The head of an expert advisory group to the World Health Organization said the second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should be given within 28 days but there is some room for flexibility.
The head of an expert advisory group to the World Health Organization said the second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should be given within 28 days but there is some room for flexibility.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Family doctors in Alberta want to help give COVID-19 vaccinations but say the province has yet to tap them for help. "Family doctors have largely been left out of the conversation about the distribution and administration of vaccines in the province," said Dr. James Makokis, a family physician with practices in Edmonton, Kehewin Cree Nation who also works with an addictions and mental health practice in Toronto. Makokis said family doctors are in a good position to help because they know which patients meet the criteria for vaccinations and could help identify them. He said family doctors have their patients' trust and can answer questions they might have about the vaccine. While there are challenges that would make it difficult to store the vaccines in most family clinics, he said, many of the other roughly 5,200 family doctors in the province would be willing to attend AHS vaccination sites to help with injections. "If there was opportunity for, you know, late night shifts or weekend shifts when people can be vaccinated, many physicians would make themselves available to meet the needs of that," he said. Makokis said the province needs to engage with doctors, and wonders if the series of recent clashes between the provincial government and physicians has become a barrier. "My sense is their ego has gotten in the way to reach out for help," he said. Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said family doctors have yet to be tapped simply because of limited supply of the vaccine, and the province recognizes the important role doctors and others could play when there is more vaccine to go around. On Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney said Alberta was on track to use up its current supply by the end of that day or early Wednesday. "Right now, we have a very limited amount of vaccine available," McMillan said in a statement. "This is why we are currently focusing on the priority groups in Phase 1, which can most effectively be immunized directly through AHS personnel. As the available supply of vaccines increases, we will expand our approach." He said the province will continue to work with pharmacists, physicians and other health professionals on options for rolling out vaccines on a broader scale, and an update will be provided to the public in the coming weeks — including information about how different providers will be compensated for giving vaccine. Dr. Craig Hodgson, the family medicine section president of the Alberta Medical Association, said discussions have been held over the course of the pandemic about different ways family doctors could be involved in the vaccine rollout, but so far there hasn't been much interest. "Largely, we … certainly haven't received much in the way of a response in terms of wanting us to be involved," Hodgson said. In his own practice in Whitecourt, he said, patients have asked questions about the vaccine, and the relationship people have with family practitioners can be a way to address hesitancy concerns. Dr. Vishal Bhela, president of the Alberta College of Family Physicians, said the college has also been involved in a number of conversations, and while they recognize the issues of limited supply and ensuring that specific high-risk groups get shots first, they still hope to see family doctors looped in as the program expands. "We're hopeful that there will be a recommendation about the important role that family physicians can play in a successful COVID-19 campaign," he said. "Patients trust us, they have long-standing relationships with us, they approach us with questions and already have been," he said.
A small Nova Scotia First Nation is poised to start collecting property taxes in April from non-Indigenous businesses located on land it purchased for commercial development in the Annapolis Valley. Chief Sidney Peters of the Glooscap First Nation says it's about self-reliance. "It's just another way of trying to bring in a few extra dollars of revenue to help the community out," Peters said. The 400-member band currently pays a little over $20,000 a year in property taxes to the Municipality of the County of Kings for Glooscap Landing, which is home to a gas station and Tim Hortons on 11 hectares it owns on Highway 101 near Hantsport. Passed motion last month To get its hands on that money, Glooscap band council passed a motion last month to create its own taxing authority under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act. The band says initially it is likely to charge the same tax rate as the neighbouring municipality. Peters said the "biggest thing" is to have the money come back to the band. The band is also pressing the federal government to designate the 11 hectares part of its reserve, the other key step that will enable it to exercise taxing authority. Peters said he expects to have the reserve addition in time for April. This will not impact federal or provincial taxes. Band members won't be charged property taxes because they are exempt. Millbrook pioneered band tax collection in N.S. Glooscap is not the first to go down this road in Nova Scotia. The Millbrook band pioneered property tax collection under late Chief Lawrence Paul. It has been levying property taxes at its Power Centre outside Truro for years. According to financial records, taxation generated $711,000 in revenue for Millbrook in 2019. Eskasoni, in Cape Breton, also collects property tax, according to data from the First Nations Tax Commission that helps bands across Canada set up tax regimes. Paqtnkek, near Antigonish, is also looking at creating its own property tax regime. Taxing across Canada The First Nations Tax Commission says 152 First Nations collected $96 million in property tax across the country in 2020. About $1.25 million was collected by bands in Atlantic Canada. "Communities are looking for more ways to become more independent of government and to exercise their own self-governance through their own institutions. And taxation is a fundamental governmental power," said Manny Jewels, chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission. About 80 per cent of First Nation tax regimes in place across Canada are under the authority of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, which came into force in 2006. The remainder are under the Indian Act. 