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People wait to enter a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, on May 9, 2021.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Quebec is reporting 551 new COVID-19 infections today – the lowest number of new daily cases since September.

Hospitalizations continue to drop: health officials said the number of COVID-19 patients fell by seven, to 501, and that there were three fewer people in intensive care, for a total of 116.

Officials are also reporting eight more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including two in the past 24 hours.

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The province says 71,701 doses of vaccine were administered Sunday, for a total of 4,396,507; about 49 per cent of Quebecers have received at lease dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Health Minister Christian Dube said on Sunday the province was 85,000 vaccine appointments shy of ensuring that 75 per cent of adults had received at least one dose of vaccine or had booked an appointment to get one.

Quebec has reported a total of 363,847 COVID-19 cases and 11,042 deaths linked to the virus.

All adults in Ontario eligible to book vaccine appointments starting Tuesday

Hundreds of people line up for the Peel Region Doses After Dark vaccination clinic in Mississauga, Ont. on May 15, 2021.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

All adults in Ontario will be eligible to book a COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday, after the provincial government said doses scheduled to be delivered next week arrived early.

The province said those who are turning 18 this year will also be allowed to book a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – the only one currently authorized by Health Canada for use in youth 12 and older.

Vaccines were made available earlier this month to those 18 and older living in one of the 114 communities designated as COVID-19 hot spots.

The government had initially said it would lower the vaccine eligibility age to 30 this week for residents across Ontario.

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The province is also switching gears in how it distributes vaccines.

It will now send the shots to regions on a per-capita basis, after two weeks of sending half the vaccine supply to COVID-19 hot spots.

In Toronto, which will receive fewer vaccines this week as a result of the change, Mayor John Tory said the city will have to figure out how to manage the drop in supply as demand for vaccines increases due to the broader eligibility.

The province has said it hopes to see all eligible Ontarians fully vaccinated by the end of September. The government said it’s on track to see 65 per cent of Ontario adults receive a first dose by the end of this month.

The eligibility expansion come after a milestone weekend for the province.

Premier Doug Ford tweeted yesterday that seven million doses of vaccine had been administered in Ontario.

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Meanwhile, Shoppers Drug Mart said it is now offering rapid antigen COVID-19 tests for asymptomatic people at all its pharmacies in Ontario and Alberta, though these have to be purchased.

Ontario reported 2,170 new cases of COVID-19 today and four more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 566 new cases in Toronto, 556 in Peel Region, and 215 in York Region.

She also says there are 120 new cases in Durham Region and 101 in Hamilton.

Nova Scotia opens vaccine appointments to people as young as 30

Nova Scotia opened vaccine appointments to people 30 and older on Monday as health officials reported 91 new cases of COVID-19.

About 64,300 Nova Scotians in the 30-to-34 age group are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines.

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The province had opened vaccine appointments to people as young as 35 on Friday. Nova Scotia’s vaccine rollout expands access in descending order of five-year age groups as supply becomes available.

In a news release, the province said it had administered 430,856 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday, with 39,235 people having received their booster shot.

Monday’s case count included 66 cases identified in the Halifax area, 17 in the province’s eastern zone, five in northern zone and three in the western region. The province has 1,435 known active cases of COVID-19, with 95 people in hospital, including 21 in intensive care.

Health officials also said that two additional patients in a unit at the Halifax Infirmary site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been transferred to the hospital’s COVID-19 unit.

Other patients in the unit tested negative and are being closely monitored as testing is being carried out on staff and doctors who have worked in the unit, officials said.

Nova Scotia reported 126 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 86 on Saturday. Saturday’s case count was the first time since May 1 that the province’s daily reported figure dipped below 100.

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Manitoba expects to break record for intensive care demand as COVID-19 numbers rise

Manitoba health officials are expecting the demand for intensive care beds to soon reach a record level as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise in the pandemic’s third wave.

There were 120 patients in intensive care beds on Monday, health officials reported. That is nine shy of the peak last December during the second wave of the pandemic.

