Details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
Details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
NEW YORK — Paramount+ debuts Thursday as the latest — and last — streaming option from a major media company, this time from ViacomCBS. It's betting that consumers are willing to add yet another paid streaming service in an increasingly crowded field. Its backers hope a smorgasbord of offerings — live sports and news, reboots of properties like “Frasier" and “Rugrats," original shows like “Star Trek: Discovery" and the ViacomCBS library — will entice viewers. But its relatively late entrance to a competitive landscape and a $4 price increase compared to its predecessor, CBS All Access, could make it a challenging sell. “Paramount+ has a mountain of challenges ahead of it," said Tim Hanlon, CEO of Vertere Group, playing off the Paramount+ tagline, “A mountain of entertainment." (The venerable Paramount logo features — you guessed it — a mountain, and the streamer's recent ad campaign featured a number of characters from its shows climbing a snowy peak.) Over the last year and a half more and more streaming services have debuted to challenge the reigning triumvirate of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Disney+ kicked things off in late 2019, followed by WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Discovery+. In a way, ViacomCBS is a pioneer; CBS, then a separate company, debuted CBS All Access in 2014. The new service effectively rebrands All Access and adds other Viacom Properties channels including Comedy Central, BET, MTV and Nickelodeon. But Paramount+ could have a brand awareness problem, Hanlon said. Most people associate the name Paramount with the mountainous title card that appears before movies. “Most consumers have very little understanding that Viacom, Paramount and CBS have the same parent, so the marketing team has a big job in front of it," he said. Second, the pricing may leave some scratching their heads. The ad-free tier launching Thursday is $10 a month. That's $4 more than CBS All Access, although the new service will offer a lot more material, including live news and sports. A $5 monthly ad-supported version will launch in June, but it won't include the live local CBS stations that CBS All Access offered. Showtime and BET+, both owned by ViacomCBS, will remain separate subscription services. Still, the service also has some potential advantages over others. CBS All Access, Showtime and BET+ now have nearly 30 million subscribers, some of who will shift to Paramount+. ViacomCBS projects that those services will reach 65 million subscribers by 2024, with most of the growth coming from Paramount+. ViacomCBS plans to increase its investment in streaming, from $1 billion a year to at least $5 billion annually by 2024. It will introduce 36 original shows in 2021, including a spinoff of “60 Minutes" called “60 Minutes+," a documentary series about the making of “The Godfather," a reboot of MTV's “The Real World" that reunites the original New York City cast from 30 years ago, and series based on movies including “Fatal Attraction" and “Flashdance." “Viacom really has all assets they need to have a thriving business,” said Brian Wieser, GroupM global president of business intelligence. “A meaningful investment in original programming attracts people to the platform. And a deep library causes people to stay. Put those two together and you could have a viable successful service.” But they may not be taking bold enough steps to stand out, said Colin Gillis, director of research at Chatham Road Partners. ViacomCBS said some of the studio’s films, including “Mission: Impossible 7” and “A Quiet Place Part II,” will go to its fledgling streaming service, Paramount+, after 45 days in theatres. But that's not as bold a step as HBO Max has done, releasing 17 of their films on HBO Max the same day they're released in theatres. “That type of strategy, plus being late to the market, looks a lot like a ‘me too’ move'," Gillis said. “If they want to act like a second tier streaming service, they're doing a fantastic job." Mae Anderson, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — When will children be able to get COVID-19 vaccines? It depends on the child's age, but some teenagers could be rolling up their sleeves before too long. The Pfizer vaccine already is cleared for use starting at age 16. That means some high schoolers could get in line for those shots whenever they become eligible in their area, either because of a medical condition or once availability opens up. Pfizer and Moderna both have completed enrolment for studies of children ages 12 and older, and expect to release the data over the summer. If regulators clear the results, younger teens likewise could start getting vaccinated once supply allows. The Moderna vaccine is currently cleared for people 18 and older. Researchers started with older children because they tend to respond to vaccines most similarly to adults. Testing even younger groups is more complex, because they may require a different dose or have differing responses. “Children are not just small adults,” said pediatrician Dr. James Campbell of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “The younger you get, the higher the odds are that things could be different.” Children develop serious illness or die from COVID-19 at much lower rates than adults, but can still spread the virus. “There’s no question: we do want to immunize children,” said Drexel University pediatrics professor Dr. Sarah Long. Pfizer and Moderna expect to start studies in children 11 and younger later this year. “It’s unlikely we could get community protection without immunizing children,” Long added. “This is the lynchpin to getting everything back to some kind of normalcy.” __ The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org. Read previous Viral Questions: How would COVID-19 vaccine makers adapt to variants? How do we know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe? How are experts tracking variants of the coronavirus? Marion Renault, The Associated Press
NYON, Switzerland — Liverpool and Leipzig are going to Budapest for a second time in the Champions League round of 16 next week. UEFA confirmed on Thursday that Liverpool’s home second-leg game will also be at Puskas Arena in the Hungarian capital next Wednesday. The Puskas Arena — which is a European Championship venue at the end of this season — has become UEFA’s main neutral venue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Leipzig’s home game in the first leg was also played in the empty stadium in Budapest on Feb. 16 because of travel restrictions between England and Germany. Liverpool won 2-0. It also hosted Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Manchester City in the Champions League, and Wolfsberger vs. Tottenham in the Europa League last month. It will stage Molde vs. Granada in the Europa League on March 18. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Jim Lowes had never thought about being an organ donor until he read a story about Logan Boulet nearly three years ago. Boulet was one of 16 people who died in April 2018 when a truck driver blew a stop sign and drove into the path of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team's bus in rural Saskatchewan. Thirteen players were injured. Boulet, 21, had signed up to be an organ donor on his birthday, five weeks before the crash. "He had already planned on giving his organs," said Lowes, who lives in Burlington, Ont. "That really struck me. "What a brilliant young man. Most kids at that age are not thinking about donating their organs." Six people across Canada benefited from Boulet's organs and the Logan Boulet Effect soon followed. Nearly 147,000 Canadians registered to be donors in the two months after learning the player had signed his donor card. It also led to Green Shirt Day every April 7, the anniversary of Boulet's death, to promote organ donor awareness and registration across Canada. Canadian Blood Services says more than a million people have registered a decision about organ donation in the years since Boulet's death. There are about 12 million Canadians on provincial registries. Lowes, 61, said he was inspired by Boulet to be a living donor. "I was too old to donate (part of) my liver ... but I checked into the kidney," he said. "I ended up donating one of my kidneys." Canadian Blood Services says the number of living donors increased in 2019 but dropped about 30 per cent to 427 in 2020. Deceased donors also dropped about 21 per cent to 654. Officials say the decline was due to COVID-19. "The impact we've seen has changed over the year," said Dr. Norman Kneteman, a transplant surgeon at University of Alberta Hospital and a member on an expert advisory committee with Canadian