'Legislation is working' In addition to strengthening First Nations' property taxing power, it also created the First Nations Financial Authority, a non-profit corporation used by bands to raise money. It bankrolled the blockbuster $250-million loan to the Membertou band to pay for its share of the purchase of Clearwater Seafoods. "It tells you very clearly that the legislation is working," said Jewels. "It's the most successful legislation for First Nations in Canadian history. We were working, quite frankly, with over 50 per cent of the communities right across the country." MORE TOP STORIES
China's central bank has proposed stepping up antitrust measures for companies in the non-bank payments industry, such as Ant Group's Alipay and Tencent's WeChat Pay. Under draft rules proposed on Wednesday, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) can advise the state council's antitrust committee to stop companies abusing their dominant position or even break up a non-bank institution if it "severely hinders the healthy development of the payment service market".
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday it was "outrageous" that hundreds of thousands of police records had been deleted due to a human coding error with the Police National Computer. A piece of software to weed out records from the database that the computer had no legal right to hold went haywire because of faulty coding and began to automatically delete hundreds of thousands of other records, the Home Office said. "Of course it is outrageous that any data should have been lost but at the moment ... we're trying to retrieve that data," Johnson told parliament, adding that the Home Office (interior ministry) hoped to restore the deleted information.
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
Pope Francis on Wednesday urged more nations to join a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons, saying their prohibition is badly needed to promote peace today. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons goes into effect on Friday and has been signed by 86 states, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. "I strongly encourage all states and all people to work with determination to promote the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons, thus contributing to the advancement of peace and multilateral cooperation, which humanity needs so very much today," Francis said, mentioning the treaty during his weekly general audience.
Police are investigating after a man died in a multi-vehicle crash on a Toronto highway. The Toronto Police Service says the crash happened Tuesday afternoon. The force says a Volkswagen Jetta was exiting onto an off ramp when it struck another car. The Jetta then struck a cargo van that was travelling in the opposite direction. Police say the 59-year-old driver of the Jetta was hospitalized and later died from his injuries. A passenger in another vehicle was injured. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
P.E.I.'s rotational workers will likely be the first to see an easing of isolation requirements once they've received their vaccinations, a standing committee on health and social development heard Wednesday. The Charlottetown Islanders' games this weekend against the Cape Breton Eagles have been cancelled due to travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Islanders haven't played since the Atlantic bubble was suspended in November, and it's uncertain when they'll play again. The Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce is asking Islanders to shift 10 per cent of their annual spending to support locally owned and operated businesses during the next phase in the Love Local P.E.I. campaign. About 2,000 Holland College students are back in the classroom, some for the first time since March. A P.E.I. judge is wrestling with how to sentence a P.E.I. man who failed to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19. Some Prince Edward Islanders are not self-isolating as they are legally required to and are putting others at risk, Morrison also said at the briefing. The organizers of The Spud hockey tournament in Charlottetown say they had no choice but to cancel the event this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. Twenty-one senators from the Maritimes are urging the federal government to provide financial assistance to an inter-city bus service that they say is in financial peril because of the pandemic. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases reported on P.E.I. is 110, with seven still active. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations. New Brunswick announced 21 new cases on Wednesday There are now 317 active cases in the province. Nova Scotia reported three new cases, with 23 active. Also in the news Further resources Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
The owner of Canada's biggest stock exchanges is seeking to attract more Asian derivatives investors, aiming to boost the share of its overall revenues from outside the country to half from one-third currently. TMX Group, which operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, the TSX Venture Exchange and the Montreal Exchange, plans to extend derivatives trading to 23 hours in the second half of 2021 from 14-1/2 hours now to attract Asia-Pacific institutional investors, Chief Executive John McKenzie told Reuters in an exclusive interview. McKenzie said TMX hopes both to expand outside Canada and beyond its traditional equities trading operations, which already accounted for less than a tenth of revenues in fiscal 2019, half the level of a decade earlier.
