The most effective way for provinces to carry out the mass vaccination program required for COVID-19 is prioritizing by age, says epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos.
The most effective way for provinces to carry out the mass vaccination program required for COVID-19 is prioritizing by age, says epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Newfoundland and Labrador's four health authorities have signed a deal with a U.S.-based health-care company that promises financial incentives — totalling tens of millions of dollars — if it cuts costs at hospitals and long-term care homes across the province. The contract puts the Change Healthcare Canada — its Canadian headquarters are in British Columbia — in charge of building software that involves health-care scheduling and collaborating with the health authorities on "improved operational efficiency and anticipated cost savings." Those savings could come from reducing staffing costs, overtime, sick time, payroll errors and time-keeping labour, the contract states. The contract comes with a lucrative possibility: the more savings Change Healthcare helps find, the more money it makes, up to $35 million over the course of the deal. The provincial government, however, said the goal of the project is not to cut spending but to avoid staff burnout. The contract came into effect in June with no public announcement before or after the deal was done — a signing that gave $3 million up front to Change Healthcare to begin months of preparation prior to the five-year operational side of the deal kicking in. The contract's signatures include those of a Change Healthcare executive vice-president, the chief executive officers of Eastern, Central, Western and Labrador-Grenfell Health, and the CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information, an entity that oversees the province's health-care information system and electronic records. The deal also states the health authorities will cover sales tax and fees for any work Change Healthcare does beyond the contract's original scope. The authorities will also have to pay up to $5 million in penalties if they don't achieve 95 per cent adoption of the program within the organizations. Eastern Health, where the program will roll out first, did not respond to CBC's request for an interview or comment by deadline. Fears of job cuts: union The deal came as a surprise to at least one union, representing 3,000 health-care workers in the province, which learned about it months later. Sherry Hillier, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, attended a virtual meeting in the fall to discuss details of the deal with stakeholders. "I was kinda like, 'Holy God, what is this all about?'" said Hillier. The contract doesn't get into the fine details of where savings will be achieved, and how much, but in a slide presentation from October, Change Healthcare stated its software will anticipate peak demand in the system, and will "align staffing to demand" as well as "optimize staff effectiveness." Sherry Hillier, president of the provincial branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says members of her union who are employed in health care are overworked and racking up overtime because there aren't enough people to do the work before them.(Heather Gillis/CBC) Hillier said she doesn't see how that can happen, as her members are stretched thin as it is. To her, the contract means job cuts, and she questions whether an algorithm can match up to the reality of people's day-to-day duties. "My biggest fear is for our members out there. Our members are overworked right now, they're understaffed, and this system is only going to make the health-care system that much worse," Hillier said. When the meeting ended, Hillier said, she "didn't leave with a good feeling about this company," and contacted CUPE counterparts across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE's experience with Change Healthcare was one of widespread job cuts, she said, leaving those still employed struggling to manage their workloads. "It's actually made for a devastating workforce in a couple of the hospitals in Winnipeg that CUPE represents there. It's been bad times in Winnipeg just with this company, because of the cuts," she said. A spokesperson for a government health agency in Manitoba, however, disagreed, saying the company's software has "improved patient flow" and reduced reliance on overtime staffing. "We strongly dispute the assertion that there were any 'job cuts' related to the implementation of this software," the spokesperson said in an email, "and have continued to actively recruit for CUPE support staff during this time." According to its website, Change Healthcare is "focused on accelerating the transformation of the healthcare system through insight and innovation," and says it is one of the largest health-care networks in the United States. Hillier questions the motives of Change Healthcare to make changes — "This corporation is actually in it for the money," she said — and asks why the health authorities could potentially give millions of dollars to an American company when the province is in dire financial straits. After the story was published, and after Hillier originally spoke to CBC News, CUPE issued a media release late Tuesday afternoon stating it wanted the four health authorities to "cancel their deal" with Change Healthcare. The union draws a connection from the contract to Ronan Seagrave, chief operating officer of Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre, who was on hand when the company's plan for N.L. was presented to stakeholders last fall. Seagrave, according to the union's release, was a KPMG consultant working on a report for the Manitoba health care system. "His health system transformation team made 'title changes' to hundreds of full-time jobs, converting the hours of work to part-time. At least 500 nurses received 'job deletion notices' that fall, along with more than 700 hospital support staff," reads CUPE NL's media release. Unions were at the table from the 'get go': Haggie Health Minister John Haggie said he is surprised to hear CUPE take issue with the contract. "The unions were there from the get-go.… I don't understand where they are coming from," he told CBC News on Tuesday. "You have a company that is incentivized to produce the best results because they share in our success. And I think over the term of the contract they get somewhere around 10 or 15 per cent of the value of the savings. The health authorities, the health-care system, the province keep the rest, if there are savings." After Haggie's interview, CUPE said it was not informed that the contract had already been signed when members were invited to a presentation about it last fall. Health Minister John Haggie, seen here in a Skype interview with CBC, said the contract with Change Healthcare Canada also aims to reduce worker burnout, too. (CBC/Skype) Haggie said the project originated in 2016 and came out of discussions at the time with the Registered Nurses' Union. He said former president Debbie Forward was "enthusiastic" about the approach. Haggie said the approach and contract may be new to the province, but Vancouver Coastal Health has used the approach and "their reports were very favourable." "It's not new, it's simply just not paper-based, it's electronic. Where it stemmed from was from our desire to help avoid burnout among staff. So they're not being mandated back or they're not doing extra shifts and overtime, since you can