Here's the latest news for Monday, December 28th: Novavax starts huge U.S. study of COVID-19 shot; Lori Loughlin released after prison term in college scam; Heavy snowfalls in northern Italy (Dec. 28)
Here's the latest news for Monday, December 28th: Novavax starts huge U.S. study of COVID-19 shot; Lori Loughlin released after prison term in college scam; Heavy snowfalls in northern Italy (Dec. 28)
From a global perspective, there was nothing unique about the recent raid on the U.S. Capitol. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed military coups around the world for decades.
The City of London on Thursday approved the removal from its ceremonial Guildhall home of statues of two figures that symbolise the financial sector's historic role in slavery. The move, voted through by the City's elected representatives, is part of a wider debate over how Britain remembers and represents its history, sparked by the spontaneous toppling of a slave trader's statue in the city of Bristol during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Following those protests, the corporation that runs the Square Mile financial district set up a task force on tackling racism, which recommended removing statues of William Beckford and John Cass from the medieval Guildhall.
Canadian pension funds are seeking to boost their real estate investments, betting the slumping property market will recover as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and office workers and city dwellers return to downtown properties. In a world of slower economic growth, very low interest rates, volatility in equity markets, real estate offers an attractive opportunity for pension funds, which take a long-term investment horizon, say market participants.
WASHINGTON — U.S. home construction jumped 5.8% in December to 1.67 million units, ending a strong year for home building. The better-than-expected gain followed an increase of 9.8% in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Housing has been one of the star performers this year even as the overall economy has been wracked by the coronavirus. Record-low mortgage rates and the desire of many people to move to larger homes during the extended stay-at-home period has fueled demand. For December, construction of single-family homes increased 12%. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
La CSD Construction est inquiète du contenu du projet de loi 59 portant sur des modifications au régime de la santé et sécurité du travail. C’est pourquoi la centrale syndicale a soumis plusieurs recommandations au ministre du Travail Jean Boulet pour bonifier le projet de loi lors de son passage en commission parlementaire, mercredi matin. Essentiellement, ces modifications portent sur la prévention avec des représentants en santé et sécurité plus nombreux, autonomes et indépendants des patrons. Par voie de communiqué, la CSD a fait savoir qu’après une analyse approfondie du projet de loi, elle porte un regard très critique sur ce qui est sur la table. « On ne va pas dans la bonne direction pour diminuer les accidents et les décès qui surviennent trop souvent dans l’industrie de la construction, industrie qui, rappelons-le, est la plus meurtrière au Québec », de s’indigner Carl Dufour, président de la CSD Construction. Selon lui, le projet de loi 59 porte plusieurs mesures qui tireront l’industrie vers le bas s’il n’est pas modifié et si le ministre ne retient pas les propositions de la CSD Construction. La centrale rappelle que l’occasion est unique pour modifier des lois qui n’ont pas été dépoussiérées depuis plus de 40 ans. « Tant qu’à réformer les lois en santé et sécurité du travail, réformons-les pour vrai », a déclaré M. Dufour. La CSD Construction demande la mise en place d’équipes volantes de représentants en santé et sécurité autonomes et indépendants qui seraient sous la responsabilité de chaque organisation syndicale. Ils seraient outillés pour faire de la prévention à temps plein. Dans sa forme actuelle, le projet de loi prévoit que les chantiers de 10 à 100 travailleurs, où il y a le plus haut taux de lésions, aient un représentant en santé et sécurité qui soit employé du chantier, donc de l’employeur. « Ce sont les chantiers où les règles sont les moins respectées par les employeurs. On le voit bien dans le cadre de la pandémie. Soyons réalistes, l’employé responsable de la santé et sécurité n’aura pas la liberté nécessaire pour soulever les problèmes et émettre des recommandations, surtout si elles sont coûteuses, à son dirigeant. Il y a donc ici un réel enjeu d’indépendance. Il faut rappeler qu’il n’existe pas de règle d’ancienneté et de priorité de rappel dans la construction », de préciser le président de la CSD Construction. Ce dernier a ajouté qu’« une prévention efficace est le nerf de la guerre pour faire perdre au secteur construction le triste record du plus grand nombre de décès reliés au travail, année après année ». Pour ce qui est des chantiers de plus de 100 travailleurs, le syndicat demande qu’on revoie les seuils pour permettre plus d’agents de sécurité et de représentants en santé et sécurité. Notamment, la CSD Construction demande qu’un représentant en santé et sécurité soit désigné pour chaque tranche de 100 travailleurs présents sur le chantier de construction, plutôt qu’à chaque tranche de 300, comme il est proposé. Le syndicat demande aussi que le seuil à partir duquel un agent de sécurité à temps plein doit être désigné sur un chantier demeure le même (8 millions de dollars) et ne soit pas majoré à 25 millions. La CSD Construction souligne que le projet de réforme prévoit un programme de prévention intéressant, qui doit être mis en place par l’employeur, ainsi qu’un comité supervisant l’application des mesures de prévention sur les chantiers de 20 travailleurs et plus.Denis Villeneuve, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
Ana Gameiro, her husband and son all tested positive for the coronavirus last week amid a surge of infections across Portugal, forcing them to self-quarantine before a presidential election this Sunday that they do not want to miss. To the family's relief, volunteers from their local council in Cascais near Lisbon stepped in to help, collecting their ballots straight from their doorstep. "Even at home voting is a right we all have," Gameiro told Reuters after handing in her vote to two volunteers wearing full-body protective suits.
