New wetlands protections in Southern Ontario are an important step toward fighting climate change in Canada.
New wetlands protections in Southern Ontario are an important step toward fighting climate change in Canada.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Fresh off another rejection in Pennsylvania's courts, Republicans on Thursday again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state, while the state's lawyers say fatal flaws in the original case mean justices are highly unlikely to grant it. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania and the other plaintiffs are asking the high court to prevent the state from certifying any contests from the Nov. 3 election, and undo any certifications already made, such as Biden’s victory, while its lawsuit is considered. They maintain that Pennsylvania’s expansive vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional because it required a constitutional amendment to authorize its provisions. However, in a sign that the case is likely too late to affect the election, Justice Samuel Alito ordered the state's lawyers to respond by Dec. 9, a day after what is known as the safe harbour deadline. That means that Congress cannot challenge any electors named by this date in accordance with state law. Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016. Most mail-in ballots were submitted by Democrats. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court threw out the case Saturday. Kelly's lawyers sought an injunction Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court, then withdrew it while they asked the state's high court to halt any certifications until the U.S. Supreme Court acts. The state's justices refused Thursday, and Kelly's lawyers promptly refiled the case in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the state’s courts, justices cited the law’s 180-day time limit on filing legal challenges to its provisions, as well as the staggering demand that an entire election be overturned retroactively. In addition to challenging the state's mail-in voting law, Kelly’s lawyers question whether the state's justices violated their clients' constitutional rights by throwing out the case on the basis of time limits and barring them from refiling it on the same grounds. Lawyers for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in court filings that Kelly's lawyers never before argued that the U.S. Constitution provides a basis for their claims, making it “highly unlikely” the U.S. Supreme Court will grant what they are seeking. In the underlying lawsuit, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors. ___ Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/timelywriter Marc Levy, The Associated Press
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed "within reach" after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran. The United States and Kuwait have worked to end the dispute, during which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017.
A young woman who lived through the difficult Grade 12 graduation season last spring wants to help other youth in Calgary by spearheading an online peer-to-peer support group.Isabella Burton, 18, says schools and the government are not offering enough mental health support for students, who are struggling under the COVID-related pressures of online schooling and uncertainty."There wasn't really enough resources provided by our schools and the government, as well that those services weren't readily available," Burton, who is now studying at the University of Calgary, told CBC.As Burton finished her final year of high school from home, she reached out to a group called Peerify youth, a startup non-profit out of Toronto. At Peerify, volunteers — mostly teenagers — become mentors and can offer online support through one-on-one calls and workshops.She spearheaded a Calgary chapter, which now has 40 local volunteers."With Peerify, you can have that same person talk to you a second time," Burton said. "So if you have to come back, talk to us a second time, you can talk with the same person who you talked with before, as opposed to having to explain your story all over again and then try and hope you find someone who understood as well as the last time."Burton says the free service is aimed at helping people between the ages of 13 and 23, an age group she says often feels too old to see a child psychologist, but don't feel comfortable in an adult setting. A recent report on the mental health of Canadian children found that suicide is now the leading cause of death among children age 10 to 14.The report, Raising Canada 2020, was published by the University of Calgary's O'Brien Institute for Public Health, the Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute, and Children First Canada, a national children's advocacy society.It concluded that poverty and food insecurity, child abuse, neglect, physical inactivity and instances of anxiety and depression among children may be increasing — or are in danger of increasing — because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, existing services are strained. Kids Help Phone, the charity that offers 24/7 counselling services to young Canadians in distress, has reported that demand for Kids Help Phone's services has been on the rise, with calls and text messages surging since the COVID-19 pandemic began."Currently, to speak with a Kids Help Phone representative, the wait is about 45 minutes," Burton wrote in an email. "Keeping this in mind, it will be no surprise when we see a sharp increase in mental health issues among youth. We acknowledge that these services are vital to the safety of Calgarians, however, there is a lack of free alternatives that will help prevent these calls in the first place."Peerify was founded by Karen Guan, 17 in Toronto. Guan said it's important for people her age to connect through a similar experience."You know having that unfiltered and casual talk, it eases that pain instantly, and for many people having someone they can relate to, is really a transformative experience."The group is holding a free virtual self-care workshop on December 9. For more information go to Peerify Calgary.
On Wednesday evening the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division notified the public that a case of COVID-19 had been identified in an individual at John Diefenbaker Public School. “The division is hoping the recovery is quick and thorough and we extend our get-well wishes to this member of our school community and offer our support to the surrounding family. We also extend our support to the staff and students in our schools affected by the isolation,” the release stated. As has been the case in the past, this case was not school-acquired. The division was informed on Wednesday of the positive COVID-19 test result and communication is being shared with the classroom/cohort, the connected staff, as well as with the school community. The learning program will continue remotely for those students affected. John Diefenbaker will remain open for in-person classes for students who are not required to self-isolate. The division, in this case, did not announce the length of the isolation. As is the circumstance in all cases in the division due to privacy concerns, further details of the case will not be shared. The school’s COVID Response Plan contains many important measures, processes and protocols that add layers of protection for students and staff. School personnel will continue to be informed and guided by SHA as they manage this case. Staffs at schools in the division remain vigilant in ensuring proper safety measures are in place and personnel from the SHA continue to guide and inform school administration and staff. The division explained that although there has been no evidence that transmission has occurred within any Sask. Rivers schools and we all share responsibility to minimize the risk of COVID transmission. “The division deeply appreciates the support that students, parents and community members have demonstrated, especially as the number of cases in our region climbs.” The SHA’s local public health team continues to provide expert advice and strong support for our dedicated staff as we manage the pandemic in our communities. “The division is thankful to have such a cohesive team of administration and staff supported by our partners in Health.”Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Long-term care and assisted living facilities in B.C. are facing an increasingly deadly second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, while at the same time imposing restrictions that leave seniors increasingly isolated. And the province’s seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie says the government needs to overhaul the measures put in place in the pandemic’s early weeks and ease restrictions on visitors that are depriving residents of essential care and time with loved ones, and which could be costing more lives than they are saving. Mackenzie said this will be the last holiday season for about a quarter of residents, and the province needs to do everything in its power to support meaningful connection between residents and their families. “I don’t think it was ever intended that these measures would be in place for as long as they have been. I think it was intended to give care operators the opportunity to figure out how to manage these visits,” she said. “And we just got stuck in how we started out the visits in July, with how we’re doing the visits now, in December. We just need to shift that.” COVID-19 case numbers and deaths, the majority of which have been long-term care residents, have risen to unprecedented levels. About 35 people in long-term care died of the disease last weekend alone. B.C. introduced policies to limit the number and frequency of visitors quickly in the spring, also requiring staff to work at a single site to prevent spread between facilities. Each resident could have one 30-minute essential care visit per week. About half the people who applied to be designated as essential were rejected. The restrictions worked, quelling outbreaks that resulted in lower care-home deaths than in Ontario and Quebec. In June, B.C. announced each resident could have a designated social visitor as well, an expansion that rolled out slowly and inconsistently across the province. But after 10 months, the restrictions have devastated the physical and mental health of residents and failed to prevent outbreaks as community cases increase. There are now 54 active outbreaks in B.C.’s long-term care and assisted living facilities. “The challenge that we are facing right now, is that this surge in our communities has dramatically increased the risk in long-term care,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Wednesday. But earlier in the week Henry noted visitors are not causing outbreaks, which are more often caused by staff unknowingly spreading the virus. Mackenzie said health officials should allow more frequent and longer visits with the current designated visitors rather than increase the number of visitors per resident. When asked by The Tyee, Henry said the province is working to maintain and extend the current visitation level allowing one designated visitor. “But expanding to allow more social visits is not going to happen during this risky period right now,” she said Henry did not say when current visitors might be allowed to see loved ones more frequently. “I understand the reluctance,” said Mackenzie, who used to run care homes before being appointed B.C. seniors advocate by the government. “But increasing the frequency of visits, allowing their visits to happen in the privacy of the residence room, that’s not going to significantly increase the risk at all, and arguably could be decreasing the risk, because the care home is going to be able to rely on those family members to provide some help.” Current protocols that require visits occur in common areas also put strain on already overworked care workers and nurses by requiring them to transport residents from their rooms for visits. Visitors also need to be screened and escorted to the space, rather than finding their way to the residents’ rooms. “Irrespective of how meaningful visitors’ increased presence will be for the resident, their increased presence is going to help us as well,” said Mackenzie. “There’s going to be an extra pair of hands there to help with the feeding, to help with the toilet, to help with things that some of them were helping with before the pandemic.” And experts say the increased workload around visits and decreased family support has shed further light on the overworked and fragmented sector, where many care workers don’t have paid time off, sick days or health benefits. “Everything has changed, but nothing has changed,” said Joanie Sims-Gould, an expert in seniors’ health at the department of family practice at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine. “But everything’s changed in the wrong direction.” Research co-conducted by Farinaz Havaei at UBC’s school of nursing found that during the pandemic’s first wave residents’ direct nursing care plummeted by about 10 hours per month as facilities scrambled to control the virus. Nurses are responsible for just under 30 patients in an average shift, while care aides look after around 10 patients each shift. Havaei, who researches human resources in the health-care sector, said the pandemic placed alarming pressure on staff. “I even get goosebumps, because I think... it’s a very stressful context for long-term care staff.” Registered nurses recorded the largest decline in hours compared to licensed practical nurses. Their hours had already been in slight but steady decline since 2018. Meanwhile, the relative hours of care performed by care aides is steadily increasing, leading Havaei to ponder how care aides may be replacing nurses in some care situations. Based on research from her coming report, Havaei says supporting staff with flexible sick leave, paid time off and proper personal protective equipment can improve their lives, which in turn will improve the care residents receive. “If you think about the mental health implications of all of that (stress), and how that influences staff’s work behaviours and decisions when giving care, you can see that the implications are really huge,” said Havaei. The federal government announced $1 billion in funding for the long-term care sector, and B.C. has committed $44.1 million to hire more than 5,000 new health-care support workers. “Adequate resources translates directly to safe staffing levels,” added Sims-Gould. “The situation is so grave, and these facilities are doing the best they can.” Henry would not commit to a timeline when families could see visits expanded, but Mackenzie hopes the right balance will be found and implemented as soon as possible. “Time is marching on,” she said, noting residents won’t have access to a vaccine until February or March at the earliest. “Arguably, not only can we [expand visits] now, I think now makes it more important to do it, because the system is under more stress,” said Mackenzie. “And these family members can actually help us, in addition to visiting their loved one, and all of those positive quality-of-life benefits.”Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
Tofino, BC - Master carver Joe martin normally keeps an open-door policy. It’s been customary for people from different territories and nationalities to drop by Martin’s workshop in Tofino and soak in his teachings. Theatrically waving his hands through the air, Martin would tell stories of how his ancestors used to pierce a whale under its left front flipper by launching a harpoon from a canoe with the strength of one arm. “I’m well over my mid-life,” said the 67-year-old. “It’s the law of nature – one day I’m not going to be here. Having teachings and passing them on is a responsibility.” No longer able to host visitors due to the ongoing pandemic, Martin has turned to social media as a way of sharing his ancestor’s stories. By posting short videos of teachings to his personal Facebook page, the Tla-o-qui-aht elder is hoping to appeal to younger generations. “That’s where we have their attention,” he said of the youth within his nation. Martin thinks back on his childhood with fondness. Considering himself one of the fortunate ones, he didn’t go to residential school. Instead, his father and grandfather were his teachers. Spending their days out on the land, Martin’s father would recount teachings to him over-and-over. Through oral repetition, his family’s histories seeped into his psyche and became a part of his being. As the world changes, the way we interact has transformed. Oral stories are being disseminated online as a way to bring communities together because people are unable to gather. “We have to adjust,” said Martin. “And this is how we’re adjusting.” In trying to capturethe attention of Tla-o-qui-aht’s youth, Martin said that he has also connected with elders of his generation who were forced to attend residential school. Stripped of the teachings from their own grandparents, some have clung to Martin’s stories. During the first week of lockdown at the end of March, Cory Howard, Huu-ay-aht First Nations health and wellness coordinator, began posting live videos of himself singing his family’s songs. It is a practice he has continued every Tuesday evening, drawing in an average of 500 viewers. “People are loving it,” said Howard. “They say it’s medicine for them.” After his cousin was stricken with COVID-19 last week, Howard recorded a song and sent it to him. “It makes [people] feel better when they have culture in their life,” he said. “When they’re down, it lifts them up.” During lockdown in April, Joe’s daughter, Gisele, spent a lot of time connecting with nature and photographing the “beautiful biodiversity” near her home in Esowista. At the time, she struggled on whether to post the photos online, worrying how it might affect people who were confined to their city apartments. But after deciding to share them, she was met with gratitude. “Even though they couldn't be there, it helped them with their day,” she said. “Through social media, I’m connected to people in a lot of different territories and get to hear their stories – it helps me navigate how I do things here.” Gisele has been helping her father with his videos. The recordings extend beyond the technicalities of how to carve a traditional dugout canoe. Collaboratively, they try to weave in stories about how generations of salmon returning to a river system provide nourishment to the surrounding forests, making it possible for a canoe to come into existence. As a Nuu-chah-nulth language and culture educator, Gisele said she recognizes the benefits of social media as a way of increasing cultural awareness, but remains cautious. “I think part of the problem or challenge with sharing things online is that our teachings can get fragmented,” she said. Using plants as an example, Gisele said that she would never go to another nation’s territory to harvest. There are a lot of considerations to be made about the reciprocal relationship people have with plants, along with traditional protocols that might not come through in a video, she said. Being a gathering people, online platforms have provided a space for Nuu-chah-nulth members to come together. But, as important as it is to connect with people, Gisele said it’s equally vital to interact with the landscape around you. Pictures on Instagram may allow people to appreciate the wonders of nature, but Gisele argues it is impossible to interact with nature through a screen. And while the black mirrors are helping to fill the void during this time of social distancing, we need to connect to the places where we live and “support the health of those places,” she said.Melissa Renwick, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Ha-Shilth-Sa