match the needs for staff and the right mix and right numbers, with the number of patients, and the level of illness you see on the floor." "All scheduling on health care and front lines is done on paper and this was a way of getting that all sorted out, so that it was electronic,and you could match the staffing in a two-week period to the expected demand on the unit." CBC News asked the Registered Nurses' Union if, in fact, Forward did support the contract. A spokesperson said the union "did not see or have any input on a contract. What we have been doing is pushing for government to move to acuity-based staffing." A statement from the union went on to say: "The current staffing model for nursing is not meeting the needs of patients and results in chronic understaffing, excessive overtime and burnout among registered nurses." It also said the union supports "staffing based on the real time needs of patients, not the number of beds or allocated budget," and added its executive will be "monitoring the rollout of the new system and remain hopeful that it will improve workloads, better align staffing to meet patient needs, and improve scheduling and patient flow." Haggie, meanwhile, challenged those who see this as a roundabout way of making cuts. "They are mistaken," he said. "The motivation behind this was to match better the needs of patients and meet them, also with the needs of our workforce. We have heard how hard people have worked during the pandemic, this tool will help make their life easier." PCs, NDP slam the contract Opposition House leader David Brazil says the financial incentives in the deal are a non-starter for him. "I have a real problem with that. I would think the people in Newfoundland and Labrador would have a problem with that. And I would think the health-care professionals would first be asking, 'Why not engage with us?'" he told CBC News on Tuesday. "Taking a company that looks at a software package to decide how we better access health care, and the particular needs, to me is not the best solution." While the contract was part of a competitive public tender process, NDP Leader Alison Coffin asked why there has been no information about it, until now. "If this was good news for our hospitals, clinics, and long-term care homes, you can bet the Liberals wouldn't have kept this a secret," said Coffin in a statement. Dire need for savings It's no secret Newfoundland and Labrador has a money problem. With a net debt of $16 billion, the province is close to insolvency, and the prospect of cuts to many sectors looms as a distinct possibility. Health-care spending, comprising more than 37 per cent of the last provincial budget, is a target. The economic task force was scheduled to deliver an interim report on Sunday with potential recommendations for change, before announcing on Saturday it would miss that deadline by up to six weeks. Under those harsh realities — complicated further by the pandemic and the provincial election — Hillier said hiring Change Healthcare still isn't the right move. While overtime and sick leave may be a spending issue, she said a larger problem is not having enough staff in the first place, particularly in long-term care, causing people to rack up overtime to get the job done. She said the province needs to instead train and hire more workers to drive overtime costs down. "To increase the workload on our members is just crazy. It can't be done," she said. The contract states the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's will be the pilot site for the new system before it expands to the rest of the province.(CBC) She also said any cuts will have a clear impact on patients, causing service reductions and longer wait times. The deal hasn't been brought to union members' attention yet, she said, in part because it took six weeks after CUPE-NL found out about it to even get a copy of the contract to peruse. With the contract signed months ago, the project is now well into the first of three phases. The goal is to begin implementing the plan by September, starting at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's. The program will then roll out through the rest of the health authorities' acute-care facilities, including hospitals and long-term care homes throughout the province, with the contract set to conclude in September 2026, with an option to renew the contract after that point. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
With several businesses ranging from restaurants to big retail stores recently labelled as potential COVID-19 exposure sites on P.E.I., things are getting busy once again for companies offering disinfection services. Jordan Fraser, owner of United Janitorial, said calls for disinfection services are up. "We've also seen a substantial drop in generic cleaning, considering a lot of buildings are now shut down on P.E.I." Fraser said that isn't entirely a bad thing — it means he is able to move staff who would be doing general cleaning to his disinfecting team to deal with the increased demand. "We actually — going back to last year — began cross-training the majority of our employees for these exact scenarios," he said. The company has been dealing with some of the businesses listed as possible exposure sites. Other customers are just worried, said Fraser. This is just one type of electrostatic fogging gun being used to disinfect and protect against COVID-19. "We have been called out to some of the known exposure sites, but then we have also been called out to what we're calling precautionary disinfects," he said. "Business who may not have had an active case at their location are just wanting to make sure they are doing all their due diligence by doing precautionary disinfecting." Fraser said he is booking into next week when it comes to disinfection services — but if new exposure sites come up, he said, things will only get busier. On top of using fog to disinfect, Jordan Fraser says United Janitorial also uses a three-step spray and wipe down method. Two main methods are being used. The first is a "triple clean," where high-touch surfaces are sprayed with disinfectant and wiped down. Another is "fogging," using a type of backpack equipment for disinfecting, said Fraser. "It takes one droplet of solution and it turns it into 10,000 droplets of a dry mist. It allows us to ensure an entire area is really disinfected completely." Staff doing disinfecting work are supplied with full personal protective equipment, Fraser said. United Janitorial isn't the only company on P.E.I. getting more calls for disinfecting. First on Site Restoration has also been busy, said Jim Mandeville, senior project manager with the company. 'They're really cleaning every nook and cranny very closely,' says Jim Mandeville, senior project manager with First on Site Restoration. "We've actually seen a larger spike this past weekend than, you know, back to the original outbreak last spring," he said. Mandeville said the company has received calls from grocery stores and other large Island businesses."What we are doing is more of a decontamination than a cleaning," he said. "They're really cleaning every nook and cranny very closely, and then we are applying a disinfectant after that cleaning process to kill anything that may be left behind." In terms of staff, the business is managing with the aim of completing cleanings in a single shift — but if things get overwhelming, Mandeville said his staff are listed as essential workers and members from other provinces could be brought in. More from CBC P.E.I.
