Running the numbers: The fourth wave is moving faster than expected

Listen here or subscribe at , , , or wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts, including , where Closed Captioning is available. Stay updated on episodes via our . If you would like to support the journalism of the Toronto Star, you can at . Guest: , Toronto Star assignment editor focused on data With rising case counts and other indicators, the fourth wave of COVID-19 is here and just getting started. The Delta variant is more infectious than other forms of the virus and could have a serious impact on our health care systems. Unvaccinated people will bear the brunt of the latest wave, but there are others who are also at risk. Raju Mudhar is a co-host and producer on the Star’s podcast team. He is based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter:

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Teachers to get COVID-19 vaccine as school year ends

Ontario’s teachers will likely have to wait until June to receive their shot at protection against COVID-19. As part of its Phase 2 rollout released Friday, the Ford government has decreed that, by and large, it’s sticking with its strategy to vaccinate those in older age groups first and hot spots second, while, relegating teachers, as well as other first responders to the back of this most current lineup. “School staff,” the plan says, at both elementary and secondary levels, which presumably includes teachers, join firefighters, police, special constables, foster care workers, manufacturers, farm workers and funeral workers, in a new group called “Cannot work from home.” These roughly 2.5 million people are slated to be vaccinated according to the plan, just before Phase 3. That, the plan says, “will keep workers safe and protect essential services.” Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, head of Ontario’s vaccine task force, said at a news conference Friday that the province is aiming to complete a first round of by June 20 for “every eligible person who wants it.” The new date speeds up previous targets. Since early January, experts around the world, as well as U.S. President Joe Biden, and Ontario’s teachers unions, have decreed that teachers, as well as education workers, who likewise come into contact with students every day, should get priority for the vaccine. “Teachers are at high risk,” Brenda […]

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Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 325 cases of COVID-19, no new deaths; U.S. to require COVID vaccine for all military members

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available. 7:30 p.m.: COVID-19 outbreaks in pockets around British Columbia have prompted health officials to shorten their recommended delay between vaccinations by three weeks. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the change Monday, saying reducing the interval from 49 days to 28 will help boost the level of community protection in areas of the province that are experiencing outbreaks. Notices will be sent out to about 170,000 people in the coming days, asking them to book their second-dose appointment. The optimal time to wait for the second shot is six to 10 weeks for stronger protection, but that must be balanced with the risk of getting COVID-19 during the interval, said Henry, adding those who aren’t in risky jobs or in a current hot spot may want to wait longer than 28 days. 5:15 p.m. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he remains confident in the province’s decision to lift COVID-19 safety measures — despite growing concerns from physicians. The Alberta Medical Association section of pediatrics penned a letter today to Kenney expressing grave concern in Alberta’s decision to eliminate COVID-19 testing, tracing and mandated isolation for positive cases on Aug. 16. The group says there is no scientific evidence to support the decision as Alberta battles rising cases, particularly of the h […]

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Simcoe-Muskoka region still among United Kingdom variant hot spots in Ontario, data shows

The numbers don’t lie — Simcoe-Muskoka region is still experiencing substantial spread of COVID-19 variants. Data released by Public Health Ontario March 11 shows the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is still among the provincial leaders in overall COVID-19 variant cases. Between Jan. 15 and March 10, the health unit recorded 240 confirmed variant cases — 232 of the B.1.1.7 (United Kingdom), seven P.1 (Brazilian) and one B.1.351 (South African) strains. Another 485 incidents have passed the first stage of the two-step mutation test and are being subject to genome sequencing to determine the exact variant. Here are the other comparable health units: • Toronto Public Health leads the province with 241 confirmed U.K. cases, 258 confirmed variant cases overall and 2,531 that have entered genome sequencing. • Peel Public Health has 180 U.K. cases and 192 variant cases in total, with 1,295 incidents subject to genome testing. • York Region Public Health has 184 U.K. cases, 189 variant incidents overall and 786 cases undergoing genome sequencing. Across Ontario, there are 956 incidents of the U.K. variant confirmed. A tally of 1,025 cases of the three aforementioned variant strains have been found. And 6,513 other incidents are being subject to genome sequencing now. The province says Simcoe-Muskoka region’s weekly per cent positivity rate for cases tested for mutations has sat at or near the top of rankings since mid-February. For the most- […]