Blood Services. During the first wave of COVID-19 last spring, there was fear of the unknown, he said. "Donation really slowed down and very nearly stopped for awhile." Surgeries considered non-essential were delayed. There were fewer trauma patients who might become donors. And there was an early concern about transmission of the novel coronavirus between donor and patient, which he said is extremely rare and can be managed with careful testing. Kneteman, also a director for the division of transplantation at the U of A, said programs were almost back to normal by summer, and surgeons kept up with transplants during the pandemic's second wave. "We did see through the year — 2020 — that we had between 10 and 15 per cent reduction in activity in transplant for all organs," he said. "We have some catch-up to play there." Boulet's father said his family hopes an online campaign, which started this week, reminds people about organ donation. "We just want people to register their intent, what they want to do, whether they want to be an organ donor or don't want to be an organ donor," Toby Boulet said from Lethbridge, Alta. He said it's disappointing organs went unused in the early days of COVID-19. "We lost many, many chances in Canada to have transplants," he said. "There are chances to save lives. There are chances to make people's lives better and, even though COVID has enveloped and consumed all of us ... we can't forget about organ donation and transplantation." Canadian Blood Services said there were some bright spots in 2020. Newfoundland and Labrador brought in a new way last April for residents to register as organ donors. An online registry started in Saskatchewan last September. Nova Scotia recorded higher donation rates as awareness increased before a presumed consent law that requires people to opt out of organ donation. "The law came into effect in January, but we had been working on changing the system in preparation for the law for the past 18 months," said Dr. Stephen Beed, medical adviser for the Nova Scotia organ and tissue donation program. "We've ended up having by far the most successful donation year." Beed, who was working in an intensive care unit in Saskatoon the week of the Broncos crash, has a special connection to the Boulet family. "I was involved in taking care of Logan," he said. "It's quite remarkable to think I am living in Nova Scotia and doing a lot of donation-related work here, and then happened to be involved with one of the most tragic and significant donation-related circumstances we've had." Beed said the crash was noticed around the world. "To be able to find something positive in the middle of such a tragic circumstance — with Logan's gift — is something that really resonated and continues to resonate." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. There are 875,559 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 875,559 confirmed cases (29,930 active, 823,524 resolved, 22,105 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,812 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 78.75 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,365 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,909. There were 60 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 299 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 43. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.16 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,676,396 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 997 confirmed cases (153 active, 838 resolved, six deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 29.3 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 35 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 199,347 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 137 confirmed cases (22 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 13.78 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 20 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 107,377 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,646 confirmed cases (30 active, 1,551 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 3.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 343,260 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,438 confirmed cases (38 active, 1,372 resolved, 28 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 4.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 238,399 tests completed. _ Quebec: 289,670 confirmed cases (7,336 active, 271,908 resolved, 10,426 deaths). There were 729 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 85.56 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,198 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 743. There were 19 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 81 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.59 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,320,910 tests completed. _ Ontario: 303,763 confirmed cases (10,397 active, 286,352 resolved, 7,014 deaths). There were 958 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 70.56 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,590 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,084. There were 17 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 121 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 17. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,964,481 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,000 confirmed cases (1,146 active, 29,953 resolved, 901 deaths). There were 50 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 83.09 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 413 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 59. There were three new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.15 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.32 per 100,000 people. There have been 535,163 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,059 confirmed cases (1,431 active, 27,239 resolved, 389 deaths). There were 121 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 121.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,079 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 154. There were two new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33 per 100,000 people. There have been 579,326 tests completed. _ Alberta: 134,454 confirmed cases (4,649 active, 127,903 resolved, 1,902 deaths). There were 402 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 105.14 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,421 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 346. There were 12 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 36 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,414,903 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 81,909 confirmed cases (4,718 active, 75,819 resolved, 1,372 deaths). There were 542 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 91.65 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,559 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 508. There were seven new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 34 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.65 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,941,589 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Wednesday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,183 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (two active, 40 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 4.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,664 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 359 confirmed cases (eight active, 350 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 20.33 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of eight new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,718 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Chrystia Freeland seemed only too happy on Wednesday to mention some recent grumbling about the Liberal government's pandemic spending over last year. For most of 2020, the government was faced with questions about whether it was delivering financial supports fast enough and broadly enough. Now, some are wondering aloud whether the government spent too much. "I've been surprised to read some commentary suggesting that Canadians may be doing too well for their own good," the finance minister said. "Some have pointed to rising household disposable income in the first nine months of last year as evidence that our government acted too swiftly and too effectively to support Canadians." It will not surprise you to learn that Freeland disagrees with that take. And if Freeland is eager to note that criticism, surely it's because she and the government know how difficult it might be for any of their political opponents to campaign against any of the specific measures the Liberals took