A co-chair of President-elect Joe Biden's pandemic task force says addressing racial disparities cannot be an afterthought in the fight against the coronavirus. (Dec. 1)
A co-chair of President-elect Joe Biden's pandemic task force says addressing racial disparities cannot be an afterthought in the fight against the coronavirus. (Dec. 1)
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Some Niagarians were stocking up on groceries on Wednesday in advance of an impending stay-at-home order, recently announced by the provincial government. On Jan. 12, Ontario declared a 28-day state of emergency as COVID-19 cases continue to rise aggressively, having already filled more than 400 intensive care unit beds across the province. With the goal of preventing movement and contacts between people, Premier Doug Ford issued a stay-at-home order, which came into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Dave Mace made a point of visiting the Niagara Falls Costco to stock up because he wasn’t sure what exactly the stay-at-home order would involve. “It’s necessary,” he said of the order, adding that he believes the Ford government made the right move. Regardless of what decisions were made, people would still criticize, he said. Complying with the order won’t be a challenge for him and his partner, Mace said — there’s plenty to keep them occupied at home with computers, TVs and books. Under the new rules, people are expected to stay home with exceptions for things like grocery shopping, accessing medical services, including pharmacies, exercise or for work. Social gathering limits have also increased, and non-essential businesses are required to close by 8 p.m.. Robert Howieson and Christina Lancaster also made a trip out for groceries at the Costco location on Wednesday, predicting that reduced shopping hours would result in longer lineups. “I expect that there will be large crowds,” Howieson said of the days ahead, noting that he was surprised there weren’t more people out. Howieson supports the order but said it “should have been done sooner.” His impression of the Ford administration’s handling of the pandemic was positive before the second wave, but Howieson’s views have since changed. “He’s too beholden to business,” he said. “What do you want, happy businesses or people dying?” Others spoken with on Wednesday said they would support more stringent government measures, like a curfew, to bring an end to COIVD-19 sooner. “Let’s get on with life because this is ridiculous, it’s been going on too long,” said Tracy McIntee, as she loaded groceries into her vehicle. She’s in favour of a full-on lockdown instead of what she said are incremental steps. She was expecting more from Tuesday's announcement, saying that the new rules look much like what people are already doing. “In a sense, I don’t think the government is doing enough,” she said. “I wish they would have done more yesterday.” Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
P.E.I. RCMP say they impounded a vehicle in Cornwall Friday morning after catching the driver going close to double the speed limit. Const. Jamie Parsons tweeted the vehicle was travelling 166 km/h in a 90 zone. The incident happened at 9 a.m. In the spring RCMP on P.E.I. dealt with a spate of excessive speeding, including three incidents of vehicles driven over 180 km/h in just two days at the end of May. RCMP warn that at high speeds it can take up to 250 metres to stop in an emergency, and that vehicles are not designed to keep passengers safe at those speeds. More from CBC P.E.I.
Les gens sont définitivement au rendez-vous depuis l’ouverture du Mont Lac-Vert le 28 décembre dernier. S’ils sont nombreux à dévaler les pistes, le centre n’a toutefois pas encore affiché complet. « On a passé plusieurs semaines avant l’ouverture à analyser nos chiffres des dernières années pour se préparer à la nouvelle saison. On a ainsi pu instaurer un quota de personnes dans la montagne par plage horaire. Jusqu’à maintenant, nous n’avons pas encore atteint le maximum de nos capacités, même si nous avons beaucoup de gens qui viennent dévaler les pentes », mentionne la responsable des communications, Claudia Carrière. Concernant les quotas, Claudia Carrière explique que sur semaine, de jour, c’est un maximum de 150 personnes qui est permis en au Mont Lac-Vert. La fin de semaine, le quota est divisé en trois plages horaires, soit un maximum de 150 personnes le matin, l’après-midi et le soir. « Ça fonctionne bien, on est heureux du résultat. Il n’y a pas de longue attente au télésiège et il n’y a pas d’encombrement dans le chalet non plus. Tout se passe super bien. » Les sentiers de fat bike et de raquettes sont aussi populaires en ce début de saison. Il n’y a cependant pas de quota pour ces deux activités. « C’est certain qu’on ne se retrouvera pas avec 150 à 200 fat bikes dans nos sentiers. Par jour, en moyenne, on en reçoit environ une vingtaine. » Billets de saison L’organisation du Mont Lac-Vert est très satisfaite également de la vente de billets de saison. Selon Claudia Carrière, les chiffres ressemblent beaucoup à ceux des dernières années. « Avec la situation actuelle, on pouvait croire que nous allions connaitre une baisse des ventes de billets de saison. Au final, on ne se retrouve pas perdant, mais pas gagnant non plus. Je dirais que c’est demeuré assez stable. » Ouverture progressive Dans les prochaines semaines, les cours de glisse débuteront. Les inscriptions sont déjà débutées et les résultats semblent encourageants, dit-on. Concernant les pentes de ski, au moment d’écrire ces lignes, cinq pistes sont ouvertes. « Les chaudes températures à Noël ont eu des impacts. Ça nous retarde aussi pour l’ouverture des glissades sur tube. Nos canons à neige fonctionnent pratiquement 24h sur 24 ! »Janick Emond, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Lac St-Jean