A cold chain break during the transportation of a COVID-19 vaccine recently is causing Central Health to make changes to its procedures. The break occurred earlier this month when 160 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were being transported from the distribution centre in Gander to the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor. The break came when the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at a temperature between –60 C and –80 C, went to a temperature that was between two and eight degrees outside what is recommended. Central Health has made changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again. “What we do when a situation like this happens, or any situation that happens, we follow a continuous quality improvement approach,” said Joanne Pelley, vice-president of integrated health and chief nursing executive with Central Health. “With that, we would review all processes that occurred and look at anything that we need to do differently.” One of those changes is to have the shipments of the vaccine transported on the day of the clinic instead of the day before. In the days that followed the break, there were no transportation issues and they were able to deliver vaccines to priority health-care workers. “We’ve reviewed the process, we’ve implemented new approaches and we certainly do not want this to happen again,” said Pelley. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the vaccine is transported with a specialized temperature recorder in each box, which indicated the doses had been above that for 15 minutes. “It’s my understanding that it has to do with just the way that the shipping container was conditioned — and the TempTale, the temperature recording device that we use — were conditioned prior to being placed in the … shipping container, and so that can sometimes result in a higher reading,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday. While there was no damage to the vaccine, it became paramount that those doses be administered as quickly as possible. Because of this, officials with Central Health pulled their health-care teams together and quickly started assessing the situation, while determining the best choice of action. None of the doses went to waste, and were delivered to the people who needed them in the six hours when they had to be delivered. “Central looked at this and tried to determine what the reason for that cold chain break was, and to the best of my knowledge at this point, they have figured that out and they have put safeguards in place to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Fitzgerald. — With files from Peter Jackson Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
A Manitoba family is heartbroken after being asked to exhume their loved one's body because he was mistakenly buried in a previously sold cemetery plot earlier this month. "It's just reopening the wounds that were just starting close," said Angela Griffith, whose 62-year-old father, Dan Griffith, died in his home in Deloraine — about 250 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg — on Christmas Day. The family held a small graveside burial on Jan. 4, Griffith said. They couldn't have a full funeral because of pandemic restrictions. Ten days later, the Griffiths were notified by the Municipality of Deloraine-Winchester that the plot their dad was buried in was sold to them by mistake, and that it, along with two adjacent plots, had previously been sold. Griffith said she was told the family that had originally bought the plots was asked to pick another area, but they refused and wanted Dan's body dug up and relocated instead. The municipality asked the Griffith family to exhume Dan's body. Murray Combs's mother bought four plots, including the one where Dan Griffith is now buried, in 2006. Combs's parents are buried in one, and the three remaining plots are for him and his two brothers. "The burial that took place recently is in the very first plot beside my mom and dad, and there's really no more room to put the other three," said Combs. "It was my mother's wishes, so either we go against my mother's wishes or we don't, I guess." Combs described the mix-up as unfortunate and something that never should have happened. He said his family's arrangements were made 14 years ago. "I certainly don't blame the other family a bit. It's not their fault either. Apparently they have a legal document to the same piece of ground," he said. There are no easy solutions for either family, he acknowledges. "What do we do? Do we dig up my mom and dad's plot, too? Is that what they expect?" he said. "It's a terrible mistake, but mistakes get made and somebody has to be responsible." He said he hasn't heard anything more from the municipality on possible solutions. While Griffith's arrangements were made through a local funeral home, the Municipality of Deloraine-Winchester is responsible for running the cemetery and selling the plots. CBC reached out to various municipal officials for comment but did not receive a response. Told mapping error to blame Griffith said she was only told that a mapping error led to the mistake. "I'm still trying to wrap my head around how such a big mistake happens," said Griffith. Cemetery staff offered to pay