to support Canadian households over the past 12 months. But it remains to be seen how all that spending — and the historic deficit that resulted from it — will frame the political debate going forward. On Monday, Statistics Canada released estimates that suggest Canadian households ended up with more disposable income through the third quarter of 2020 because of the unprecedented sums the federal government transferred to individuals through various support programs. "Although households did experience notable declines both in wages and salaries and in self-employment income in the second quarter, the value of COVID-19 support measures provided by governments more than compensated for those losses," StatsCan said. The gains were highest in the second quarter and proportionally larger for those with the lowest amount of disposable income in 2019. Before April 2020 and June 2020, StatsCan estimates, the households that had less than $26,500 in disposable income for 2019 saw their disposable income increase by 33.6 per cent. For those households with more than $64,900 in disposable income in 2019, the increase in disposable income in the second quarter of 2020 is estimated at 7.1 per cent. A person walks through an almost deserted Yorkdale Shopping Centre as Toronto enters the first day of a renewed coronavirus lockdown on Nov. 23, 2020.(Carlos Osorio/Reuters) As of October 3, 2020, the federal government had paid out $81.6 billion through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provided $2,000 per month to those who lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns. Beyond the CERB, the federal government also moved forward with a number of other supports, including a new student benefit (estimated to cost $3 billion) and a series of measures aimed at "vulnerable Canadians" (at an estimated cost of $14.9 billion). More analysis is needed to fully understand the distribution and impact of government spending last year, but the basic finding — that support exceeded income losses — has been put forward before. Tammy Schirle, a professor of economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, notes that some of those in the bottom quintile would not have been making money before the pandemic began — and so wouldn't have lost any income — but they still would have benefited from increases in the Canada Child Benefit and the GST credit, which could have helped with extra expenses. An 'acceptable compromise' Research conducted by Schirle and three co-authors also estimated that nearly half of the job losses that occurred between February and April 2020 were suffered by those in the lowest quarter of earners. "Generally, there was criticism at the time that some workers with the lowest earnings would have received more income than was lost," Schirle said in an email this week, referring to the CERB. "However, in the context that Canadians needed something rolled out quickly, and our current infrastructure for [employment insurance] would not suffice, this was an acceptable compromise in my view." In a global emergency, too much help is likely better than too little. But the federal government may have faced a choice between moving fast and moving with precision — between making sure that people who would need money got it quickly and making sure that people only got as much money as they absolutely needed. Social policy in a hurry "CERB payments were flat amounts because the government did not have the capacity [in information and technology] to income-test the benefit," said Jennifer Robson, a professor of political management at Carleton who has been consulted by the government on EI reform (full disclosure: Robson is a friend). "The choice was 'automatic' or 'income-tested.' But until and unless we build serious back-of-house capacity in our social programs, you can't have both for a crisis of this scale." Robson also suggested that if the CERB did end up overcompensating people, the question could be flipped around to ask whether that proves too many people in this country were being paid unreasonably low wages in the first place. The Liberal government has since transitioned away from the CERB and StatsCan's estimates show that the disposable income increases dropped off significantly in the third quarter. John Lester, a fellow at the University of Calgary's school of public policy and a former analyst at the Department of Finance, argued in December that the government should have been quicker to deal with the issue of "overcompensation." The threat of inflation In her fall economic statement, Freeland suggested that increased disposable income and savings could act as "preloaded stimulus" to spur economic growth once the Canadian economy reopens. Mikal Skuterud, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo, said the risk is that excessive stimulus could trigger inflation, though he argues that the actual severity of that risk is a "million-dollar question that nobody knows the answer to." For now, the political criticism is muted. The Conservative Party has criticized the size of the deficit and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has noted that the Trudeau government spent more per capita than comparable countries. The Conservatives also have argued that the government should have moved faster to deliver a wage subsidy and have criticized the fact that some large, profitable companies were able to access the wage subsidy. But they do not seem eager to make the case that Canadians got more money than they deserved or truly needed — presumably because they know how well that would go over with those Canadians who received federal support. Ahead of a federal budget — and possibly a federal election — the larger question is how the spectre of a significant deficit will affect both fiscal policy and the political debate going forward. Canadians might be thankful for all the support that the federal government has provided, but will they come out of this pandemic with new worries about government debt? And if so, are Conservatives interested in trying to connect with that anxiety to build support for a much more fiscally restrained approach?
RED DEER, Alta. — Some employees of a pork processing plant in central Alberta that shut down after a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility are afraid to go back to work, the union president says. Olymel's facility in Red Deer was shut down Feb. 15 because of the COVID-19 outbreak that claimed three lives and infected 515 workers. The company announced late Wednesday it had been given approval to gradually reopen by Alberta Health. Slaughter operations are scheduled to resume today and cutting room operations on Friday. The plant processes about 10,000 hogs per day. UFCW 401 president Thomas Hesse said he received no word from the company that the plant was reopening. "Obviously the bottom line for Olymel is they're just putting pigs ahead of people," Hesse in an interview Wednesday. "What you've got is a frightened workforce. There's this enormous amount of fear and anxiety, and now a layer of grief on top of that, and they expect employees to jump to attention and parade back to work." The union represents about 1,800 workers at the plant. Hesse said the union interviewed between 600 and 700 workers who indicated they were afraid to return to work. He said that wasn't done by Olymel, Alberta Health Services or Occupational Health and Safety. Hesse said he expects some workers will take advantage of their right to refuse unsafe work. "I have no confidence in the safety of the workplace," he said. Olymel said the reopening will come with a number of strict measures. Alberta Health experts will be on site when operations resume and will offer rapid testing. The company said 1,370 employees at the plant have been tested since Jan. 1. The company says it has added more space to the facility to enhance physical distancing. Additional staff have been assigned to monitor and enforce the updated measures, Olymel said. Employee groups have been recalled to take part in training sessions covering all implemented health measures, adjustments and the action plan developed for reopening. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. — By Bill Graveland in Calgary The Canadian Press
The U.S. government has been slow to approve licenses for American companies like Lam Research Corp and Applied Materials Inc to sell chipmaking equipment to China semiconductor giant SMIC, sources said, as the impact of a global chip shortage spreads. Many licenses for U.S. suppliers to ship an estimated $5 billion dollars' worth of equipment and materials have not come through, according to more than half a dozen industry sources, though numerous companies submitted applications soon after the Chinese company was blacklisted in December.