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire Cabinet resigned Friday to take political responsibility for a scandal involving investigations into child welfare payments that wrongly labeled thousands of parents as fraudsters. In a nationally televised speech, Rutte said he had informed King Willem-Alexander of his decision and pledged that his government would continue work to compensate affected parents as quickly as possible and to battle the coronavirus. “We are of one mind that if the whole system has failed, we all must take responsibility, and that has led to the conclusion that I have just offered the king, the resignation of the entire Cabinet,” Rutte said. The move was seen as largely symbolic; Rutte’s government will remain in office in a caretaker mode until a new coalition is formed after a March 17 election in the Netherlands. The resignation brings to an end a decade in office for Rutte, although his party is expected to win the election, putting him first in line to begin talks to form the next government. If he succeeds in forming a new coalition, Rutte would most likely again become prime minister. The Netherlands is the third European country thrown into political uncertainty this week in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. In Estonia, the government resigned over a corruption scandal, while Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte’s governing coalition is at risk of collapse after a small partner party withdrew its support. Rutte said earlier this week that his government would be able to keep taking tough policy decisions in the battle against the coronavirus even if it were in caretaker mode. The Netherlands is in a tough lockdown until at least Feb. 9, and the government is considering imposing an overnight curfew amid fears about new, more contagious variants of the virus. “To the Netherlands I say: Our struggle against the coronavirus will continue,” Rutte said. On Thursday, the leader of the Dutch opposition Labor Party stepped down because he was minister of social affairs in a governing coalition led by Rutte when the country’s tax office implemented a tough policy of tracking down fraud with child welfare. Lodewijk Asscher’s decision put further pressure on Rutte ahead of Friday's Cabinet meeting. Ministers were to decide on their reaction to a scathing report issued last month, titled “Unprecedented Injustice,” that said the tax office policies violated “fundamental principles of the rule of law.” The report also criticized the government for the way it provided information to parliament about the scandal. Many wrongfully accused parents were plunged into debt when tax officials demanded repayment of payments. The government has in the past apologized for the tax office’s methods and in March earmarked 500 million euros ($607 million) to compensate more than 20,000 parents. One of those parents waited near parliament as the Cabinet met and said she wanted it to resign. “It's important for me because it is the government acknowledging, ‘We have made a mistake and we are taking responsibility,’ because it's quite something what happened to us,” Janet Ramesar told The Associated Press. Rutte plans to lead his conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy into the March election, and polls suggest it will win the most seats. That would put Rutte, who has been in office for a decade at the head of three different coalitions, first in line to attempt to form the next ruling coalition. Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren, who serves as interior minister, said as she entered Friday's meeting that “it is very important to be accountable and also to show responsibility in the political sense, and we are going to talk about that in the Council of Ministers today.” Mike Corder, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The line stretched nearly a block long. Nobody was grumbling about the wait. Those gathered at a senior wellness centre in Washington, D.C., viewed it as a matter of life or death. The nation's capital had just opened up coronavirus vaccines to people 65 and older because of their increased risk. I was among those who had a shot within reach. In the nation's capital, along with the rest of the country, coronavirus cases have surged since the holidays. More than 32,800 positive cases have been recorded overall in the city. Nearly 850 people have died. And now add fears that the mob insurrection at the Capitol earlier this month could turn into a superspreader event, adding to the totals. People were on edge. As I waited for my shot, I wondered if I should be there. The district had offered the vaccine first to health care workers, but were there others who should have come before me, people like teachers and workers in grocery stores and other businesses providing essential services during the pandemic? What about the older old — people over 75? Yes, journalists are considered essential, and I also am a teacher at the college level. But equally important to me, I haven't seen my grandson and his parents in California for more than a year — half his life — and l long to get on a plane to visit. And I do fit the new criteria for vaccines, people 65 and older. So I was all in. The city started offering appointments to the over-65 crowd Monday. I called up the website, filled in the questionnaire and looked for a location. The site closest to my home had no times available so I widened my search, finally choosing a senior centre about 3 miles away. Later, I checked my neighbourhood listserv. It was filled with complaints from residents who found the whole process unwieldy and were furious that all the available appointments had been booked. A D.C. council member acknowledged that “the rollout came with a significant number of frustrations and challenges" but said there would be other opportunities for seniors to get the vaccine. It's an issue of supply and demand. There are just under 85,000 D.C. residents 65 and older who qualify for shots, but only 6,700 appointments were available the first week. I was one of the lucky ones. It was cold, but the length of the line at the wellness centre didn't bother me. I was grateful that we were outside for much of the wait, and that people were voluntarily self-distancing. That was enforced once we moved inside. Everyone wore a mask. Some people who were visibly frail were moved to front of the line. No one complained. And while I waited, I worked. In a bit of irony, that meant consulting with a colleague on a story about the Trump administration's push to expand vaccination to more people, including those over 65. The District of Columbia, it turns out, was ahead of the curve. Ninety minutes after I arrived, I was given the Moderna vaccine, administered by a Safeway pharmacy manager brought in from Rehoboth, Delaware. After we talked about her hometown — a favourite beach vacation spot for my family — and other vaccinations I might need, she told me how to sign up for the second dose. Then I was sent to wait in another room to make sure I didn't have a serious allergic reaction to the shot. I didn't. I get my second dose Feb. 10. I've already started thinking about booking that flight to California. There's only one negative — now everyone knows my age. ___ Virus Diary, an occasional feature, showcases the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world. Follow Washington-based AP news editor Carole Feldman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CaroleFeldman Carole Feldman, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Activist Velma Morgan says several Black organizations were denied federal funding through a program designed to help such groups build capacity — after the department told them their leadership was not sufficiently Black.The chair of Operation Black Vote tells The Canadian Press her group received an email from Employment and Social Development Canada this week saying their application did not show "the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black."The department sent a second email the next day, saying their applications were not approved because it did not receive "the information required to move forward."Morgan says her not-for-profit, multi-partisan organization that aims to get more Black people elected at all levels of government is one of at least five Black organizations that didn't get the funding.Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen says the initial letter his department sent to unsuccessful applicants was "completely unacceptable" and that he demanded a retraction as soon as he saw it.In a thread on Twitter, Hussen says he discussed with his department's officials to how such a mistake could have happened and implemented measures to make sure it does not happen again. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2020———This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
Regina– On Jan. 14, the Saskatchewan Health Authority provided an update on its COVID-19 immunization campaign and delivery plan, as part of the regular COVID-19 update delivered from the Legislature in Regina. Derrick Miller, Executive Director of Infrastructure Management with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said by phone, “Our immunization campaign goals include minimizing serious illness and death, protecting those that are most vulnerable, protecting our healthcare capacity, minimizing spread and also protecting our critical infrastructure. There really guide us in what we're trying to achieve with our overall campaign.” He noted, “Our supply limitations that are being experienced with the COVID-19 vaccine require us to take a very diligent approach to sequencing the vaccine rollout.” This requires establishing priority populations, which are based on the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendations. In Phase 1, there are approximately 109,000 in that group. “And based on federal allocations that have been identified, so far, going to the end of March this year, that’ well have enough vaccines to vaccinate approximately 50 per cent of this group. That’s short about half, obviously, of immunizing all of the priority populations approved in this framework.” On Jan. 13, there were 1,393 doses of the vaccines delivered, the highest to date. The average per day, so far, as been just over 1,000 doses per day. He said they anticipate running out of doses before the next allocations, as the speed of delivery means they get it out as quickly as possible and wait for the arrival of the next delivery. Miller said there are “three key planks to our strategy as part of our vaccine campaign.” “The first one is faster. Speed really maters in this. Every day counts to save lives and reduced the overall impact of COVID-19.” They are establishing distribution hubs throughout for the different type of vaccines. “We're adopting an all-hands-on-deck approach to delivery, leveraging all of our appropriate health care providers that can deliver vaccines, as well as looking for and seeking support from external resources to really bring all resources to bear, as part of this strategy,” he said. This includes mobile immunization teams to go to places like long-term care and personal care homes. Locally, they are testing different delivery methods. He said, “Being able to forecast vaccine distribution, with more accuracy will help us be more prepared for rapid distribution. And we know a stable, predictable and large volume allocations will really enable us for rapid delivery.” Every corner of the province is ready, in a posture of readiness, to administer the vaccine as it is received. “The second plank of our strategy is ‘smarter,’ Miller said. “Learning matters. Using improvement is already resulting in more rapid delivery and we can see that just by the results over the last week. The health system is very experienced in delivering the influenza vaccine and other vaccinations. And we're going to leverage that as we go forward, because we know how to do this. “However, we also recognize that this is different. And there are pretty significant differences that are impacting this campaign. We do have limited variable and unpredictable allocations. They vary from week to week, and the timing varies as well. We need to sequence priority populations, based on that. We’re not able to offer a mass immunization right off the start.” This includes multiple vaccines with different logistical challenges across a geographically dispersed province. Transportation changes allow them to move vaccines in a more efficient manner. Being a single health authority makes it easier, he noted. Miller said we are learning from our partners, including Metis and First Nations partners. The third plank is safety. “Safety matters. High uptake requires strong communications to ensure the public knows the vaccine is safe. We know the COVID vaccine is safe. It is Health Canada-approved and has gone through the various regulatory reviews, and approval processes. We also know that it's effective, or 90 per cent effective, in reducing the risk of infection. And it's simple. It's just like getting a flu shot for Saskatchewan residents, our health care workers are highly experienced and have many years of successfully delivering flu vaccine to the residents of Saskatchewan, and ensuring that all safety requirements are achieved.” Challenges include delivery to high-risk populations in remote areas. The Pfizer vaccine has temperature constraints and special handling needs. The consent process can be time-intensive, especially in long-term care homes. Unpredictable allocations should hopefully be resolved in coming weeks. Adverse weather can be an issue. “At the same time, we are preparing for widespread immunization in Phase 2, or we will open up access to the general population and conduct Saskatchewan’s largest-ever immunization campaign. One of our key tasks is to ensure that our teams are ready to deliver the vaccine as soon as possible on arrival, and enhance speed of delivery. This is true in Phase 1, as we're focusing on those priority populations, and it will also be true when we go into Phase 2, and get to the point where we’re vaccinating the general public,” Miller said. He added that “Currently, our health system is at its most fragile point yet for their highest hospitalization rate, and a high case count.” Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingston added, “We want to make sure we're getting the vaccine out as quickly as we can to those vulnerable populations and get vaccine in arm as quickly as possible. So, it won't be in the freezer as long. As the vaccines come in, we will get them out and they will go and get administered as fast as we can in the arms of those who need it very most.” He pointed out that limited supplied are limiting their capabilities, but they are focussing on the most vulnerable. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to turn the tide on the pandemic, speeding up the vaccine rollout and providing financial help to individuals, governments and businesses.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company launched a new capsule into space Thursday to test all the astronaut perks before people strap in. Thursday’s flight with a dummy named Mannequin Skywalker lasted 10 minutes and reached 66 miles (106 kilometres) above West Texas. Both the New Shepard rocket and the capsule landed successfully. It was the 14th flight to the fringes of space for a New Shepard rocket. The first was in 2015. “The success of this flight puts us one really big step closer to flying astronauts,” launch commentator Ariane Cornell said from company headquarters in Kent, Washington. “There’s going to be a lot of fun ahead in 2021.” Blue Origin plans to launch paying passengers — tourists, scientists and professional astronauts — on brief hops over West Texas' remote desert. It's also working on a bigger rocket, New Glenn, that would blast off from Cape Canaveral as well as a lunar lander for astronauts under NASA's Artemis moon program. The capsule soaring Thursday featured the latest crew upgrades: microphones and push-to-talk buttons for the six seats, wall panels to muffle engine noise, a safety-alert system, and temperature and humidity controls to keep passengers comfortable and the big windows free of fog. The launch and landing team was scaled back because of the pandemic. New Shepard is named for the first American in space, Alan Shepard. New Glenn honours John Glenn, the first American in orbit. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. ___ This story was first published on Jan. 14. It was updated on Jan. 15 to correct the spelling of Alan Shepard’s last name. Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
Educators teaching students with special needs are raising concerns about returning to physical classrooms in southern Ontario while schools otherwise remain closed to in-person learning due to COVID-19. Students in southern Ontario are learning online until at least Jan. 25 and the government recently extended virtual classes for those in five hot spots until Feb. 10. Special education students who cannot participate in remote learning, however, were back in physical classrooms on Monday – a move the government said was recommended by experts. But as COVID-19 cases rise, some special education teachers say they are worried about their safety, as well as the safety of their students, some of whom are immunocompromised. "For my five- and six-year-old (children), it's not safe for them to go to school, but it's totally safe for my immunocompromised students to go to school?" asked Katie Swallowell, a teacher working for a Catholic school board in London, Ont. Swallowell, who teaches high school students with special needs, said some of her students may not wear masks or may have mask exemptions. "Some of them don't wear masks or they take them off because they hate them. Sneezing, coughing, hugging," she said. "Some of them you can't say no to. You try to say no, but they don't understand and you feel bad." Among 16 of her students, only five opted for remote learning, while the remaining 11 resumed in-person classes, said Swallowell. The teacher said she's worried about bringing the virus home to her three children, including a one-year-old. "It's either safe or it's not safe," she said, adding that there have been no added COVID-19 measures at her school since coming back from winter break. "It looks the same as it did in December." The education ministry said students with special needs can benefit from the routine and consistency of in-class learning and noted that their return to physical classrooms comes with "strong health and safety measures." "We have followed that advice, supported by the chief medical officer of health, to ensure a small number of the most exceptional children can receive the care they desperately need," said ministry spokeswoman Caitlin Clark. Laura Kirby-McIntosh, a parent of two children with autism and president of Ontario Autism Coalition, said the government's choice to resume in-person learning for special education students is the right one. Keeping schools open for those students helps them maintain normalcy and routine during the pandemic, she said. But more needs to be done to ensure consistency for students and a safe working environment for educators, she said. A good supply of personal protective equipment, regular asymptomatic testing, temperature checks and access to vaccinations are just some of the things that can help, she said. Jennifer Windsor, a physical education teacher at Huron Park Secondary School in Woodstock, Ont., said her school board only informed educators about coming back to teach in-person two days before classes resumed. "We're being told, it's not safe for students. Yet our most vulnerable sector, you're telling us it's safe to return and no changes since we left in December have been made," she said. Windsor, also a mother of three, said she had to ask her ageing parents for help with her own kids as she returned to teach at school. "For me, the potential of exposing my parents – that has a certain burden and stress. I have barely slept since Thursday, I can barely eat," she said. The resumption of special needs in-person learning means unrecognized increased risks for many education workers, students and families, the union representing Windsor and other teachers in her school board said. "(We are) concerned that the Ford government’s announcement is a half measure that does not go far enough in protecting student and staff safety during the COVID-19 pandemic," District 11 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation said in a statement. Union district president John Bernans said he can't understand how the government believes it's safe for the group of students and staff to return to in-person learning when it is not safe for any other group. “This government has had 10 months to put social supports in place for parents of children with special needs that keep students, families and workers safe. They have failed to do that," said Bernans. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly reported the government extended online learning for schools in five hot spots until Feb. 11. In fact, the extension is until Feb. 10.