for a new plot and cover the costs of moving Dan's body, but the family is uncomfortable with the idea of disturbing his grave, she said. "We just laid him to rest, and now we have to deal with the stress of trying to figure out do we have to exhume our father?" Griffith said while her father was not Indigenous, she and her siblings are Métis, and she has cultural concerns about moving him. "Even from a cultural standpoint, [we're] wondering what's going to happen to his spirit, you know, when we dig him up, if we have to," said Griffith. Seeking legal advice Griffith said her dad was a carpenter who worked hard his whole life and was well-known in the area. While his grave does not yet have a tombstone, she said her son has marked it with a carpenter's measuring tape — something Dan Griffith always had hanging from his belt. "My dad never took a day off his whole life. He worked every single day and literally, I know it's cliché, but my dad would do anything for anybody, and if anyone deserves to be resting in peace it's him," said Griffith. The family is seeking legal advice on how to proceed. "We're not going to willingly exhume him," she said. She said she understands the Combs family is also upset, but hopes they can find a solution. "Just try to understand the pain and how much it just stresses us out, and rips our hearts open to have to think about even exhuming our father."
While Municipalities of Saskatchewan President Gordon Barnhart remains out of province on vacation, members of the organization said they are still in the dark about his plans to return. Barnhart did comment on his vacation to Hawaii with his wife for a Jan. 19 story written by Gary Horseman, a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Four-Town Journal. The Journal covers Saltcoats, the town where Barnhart is the mayor. “For the last nine years, Naomi and I have spent Christmas and January in Maui. This year, with COVID-19, we took extra precautions to ensure that our health and the health of those around us would be safe,” Barnhart told the Journal. “Before leaving for our vacation, I discussed with the Saltcoats council and administration how we could keep in contact while away. While in Maui, we both have been keeping up with work by email and phone, FaceTime and Zoom. As mayor of Saltcoats, I am in touch with councillors and administration on a daily basis. Arrangements have been made for me to fulfill my administrative duties by distance and I have been able to chair council meetings by Zoom. I take my role as mayor very seriously and believe I have been able to fulfill my duties to the best of my ability while still taking a holiday with my wife,” Barnhart continued. The fact that Barnhart has been taking precautions while travelling is great, said Naicam Mayor Rodger Hayward, Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s vice-president of towns, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that elected officials like Barnhart should be taking public health orders to not travel seriously. “As municipal leaders, we have a duty to lead by example, following all public health measures, orders and advisories. The premier has asked everyone to not do unnecessary travel and especially out-of-country travel,” he said. In Barnhart’s comments to the Four-Town Journal, he really didn’t address that key issue, Hayward said. While Municipalities of Saskatchewan is busy preparing for their upcoming virtual convention, Hayward said he is sure the president’s travel will be part of the conversation. “It'll be a little different because it's a virtual convention and it’s our very first one, so we'll see how it goes. But I'm sure it'll be a topic there. The office of president and the rest of the executive is up for election this year, as well.” Barnhart has not been in contact with Hayward as of Jan. 20. Hayward said he was in contact with only one other board member of Municipalities of Saskatchewan to give the same information that was given to the Four-Town Journal. Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
With cough and cold season all but non-existent this year because of COVID-19 health measures, P.E.I. Honibe lozenge-maker Island Abbey Foods has laid off 30 staff. There's been a reorganization in the top ranks at Health PEI, after lessons about improved workflow learned during COVID-19. In her weekly checkup with CBC News: Compass, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison says they've given 6,500 doses of vaccine on P.E.I. so far. A small number of younger people are reporting side-effects such as headache, fever, body aches and sore throat. Work on the Oyster Bed Bridge replacement will take about a month longer than expected due to COVID-19-related supply chain issues. 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. Two P.E.I. curlers heading for the national championships in Calgary say living on P.E.I. may give them an edge this year. 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. 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 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 32 new cases on Thursday. There are now 324 active cases in the province. Nova Scotia reported two new cases, with 22 now 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.
