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Today’s coronavirus news: On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge; Canadian program addresses vaccine hesitancy

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

8:19 a.m.: U.S. cases declined on Saturday, while Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine was cleared for use in the country. Making a third shot available could plug gaps in the nation’s immunization campaign as concern grows over virus variants.

Meanwhile, France’s European affairs minister said that European Union approval for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine may come in two weeks. France’s Moselle region faces additional border controls with Germany, according to a report.

The U.K. will create a 5 billion-pound ($7 billion) grant program to help pandemic-hit businesses, with plans to be announced on Wednesday. A British project to track the evolution of the coronavirus for signs that it is gaining power to spread or to kill has emerged as a global model.

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8:16 a.m.: Iran has surpassed 60,000 known coronavirus-related deaths, the latest grim milestone for the hardest-hit country in the Middle East.

The Health Ministry reported 93 new deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday and more than 8,000 new infections, pushing the total infection count over 1.63 million.

After more than a year of the pandemic, deaths from COVID-19 recently have declined in Iran as movement restrictions in the capital have set in, including inter-city travel bans, mask mandates and school closures.

The government on Sunday banned incoming travellers from a list of 32 countries, including Britain and other states in Africa and Latin America, due to fears of new virus variants.

Over the year, Iran has struggled with surges that at times overwhelmed its health system as authorities resisted a total lockdown to salvage an economy crippled by U.S. sanctions.

7:02 a.m.: A lot of us have engaged in some bold mixing-and-matching during the pandemic — office attire on top, pajama pants on bottom, for instance — and been none the worse for it.

Imagine doing the same with COVID-19 vaccines, perhaps pairing a first dose of the AstraZeneca product with a second dose supplied by Novavax. Will the consequences of such mixing be any graver?

It’s hardly an idle question. Either by accident or design, some mismatched dosing is inevitable, experts say.

Two vaccines are currently being rolled out across the United States, with a third joining them this week and two more likely to come over the next several months. All but one were designed to be delivered as two-dose regimens.

Another 69 vaccines are in clinical development across the globe, and nearly two-thirds of those were designed to generate immunity with two or more doses.

But making sure people get the right vaccine at the right time has turned out to be a greater logistical challenge than initially expected. What’s more, the unexpectedly swift emergence of menacing coronavirus variants has made it imperative to get shots into arms as quickly as possible.

Health officials in Great Britain proposed a radical solution to both problems: Delay second doses for up to 12 weeks so that more people could get at least some protection. Later, the government acknowledged that in exceptional circumstances, mismatched doses may be given to people who arrive for their second dose and discover that the vaccine they originally had is not available.

7 a.m.: On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding and mind foggy from his yearlong battle with COVID-19, he wonders when a clinic to treat his symptoms might emerge in Atlantic Canada.

“My fear is that I’m going to be like this forever,” the 50-year-old Halifax resident said in a recent interview.

The issue of a lack of timely treatment for the so-called “long haulers” — people who suffer symptoms such as shortness of breath and physical exhaustion months after their first bout of the illness — has been raised across the country by support groups.

Specialized clinics have opened in Western and Central Canada, in some instances offering access to occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, nurses and referrals to specialists. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service announced the formation of a network of 60 such clinics in December.

However, on Canada’s East Coast, patients say they are still searching for a similar, one-stop site to treat symptoms that range from difficulty drawing a breath to tingling pain in their limbs.

“In Atlantic Canada, we’re at the mercy of how well we’ve done containing the virus, leading to our low numbers of infected patients,” Hoskin said. “It’s had an impact on what we can expect to see from the provincial government in terms of specialized clinics.”

International studies currently predict about 10 per cent of COVID-19 patients develop longer term symptoms. In Atlantic Canada, where about 4,100 cases have been officially documented, this suggests long haulers may eventually number in the hundreds, rather than the thousands expected in larger provinces.

6:36 a.m.: The Philippines received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccine Sunday, among the last in Southeast Asia to secure the critical doses despite having the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the hard-hit region.