The probe will consider if Apple has a dominant position in the distribution of apps on its devices in the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said. Payment policies related to Apple's App Store have for long drawn complaints from app developers as it requires them to use its payment system, which charges commissions of between 15% and 30%.
Apple supplier Foxconn said it expects first-quarter revenue to rise more than 15% from a year earlier, boosted by strong iPhone sales and robust demand for electronics during lockdowns worldwide to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. The world's largest contract electronics manufacturer has previously forecast strong demand for the new iPhone 12, saying its business will be supported by "stronger than expected" sales for smartphones and for telecommuting devices amid a coronavirus-induced work-from-home trend. Taiwan-based Foxconn, in a short statement on Thursday, said it expects consumer electronics revenue, which includes smartphones and smart watches, to rise more than 15% in the January-March quarter from a year earlier.
Federal Liberal government staffers were worried that a donation of medical-grade masks for Korean War veterans in Canada would send the wrong message as the country grappled with shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the outset of the pandemic. The Republic of Korea, commonly known as South Korea, shipped more than one million face masks to veterans around the world last May as a "token of appreciation" for those who fought in the 1950-53 conflict on the Korean peninsula. Some 35,000 KF94 masks, the Korean equivalent of the gold standard N95 respirator, were shipped to Canada to be distributed to the 5,900 surviving veterans of the war. The South Korean government said it wanted to help these elderly Canadian Armed Forces veterans — their average age is 88 years old — at a time when masks were scarce in Canada and the novel coronavirus was claiming the lives of hundreds of seniors in Canada's long-term care homes. "We know how difficult it is to obtain this personal protective gear in Canada at this moment," Ambassador Yun Je Lee, the consul general of the Republic of Korea in Montreal, told CBC News at the time. "This can never match the warm hands you extended to us, but we hope this will help you overcome the current crisis." Behind the scenes, however, federal political staffers worried that helping to facilitate the donation might lead to awkward comparisons with the plight of Canadian health care personnel struggling to acquire PPE to protect themselves at work. The federal government's PPE procurement efforts at the time were beset by problems with shaky supply chains in China and a protectionist push in the U.S. to reduce shipments to other countries. Jake McDonald holds up a package of masks sent to him by the Republic of Korea. McDonald served in the Korean War at the age of 17.(Dave Laughlin/CBC) According to documents tabled at the House of Commons health committee last week, the government staffers urged Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) to downplay the South Korean announcement and relegate news of the donation to a social media post to avoid media inquiries. One staffer floated the idea of redeploying the masks to meet other needs. While procurement agents previously had ignored warnings about shortages in the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) and rebuffed an offer from U.S. industrial giant Honeywell to supply Canada with N95 masks, by May it was abundantly clear that the country did not have enough PPE on hand for doctors and nurses working on the front lines. Supplies were stretched so thin that some health care workers were sanitizing their masks in microwaves. "I worry about the optics around the government of Canada facilitating the distribution of N95s in settings where they are not recommended for use when doctors are pulling all the stops to stretch the existing supply that they have," wrote Sabrina Kim, then the issues advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a May 20 email. "I submit for your consideration that some low key social media expressing Canada's thanks (rather than a news release) would invite fewer questions about N95 mask distribution, testing & healthcare priorities. Just my 0.02$!" she added. Kathleen Davis, a senior foreign policy adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, agreed with Kim that a plan to issue a news release thanking the South Korean government should be scrapped to avoid generating what she called "unnecessary controversy." "Agree with this, for what it's worth," she wrote. Andrew MacKendrick, a communications planning staffer in the Prime Minister's Office, asked if Health Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) raised any red flags about this donation to a relatively small subset of the Canadian population at a time when there were supply demands elsewhere. "Are there any issues with Health/PHAC that these donations are going to specific places vs. to PHAC and then area of greatest need?" Andrew MacKendrick, a communications staffer in the Prime Minister's Office, asked John Embury, the director of communications to Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay. Travis Gordon, a senior policy adviser in Health Minister Patty Hajdu's office, said the federal government couldn't easily intercept the donation to make up for shortfalls elsewhere. "Given that it's a donation, I suppose we can't redirect them to where they are sorely needed (hospitals)," Gordon wrote. "We will just try to avoid this spinning into a story about how some vets in some LTC homes will get N95s while doctors in hospital are limited to one per day," he added. "Please let us know if any interesting media Qs come your way on mask grade/distribution." In total, 35,000 face masks were sent out in bags like this one to Korean War veterans across Canada.(Eddy Kennedy/CBC) John Brassard, the Conservative critic for veterans affairs, said it's "egregious" that the government was even considering "confiscating" masks destined for elderly war veterans. "It tells me just how miserably unprepared the Canadian government was in terms of PPE and providing PPE to front line health care workers, including doctors," Brassard told CBC News. "It was a gift. A gift from the South Korean government to elderly Canadian war veterans who served in the Korean conflict. The fact they were even thinking about confiscating this gift, it's disturbing." After pushback from his colleagues, Embury ultimately dropped plans to release a statement to the media celebrating the donation and the diplomatic gesture. "No problem, we will pull the plug," he wrote on May 20. He also said he would ask the South Korean embassy to hold off on publicizing the donation until after the prime minister's scheduled press conference on May 21 so that Trudeau could avoid questions from the media. "Asked them to delay releasing their NR until after the PM's news conference, but no guarantee on that," he said. "Great thanks," Kim said in response. On May 21, the prime minister announced support for off-reserve Indigenous communities in the morning. A ceremony commemorating the face mask donation was later held at the South Korean embassy in Ottawa. MacAulay did not attend that ceremony but the department's deputy minister, Walt Natynczyk, was on hand. "They were clearly embarrassed by the PPE situation. They were trying to tamp down this news release, and hold off. They didn't want the prime minister to be asked about it because they didn't want him to be embarrassed," Brassard said. Reached by phone, Embury said VAC had planned to send out a news release but the South Korean embassy "jumped out ahead of us" and released one of its own, "and we just rolled with the punches." He said a press release was "only one possible channel" to acknowledge the donation, and MacAulay later had a private Zoom call with the South Korean ambassador to thank him for the donation. "We didn't have any reluctance to publicize the gift of masks," Embury said. The donation ultimately received scant coverage in the mainstream press until CBC News in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador profiled some grateful Korean War veterans at the end of June, nearly a month after the masks had first arrived in Canada. "I feel very proud that they remembered some of the guys that were over there. A lot of the guys never came back," one recipient, Jake McDonald, said of the South Korean donation.
