COVID-19 update for July 14: Here’s what you need to know

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 July 7 for June 26 – June 2:

• Hospitalized cases: 369
• Intensive care: 36
• New cases: 765 over seven days
• Total number of confirmed cases: 375,357
• Total deaths over seven days: 24 (total 3,788)
Read the full report here | Next update: July 14 at 1 p.m. (or later)

Headlines at a glance

• Health Canada approves first COVID-19 vax for youngest kids
• The fourth COVID vaccine dose: Here’s where Canada’s provinces and territories stand.
• New B.C. modelling shows the number of cases of COVID-19 is rising significantly in people aged 70 and over.
• New data shows that more than 20 million Canadians received government support such as CERB during the pandemic.
• Ontario is expanding eligibility for fourth doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to include all adults starting Thursday.
• Shoppers Drug Mart among retailers rolling back pandemic protocols as mandates lift.
• Canadian incomes went up in 2020 amid uptake of pandemic benefits: census data
• Astra’s COVID vaccine saved over six million lives in first year
• The World Health Organization says COVID-19 remains a global emergency, nearly 2 1/2 years after it was first declared.
• In the U.S., Biden officials push to offer second booster shots to all adults
• Hong Kong suspends some hospital services as virus cases swell
• Yet another Omicron variant has emerged and is raising concerns in India and beyond.
• Here’s a primer on COVID’s latest twist — the BA.4 and BA.5 variants — and how to protect against it.
• B.C. is set to roll out second booster program to British Columbians age 12+ starting in the fall.


Health Canada approves first COVID-19 vax for youngest kids

Canada’s drug regulator approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for infants and preschoolers, making it the first vaccine approved for that age group in the country.

Health Canada now says the Moderna vaccine can be given to young children between the ages of six months and five years old in doses one-quarter the size of that approved for adults.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is expected to provide advice on its use later today.

The approval expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to nearly two million children in Canada, though the availability of the vaccine will be determined by provinces.

The vaccine requires two dose given about four weeks apart.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

The fourth COVID vaccine dose: Here’s where Canada’s provinces and territories stand

Canada’s provinces are taking differing approaches to rolling out fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Some are offering the second boosters to all adults in response to the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, while others are keeping access limited for now with an eye to the fall.

British Columbia has announced that a fourth dose will be available to all residents aged 12 and up starting in the fall. Residents over the age of 65, Indigenous people 55 and older, and immunocompromised or vulnerable individuals are receiving invitations to book appointments. Those living in long-term care and assisted living have already been offered shots.

Here are the eligibility guidelines for other provinces and territories.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

Auditor General to investigate B.C.’s vaccination coverage rates and how they are monitored

The Office of the Auditor General of B.C. announced on Wednesday that it will audit the province’s vaccination coverage rates and how they are monitored.

The government audit will determine whether the Ministry of Health had the information to monitor COVID-19 vaccination rates by location, age and population group (long-term care and assisted living) from December 2020 to Feb. 2022.

The audit will also look at how information was collected to monitor COVID-19 vaccination rates, processes used to determine vaccination rates and reporting to key decision makers.

The report is expected to be released in early 2023.

COVID-19 in B.C.: Cases ‘rising significantly’ in those aged 70+ as Omicron variant BA.5 takes hold

The number of cases of COVID-19 is rising significantly in people aged 70 and over, according to the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group.

The independent group of academics has been reporting regularly on the pandemic since 2020 and in its latest review confirms Health Minister Adrian Dix’s statement last week that B.C. is in the third Omicron wave of the pandemic — driven by the emergence of the BA.5 subvariant.

The group goes on to say that the number of infections and severe cases leading to hospitalization in B.C. are expected to rise through July and that it is difficult to determine what will happen in August.

Particularly concerning is that the BA.5 variant is more transmissible than earlier versions of the disease and appears to be able to avoid antibodies that prevent infection — which is why people are getting reinfected with COVID-19.

“Faster spread may result from a combination of higher inherent transmissibility and immune evasion,” the report states.

Read the full story here.