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
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BEIJING — China’s capital, Beijing, recorded seven more coronavirus cases on Wednesday amid a lingering outbreak in the country’s north. Another 46 were recorded in Jilin province, 16 in Heilongjiang on the border with Russia, and 19 in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. China has now recorded a total of 88,557 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, with 4,635 deaths. China is hoping to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by mid-February and is also releasing schools early and telling citizens to stay put during the Lunar New Year travel rush that begins in coming days. A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization criticized China and other countries this week for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier, prompting Beijing to concede it could have done better but also to defend its response. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions and insisted on timely detection, reporting, isolation, and treatment despite incomprehensive information at the time. We have gained time to fight the epidemic and reduce infections and deaths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday. “We are firmly opposed to politicizing issues related to virus tracing, as this will not help the international community to unite and co-operate in the fight against the pandemic,” Hua said. A team of experts from WHO are quarantined in Wuhan ahead of beginning field visits aiming to shed light on the origins of the virus that is thought to have jumped to humans from animals, possibly bats. Other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: — India has began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots. India’s Foreign Ministry said the country will send 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 to the Maldives on Wednesday. Vaccines will also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry said, without specifying an exact timeline. Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the government will ensure that domestic vaccine makers have adequate stocks to meet domestic needs as they supply partner countries in the coming months. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. This means that Serum Institute, which has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses, is likely to make most of the vaccine that will be used by developing nations. The Associated Press
The mayor of Norman Wells, N.W.T., says that for months, he's held the lease to five empty houses in which town residents could isolate after travel, but the territorial government hasn't given him permission to use them. "There's no cost to the town to use these units," said Frank Pope. "We are willing to meet aircraft bringing people in ... we're willing to look after their needs for groceries, or for whatever they need." Despite having furniture for the houses, and staff trained in COVID-19 safety protocols, said Pope, "we're still not making any progress with the government to use these units." Northwest Territories residents who travel outside the territory must isolate for 14 days upon their return in either Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River or Inuvik. On Jan. 5, the territorial government stopped paying the hotel bills for people who travel for reasons it deems non-essential. The government will still pay the hotel costs for medical travellers, returning N.W.T. students who are studying outside the territory, and others in "exceptional" circumstances. Policy change This policy change may be no big deal to people who live in one of the four larger communities and can isolate at home, but everyone else could face a hefty self-isolation bill. Pope said Norman Wells's five, three-bedroom houses belong to Imperial Oil. He said the town got the lease to them at the start of the pandemic, and renewed it in December for another six months. Pope said the town likely wouldn't charge residents to stay in the houses. Imperial Oil is covering utilities, he said, so isolators would just have to pay for food and other supplies. The oil and gas company is "trying to help us out to meet some of our needs," said Pope. Whether their travel is essential or not, some residents just want to be able to isolate in their home community, said Pope. "We have a couple of families I'm aware of where they have had to isolate every time they go for treatment for medical issues down in Edmonton. Every time they come back, it's two weeks in Yellowknife," he said. "They're getting sick of that and they're sick enough at the best of times. We're trying to help them to overcome that problem as well." However, in an email from government spokesperson Mike Westwick to CBC News, the territory says there has been a number of discussions with Mayor Pope and officials from Norman Wells on self-isolation for residents, but at this time, it isn't going to be expanding the list of hub communities. "While the discussion about expanding self-isolation location options was ongoing over the fall, the situation in Canada has since changed considerably — and for the worse," the email reads in part. "The Public Health Orders currently define the self-isolation hubs as Fort Smith, Yellowknife, Hay River, and Inuvik. Until that shifts, establishing isolation centres in another community would not be on the table." The territory also says it is "absolutely open" to keep discussing and re-evaluating in the future. 