GENEVA — As the head of African soccer battles in court this week to stay on the ballot for re-election, FIFA president Gianni Infantino is coming off a comprehensive tour of the continent. The timing of the visit does not appear to be coincidental. Infantino fueled talk of election interference by visiting about a dozen African countries and meeting heads of state along the way — ala predecessor Sepp Blatter — while promoting his preferred candidate, South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe. The current president of the Confederation of African Football, Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar, is appealing against a five-year ban imposed by FIFA for financial misconduct while running the Cairo-based body. Although Infantino helped put Ahmad in office four years ago, it is unlikely that even a victory for the Madagascan at the Court of Arbitration for Sport would help his chances in a campaign increasingly influenced by the FIFA president. In the aftermath of Infantino’s African tour, a deal was offered to the four candidates challenging Ahmad in the March 12 election to clear the way for Motsepe, according to the office of Senegalese candidate Augustin Senghor. No agreement was reached. Motsepe, a mining magnate, is the brother-in-law of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the owner of South African club Mamelodi Sundowns. Infantino met with Ramaphosa in Cape Town last month. After Infantino completed his tour, his top aides travelled to Morocco, where the challengers met in Rabat. The city will also host the election next week. The candidates are set meet again this weekend at a soccer tournament in Mauritania. FIFA presidents have long courted Africa, which has 54 voters among the 211 member federations. Infantino defied African opposition to be elected FIFA president in 2016, and one year later travelled extensively during the campaign to help Ahmad unseat longtime CAF president Issa Hayatou. African tours during election periods “are clearly very problematic,” said Miguel Maduro, the independent official who vetted candidates for FIFA in 2017 before being ousted by the leadership in Zurich. “Their (African members) access to money depends on the goodwill of the president of FIFA,” Maduro told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Infantino’s latest trip was detailed in news updates on FIFA’s website. He echoed Blatter’s trademark rhetoric by promising more money and praising his hosts. “Before my arrival at FIFA, each federation received $250,000. Today it’s $1.5 million per year,” Infantino said in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. “Is it enough? No, we can do more. We must do more.” Infantino said in Mali that players at a new technical centre will “lift this great nation to the highest heights of African and world football.” In Benin, he said the country could “very well be one of those models” for world soccer. FIFA said in a statement that the focus of the tour “was on football development across the continent” and to hear the candidates’ views and plans. Infantino has consistently said he wants African national and club teams to be contenders in FIFA competitions. No African team has ever gotten past the quarterfinals of a men’s or women’s World Cup, nor won the Club World Cup. “There is an impression that Africa is going backwards,” Infantino cautioned African soccer leaders last year. Still, the timing of Infantino’s packed travel schedule raised questions during a pandemic and just before an election. He was also likely targeting his own re-election in 2023, Maduro said. “Of course, that is their concern. FIFA operates as a political cartel,” the Portuguese lawyer said. The basis for Ahmad’s ban last November was a FIFA-appointed forensic audit of CAF accounts. The FIFA review committee, once led by Maduro, later excluded Ahmad as a candidate. Even if CAS overturns Ahmad’s ban in the next week, the FIFA block on his election eligibility should stay in place. A separate decision would be needed to lift that. It all leaves Motsepe as the favoured candidate to get a four-year term as CAF president and one of the eight influential FIFA vice-president spots alongside Infantino. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press
The painstaking detective work of contact tracing usually starts with an infected person and works forward, asking who has that person seen since they became potentially contagious with COVID-19. But that mainstay of public health has a less high-profile cousin that's become instrumental in spotting superspreader events quickly — working in reverse. "Instead of asking who did that person potentially give the virus to, you're asking where did that person get the virus?" said Dr. Trevor Arnason, associate medical officer of health with Ottawa Public Health. "It makes you become better at finding people who have COVID-19 who you might not have known about." COVID-19 tends to spread explosively in situations where the virus can infect a bunch of people all at once, public health experts say, which is where what's known as backward tracing comes in handy. Ottawa Public Health cottoned on to the benefits of backward tracing when emerging evidence from Japan showed how focusing on where a person got COVID-19 and going back to that location helped to find many more who were infected. "We started more systematically asking everybody, 'Where do you think you got it? Or who do you think you got this from? And then we started working back from those places. You start to notice these patterns, which we've put together in infographics that we've shared with the public," Arnason said. Infographics tracing how many were affected from one indoor wedding allowed the public to see how seemingly disparate locations tied together, resulting in 22 people from eight households being affected in two weeks. "Backward contact tracing is used to find the superspreading events. That's the main goal." Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious diseases epidemiologist in Toronto, said most people who are infected don't pass it to others. But the instances where an individual goes on to transmit to many others likely reflect how coronavirus transmission clusters at a particular location or environment. An indoor gym where those working out are unmasked, breathing heavily in what may not be the best ventilated conditions is one example. "It's clear that telling people to wear masks when they move around a gym, but not when they're exercising, which I think has been the protocol in a lot of places, wasn't enough," Tuite said. WATCH | Day in the life of COVID-19 contact tracers [May 2020]: Suppressing variants Backward contact tracing is a lot of work for public-health staff facing down outbreaks, said Tuite, but also potentially high yield. It can be particularly helpful at the early stages an epidemic — which is long-gone for normal coronavirus, but the introduction of more-transmissible variants of concern is like a do-over, said Tuite, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's an effective way of suppressing the growth of the variants of concern amongst this larger epidemic that's happening," she said. "Overall, we have declining case counts and so if we can control sparks that are happening with the variants of concern, there is the potential to really keep it under control and at least keep case counts declining." This May 13, 2020, photo taken with a fisheye lens shows a list of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Salt Lake County. The white board remains in the office as a reminder of how quickly the coronavirus spread. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press) Declining case counts mean hospital and health-care capacity can accommodate more surgeries and preventative care and allow the economy underpinning society to recover, too. For now, Tuite said case counts will only decline if people restrict their interactions. For Dr. Susy Hota, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto's University Health Network, keeping the variants of concern at bay is another goal of vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible. "If we continue to allow transmission to occur, [the variants] will take over a larger and larger proportion of the market, so to speak," said Hota, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. Stopping spread fast Regardless of variants, forward contact tracing to identify high-risk contacts and possible cases as aggressively as possible so they know to isolate quickly will always be a key public health tool. For instance, a Manitoba spokesperson said they routinely collect information on where a COVID-positive case may have been exposed. But the focus is on forward contact tracing to stop spread as quickly as possible. WATCH | Workplace physical distancing innovation: Hota cautioned there are even more recall challenges with backward contact tracing than forward, using herself as an example. "Do you think you were more than two metres away when you talked to that person? I think so. But I didn't have a yardstick with me. And how long do you think you were talking? Oh, I'm terrible at that. I'll tell you, like, five minutes. I have no idea." The recall problem gets amplified because to do backward contact tracing effectively means going back the full 14-day incubation period of the coronavirus. Hota does see a role for backward contact tracing in trying to pin down if there's a single source of multiple cases, say at a meat-packing plant. "The truth often doesn't emerge until the epidemic is over," Hota said. (Tim Kindrachuk/CBC)