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Midland man arrested following robbery attempt at Coldwater pharmacy

Police have made an arrest in connection to an attempted robbery at a pharmacy in Coldwater. The Orillia OPP detachment said the incident happened March 4 around 2 p.m. after a man entered the pharmacy and walked behind the counter holding an aerosol can that was either pepper spray or bear spray. After staff confronted the man, he fled the scene in a silver, four-door Acura. After receiving tips from the public, the detachment located the vehicle the following day and arrested the suspect. A 33-year-old Midland man has been charged with robbery with a weapon, disguise with intent and fail to comply with a probation order. The detachment thanked the pubic for its assistance in this matter, noting the information it received was instrumental in making the arrest.

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Which COVID-19 vaccine is best? Experts say it’s the first one that’s offered to you

OTTAWA—Now that Canada has an expanding menu of , you’re probably hearing chatter about how this one is better and that one is worse. Dr. Alan Bernstein has this advice for you: take the first shot you can. That’s what he’s going to do. “All the vaccines are working really well — that’s the bottom line,” said Bernstein, the president of the research organization CIFAR and member of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine task force. “I will take the first vaccine I’m offered,” he said. It’s a message that health officials are trumpeting after Health Canada authorized the country’s fourth COVID vaccine last week, deeming the Johnson & Johnson shot safe and effective against the deadly . Yes, each shot comes with a different “efficacy” rate — but that doesn’t mean you can easily conclude one is better than others. “I just wanted to caution against this sort of ‘good or bad vaccines,’” Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, told reporters recently. “If there’s a vaccine and it’s been authorized by Health Canada, it means that it’s met standards.” What, then, to make of the efficacy rates? At first blush, they seem significantly different. Health Canada the Johnson & Johnson shot had a 66-per-cent efficacy. AstraZeneca’s vaccine had a rate of 62-per-cent, according to one set of […]

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Your vaccine questions answered: A simple guide to what we know about COVID-19 vaccinations in Ontario

As the largest mass-vaccination effort in this province’s history marches on, questions continue to arise about the logistics of inoculating millions of Ontarians. To meet the stated goal of retired Gen. Rick Hillier, head of the province’s Vaccine Distribution Task Force, to give every eligible adult in Ontario one dose by June 20, the pressure is on to get more needles into more arms as quickly as possible — especially under the threat of a possible third wave of the virus. The Star is compiling a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the vaccinations, to be updated as we learn more. Have a question you need answered? Email and we will look into it. Can I get vaccinated in a region outside my own? The provincial government has told the Star that while proof of residency is not required, “Ontarians should get their vaccination within their public health region to help manage vaccine allocations.” Some vaccination clinics, such as those operated , may require you to live within their catchment area or be an existing patient before you can register to receive a dose with them. Can regions that have finished vaccinating those eligible in Phase 1 move to Phase 2 immediately? Since different regions have different considerations and populations, it’s possible that they’ll move through the plan faster than their neighbours. Under the current vaccination plan, the province currently expects to enter Phase 2 next month. “It’s […]

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Fraudster claims to be police Chief Andrew Fletcher: South Simcoe Police Service

The South Simcoe Police Service are warning the public of an old scam with a ‘new twist,’ said South Simcoe Police spokesperson Sue Sgambati. Fraudsters posed as Police Chief Andrew Fletcher in an attempt to convince one victim that their scam was legitimate, she said. According to police, a woman received a call from someone claiming she had won a cash and car prize from Publishers Clearing House. The woman was told to send money to cover the taxes on her win, Sgambati said in a press release.  To try and convince the woman of the scam, the scammers then had someone pose as a lawyer and contact the ‘winner’ and then another fraudster called claiming to be police Chief Fletcher, Sgambati said. The woman didn’t fall for the ruse and called police herself to confirm if the previous phone calls were scams.  South Simcoe Police Service provided these tips to stay safe from scammers: • Don’t send money or gift cards to prepay taxes, pay a legal fee, or any fee to claim a lottery prize.  • Be suspicious of callers claiming you’ve won money, but ask you to send money. • Never give personal or financial information to a caller you don’t know • Hang up and verify if the call is legitimate by contacting the organization that called you. • Police will never call you to confirm a lottery win. Always hang up and call the actual police to report the incident. […]

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