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

Four new cases reported in Algoma region this week, all from the Sault area
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Algoma Public Health. Darren Taylor/SooToday

New COVID-19 cases in the province ranged between a low of 130 and a high of 192.

Here's the latest on new cases in Algoma

Four new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Sault this week.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers from Algoma Public Health, updated on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.:

  • 157,771 tested
  • 404 confirmed 
  • 4 active cases
  • 0 currently hospitalized
  • 400 resolved
  • 6 deceased
  • 110 cases screened positive for variants of concern

Algoma Public Health is reporting that recent results from additional laboratory testing have detected the following variants of concern in Algoma:

  • B.1.1.7 (Alpha), first detected in the UK
  • B.1.617.2 (Delta), first detected in India
  • P.1 (Gamma), first detected in Brazil

According to data on howsmyflattening.ca, a University of Toronto-led website which collects and analyzes data from Ontario's COVID-19 cases, 48 per cent of ICU beds in Algoma Public Health's jurisdiction are currently occupied, none of which are COVID patients.

The data also describes the community risk level for COVID-19 in our region as 'very low.'

Total confirmed cases by area of residence: 

  • 317 in Sault Ste. Marie and area
  • 51 in central and east Algoma
  • 31 in Elliot Lake and area
  • 5 in north Algoma

Comparatively, in Chippewa County, which covers Sault Ste. Marie Mich. and surrounding area, the COVID-19 data as of Wednesday states:

  • 2,551 cumulative positives
  • 2,481 cumulative recovered
  • 34 deaths
  • 0 cases currently hospitalized

In terms of vaccines, 54.3 per cent of eligible residents in Chippewa County have received a first dose and 50.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Here's the latest on COVID-19 vaccinations in Algoma:

Algoma Public Health is continuing in phase two of Ontario's 3 Phase Vaccine Distribution Program. As of 1:30 a.m. on Thursday:

  • 142,303 total doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered (64.4 per cent of youth have received at least one dose, 81.1 per cent of adults 18+ have received one dose, and 62.8 per cent of adults 18+ are fully vaccinated)
  • 81,157 people have received at least one dose (70.9 per cent of the total population, or 80 per cent of the eligible population)
  • 61,146 people are fully vaccinated (53.4 per cent of the total population, or 60.3 per cent of the eligible population)

The health unit is encouraging students aged 12+, teachers, and parents to get fully vaccinated before the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Canada to reopen border to fully vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9

Starting Aug. 9, fully vaccinated Americans will be permitted to enter Canada for non-essential reasons.

Americans hoping to travel will have to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to coming into Canada.

On Sept. 7, so long as COVID-19 numbers remain low and vaccine rates remain high, the federal government plans to open Canada's borders to any fully vaccinated travellers with a government-accepted vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering the country.

With these changes coming in to play, Air Canada is adding dozens of routes to the United States as part of its summer schedule.

The airline says the 55 routes to 34 destinations will add up to 220 daily Air Canada flights between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the United States government issued an order to keep the U.S. land borders with Mexico and Canada closed until at least Aug. 21.

Canadians are expressing frustration at still being unable to drive across the border to the U.S. for a casual visit, even though their fully vaccinated American counterparts will soon be able to do so.

Locally, the tourism industry in Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma District could potentially reap the benefits of American visitors being allowed into Canada for non-essential reasons early next month. 

“I think obviously this is great news that we’ve been waiting on,” said Travis Anderson, director of tourism and community development for the City of Sault Ste. Marie. “The timing is good for us - I mean, we’ll still salvage a portion of the summer.” 

Anderson remains hopeful that the city’s hospitality sector, namely restaurants, bars and hotels will benefit from the news, in addition to attractions like the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, Art Gallery of Algoma, Sault Ste. Marie Museum and the Canal District. 

Ontario science advisory group recommends extra curriculars resume, schools stay open

Ontario's science advisory table is recommending a much different school year, with the return of extracurriculars, loosening masking, distancing and cohorting rules when risk is low, and closing schools only in catastrophic scenarios.