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 77,572 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,091,700 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,519.103 per 100,000. There were 129,330 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,611,680 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 80.09 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. There were 1,800 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 966 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 12,596 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 79.405 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 85.6 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,054 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 35,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 36.163 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.94 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 17,382 new vaccinations administered for a total of 472,710 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 55.245 per 1,000. There were 100,620 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 27,398 new vaccinations administered for a total of 754,419 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 51.359 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 83.52 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 1,966 new vaccinations administered for a total of 80,171 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.221 per 1,000. There were 8,190 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 116,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 8.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 68.73 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 1,361 new vaccinations administered for a total of 81,597 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 69.20 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 109.4 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 10,229 new vaccinations administered for a total of 255,283 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 57.992 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 92.84 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 6,627 new vaccinations administered for a total of 289,809 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 56.476 per 1,000. There were 18,720 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 382,740 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.72 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 990 new vaccinations administered for a total of 18,158 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 435.12 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 96.07 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 5,327 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,393 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 345.84 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 56.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Toronto frontline worker Tim MacFarlane talks about being among the hidden-homeless population and how the pandemic is exacerbating the situation for many.
Saskatchewan's COVID-19 vaccine clinics have lists of "alternate" recipients in the event extra doses are available after as many of the original priority targets as possible are immunized, according to the province's chief medical health officer. Dr. Saqib Shahab spoke about the little-known practice earlier this week during a news conference. He said it has helped keep Saskatchewan from wasting the limited Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines offered so far. "Out of the 80,000 vaccines given away, our wastage rate has been very low," Shahab said, adding that the vaccines need to be used quickly once they are thawed. Under Phase 1 of Saskatchewan's COVID-19 vaccine program, residents and staff at long-term and personal care homes are among the few priority groups designated for early vaccination, ahead of the general public. Each care home in the province has to provide health officials with a list of residents and staff who have agreed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. There's also an alternate list. Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchenwan's chief medical health officer, said the practice of alternate vaccine recipient lists helps prevent wastage. (CBC) "If, for some reason, the people who are [originally] booked were not able to get the vaccine, all vaccine providers have an alternate list that they can call, and they have been calling sometimes at short notice," Shahab said. Eden Care CEO received early vaccine That's what happened to Alan Stephen in early January. Stephen is the CEO of Eden Care Communities, which operates care homes in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw. He said direct-care providers — residents, nurses, continuing care aides, recreation workers, housekeeping staff and food service providers — at Regina Lutheran Home were given first dibs on doses on Jan. 13. The home was given 90 minutes notice of the clinic and not all staff on the priority list were able to make it to the home, Stephen said. Some elders and workers were not vaccinated because they were COVID-19 positive and, at that time, not eligible for the vaccine, he added. "We vaccinated the priority list and then once they realized there was additional shots in the vials, they started calling people on the other list so we wouldn't waste [doses]," he said. "Because of the time frames involved, you had [as little as] 15 minutes to come in. So they called and I said, yeah, I could come in." Regina Lutheran Home was in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak at the time, as were other Eden Care facilities in Regina. Workers from other locations couldn't go to Regina Lutheran Home to get vaccinated due to "cohorting," the Saskatchewan Health Authority practice of limiting health workers to one home during the pandemic, Stephen said. Red Cross workers helping out at the home were also vaccinated, he said. Alan Stephen, the CEO of Eden Care Communities, says everyone was given the opportunity to receive a vaccine at Regina Lutheran Home. (Eden Care) The alternate list included administrators, human resource staffers, finance people and executives like Stephen, he said, adding that those people have helped with tasks such as screening and overseeing outside visits. "I don't think there are many of our team in home offices that did not work at one of the [care] homes during the pandemic. I don't mean just once. Over weekends, at nights. We all sorta chipped in to help out," Stephen said. Stephen said he normally visits Eden Care homes quite often, although not as much during the pandemic. He had been inside a home within a few days before the Jan. 13 clinic, he said. "It's leadership by wandering," he said. Stephen said he's aware of public sensitives around people who do not provide direct care receiving vaccines early. "I'm pretty sure I was near the end of [the list]," he said. Premier Scott Moe announced Tuesday that 91 per cent of long-term care home residents across the provide had received their first dose. The remaining nine per cent didn't receive vaccines either because they refused them, weren't available to take them or had "a change in health status." The ministry did not provide a breakdown of those categories. The health authority said it does not track its vaccine data to that level of detail.