All of Newfoundland and most of southern Labrador is under some kind of weather warning Tuesday, as transit, government offices and municipal services are closed or delayed opening due to the stormy conditions. "It's on your doorstep right now," said Environment Canada meteorologist Wanda Batten on Tuesday morning. The storm began overnight Tuesday in the island's southwest, with heavy bands of snow moving into the Gander and St. John's areas through the morning. The storm has prompted many delays and cancellations. The province closed some sections of the Trans-Canada Highway on the west coast, and asked drivers to avoid travelling if possible. Witless Bay Line was closed due to poor weather conditions, with RCMP asking motorists to avoid the highway between Witless Bay and Butter Pot Park due to whiteout conditions. In St. John's, Metrobus announced it would be suspending transit services as of 10 a.m. due to the weather. They City of St. John's also pushed garbage collection scheduled for Tuesday to Wednesday, with other municipalities in the metro region following suit. Provincial government offices in parts of the province closed for the morning, as did courts in St. John's. The College of the North Atlantic closed some of its campuses for the morning, while the Newfoundland and Labrador English School district said some virtual classes may be disrupted. The weather cancelled flights at airports in the province, with Marine Atlantic also cancelling its crossings for the day. Newfoundland Power reported outages in the Bay St. George South and St. George's areas due to severe weather conditions. "It's going to be quite blustery there for a few hours," Batten said. "I expect this to come in, and it's going to deteriorate really quickly, and then it's going to improve quickly as well," she said, forecasting the worst is to come in the morning and early afternoon, before the snow lets up and the winds drop later Tuesday. On the west coast, between five and 15 centimetres of snow is on the way, but up to 25 centimetres could fall in some higher-elevation areas, along with wind gusts between 80 and 120 km/h into Tuesday afternoon. For St. John's, the northern Avalon, and the Bonavista Peninsula, strong winds gusting up to 100 km/h are expected to combine with about 15 centimetres of snowfall starting Tuesday morning. Environment Canada said "visibility will be suddenly reduced to near zero at times in heavy snow and blowing snow." It's a similar story on the southern Avalon, Connaigre and Burin peninsulas, where 10 to 15 centimetres of snow is expected — though it may change to a brief period of rain later this morning, before turning back to flurries this afternoon. In southern Labrador, the area from Norman Bay through to Red Bay and L'Anse-au-Clair could get up to 45 centimetres of snow, and conditions on the Trans-Labrador Highway are expected to be rough. 'Nasty conditions' for drivers Early Tuesday morning the RCMP had responded to a few calls of stranded drivers on west coast roads, and Const. Matthew Christie said he expected conditions to get dicey in eastern Newfoundland later in the morning — especially on the Trans-Canada Highway between Butter Pot Park and Witless Bay Line. "Those areas, we've seen in the past, when the snow kicks up and the wind combines with it, it makes for nasty conditions," he said. "So I would expect those areas to deteriorate quite quickly as people make their way toward the city." Road conditions are expected to get rough around eastern portions of the island mid-Tuesday morning. If they have to be out, Christie said drivers should take it slow. "Mostly what we see is just people failing to adjust their driving to the road conditions," he said. "Those posted speed limits — whatever the posted speed limit is for the area that you're travelling in — that's meant for ideal conditions. So if you have the snow, and you have the wind that's with it, and you have the slippery surface on the roadway, that speed limit is not something that you should be travelling." Cold weather coming Once the system moves out, said Batten, there should be consistent flurries and strong winds over the next few days. "We're in for pretty blustery weather in behind this," she said. "It actually could get quite nasty along the west coast and Northern Peninsula Wednesday into Thursday." Batten said it will also get colder, with temperatures dropping to minus double digits in western and central areas of Newfoundland. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
A southern Alberta man has been going through an "immigration hell," as his lawyer calls it, that has left his common-law wife and two young children stuck in Cuba for almost a year due to delays in federal officials renewing her visa. Greg Skinner, who lives in Langdon just east of Calgary, says he's frustrated with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, after 11 months of delays trying to renew a visitor visa for his common-law wife, Daylen Garcia Lopez. Garcia Lopez, a Cuban citizen, had a visitor visa that didn't expire until May 2020 when she flew from Canada to Cuba in February 2020 with their two children, who are dual citizens. But when she tried to return a few weeks later, she was told she needed to renew her visa first — and has faced a nightmare trying to do so ever since, Skinner says. "The kids are wondering what's going on — how come we can't come home?" said Skinner. "You know, it's difficult." Daylen Garcia Lopez has been in Cuba waiting for her visitor visa application to be approved for nearly a year. She's been told the delays are related to COVID-19. Skinner says he wrote the federal Immigration minister and his MP in the hopes they could intervene, but he says when that didn't resolve the issue, he decided to hire an immigration lawyer. The lawyer, Peter Wong, says he's seen a lot of delays with the processing of visa applications this past year due to COVID-19, but he says this case is extreme. "This one is particularly egregious because it separates couples,'' said Wong. "And also 11 months is outrageous, in my view." CBC News reached out to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and was told that the pandemic has had a significant impact on the federal immigration system but that the department is "providing additional resources where they are needed most, streamlining [its] processes and ramping systems back up." An IRCC spokesman also said the department is trying to prioritize certain files, including ones involving spousal sponsorships. He said the case was under review and the department was still considering Garcia Lopez's request for a waiver on her biometrics, which included fingerprints and a photograph. But both Skinner and his lawyer say her biometrics were done last November. "It's been a year and they don't even know what's going on, it's ridiculous," said Skinner. How they got here Skinner met Garcia Lopez in 2013 while he was working in Cuba as a manager at an oil and gas facility run by a Canadian company. The couple has two children together, Stephen, five, and