COVID-19 update for June 17: COVID-19 update for June 17: B.C. reports 50 deaths in a week | U.S. approves vaccines for kids aged 6 months to five years | China defends ‘zero-COVID’ strategy

Here’s your update with everything you need to know on the coronavirus situation in B.C. and around the world.

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Here’s your update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for the week of June 16-22, 2022.

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We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly every day this week, with developments added as they happen, so be sure to check back often.

You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.

Here are the latest B.C. figures given on June 16 for June 4 – June 11:

• Hospitalized cases: 276
• Intensive care: 19
• New cases: 726 over seven days
• Total number of confirmed cases: 373,366
• Total deaths over seven days: 50 (total 3,682)

Read the full report here

Headlines at a glance

• The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months.
• B.C. reports 50 more deaths, 276 hospitalized from June 4-11.
• Some Canadian mayors urge Ottawa to scrap the ArriveCan app
• The government has lifted the vaccine mandate for public servants and suspended unvaxxed workers are not going to get reimbursed.
• U.S. FDA advisers back COVID vaccines for infants and toddlers
• Ottawa had to throw out nearly 15 million doses of expired COVID-19 vaccine doses
• Got COVID again? Here’s a good Q&A about reinfections and immunity.
• COVID reading surge is here to say, says Harry Potter publisher
• Ottawa has announce the end of vaccine requirements for domestic travel and outbound international flights, as well as federally regulated workers.
• Canada’s travel industry calls for more measures to end airport gridlock.
• No need to panic about COVID reinfection, says UBC health expert after PM Justin Trudeau test positive again.

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U.S. FDA authorizes COVID vaccines for youngest children

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months, opening the door for vaccinating millions of the youngest American children.

The agency authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for children aged 6 months to 4 years of age, and Moderna Inc’s shot for those aged 6 months to 17 years old.

The shots could be rolled out for the under 5 age groups as early as next week, White House officials have said.

But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first needs to make its recommendation on use of the shots. A CDC advisory panel is scheduled to meet on Friday and Saturday.

— Reuters

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B.C. reports 50 more deaths, 276 hospitalized

The latest figures on COVID-19 in British Columbia show 276 people are hospitalized with the illness, with 19 people in critical care.

In its weekly report, the BC Centre for Disease Control recorded 50 deaths linked to COVID-19 during the week ending June 11, down from 57 the week before.

This brings the death toll to 2,682 since the pandemic began.

Since April, B.C. has been reporting all deaths from any cause when the person died within 30 days of a positive COVID-19 test result, while the centre says it will do retrospective evaluations to better understand “true” COVID-19 mortality.

Thursday’s weekly report says 189 people were admitted to hospital between June 5 and 11, downfrom 246 the week before, though the centre notes the numbers may increase as data is updated.

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It says 726 new laboratory-confirmed cases were reported during that same week, down from 894, though current case counts do not include positive results from at-home rapid tests.

Canadian Press

China defends ‘zero-COVID’ after US envoy warns of costs

China on Friday defended its tough “zero-COVID” policy after the U.S. ambassador said it was causing serious damage to the global economy and foreign business sentiment.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the Chinese economy is recovering from the effects of the pandemic and “facts prove” the policy mandating lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing is “suitable for China’s national conditions and has stood the test of history.”

“We have full confidence that (we can) contain the epidemic, steady the economy and achieve the goal of safe economic development,” Wang said at a daily briefing.

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China has sought to completely eliminate outbreaks of COVID-19 with tough restrictions, while most other countries are relaxing their anti-coronavirus measures to “live with” the disease.

Ambassador Nicholas Burns said on Thursday that the “zero-COVID” policy has “had a major impact” on business sentiment, singling out as especially damaging a two-month lockdown in Shanghai, China’s largest city and key financial hub.

— Reuters

B.C. to release latest COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths today

The BC CDC will release its weekly look at the COVID-19 situation in B.C., with the latest hospitalization count, ICU numbers, deaths and new cases. The report is released around 1 p.m. every Thursday. Watch this space for updates.

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Bid bon voyage to ArriveCan travel requirement, mayors of border cities urge Ottawa

WASHINGTON — It’s time to bid farewell to the ArriveCan app, say border-city mayors, tourism industry leaders and others who complain Canada’s stringent COVID-19 rules for international travellers are encouraging would-be U.S. visitors to spend their tourist dollars at home.

Two Ontario mayors whose cities depend on cross-border tourism — Sarnia’s Mike Bradley and Jim Diodati of Niagara Falls — urged the federal government Wednesday to stop requiring travellers to navigate a preclearance process many find frustrating and confusing.

“I learned a long time ago — I’ve been in politics a long time: when you’re riding a dead horse, dismount,” Bradley told a news conference in Ottawa.