The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to take up President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill, but put off the start of a contentious debate until the full text of the 628-page bill was read aloud. The party-line vote of 51-50, with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie, illustrated that Democrats who narrowly control the chamber can expect little, if any, Republican support. Republicans, who are expected to use procedural tricks to drag out the process, began by forcing Senate clerks to read the entire bill - a process that took nearly 11 hours.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch court ruled Thursday that a deeply religious father who kept some of his children isolated from the outside world for years in a remote farmhouse can't stand trial on charges including child sexual abuse because he has been incapacitated by a stroke. The decision came after prosecutors last month asked the court in the northern city of Assen to drop the case because the 68-year-old suspect wasn't fit to stand trial. It brings to an end a case that made headlines around the world after one of the man's sons raised the alarm and authorities discovered the father had been living for years with six of his children in the farmhouse in the eastern Netherlands. At a preliminary hearing in January last year, prosecutors portrayed the father, identified only as Gerrit Jan van D., as a deeply religious man who saw his family as “chosen by God” and did everything in his power — including physical beatings and other punishments — to keep them from succumbing to what he considered malign outside influences. The court ruled Thursday that a 2016 stroke had so badly affected the father's ability to communicate that continuing with the case would breach his fair trial rights. “He doesn't sufficiently understand what is happening in the courtroom,” court spokesman Marcel Wolters said in a video statement. The six children who were kept on the farm are now all young adults. Three older siblings had earlier left the family’s isolated life. Their mother died in 2004. The Associated Press
As vaccine rollouts accelerate in Ontario, those in disability communities are still wondering why they have not been prioritized. Windsor disability advocate Kevin McShan says prioritizing disabled people for vaccination is important due to many having more vulnerabliities to COVID-19. "Certainly for people with disabilities they're in a higher risk group, so we would hope that it [vaccination] would be faster than it's been." Currently there is no vaccination timeline by the province for those with disabilities outside congregate settings. McShan has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy which some studies have shown put people with the disability at higher risk for respiratory complications from COVID-19. Over one in five Canadians live with a disability, yet questions remain as to why those with disabilities are still waiting to get vaccinated and waiting to learn where they fit on the priority list. Kevin McShan is a disability advocate and podcast host in Windsor. (CBC News) On Tuesday, Theresa Marentette, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's CEO and chief nursing officer was asked about a potential vaccination timeline for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She said that the supply and delivery of vaccines is an important factor and that the unit is waiting and hoping for more direction. Across the border In Detroit, the vaccination roll-out has garnered the attention of disability groups who are lauding the city's wide eligibility for people with certain disabilities. Dessa Cosma is the executive director of Detroit Disability Power, an organization that led a letter-writing campaign pushing for the city to include people with disabilities in vaccination, which it has as of February 11th. "We started organizing almost a year ago now, to protect our community," says Cosma, describing how she and others in disability communities knew they would have to advocate early on in the pandemic to get better supports. Dessa Cosma is the Executive Director of Detroit Disability Power. (CBC News) When it was announced that Detroit would open vaccination for residents over the age of 18 with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Cosma says it was a relief. "Organizers with disabilities like myself are extremely proud to have had this major win." In some respects, Detroit is leading the U.S. with equitable vaccination which includes disabilities like cerebral palsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and types of visual and hearing impairments. Dessa Cosma is a Detroit advocate who has been fighting for wider vaccination eligibility for disabled communities. On February 17th, she got her first shot of the Moderna vaccine. (Dessa Cosma ) Phase 2 in Ontario Phase 2 of Ontario's vaccination roll-out is expected to run between April and June. But the prioritization has been received with confusion over who among disabled communities can get vaccinated. In a statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Health was not able to provide a timeline for those with disabilities. The province added it is using an approach that will ensure that the vaccine gets to the "most vulnerable first, who have higher risk outcomes from contracting the virus and are at a higher risk of spreading the virus." When further asked if the ministry would begin gathering data related to COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and recoveries of those with disabilities, it responded that data collection has grown throughout the pandemic. But it did not specify whether this data would involve COVID-19 statistics related to the general population of people with disabilities. What is in a definition? Tova Perlmutter is a dual Canadian-U.S.citizen and currently lives in Windsor. With the border closed, she has been unable to cross into Detroit to even have the opportunity to get vaccinated. However, from Windsor, Perlmutter has been contributing heavily as a disability activist to push for Detroit to widen its vaccination roll-out. After seeing some success in the U.S. city, Perlmutter says she still is unsure why Ontario's vaccine roll-out has been sluggish in addition to being confusing. Tova Perlmutter is a Canadian-U.S. dual citizen and disability activist who currently lives in Windsor. (CBC News) "It looks like they're talking about serving a bunch of different groups but it doesn't say what those conditions are or how they would apply — a definition should include people with a wide range of disabilities, developmental, intellectual and others." The defining of disabilities matters given that Perlmutter has general anxiety disorder and ADHD. She sees them as "invisible disabilities" and does not know in what capacity they would ever be considered in vaccination priority. Had Perlmutter been in Detroit, she would have fallen under the eligibility for a vaccine, which clearly includes ADHD as a qualifier. Where is the data and why does it matter? There is little information about the number of people in the province who have disabilities and have contracted or died from COVID-19. In a statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services said that since the start of the pandemic, there have