A Chinese military transport aircraft carrying 600,000 doses of vaccine donated by China arrived in an air base in the capital. President Rodrigo Duterte and top Cabinet officials expressed relief and thanked Beijing for the the vaccine from China-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd. in a televised ceremony.

“COVID-19 vaccines should be treated as a global public good and made available to all, rich and poor alike,” Duterte said, warning that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

China’s ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian, said China has exported vaccines to 27 countries despite its own domestic needs, adding “no winter lasts forever” when China and other countries help each other in solidarity when crisis strikes.

6:02 a.m.: At least three private schools in Los Angeles County offered their teachers and other staff a way to get COVID-19 vaccinations during a time of limited supplies — one school urging them to use restricted access codes and two others certifying that their staff were responsible for health care-related duties.

The actions of the three schools — Alverno Heights Academy in Sierra Madre, Westmark School in Encino and Mirman School in Brentwood — are laid out in school emails, meeting minutes and letters provided to the Los Angeles Times by multiple staff members at the schools.

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The administrators’ actions to quickly secure staff vaccinations during a time of severely limited doses — a critical issue for all public and private campuses — show how some private schools have been willing to boldly interpret rules in their quest to bring students safely back to school and protect employees.

It also offers another example of the tough choices playing out as essential workers, people 65 and older and educators vie for vaccines available in California.

Some staff, however, expressed discomfort with the instructions, saying their journey to the front of the vaccination line moved into an ethical gray zone.

Administrators defended their assertive actions, saying they have responsibly followed strict safety protocols in operating their campuses while also helping employees pursue available opportunities to find vaccines within government guidelines.

4:02 a.m.: When it comes to vaccine hesitancy, misinformation and mistrust sparked by “medical racism” are among issues confronting scientists, doctors and community groups trying to provide assurance as immunization programs roll out across Canada.

Dina Guarin, 56, hasn’t decided if she’ll get vaccinated but said her sister, a nurse in Seattle, has already been immunized.

“Will it be safe? Will it really keep us from getting COVID?” Guarin said from Vancouver.

She said she knows someone who’s worried about possible long-term consequences including infertility and that her 81-year-old mother and others in the Filipino community want information in Tagalog.

Tara Moriarty, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of Toronto’s faculties of dentistry and medicine, started a project in January to host seven-nights-a-week Zoom sessions with residents and staff of long-term care and retirement homes, along with family members, in order to provide reliable information on vaccines.

4:01 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Sunday Feb. 28, 2021.

There are 864,196 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Canada: 864,196 confirmed cases (30,864 active, 811,372 resolved, 21,960 deaths).The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 2,726 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 81.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,391 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,913.

There were 45 new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 330 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 47. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.78 per 100,000 people.

There have been 24,328,440 tests completed.

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 981 confirmed cases (274 active, 701 resolved, six deaths).

There were four new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 52.48 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 80 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 11.

There was one new reported death Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.05 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people.

There have been 195,286 tests completed.

_ Prince Edward Island: 127 confirmed cases (13 active, 114 resolved, zero deaths).

There were six new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 8.14 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 101,073 tests completed.

_ Nova Scotia: 1,638 confirmed cases (39 active, 1,534 resolved, 65 deaths).

There were four new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 3.98 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people.

There have been 326,109 tests completed.

_ New Brunswick: 1,430 confirmed cases (42 active, 1,362 resolved, 26 deaths).

There were two new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 5.37 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 10 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There were zero new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.33 per 100,000 people.

There have been 235,465 tests completed.

_ Quebec: 287,003 confirmed cases (7,973 active, 268,645 resolved, 10,385 deaths).

There were 858 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 92.98 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,547 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 792.

There were 13 new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 93 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.15 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.11 per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,250,877 tests completed.

_ Ontario: 299,754 confirmed cases (10,479 active, 282,315 resolved, 6,960 deaths).