MADISON, Wis. — A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear President Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the battleground state, sidestepping a decision on the merits of the claims and instead ruling that the case must first wind its way through lower courts.In another blow to Trump, two dissenting conservative justices questioned whether disqualifying more than 221,000 ballots as Trump wanted would be the proper remedy to the errors he alleged.The defeat on a 4-3 ruling was the latest in a string of losses for Trump’s post-election lawsuits. Judges in multiple battleground states have rejected his claims of fraud or irregularities.Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. His lawsuit echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes.Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.”“It was clear from their writings that the court recognizes the seriousness of these issues, and we look forward to taking the next step,” he said in a statement. Trump's team made the filing late Thursday evening.In asking the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, Trump had argued that there wasn’t enough time to wage the legal battle by starting with a lower court, given the looming Dec. 14 date when presidential electors cast their votes.Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn joined three liberal justices in denying the petition without weighing in on Trump's allegations. Hagedorn said the law was clear that Trump must start his lawsuit in lower courts where factual disputes can be worked out.“We do well as a judicial body to abide by time-tested judicial norms, even — and maybe especially — in high profile cases,” Hagedorn wrote. “Following this law is not disregarding our duty, as some of my colleagues suggest. It is following the law.”Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday.Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, in a dissent where she was joined by Justice Annette Ziegler, said she would have taken the case and referred it to lower courts for factual findings, which could then be reported back to the Supreme Court for a ruling.But she also questioned whether disqualifying ballots was appropriate, saying that "may be out of reach for a number of reasons.”Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote that the court “forsakes its duty” by not determining whether elections officials complied with the law and the inaction will undermine the public's confidence in elections. Allowing the elections commission to make the law governing elections would be a “death blow to democracy,” she wrote.“While some will either celebrate or decry the court's inaction based upon the impact on their preferred candidate, the importance of this case transcends the results of this particular election,” she wrote in a dissent joined by Roggensack and Ziegler. “The majority's failure to act leaves an indelible stain on our most recent election.”Democratic Gov. Tony Evers praised the decision.“I was frankly amazed that it was not unanimous," Evers said.Trump's lawsuit challenged procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.He claimed there were thousands of absentee ballots without a written application on file. He argued that the electronic log created when a voter requests a ballot online — the way the vast majority are requested — doesn’t meet the letter of the law.He also challenged ballots where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted — a practice that has long been accepted and that the state elections commission told clerks was OK.Trump also challenged absentee ballots where voters declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined,” a status that exempts them from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot, and one that was used much more heavily this year due to the pandemic. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it was up to individual voters to determine their status.Roggensack, the chief justice, appointed Reserve Judge Stephen Simanek of Racine County to hear the case at the circuit court level. Simanek retired in 2010.The court late Thursday also declined to hear a lawsuit brought by a Wisconsin resident, Dean Mueller, that argued that ballots placed in drop boxes are illegal and must not be counted. The court's brief order included a single line noting Roggensack, Ziegler and Bradley all dissented with the denial.One other lawsuit filed by conservatives is still pending with the court seeking to invalidate ballots. In federal court, there is Trump’s lawsuit and another one with similar claims from Sidney Powell, a conservative attorney who was removed from Trump’s legal team.Wisconsin this week certified Biden’s victory, setting the stage for a Democratic slate of electors chosen earlier to cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for him.Scott Bauer, The Associated Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.There are 396,270 confirmed cases in Canada._ Canada: 396,270 confirmed cases (69,255 active, 314,608 resolved, 12,407 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.There were 6,495 new cases Thursday from 86,875 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 7.5 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43,173 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,168.There were 82 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 608 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 87. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,739,689 tests completed._ Newfoundland and Labrador: 340 confirmed cases (29 active, 307 resolved, four deaths).There were zero new cases Thursday from 420 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 13 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 63,583 tests completed._ Prince Edward Island: 73 confirmed cases (five active, 68 resolved, zero deaths).There was one new case Thursday from 584 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.17 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been three new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 61,621 tests completed._ Nova Scotia: 1,343 confirmed cases (119 active, 1,159 resolved, 65 deaths).There were 11 new cases Thursday from 1,300 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.85 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 86 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 12.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 150,559 tests completed._ New Brunswick: 520 confirmed cases (111 active, 402 resolved, seven deaths).There were six new cases Thursday from 1,179 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.51 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 55 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is eight.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people. There have been 103,791 tests completed._ Quebec: 146,532 confirmed cases (13,198 active, 126,179 resolved, 7,155 deaths).There were 1,470 new cases Thursday from 11,594 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,638 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,377.There were 30 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 208 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 30. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.35 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 84.33 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,215,810 tests completed._ Ontario: 121,746 confirmed cases (14,795 active, 103,239 resolved, 3,712 deaths).There were 1,824 new cases Thursday from 51,144 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.6 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,385 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,769.There were 14 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 137 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 20. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.48 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,197,157 tests completed._ Manitoba: 17,751 confirmed cases (9,130 active, 8,268 resolved, 353 deaths).There were 367 new cases Thursday from 2,804 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,463 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 352.There were 11 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 87 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.91 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.78 per 100,000 people. There have been 354,449 tests completed._ Saskatchewan: 9,244 confirmed cases (4,017 active, 5,173 resolved, 54 deaths).There were 262 new cases Thursday from 1,696 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 15 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,882 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 269.There was one new reported death Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.17 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 4.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 265,300 tests completed._ Alberta: 63,023 confirmed cases (17,743 active, 44,705 resolved, 575 deaths).There were 1,854 new cases Thursday from 8,049 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 23 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 11,145 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,592.There were 14 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 65 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 13.