Kristen, three. Skinner also has a 10-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. In 2019, Skinner retired and wanted to move back to Canada with his common-law and their two kids. Garcia Lopez is a Cuban national and needs a visitor visa to enter Canada. Their kids have dual citizenship and do not. Skinner says the family had been to Canada several times prior to his retirement and therefore Garcia Lopez already had a visitor visa — but it was set to expire in August 2019. In preparation for the move, Skinner says Garcia Lopez tried to renew her visa in Havana, but he says the Canadian embassy office there was closed. They moved to Canada anyway in July 2019 and he says the IRCC granted her a visa extension that expired in May 2020. Skinner says the problems began in February 2020 after Garcia Lopez flew home to Cuba with her kids for a family situation. A few weeks later, Garcia Lopez wasn't allowed to return to Canada, Skinner says, because the visa extension didn't allow it. Rather, he says, she was told she needed to get a new visitor visa while in Cuba. Skinner says it should have been a routine application, but the Canadian embassy office in Havana was still closed and not processing applications so she had to apply through the Canadian embassy office in Mexico City. But, because the Havana office was closed, Lopez wasn't able to get her biometrics done — which include fingerprints and photograph — so she asked if they could be waived. Skinner says Garcia Lopez never heard back from IRCC on her request for a waiver. In November 2020, Skinner says the Canadian embassy in Havana stated it could start doing biometrics, so she got them done and they were sent to Mexico City. Daylen Garcia Lopez is seen here at the Calgary Zoo with her two younger children, who are with her in Cuba, and her husband's daughter from a previous relationship. It's now March 2021, and Skinner says the couple still hasn't received an update on her application. Garcia Lopez and their two children have been staying with her parents at their home in Matanzas, west of Varadero. "There's no light at the end of the tunnel as far as we can see, as far as something happening," said Skinner. Pandemic no longer acceptable excuse Wong says applications such as Garcia Lopez's would normally take one to two months to process, pre-COVID. Now, he says whenever he inquires about a client's delayed visa application, he's told the same thing: embassies are understaffed and overworked due to the pandemic. "It's no longer an acceptable response — they're a year into this, and they should have figured out how to deal with visa processing," said Wong. Wong says if the federal government plans to keep taking visa applications, then it needs to properly staff its offices to process them in a timely manner. Otherwise, Wong says, the federal government should suspend visa applications until it's ready to do so. "What Greg has is a special form of immigration hell, which people have been going through all year," he said. Calgary-based immigration lawyer Peter Wong says he's seen a lot of delays with the processing of visa applications this past year due to COVID-19, but he says this case is extreme. Wong says he recommends people don't apply for a visa until wait times improve. Meanwhile, Skinner says he and Garcia Lopez will continue to press for answers, in the hopes they'll be reunited soon. "I haven't seen my kids grow for that year, I haven't been able to share any of their experiences," he said. Skinner says Garcia Lopez also applied for permanent residency in early 2020. He says that application is on hold until she is able to return to Canada to complete biometrics and a medical.
Nova Scotia's film and TV industry is expecting the 2021 production season to be the busiest in years. While the pandemic has disrupted Hollywood's production pipeline, locales like Nova Scotia that have managed to control the infection rate and continue to produce film and television are appealing. Interest from American streaming companies and broadcasters increased by an estimated 100 per cent in 2020, according to Screen Nova Scotia. "I'd say probably between August and December of 2020, I was on the phone all day long with studios that were wondering what was happening in Nova Scotia," said executive director Laura Mackenzie. She wouldn't disclose which companies inquired about shooting in the province, but said she's heard from all the large U.S. streaming services. Predictable shooting schedule The Stephen King adaptation Chapelwaite, starring Adrian Brody and Emily Hampshire, shot last summer in Halifax, Dartmouth and Cole Harbour, while the new CBC series, Feudal, filmed on the South Shore. Local independent producer Marc Tetreault said it's the predictability of shooting in Nova Scotia during the pandemic that's put the province on the radar of American studios. "If you think about shooting in L.A. or Toronto or New York right now, you don't have any predictability or certainty," he said. "Film is like a really slow-moving train, and once it gets going, it's really hard to stop. And when it does stop, it costs a lot of money to get it going again." Local independent producer Marc Tetreault says quarantine costs are 'a drop in the bucket on a larger show.' He said even halting production for a day, let alone weeks, can be very costly. Tetreault said bigger shows can manage the costs associated with the pandemic, including the two-week quarantine in Nova Scotia, because those costs are quantifiable. "If you're in Nova Scotia, you should be reasonably confident that you should be able to complete your production without a major shutdown or hiccup, and I think that's really attractive to a lot of out-of-town producers," he said. The costs related to the province's quarantine rules are "a drop in the bucket on a larger show," Tetreault added. "What I think it comes down to is convincing the people who are quarantining that they're going to quarantine for two weeks — less so, you know, paying the 200 bucks a night for a hotel," he said. Is N.S. prepared to support productions? The challenge will be providing the infrastructure and support to visiting productions. In 2015, the Stephen McNeil government axed the provincial film tax credit, a 50 to 65 per cent fully refundable corporate income tax credit offered to productions hiring Nova Scotia film personnel. It was eventually replaced with the Production Incentive Fund, which offers a refund to foreign service production of 25 per cent and 26 per cent for local content. It also offers a refund of up to 32 per cent in an all-spend model on any money spent in the province for labour, accommodations and locations. Laura MacKenzie is the executive director of Screen Nova Scotia. That helped make Nova Scotia competitive with other provinces, but the film business still isn't as robust as it was in the tax credit era. "We've had amazing momentum in building our industry here over the past five years," said Mackenzie. "But we did lose quite a few crew members in 2015 when the tax credit