LONDON — Britain’s Glastonbury music festival has fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic for the second year in a row. Organizers Michael Eavis and Emily Eavis said Thursday that “In spite of our efforts to move heaven & earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the Festival happen this year.” “We are so sorry to let you all down,” they said in a statement. They said everyone who had put down a deposit on tickets for the 2020 festival, which also was cancelled, would be able to attend in 2022. The festival has been held almost annually since 1970, drawing up to 150,000 people to the Eavis’ Worthy Farm in southwest England. Last year’s 50th anniversary event, which had been due to feature Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, the Pet Shop Boys and Paul McCartney, was cancelled in March as the virus began to sweep the U.K. Father and daughter Michael and Emily Eavis thanked fans “for your incredible continued support and let’s look forward to better times ahead.” The Associated Press
More than 14,000 students stayed home from school on Wednesday, as three more zones moved to the red level of COVID-19 recovery, attendance records show. Two schools in the Saint John region saw more than half of their student body not show up. This data does not include any high school students in two of the anglophone districts because their attendance is recorded on a period-by-period basis. Nor does it include any students at schools in one of the francophone districts, which did not respond to a request for information. The attendance records indicate only that the students were absent from school, not the reasons why. But Anglophone South School District superintendent Zoë Watson suspects the "spike" in absences that saw nearly a quarter of students across her district not attend classes "is most likely correlated to the Red Phase announcement" Tuesday. Premier Blaine Higgs announced the Moncton region, Zone 1, Saint John region, Zone 2, and Fredericton region, Zone 3, would be bumped back to the more restrictive red level from orange, as of midnight Tuesday. The Edmundston region, Zone 4, has been at the red level since midnight Sunday. Earlier that day, Education Minister Dominic Cardy announced K-12 schools will now remain open at the red level, under new guidelines. If a positive case of COVID-19 is confirmed at a school, the school will be closed for a minimum of three days to allow for contact tracing. A petition launched Monday by a mother in Oromocto, calling on the government to revert to the plan to close schools in red zones and move to online learning, has garnered more than 21,000 signatures so far. Public Health reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 In New Brunswick on Wednesday, pushing the total number of active cases in the province to 317. Two people are in hospital, including one in intensive care, and 1,953 people were self-isolating, as of Tuesday afternoon, either because they've tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with a confirmed case. On Wednesday, 5,072 of the 22,282 students enrolled at the 69 schools in the Anglophone South School District, or 23 per cent, were recorded as absent, said Watson. "It is important to remember that this is 'absent,' it could be illness, it could be an appointment (medical/dental)," she said in an emailed statement. But the absenteeism rate did jump from 14 per cent the previous day. "This would be expected," said Watson, "as we have consistently seen a spike in absences, followed by a quick and steady return to normal attendance in the days following each orange phase announcement or, at the school level, notification of a confirmed case at the school." The overall district absenteeism rate Wednesday was actually lower than the 28 per cent the district saw the day following the Saint John region's first move to the orange level, she noted. The highest absenteeism is at schools in the Hampton and Saint John areas, said Watson. "Interesting to note these are the areas where there have been outbreaks." Princess Elizabeth School, which announced a positive case on Tuesday, had the district's highest absenteeism rate Wednesday at 57 per cent. That was actually down from 67 per cent the day before. Belleisle Elementary School, which had an outbreak last weekend, with one confirmed case, had the second highest absenteeism rate at 53 per cent, up from 38 per cent Tuesday. Millidgeville North School, which also had an outbreak last weekend, with one confirmed case, had 40 per cent of students absent on Wednesday, compared to 34 per cent on Tuesday. And Quispamsis Middle School, which had an outbreak on Sunday, climbed slightly to 27 per cent absent Wednesday, from 26 per cent on Tuesday Attendance has been stronger in the St. Stephen-St. George area, where there have been no outbreaks, said Watson. The absence rate at St. Stephen Elementary School on Wednesday, for example, was 14 per cent, St. Stephen Middle School, 15 per cent, and St. George Elementary School, 15 per cent. Anglophone East sees nearly 23% absent In the Anglophone East School District, nearly 23 per cent of its K-8 students — 2,521 of 11,030 — were absent Wednesday. This excludes students from Edith Cavell School and the Grade 6-8 students at Caledonia Regional High School who were home learning, the records show. The attendance of high school students