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,495,622 tests completed._ British Columbia: 35,422 confirmed cases (10,013 active, 24,928 resolved, 481 deaths).There were 694 new cases Thursday from 7,929 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.8 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,449 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 778.There were 12 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 97 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.27 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 9.48 per 100,000 people. There have been 815,367 tests completed._ Yukon: 50 confirmed cases (20 active, 29 resolved, one deaths).There was one new case Thursday from 89 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.1 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been 11 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 5,488 tests completed._ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths).There were zero new cases Thursday from 48 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 6,482 tests completed._ Nunavut: 198 confirmed cases (75 active, 123 resolved, zero deaths).There were five new cases Thursday from 39 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is six.There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 4,384 tests completed.This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
RED DEER, Alta. — Alexis Lafreniere will not play for Canada in the world junior hockey championship.Hockey Canada said in a statement Thursday that the NHL’s New York Rangers will not loan Lafreniere to Canada’s team for the tournament in Edmonton.The Rangers selected Lafreniere with the No. 1 pick this year in the NHL draft.Lafreniere led Canada to a gold medal at the 2020 junior championship in the Czech Republic. He had four goals and six assists in five games and was named tournament MVP.All activity at Canada’s camp has been suspended from Nov. 25 until at least Sunday after two players and a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.The Associated Press
Senior Health Canada officials said Thursday they could be just days away from approving a COVID-19 vaccine as many provinces reported increasing hospitalizations and Quebec cancelled plans to allow gatherings over the Christmas holidays.Chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said final documents from the American drugmaker Pfizer are expected Friday. They are to include which production lots of the vaccine will be shipped to Canada and when. Sharma wouldn't put an exact date on approval or delivery, but said once the "key information" is delivered from Pfizer, she will be able to tell Canadians the news they have been longing to hear.Moderna's vaccine is expected to receive approval soon after. The supply will initially be limited to about three million people. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Thursday they are targeting priority groups that will most benefit from an earlier vaccine while reducing the spread of the virus.“In a country as geographically large and diverse as ours, we are facing some logistical complexities,” he said, including reaching remote communities and co-ordinating between various levels of government.The Canadian Armed Forces received formal orders last week to start planning for the distribution of COVID-19 in the most ambitious and complex vaccine rollout in the country’s history. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the country's distribution effort, said the speed, scope and scale of this plan makes it unique. A planning directive for Operation Vector includes preparations on vaccine-storage facilities and notes the possibility of flying doses on short notice from Spain, Germany and the U.S.Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals and front-line workers during the second wave of the pandemic as they prepare for upcoming distribution of the vaccine. Premier Francois Legault announced Quebec will no longer go forward with a plan to permit multi-household gatherings of up to 10 people over four days during the holidays. Hospitalizations declined slightly in that province to 737, but the number of people in the intensive care unit remained unchanged at 99 on Thursday.Legault said it was not realistic to think the numbers will go down sufficiently by Christmas.Ontario reported 666 people were in hospital Thursday with COVID-19, with 195 in intensive care — a 34 per cent increase from the week before. There were 1,824 new cases and 14 more deaths due to the virus.Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said there is a team working with the federal government on vaccine distribution. “It’s still early day. We are going to start this process as soon as we can to make strides," he said. "Everything we do is a step in the right direction.”The seven-day rolling average of new cases nationally is 6,044.The Prairie provinces have been a hot spot for COVID-19 in recent weeks. Saskatchewan and Alberta recently brought in more restrictions, with the latter making a request to Ottawa and the Canadian Red Cross for field hospitals to help with the surge.Alberta recorded 1,854 new infections Thursday — a new daily record. There were 511 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 97 in intensive care.Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said the contact tracing system is struggling under the volume of new cases.Manitoba reported 367 new infections and 12 additional deaths. Premier Brian Pallister called for more clarity in Ottawa's vaccination rollout, specifically when it comes to how doses will distributed on First Nations.The premier also expressed frustration with people who still don't believe the novel coronavirus is a threat, even though more than 250 Manitobans died from the virus in November alone."If you don't think that COVID's real right now, you're an idiot," Pallister said.Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, announced 694 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 12 additional deaths as she outlined the early details of the province's plan for immunization.Seniors in long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get immunized, she said, but more details on the plan won't come out until next week.Henry said health-care workers are tired from the pandemic and it's important to get through the next few months before vaccines are available."We know that our long-term care homes, in particular, are most vulnerable, and we know right now it's the biggest challenge that we are facing," she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.— With files from Mia RabsonKelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
The Saskatchewan Health Authority is considering lengthening hours and opening more locations for drive-thru COVID-19 testing, with current sites under pressure due to surging case numbers.New projections released Thursday suggest the number of new COVID-19 cases could reach 560 per day by mid-December. Testing centres, which are located in Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon and Yorkton, are already under strain due to the recent increase in community transmission of the virus. On its first day of operation, the Prince Albert centre had to turn people away more than two hours before its scheduled closing time of 4 p.m. CST. Jennifer Nygaard drove for about an hour from her home in Struthers Lake to line up for drive-thru testing. She said she joined the line at about noon and was turned away before 2 p.m."If people are having to be sent home at 1:00 in the afternoon, that says to me that they're well below the capacity to test the people that want to be tested right now," said Nygaard. She said nobody should be turned away because the province is in an emergency situation, and because they might not have the means to try again.Longer hours, 2nd centres among optionsSHA chief executive Scott Livingstone said at a news conference Thursday work is underway to expand testing capacity. "Particularly in Saskatoon and Regina we are looking at how we extend hours as well as put more staff in place, or even look at second locations for drive-thru testing in both the centres because of the popularity," said Livingstone. Livingstone said a pilot program is also being used to proactively test long-term care workers and residents at eight facilities. The program will be expanded provincewide after the initial pilot period to help identify cases earlier, he said.He added that about 15 new laboratory staff have been hired and about 20 more are in training to improve testing capacity and timeliness.GeneXpert machines are in 19 communities across the province to reduce the need for people to travel for testing, Livingstone said."We are working with GeneXpert to continue to expand the access to cartridges so we can use that platform better."Questions about accessBut Nygaard said the system for COVID-19 testing relies too heavily on having access to a vehicle. "What are they doing for people who are in rural communities? What are they doing for seniors who may not have vehicles to get there?" she said. "What are they doing for people with disabilities that are not in the city?… You cannot access this testing through public transit. So maybe they need to look at an in-home testing model."On Wednesday, 3,247 tests were completed in Saskatchewan, the province said in its Thursday COVID-19 update.Of the total 353,638 tests completed since the beginning of the pandemic, 100,945 were in Saskatoon and 54,561 have been completed in Regina.In the north central region, where Prince Albert is located, 26,429 test have been done.