There were 1,185 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 71.12 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,755 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,108.

There were 16 new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 112 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 16. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.24 per 100,000 people.

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There have been 10,790,098 tests completed.

_ Manitoba: 31,809 confirmed cases (1,208 active, 29,708 resolved, 893 deaths).

There were 90 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 87.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 480 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 69.

There were four new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 64.74 per 100,000 people.

There have been 528,966 tests completed.

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_ Saskatchewan: 28,506 confirmed cases (1,548 active, 26,573 resolved, 385 deaths).

There were 162 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 131.33 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,068 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 153.

There were five new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 17 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.66 per 100,000 people.

There have been 570,478 tests completed.

_ Alberta: 133,203 confirmed cases (4,546 active, 126,774 resolved, 1,883 deaths).

There were 415 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 102.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,468 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 353.

There were six new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 65 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 42.58 per 100,000 people.

There have been 3,387,838 tests completed.

_ British Columbia: 79,262 confirmed cases (4,719 active, 73,188 resolved, 1,355 deaths).

There were zero new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 91.67 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,923 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 418.

There were zero new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.32 per 100,000 people.

There have been 1,910,966 tests completed.

_ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Saturday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people.

There have been 8,142 tests completed.

_ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (three active, 39 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 6.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 14,451 tests completed.

_ Nunavut: 356 confirmed cases (20 active, 335 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 50.82 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 18 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people.

There have been 8,615 tests completed.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Sunday Feb. 28, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 61,729 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,836,328 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 4,845.285 per 100,000.

There were no new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,441,670 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 75.21 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

Newfoundland is reporting 3,827 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 20,285 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.739 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 33,820 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 59.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

P.E.I. is reporting 1,485 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 12,176 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 76.758 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.75 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nova Scotia is reporting 6,987 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 32,019 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.81 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.66 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

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New Brunswick is reporting 5,135 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 26,317 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 33.738 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.26 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Quebec is reporting 17,859 new vaccinations administered for a total of 418,399 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 48.898 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 537,825 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.79 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Ontario is reporting 24,339 new vaccinations administered for a total of 668,104 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 45.483 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 73.96 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Manitoba is reporting 2,085 new vaccinations administered for a total of 73,554 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 53.416 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 108,460 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 67.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Saskatchewan is reporting 6,050 new vaccinations administered for a total of 75,501 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 64.03 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 101.2 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Alberta is reporting 11,396 new vaccinations administered for a total of 218,696 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 49.681 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 79.54 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

British Columbia is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 252,373 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 49.18 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 323,340 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.05 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 15,174 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 363.615 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 80.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 16,454 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 364.68 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 86.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 7,276 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 187.884 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 30.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

2:56 a.m.: Infectious disease experts are expressing concern about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Iraq, given a sharp rise in coronavirus infections there, a fragile health care system and the unavoidable likelihood that Iraqis will crowd to see him.

No one wants to tell Francis to call it off, and the Iraqi government has every interest in showing off its relative stability by welcoming the first pope to the birthplace of Abraham. The March 5-8 trip will provide a sorely-needed spiritual boost to Iraq’s beleaguered Christians while furthering the Vatican’s bridge-building efforts with the Muslim world.

But from a purely epidemiological standpoint, as well as the public health message it sends, a papal trip to Iraq amid a global pandemic is not advisable, health experts say.

They note that wars, economic crises and an exodus of Iraqi professionals have devastated the country’s hospital system, while studies show most of Iraq’s new COVID-19 infections are the highly-contagious variant first identified in Britain.

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Dr. Navid Madani, virologist and founding director of the Center for Science Health Education in the Middle East and North Africa at Harvard Medical School’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The Iranian-born Madani co-authored an article in The Lancet last year on the region’s uneven response to COVID-19, noting that Iraq, Syria and Yemen were poorly placed to cope given they are still struggling with extremist insurgencies and have 40 million people who need humanitarian aid.

Click here to read Saturday’s coronavirus news.

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