— David Carrigg

Here’s what the 2021 census says about how many Canadians received COVID benefits

New data released Wednesday provides the clearest snapshot yet of how many Canadians accessed the COVID-19 support programs the government hastily rolled out at the beginning of the pandemic.

Statistics Canada unveiled the information as part of its rollout of findings from the national census taken in May 2021.

More than 20.7 million people received at least some financial support from the government, including 16.9 million who received top-ups from existing programs.

In total, 8.4 million received benefits specifically designed to respond to COVID-19, the agency reported.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

Ontario to open up fourth doses to all adults

Ontario has joined a growing list of provinces making a fourth dose of COVID-19 available to all adults as a seventh pandemic wave continues to surge.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore made the announcement Wednesday, saying his most important message is to stay up to date on vaccinations. The second dose will be optional, he said, and people should consult with their doctors. He said those with health risk factors would benefit the most.

He said getting a second booster would not interfere with peoples eligibility to get a booster in the fall.

Until now, Ontario had offered the fourth dose, or second booster shot, to people over 60, those living in long-term care and other congregate settings and some people with compromised immune systems.

Read the full story here.

— Ottawa Citizen

Shoppers Drug Mart among retailers rolling back pandemic protocols as mandates lift

When the plexiglass barriers that have protected pharmacy workers at a Manitoba Shoppers Drug Mart since the early stages of the pandemic were taken down in June, not everyone was happy about it.

“It’s just alarming because people (customers) are coming in sick,” one employee said, asking not to be identified due to fear of repercussions from their employer. The employee said customers come in throughout the day for COVID-19 PCR tests and rapid antigen tests, as well as related medications.

While not meant to completely prevent transmission of the virus, the employee said the plexiglass barriers at the pharmacy counter served as a last piece of protection after customers were no longer required to wear face masks.

In an email, parent company Loblaw Companies Ltd. said removal of plexiglass barriers from Shoppers Drug Mart stores began in early June after a small pilot, and included taking down the barriers at cash registers.

It said the dividers were a temporary solution, implemented at the peak of the pandemic, to provide a barrier when social distancing could not be maintained.

“We’ve heard from store teams and customers that the dividers often make interactions more difficult,” the company said.

While masks aren’t required for customers, the company said pharmacy staff are still required to wear masks while other employees are “encouraged” to wear them.

Shoppers is one of a number of retailers to remove or roll back COVID-19 protocols introduced during the peak of the pandemic, as government-mandated restrictions have eased across the country.

Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

Canadian incomes went up in 2020 amid uptake of pandemic benefits: census data

OTTAWA — Canadian incomes trended higher in 2020 everywhere except in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, as millions benefited from pandemic supports, according to new census data from Statistics Canada.

The agency reports that median after-tax household income was $73,000 in 2020, up 9.8 per cent compared to its last national survey five years earlier, partly driven by the losses of lower-paying jobs.

Despite fewer Canadians receiving employment income during the pandemic, census data suggest job losses were partly offset by COVID-19 benefits as about two-thirds of Canadian adults received payments from relief programs.

The number of Canadians earning less than $20,000 grew by more than 415,000 as many lower-paid jobs disappeared.

But the low-income rate fell overall and the number of Canadians who reported no income shrank by nearly a million compared to 2019.

Experts had cautioned that the income data, which is based on Canada Revenue Agency tax and benefits records, would form a complicated picture of the early pandemic and should be seen as a snapshot in time.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

Adapted, two-strain vaccines to lift COVID protection: EU official

A European health emergency official on Wednesday said adapted versions of established mRNA COVID-19 vaccines that address two variants in one shot will soon offer people better protection than vaccines that are now available.

Moderna and the BioNTech-Pfizer alliance are working on vaccines based on a combination of the original Wuhan virus and an Omicron subvariant. Referred to as bivalent shots, these would be used in an autumn vaccination campaign.

“Whatever bivalent vaccine will be available will be a good one. It will be better than the current vaccines,” the director of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, Pierre Delsaux, told members of the European Parliament in a hearing.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

Astra’s COVID vaccine saved over six million lives in first year

COVID vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc. had the biggest impact in preventing deaths in the first year of the global rollout, saving an estimated 12 million lives.