NEW YORK — When Joe Biden addresses the country for the first time as president, his inaugural speech is likely to echo calls for unity that predecessors have invoked since the first time George Washington was sworn in. Unity has since been a theme, and an anxiety, for many incoming presidents, who have faced economic and social crises and moments when the very future of the U.S. was in doubt. Historians mention the first inaugural speeches of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln as possible parallels for Biden, who has said his goal is to “restore the soul” of the country. Biden, who assumes office just two weeks after an armed seige of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, will preside over a nation in which millions believe Trump's baseless claims that the election was stolen. Few presidents have faced such questions about their own legitimacy. “Unity has always been an aspiration," says presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “It seems like whenever we have foreign policy flare-ups, we use the word freedom. But when we have domestic turmoil we use the word unity.” The United States was forged through compromise among factions that disagreed profoundly on slavery, regional influence and the relative powers of state and federal government. When Washington assumed office in 1789 he cited the blessings of providence in noting that “the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most governments have been established.” Jefferson was the third U.S. president, and the first whose rise was regarded by opponents as a kind of emergency. The 1800 election won by Jefferson marked the beginning of competing political parties — Jefferson was a leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, losing incumbent John Adams a Federalist — and critics regarded the new president as a dangerous atheist. "JEFFERSON — AND NO GOD!!!” was how one Federalist paper described Jefferson's candidacy. Adams did not attend the inauguration, a breach rarely repeated although Trump has vowed to do the same. “Let us then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind," Jefferson urged in his address. "We are all republicans: we are all federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it." Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, a Federalist who administered the oath of office to Jefferson, wrote later that the speech was “in the general well judged and conciliatory.” Lincoln's pleas were more dire, and tragically unmet, despite what historian Ted Widmer calls his “genius to combine urgency with literary grace.” Seven out of 11 future Confederate states had seceded from the U.S. before he spoke, in March 1861, over fears he would end slavery. The Civil War would begin a month later. “We are not enemies, but friends,” Lincoln had insisted, reminding fellow Americans of their “mystic chords of memory” while also warning that resistance to the will of voters would destroy democracy. "A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism,” he said. Historian David Greenberg, whose books include “Nixon's Shadow" and “Republic of Spin,” cites Richard Nixon's inaugural in 1969 as another speech given at a time of social turmoil. The U.S. was violently divided over the Vietnam War and civil rights, and Nixon himself had long been seen as an unprincipled politician exploiting fears and resentments — appealing to what he would call “the silent majority.” His speech at times was openly and awkwardly modeled on the 1961 inaugural of John F. Kennedy, who had defeated Nixon in 1960. “We are caught in war, wanting peace. We are torn by division, wanting unity,” Nixon stated. “We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another — until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.” Some presidents asked for unity, others asserted it. Franklin Roosevelt, elected in a landslide in 1932 during the Great Depression, said in his first inaugural speech: “If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other.” Four years later, having won by an even greater landslide, he declared the country had “recognized” a need beyond financial help, a “deeper” need, “to find through government the instrument of our united purpose.” Unity can prove more imagined than real. When James Buchanan spoke in 1857, three years before the Civil War, he claimed that “all agree that under the Constitution slavery in the states is beyond the reach of any human power except that of the respective states themselves wherein it exists.” Rutherford B. Hayes, whose presidency was marked by the retrenchment of federal troops from the post-Civil War South and ongoing resistance from Southern whites to equal rights for Blacks, declared during his 1877 inaugural that true peace could be achieved through the “united and harmonious efforts of both races” and the honest work of local self-government. “A president often claims the country is ‘united’ behind a belief when it’s more wishful thinking than reality,” Widmer says. “I’m not sure how many Americans wanted to do something for their country after JFK asked them to — although there were impressive new kinds of volunteers, like the Peace Corps. And I think that many Americans still appreciated help from the government, even after Ronald Reagan declared that ‘government is the problem.’ That’s the problem with soundbites: They often oversimplify.” Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
BOSTON — A major memorial honouring Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King is moving forward in Boston, where they met and studied in the 1950s. King Boston, the privately funded organization co-ordinating the estimated $9.5 million project, said this week that fabrication of a roughly 22-foot-high bronze sculpture depicting four arms embracing is expected to begin in March after years of planning. When unveiled late next year, “The Embrace” will be one of the country’s largest new memorials dedicated to racial equity, the organization says. It will be installed on Boston Common near the site of a 1965 rally and march led by MLK, who would have turned 92 on Friday. Imari Paris Jeffries, King Boston's executive director, said organizers hope their broader effort serves as a model for how public monuments can spark positive action in the wake of the national reckoning on racism sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. Besides the King memorial, the organization is also raising money to build an economic justice centre in Roxbury, a historically Black neighbourhood in Boston where MLK preached. It also plans to launch an annual gathering exploring issues of race and equity. “It's not only how symbols and monuments represent this commitment to equity and inclusion," Jeffries said. "It's also about how research, data and policy work to find new solutions, and how we use the arts and humanities to ground us.” Dr. Vicki Crawford, director of the MLK collection at Morehouse College, the civil right’s leader’s alma mater in Atlanta, Georgia, said the Boston project also stands out because it honours the sizeable contributions of Coretta Scott King alongside her husband. She founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta and led the successful push to make his birthday a national holiday after his assassination in 1968. “She hasn’t received adequate recognition for institutionalizing his philosophy of nonviolence,” Crawford said. “He could not have done it without her by his side.” Other recent monuments to MLK include a bronze statue on Georgia Capitol grounds, dedicated in 2017, and the towering granite likeness off the National Mall