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Canada unlikely to follow US approach to easing COVID-19 masking rules

Unlikely to follow US

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks outdoors and in most indoor settings, but one of Canada's top public health officials suggests a different approach would be taken here.

"We have more of what I'd call a collective or community approach," Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, told a briefing in Ottawa on Thursday. "So it's not about what an individual should be able to do with one or two doses."

He said even as more Canadians get their shots, public health measures such as physical distancing, mask wearing and frequent hand washing remain key.

Njoo added the rate of new infections, the number of new cases resulting from each infection, test positivity rates and impact on the health-care system are all factors that should be weighed.

"If all that is looking good at a certain point in time — along with high vaccine coverage — that's the point I think that certainly local health authorities will be able to consider loosening restrictions on what Canadians are able to do."

Njoo said 40 per cent of eligible Canadians over the age of 18 have now received one vaccine dose — good, but not maximum, protection.

More than 46 per cent of the U.S. population has been given at least one dose and more than a third given both.

Njoo made his remarks after Ontario announced it's keeping its stay-at-home order in place until at least June 2 in order to have the "most normal July and August possible."

In Ottawa, the military officer in charge of Canada's vaccine rollout said 655,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been received from COVAX, the global vaccine sharing alliance.

The doses aren't being immediately distributed, but provinces are invited to put in orders, said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin.

"We want to assure everyone that sufficient supply will be available for those who want a second dose of AstraZeneca or who cannot take an mRNA vaccine (made by Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna)," he said.

Njoo said that Canada has confirmed 18 cases of an extremely rare blood clotting condition in patients who received the AstraZeneca shot and that 10 more are under investigation.

British Columbia is monitoring its second case of the vaccine-induced clotting condition. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the man in his 40s is stable.

B.C. diagnosed 587 new cases of COVID-19, as its infection rate continued to trend downward.



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