A roundup of COVID-19 developments for Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021
We didn’t have a newsroom Christmas party last year.
We might have a newsroom Christmas party this year.
I say we might have a festive gathering because I’m having a hard time discerning what the appetite is for a return to regularly scheduled workplace social events.
Don’t get me wrong. I know our newsroom is still capable of downing more than a few drinks when given the chance to unwind.
It’s just that we are now into December and I’ve only had one staff member ask me if I was planning to serve up some holiday cheer this year for staff — on my tab.
I’ve done some preliminary planning involving the vacant room of what used to be our library down the hallway from the newsroom. Given that vast empty space, a fully vaccinated crew should be able to social distance their way through some fancy canapes, nibbles and sweets. Toss in some free beer and we have, in theory, all the ingredients for a festive evening.
But are staff ready to again come together in an indoor setting to eat, drink and party like it’s 1999? What impact will any fears omicron might crash the party have on attendance?
I don’t know the answer to those questions yet. But an email to staff going out later this week should lead to some clues I will share with you in a future edition of these nightly notes. I’m also interested to hear what intel you might have on whether we are at the point in the pandemic when Christmas parties of the past can be Christmas parties of the present.
In the meantime, I assure you we will not be taking any cues from Boris Johnson’s party planning. A new report from the Daily Mirror revealed the British prime minister broke COVID lockdown rules with Downing Street parties in the run-up to last Christmas.
According to the Mirror, around “40 to 50” people were crammed “cheek by jowl” into a medium-sized room at the prime minister’s official residence when the country was in the grips of another lockdown.
I know this is the second Boris Johnson reference I’ve made in a week. I guess that’s what happens when your bride comes from England and her country’s prime minister keeps serving up COVID headlines that leave me shaking my head.
— Paul Samyn, Winnipeg Free Press editor
THE LATEST NUMBERS
To see a larger selection of charts showing the state of COVID-19 provincially and nationally, visit COVID-19 by the numbers.
THE LATEST IN MANITOBA
• Provincial health officials reported 124 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and two more deaths. Of the new cases, 63 were in unvaccinated people; six were in partially vaccinated people; and 55 were in fully vaccinated people. There were 143 people in hospital with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, 24 of whom were in intensive care. Eight per cent of intensive care patients were not vaccinated. The five-day test positivity rate was 5.2 per cent provincewide and 2.5 per cent in Winnipeg.
• All Manitobans aged five and up are eligible to schedule a first-dose vaccine appointment. Anyone who has received a first dose of any vaccine can now book their second-dose appointment. There must be a minimum of 28 days between receiving the first and second shots. Most adults are now eligible for a booster shot. For the latest information on vaccination, visit the provincial government's website.
• Manitobans who have received all required doses of a vaccine at least 14 days ago can request an immunization card to prove complete vaccination. To request a digital or physical card, visit the provincial government's website.
THE LATEST ELSEWHERE
• The United States reported its first case of the omicron variant Wednesday, in a person from California who had been to South Africa. “We knew it was just a matter of time before the first case of omicron would be detected in the United States,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said during a White House announcement Wednesday. The infected person was fully vaccinated but had not had a booster shot. They are reportedly experiencing mild symptoms, which are improving.
• The United Nations is accusing nations which have restricted air travel from southern African nations of engaging in “travel apartheid.” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was unacceptable to have Africa “condemned to a lockout” for identifying the variant, which already existed elsewhere in the world.
• Germany’s intensive care association is calling for uniform national restrictions to be imposed immediately, warning that the number of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care in the country will likely hit a new high before Christmas. The association said more than 2,300 new patients were admitted to ICUs in the last week alone, and that transferring patients within Germany is not a long-term fix. Federal and state leaders are expected to decide on new measures Thursday to curb a spike in infections.
“It’s immoral to condemn Africa in that way.”
— African Union Commission chairman, Moussa Faki Mahamat, on measures imposed on African nations after South Africa’s identification of the omicron variant.