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“That’s what the federal government needs to do.”

Bradley, Diodati and Estelle Muzzi, mayor of the Quebec border community of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle south of Montreal, as well as advocates for duty-free store operators, say the rules are a drag on incidental cross-border visits, which they say are vital for their local economies.

Adding insult to injury, they say, is the fact that similar rules don’t exist for travellers entering the U.S., especially now that Ottawa is lifting the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for domestic and outbound international travel.

Canadian and foreign visitors aiming to enter Canada must continue to use the app or an online portal to submit their vaccination information to the Canada Border Services Agency ahead of time, a rule Diodati said has outlived its usefulness.

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— The Canadian Press

Salaries of suspended unvaccinated bureaucrats will ‘absolutely not’ be reimbursed, federal minister says

The Trudeau government says it will not repay any salary to federal public servants who were suspended since October because of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc gave an unexpectedly direct answer when asked Wednesday if the government would reimburse lost wages to public servants who refused to get two COVID-19 shots before the Oct. 6, 2021, deadline imposed by his government.

“Absolutely not,” he told reporters before briskly walking away as he exited a weekly caucus meeting.

His government announced Tuesday that it was lifting the vaccine mandate for federal public servants (as well as those for domestic travellers) that forced all workers who were not considered “fully vaccinated” to be put on unpaid leave until June 20.

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As of March 29, 1,828 employees were on unpaid leave due to the vaccination policy, according to numbers shared by Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) with public sector unions in April.

Read the full story here.

— National Post

U.S. FDA advisers back COVID vaccines for children as young as 6 months

Advisers to the U.S Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday unanimously recommended the agency authorize COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE for millions of the youngest American children.

The committee’s recommendation is an important step toward immunizing children under the age of 5 and as young as 6 months old who have not yet been eligible for the shots.

The FDA is likely to authorize the shots soon. The U.S. government is planning for a June 21 start to its under-5 vaccination campaign should the vaccines receive FDA authorization, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said last week.

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COVID-19 is generally more mild in children than adults, but FDA officials told the panel that the number of U.S. COVID deaths so far in small children – roughly 442 under age 5 – “compared terribly” to the 78 deaths reported during the swine flu pandemic of 2019-2010.

— Reuters

Nearly 15 million doses of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccines have expired

OTTAWA — The federal government had to throw out nearly 15 million expired COVID-19 vaccine doses, including nearly 14 million AstraZeneca shots donated to the COVAX vaccine sharing alliance last year.

According to a document tabled in the House of Commons last week, the government disposed of roughly 1.2 million doses of Moderna vaccines that expired either in mid-March or mid-April this year.

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But that wastage is just a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly 13.6 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines that the government donated to other countries last year and that sat in the manufacturer’s warehouses until they expired, according to new data provided to the National Post by Health Canada.

That is because, despite a series of donations being proudly announced by the Trudeau government back in July 2021 (including 17.7 million doses of AstraZeneca), it turns out that global vaccine sharing alliance COVAX was already awash in AstraZeneca when Canada’s doses were donated.

Read the full story here.

— National Post

Why we may never stop getting COVID: What we know about reinfections and immunity

“I feel okay,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured Canadians Monday while sharing his second COVID-19 positive test since January, joining growing numbers reporting repeated tangles with COVID.

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“He’s not alone,” said Dr. Catherine Hankins, co-chair of Canada’s Immunity Task Force. Nearly nine million adults in Canada had been infected with “parental” Omicron, BA.1, by mid-March, according to task force-funded research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Most people who got BA.1 might have thought, ‘I’m good now for a bit.’ But it depends on what the virus throws at us,” Hankins said, and SARS-CoV-2 has proven gifted at reinfecting people by mutating and darting around immunity from vaccines and previous infections.

COVID infections also don’t always jog the immune system. Another study funded by Hankins’ group found that one in eight people with COVID did not develop detectable antibodies.

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The only predictor of an inability to create antibodies? No fever or chills.

“We will probably never stop getting COVID,” said Matthew Miller, holder of the Canada Research Chair in viral pandemics at Hamilton’s McMaster University. How often we get reinfected will depend how quickly SARS-CoV-2 mutates in the future and how long immunity lasts, he said.

Read the full story here.

— National Post

Harry Potter publisher says COVID reading surge is here to stay

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc said the surge in reading during lockdown in Britain is the new normal post-pandemic as the company, best known for the Harry Potter series, reported record revenue.

Full-year sales climbed 24% to to £230.1 million ($277 million) and profit jumped 40% as people continued to buy novels and books related to hobbies and personal interests, the company said in a statement on Wednesday, beating analyst estimates.

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Shares in Bloomsbury rose more than 6% in early trading in London. The publisher’s sales and profit are also up significantly on two years ago before the Covid-19 virus spread around the world forcing people to stay at home and shops to temporarily close.

