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COVID-19: Here's the situation in the Sault this week

Two new cases in Algoma region this week

New COVID-19 cases ranged between a low of 1,009 and a high of 1,855 this week.

Until today, the province has not reported more than 1,588 cases in a single day. 

Today's report also includes a record number of tests processed – 58,037 in 24 hours, which produced a 3.7 per cent positivity rate. The percentage of positive cases is the lowest it's been all week.

Since the start of the pandemic, public health labs in Ontario have processed 6.1 million COVID-19 tests.

As the holidays approach, Premier Doug Ford has urged Ontarians, regardless of which 'zone' their health unit is in, to only celebrate the festive season with those in your household. The province recommends celebrating virtually with everyone else.

Toronto and Peel regions have officially gone back into lockdown as other regions across Ontario were moved into stricter levels. Algoma Public Health remains in the 'green' zone.

Scientists have suggested that extra hand-washing, distancing and masking have seriously blunted the flu season this year. Canada reported 17 flu cases in the first week of November, versus 711 in the first week of November 2019.

Here's the latest local, provincial, and federal news regarding COVID-19 cases and funding that you need to know:

Two new cases of COVID-19 reported by Algoma Public Health this week

On Tuesday evening, Algoma Public Health reported two new cases of COVID-19 in the region. Both were exposed through international travel.

Currently, there are two active cases in the Algoma region.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers from Algoma Public Health, updated on Thursday at 1:00 p.m.: 

Total confirmed cases by area of residence: 
  • 54 in Sault Ste. Marie and area, with evidence of community spread
  • 3 in central and east Algoma
  • 3 in Elliot Lake and area
  • 0 in north Algoma

The situation south of the border

Last week, more than 800 active cases of COVID-19 in prisoners were reported at correctional facilities in Chippewa County. No deaths have been reported at either correctional facility. 

This comes as positive cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in Chippewa County. Read more about the COVID-19 situation in Sault Michigan and area here.

Will we or won't we have an extended winter break?

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said on Tuesday he's talking to health officials and "looking at solutions that may include some period out of class" at the beginning of January.

On Wednesday, however, Lecce said Ontario students won't have a longer winter break after all. He said the government consulted with the province's top doctor and its public health measures table before making the decision. 

Province's auditor general says Ontario's response to COVID-19 was hampered by "delays and confusion in decision-making"

Ontario's auditor general Bonnie Lysyk said on Wednesday that outdated provincial emergency plans played a role in slowing down the response in the winter and spring, as did systemic issues such as a lack of laboratory surge capacity and old IT systems.

Lysyk also pointed to an increasingly cumbersome command structure, and one that was not led by public health expertise despite the creation and expansion of a provincial health command table that she says now involves more than 500 people.

Read more from Lysyk here.

Feds, province continue to work on accessing COVID-19 vaccines, rapid tests

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday it is possible a lack of vaccine-production capabilities in Canada could mean the U.S., Britain, Germany and other countries could have some of their citizens inoculated against COVID-19 before Canadians start to get their shots.

Health Canada confirmed on Thursday that Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine candidate should be approved in Canada next month. Dr. Supriya Sharma says Canada is reviewing it alongside the United States and Europe, and expects it will be approved here at the same time it is given emergency authorization in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford said rapid tests have been sent to 36 long-term care homes and 27 retirement homes, as well as some hospitals. Ford said the province will continue to deploy the 98,000 ID Now tests and 1.2 million Panbio tests it has received from the federal government in the coming weeks.

Additionally, Ford announced on Thursday that the province will start COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic students and staff at schools in hot spots.

Algoma Public Health passes 2021 budget amidst COVID-19

SooToday's Darren Taylor reported this week that APH has passed their 2021 budget, and plan to call on the federal government to establish Basic Income for Canadians.

Read more about how COVID-19 impacted the health unit's budget here.

Victim Services reports increase in domestic violence, sexual assault calls since onset of COVID-19 pandemic 

Victim Services Algoma wants to remind residents that emergency support is available despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Programming is still being offered and more information on what is available and how to access resources can be found here.

Local lawyer leads fight to re-open Ontario's strip clubs

SooToday's David Helwig reported on Wednesday that Indigenous lawyer from Garden River, Naomi Sayers, is leading a court challenge against the province's closure of all strip clubs in late September.

Read more about Work Safe Twerk Safe (WSTS)'s work for sex workers across the province in the age of COVID-19 here.

New partnership to address PSW shortage in Algoma

A new partnership between Conestoga College and Algoma Manor, a long-term care home in Thessalon, Ont., will help address the need for health care professionals in the local community.  

Algoma and communities across Ontario have experienced an ongoing shortage of qualified health care workers, a situation which has become more acute since the beginning of the pandemic.

This initiative will prepare 50 new PSW graduates to provide quality care to various long-term care homes, community support providers and hospitals in Algoma. Read more here.

Sault Chamber calls for additional support for small and medium businesses in border communities

The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce says businesses in communities who have been hard hit by the COVID-19-related border closure need funding and support to offset their losses. Read more here.

No Toystok this year due to COVID-19 concerns

COVID-19 concerns have derailed the live Toystock event, and virtual plans for the fundraiser have also been shelved.

Toystok organizers are encouraging the public to donate personally to the Christmas CHeer depot in the Station Mall.

Read more from event organizers on how you can help here.

COVID-19 doesn't stop Sault teen from helping seniors at Christmas

With COVID-19 numbers climbing, a Superior Heights student, Morgan Nadon Turner, has changed the format of her Christmas Adopt a Senior event, doing things differently this year.

Nadon Turner is concentrating her efforts on raising cash to donate to the homes in hope that staff and volunteers at the homes will be able to get the seniors the things that are most needed.

Read more about her efforts here.

Airport industry group calls for urgent aid as pandemic lockdown chokes off revenue

The Canadian Airports Council is calling for urgent government aid as travel restrictions continue to take a toll on airports’ revenues.

The organization said in a statement it is asking the government to implement a COVID-19 testing program at airports to reduce or eliminate quarantine restrictions and provide interest-free loans or direct operational support for airports, among other measures.

The sports world continues to respond to COVID-19 pandemic

In Sault Michigan, the Lake Superior State Lakers are now facing schedule changes in the wake of three cancelled games. Positive COVID-19 tests at other schools led to the team cancelling games against Ferris State and Northern Michigan U.

Hockey Canada announced Tuesday that two players at its national junior selection camp have tested positive for COVID-19 in Red Deer, Alberta. Players and team personnel will be required to undergo a COVID-19 test before camp activities resume.

The organization also said that all officials for the championship must be from Canada only. The International Ice Hockey Federation says all 10 participating countries approve of this decision.

Fresh Christmas trees might be the next COVID-19-related shortage?

Real Christmas trees could be hard to score this year because of the pandemic. Those in the industry say the search for tradition and holiday cheer amid a tumultuous year could be a driving factor in Christmas tree sales. Read more about the possible shortage here.