'So much more comfortable at home' Norman Wells couple Doug and Sandy Whiteman can sympathize with those having to isolate after medical travel. Doug was diagnosed with cancer more than a year ago and may soon have to travel to Edmonton for treatment. "Radiation is probably going to irritate the hell out of me, and I can imagine sitting in a hotel room in Yellowknife for two weeks trying to get through this when I'd be so much more comfortable at home," he said. Sandy, who has isolated in Yellowknife hotels on two separate occasions, said the stays can be difficult, especially when you're travelling alone. She wants residents to know they have options. The Whitemans said they've gotten special approval from the territorial government to isolate at home in Norman Wells. People are just more at home in a home atmosphere rather than a hotel room. - Doug Whiteman, Norman Wells resident But Doug said surely there are others in the Sahtu region in a similar situation to his who can't isolate at home. He said for them, isolating in a house in Norman Wells, even if it's not their own, is likely preferable to a hotel room in Yellowknife. "People are just more at home in a home atmosphere rather than a hotel room," he said. Lise Dolan, a 30-year resident of Norman Wells, said she's of two minds about allowing isolation in town. She sees how it could be good for people who have to travel for medical reasons, but she's also worried about the potential for a local COVID-19 outbreak. "Arviat and Whale Cove are prime examples of what could happen," she said, citing two Nunavut communities that saw a combined 245 COVID-19 cases in less than two months. "I have an 88-year-old mother living with me, so that makes me even more concerned." CBC asked Paulie Chinna, the minister of Municipal and Community Affairs and the Sahtu MLA, whether she'd advocate for converting the Imperial Oil houses into isolation units. She said the decision is up to the chief public health officer.
As Labrador hunkers down under an ongoing blizzard, the south-east portion of the province is waiting for its first major storm of the season. The latest forecast from CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler calls for 30 to 40 centimetres of snow and gusts up to 90 km/h for much of the Avalon peninsula and the Bonavista area on Thursday. While Labrador will see its blizzard conditions peter out early Thursday, Brauweiler said just hours later a new weather system will move in. She expects snow to start falling on the island around mid-day. Brauweiler also has her eye on another storm system that could dump more snow on the island Saturday, but says it's too early to tell how much it will bring. "It is going to be unsettled — a very busy weather pattern over the next little bit," she said Wednesday evening. Her forecast echoes Wednesday morning's predictions from Veronica Sullivan, an Environment Canada meteorologist based in Gander. "For the next few days … it's going to be quite active, especially for eastern Newfoundland, the northeast coast and the Great Northern Peninsula, and also Labrador," Sullivan said. The Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas are under a winter storm warning, with Environment Canada predicting between 20 to 35 centimetres of snow as of Wednesday evening, and possibly higher amounts for the Avalon's easternmost points, including the St. John's area. That weather system could also affect the island's northeast coast and Northern Peninsula, said Sullivan, although that uncertain track means it's too soon to say how much snow will fall later on Thursday night. Blizzards, and a busy weekend Meanwhile, a storm is already pushing through Labrador's north coast with the entire area under a blizzard warning Wednesday. Heavy snow and high winds are reducing visibility to zero, according to Environment Canada, which predicts between 15 to 25 centimetres of snow and possibly more in certain areas by Thursday morning. However, much of Labrador can expect more snow on the way for the weekend, Sullivan said. That snow "could persist for many days," although it is too early to firm up that forecast. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
CAIRO — A fire, followed by an explosion at an ammunition warehouse at a naval academy in western Libya killed three people, including two officers, a Libyan spokesman said Wednesday. It was not clear what caused the overnight blaze at the academy in the town of Janzur, about 24 kilometres (14 miles) west of the capital of Tripoli, said Masoud Abdal Samad, the spokesman of the Libyan navy. Four people were also wounded in the incident. Samad said the dead included Brig. Gen. Ahmed Ayoub, the head of the academy, and Brig. Gen. Salem Abu Salah, who ran the naval college. The third person who died was not identified. Video footage that circulated online following the incident shows firefighters and ambulances rushing to the site where a building is engulfed in a huge fire. Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed the country’s longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The oil-rich country is now ruled by rival authorities in Tripoli and the country’s east. Eastern-backed forces had fought a months-long offensive to capture Tripoli but the campaign ended in failure last year. The Associated Press