“I expect we’re going to get to 129 very soon, the way we’re admitting people,” said Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer with Manitoba Shared Health.

Siragusa couldn’t predict how high the patient load might go. She said much depends on how quickly people recover and leave intensive care, and whether the daily number of new infections continues to be high.

The province reported 430 new cases Monday and one death – a man in his 60s from the southern health region.

Manitoba has experienced big daily numbers for more than a month now, and edged past Alberta on the weekend to post the highest per-capita infection rate in Canada.

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Nova Scotia church fined for violating health rules a second time

For the second consecutive Sunday, a church in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley has been handed a stiff fine for violating public health orders.

The Nova Scotia RCMP confirm they issued a $11,622 fine to the Weston Christian Fellowship Church and fined seven churchgoers $2,422 each.

On May 9, the Mounties fined 26 people and the church for breaking the rules.

The province has been subject to a strict lockdown order since April 28, when it became clear the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic had reached the Maritimes. Under the new rules, all faith-based gatherings are prohibited.

On May 2, the RCMP warned parishioners they could face fines under the province’s Health Protection Act. At the time, the RCMP used its discretion to issue warnings because the new rules had just come into effect.

The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, has said the government understands the importance of faith-based gatherings, but he said the spread of the virus can be reduced by preventing people from attending large gatherings.

The church is in Weston, N.S., which is west of Wolfville, N.S.

The latest church fines come a day after Halifax Regional Police made multiple arrests on Citadel Hill when protesters defied a court injunction against the planned gathering.

Nova Scotia reported 212 new cases of COVID-19 on the weekend. On Saturday, the province’s daily case count dropped below 100 for the first time since May 1.

As of Sunday, Nova Scotia had 1,531 active reported cases of COVID-19 and 92 people were in hospital with the disease, including 21 in intensive care.

Alberta has record number of people in intensive care beds, health officials say

Staff in Alberta hospitals are treating more people in intensive care units than at any other time in the province’s history, officials warn, adding that hospitalizations for COVID-19 are particularly high for people in rural areas.

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, said more than 240 patients are in intensive care, including 186 with COVID-19.

“That is easily the most ICU patients that we have ever seen in our health-care system and definitely higher than what we have seen in waves one and two,” Yiu said Monday during a COVID-19 update with the premier and the province’s chief medical officer.

“The threat of serious illness is real. We are seeing more people needing ICU care, particularly younger adults with fewer underlying problems.”

Capacity would have been surpassed had the province not opened an additional 106 ICU beds on top of its pre-pandemic capacity of about 170, Yiu said.

The province can expect to see the need for more beds continue to grow, she said, since hospitalization numbers lag about two weeks behind changes in infection rates.

If needed, up to 425 ICU beds could be made available in Alberta by repurposing isolation or operating recovery rooms, “but we hope never to use these units,” Yiu said.

“Our biggest current challenge is staffing these additional spaces, and this is certainly more difficult than the first and second waves,” she said.

“ICU teams are doing incredible work, but they’re exhausted. They have been doing this for more than 15 months.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said the idea that the pandemic is affecting mostly urban areas is a myth.

Rural areas account for 12 of the 15 locations with the highest active COVID-19 case rates, she said.

And, since February, rural Albertans have been 26 per cent more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than people who live in urban centres.

“None of this is to stigmatize rural Albertans or to suggest that any one part of our province is to blame,” Hinshaw said.

“This is not an urban versus rural issue. It is clear that COVID-19 is spreading and having an impact everywhere in our province.”

Hinshaw said the northern and central health zones have had the highest hospitalization rates per capita since the beginning of May. Northern Alberta, in particular, has had hospitalization rates more than double those of Edmonton and Calgary, she said.

Health officials reported 721 new COVID-19 cases in the province and three new deaths Monday. There were 21,288 active cases in the province and 678 people in hospital.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says as more Canadians receive a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, they can look forward to a summer of small outdoor gatherings such as barbecues, camping and picnics. She says in the fall, as more receive their second dose, Canadians can expect a return to indoor work, recreational activities and get-togethers. The Canadian Press

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