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Today’s coronavirus news: Former talk show host Larry King hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles; Ontario reports two-day total of 5,839 COVID cases, 95 deaths

Posted: January 3, 2021

(January 2, 2021)

By: Star Staff, Toronto Star

6:56 p.m.: Former talk show host Larry King is reportedly hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles.

King, 87, is being treated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, ABC News reported Saturday.

The Brooklyn born King hosted “Larry King Live” on CNN from 1985 to 2010 and more recently, helmed “Larry King Now” on Ora TV.

King’s health woes have been well documented. He has suffered cardiac problems going back to 1987, had lung cancer in 2017, angioplasty and a stroke in 2019.

The oft-married King is in the process of divorcing his seventh wife, Shawn King, who is 26 years his junior.

King’s most recent Twitter post was Nov. 26, when he shared an image of himself and his two sons while wearing a black Los Angeles Dodgers hat.

“Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for my boys,” he wrote.

King suffered a double tragedy last summer when two of his children died. His son Andy died of a heart attack at age 65, and his daughter Chaia died of cancer at 51.

A representative for King did not reply to a Daily News request for comment.

6:16 p.m.: India has followed the U.K. and granted emergency approval for the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford, the first step in its plan to inoculate citizens in the country that’s home to the world’s second-largest COVID-19 outbreak.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar said the AstraZeneca shot being produced locally by the Serum Institute of India Ltd. — the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume — was approved Friday.

“India is possibly the only country where four vaccine candidates are ready.” Javdekar said at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s briefing on Saturday in New Delhi. “Yesterday one vaccine has been approved for emergency use, Serum’s Covishield.”

The Drugs Controller General of India has yet to formally announce the approval. Serum has an agreement with AstraZeneca to roll out at least 1 billion doses and has already made millions of shots. The move came just days after the U.K. regulator gave clearance to the vaccine, which is to roll out to Britain’s most vulnerable groups from Monday.

The approval means India can begin to vaccinate its population of about 1.3 billion. That’s a daunting task given the country’s vast territory, limited infrastructure and patchy health networks. The South Asian nation already has more than 10.2 million confirmed infections and as many as 149,000 deaths.

5:02 p.m.: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday he can see “brighter days” ahead in the state’s long COVID-19 battle, reporting the current statewide positive-test rate ticked down slightly, as did a daily number of those who died from the virus.

But, he warned, even with a vaccine distribution beginning, New York is still “months” from reaching “critical mass.”

“With 2020 now behind us, we can see brighter days ahead, but to get there quickly, it’s going to take all New Yorkers staying smart and staying united,” he said.

“We have the vaccine, and that is good news, but it will be months before we’ve reached critical mass, making it as important as ever that we do not let COVID fatigue get the best of us.”

According to the latest data, the statewide COVID-19 positivity rate on Saturday was 7.45per cent, with 7,814 people hospitalized across the state — 1,321 of them critically ill and in ICUs, and 786 of them intubated.

The statewide rate was 7.52per cent on Friday, when 128 people died of COVID-19 in the state. On Thursday, 166 people died around the state.

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New York City’s picture was bleaker, with a positive coronavirus test average at 6.17per cent on Friday — up from Thursday’s 5.85per cent rate; Long Island had an 8.82per cent average, up from 8.42per cent on Thursday.

Within the city, every borough’s positive testing rate has been rising over the Wednesday through Friday period, with the Bronx at the high end Friday, with a 7.65per cent positivity rate, and Manhattan at the lower end, with a 3.8per cent positivity rate.

5:01 p.m.: Britain on Saturday recorded more new coronavirus infections in a single day than ever before, registering over 57,700 cases within 24 hours, many of which are attributed to a possibly more contagious virus strain that is particularly rampant in London.

In the same period, 445 virus-related deaths were also recorded. So far, Britain has announced a death toll of over 82,600 since the pandemic began.

Hospitals in London are starting to reach the limits of their capacity, according to media reports. Patients are being put up in corridors or must wait for hours in an ambulance until a bed is free.