As you take a closer look at your financial footing amid the headwinds of a pandemic, it’s an excellent time to examine the possible impact of a Joe Biden presidency on money matters. The balance of Congress has shifted following the Georgia runoffs, providing possible momentum for President Biden’s agenda. A new COVID check, taxes, health care — it’s all on the line. Here’s how. A SHORT FUSE ON ANOTHER ROUND OF STIMULUS CHECKS Look for another round of pandemic relief shortly after Biden’s inauguration, says Bernard Yaros Jr., an economist with Moody’s Analytics. “In February, we expect that there’s going to be a COVID-specific relief package,” Yaros says. That measure will likely once again extend unemployment insurance benefits, with enough support for another round of checks issued to Americans, “whether it’s 2K or slightly lower,” he says. Small businesses are likely to receive more grants and forgivable loans, as well. “And we’re also thinking, you would probably get some additional funding for rental assistance,” Yaros adds. MOVING FROM RELIEF TO STIMULUS With Democrats gaining two seats in the Senate from the Georgia runoffs, there is now a greater possibility of moving from “relief” to “stimulus” mode in late 2021. “That’s because now that the Democrats have a simple majority in the Senate. They can pass changes to the tax code as well as implement changes in spending,” Yaros says. Moody’s Analytics economists expect the Biden administration will dedicate increased funding for enhancements to “social safety nets,” possibly including: — Expanding eligibility for Medicare. — Retooling Obamacare into Bidencare. — Rolling out paid sick leave protections. — Offering universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. — Providing some kind of student debt forgiveness. But on these initiatives, Democrats will “have to pick and choose,” Yaros says. “Among the more moderate Democrats, they’re not going to want to increase the deficit too much. That’s obviously going to be a limiting factor,” he adds. And while Vice-President Kamala Harris holds the deciding vote in the event of a Senate tie, the 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans doesn’t constitute filibuster-proof power. REVERSING TRUMP TAX CUTS Higher taxes are expected to partially fund the widening of these social safety nets. Yaros says Biden is likely to succeed in reversing Trump’s tax cuts, raising the corporate income tax rate to 28%, increasing the tax rate for taxable incomes of more than $400,000 and eliminating some tax breaks for those making more than $1 million. But the tax hikes may be smaller than widely anticipated, says Michael Zezas, head of U.S. public policy research at Morgan Stanley. “In a Senate where Democrats have the slimmest majority possible, any one Democratic senator effectively has a veto. And when it comes to taxes, we expect many of the Biden administration’s proposed taxes won’t pass muster with Democratic moderates,” Zezas says in an analysis. “We estimate about $500 billion of tax increases are possible, obviously a smaller number than another potential COVID stimulus round, and also smaller than the $1 trillion-plus spending now in play for each of health care and infrastructure,” Zezas added. Even if Biden can swing the tax hikes, they aren’t expected to kick in until 2024, Yaros says, “to make sure that there’s no fiscal drag, at all, on the economy in these next couple of years when we’re still digging ourselves out of the pandemic.” REVISING RETIREMENT PLANS Joe Biden also has some ideas to reshape employer-sponsored retirement plans. One of those proposals is to equalize the tax benefit of contributing to a retirement plan so that “higher-income earners aren’t getting more of the benefit than the lower-income workers, that it’s standard across the board,” says Anne Tyler Hall, founder and principal of Hall Benefits Law. For example, someone in a 37% tax bracket is able to deduct the full amount of a retirement plan contribution; so $37 for every $100 pre-tax contribution. That’s a greater tax benefit than someone in a lower tax bracket, such as 20%, who would receive a $20 deduction for each $100 pre-tax contribution. The idea proposed by the Biden administration is to offer a tax credit to low- and moderate-income workers, resulting in an equal tax benefit. Democrats are also pushing for employers to make retirement saving easier for the U.S. workforce. “Employers who don’t offer retirement plans would be required to allow employees to make contributions to individual retirement accounts, IRAs,” Hall says. “Contributions to the IRAs would come directly from paychecks.” With the shift of balance in Congress, Hall says such changes may be more likely. Plus, “some of these provisions have bipartisan support,” she adds. RELATED LINKS: Georgia Changes the Game https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/thoughts-on-the-market-zezas Budgeting 101: How to Budget Money http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-budget-101 Hal M. Bundrick Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