is not included. "We could not pull the high school data because that is done on a period by period case," said spokesperson Stephanie Patterson. The district continues to work closely with Public Health and the Department of Education "to do our best in ensuring your safety, health, and well-being," superintendent Gregg Ingersoll said in an email to families Tuesday night after the move to red was announced. He encouraged all families to be "more diligent than ever" with wearing masks, hand-washing, and social distancing. "These actions can make a major impact on keeping our schools, children, and communities safe," he said. 18% absent in Anglophone West The absenteeism rate in the Anglophone West School District Wednesday was 18 per cent — 3,939 of 21,822. That's up about six per cent from Tuesday, "despite the enhanced safety measures," said spokesperson Jennifer Read. "We have seen a trend in decreased attendance on the first day of a new COVID-19 related announcement, for example a confirmed case in a school or an alert level change, which is then followed by a gradual increase in attendance in the following days," she said in an emailed statement. "We are hopeful that parents will continue to send their children to school and have confidence knowing that their children are in a supervised environment with strict health and safety protocols in place. "Our students and staff have done an exceptional job following directives and staying safe." Absenteeism in Anglophone North at 13% In the Anglophone North School District, 13 per cent of its K-8 students — 553 of 4,099 — didn't make it to classes Wednesday. Grades 9-12 are not included because they have attendance taken by period and not the entire day, said spokesperson Meredith Caissie. At least two of the four schools the district has in the red alert level of Zone 1, in the Rexton area, "witnessed a significant increase in absenteeism," said superintendent Mark Donovan. These include Eleanor W. Graham Middle School (40 per cent) and Rexton Elementary School (37 per cent). "This is consistent with what we have seen provincially, over the past five months, when schools and/or regions have seen spikes in COVID-19 case counts or have gone back a phase in the recovery plan," said Donovan. "It is important to remind all stakeholders that when schools are open, they are safe places for both students and staff," he said. The district will continue to work with the Department of Education and Public Health to ensure that safety remains its "highest priority," he added. 8% of Francophone South students no-shows The Francophone South School District saw an absenteeism rate of eight per cent Wednesday — 1,280 of 15325 students. That's up from six per cent on both Tuesday and Monday, before the move to red, the records show. "In these circumstances, the figures are positive and show a good level of commitment from our students and families," said superintendent Monique Boudreau. The district supports the government's decision to keep schools open at the red level, she said, noting there have been "very few" reported transmissions of COVID-19 in the province's schools and none in the district. Attending school has many benefits for students, not only in terms of learning, but also in terms of their well-being. - Monique Boudreau, Francophone South "This proves the effectiveness of health measures put in place and well respected by students and staff," Boudreau said in an emailed statement. "We understand that this transition to the Red level may be a concern for some people, but it is important to remind parents and students that schools are safe. In addition, attending school has many benefits for students, not only in terms of learning, but also in terms of their well-being." If school closures become necessary, the district will follow Public Health recommendations and do everything it can to promote successful learning at home, she added. Francophone Northeast absenteeism around 12% The absenteeism rate at schools across the Francophone Northeast School District on Wednesday was around 12 per cent, said spokesperson Ian-Guillaume DesRoches. That's about 1,050 of the 8,755 students enrolled. "It is similar to a normal absenteeism rate in the winter season," he said in an email. The rate among schools in the red-level Restigouche area ranged between 10 and 15 per cent, said DesRoches. "We aren't observing a dramatic surge like in October," he said. District general director Marc Pelletier acknowledged the government's decision to keep schools open at the red level did take the district "a bit by surprise." "We are aware that the decision was a bit last minute, but when you take into account the volatile context of the pandemic, decisions must be made to ensure the safety of all," he said in an emailed statement. The district is confident the schools are safe and that they can ensure the safety of their students and staff members due to the strict health and safety protocols in their operational plans, said Pelletier. The COVID-19 situation currently appears stable across the district, including the three schools affected over the past two weeks, he said. "We anticipate that our students who had to continue their learning from home will be coming back to the classroom next Monday." Francophone Northwest School District spokesperson Denise Laplante did not respond to a request for information.