York Region residents will not get to vote for who leads Regional Council in the next municipal election. Regional Council, on a vote of 14 – 6, rejected a motion tabled this past February which would have seen the Regional Chair, a position currently occupied by former Whitchurch-Stouffville mayor Wayne Emmerson, directly elected by residents. Instead, the position will continue to be filled through a vote around the Regional Council table, around which Mayor Tom Mrakas is Aurora’s sole representative. Mayor Mrakas was joined by Newmarket Mayor John Taylor in voting in favour of change, alongside Regional Councillors Don Hamilton (Markham), Jim Jones (Markham), Joe Li (Markham), and Joe DiPaola (Richmond Hill). The question, as posed at Aurora Council last week, is now what? York Region has a long history of considering how the Chair should be elected. The most recent series of proposed changes stemmed from a Private Member’s Bill brought forward at Queen’s Park in 2016 from Newmarket-Aurora’s then-MPP Chris Ballard which, following its passage, would have mandated a direct election for York Region. This directive, however, was struck down by the incumbent Provincial government in 2018, leaving Regional Council to decide its own path forward. “Regional Council can, after holding at least one public meeting, pass a bylaw to change the manner of electing the Regional Chair to a Region-wide election,” said Bruce Macgregor, CAO of the Region of York, in a memo to members when they last looked at this matter in February. “Before the bylaw comes into effect it must receive a ‘triple majority’ which occurs when: the bylaw receives the support of the majority of votes on Regional Council; a majority of the councils of all local municipalities pass resolutions consenting to the bylaw; and the total number of electors in the local municipalities that have passed resolutions consenting to the bylaw form a majority of all the electors in York Region.” Aurora Council previously voiced its support of electing the Regional Chair in both 2016 and 2018. Had any change been in the air at the Region, a decision would have needed to be confirmed by December 21, 2021 in order for it to be part of the 2022 Municipal Election. Since its establishment in 1970, the Regional Chair was been appointed in different ways. In the beginning, the Province of Ontario appointed the Chair for two two-year terms. This method changed at the inaugural meeting of Regional Council where the Chair was elected by members around the table. “Four of the six Chairs of York Region were members of a lower-tier council at the time of their appointment,” noted Mr. Macgregor. “The other two Chairs had recently completed terms on the council of a lower-tier municipality.” “Council had the authority to determine whether or not the appointed Chair must also hold office on a local municipal Council. Through inherited provisions from the long ago repealed Regional Municipality of York Act, it has been the practice in York Region for the appointed Chair to resign their seat at the local level. However, Council can enact a requirement for the Chair to retain their local office. This change can be implemented without a ‘triple majority.’” As Aurora Council previously signalled its support for electing the Regional chair, the matter was raised at last week’s meeting. “Which way do you think I voted?” asked Mayor Tom Mrakas when pressed by Councillor Michael Thompson whether he voted the same way as he did when the matter was last up for debate at Town Hall. “I believe the Regional Chair should be an elected position. I voted in favour of having it become an elected position. It is unfortunate it didn’t happen that way. “We’ll see if the Province decides to put it in place for the next election on their own.”Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
TORONTO — The man who drove a van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk and killed 10 people said his actions are "99 per cent irredeemable" after turning to the bible in jail, court heard Thursday.Alek Minassian made the comment on Dec. 12, 2019, to Dr. Alexander Westphal, a psychiatrist retained by the defence."I think it would be considered probably extremely irredeemable, like 99 per cent chance irredeemable," Minassian said in his orange jumpsuit while in a Toronto jail.Crown attorney Joe Callaghan argued the 10-minute video clip should be put into evidence as it shows a different side of Minassian than the one portrayed thus far by psychiatrists who say he lacks empathy, shows no emotion and has no insight into the minds and feelings of others.Callaghan said the clip shows Minassian engaged in conversation while answering questions at length and shows insight into the thoughts of others.Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder. He argues he should be found not criminally responsible due to autism spectrum disorder.After admitting to planning and carrying out the attack, his state of mind at the time is the sole issue at trial.Justice Anne Molloy, presiding over the case without a jury, allowed the video into evidence.Molloy said this appears to show a different Minassian, not baffled and unresponsive and stuck in a concrete way of thinking as others have previously testified."This is not concrete, this is very esoteric, philosophical almost — not almost, it is," the judge said.Minassian, an atheist, told Westphal he began reading the bible while under suicide watch at the Toronto South Detention Centre.He said the bible gives him a "sense of hope." During breaks at the trial, which is being held by videoconference due to the pandemic, Minassian can be seen flipping through a red bible in the small room at the jail where he watches the proceedings.He told Westphal he reads it every day. He said he can see how the bible can be used to help change people's lifestyles as a path to redemption. "A preacher, let’s say he tells his nephew God is very disappointed about what you're doing and the nephew might realize he's saying, really, your family is disappointed," Minassian said to Westphal.The Crown said that passage shows Minassian's insight into the perspective of others. Westphal disagreed."I don't think him expressing an analogy the man is controlling his nephew by God is saying anything Mr. Minassian's overall understanding of morality," Westphal said.Minassian's lawyer had said Westphal would be the only expert to say the 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., should be found not criminally responsible for his actions, but the psychiatrist has stopped short of making that conclusion. Westphal said Minassian does not truly understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but said criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one.Earlier, court heard that Minassian said he had a strong desire to commit the attack. "I felt a strong desire to want to especially as the time ... approached, but I didn't feel compelled to do it, I didn't really feel I had to do it," Minassian said.While Minassian said he didn't feel he had to do it, the prosecution said those words seemed at odds with a report by Westphal that said Minassian felt he "had to go through with it" after making the decision to go forward with his plan. Under questioning from the Crown, Westphal said Minassian was not compelled to commit the attack. The Crown repeatedly asked why that was not in the report, a question Westphal seemed confused by."You only included facts that fit your narrative, you're not interested in an objective view," Callaghan said, his voice raised."I think I accurately captured that aspect I don't think he was compelled to do it," Westphal said.Court has heard that Minassian booked the rental van weeks earlier with the idea to use it as a weapon to strike people. He told Westphal that he knew it was wrong by "society’s moral standards, the most important one being that it is extremely wrong to kill people."He has told various people different reasons why he committed the attack including anxiety around a software development job that was to start a week after the attack.Westphal asked Minassian why he did it."An extreme desire to want to do it, the fact I already booked (the van) and was so close to going through with my plan, feeling social isolation and the nervousness about the job, socially and performance-wise," Minassian said.The Crown also pointed out all of Minassian's successes to the psychiatrist. He graduated from high school with a 76 per cent average and completed a software engineer degree at Seneca College. In his last year of college, Minassian achieved a 4.0 grade point average, the highest mark possible.