A group of horseback riders on P.E.I. is looking at other options after their request to use sections of the Confederation Trail was rejected by the provincial government. Donna Lee Cole, an avid rider and member of the group, said they had asked to use a 10 to 20 kilometre section of the trail in each of the three counties as a pilot for the summer of 2021. They would share the trail with cyclists, joggers and walkers, as is done in other parts of the country. "We want to be part of the nature and the different woods and the undulating landscape and hillside, that's what we're looking for as trail riders," she said. "If we could access parts of the trail in rural areas to connect to separate adjoining trails that would be phenomenal." However, when they met last fall with Steven Myers, P.E.I.'s minister of transportation, infrastructure and energy, he quickly made his position clear. "My response was no," he said, "but that I would work with them in developing trails around that they could use for horses." Myers said government would be willing to partner with the group to redevelop the old horseback trail in Forest Hill near Dundas in eastern P.E.I. "It's a really nice trail in a really picturesque area," he said. "We're looking at what we can do to bring that back. And certainly interested in if we can help create a new type of multi-use trail that includes horses in other parts of Prince Edward Island. We'd also entertain that." Myers said money could come from the active transportation fund. I'm not ready to drop it but if he is willing to come up with alternatives, that would be great. — Donna Lee Cole He said staff in his department have told him that allowing horses on the Confederation Trail would cause bumps and ruts that would make it unsafe for cyclists and walkers, and would require a lot of maintenance. Cole said she disagrees that the horses would cause damage to the trail, and was "quite disappointed" when the proposal was rejected. Currently, horses are allowed on P.E.I. roads, but anyone riding on the Confederation Trail can face fines up to $1,000. "I'm not ready to drop it but if he is willing to come up with alternatives, that would be great," Cole said. Myers has asked the group to come up with a plan that doesn't include the Confederation Trail. 'The door is open' "From where I stand, the door is open and we're here and ready to work," he said. "I want it to be their project. I'd kind of want them to be the lead on it because they're the experts.… Just like we do with cycling groups and walking, hiking groups, we rely on them to say, 'here is what we want,' and then we try to make it fit into the program that we have currently running." Janice MacSwain, another member of the group who met with the province, said the Confederation Trail is a logical first option because of its accessibility, but she is more concerned about just having a safe place to ride. She is looking forward to meeting with government to further discuss the possibilities. "I really want it to go forward in whatever format we can for the safety. I ride with a young girl sometimes and when we're on the road I'm just a little bit nervous," she said. "It's just not as safe on the roads as it was, say, 20, 30, 40 years ago." Cole said the horseback riding group is also in discussions with the ATV Federation about the possibility of sharing their trail system. More from CBC P.E.I.
Almost every hospital in New Brunswick is either over its target occupancy rate for the orange level of COVID-19 recovery, or very close to it, figures from the two regional health authorities show. This is with only one COVID-19 patient in the province hospitalized, as of Tuesday. Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network did not respond to a request from CBC News for red-level occupancy rate targets, but five of the 15 hospitals are operating at overcapacity for any phase, with one as high as 150 per cent. The Moncton region, Zone 1, Saint John region, Zone 2, and Fredericton region, Zone 3, have all been bumped back to the more restrictive red level from orange, as of midnight Tuesday. Premier Blaine Higgs announced the decision Tuesday afternoon, after one more death and 31 new cases of the respiratory disease were confirmed in New Brunswick, pushing the total active cases to 316. "We're simply not making enough progress with the current measures that are in place," Higgs said during the COVID-19 news briefing. "We know there are more cases in these zones that exist but have not yet tested positive. And we cannot take the risk of potentially overwhelming our hospitals." "We don't want to be too late in reacting and look back and say, 'Only if.'" Even a small number of new admissions can have a ripple effect throughout our health-care system. - Geri Geldart, Horizon Health Network The Horizon hospitals in the three largest cities in these zones all have inpatient occupancy rates hovering around the orange-level target of between 85 per cent and 90 per cent. The Moncton Hospital is at 87 per cent capacity, the Saint John Regional Hospital, 96 per cent, and the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, 92 per cent. "Even a small number of new admissions can have a ripple effect throughout our health-care system, as we continue to balance high inpatient occupancy rates with limitations on staffing resources," Geri Geldart, vice-president clinical, said in an emailed statement prior to the announcement to move the three zones to red. "Our priority is to ensure as many surgeries as possible can continue while also preserving ICU and other beds in the event of a COVID-related surge." Horizon closely monitors its inpatient