The president of the Royal College of Physicians, Andrew Goddard, advised hospitals nationwide to prepare for similar conditions.

“This new variant is definitely more contagious and spreading across the country,” he told the BBC.

5 p.m.: Two Atlantic provinces reported double-digit increases in COVID-19 cases on Saturday.

After more than a month of single-digit case numbers, health authorities in New Brunswick reported ten new cases on Saturday, while Nova Scotia logged 13.

New Brunswick’s infections are in the Fredericton region, and all patients are self-isolating, according to a news release sent Saturday by the province’s Department of Health.

“We are concerned to see such a high spike in cases in one day, but we suspect a number of these cases are connected,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said in the release. “We are currently undergoing rigorous contact tracing to confirm.”

Officials are assessing the situation to see if further action is needed to control the spread, Russell said.

Half the new cases affect young people, with three patients under 19 and two in their 20s. The remaining five cases affect one person each in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. New Brunswick has 34 active infections with one person in intensive care.

Across the Bay of Fundy, health authorities in Nova Scotia reported 13 new COVID-19 infections. In a release, officials said 11 infections were confirmed on New Year’s Day and two were confirmed on Saturday.

“The first few days of 2021 show that we can’t let our guard down when it comes to COVID-19,” Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said in the release.

All but one of the 13 infections have been traced to previously known cases or travel outside Atlantic Canada, the release said. The source of the remaining infection is under investigation.

3:57 p.m.: Saskatchewan is reporting 485 new COVID-19 cases over the past two days, along with three new deaths. The province says that as of today, 3,722 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to health-care workers in Regina and Saskatoon. It says with the arrival of 4,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine, the Far North Central and far North West regions will begin vaccinating priority populations on Monday. The government says 160 people are in hospital with COVID-19, with 33 of those in intensive care.

Manitoba officials are reporting 11 deaths from COVID-19 over the past two days. The province says in its daily pandemic update that 326 new cases of the virus were identified between 9:30 a.m. on Thursday and 9:30 a.m. today. The province did not issue an update on New Year’s Day. The province says the five-day test positivity rate is 10.4 per cent. There are 239 patients with active COVID-19 in Manitoba hospitals, 36 of whom are in intensive care.

2:10 p.m.: New York state passed one million COVID-19 cases, after a sombre year in which more than 30,000 of its residents died from the virus.

More than a third of the state’s total cases were reported in December as cold weather nudged people indoors, holidays increased social gatherings and residents tired of restrictions. On the first day of 2021, the U.S. surpassed 20 million COVID-19 cases — twice as many as the second-ranking nation, India.

Governor Andrew Cuomo reported 15,074 new infections, short of New York’s pandemic record of 16,802 cases reached two days ago. Another 128 people in the state died of causes related to COVID-19, Cuomo said on Saturday. The statewide positive-test rate declined slightly to 7.45 per cent.

2:05 p.m. (updated): Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says there were an estimated 900 new COVID-19 cases recorded in the province on New Year’s Day. Dr. Deena Hinshaw did not give an update on the number of new COVID-19 deaths in the province. Hinshaw says there was an estimated seven per cent test positivity on about 12,700 labratory tests. She says the number of people with COVID-19 in hospitals and intensive care was stable.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Nova Scotia are reporting 13 new cases of COVID-19. They say five of the new cases are at Churchill Academy, a private school in Dartmouth, near Halifax. With two cases previously reported at the school, the latest numbers bring the total known infections there to seven. Nova Scotia now has 27 active cases of COVID-19.

Health authorities in New Brunswick are reporting 10 new cases. Officials say the new infections are in the Fredericton region and all patients are self-isolating. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says the spike in new cases is concerning, but public health suspects a number of the new cases are connected. Russell says contact tracing is underway to find out.

In New Brunswick, health authorities say there are 10 new cases of COVID-19. Officials say the new cases are in the Fredericton region and all patients are self-isolating. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says the spike is concerning, but public health authorities suspect a number of the new cases are connected.