As Sweta Daboo frames it, Tuesday was the last day that there had never been a woman of colour in the job of vice-president of the United States. "As of yesterday there is now precedent. This will be normalized and this is something incredible to look forward to," said Daboo. Daboo is a woman of colour living on P.E.I., and the the executive director of the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government. "It was absolutely incredible and very surreal," she said of watching the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris on Wednesday. UPEI biology Prof. Marva Sweeney-Nixon, also woman of colour, was watching as well. "It was emotional, it was gratifying, it was just a really powerful and exciting experience," said Sweeney-Nixon. "I just sat there and thought about how powerful it was for women and for girls and for people of colour to see this. I thought about just how inspiring she is." 'Not the last' Daboo said her favourite moments of the ceremony included the poem by Amanda Gorman and the fist bump between Harris and former president Barack Obama, but it was Harris's actual taking of the oath of office that struck her the most. "I thought about a quote that she had earlier which was, 'You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.'" she said. "Watching her take this oath, and thinking of all the little girls, all the children of colour, all the youth around the world that were watching this moment happen, it was easy to believe that she would not be the last." But both Sweeney-Nixon and Daboo said this is just the beginning of a difficult road for Harris. "People are going to be watching her and expecting more from her just like they did with Barack Obama," said Sweeney-Nixon. "If you make a mistake or you stumble, oftentimes that can be used to say this is why people of this or that group should not be in positions of power," added Daboo. And, they added, the experience of Obama's presidency and what followed also showed electing someone to high office is not enough to change society. "There's a lot of change that needs to follow," said Sweeney-Nixon. For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here. More from CBC P.E.I.
BERLIN — Germany is seeing a promising decline in new coronavirus infections, but must take "very seriously” the risk posed by a more contagious variant and will have to be cautious whenever it starts easing its lockdown, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday. Merkel and Germany’s 16 state governors on Tuesday decided to extend the country’s lockdown by two weeks until Feb. 14 and tighten some measures, for example requiring surgical masks — rather than just fabric face coverings — in shops and on public transportation. On Thursday, Germany’s disease control centre said that 20,398 new cases were reported over the past 24 hours, nearly 5,000 fewer than a week ago. The number of new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days stood at 119, the lowest since the beginning of November — though still well above the level of 50 the government is targeting. There were 1,013 more deaths, bringing Germany’s total so far to 49,783. The new variant, which has been detected in Germany and many other European countries, isn't yet dominant there, but “we must take the danger from this mutation very seriously,” Merkel told reporters. “We must slow the spread of this mutation as far as possible, and that means ... we must not wait until the danger is more tangible here,” she said. “Then it would be too late to prevent a third wave of the pandemic, and possibly an even heavier one than before. We can still prevent this.” Merkel said that Germany won't be able to open up everything at once whenever the lockdown ends, declaring that schools must open first. “We must be very careful that we do not see what happens in many countries: they do a hard lockdown, they open, they open too much, and then they have the result that they are back in exponential growth very quickly,” she said. She pointed to Britain's experience in December, when the new variant took hold. The Associated Press
THE LATEST: Health officials have called off their regular Thursday briefing to hold a Friday-morning news conference instead. 564 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 more deaths were reported Thursday afternoon. There are currently 4,450 active cases of the coronavirus in B.C. 309 people are in hospital, with 68 in the ICU. 104,901 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., including 1,680 second doses. There is new community cluster in and around Williams Lake. There are no new outbreaks in the health-care system, but six have been declared over. On Thursday, B.C. health officials announced 564 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 more deaths. In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 309 people, 68 of whom are in intensive care. Hospitalizations are now at their lowest level since Nov. 28 A total of 1,119 people in B.C. have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Henry and Dix said a new community cluster has been detected in and around Williams Lake. There are no new outbreaks in the health-care system, and six outbreaks have been declared over. So far, 104,901 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., including 1,680 second doses. Health officials cancelled their regular COVID-19 briefing Thursday as they prepared to update the province's strategy for immunization against the virus, and the daily update was provided in a written statement instead. Henry and Dix will join a news conference Friday with Premier John Horgan and Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading B.C.'s COVID-19 immunization rollout. The four are expected to comment on the next steps in the immunization program that has been complicated by a hiccup in vaccine supply from Pfizer-BioNTech. Nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine the province expected by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production issues. READ MORE: What's happening elsewhere in Canada As of 7 p.m. PT on Wednesday, Canada had reported 724,670 cases of COVID-19, and 18,462 total deaths. A total of 68,413 cases are considered active. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Common symptoms include: Fever. Cough. Tiredness. Shortness of breath. Loss of taste or smell. Headache. But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia. What should I do if I feel sick? Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911. What can I do to protect myself? Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep your distance from people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
A 42-year-old woman has been fined under the Saskatchewan Public Health Act for breaching COVID-19 public health orders last week. Just after 6 a.m. on Jan. 14, Regina police said they received a complaint of a woman, who had tested positive for the virus, not obeying her isolation order and inviting guests into her home. When officers arrived at the woman's house in the 800 block of Elphinstone Street, police said they found another person there, who was asked to leave. After confirming the 42-year-old was COVID-positive and her isolation order was valid, police, in consultation with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, fined her on Wednesday. Regina police said this is the 11th such ticket they have issued in the city.
