Toronto says police not vaccinated by Nov 30 will be put on unpaid leave

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Members of Toronto’s police, the largest municipal force in Canada, will be placed on unpaid leave if they do not provide proof of complete inoculation against COVID-19 by Nov. 30, officials said on Thursday.

The move is the latest announcement in a crackdown by professional bodies across Canada. The police force said 90% of members had disclosed their vaccine status and of those, 94% had received two shots.

The Toronto Police Service employs over 5,500 officers and more than 2,200 civilian staff.

“Effective on November 30, 2021, any member … who has not disclosed their vaccination status or is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will have rendered themselves unable to perform their duties. These members will be placed on an indefinite unpaid absence,” it said in a statement.

“The safety of our workplaces and the health of our members is of critical importance to the Service.”

Canada’s federal Liberal government said earlier this month it would place unvaccinated federal employees on unpaid leave if they had not proved their inoculation status by Oct 29.

Public broadcaster Canadian Broadcasting Corp said on Thursday it had set a Dec. 1 deadline for all staff, contractors, producers, vendors and guests to be fully vaccinated.

Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children placed 147 of its employees on unpaid leave on Thursday for failing to submit proof of full inoculation, a spokeswoman said.

The Ottawa Hospital, one of the biggest in Canada, has told 318 staff they will be put on unpaid leave unless they get fully vaccinated by Nov. 1, a spokesman told CTV news on Thursday.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Majority of COVID-19 cases at large public events were among vaccinated -U.S. CDC study

(Reuters) – A new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that three-quarters of individuals who became infected with COVID-19 at public events in a Massachusetts county had been fully vaccinated.

The study, published on Friday, showed that three-quarters of those infected were fully vaccinated, suggesting the Delta variant of the virus is highly contagious.

A separate CDC internal document, first reported by the Washington Post on Friday, described the Delta variant as being as transmissible as chickenpox and cautioned it could cause severe disease.

The new study’s authors recommended that local health authorities consider requiring masks in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status or the number of coronavirus cases in the community.

The study identified 469 people with COVID-19, 74% of whom were fully vaccinated, following large public events in the state’s Barnstable County. Testing identified the Delta variant in 90% of virus specimens from 133 people.

The viral load was similar in people who were fully vaccinated and those who were unvaccinated, the CDC said.

High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus, it said.

The finding of the report “is concerning and was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC’s updated mask recommendation,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the CDC reversed course on guidance for mask wearing, calling for their use in areas where cases are surging as a precaution against the possible transmission of the virus by fully vaccinated people.

“The masking recommendation was updated to ensure the vaccinated public would not unknowingly transmit virus to others, including their unvaccinated or immunocompromised loved ones,” Walensky said in a statement.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Howard Goller)

CDC recommends masking indoors for unvaccinated students, teachers in U.S. schools

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated its guidance to help reopen schools in the fall, including recommending masking indoors for everyone who is not fully vaccinated and three feet of distance within classrooms.

The CDC in its latest guidance said all kindergarten through grade 12 schools in the United States should continue to mandate wearing masks indoors by all individuals who are not fully vaccinated.

The agency said that if localities decide to remove prevention strategies in schools based on local conditions, they should remove them one at a time. Schools should monitor closely for increases in COVID-19 cases before removing the next prevention strategy.

“Because of the importance of in-person learning, schools where not everyone is fully vaccinated should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures, but should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement,” the new guidance said.

A study by the CDC also released on Friday showed that half of unvaccinated adolescents and parents of unvaccinated adolescents reported being uncertain about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, or did not intend to get one at all.

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Portugal orders COVID test, vaccination proof at hotel check-in

y Catarina Demony and Victoria Waldersee

LISBON (Reuters) -Holidaymakers in Portugal will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test, a vaccination certificate or proof of recovery to stay in hotels or other holiday accommodation, the government announced on Thursday, as infections continue to rise.

Portugal’s new daily case numbers have been rising steadily in recent weeks, returning to levels last seen in February when the country was under a strict lockdown. Nearly 90% of cases are of the more infectious Delta variant.

As the Delta variant spreads, the country is struggling to salvage the usually busy summer season.

Negative tests, vaccination certificates or proof of recovery will also be required to eat indoors at restaurants in 60 high-risk municipalities, including Lisbon and the city of Porto, on Friday evenings and at the weekend.

“For a long time, the only measure we had to our disposal was limiting economic activity,” said Cabinet Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva. “With the digital certificate, and the more frequent availability of tests, we have other ways of guaranteeing security.”

Holidaymakers and restaurant customers can use the EU digital COVID-19 certificate. Rapid antigen tests will also be valid, the minister said, and can be provided by hotels at check-in. The new rules come into force on Saturday.

Children under 12 accompanied by a parent or guardian are exempt.

Portugal’s restaurant association said “there were already too many rules and restrictions” which risk driving customers away.

“This could destroy the ray of hope for many business people,” it said.

Customers and businesses who break the rules risk being fined, up to 500 and 10,000 euros respectively.

The measure will allow restaurants to reopen for dinner on Saturday and Sunday in high-risk areas, where they were forced to shut earlier for the two previous weekends.

A night-time curfew, already in place 45 municipalities, will be extended to a further 15 municipalities, including Faro, the main city in the popular southern Algarve.

Portugal, population 10 million, reported more than 3,000 daily coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 899,295.

Cases started to gradually increase after Portugal opened to visitors from the EU and Britain in mid-May. But daily deaths remain well below February levels with new cases primarily reported among younger, unvaccinated people.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony, Victoria Waldersee and Sergio Goncalves; Additional reporting by Patricia Vicente Rua; Editing by Victoria Waldersee and Giles Elgood)

U.S. cases rising, mostly among unvaccinated – health officials

(Reuters) – U.S. COVID-19 cases are up around 11% over last week, almost entirely among people who have not been vaccinated, officials said on Thursday, as the highly infectious Delta variant becomes the dominant COVID-19 strain in the country.

Around 93% of COVID-19 cases have occurred in counties with vaccination rates of less than 40%, said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky.

Nearly all deaths and hospitalizations nationwide are among unvaccinated people, said Jeff Zients, who leads the White House’s COVID-19 response team.

“Simply put: in areas of low vaccination coverage, cases and hospitalizations are up,” Walensky said.

The CDC earlier this week said that the Delta variant of COVID-19 has already become the dominant strain in the United States. The variant, which is highly contagious, has also become dominant in other countries around the world.

Cases of COVID-19 are surging in counties representing 9 million people, Walensky said.

The White House plans to concentrate federal assistance for vaccinating against and treating COVID-19 in states including Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada and Illinois, Zients said.

The White House last week said it would send out special teams to hot spots around the United States to combat the Delta variant amid rising case counts in parts of the country.

The White House is also working to make COVID-19 vaccines available at doctors’ offices around the country, Zients added.

He said the spread of the Delta variant is particularly dangerous to young people. Research suggests it may cause more severe disease among younger people than other variants of the coronavirus.

Walensky added that the United States is seeing outbreaks of COVID-19 at summer camps and other community events.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell in New York and Jeff Mason in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Mike Collett-White)