occupancy rates daily and makes decisions surrounding patient discharge on a case-by-case basis to ensure it has capacity in each hospital to admit any COVID-positive patients, she said. Vitalité's Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont Hospital Centre in Moncton is operating at nearly 94 per cent capacity, as of Monday afternoon. Its orange-level target is 80 per cent. Vitalité president and CEO Dr. France Desrosiers was unavailable Tuesday for an interview. The Edmundston region, Zone 4, has been at the red level since midnight Sunday. One of its hospitals is over its orange-level target occupancy, while the other two are close behind, according to figures provided by Vitalité on Monday. The Grand Falls General Hospital is at 90 per cent capacity. The target for the 20-bed hospital is 85 per cent. Edmundston Regional Hospital, which has 169 beds, is operating at 69 per cent, just below its 70 per cent target. Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Joseph de Saint-Quentin is not far from reaching its 85 per cent target either. The six-bed facility is currently operating at 83 per cent. That's down from 100 per cent on Friday. Vitalité spokesperson Thomas Lizotte did not respond to a request for comment about what might explain the high occupancy rates, given the sole hospitalized COVID-19 patient in the province, who is in a Horizon hospital, whether the rates are unusual, or what steps are being taken to ensure the hospitals will be able to admit future COVID patients. Daily discussions 'around the risks' Public Health is having daily discussions with both regional health authorities "around their capacity, around the risks," Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, told CBC News. The health-care system's ability to respond to COVID-19 patients is one of the triggers considered for moving to another phase of recovery. "We are looking at the ages of the people that are diagnosed with COVID-19 every day and projecting, you know, whether or not they would need hospitalization," Russell said. If the government hadn't acted "swiftly and decisively" to roll Zones 1, 2 and 3 back to red on Tuesday, Russell predicted the province would "soon see dozens, perhaps even hundreds of new cases every day." "We would see a flood of gravely ill patients that would inundate our hospitals and overwhelm our doctors, nurses and paramedics. We would see more deaths and disruptions and sorrow," Russell said. "We need to continue to protect our health-care system and our health-care workers, not only to provide care in the health-care system, but to be there to vaccinate our population. We need to continue to protect our most vulnerable and we need to protect our social determinants of health." Russell said a combined total of 76 health-care workers are off work from Horizon and Vitalité either because they tested positive for COVID-19 or they're isolating as a precaution. This has also had an impact on some services, she said. The Vitalité Health Network said more than 100 of its surgeries were cancelled between Jan. 4 and Jan. 14, including 55 in the Moncton region, two in the Edmundston region, 35 in the Campbellton region and 14 in the Bathurst region. The Horizon Health Network had 37 surgeries cancelled last week alone. Those include 26 in the Moncton region, eight in the Saint John region, two in the Fredericton region, and one in the Miramichi region. 5 over 100 per cent Of Vitalité's other hospitals, Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, in Zone 1, has the highest occupancy rate at 150 per cent. Its orange target is 85 per cent. The three other overcapacity hospitals are all in the Bathurst region, Zone 6. They include: Hôpital de l'Enfant-Jésus RHSJT in Caraquet: 133.3 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 85 per cent. Lamèque Hospital, 116.7 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 85 per cent. Tracadie Hospital,101.7 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 85 per cent. Horizon also had an overcapacity hospital: Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville, Zone 3, 102 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 85 to 90 per cent The overall hospital occupancy rate for Vitalité is 82.5 per cent, said Lizotte. "We're aiming [for] 80 per cent," he said in an email. The other Vitalité hospitals include: Campbellton Regional Hospital, Zone 5, 74.6 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 60 per cent. Chaleur Regional Hospital, Zone 6, 62.1 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 70 per cent. The remaining Horizon hospital is: Miramichi Regional Hospital, Zone 7, 87 per cent capacity, target orange-level occupancy 85 to 90 per cent. "During the very early stages of the pandemic, Horizon was able to successfully discharge a number of alternate level of care (ALC) patients to more appropriate care settings — such as a nursing home or adult residential facility — to build additional capacity within our hospitals," said Geldart. Compared to other jurisdictions, New Brunswick has also been "relatively successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19," she said. Because of this, Horizon hospitals have not had to care for large numbers of COVID positive patients at a single time. "It's important to note, however, this situation can change at any time, and because of this we remain on high alert," Geldart said.