Natalie Sideserf of Sideserf Cake Studio creates a hyperrealistic cake that looks just like a real cauliflower. So cool!
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, our understanding of how and why the coronavirus spreads continues to change, especially as new variants emerge around the world. While you may have spent much of last March wiping down your groceries, research has since shown that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, not surface transmission. Like many respiratory viruses, the coronavirus spreads more effectively in the winter, with studies showing that prolonged, indoor contact in settings with poor ventilation are more likely to cause transmission. But what do we know about how the virus spreads outdoors in winter? Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health, said it's a difficult, dynamic question to answer — one that would need to take into account temperature, humidity, wind direction and more. "The physics is pretty complicated," he said. "When transmission does happen outdoors, it's very likely that it's people not wearing masks and standing close together." What are droplets? Brauer explained when you exhale you're humidifying the air around you, releasing breath at body temperature, 37 C. Your breath is saturated with water and if you're carrying the coronavirus — whether you're symptomatic or not — you're exhaling microscopic virus particles coated in a layer of water. What makes masks an effective tool against transmission is that they block these droplets from entering the air in the first place — though they're less effective at protecting you from someone else's droplets. Why does humidity make a difference? Once droplets exit your body, their size changes depending on the conditions of the air around you, Brauer says. Humidity combined with temperature affects the way droplets react, with droplets becoming smaller the less humid the conditions. A smaller droplet is likelier to hang in the air for a longer amount of time, while a larger one will sink to the ground, making it less likely to reach another person. "There are no hard and fast rules. Everything is very dynamic. There's wind direction [for example]. But in general, the smaller those droplets are — so they tend to evaporate or dry out — they'll remain in the air longer," he said. That's why it's possible that varying winter conditions in some parts of Canada may affect how the virus spreads outdoors, he added. "In the east when it's cold and very dry, then you do get in a situation where those droplets could become smaller and could remain airborne for longer. I'm not convinced that would be the case here in Vancouver. Those droplets could basically remain the same size, which means they're not going to last in the air for that long," he said. Brauer said there's also some evidence to suggest that if a droplet is on a surface, it won't be as infectious in warm temperatures or high humidity. Still, he said a recent study shows that out of 7,000 cases of coronavirus transmission, just five occurred outdoors. The vast majority of transmission happens indoors, which is why respiratory viruses spread more rapidly in the winter, when people are less likely to be gathering outside. What about ventilation and movement? The role that ventilation and wind play is much better understood. "A two-metre distance is generally protective. If you're two metres away and it's very, very calm air, that's less protective than if you're two metres away if there's a lot of wind," said Brauer. "If you're within two metres and you have a gust of wind, you may be perfectly safe." Exercise also creates its own ventilation, making it safer to have a conversation while moving than when standing still. "When people are moving, that's going to be safer in general, just because you're getting more air flow — and so that's just like having ventilation, you're creating your own micro-wind," said Brauer. Are outdoor activities safe? Brauer said another factor to take into account is that the combination of exercise and cold temperatures make people more likely to cough, which expels more droplets. Heavy breathing caused by exercise also makes you more likely to exhale and inhale droplets. But he said no one should be discouraged from exercising outdoors — most outdoor activities are safe, and it's usually the events leading up to exercise that are more likely to allow for transmission. "Certainly, activities where you're close to people — that's where you need to be concerned. Skiing itself wouldn't be a particular concern, but waiting in line might be," he said. "Even when you're outdoors and together with people, keeping that two-metre distance is good advice. But I don't think it's absolutely necessary to wear a mask every moment you're outside if you're not in close contact with people."