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Three Edmonton pools and two arenas on the chopping block in Edmonton's 2021 budget won't be closed without a fight. City council heard from about 80 people at a public hearing Thursday into the city's capital and operating budgets. The majority of council favour a zero per cent property tax increase next year and to reach that, administration has identified $64 million in savings in its approximately $3 billion operating budget. Closing Oliver, Scona and Eastglen pools and the Oliver and Tipton arenas will save the city an estimated $1.2 million in operating costs. But community members are lobbying the city to keep them open until they come up with an alternative. A teacher from Strathcona High School who works with the swim team, Ryan de Boer, said 180 students were part of the team last year and they rely on Scona Pool for practice. De Boer said the school has a lot of pride in the aquatics program, having won 34 city championships. "If our pool was to close, unfortunately, we are pretty aware that our swim team would have to fold," De Boer said. "Which is a shame because it's something that's got a lot of continuity. "Older siblings get their younger siblings to join this team because of the success and the positive experiences that they've had, so this makes a huge difference in their lives." The Queen Alexandra Community League is championing funding for another smaller, community-focused Rollie Miles Rec Centre, which would replace Scona Pool. Lisa Brown with the Oliver Community League, said a survey last year shows high demand for the outdoor pool there. "Oliver pool is loved by our community," it is the most popular recreation amenity in the whole neighbourhood, as well as Oliver Park." The city closed Oliver pool in 2019 to repair the drainage system. She argued that closing the pool would be a waste of that investment. City council has approved many new towers in Oliver over the past few years, creating some 4,500 housing units, Brown said. "We need more parks and more recreation amenities in Oliver, not less." John Mervyn, a city employee with CUPE local 30, joined the meeting to urge council to review its contracted services. For example, he said the city used to run its own tire shop but now, that service is contracted out. "When a vehicle gets sent to have a tire fixed, it comes back with four new tires rather than just having one fixed." He also made the case to keep community sports facilities open. "Fitness and recreation are important to Edmontonians, especially right now, and they'll be needing them to help them get through these difficult times," he said. Members from Edmonton adult ice users and power skating also chimed in to keep arenas open. Other cuts The city says it could save $100,000 by eliminating spay and neuter services. Karin Nelson with the Voice for Animals Society, asked council to keep the program. "Cutting this program would be an absolute disaster, in terms of the stray and feral cat population levels," Nelson said. The city is looking at reducing the number of transit peace officers in development services, professional standards oversight, municipal enforcement responsibilities and administrative support services, for an estimated savings of $1.1 million. "These reductions may have some impact on citizens, including slower response times for enforcement issues," the report says. Other areas the city plans to cut are fireworks on New Year's Eve, Canada Day and Family Day. Staffing at spray parks and skateboard parks, youth drop-in programs are also on the list. Janet Riopel, president and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, was one of the few speakers who lauded the city's attempts at trimming its programs. Riopel noted that nearly 50 per cent of businesses have laid off staff and another 20 per cent expect to lay off staff in the coming months. She championed the city's goal of zero per cent property tax increase and said the city is being flexible and adaptable in its approach to budgeting. That includes exploring partnerships with non-profit and private entities to run rec centres. "It's the right move and it would reduce the cost burden on taxpayers," Riopel said. City administration is expected to present one-time COVID-19 specific budget measures at a meeting next week. Council starts debating the capital and operating budgets on Monday and is expected to pass them by Dec. 11. @natashariebe
No matter how you look at it, Christmas 2020 is not going to be one you will soon forget. But, as the holidays get ever-closer, Aurora is looking to sprinkle a little extra magic with the annual Aurora’s Christmas Market – re-imagined to reflect our new reality. This year’s free Christmas Market, which will be held at Town Park for the first time, will be spread over six nights, featuring dozens of vendors, artisans and activities both in-person and virtually. Festive vendors, artisans and chefs from across York Region will showcase holiday décor, toys, jewellery and clothes, art, baked goods and more during this physically-distant experience, open to no more than 25 Market-goers in any one time slot between 5 – 9.30 p.m. “The planning for the Market has taken on many different layouts, as well as locations,” says Shelley Ware, Special Events Coordinator for the Town of Aurora. “Due to the ongoing changes within our circumstances, which are beyond our control, the Market has been scaled down from what the original version was. The objective of the Market, for those who are able to register and attend, is to be able to provide an experience that enables people to get lost in the magic of the environment and just take 45 minutes to forget what we’re dealing with on the bigger picture and to actually feel the spirit of the season.” Imparting that spirit of the season will be a number of holiday-themed huts which will house each vendor, with thousands of Christmas lights strung from hut to hut across the pathway bisecting Town Park, which will make for an impressive sight. Organizers are aiming to have 40 different in-person vendors throughout the course of the multi-evening Market, with new vendors each Market day. In addition to the complement of in-person vendors, a total of 70 vendors will also be participating in the virtual market, which will be organized by product and service. Each in-person market will offer 12 or 13 vendors at a time, but all 70 vendors will be online for a full seven days. “I have to say our online components are pretty cool,” says Ms. Ware. “One of the event plans was to house the activities in the park. Those activities we have put online and the park activities are going to be showcasing the vendors that we have, which I have got to say are such high quality this year. Some of our