1 p.m.: It’s time for the Ontario government to bring the military into long-term-care homes, the Canadian Union of Public Employees says.

With growing COVID-19 outbreaks in the province’s care homes, “We are tragically losing the battle to protect long-term care residents,” CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer Candace Rennick said in a news release. “The homes and staff are on the verge of total crisis and collapse.”

The union is joining the Ontario Health Coalition in asking the Ford government to send the military into the hardest hit homes, as it did during the first wave of the virus.

But it also called military intervention a temporary solution, saying the Conservative government must ramp up long-term-care reforms, including immediately ending the practice of keeping residents with COVID in the same facilities as uninfected residents; ensuring all staff are properly equipped; immediately increasing staff compensation and access to full-time jobs; providing paid tuition and compensation for training of long-term-care workers so additional staff can be trained and recruited more quickly; and ending the expansion of for-profit beds.

12:25 p.m.: The International Air Transport Association has issued a statement expressing “deep frustration” with Canada’s new COVID-19 testing requirement for air travellers, asking the federal government to put the tests on hold.

As of Jan. 7, all travellers flying into Canada must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction or PCR test taken within 72 hours before their planned departure for Canada.

The association calls it “callous and impractical to impose this new requirement on travellers at such short notice,” and says it’s “completely unrealistic” to make airlines check passengers’ compliance with the new rule.

“Canada already has one the world’s most draconian COVID-19 border control regimes, including travel bans and quarantines,” the IATA said in its news release.

It cited the fact there are no plans to adjust the 14-day quarantine requirement faced by arriving flyers or eliminate the temperature checks airlines now conduct on incoming passengers. It also says the PCR test is not readily available in many countries.

The association is asking the federal government to put the rule on hold until new testing requirements can be co-ordinated with the airline industry, with “a well-planned and co-ordinated introduction of testing” replacing quarantine measures.

10:50 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 5,839 new cases over the last two days, with a total of 95 deaths, reports Ed Tubb. There were 3,363 new cases in Ontario today, and 2,476 cases yesterday.

Ontario did not release its COVID-19 figures on New Year’s Day.

Today, there are 713 new cases in Peel, 700 in Toronto, 395 in York Region, 226 in Windsor-Essex County and 171 in Hamilton.

The 7-day average is at a record 2,655 cases daily, or 128 weekly per 100,000.

61,401 tests were completed on January 1, and 70,570 on December 31, Health Minister Christine Elliott wrote on Twitter.

More to come.

10:20 a.m.: GTA education workers are holding a car caravan on Saturday afternoon outside Queen’s Park.

Starting at 1 p.m. at Hart House, they plan to circle the legislature with dozens of decorated vehicles to demand full support for all workers during the three-week school closures that begin Monday.

“The only way this lockdown will keep us all safe is if families and workers throughout the province get paid sick leave, easy-to-access rent and income support for caregivers, a ban on evictions and status for all migrant workers,” said Melanie Wilson, a Bloor Collegiate teacher who helped organize the caravan, in a statement.

Rachel Huot, a member of the Ontario Parent Action Network who spoke at the rally, said Ontario’s rising COVID-19 case counts and deaths show that, without sufficient supports for parents and families, school closures alone are “a public health and education disaster.”

“Closing schools without giving every parent the sick-leave and caregiver protections they need is a direct attack on the very workers and families working so hard to keep us all safe,” she said in a news release.

10 a.m.: Almost 30 per cent of Canadians say their cannabis usage has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a September poll for Mental Health Research Canada.

The poll also found that anxiety levels have quadrupled and depression has doubled amongst Canadians since the pandemic began.

Dr. Susy Hota, an infection and prevention control specialist at University Health Network, said it’s worth investigating whether there’s a connection between the two findings.

Hota pointed to the increase in cannabis usage as possibly having a ripple effect on other health issues.

“With the pandemic, people are just avoiding care right now and mental illness is going untreated and unidentified,” Hota said. “I could see phases folding in front of us having to deal with disregarded and undermanaged health problems and this could be one of them.”