that opened in 2011. King Boston was launched in 2017 to address what organizers viewed as a glaring deficiency, considering MLK spent some of his formative years in Boston. The Georgia native earned a doctorate in theology from Boston University and was assistant minister at the city’s Twelfth Baptist Church. The memorial effort was later broadened to honour Coretta Scott King, who earned a degree in music education from the New England Conservatory. It has been further expanded to also recognize Boston civil rights leaders during the 1960s, whose names will be memorialized in the surrounding plaza. Like other racial justice efforts, Jeffries said King Boston has been bolstered by civic activism following Floyd's killing. The organization collected roughly $8 million of the total $12 million it has raised to date in roughly eight months last year, he said. The project also comes as Boston, which was scarred by violent protests over efforts to desegregate its public schools in the 1970s, is enjoying something of a “Black Renaissance,” Jeffries said. The city of almost 700,000 residents, roughly a quarter of them Black, now has its first Black police commissioner and is also home to the state's first Black female district attorney and the state’s first Black congresswoman. Soon, New England’s largest city will also have its first Black and first female mayor. “It seems with every passing day this piece becomes so necessary,” said Hank Willis Thomas, the Brooklyn artist who designed the Boston memorial. “I never imagined how prescient this would be.” Philip Marcelo, The Associated Press
Max Meighen admits to being one of the more fortunate small business owners around. The Avling Kitchen and Brewery he opened in Toronto's Leslieville neighbourhood back in July 2019 has spent more of its young life in COVID-19 lockdown than out of it, but is still making decent income from takeout beer sales and some limited food options. The “whole animal” kitchen already had a butcher on-site to prepare its typical weekly order of a side of beef and a pig, who was quickly put to work selling cuts of meat and sausages out of the same retail store its customers already frequented to buy bottles and cans of Avling's beer before the lockdowns came. A bookkeeper has made it easier to navigate various government relief packages, including the federal wage subsidy that meant they could hire for two specific roles in September, one for a retail manager and another in communications, to respond to the changed circumstances. Apart from a brief opening in the summer, the pub has effectively been closed since March, but with nine months of interruptions, it still made around 60 per cent of the sales he’d expected in 2020, Meighen said. That's not to say the pandemic and the response to it has not brought pain and frustration to the young business owner. The restaurant has had to lay off around 35 mostly full-time kitchen and service staff, while two kitchen workers from the original team provide takeout service and donations to two local community groups. But Meighen has the latitude to hunker down and plan for better days ahead. “We want to represent a post-pandemic possibility,” he told Canada's National Observer. “Not playing catch-up, but trying our best to be leading the way.” After using marigolds planted in the rooftop garden to control pests, make oil infusions for the kitchen and adding them to an upcoming all-Ontario grain beer, Meighen is hoping to find funding for a project to add wastewater treatment or aquaculture to build out an even more circular urban agricultural ecosystem. He has also worked out a deal with his pig farmer to use barley and wheat planted in his fallow fields for another experimental brew, and wonders about whether his own spent grain could go back to the farm. “For my own sanity, maintaining my own optimism, looking forward to these projects and continuing to develop them is important,” Meighen said. “I’m trying to focus more on the possibilities of the future rather than the grim reality of the present.” Meighen says that while nothing could have prepared a restaurant owner for the last year, he has learned that governments can, when they want to, provide much more support for individuals and businesses, and he's hoping the country's political leaders are also looking ahead. “The real question for me is to what degree they take advantage of the months and year following the pandemic to initiate a rebound or a rebuild in a way that I hope looks towards greater equity, a more complete integration of green policy,” he said of the federal Liberal government that has bankrolled most emergency pandemic relief efforts. That could mean heavy funding and policy efforts to help Alberta’s oil and gas workers thrive in a less carbon-intensive world, for example, as the pandemic accelerates problematic trends “people could ignore at their own peril up until February of 2020, but now are completely here to stay,” Meighen said. Unlike many small businesses along the strip of Queen Street East from the railway bridge and Jimmy Simpson Park to Greenwood Avenue, Avling pays a mortgage rather than rent. Meighen said the bank had expected business-as-usual terms after an initial six-month deferral of payment (but not interest). “They were not as understanding as I would have liked nor expected,” he said, noting major lenders talk about being there to support small business. Meighen says Avling's beer sales bumped higher in the early days of the pandemic as customers prepared for some extended time at home, “but as things dragged on and it became apparent that it wasn't just an enforced vacation, a short temporary hiatus, but something much more long term, all of our sales pulled back.” The brief respite of the summer's looser rules and the city's CafeTO program, which made more sidewalk space available for dining, did help get weekly sales to around 85 per cent of typical, with Avling's 40-seat pavement patio replacing an inside space that used to regularly serve 100 people. About a third of Leslieville storefronts are either restaurants, cafés or bars, and the head of the area's BIA (business improvement area) Dominic Cobran credits CafeTO with keeping many of those hospitality businesses afloat through the summer. “It really was a lifeline for the participating restaurants,” he said of the program, which made extra pavement space available for al fresco dining and “helped them out to the point where it could take them through when they closed indoor dining” in October. “It took them through a very difficult period into an even more difficult period,” Cobran said, referring to the tighter restrictions introduced this winter.Alastair Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Tanya Bogatin's once pristine home is no longer quite so organized, and she's waiting a little longer between loads of laundry, but it's no skin off her back. Her priorities have shifted now that she'll be helping her two young kids attend classes from their home in Vaughan, Ont., for another month. "Things are gonna fall to the backburner," she said. "I tell my kids, don't stress about it ... relax, relax. We're happy, we're safe, we're healthy." With online learning extended until late January across southern Ontario, and for even longer in Toronto, York, Peel, Durham and Windsor-Essex, parents like Bogatin are finding a litany of strategies to manage all their responsibilities. She said she briefly panicked when she found out her kids would be learning remotely until at least Feb. 10, but then she came up with a game plan. Each morning, she and her kids get up at around 8:20 a.m., with