That’s the upshot of a new analysis from Airfinity Ltd., a London-based data firm. The AstraZeneca vaccine developed with the University of Oxford saved 6.3 million lives, Airfinity said Wednesday. The estimate for the Pfizer-BioNTech SE shot was 5.9 million.

The companies swiftly scaled up production and delivered doses before other manufacturers, according to the report. The findings build on a study last month estimating that vaccines saved about 20 million lives in the first year of the campaign, more than half of them in wealthier countries.

While vaccines from companies such as Pfizer, Moderna Inc., AstraZeneca and others have curbed hospitalizations and deaths, vast parts of the world still struggled to get access to shots last year and delivery snags, hesitancy and other challenges in recent months have hampered the effort.

While more than 7 million deaths were likely averted in countries covered by Covax, the World Health Organization-backed distribution program, research published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal highlighted the devastation caused by uneven access. About one in five lives lost due to Covid in poorer countries could have been prevented if WHO targets had been reached, the data show.

Airfinity said the AstraZeneca shot went first to older-age groups in high-income counties and nations with more vulnerable health-care systems. The firm determined that the Sinovac and Moderna vaccines saved about 2 million and 1.7 million lives, respectively.

— Bloomberg

WHO says COVID-19 remains a global health emergency

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that COVID-19 remains a global emergency, nearly 2 1/2 years after it was first declared.

The Emergency Committee, made up of independent experts, said in a statement that rising cases, ongoing viral evolution and pressure on health services in a number of countries meant that the situation was still an emergency.

Cases reported to WHO had risen by 30 per cent in the last fortnight, the statement said, although the committee accepted that increased population immunity, largely from vaccines, had seen a “decoupling” of cases from hospitalizations and deaths.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accepted the committee’s advice.

The U.N. health agency first declared the highest level of alert, known as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, for COVID-19 on Jan. 30, 2020. Such a determination can help accelerate research, funding and international public health measures to contain a disease.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

U.S. CDC director: BA.5 estimated to represent 65% of circulating COVID-19 variants

The fast-spreading BA.5 sub-lineage of Omicron is estimated to make up 65 per cent of the coronavirus variants in the United States as of last week, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday.

The BA.5 and BA.4 variants together accounted for more than 80 per cent of circulating variants last week, with BA.4 making up 16 per cent, Walensky told reporters at a White House briefing, adding that the seven-day average of COVID-19 hospital admissions has doubled since early May.

— Reuters

Biden officials push to offer second booster shots to all adults

Biden administration officials are developing a plan to allow all adults to receive a second coronavirus booster shot, pending federal agency sign-offs, as the White House and health experts seek to blunt a virus surge that has sent hospitalizations to their highest levels since March 3.

Virus levels have risen across the country, fueled by ever-more-contagious omicron subvariants such as BA. 5 that evade some immune protections and have increased the risk of reinfections. About 112,000 new cases have been reported per day, according to The Washington Post’s rolling seven-day average – with the true number many times higher, say experts, as most Americans test at home.

Hospitalization and death levels are mounting, although they remain significantly below January peaks, with about 38,000 people hospitalized with covid as of Sunday, and an average daily death toll of 327 as of Monday.

Currently, a second booster shot is available only to those 50 and older, as well as to those 12 and older who are immunocompromised. But administration officials are concerned by data that suggests immunity wanes within several months of the first booster shot.

While the booster plan still needs formal sign-off from regulators and public health officials, it has the backing of White House coronavirus coordinator Ashish Jha and Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, according to five officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plan.

While about 67% of all Americans have been fully vaccinated against the virus, only 34% of eligible Americans have received a first booster dose, according to federal data.

— Washington Post

Hong Kong suspends some hospital services as virus cases swell

Hong Kong suspended some non-emergency services in public hospitals as a surge in COVID patients strains the health-care system, with authorities warning the city’s virus situation continues to deteriorate.

