The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
5:30 am President Joe Biden’s administration is taking steps to expand availability of the life-saving COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, seeking to reassure doctors that there is ample supply for people at high risk of severe illness or death from the virus.
Paxlovid, produced by Pfizer, was first approved in December. Supply of the regimen was initially very limited, but COVID-19 cases across the country have failed and manufacturing has increased. The White House is now moving to raise awareness of the pill and taking steps to make it easier to access.
The White House said Tuesday it is stepping up outreach to doctors, letting them know they shouldn’t think twice about prescribing the pill to eligible patients. Also, the drug will now be distributed directly to pharmacies, in addition to existing distribution channels run by states. That is expected to increase the number of sites from 20,000 to more than 30,000 next week and eventually to 40,000 locations.
5:25 a.m. When the White House announced Kamala Harris’ health status on Tuesday, the terse five-sentence statement from her press secretary, Kirsten Allen, encapsulated something of the current US coronavirus posture neatly.
“Today, Vice President Harris tested positive for COVID-19 on rapid and PCR tests. She has exhibited no symptoms, will isolate and continue to work from the vice president’s residence, ”the statement began her. She said she hadn’t recently had close contact with the president due to travel schedules.
There were immediate news alerts, but the cable news channels didn’t turn to the Veep’s diagnosis for long before returning to Ukraine, Alec Baldwin, and Elon Musk buying Twitter.
That relative shrug at Harris’ news mirrors the broader approach to the COVID situation, in which the virus continues to circulate in the US, clearly even among the vaccinated and boosted. In DC within the past six weeks, the list of movers and shakers who’ve contracted the illness after all of this time includes the Speaker of the House of Representativesthe mayor of washingtonand the president’s press secretary (for a second time). But mask requirements in most places are all but a memory, freely available at-home antigen tests have largely begun replacing official PCR testing for most suspected cases, and isolation protocols have been greatly relaxed. For weeks, Congress has been delaying passage of renewed funding to fight COVID.
Read more from the Star’s Edward Keenan.
5:15 a.m. Driven by problems exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, election battle lines have been drawn over the future of long-term care, how the places that house the elderly will look in the coming years, and who will own them.
With the NDP and Liberals promising wholesale reform to more and smaller, home-like facilities and Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives improving care levels and expanding the existing system to reduce waiting lists, voters in Ontario’s June 2 election are facing clear choices.
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath wasted no time Tuesday taking shots at the Liberal plan first reported by the Star, which, like hers, includes more home care to keep seniors in their own homes longer and spending billions to buy out for-profit operators, many of which had higher COVID death rates.
Read more from the Star’s Rob Ferguson.
5 am Shanghai city authorities said Wednesday they will start rounds of COVID-19 testing over the next few days to determine which neighborhoods can safely be allowed a limited amount of freedom of movement, as residents in Beijing watch carefully on word for whether the capital city will lock down.
On Wednesday, China reported 14,222 new cases, the vast majority of which were asymptomatic. The country is battling its largest outbreak since the pandemic was first reported in Wuhan in late December 2019.
Shanghai’s vice head of its health committee, Zhao Dandan, announced Wednesday that the city would begin another round of testing for city residents over the next few days to determine which districts were lower risk. Areas that have been declared to have achieved “societal zero COVID” could see some measure of limited freedom.
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