half an hour to spare before classes begin. Once classes start, her son -- who is in Grade 4 -- stations himself in the dining room, and her daughter -- in Grade 2 -- sets up her laptop at the desk in the toy room. Bogatin sits on the stairs between them, listening in case they call for help. At recess, she said, she bundles them up in winter gear and sends them out to play in the backyard. Right after classes end, they get to work on homework. Bogatin works part-time, and as of this week she's able to do that from home. "I'm very, very lucky that I have a very flexible job," she said, noting that she's mostly able to set her own schedule, and will sometimes retreat into her bedroom for online meetings. Her days are busy, she said, but they're "good busy." Parents are making it work, said Rachel Huot with the Ontario Parent Action Network, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy. "It's extremely challenging to try and support children learning remotely," she said. "Your kids are not meant to learn sitting in front of a computer screen for six hours a day." Parents who have to juggle supervising kids and working -- either in or out of the home -- are stretched even thinner, she said. "Then there's the fact that we're watching the government fail us day after day. And there's no clear end in sight," she said. Huot echoed calls from teachers' unions that are requesting broader testing of asymptomatic students, smaller class sizes and better ventilation systems in schools so that kids can safely return to the classroom. A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said student safety is the government's top priority. "We know that parents want their children back in class and we firmly agree, and our commitment to deliver on that is to further enhance our safety protocols and provincewide targeted surveillance testing to ensure our students can safely go back to class," she said. The government has cited rising COVID-19 positivity rates amongst children as well as soaring daily infections for its decision to have students learn virtually for longer. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Ce n’est rien de moins qu’une onzième victoire consécutive qu’a mérité il y a quelques jours le groupe Robert, de Boucherville, en raflant encore une fois le « TCA Fleet Awards » C’est évidemment avec beaucoup de fierté que Groupe Robert, spécialisé dans l’industrie du camionnage et du transport, s’est vu décerné le premier prix de sa catégorie pour une 11e année consécutive. Le prix a été créé par la Truckload carriers association, qui regroupe plus de 200 000 camionneurs en Amérique du Nord. Ces prix identifient les entreprises de camionnage qui ont démontré un engagement sans précédent envers la sécurité. Groupe Robert est donc l’entreprise de sa catégorie avec le ratio de fréquence d’accidents le plus bas par million de miles parcourus depuis 11 ans. « La sécurité étant au centre de toutes nos initiatives, ce prix est à l’honneur de tous nos employés » a indiqué la direction du groupe lors de l’annonce de leur nomination Le groupe Robert, qui emploie environ 3500 personnes, est bien implanté à Boucherville, sur le boulevard Marie-Victorin avec un important centre de distribution et de transit de camion. Il possède également d’importantes installations à Rougemont, là même ou la famille Robert possède aussi un domaine viticole. François Laramée, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève
NEW YORK — Marc Lore, Walmart's e-commerce chief, is leaving the world's largest retailer, nearly five years after he joined to super charge its online business amid stiffer competition from online leader Amazon. Under Lore's stewardship, Walmart led the redesign of the company's website and app, expanded its online assortment from 10 million items to more than 80 million and transformed its delivery network to add two -day and same day delivery. Lore, who served as CEO of Walmart's e-commerce division, joined the company in September 2016 when Walmart bought Jet.com, an e-commerce company he founded, for more than $3 billion. Jet’s pricing technology was built on an algorithm that determined which sellers were the most efficient in value and shipping and adjusted prices based on what items were in the checkout cart as well as how far the desired products are from the shoppers’ home. Walmart has phased out the Jet business and incorporated some of the technology into the overall business. “Since the Jet acquisition, we've seen our e-commerce growth accelerate, including rapid growth in our online grocery business," said Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO, in a memo to employees. ”Marc's leadership helped ensure we were positioned to respond to the demand driven by the pandemic this year." He added, “Marc committed to a minimum of five years with us, which I know felt like a long time for an entrepreneur like him and that time has flown by." Lore also brought to the role a rich e-commerce resume as founder of Quidsi, the parent of Diapers.com, which was bought by Amazon for $500 million in 2010. Lore notified Walmart on Thursday of his intent to leave on Jan. 31, according to a regulatory filing. He will continue to serve in a consulting role as a strategic adviser to the company through September. After Lore leaves, the U.S. business, including all aspects of U.S. retail e-commerce, will continue to report to John Furner, CEO of Walmart's U.S. operations. _______ Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio Anne D'Innocenzio, The Associated Press
The week ahead will be a crucial one for the province as it teeters on the edge of the orange recovery phase. On Friday, after two weeks of climbing cases and two weeks since the holiday season ended, Premier Blaine Higgs was asked yet again about whether the province will be tipped back to the most restrictive "red" phase of recovery. Higgs said he really doesn't want to do that, because it "shuts everything down" and has a drastic impact on business. But he isn't ready to rule it out yet, either. Case numbers are "levelling off," Higgs told reporters in a scrum at the legislature, "but we need to see them going down." "If we see them starting to drop off to 20, to 15 to 10, then you get the kind of comfort level," he said. "But if they stay at 25 for the next seven days, you kind of say, 'OK, we should be at the other end of this by now.' And then you look across the province and say ... 'Are we in a situation where some areas have to go red and others don't?' " The week ahead will likely be a deciding factor, Higgs said, noting the "biggest problem we face" is whether the people who have been told to isolate are doing so. As of Thursday, there were 2,161 New Brunswickers self-isolating as they awaited test results. "And if they are isolating, we're good," Higgs said. "But if they're not, if they're basically saying 'I'm supposed to isolate, but I need to go to the store,' that's an issue ... That's why the next few days are so critical." 