virtual programming, we have Mrs. Claus doing some baking demos so kids can learn how to make Santa’s favourite cookies. We actually have a D-I-Y festive gnome that you can make for your own front porch. We have a full kit prepared with greenery and everything of that nature, as well as a step by step guide for making it. We’re even going to have a workshop on how to make the most of this holiday season and still make it a memorable one. This is in addition to online children’s games and activities. “Whether they come in-person or take part online, we want people to leave with a re-set of their personal energy and a re-set in their ability to look for the blessings that are still around us. Obviously, the holidays are going to look very different, but that just means we have to look at the holidays differently because there are still ways of making them special and memorable – mind you, no one is going to forget the Christmas of 2020. “While they walk through the Market, they get to take a time out of worry or whatever they’re focusing with and be able to literally feel what those lights give them and the atmosphere. Just that Hallmark feeling that Aurora’s small-town charm can deliver, especially at an event like this. Whether it is virtual or in person, is really supporting our local small businesses and the entrepreneurs [and] this is a time for them to shine.” For more information on the Aurora Christmas Market, which runs from Friday, December 4 – Sunday, December 6, from 5 – 9.30 p.m., and again from Friday, December 11 to Sunday, December 13 at the same time, visit aurora.ca/Christmasmarket. There, you can register for your preferred time slots and learn more about how to access the online market and roster of activities.Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
A small addition to a stretch of Peel Street sidewalk will aid town snowplows to access the traditional tricky area. The solution is to extend the width of the sidewalk by a metre, using asphalt between Main Street and Simcoe Street. The existing parking signs within this area would also be removed and relocated to accommodate the extension. The pavement markings would also be added to define the new sidewalk and parking area. “Adding to the sidewalk, especially given it's a one-way street is a brilliant solution,” said Coun. Debbie Levy. “If I recall, it was $10,000 to shovel and clear the snow and doing this for $15,000 and just whipping our snowplow down is perfect.” Where most of council was sure this was the best solution, one council member wasn’t sure if it was saving the town any money. “It may alleviate some of that $10,000,” said Coun. Brian Cummings, “but we still have the stairs, the Canada House parking lot and the church to be shoveled, so I'm not sure how that reduces the cost.” Brian Murray, director of public works, said it won't affect the maintenance of those areas. “The Canada House walkway and the church staircases on municipal right of way will continue to be cleared by town staff,” he said. “This just allows the section adjacent to the buildings on the west side of Peel Street to be maintained by our trackless sidewalk plow, which reduces our time to clear snow in that area.” Cummings persisted in getting a clear answer on the cost savings. “So just to be clear the $15,000 is on top of the $10,000?” he asked. Murray didn’t have a clear answer. “We will save staff time and reduction in cost on an annual basis to clear the stairs,” he said. Coun. George Vadeboncoeur brought to attention the feasibility of the option, given the season. “Can we still do that given the onset of winter?” he said. Murray said he had confirmed with the roads supervisor about the availability of asphalt. “We are able to place it ourselves with our hotbox trailer, so that won't be an issue,” he added.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Current and former Black civil servants have filed a suit against the federal government alleging discrimination that led to poor treatment and being overlooked for promotion.
WASHINGTON — Up soon for President-elect Joe Biden: naming his top health care officials as the coronavirus pandemic rages. It's hard to imagine more consequential picks.Already two Democratic governors seen as candidates for health and human services secretary have faded from the frame. Rhode Island's Gina Raimondo told reporters Thursday that she would not be the nominee and is staying to help her state confront a dangerous surge of COVID-19 cases.New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was offered another Cabinet post — interior secretary — and turned it down, a person close to the Biden transition said Wednesday. That person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus made a fresh push during a virtual conference call Thursday for Biden to nominate Lujan Grisham as HHS secretary. One lawmaker, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico — a distant cousin of hers by marriage — told Biden’s team that news leaks about her turning down the interior job were inappropriate, according to a person on the call who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it. Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, agreed and said it should not have happened, the person said.Biden is expected to announce his choice for HHS secretary next week. That person has to have “the confidence of the president, the ability to operate collaboratively across the government, credibility within the health care world, and the capacity to work with the states,” said former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who served under Republican President George W. Bush.In the running for a top health job is former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, co-chair of Biden's coronavirus task force. Murthy has a soft-spoken demeanour and a reputation for consensus building. He's the author of a recent book addressing the human toll of loneliness, a problem that has become more widely recognized in the time of COVID-19.Job prospects for the pandemic's most recognizable public figure — Dr. Anthony Fauci — are not in question. Biden told CNN he's making Fauci a chief medical adviser and a member of his COVID-19 advisory team. As the government’s top infectious-disease specialist, Fauci isn’t a political appointee, so he will also continue at his post heading the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci's candour has drawn the ire of President Donald Trump.Alongside his health secretary, Biden is expected to name a top-level White House adviser to co-ordinate the government’s extensive coronavirus response. Vaccines developed under the Trump administration will be delivered on Biden's watch, a massive undertaking that's bound to have its share of logistical problems. The leading candidate is widely seen as businessman Jeff Zients, an economic policy adviser in the Obama White House who was widely credited with rescuing HealthCare.gov after its disastrous launch in 2013.Zients parachuted into HHS after the “Obamacare” website locked up on the first day of business, leaving millions of consumers frustrated and angry and creating deep embarrassment for then-President Barack Obama. After extensive reengineering, Zients and his team got HealthCare.gov running acceptably well, and the program managed to meet its sign-up target for 2014, the first year of coverage.Keeping the focus on the virus, Biden is also said to be close to nominating a commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration and a director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Under consideration for FDA are former deputy commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, who has also served as Maryland's