Some public hospitals have started to reduce non-urgent procedures including endoscopies and elective surgeries in order to shift resources to caring for the rising number of Covid patients, Hospital Authority Chief Manager Sara Ho said at a briefing on Tuesday. If the situation continues to worsen, more non-urgent operations and some day-time services will need to be adjusted too, she said.

Hong Kong is facing a virus resurgence that’s pushed the number of patients in public hospitals to about 1,000. Health officials have warned that the daily number of infections could climb to as much as 6,000 in two weeks, from 2,558 new local cases reported on Tuesday, with 300 people hospitalized each day.

“These measures are to mobilize both the manpower and beds so as to accommodate and anticipate the upsurge of pandemic patients,” Ho said.

The warning of a surge in cases comes alongside changes from the new administration to the financial hub’s virus strategies. The government is considering introducing a health code system that would bring the city more in line with Covid Zero measures used in China, which prioritizes stamping out infection at great social and economic cost.

— Bloomberg

Yet another Omicron variant emerges, raises concerns in India and beyond

The quickly changing coronavirus has spawned yet another super contagious omicron mutant that’s worrying scientists as it gains ground in India and pops up in numerous other countries, including the United States.

Scientists say the variant — called BA.2.75 — may be able to spread rapidly and get around immunity from vaccines and previous infection. It’s unclear whether it could cause more serious disease than other omicron variants, including the globally prominent BA.5.

“It’s still really early on for us to draw too many conclusions,” said Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “But it does look like, especially in India, the rates of transmission are showing kind of that exponential increase.” Whether it will outcompete BA.5, he said, is yet to be determined.

Read the full story here.

— The Associated Press

What we know about BA.4 and BA.5 — the latest subvariants to cause COVID surge

If one thing is clear about COVID-19, it’s that keeping track of its various permutations is a never-ending challenge. Just when regular people think they have a handle on SARS-COV-2 — the virus that causes COVID disease — and its journey through the human race, scientists do their best to confuse us with new nomenclature.

The latest is BA.4 and BA.5, the subvariants of the pathogen that are making their presence known in a big way and causing renewed concerns about the pandemic. Here’s a primer on COVID’s latest twist — and how to protect against it.

Read the full story here.

— Tom Blackwell, Postmedia News

Moderna to advance two Omicron vaccine candidates against newer variants

Moderna Inc said on Monday it was advancing two Omicron vaccine candidates for the fall, one designed against the BA.1 variant and another against the BA.4 and BA.5.

Vaccine makers including Moderna and rival Pfizer Inc are developing updated vaccines to target the fast-spreading Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which have gained a foothold in the United States over recent weeks.

Moderna said its decision to develop the bivalent vaccines was based on different market preferences for shots against the subvariants.

Bivalent vaccines are designed to target two different coronavirus variants – the original variant from 2020 and the newer Omicron variants.

Moderna said new clinical data for its mRNA-1273.214 vaccine, designed to target the BA.1 variant, showed significantly higher neutralizing antibody responses against the fast-spreading BA.4 and BA.5 compared with the currently authorized booster.

The company’s second booster candidate, mRNA 1273.222, is based on the BA.4/5 strain and is being developed in accordance with recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration advice.

— Reuters

B.C. to offer fall booster shots to everyone 12 and older starting September

Get ready to roll up your sleeves again.

B.C. health officials will be rolling out a vaccination campaign for second booster shots for millions of British Columbians age 12 and older in the fall, even as the province’s third wave of Omicron infections is already underway.

B.C. plans to offer this second round of booster shots to the general population starting September, following the recommendation of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, possibly using bivalent vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna which are currently awaiting regulatory approval by Health Canada.

“The best thing to do is wait for the fall,” said Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of B.C.’s immunization campaign at a news conference on Friday. “That’s when the risk is highest and that’s the strongest recommendation of when we want you to get your fall booster.”

Updates are expected to get sent out to British Columbians starting Monday, informing them of the recommended guidelines and encouraging them to sign up to get their shot in the fall.

Read the full story here.

— Cheryl Chan

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.

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.

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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