVID-19 dashboard over the next few weeks, if the current statewide surge is sustained,” Heath said.

Another state website, run by the Department of Public Health, no longer links to a listing of the number of COVID-19 cases among residents and staffers of nursing homes and other long-term care residences by facility. The data grid, launched early in the pandemic, gave a running total of long-term care cases and deaths from the virus.

Asked about the lack of online information, public health officials directed a reporter to another agency, the Department of Community Health, which explained that COVID-19 information on nursing homes could be found on a federal health website. But locating and navigating that link can be difficult.

“Residents and families cannot easily find this information,” said Melanie McNeil, the state’s long-term care ombudsman. “It used to be easily accessible.”

Georgia gives updates on overall numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state five days a week but has recently stopped its weekend COVID-19 reporting.

Other states also have cut back their public case reporting, despite the nation being engulfed in a fourth, delta-driven COVID-19 surge.

Florida had issued daily reports on cases, deaths and hospitalizations until the rate of positive test results dropped in June. Even when caseloads soared in July and August, the state stuck with weekly reporting.

Florida has been accused of being less than transparent with COVID-19 health data. Newspapers have sued or threatened to sue the state several times for medical examiner reports, long-term care data, prison data and weekly COVID-19 reports the state received from the White House.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor in 2022, has repeatedly questioned Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to delay the release of public data on COVID-19 cases and has called for restoring daily reporting of COVID-19 data.

Nebraska discontinued its daily COVID-19 dashboard June 30, then recently resumed reporting, but only weekly. Iowa also reports weekly; Michigan, three days a week.

Public health experts said full information is vital for a public dealing with an emergency such as the pandemic — similar to the government reports needed during a hurricane.

“All the public health things we do are dependent on trust and transparency,” Benjamin said.

Saturday 3:31 p.m.: In Crescent City, Calif., the mortuary is filled beyond capacity and needs a refrigerated truck to hold bodies. The small hospital is so full that it is lining up helicopters to fly COVID-19 patients out of remote Del Norte County. So many employees are out with coronavirus infections that businesses have closed.

Deaths in Del Norte County from COVID-19 have more than doubled in recent weeks, from 10 on Aug. 15 to 22 on Friday. Four people died in a single day, officials said.

A year and a half into the pandemic — and eight months since highly effective vaccines became available — COVID-19 is surging across rural California, where inoculation rates are low, more intensely than it ever has before.

Del Norte County health officials believe there is an undercount in the number of people who have died from COVID-19 and that some never made it to the hospital. The coroner is investigating.

“This has been our worst fear,” State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, who represents seven counties stretching from Marin to Del Norte, told the Los Angeles Times. “We saw significant surges in urban areas in this state early on. Now, rural California is the epicentre for this pandemic.”