Word that Judy Tomlinson’s 94-year-old mother would be loaded into a stretcher van and transferred to Hamiota Health Centre from St. Boniface Hospital came just 30 minutes before the senior was sent roughly 300 kilometres away from her family. Read More
Plans to tackle Manitoba’s massive surgical and diagnostic backlog will be revealed this week, and will come with a dose of “hope” for the thousands waiting for necessary procedures, Health Minister Audrey Gordon said Tuesday. Read More
MONTREAL - Megan Tanya Hodgkinson was visiting relatives in South Africa last week when Canada imposed travel restrictions on several African countries after scientists detected a new variant of the novel coronavirus. Read More
EDMONTON - Alberta's government says those who are 60 years and older can book appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot starting Thursday if it has been six months after receiving their second dose. Read More
As some provinces prepare to expand eligibility for third-dose COVID-19 vaccines, experts say it's still unclear when the general population will need a top-up jab to boost waning protection, and how an additional dose will hold up against new variants of the virus. Read More
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's government on Wednesday said children aged 11 and younger could no longer travel out of province for events related to sports and culture, citing rising COVID-19 transmission connected to those activities. Read More
OTTAWA - Not all Canadian airports will have the capacity to immediately begin testing arriving air travellers from countries other than the United States for COVID-19, the federal health minister said Wednesday. Read More
Montreal is preparing a "suppressive" approach to COVID-19 infections involving the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, including aggressive protocols for isolating cases and tracing contacts, the city's public health director said Wednesday. Read More
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek lawmakers on Wednesday approved legislation making vaccination for COVID-19 mandatory for all residents aged over 60, to deal with an infection surge and the emergence of the omicron variant. Read More
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's new cases of COVID-19 nearly doubled in a day, authorities reported Wednesday, signaling a dramatic surge in the country where scientists detected the omicron variant last week. Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — A person in California who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 became the first in the U.S. to have an identified case of the omicron variant, the White House announced Wednesday as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new virus strain. Read More
A pandemic-weary world faces weeks of confusing uncertainty as countries restrict travel and take other steps to halt the newest potentially risky coronavirus mutant before anyone knows just how dangerous omicron really is. Read More
NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s troubled jail system is facing more turmoil: the suspension of hundreds of corrections officers for failing to meet a Tuesday night deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Read More
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Health officials on Wednesday confirmed Brazil's third known case of the omicron coronavirus variant as officials examined possible new measures to contain the virus, such as requiring proof of vaccination or even possibly scrapping Carnival celebrations if conditions grow worse. Read More
BRATISLAVA, SLovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s government has proposed a plan to give people 60 and older a 500-euro ($568) bonus if they get vaccinated against COVID-19, the finance minister said Wednesday. Read More
Tourism businesses that were just finding their footing after nearly two years of devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic are being rattled again as countries throw up new barriers to travel in an effort to contain the omicron variant. Read More
MADRID (AP) — Juan Esteban Mariño, a healthy 29-year-old, has been part of the rare cohort in Spain who have resisted health authorities' strong recommendations to get their vaccine shots. His position only changed when he planned an end-of-the-year holiday in Portugal, where authorities are cracking down on unvaccinated visitors as they confront a surge of infections and try to limit the spread of the omicron variant. Read More
ATHENS, Greece -- Greek lawmakers have approved legislation making vaccination for COVID-19 mandatory for all people aged over 60 living in the country on pain of a monthly fine, to deal with an infection surge and the emergence of the omicron variant. Read More
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The U.S. recorded its first confirmed case of the omicron variant Wednesday — in a vaccinated traveler who returned to California after a trip to South Africa — as scientists around the world race to establish whether the new, mutant version of the coronavirus is more dangerous than previous ones. Read More
BRUSSELS (AP) — The chief of the European Union's executive arm said Wednesday that EU nations should consider making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory because too many people still refuse to get shots voluntarily. Read More
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said Wednesday they detected their first cases of the new coronavirus variant, recording the first known instances of omicron infections in the Persian Gulf region. Read More
SINGAPORE (AP) — When Singapore embarked upon its strategy of living with COVID-19, backed by one of the world's leading vaccine programs, the wealthy city-state saw a spike in its rate of infections, leading many to question whether the time was right. Read More
TOKYO (AP) — Japan has asked international airlines to stop taking new reservations for all flights arriving in Japan until the end of December as the country further tightens its border controls against a new coronavirus variant, the transportation ministry said Wednesday. Read More
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said Tuesday the COVID-19 pandemic has diverted scientific and financial resources from the fight against AIDS, seriously impeding global efforts to achieve the U.N. goal of ending AIDS by 2030. Read More