10 a.m.: The windswept foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains are the setting for a pilot project using drones to deliver medical supplies and personal protective equipment to remote communities.

Researchers at the University of Calgary, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), Alberta Health Services and Alberta Precision Laboratories partnered with the three reserves that are part of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation last summer.

A large drone, looking very much like a small helicopter and able to carry up to 45 kilograms, delivered equipment and COVID-19 test kits on its maiden voyage to the Morley reserve west of Calgary.

The project was the brainchild of Wade Hawkins, lead researcher at SAIT’s Centre for Innovation and Research in Unmanned Systems, and Dr. John Conly, medical director of the Cumming School of Medicine’s research and innovation centre.

“We think that the sky is the limit, literally, for this type of technology, marrying drones with … medical supply delivery,” Conly said.

9:50 a.m.: Funeral services will be held Saturday for a Louisiana congressman-elect who died from COVID-19 complications. Republican Luke Letlow died Tuesday. He was 41, and his swearing-in had been scheduled Sunday.

His funeral will be at North Monroe Baptist Church, The News-Star reported.

The family said all COVID-19 restrictions will be followed and masks will be required. .

9:35 a.m.: Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin has died after contracting the coronavirus, Senate Republicans said Friday.

Chafin represented southwest Virginia and was from Russell County. A Republican, he was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2013 and then moved to the state Senate in 2014. He was 60.

Chafin is the first Virginia lawmaker to die from the virus.

9 a.m.: California started the new year by reporting a record 585 coronavirus deaths in a single day.

The state Department of Public Health said Friday there were more than 47,000 new confirmed cases reported, bringing the total to more than 2.29 million.

Hospitals in the state ended the year on “the brink of catastrophe,” a health official said as the pandemic pushed deaths and sickness to staggering levels and some medical centres scrambled to provide oxygen for the critically ill.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced Friday that California would begin collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate and upgrade outdated oxygen delivery systems at six Los Angeles area hospitals.

California this week became the third state to exceed 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

9 a.m.: The British government is facing growing calls to keep all schools in England closed for at least two weeks as a result of surging coronavirus cases following another sudden reversal of policy.

The call from the National Education Union came after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson changed tack and said all schools for younger pupils in London should remain shut next week as the capital battles with high levels of infections.

Mary Bousted, the union’s joint head, said the decision was “entirely necessary” but slammed the government for originally planning to allow some schools to reopen in areas where new infections were running high.

The U.K. is in the midst of a sharp spike in new coronavirus cases that many have blamed on a new virus variant that is said to be up to 70per cent more infectious.

7 a.m.: As the global economy crumbled, and automotive sales around the world plunged during the COVID-19 pandemic, Guelph-based auto parts maker Linamar was feeling flush with cash.

So much so that at the end the third quarter, it announced it was doubling its dividend, from six cents per share, to 12 cents. That move meant Linamar would now be paying its shareholders almost $8 million every three months.

Boosting the dividend after seeing earnings rise at the same time sales fell would ordinarily seem like a reasonable manoeuvre. But the increased dividend comes at a time when Linamar has also been collecting a federal wage subsidy. Through the first three quarters of the year, Linamar has collected $108.1 million in the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), while paying out a total of $15.7 million in dividends.

Moving taxpayer money into shareholders’ pockets is not what CEWS was meant to accomplish. But, say economists and accounting experts, that’s exactly what has happened, both with Linamar and a host of other Canadian corporations.

7 a.m.: Amber Goss wanted to be the first in line when a primary-care clinic in her city started accepting new patients.

At 8 a.m., Goss was ready. The website wasn’t. By 8:01 a.m., it had crashed. It stayed down all day.

“I had a kind of ‘Oh well, that’s 2020’ moment,” she said. “I was surprised at how long the website was down. But when I thought about it I thought, ‘This is a clinic website, this is not a site that’s designed for high traffic.’”

The incident underscored a reality across Canada today: Five million Canadians, like Goss, don’t have a family doctor — but that doesn’t mean they’re being left out in the cold.