been 699 cases and 23 deaths of adults with developmental disabilities diagnosed with COVID-19 at ministry-funded residential settings. The ministry said it is working with a research institute to look at infection trends among those with disabilities. But the lack of information is troubling for experts like Dr.Yona Lunsky who is a senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Dr.Yona Lunsky is a senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and she focuses on developmental disabilities. (camh.ca) Lunsky's expertise is in developmental disabilities where she directs a research partnership that aims to improve the health of people living with developmental disabilities. "If we don't have the data, because we haven't collected it, then we don't have that science right to inform our decision making," One study that has shown how stark the disparity is between disabled and non-disabled people during the pandemic, comes out of the U.K. from the Office for National Statistics. The independent institution found that from January 2020 to November 2020, six in ten COVID-19 deaths were people with disabilities. Putting that into further perspective, over 30,000 disabled people lost their lives to the virus. Yet they only made up 17 per cent of the population. This is a page from the Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities vaccine infographic. The infographic aims to help answer questions people with disabilities might have surrounding the pandemic and vaccination. (hcarddcovid.com) Dr. Zain Chagla an infectious diseases specialist at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton says that disabilities are incredibly nuanced but there are some common risks to be aware of. "Often their disability does give them comorbidities, if people have neurological disabilities, they often have cardiac or respiratory complications from them." Chagla also notes the catch-22 in trying to maintain public health guidelines but still needing outside help to accomplish necessary tasks. "It makes it very difficult for people to follow a stay at home order and unfortunately have to expose themselves for the sake of their own health care maintenance." Deciding vaccination priority can be tricky when the severity and types of disabilities start becoming compared, as Chagla notes, since there will be varied levels of risk of dying from COVID-19. Looking to the future In Canada, certain provinces like B.C. and Saskatchewan have started including specific underlying health conditions or opening vaccination for "adults with very significant developmental disabilities that increase risk."
Insurance is notoriously complicated, and few people have the time or desire to pore over their policies. But some basic knowledge can go a long way — and that’s where an insurance agent can help, by clearing up some of the most common misconceptions they encounter. Here are five things agents say are helpful for customers to know. 1. INSURANCE DOESN’T COVER EVERYTHING When it comes to insurance, “Most people don’t understand the details,” says Andrew McGill, agent at The Insurance Shoppe in Collierville and Nashville, Tennessee. For instance, they often don’t realize that most homeowners policies won’t cover flood or earthquake damage. If your home is at risk for these disasters, you need separate coverage. Auto policies generally cover only personal use of your car, so if you’ve picked up a side gig delivering groceries or meals during the pandemic, you likely need additional coverage, says Keya Pratt, agent and CEO of Pratt Insurance LLC in Richmond, Virginia. Otherwise, accidents you have on the job may not be covered. Insurance policies of all types also generally exclude wear and tear, says Katherine Navarro Wong, a State Farm agent in Santa Rosa, California. She often gets calls from policyholders asking if their insurance will pay for things like broken dishwashers or aging gutters. The answer is no. Insurance is designed to cover sudden, accidental damage, not regular maintenance. “We’re not going to replace (an) old pipe,” Wong says, “but if the pipe accidentally burst and ruined the wall and the flooring,” that would be covered. 2. A GAP IN COVERAGE CAN BE COSTLY There are various reasons you might let your car insurance policy lapse, whether you’re having trouble paying your bills or you no longer own a vehicle. But this could cost you, Pratt says. “People tend to shop insurance after they’ve already cancelled their insurance, (but) unfortunately that’s a huge negative” when calculating your price. After a gap in coverage, insurers view customers as riskier and charge higher rates. You can avoid this by shopping for quotes before your policy expires, buying nonowner car insurance if you’re between vehicles and asking your carrier for leniency if you’re struggling to make payments. 3. YOU CAN’T GET COVERAGE FOR SOMETHING THAT’S ALREADY HAPPENED If you get into an accident and your car needs repairs, you might want a rental vehicle to help you get around. But by that point it would be too late to add that coverage, Wong says. Your auto policy would pay for this only if you had rental car coverage in place when the accident happened — not if you added it the day after. The same goes for other insurance. For example, say a storm leaves an inch of water in your basement, but you haven’t purchased flood insurance. You can still buy coverage for future disasters, but it won’t pay for damage your home has already sustained. 4. YOU SHOULDN’T SKIMP ON LIABILITY INSURANCE Many people focus on buying enough coverage for their belongings, but the liability insurance on your policy may be even more important. It pays for injuries or property damage that you’re at fault for. A lawsuit “is going to be more devastating than losing your laptop (or) ring,” Wong says. Including legal fees, the cost can total hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially if someone is seriously injured. To protect yourself financially, buy enough liability insurance on your auto and home insurance policies to cover your net worth. 5. YOUR AGENT IS THERE TO HELP Confused by your policy’s fine print? Don’t struggle through it on your own, says Jana Schellin Foster, agent at Nevada Insurance Agency Co. in Reno, Nevada. “We’re here to take care of you and walk you through this process.” Foster advises interviewing agents to make sure you trust them and they have the services you need. Once you’ve found an agent you’re comfortable with, Wong recommends touching base once a year or whenever there are changes in your life. This might include getting married, buying a new car or renovating your home, all of which could trigger updates to your insurance. The most important thing to have in your agent is trust, Foster says. “You get so busy with your kids and your job and whatever else you have going on; you shouldn’t have to think about what you need your insurance to do.” _______________________ This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sarah Schlichter is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com. RELATED LINKS: NerdWallet: Flood Insurance: What It Costs and What It Covers https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/insurance/flood-insurance?utm_campaign=ct_prod&utm_source=ap&utm_medium=mpsyn Sarah Schlichter Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press