25 new cases, new record-high active case count Public Health is reporting 25 new cases of COVID-19, with new cases in six of seven zones and a new record-high number of active cases. The cases break down this way: Moncton region, Zone 1, four cases: three people 30 to 39 an individual 40 to 49 Saint John region, Zone 2, five cases: two people 19 or under two people 40 to 49 an individual 70 to 79 Fredericton region, Zone 3, five cases: two people 20 to 29 an individual 40 to 49 an individual 60 to 69 an individual 80 to 89 Edmundston region, Zone 4, six cases: an individual 20 to 29 an individual 50 to 59 three people 60 to 69 an individual 80 to 89. Campbellton region, Zone 5, four cases: an individual 19 or under an individual 20-29 an individual 40-49 an individual 60-69 Bathurst region, Zone 6, one case: an individual 30 to 39 All cases are self-isolating and under investigation. There are 256 active cases across the province. Four people are hospitalized, including one who is in intensive care. The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick since the pandemic began in March is 884 and 615 have recovered. There have been 12 COVID-related deaths. As of Friday, 169,256 tests have been conducted, including 1,480 since Thursday's report. Edmundston rolls out the vaccine Health-care workers in Edmundston rolled up their sleeves Thursday evening as the first COVID-19 vaccine clinic got underway. Staff members from the Edmundston Regional Hospital, the extramural program, Ambulance New Brunswick and health-care workers from First Nations communities and nursing homes received vaccines. The clinic received a total of 488 doses to be administered. How the 7 zones stack up for case rates New Brunswick recorded a new record-high number of active cases on Friday, with 256 cases. The following chart shows the active case rates and total case rates for each of the province's seven zones, based on population numbers provided by the Department of Health and on current case counts. Region Active cases Active case rate* Cases to date Rate of cases to date* Moncton 58 26.0 220 98.8 Saint John 48 27.2 183 103.8 Fredericton 65 35.4 202 110.1 Edmundston 46 95.3 82 169.9 Campbellton 35 138.9 173 686.5 Bathurst 4 5.1 18 22.8 Miramichi 0 0 6 14.2 *per 100,000 population Minister apologizes for travel rebate delays Following a host of complaints from New Brunswickers who still haven't received their promised travel rebates, Tourism Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace is apologizing for a month of delays. More than 25,000 people applied for a 20 per cent rebate on their local travel through the Explore NB Travel Incentive program between July and October. The applications include 47,000 receipts worth more than $17.4 million. "It was an incredibly popular program and we really are proud of it, but we know there's been some hiccups along the way … and we apologize for that," the minister of the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture said. While the incentive designed to pay New Brunswickers to vacation at home was widely accepted, the province now faces backlash as just over 6,000 of the applications have been processed so far. Scott-Wallace said the province decided to implement the program just as New Brunswick was moving out of lockdown and announced the program before it was built to get people travelling over the summer months. "That did mean building a brand-new program, and that definitely has taken more time than we expected," she said. Scott-Wallace said New Brunswickers were initially told they would receive rebates 10 to 12 weeks after applying, but about 16 weeks have passed. "We apologize for that, but it has been developing that program that's taken a bit longer than expected," she said. Scott-Wallace said the applications will likely be processed by the end of January or February. Upwards of 15 Service New Brunswick staff are working to process them, she said. "We are not denying there has been disappointment from people who haven't heard" back yet on their claims, she said. "Many" claims have been denied because they did not include the required overnight stay with a hotel accommodation, the minister said. But there have also been cases where receipts were illegible because of scanner issues, or where applications included a hotel confirmation email instead of a receipt. "There are these things that we know are just human-error and unintentional," she said. Specific reasons for a denied claim will now be outlined, and applicants will have a couple of weeks to resubmit. Scott-Wallace said the department will look at whether it will reimplement the program this summer. Two Woodstock schools extend closures by one week The Anglophone West School District announced Thursday night that learning at Woodstock High School and Townsview School will continue online until Jan. 21 in order to allow students and staff to self-isolate for the recommended 14 days. Students will be allowed back in the schools beginning Jan. 22. The decision was made following discussions between the Anglophone West School District and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. "I have had very positive feedback on the commitment of students and their engagement with learning," superintendent David McTimoney said in a message to parents Thursday. "I am grateful to the teachers and staff who are working hard to make sure the learning continues in a meaningful way." Students and staff of both schools were asked to self-isolate last weekend, after three cases were confirmed at Woodstock High School and one case was reported at Townsview School Saturday. Edith Cavell School in Moncton reported its second COVID-19 case this week. In a tweet Thursday night, Anglophone East School District said Edith Cavell and T.E.S.S. (Therapeutic Education Support Site) students would have an "at home learning day" on Friday. Kennebecasis Valley High School in Quispamsis closed Thursday morning, and the Anglophone South School District later reported the school's first case of COVID-19 in an email to parents. Garderie Tic Tac Toe, a Dalhousie daycare centre, also reported one case. Exposure notifications Public Health identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious while on the following flights: Jan. 3 – Air Canada Flight 8910 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:23 a.m. Jan. 6– Air Canada Flight 8910 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:30 a.m. Public Health also identified potential public exposure at the following locations: Gusto Italian Grill & Bar, 130 Westmorland St., Moncton, on Jan, 3, 4 and 7, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Bo Diddley's Lounge,295 Collishaw St., on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. (285 Collishaw St., Moncton) Miss Cue pool hall,495 Mountain Rd., Moncton, Jan. 1 to 3 from 6:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. Foggerz Five-O-Six, an e-cigarette store in Woodstock, has closed because of possible COVID-19 exposure. If you were at any of these locations, and you have no symptoms of COVID-19, self-monitor and follow all Public Health guidelines. If you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and do not need to talk to a nurse, complete the self-assessment and get tested. No exposure alert was issued after Saint-Quentin industrial company Groupe Savoie reported four cases this week. Public Health only issues exposure notifications when it believes members of the public are at risk. What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: A fever above 38 C. A new cough or worsening chronic cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. Difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should: Stay at home. Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. Describe symptoms and travel history. Follow instructions.
In a blog post published on Friday, the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed now needed to live up to the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 2019 by doing all it takes to end the conflict in Tigray. "We are ready to help, but unless there is access for humanitarian aid operators, the EU cannot disburse the planned budget support to the Ethiopian government," Borrell said.