Those patients, and others, are increasingly willing to meet their doctors and other care providers online, the way they have been interacting with their banks and travel-booking services for more than a decade.

While individual doctors and clinics catch up on how to provide virtual visits for the first time, one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies has moved to fill the gap, working with a U.K. tech company with the lofty goal of using technology to make health care accessible to everyone.

7 a.m.: Love knows no boundaries — even during a global pandemic. At least it didn’t for Frederick Paul and Florence Harvey.

The high school sweethearts first met seven decades ago in Wandsworth, Newfoundland, when Frederick, as a young man, would flicker his porch light before going to bed every night.

Both “downhomers” went on to marry other people and build families over five-plus decades.

Frederick, 84, lost his first wife, Helen, to multiple health challenges that ended with dementia in 2019. Florence, 81, lost her first husband, Len, to cancer in 2017.

But time passed and hearts were healing.

In February, Valentine’s Day, to be exact, Florence reached out by telephone to Frederick to extend her support, having heard the news of his wife’s death.

7 a.m.: A lot happened in the business world while we were all under lockdown this year. How closely did you pay attention?

6:45 a.m.: South Korea will extend stringent distancing rules for two more weeks to suppress a viral resurgence, as it confirmed its first cases of an apparently more contagious variant of COVID-19.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said Saturday the second highest level of distancing rules, called “Tier-2.5,” will remain in place in the greater Seoul region until Jan. 17. He says the third highest level of restrictions will be maintained in other areas until then.

South Korea reported 824 new cases, raising the national tally to 62,593 with 942 deaths. It’s the first time for the country’s daily tally has fallen below 800 since Dec. 28.

6:45 a.m.: Australia’s leading medical group says the New South Wales state government has put the rest of the country at risk by its decision not to go “hard and early” in its response to the COVID-19 outbreak on Sydney’s northern beaches, which is suspected to have also caused new cases in neighbouring Victoria state.

On Saturday, Victoria recorded 10 new local cases, bringing active cases in the state to 29. Trace testing has linked the new Melbourne coronavirus cluster to the New South Wales outbreak.

Australian Medical Association Vice-President Chris Moy said the New South Wales government was “playing the odds” by relying heavily on its contact tracing system instead of imposing a quick lockdown to stop the spread across Sydney.

“They have put themselves and put the rest of the country at risk,” Moy told Fairfax Media. “I can completely understand why Victoria has reacted (by) closing the border very quickly, because they are very worried about this.”

6:30 a.m.: The Dutch government announced Saturday that it will begin vaccinating thousands of front-line health care workers as soon as possible to ease pressure on hospitals hit by coronavirus-related staffing shortages.

The announcement marked an abrupt change to a policy of beginning vaccinations on Jan. 8 that had drawn criticism for leaving the Netherlands lagging behind other countries that have already begun.

“The worrying situation in acute care is in part due to the illness of care workers, often corona-related,” the government said in a statement. “Acute care staff will, therefore, be part of the first group that is eligible for vaccination.”

The Netherlands is in the midst of a five-week tough lockdown imposed when infection rates were spiking across the country. In recent days, infection rates have been edging lower; on Friday, 8,215 people tested positive for COVID-19.

Friday 9 p.m.: A prominent member of the federal New Democrats has lost her cabinet critic roles after travelling to Greece in spite of widespread travel restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The party released a statement saying Manitoba member of Parliament Niki Ashton travelled to Greece recently to visit a family member who was seriously ill.

Ashton is one of a growing list of Canadian politicians in hot water this week for travelling abroad during the pandemic.

  • Rod Phillips resigned as Ontario’s finance minister Thursday after returning from a Caribbean vacation.
  • Tracy Allard, Alberta’s municipal affairs minister, went on vacation to Hawaii with her husband and daughter.
  • In Saskatchewan, Highways Minister Joe Hargrave apologized for travelling with his wife to Palm Springs, Calif., to complete the sale of a home.
  • In Quebec, Liberal assembly member Pierre Arcand was criticized for a trip with his wife to Barbados.

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