There is "increasing evidence" that closing schools and cancelling extracurriculars has had negative impacts on kids’ physical and mental health, they write. Ontario has had the longest interruption to in-person classes in Canada.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government's back-to-school plan - expected to be announced in the next few weeks - will work to ensure a more normal in-class learning experience, including reinstating clubs, sports, and extracurriculars. 

On Thursday, Ontario's chief medical officer of health said there may not be high enough levels of immunity to COVID-19 across the province by September for kids to return to school unmasked.

Vax certificates may allow faster reopening, help plan for resurgence: science table

Ontario’s science advisors say a proof-of-vaccination system would allow high-risk settings to reopen sooner with greater capacity.

The group says COVID-19 vaccine certificates would set up infrastructure to guide the reintroduction of public health measures if cases spike in the future.

Premier Doug Ford has said he won’t introduce a proof-of-vaccination system.

A recent science table brief differentiates between vaccine passports, which relate to travel, and vaccine certificates, an official document attesting someone has completed a vaccination series.

Colleges and universities told to plan for in-person classes and on-campus activities

Ontario colleges and universities should prepare for all in-person classes and activities to resume this fall without capacity limits or physical distancing, the government says, though many institutions will still use a mix of in-person and online learning.

The Ministry of Colleges and Universities has told the institutions to have plans for how learning will continue in the event of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Groups want mandatory COVID shots for health-care workers

Two groups representing Ontario's physicians and registered nurses are calling for the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of the province's health-care workers, a policy Premier Doug Ford has said he will not support.

The Ontario Medical Association and the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario made the calls on Friday, the day after Ford said he wouldn't mandate the vaccine for workers in any industry.

The physicians' group cited a recent survey of its members that found 98 per cent of respondents had already received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

While the OMA did not reference Ford in its statement, the nurses' association said the premier was "on the wrong side of science" with his position on the issue of mandatory shots.

OHL to require 'all OHL community members' to be fully vaccinated prior to season

The Ontario Hockey League will require everyone from players and coaches to volunteers and billets to be fully vaccinated prior to the start of the 2020-2021 OHL season or risk not being involved until the pandemic is over or no longer a significant risk. 

The Ontario Hockey League Vaccination Policy was sent to teams last week and posted on the league web site this week, although no news release was sent to media. The substance of the policy was first reported by Erie-based journalist Mark Scheig of TheHockeyWriters.com.

‘It’s about time,’ Sault restaurant owner says of return to indoor dining

“It’s about time.”

That from Nick Cavaliere, who, along with brother Sergio, owns and operates Giovanni’s, Fratelli’s Kitchen and The Burger Don, in reaction to the province progressing to Step 3 of the Ford government’s Roadmap to Reopen plan.  

As of Friday July 16, that allowed restaurants to bring back indoor dining for customers.

“It’s been a long time coming. Ontario’s probably gone through some of the strictest restrictions in Canada, if not the world,” Cavaliere said, speaking to SooToday at Fratelli’s. 

Read the full story here.

Catholic board's virtual summer school considered a success

Today marks the last day of school for SK to Grade 8 pupils enrolled in the virtual Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board (H-SCDSB) Summer Learning Program, which began July 5.

It’s the second consecutive year the program has been offered remotely to a significant number of students across the Sault and Algoma district, both teachers and students having to quickly adapt to virtual learning last summer due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

This summer, the program includes 115 students and 23 staff members, including teachers, a skill builder, tutor and an Indigenous support worker. Approximately 75 of those pupils are from the Sault.

Midway set to return to the Sault this summer

After a year and a half of the beloved midway being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Campbell Amusements has announced it will be coming back to the Community First Soo PeeWee Arena.

In a post on the arena's Facebook page, the organization listed Aug. 12 - 22 as this year's fair dates.

City cancels 2021 beautification awards

The City has announced it is cancelling this year's City Beautification awards due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.