health secretary, and Dr. Luciana Borio, a member of Biden's coronavirus advisory board who formerly held senior posts with the FDA and the National Security Council and has expertise in responding to disease outbreaks and bioterrorism.Being considered for CDC director is Dr. Julie Morita, a top executive of the non-profit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which works across a broad range of health care issues. Morita spent nearly 20 years in leadership jobs with the Chicago public health department, rising from medical director to commissioner.It's unclear if Biden will move right away to name an administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the HHS agency responsible for the government's health insurance programs. CMS will play a central role in the new president's efforts to expand health insurance coverage. A number of former Obama administration officials are under consideration.Health care will be a defining issue of Biden's presidency even after expected vaccines defuse the threat of COVID-19, former HHS Secretary Leavitt predicted. Addressing Medicare’s shaky finances will become an urgent priority before the end of the first term. The Congressional Budget Office projects that Medicare's giant trust fund for inpatient care will unable to cover expected costs in 2024.“If that is the case, they are going to have to deal with it legislatively in 2021 or 2022,” Leavitt said.Meanwhile, millions still don't have access to affordable insurance coverage. And racial and ethnic health disparities remain a festering source of preventable suffering. “The human services programs go through HHS," said Leavitt.____Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe and Lisa Mascaro in Washington and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, R.I., contributed to this report.Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press
For truck drivers who routinely travel to and from Prince Edward Island, the province says it is increasing support at the Confederation Bridge."There has been a second screener added for truck drivers during the high traffic-volume times," said the Chief Public Health Office in statement to CBC News."Two drivers can now be screened at a time so as to move them through faster."In the P.E.I. Legislature Wednesday, Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker raised concerns around wait times for truckers and access to washrooms."This week I have received a number of calls from truckers who are finding it increasingly difficult to make their way back home," said Bevan-Baker. "We all understand why going off-province and coming back requires a certain level of extra precaution. But these guys have been doing it for a very long time now and it's beginning to wear on them."Facilities for driversOn P.E.I., truck drivers who are considered rotational workers are obligated to follow specific rules. Those who are provincial residents do not need to self-isolate as long as they undergo COVID-19 testing at the required times. But non-P.E.I. residents are not exempt from isolation and must follow the work-isolation guidelines.Meanwhile, in the legislature Thursday, P.E.I. Minister of Health and Wellness James Aylward said when the bridge is closed there are facilities open to truck drivers. "There are washrooms available at the testing site as well as at the scale house that the truckers can utilize," said Aylward. "There are food and beverage services available as well ... through the drive-thru."New system being createdIn the statement to CBC News, the CPHO said it, "recognizes the impact waiting in border lines has on truck drivers." Moving forward, Aylward said a new system is also in the works at the bridge to decrease the wait times for truck drivers even more."We've heard their concerns and we're in the process of implementing a system whereby all they will have to do is provide the rotational worker registration over at the scale house," said Aylward."This will eliminate the need for the collection of names and contact information at the scale house and will reduce wait times dramatically."More from CBC P.E.I.
A Regina teen has been digitally building the Queen City, block by block.Nicholas Fuzesy, 16, is part of the "Build the Earth" project in the incredibly popular video game Minecraft, in whichplayers can "mine" 3D objects in the game world to create new environments.The Build the Earth project started in March, with the goal of recreating the entire planet in the video game. Its relies on a modification that can track Google Earth data and put it into the Minecraft world, including streets and building outlines.Builders have to apply to be added to the server and then can pick a region to create. They'll eventually be merged together to create the entire world in Minecraft.For his application, Fuzesy created the Hill Towers. He was accepted immediately. "I didn't think many people would be working on Regina," said Fuzesy. "I wanted to sort of do it on my own."He's starting the job of creating the Minecraft version of Regina with the 12 blocks around Victoria Park. He's already created some of the city's most iconic buildings, like the Canada Life building, Blessed Sacrament and Hotel Saskatchewan.His favourite so far is the SaskPower tower on Victoria Avenue.The Grade 11 student, who attends Miller Comprehensive High School, said he first got into the game watching people play on YouTube. He decided to try it himself in 2014 and was hooked because of its versatility, he says.The game can be played online alone or with friends, in survival mode (where players have to battle computer-controlled characters while collecting resources and building structures) or in creative mode (where players can freely build with unlimited tiles and no real threats).At first, Fuzesy was joined by eight other builders from around the world working on creating Regina in the game world. But a system update wiped out their work, and Fuzesy was the only one who decided to start the city over again. He said it's rewarding work, because he sees it as a digital archive."It's surprising to look at what you've created and it's surprising to look at all the detail, and to mentally map it and say, 'Oh, … that's the building I've seen countless times in Regina," he said."And it's nice to be able to look at that and think that, like, you did it and and you're the person behind that."So far, Fuzesy said he's probably spent about 50 hours on the project. He's conscious of the time he spends on his computer, but his parents don't discourage his work on the project, because they see it as educational. "They weren't really surprised," he said. "I get passionate about something, and then I go for it."He's looking forward to creating other recognizable landmarks in the downtown area as part of the first leg of his project, including the public library and the Globe Theatre. "That location is sort of like the heart of Regina," Fuzesy said. "I feel like people [who] are joining the project would feel inspired to keep going because there's a significant portion of it done."He aims to finish the area around the park within a year, but is hoping for help completing the rest of the city."I estimate it'll take about 100,000 hours to finish the entire city.… And obviously I can't do that myself," he said."But if 100 people joined, it could maybe be done in, like, two years."Fuzesy hopes Regina residents will one day be able to find their street, their house and their favourite store in the digital world. As for whether Fuzesy sees this translating into a career in architecture, engineering or computer science when he graduates, he said he is considering coding — but is actually leaning more toward writing.