A person wears a protective mask after grocery shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A person wears a protective mask after grocery shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Cancelling school break, delayed election: Provinces mull ways to slow COVID spread

Provinces are making a variety of choices

Voting in Newfoundland and Labrador’s upcoming election has been postponed in the area that includes the provincial capital of St. John’s because of a spike in COVID-19 cases.

There won’t be any ballot boxes on the Avalon Peninsula on Saturday, but voting is to go ahead in other parts of the province. The results will not be released until all voting has concluded.

Chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk called for the move Thursday after provincial health authorities reported a record 53 new infections and 32 presumptive cases a day earlier.

Meanwhile, Ontario officials were deciding whether to cancel March break as a way to lessen the spread of COVID-19. Education Minister Stephen Lecce was expected to provide more details after getting advice from that province’s top doctor on whether cancelling the break would curb spread of the novel coronavirus.

Ontario’s largest teachers union has called on the government to keep March break in place, because students, families and teachers need the time off.

Back in Newfoundland, Chaulk had written a letter to party leaders saying the “current significant outbreak has had a profound impact on our ability to conduct a fair election, and immediate action is required to be taken.”

Chaulk wrote that people who’d signed up to work at polling stations were backing out in droves. Fifty-one people who were supposed to work in one district had all quit, he said.

Since a funeral-related outbreak in the spring, the province had not seen daily case numbers exceed 10 until this week. There are now 110 active cases in the province, the vast majority reported this week.

Ontario reported 945 new infections but public health officials warned that number was under-reported.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 258 new cases in Peel Region, 116 in York Region and 112 in Toronto.

On the vaccine front, after weeks of uncertainty in the supply chain, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, head of Canada’s distribution efforts, advised that manufacturers have said they will deliver the quantities promised for the end of the first quarter.

Fortin said the slowdown on Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveries will end next week as the company has confirmed it will send almost 1.8 million doses over the next four weeks.

READ MORE: Deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine doses to Canada set to more than quadruple next week

Moderna’s next shipment, however, will be two-thirds of what was previously expected for the week of Feb. 22. The remaining doses needed to reach two million in the quarter are expected in March.

About 2.5 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose of a vaccine so far. Only 0.5 per cent have received a second dose.

“We’ve had a few hiccups, but overall I think we are still on track,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer.

Over the past seven days, there have been 24,331 new infections across the country. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 3,476.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


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