Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 228 people in ICU due to COVID-19, 9 new deaths; Obama tests positive

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

6:15 p.m.: Canada’s COVID-19 border restrictions could have an impact on the American League East standings.

On the mandatory reporting day for spring training, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters in Tampa that he is concerned some of his players won’t be allowed to travel north for games in Toronto.

“We still have a few guys at least who are not vaccinated,” Boone said Sunday.

Unvaccinated athletes, professional and amateur, haven’t been able to travel into Canada since mid-January, in line with the national policy for all non-Canadians who don’t have their jabs. Before Jan. 15, they had been allowed in under a national interest exemption.

Read the full story here from Laura Armstrong: The Yankees and Red Sox might be short-handed for games in Toronto

4:15 p.m.: Former U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, though he’s feeling relatively healthy and his wife, Michelle, tested negative.

“I’ve had a scratchy throat for a couple days, but am feeling fine otherwise,” Obama said on Twitter. “Michelle and I are grateful to be vaccinated and boosted.”

Obama encouraged more Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, despite the declining infection rate in the U.S. There were roughly 35,000 infections on average over the past week, down sharply from mid-January when that average was closer to 800,000.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 75.2% of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated and 47.7% of the fully vaccinated have received a booster shot.

3:45 p.m.: Calgary’s mayor is calling for enforcement against anti-mandate marches through a downtown neighbourhood after police say approximately 2,000 people took part in opposing protests Saturday.

Jyoti Gondek posted in a series of tweets that the disruption occurring every weekend in the Beltline neighbourhood is a “parade” and not a “protest,” yet it has no permits or licences.

Gondek says the demonstrations aren’t about mandates because those are gone, and she says the “standard response that this will ‘fizzle out’ is “shameful.”

Police say in a news release that the opposing protests became involved in a confrontation on Saturday, creating a block on 17 Avenue S.E., for more than an hour.

11:50 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 228 people in ICU due to COVID-19, according to its latest report released Sunday morning. Overall hospitalization numbers for COVID were unavailable.

Twenty-eight per cent of the province’s 2,343 adult ICU beds remain available for new patients.

Given new provincial regulations around testing that took effect Dec. 31, 2021, case counts – reported at 1,631 on Saturday, down 24 per cent from the previous day – are also not considered an accurate assessment of how widespread COVID-19 is right now. Nine new deaths were reported in the latest numbers.

The province says 12,065,628 people have completed their vaccinations, which means they’ve had two doses.

Read the full story by the Star’s Ashima Agnihotri

9:09 a.m.: Ontario’s next budget will set a roadmap for recovering from COVID-19, perhaps doubling as the Progressive Conservatives’ election platform, and many stakeholders are asking the government to shore up the health system by looking beyond hospitals.

From hospitals, to long-term care, to laboratories, the health sector bore much of the brunt of the pandemic’s impact.

The government pumped more than $5 billion into hospitals to add 3,100 beds since the start of the pandemic and the Ontario Hospital Association said those were welcome investments.

Now, to maintain financial stability for hospitals as they restart surgeries and procedures delayed by the pandemic and continue to manage other COVID-19 pressures, they require a 3.5 per cent increase in base operating funding, or $735 million, the OHA said in its pre-budget submission.

9:08 a.m.: China’s government responded Sunday to a spike in coronavirus infections by shutting down its southern business centre of Shenzhen, a city of 17.5 million people, and restricted access to Shanghai by suspending bus service.

Everyone in Shenzhen, a finance and technology centre that abuts Hong Kong, will undergo three rounds of testing after 60 new cases were reported Sunday. All businesses except those that supply food, fuel and other necessities were ordered to close or work from home.

8:08 a.m.: As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into a third year, many experts are expressing cautious optimism that Canada has passed the need for lockdowns and the widespread safety protocols that marked much of the last 24 months.

But after two years of dealing with an unpredictable virus, they also say we should be ready to adapt at any moment.

While hospitalizations and other pandemic markers appear to have dipped or stabilized throughout the country, virologist Jason Kindrachuk says the COVID-19 crisis can’t be considered over until it subsides across the globe.

“The history of COVID-19 tells us we should be preparing for the potential of another variant of concern…. Let’s at least be appreciative that we’ve been in this situation before,” says Kindrachuk, an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba.

“None of us want to take a step forward and end up having to take five or 10 steps backwards because we get hit with what comes next.”

Jurisdictions began lifting public health measures over the last month, axing gathering limits, vaccine passports and mask mandates.

Sunday 8:04 a.m.: Shanghai ordered its residents over the weekend to avoid all but essential travel in or out of the city and halted long-haul bus services on Sunday, as a coronavirus outbreak continued to spread in the metropolis and across much of mainland China.

While China still has far fewer COVID-19 cases than most countries, the daily count of infections has accelerated rapidly. The country’s National Health Commission reported 3,122 new cases on Sunday, up from 1,524 on Saturday and 1,100 on Friday, and a couple of hundred per day just a week ago.

The most severe outbreaks are in towns and cities in the northeastern province of Jilin, which accounted for two-thirds of the cases announced on Sunday. Two mayors were dismissed in the province on Saturday, in hard-hit Jilin City and in the Jiutai district of the city of Changchun.

Nearly half of the cases across China that were announced on Sunday involved people who did not initially show symptoms. China has attributed this partly to a very high rate of vaccination, except among the elderly, and partly to the prevalence of the highly contagious Omicron variant, which sometimes produces many cases that are at least initially asymptomatic. A few cases of the Delta variant have also been detected near China’s borders in recent weeks.

Read Saturday’s coronavirus news.