was changed. "And so that, alongside with the loss of some production studio spaces, it's put us at a disadvantage because we can't possibly supply the demand." That's why she's putting a call out to any Nova Scotian working elsewhere. "Time to come home. We need you here," she said. Mackenzie also said finding studio space so that out-of-town productions can shoot interior scenes is as much of a challenge this year as finding skilled crew. She's looking for anyone who has comparable warehouse space. Diggstown creator struggling to cast show While it's a challenge to build up enough skilled crew for shows that may be coming to the province, it could also provide opportunity for film workers who are traditionally under-represented on film and TV sets and in front of the camera. Diggstown, a CBC legal drama shot in Dartmouth and Halifax, has also benefited from the American production slowdown — the first two seasons were recently bought by the Fox Network in the U.S. With the third season set to go to camera in April, producer and creator Floyd Kane said he's struggling to cast his show. Floyd Kane is the writer, executive producer and showrunner of Diggstown. Diggstown tells stories from Nova Scotia's Black communities, and Kane said it feels like he's seen and chosen almost every local actor of colour in the province. Now, he has to fly in racialized cast from Toronto or elsewhere, which, for a low-budget TV series, is very expensive. "I came up in the industry in Nova Scotia where I would be the only Black person or person of colour in the room," Kane told CBC Radio's Mainstreet recently. "I want to have more Black people, more people of colour working in our industry. I want to encourage that. The acting piece of this is a huge challenge. Frankly, we've done a very poor job of developing the talent pool [for people of colour] and retaining that pool by there being opportunities to work." Richard Hadley is the Maritime branch representative for ACTRA, the actor's union. He said his organization is very aware of that need. "We are looking at ways to go into those communities and let people know what the opportunities are," said Hadley. "And that is a specific area of our membership that we really want to encourage to grow, absolutely." Richard Hadley is the Maritime branch representative for ACTRA. Mackenzie from Screen Nova Scotia said it's also one of her organization's top priorities to increase diversity behind the camera. The organization has formed a diversity outreach committee to work on a strategy to come up with long-term fixes. While the industry has proven that the health and safety protocols are a draw for service production — shows that come from elsewhere to shoot here — they do still pose a challenge for lower-budgeted local shows, as Kane is finding with Diggstown. 'You will be hired on something' Tetreault said he fully supports the health protocols that are in place to keep Nova Scotians safe, "but they definitely are a hindrance to the local, usually lower budget, independent films." He said paying for supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer, and for the extra set space to allow for physical distancing, can also stretch a local production's limited budget. That said, Tetreault is still planning to make a feature film this year — and he's looking for a crew. "Now's the time," said Tetreault. "Call the unions, get the referral. Figure out what it is you're interested in and you will be hired on something." MORE TOP STORIES
LIVERPOOL, England — Ian St. John, a Liverpool great who scored the winning goal to give the club its first FA Cup title and was a key player in the rebuild under Bill Shankly in the 1960s, has died. He was 82. St. John died Monday following a long illness, his family said in a statement released by Liverpool on Tuesday. St. John, a Scotland international who later fronted the popular British TV show “Saint and Greavsie” alongside another former player, Jimmy Greaves, played 425 games for Liverpool from 1961-71 and scored 118 goals. No goal was more important than the one he scored in extra time to clinch a 2-1 win for Liverpool over Leeds in the 1965 FA Cup final. St. John joined for a club-record fee from Scottish team Motherwell while Liverpool was in the second division and, alongside Ron Yeats, was part of the spine of a team which earned promotion under Shankly then won the English league title in 1964 and '66. Liverpool called St. John a “legend” and described his FA Cup final winner against Leeds as “one of the most iconic goals in Liverpool's history." “One of the players along with Bill Shankly who made this club what it is today,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher wrote on Twitter. St. John, who went on to manage Motherwell and English club Coventry, scored nine goals in 21 appearances for Scotland's national team. “A fantastic guy,” said Steven Gerrard, a former Liverpool midfielder who currently manages Scottish club Rangers. “Really insightful in terms of his career and experience at Liverpool and trying to pass on a lot of knowledge and expertise.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, was set to throw a Zoom party in quarantine to celebrate his 90th birthday on Tuesday, as President Vladimir Putin hailed him as an "outstanding statesman" who influenced the course of history. Gorbachev, who championed arms control and democracy-oriented reforms as Soviet leader in the 1980s, is widely credited with helping end the Cold War. His critics in Russia blame him for what they regard as the unnecessary and painful breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Prince Edward Islanders are being advised to stay off the roads if possible Tuesday, with RCMP and plow dispatchers saying surfaces are slippery and whiteout conditions are making visibility poor in some areas. There have been at least four collisions Tuesday afternoon in the East Prince area alone — in Grand River, Summerside, Bedeque and Norboro. At least three involved multiple vehicles at intersections. "Across the Island, road conditions are slippery and snow covered," said RCMP Sgt. Chris Gunn. There's no word yet on whether there were injuries. Gunn said if you have to drive, take extra time and reduce speeds according to the conditions. The snow and wind storm began Monday afternoon and was followed in many regions by hours of rain before a deep freeze set in early Tuesday. Winds are expected to stay strong well into Wednesday. Plows were bust trying to keep the roads clear Tuesday.(Danny Arsenault/CBC) Maritime Electric has restored power to almost 1,000 customers in western P.E.I., mostly in the area around Borden-Carleton. Some COVID-19 testing clinics cancelled Health PEI first delayed and then cancelled COVID-19 testing clinics planned for Slemon Park and Three Oaks high school in Summerside and for Bordon-Carleton. Closures or cancellations due to weather can be reported to CBC's Storm Centre at 1-877-236-9350. More from CBC P.E.I.
Jenny shows us how to make corn pasta! This pasta is very sweet and delicious! Enjoy!
