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Sister Solange receives her second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile clinic in the Carmelite monastery in Montreal on May 21, 2021.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Esther Hladkowicz said she experienced a “sliding scale of emotions” while visiting her father at his Ottawa-area long-term care home on Saturday.

For the first time in 10 months, she was able to see her nonagenarian dad up close without a window separating them. Better yet, she could also both touch and hug him.

“The sound that that man made was like a wounded animal. I’m not gonna lie. It was a cross between a sob, a grunt, and a growl,” she said. “He had waited so long to be touched by a family member. So then I started crying. He’s not a crier, but I thought I saw a little wet eye there.”

Her father has advanced dementia, and Hladkowicz had been advocating for the provincial government to allow family members to visit long-term care home residents in light of the high vaccination rates within the facilities.

The province gave the green light for some such visits on Friday, announcing they could start taking place as of Saturday. Provincial rules state visits must occur outdoors, involve no more than two guests at a time, and be conducted with masks on and physical distancing protocols in place for those who have not yet been fully vaccinated.

She said her dad appears to have declined cognitively since they last saw each other, and he’s in a wheelchair now — a new development that she said the long-term care home wouldn’t explain. Even her hourlong visit seemed to improve his condition, she said.

“We whispered to him, we touched him. We gossiped with him. We told him he is so loved and so wanted,” she said. “And by the end of the hour, he looked like a flower that had been watered with sun on him. It was a visceral difference.”

The Ministry of Long-Term Care gave less than 24 hours notice in changing the rules, so some facilities are not yet allowing visits.

Half of Canadians have received first COVID-19 vaccine shot

Half of Canada’s population has now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The latest federal figures showed just over 18 million people had received a shot as of Friday evening.

But updated figures from Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have added nearly 300,000 people to that tally, pushing the number who have gotten their first jab past 19 million.

Ontario led the way, administering 190,129 doses on Friday.

Despite the milestone, federal figures show less than five per cent of the national population is fully vaccinated against the virus.

COVID-19 outbreak declared at Richmond, B.C., hospital

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared on an acute care unit at Richmond Hospital.

The Vancouver Coastal Health authority says seven patients in the acute care for the elderly unit tested positive for the virus.

The unit has been closed to new admissions, transfers and non-essential visits.

It does remain open for essential care as well as compassionate visits at the end of life.

The health authority says the unit will be subject to enhanced cleaning, and both staff and patients will be closely monitored.

B.C. recorded 420 new COVID-19 cases and six virus-related deaths on Friday, bringing the provincial case count to 141,373 since the onset of the pandemic.

Ontario reports 1,794 new cases of COVID-19 as 190,000 vaccinations administered

A maintenance worker prepares the finishing touches at BraeBen Golf Course in Mississauga, Ont., on May 21, 2021. Golf courses and other outdoor recreational facilities can reopen across Ontario as of Saturday.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Ontario is reporting 1,794 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday and 20 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 416 of the most recent infections were identified in Toronto, 355 in Peel Region, 147 in Durham Region and 140 in York Region.

Saturday’s data is based on more than 34,000 completed tests.

The Ministry of Health says 1,207 people are in hospital, with 706 patients in intensive care and 504 on a ventilator.

Ontario says it administered 190,129 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine since Friday’s report, for a total of more than 7.9 million doses.

The latest figures come as Ontario loosens some rules around outdoor gatherings, re-opens many outdoor recreational facilities and permits limited in-person visits at long-term care homes starting Saturday.

Outdoor amenities like golf courses, skate parks and tennis courts can welcome patrons, but outdoor team sports and classes are still off-limits.

Long-term care residents can now also visit outdoors with friends and family in addition to their essential care-givers.

Amended government rules say residents can have up to two visitors at one time, noting children under the age of two don’t count toward the limit.

Visitors will not need to undergo a COVID-19 test to see their loved ones, but must wear masks and maintain physical distance during their outdoor visits.

Quebec records 505 new COVID-19 cases; hospitalizations down to 424

Quebec health authorities are reporting 505 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest number since September.

Vaccination across the province continues apace, with some Quebecers under 18 starting to receive shots on Friday in Nicolet and Shawinigan, northeast of Montreal.

The Health Department says it administered more than 96,000 doses in the past 24 hours for a total of 4.84 million.

Quebec’s public health institute said Friday that 52.5 per cent of all Quebecers have received at least one dose of vaccine as the rollout ramps up.

The province is reporting seven new deaths linked to the virus, one of which took place in the past 24 hours.

Hospitalizations dropped by 13 to 424, while the number of patients in intensive care decreased by three to 103.

Manitoba’s Pallister wants excess vaccines from south of the border

Manitoba’s premier is asking the United States government to let states ship COVID-19 vaccines to provinces.

Brian Pallister says he’s written to the White House about the issue, but is still waiting for a response.

He says North Dakota has excess vaccines it is willing to share but has not received permission to export them to Manitoba.

He says Manitoba has trucks with freezers that could make the one-hour trip to the border and collect doses if needed.

Pallister’s appeal comes as the province grapples with a third wave of COVID-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm the health-care system.

Manitoba is reporting 476 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths. The percentage of people testing positive, averaged over five days, has continued to climb. It stands at 14.3 per cent provincially and 16.8 per cent in Winnipeg.

Elsewhere in Canada

  • Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting four new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Saturday. Three of the cases have been identified in the Central Health region, while the fourth was found in the Western Health region. Starting Saturday, the part of the province stretching from Lewisporte to Summerford moves to alert Level 4, the second-highest alert level in the province, to address a cluster of 14 presumed and confirmed infections in the central region. The rest of the province remains at Alert level 2. Newfoundland now has 65 active cases of the disease and is reporting nine new recoveries.
  • Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting two new cases of COVID-19 Saturday. Both new infections were identified in the Fredericton region and involve one person in their 20s and one in their 30s. Officials say both cases are contacts of previously reported infections. The province now has 122 active cases of the disease with six patients in hospital, two of whom are in intensive care.