Bloomsbury said Covid has converted many people into regular readers and book-buyers, even as social lives return to normal, and its sales in the first quarter of the current fiscal year are solid.

“The pandemic made us all re-evaluate how we spend our time and this has resulted in an increase in sales of books,” Bloomsbury Chief Executive Nigel Newton said in the statement. “The surge in reading, which seemed to be one of the only rays of light in the darkest days of the pandemic is perhaps now being revealed as permanent.”

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— Bloomberg

Federal vaccine mandates to be suspended for domestic, outbound travellers

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the Canadian government will suspend COVID-19 vaccine mandates for domestic and outbound international travellers and federally regulated workers.

The new rules will come into effect on June 20, though the requirements for foreign nationals coming to Canada will not change.

Intergovernmental affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc warns the government is prepared to “bring back” necessary policies if there’s a resurgence of the virus in the fall.

Travel industry groups have blamed federal public health measures and mandates for slowdowns at airport customs that have contributed to long waits for passengers and forced flight delays and cancellations.

LeBlanc says the decision to drop the federal mandate is not a response to the situation at Canada’s airports but rather is “based on science.”

The change will also affect federal workers who have been put on unpaid leave because of their vaccination status.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

More steps needed beyond suspended COVID-19 testing to ease delays: travel industry

Ottawa’s suspension of randomized COVID-19 testing at customs marks a major shift toward clearing clogged terminals, but more measures are needed to end airport gridlock, industry groups say.

Wait times and tarmac delays for arriving flights at large airports improved immediately after the move went into effect Saturday, according to the Canadian Airports Council and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

“We’re very encouraged by the news. It’s a big step forward in addressing the delay issues,” council head Monette Pasher said in an interview Monday.

“But there’s still a lot more work to do, as there were still gate holds, albeit for shorter periods of time. In our business we never want to see people waiting on the tarmac.”

On Friday, Ottawa announced it would pause COVID-19 tests of inbound international passengers selected at random, and that mandatory rapid tests for unvaccinated arrivals will happen off-site starting July 1.

The airports council and other industry groups are now calling for an end to vaccine mandates for passengers and aviation, security and customs employees, saying that hundreds more workers could be back on the job amid a labour crunch.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

UBC medical professor says no need to panic over COVID reinfection

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An expert says Canadians don’t need to panic about COVID-19 reinfections even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tested positive a second time for the virus.

Stephen Hoption Cann, a clinical professor with the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine, says it’s difficult to say how prevalent reinfections are because data is limited.

He says it should be expected people can get COVID-19 again — just like Trudeau, who said in a Twitter post Monday that he was isolating and feeling “OK.”

“The variant currently (circulating) does cause people to get hospitalized at a lower rate,” said Hoption Cann. ”The real concern is not that you get infected, but you get reinfected and develop a severe illness from that infection.”

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Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

What are B.C.’s current public health measures?

MASKS: Masks are not required in public indoor settings though individual businesses and event organizers can choose to require them.

Masks are also encouraged but not required on board public transit and B.C. Ferries, though they are still required in federally regulated travel spaces such as trains, airports and airplanes, and in health care settings.

GATHERINGS AND EVENTS: There are currently no restrictions on gatherings and events such as personal gatherings, weddings, funerals, worship services, exercise and fitness activities, and swimming pools.

There are also no restrictions or capacity limits on restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs; and no restrictions on sport activities.

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CARE HOMES: There are no capacity restrictions on visitors to long-term care and seniors’ assisted living facilities, however, visitors must show proof of vaccination before visiting. Exemptions are available for children under the age of 12, those with a medical exemption, and visitors attending for compassionate visits related to end-of-life.

Visitors to seniors’ homes are also required to take a rapid antigen test before visiting the facility or be tested on arrival. Exemptions to testing are available for those attending for compassionate visits or end-of-life care.

How do I get vaccinated in B.C.?

Everyone who is living in B.C. and eligible for a vaccine can receive one by following these steps:

• Get registered online at to book an appointment in your community.
• Or, if you prefer, you can get registered and then visit a drop-in clinic in your health authority.
• The system will alert you when it is time to go for your second dose.
• The same system will also alert you when it is time for your booster dose.

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Where can I get a COVID-19 test?

TESTING CENTRES: B.C.’s COVID-19 test collection centres are currently only testing those with symptoms who are hospitalized, pregnant, considered high risk or live/work with those who are high risk. You can find a testing centre using the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s testing centre map.

If you have mild symptoms, you do not need a test and should stay home until your fever is gone. Those without symptoms do not need a test.

TAKE-HOME RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS: Eligible British Columbians over the age of 18 with a personal health number can visit a pharmacy to receive a free take-home test kit containing five COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.

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