LONDON — A British newspaper publisher said Tuesday it plans to appeal against a judge’s ruling that it invaded the privacy of the Duchess of Sussex by publishing parts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father after her 2018 marriage to Prince Harry. The former American actress Meghan Markle, 39, sued publisher Associated Newspapers for invasion of privacy and copyright infringement over five February 2019 articles in the Mail on Sunday and on the MailOnline website that reproduced large portions of a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle. High Court judge Mark Warby ruled last month that the publisher had misused the duchess’s private information and infringed her copyright. He said the duchess “had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private” and concluded the paper’s publication of large chunks of it was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful.” In written submissions released as part of a court hearing on Tuesday, Associated Newspapers’ lawyer Antony White sought permission to appeal, saying a bid to overturn Warby’s ruling “would have a real prospect of success.” Lawyers for Meghan, meanwhile, demanded the publisher hand over the letter and destroy any electronic copies or notes it held. They also asked the judge to order the Mail on Sunday to remove the five articles from its website and to run a front-page statement about the duchess’ legal victory. Ian Mill, an attorney for Meghan, said “the defendant defiantly continues to do the very acts which the court has held are unlawful.” “The defendant has failed to deliver up copies it has of the letter such that the threat to infringe and further to misuse her private information remains real and, inexplicably, the defendant has still not removed the infringing articles from MailOnline," he said in a written submission. Meghan, a former star of the American TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year. In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California, and are expecting a second child. In his ruling last month, the judge said a “limited trial” should be held to decide the “minor” issue of whether Meghan was “the sole author” and lone copyright holder of the letter. It is expected to take place in the fall. Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
Critics of the gambling industry say they're concerned about a recent move toward online gambling, especially in light of the Halifax casino's uncertain future. Elizabeth Stephen, a counselling therapist who works with people with gambling addictions, said news that the Nova Scotia government has cleared the way for online casino-style gambling is "pretty significant." "What's behind that?" said Stephen. "Is it because the physical casino is in such decline and perhaps is even going to close down? Is it to replace that revenue? The Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, the Crown corporation that oversees the gaming business, released documents to CBC News showing the Halifax casino has struggled with declining and unsustainable revenues for approximately 15 years — even before the arrival of COVID-19. The documents raise the possibility of moving the casino away from its waterfront location, but the corporation said those decisions are on hold during the pandemic. Stephen is an addictions counsellor in Halifax with a private practice. "My sense is that the government is looking for alternative revenue streams, hence the talk about the online casino," said Bruce Dienes, chair of Gambling Risk Informed Nova Scotia (GRINS), a non-profit that aims to reduce gambling harms. "The problem with that, of course, is if you want to go to a brick-and-mortar casino, you have to actually go to a brick-and-mortar casino. You have to really intentionally do that, you have to be there for a certain piece of time. "Online, if you've got a phone or if you've got any internet connection, 24/7 you're at risk of being impacted negatively by that casino." 'Two very different offerings' Bob MacKinnon, the gaming corporation's CEO, said there are similarities in the gambling that takes place in a physical casino and online. "I think it is possible that some of the casino business that we would have had at the Halifax casino has gone online. There's no way for us to know an exact number," he said. "But I'll also add that generally over the longer term, we would think of them as two very different offerings: that some people like to go online, and many people like to go for a broader entertainment experience where there's music, there's food, there's shows going on, in addition to the gaming offerings." Stephen said the people she treats in her practice often start gambling in a physical casino, but later move to other venues, such as bars with video lottery terminals. The majority of gambling addicts Stephen counsels became addicted to machines like VLTs. "I think [casinos] are the foundation in some places for the start of gambling, and the kind of glamour of gambling and the excitement of gambling," she said. Stephen said most people who come to her with gambling addictions have become addicted to VLTs, although a few have been addicted to table games such as poker or blackjack. "They get to the point where they're spending way too much time there and more money than they can afford to lose. And so often their first step is to exclude themselves from the casino. Often, though, they don't do that until they maybe have reached bankruptcy," she said. Falling revenues The Halifax casino hit peak revenue of about $75 million in 2006-07, which fell to about $54 million in 2014-15 — a drop of about 30 per cent that MacKinnon said was not sustainable. Visitation during the pandemic is down 90 per cent, and MacKinnon said it's believed the Halifax casino will make about $9 million this year. The Sydney casino failed to meet its revenue and visitation targets for the 2 years leading up to the pandemic, which closed its doors altogether for about eight months. The casino in Sydney, N.S., failed to meet its revenue and visitation targets for the two years leading up to the pandemic. In 2018-19, the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation hoped the Cape Breton casino would have revenue of $22.1 million from at least 410,000 visitors. Instead, it brought in $19.5 million from 372,000 visitors. In 2019-20, its targets were $19.2 million in revenue and 410,000 visitors, but it ended up with $18.8 million from 344,806 visitors. Dienes said it shows a need for the province to move on from the gambling business, which was legalized in Nova Scotia in 1995. Dienes is the chair of Gambling Risk Informed Nova Scotia (GRINS), a non-profit organization with the goal of reducing harms related to gambling. "Here is a business model that's failing, that isn't meeting the needs of the customers. And rather than acknowledging that and moving on to a different kind of business — a different way to entertain, a different way to raise funds — they're trying to increase the risk and increase the access for something that people clearly don't want," he said. Dienes said gambling is "psychologically manipulative" and he disagrees with the government's stance that online gambling can be done safely. "This is something that's been created by government policy," he said. High-stakes bets Will Shead, an associate professor of psychology who primarily researches gambling, said he's doubtful that limitations can be placed on online gambling that would keep people safe. "We don't really know what effect this is going to have on people. You can make arguments and say this is how it's going to work, but it could potentially be disastrous for people to have access to such high betting limits online," said Shead, who teaches at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. Shead is also a board member of Gambling Risk Informed Nova Scotia, whose members are particularly concerned about high-stakes wagers online that could lead a gambler to lose thousands of dollars per hour. Shead is an associate professor of psychology at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. His research specialty is gambling. The Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation has said the online casino would include age and residency verification, privacy controls, self-exclusion options, deposit limits, time displays, analytics on player activity and information about responsible gambling. But Shead said he's concerned about young people finding ways to get around age checks, and about research that shows people are more likely to use drugs and alcohol while gambling online. In a physical casino, people are not supposed to be allowed to gamble while impaired, he said. According to its code of conduct, Casino Nova Scotia will refuse entry to someone who is impaired by alcohol or drugs. "I'm not sure if that happens all the time," said Shead, "but it's certainly not going to happen in the confines of your own home." MORE TOP STORIES