MADRID — A regional election in Catalonia, initially set for next month, remains up in the air after a court took a preliminary decision Thursday against a 3-month delay ordered by the northeastern Spanish region’s government due to the surge of COVID-19. The Catalonia High Court said that, pending a final decision on the matter before Feb. 8, the election should preventively be kept for Feb. 14 instead of pushing it back to May 30. The court said arguments for its initial decision would be published Friday. The timing leaves little choice to half a dozen political parties divided along the lines of left and right, but also between support or opposition for the region's independence, other than to begin preparations for the vote. The regional Catalan government, in the hands of a separatist coalition, had argued that a delay was needed as the peak of hospital admissions in the current surge in infections would be reached just days before the planned election date. All political parties in the regional vote had agreed to the postponement except for the regional Socialists, whose candidate has the best chances of winning the vote in mid-February according to a Thursday poll by CIS, Spain’s official polling institute. The leading candidate is Salvador Illa, currently serving as the country’s health minister and in charge of the pandemic response. His candidacy was announced in late December. Catalonia's Socialist Party, which is the regional chapter of the main partner in the national ruling centre-left coalition, has not been in power in Catalonia since 2006. The CIS poll predicted the Socialists could win up to 35 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament, above the possible 33 lawmakers projected for the Republican Left pro-independence party. Illa was the preferred choice as regional chief for 22% of those quizzed, twice the popularity of his nearest competitor, Laura Borràs, of the pro-independence Together for Catalonia party, which is currently in power with the Republican Left. The centre quizzed 4,106 people by telephone between Jan. 2 and Jan-15. The poll has a margin of error of 1.6 percentage points. As elsewhere in Spain, virus contagion has surged sharply in recent weeks in the powerful northeastern region, whose capital is Barcelona. With 2,844 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Thursday — 621 of them in intensive care — regional authorities expect ICUs to reach a maximum expanded capacity of 900 beds occupied by coronavirus patients in the coming weeks. The region’s political situation is still heavily dominated by the jailing in 2019 of nine political figures for their role in a secession push two years earlier. The separatist movement, which is supported by roughly half the region’s 7.5 million residents, wants to create a republic in the wealthy northeast corner of Spain. Aritz Parra And CiaráN Giles, The Associated Press
Gathering restrictions in Alberta have prompted funeral homes to offer friends and families more options to remember loved ones. Live streams and video recording of funeral services weren't popular options for grieving families before and some funeral directors say the service may be here to stay. On Jan. 8, the family of Donna Burkoholder held her funeral service near Tofield, Alta. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, only 10 people could attend in person. It made for a tough decision for the family. "How do you pick which family can come to a family member's funeral? So we didn't have my children or my little brother's children," said Lorne Burkholder, Donna's son. "That's going to be the loneliest moment ever you're going through." Working with family members, community members, and the funeral home, the family held a service with 10 people beside the casket outside Salem Mennonite Church. A minister led the services, while nearly 100 vehicles lined the parking lot and neighbouring road. Those in the vehicles listened to the service as it was streamed over an FM transmitter. Their presence meant a lot to the family; Lorne Burkholder described it as a touching moment that made him feel like he was surrounded by people who loved his mother. "You just feel the love and the support," he said. "You're going through a hard moment and when you're mourning and they're showing their support and their love to you, they're caring and they and they want to honour my mom." Video of the service was posted on Weber Funeral Home's website along with Burkholder's obituary. It's an example of one of the many ways funeral homes have helped families to reach more people during the pandemic. Some have offered options for live video streaming, video production services, and even encouraged family members to record funeral services themselves. Through most of December and January, only 10 people were allowed to attend a funeral in person, though on Monday the province raised that number to 20. Funeral receptions are still not allowed. Tyler Weber, president of the Alberta Funeral Service Association, said some funeral homes in the province could help with video requests prior to the pandemic, but with strict gathering restrictions it was necessary to offer the option to families had to decide who could attend the service in person. "That was extremely heartbreaking to see as a funeral director and for families to have to endure throughout this time," he said. While Weber doesn't expect to drive-by funeral services to become a permanent fixture after the pandemic ends, he does see interest for video recordings or live streams to continue to be a part of funeral services, though he still expects attendees to prioritize being there in person. "There's no substitute for being present. For actually physically being there and to have the ability to actually look someone in the eye and give them your condolences," he said. There's no camera good enough to replace that." More comfortable At Parkland Memorial Funeral Home in Edmonton, video streaming or recording requests were only made once or twice per month. Now it's happening for every second or third funeral. Parkland president Kirstie Smolyk said he idea of live streaming a funeral service wasn't something grieving families were interested in and it may have not seemed appropriate for some. "I think people have been reacting to the changes of using live streams," she said. "I would say people were uneasy about live streaming funerals before, but now, because we haven't had a choice, people are certainly becoming more comfortable with it and I think that's a very good thing." She, like Weber, also expects that service to continue to be offered in the long term.