WARSAW, Poland — The European Union's top court ruled Tuesday that Poland’s new regulations for appointing judges to the Supreme Court could violate EU law. The ruling obliges Poland’s right-wing government to discontinue these regulations and observe the principles of judicial independence and the right to judicial protection. In a decision that could have a powerful effect on future court verdicts regarding judicial appointments, the ruling also allows Poland's courts to refrain from applying the regulations introduced by the government in 2018 and 2019. The legislation in Poland strengthened political influence over a top judicial body, the National Council of the Judiciary, and the body's procedure of appointments to the Supreme Court. It also curbed the right to appeal the council's decisions. The regulations “which have the effect of removing effective judicial review of that council’s decisions ... (proposing) candidates for the office of judge at the Supreme Court — are liable to infringe EU law," the European Court of Justice said in its ruling. The ruling was in response to a query by Poland's top administrative court to the European court regarding a complaint by some judges. The judges said the new regulations stripped them of the right to appeal a decision rejecting them as candidates for the Supreme Court. Based on Tuesday's ruling, Poland's Supreme Administrative Court can now review the appeals by the five judges. Some lawmakers praised the court's decision. The ruling on Polish government’s “political interference in the judiciary is concrete evidence that the government is blatantly flouting the rule of law, despite multiple warnings. It is also destroying Europe’s trust in the legal system there," said Jeroen Lenaers, a European Parliament member. ___ This story has been corrected to say Poland's top administrative court turned to the ECJ, not the judges themselves. The Associated Press
P.E.I.'s chief public health officer announced four new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as her office continues efforts to control two outbreaks that started in the last week of February. Following the lead of British Columbia, P.E.I. is delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine for those who have already gotten one shot, in order to give more people their first vaccine shot earlier. Dr. Heather Morrison announced a new schedule for vaccinations on the Island. A Green MLA wants to know if government is considering legislation for guaranteed paid sick leave as part of its COVID-19 response. A hardware store in Summerside has reopened for business, after a deep cleaning over the weekend. Bus ridership on P.E.I. dropped significantly after the 72-hour circuit breaker began at midnight Sunday, but T3 Transit says passengers can be assured the buses are being thoroughly cleaned and will be safe when they decide to hop back on. Cleaning companies are booked up with businesses who want their buildings disinfected following a surge in COVID-19 cases on P.E.I. Islanders who have lost their incomes or had their hours reduced by 12 hours a week between Feb. 28 and March 14 because of new COVID-19 restrictions are eligible for $500 in help from the provincial government, a P.E.I. cabinet minister said Monday. If you are eligible for a vaccine appointment on P.E.I. you can book it online. Here is a list of sites of potential exposure to COVID-19. The Chief Public Health Office is asking people who have been in these places at these times to self-isolate and get tested as soon as possible. Some testing clinics have delayed openings due to the weather Tuesday. A 22-year-old P.E.I. woman has gone public with her COVID-19 diagnosis to warn others that even if you follow all the rules, you can still catch the virus. Officials at both the English and French school boards on P.E.I. say they are prepared to move to online learning if needed but are hopeful students can return to the classroom after the three-day shutdown. P.E.I. has 22 active cases, its most ever, out of 136 diagnosed since the pandemic began nearly a year ago. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations. 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 past year has fractured our world in countless ways. Now, as people look to pick up the pieces, those managing debt need to account for their position in our uneven economic recovery. In this so-called K-shaped recovery, one part of the population is rebounding quickly while another has a longer, slower path. For example, in January the unemployment rate for whites was 5.7%, compared to 8.6% for Hispanics and 9.2% for Black workers and 6.6% for Asians, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who remain unemployed or underemployed might continue to rely on debt to get by. Meanwhile, those whose finances have held steady or improved may be primed to wipe out debt. MANAGING DEBT IN THE BOTTOM HALF Some consumers have had no choice but to rack up debt — including unpaid rent or mortgage, credit card debt and overdue utility bills. If this is your situation, focus on basic needs and paying minimums to avoid collections. — PROTECT THE ESSENTIALS: If you’re among the millions of Americans unable to cover your housing costs right now, take advantage of the eviction moratorium and mortgage relief programs now extended through June 30. Keep an eye out for additional benefits in the COVID-19 relief package being discussed in Washington and call 211 to get connected to local assistance for basic needs like food and shelter. Add transportation, internet and cellphone to your priorities list, too, so you can stay connected to friends and family for help and to hunt for work. “All creditors will make it sounds like they’re the most important ones to get paid,” says Amanda Christensen, a financial coach based in Morgan, Utah. “Housing and transportation have to come to the top of that list and take priority.” — IF NEEDED, LOOK FOR CHEAP CREDIT: If you need to add debt to cover your regular expenses, like groceries and utilities, financial coach Vineet Prasad of Fulton, California, suggests finding the cheapest options. “A revolving credit line on your home equity has a much lower APR than a credit card. Another option is a personal loan at a credit union.” To qualify for a HELOC, you’ll generally need equity of at least 15% of your home’s value. And weigh the risks: HELOCs tend to have adjustable interest rates, which can make them more expensive over time, and your house is at risk of foreclosure if you can’t repay the debt. — FOCUS ON LONG-TERM RECOVERY: Once your situation stabilizes, focus on paying down debt and make savings a priority, too. Consider using a debt payoff calculator that can track your debts and monthly payments. And while you may be tempted to throw all your spare income toward debt payoff, having some cash tucked away can help you weather the next financial crisis. Saving even a small percentage of your income helps, Christensen says: “If you’re not saving anything right now, see if you can get in that 1% to 5% range.” MANAGING DEBT IN THE TOP HALF If your finances held steady or improved over 2020, think about how you can take advantage of your situation, whether through charitable giving or using some of your cash to improve your finances. And if you’re focused on reducing debt, the classic payoff playbook works well: First, take stock of what you owe. Consider using a spreadsheet or online debt tracker to organize your balances. Then choose a payoff strategy, like the debt snowball method where you focus on your smallest debt by paying as much on it as you can while paying minimums on the others. Once it’s paid off, roll the amount you were paying on it into the payment for your next largest debt and so on until you’re completely debt-free. Paying off debt can be a long-haul game. To stay focused, Prasad advises finding someone who can serve as a confidant and provide encouragement. “Getting an accountability partner who is good at managing their money generally can be a huge differentiator with actually following through with your plan and the grind of paying it off over time,” he says. ANYONE CAN HAVE OVERWHELMING DEBT Regardless of your income or employment status, you may have too much debt to realistically pay off with a strategy like debt snowball. If all your monthly debt payments, including housing, total more than 50% of your monthly gross income, you may need to look into debt relief, like a debt management plan at a non-profit credit counselling agency or bankruptcy. The goal is to resolve your debt quickly and in a way that sets you up to meet future financial goals. Otherwise, you may spend years funneling money toward insurmountable debt, sacrificing retirement, an emergency fund and other goals. Bankruptcy in particular may be a good option, as it can help you resolve what you owe in a matter of months instead of years. While bankruptcy filings were down 30% in 2020, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute, that may change in 2021 as consumers’ financial pictures begin to stabilize. To make the most of the fresh start bankruptcy offers, don’t wait so long that you can’t even afford the filing fees. Act when you are in a position to improve your financial situation, says bankruptcy attorney Cathy Moran of Redwood City, California. “When you’ve hit the bottom and things are about to get better, that’s when you want to file,” Moran says. _____________________________ This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sean Pyles is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @SeanPyles. RELATED LINK: NerdWallet: Pay off debt: tools and tips http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-debt-tools-and-tips Sean Pyles Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
BIELEFELD, Germany — Relegation-threatened Arminia Bielefeld hired Frank Kramer as coach on Tuesday, a day after firing Uwe Neuhaus. Kramer has only limited experience in the Bundesliga after a two-game spell as interim coach at Hoffenheim in 2012 and relegation with Greuther Fürth a year later. In more recent years, he coached age-group German national teams up to the under-20 level and coached Austrian champion Salzburg's youth team. Bielefeld, which was promoted last year, is in third-to-last place in the 18-team league. Hertha Berlin is just ahead on goal difference, and improving Mainz is only one point behind in a direct relegation place. Bielefeld still has a game in hand, however. Its next game is against Union Berlin on Sunday. Bielefeld earned only one point from its last five games — a 3-3 draw at Bayern Munich — and the 3-0 loss at Borussia Dortmund on Saturday was the fifth in a row in which the team conceded at least three goals. The 61-year-old Neuhaus was immensely popular with Bielefeld’s fans after leading the team to a surprise promotion following 11 years out of the Bundesliga. He had been in charge of the club since December 2018. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Islanders eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine can now book appointments online through Skip the Waiting Room. The P.E.I.-based company said it has secured a contract with the province to help provide more efficient access during the pandemic. "We saw reports of people waiting in a car for 8 hours to get testing done," said CEO and co-founder Mark Richardson. "COVID seemed like a great fit for me, so I started rattling the chains that I could rattle and said: 'As an Islander and a business, we'd love to help out with this.'" The company was born five years ago after Richardson found himself sitting in the waiting room at a walk-in clinic — for four and a half hours. "I thought to myself: 'There's got to be a better way to do this.'" 'I had seen some of the frustration and seen some of the lineups at the testing centres,' says Mark Richardson, the CEO and co-founder of Skip the Waiting Room. From there, the online site and app were created, giving others the option of pre-booking appointments to reduce time spent lingering in clinics. So far, Richardson said around 60,000 people have used the service for walk-in care on the Island. "I think every Canadian understands the frustration and wasted time of sitting in a waiting room or trying to get through a phone line." Now, in addition to becoming available to other provinces, Richardson said the company has expanded on P.E.I. to areas like internal medicine, MRI appointments and mammography appointments. Meeting an urgent timeline For those looking to book online before heading into a walk-in clinic, there is a fee of $5. But because of the terms of his contract with the P.E.I government, Richardson says it's free to schedule provincial services such as COVID-19 vaccines. I'm sure it will get a little bit more hectic when we get to the general announcement or the general population. - Mark Richardson, Skip the Waiting Room A statement from Health P.E.I said it entered into a short-term agreement with Skip the Waiting Room after it was identified as the only option available to "meet the urgent timelines to launch an online scheduling system to support COVID vaccine delivery." According to the statement, all safeguards outlined under the P.E.I Health Information Act are being maintained. "We had to jump through a lot of privacy hoops and some threat-risk assessments and all those things," said Richardson. "It was an extensive process but I'm glad to be on the other side of it." 'Going to do our best' Richardson said he doesn't know the exact number of people who have used the company to book vaccines so far — but he said he does expect it to increase. "I'm sure it will get a little bit more hectic when we get to the general announcement or the general population," he said. "I know people will be very eager to get their vaccine, as I am." For now, Richardson said, the company is spending time making improvements so that when Islanders do reach out to book virtually, Skip the Waiting Room is ready. "We might be able to book, you know, thousands of people a day, 24/7," he said. "We're working our best to make sure that there will be no hiccups. "No promises, but we're certainly going to do our best." More from CBC P.E.I.
Britain's Prince Philip was receiving treatment and undergoing heart tests on Tuesday, two weeks after the 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth was admitted to hospital in London as a precaution after he felt unwell. Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was transferred on Monday from the private King Edward VII hospital to St Bartholomew's Hospital, which is a centre of excellence for cardiac care, for tests for a pre-existing heart condition and treatment for an unspecified infection which is not COVID-related. His 14-night stay in hospital is the longest he has needed treatment, although Buckingham Palace has said he is comfortable and responding to treatment.
India is ready to offer incentives to ensure Tesla Inc's cost of production would be less than in China if the carmaker commits to making its electric vehicles in the south Asian country, transport minister Nitin Gadkari told Reuters. Gadkari's pitch comes weeks after billionaire Elon Musk's Tesla registered a company in India in a step towards entering the country, possibly as soon as mid-2021.
Photographer Mick Rock, known for some of the most recognisable pictures of rock legends such as David Bowie and album covers of the 1970s, is marking his 51 years working in the music industry with a new project collaborating with urban artist Fin DAC. "MIDARO" fuses photography with painting, with the Irish artist reworking Rock's photos of Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry to create a series of limited edition prints and canvas artworks. Released on Tuesday, to coincide with what would have been Reed's 79th birthday, they each show a woman wearing a T-shirt adorned with one of Rock's photos of the music stars.