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That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
VANCOUVER — Results of a study led by Metro Vancouver's transit operator reveal copper on high-touch surfaces is lethal to bacteria. A statement from TransLink says the findings of the industry-leading trial show copper products kill up to 99.9 per cent of all bacteria within one hour of surface contact. As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, TransLink was the first transit agency in North America to test copper on high-touch surfaces. The pilot study was launched after unrelated studies showed copper is both durable and effective at killing germs. Phase 1 of the pilot, which was fully funded by mining firm Teck Resources, began last November and continued for five weeks on surfaces of two buses and two SkyTrain cars. A second phase will begin in the coming months using a larger sample to verify the results, testing copper over a longer period on more transit vehicles, and focusing tests on the most effective products identified from Phase 1. TransLink interim CEO Gigi Chen-Kuo says they are excited to find out more about the impact of copper on viruses such as the ones that cause COVID-19. "This research could help us, other transit agencies, and anyone with surfaces in shared public spaces keep high-touch areas as clean as possible,” she says in the statement. The project stems from a partnership between TransLink, Teck, Vancouver Coastal Health, the University of British Columbia and the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. Teck funded the initial phase as part of its Copper & Health program and the company will also support Phase 2. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to first responders and essential workers, but it still needs to be determined which industries will be included. Dr. Bonnie Henry says the first shipments of the recently approved vaccine are expected in the province next week and the B.C. Immunization Committee is developing a detailed plan of who should be immunized and when. She says she expects the plan will be finalized around March 18, and in the meantime, the initial supply will be used to address ongoing outbreaks that are leading to rapidly increasing case numbers in some communities. Henry also apologized to long-term care residents and health-care workers whose second dose of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was suddenly postponed this week after B.C. decided to extend the gap between first and second shots to four months. She says the decision was not taken lightly, but it did need to be made quite rapidly because the province was approaching a time when tens of thousands of second doses were scheduled to be given. Henry reported 564 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the virus to 1,376, and she also says two of those who died had variants of concern. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Regina police say a 35-year-old woman was physically assaulted and pulled from her vehicle Thursday morning. The woman was getting into her car on the 1500 block of 11th Avenue around 10 a.m. Thursday when she was assaulted by a man she does not know. He then made off with her vehicle, turning south on St. John Street, according to a police news release. The woman sustained minor injury from the assault, police say. Her vehicle was later located on the 1800 block of Ottawa Street. The suspect is described as having a light skin complexion and medium build, and was wearing a black hoodie at the time of the theft. Police are asking anyone who has information that could assist with this investigation to contact the Regina Police Service at 306-777-6500, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Canada's premiers are demanding that Ottawa immediately give them an extra $28 billion for health care this year, with a promise of at least a five-per-cent hike in the annual transfer payment each year thereafter.
U.S. President Joe Biden's refusal to offer upfront sanctions relief to Iran may have angered Tehran's clerical rulers but it has won some praise at home despite his failure so far to draw Iran into nuclear talks or deter attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. "Sensible," said Elliott Abrams, former President Donald Trump's special envoy for Iran, of Biden's unwillingness to give Tehran sanctions relief before any talks on both sides resuming compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Breaking with other Southern GOP governors, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended her state’s mask order for another month Thursday but said the requirement will end for good in April. The move came a day after President Joe Biden slammed the governors of Texas and Mississippi for deciding to lift their mask mandates, saying their actions reflect “Neanderthal thinking.” Ivey has faced political pressure to lift the mask order like her Republican counterparts but said she will follow the recommendations of medical officials and keep the mandate that was set to expire Friday in place until April 9. “We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions. Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer," Ivey said at a news conference. The governor called masks “one of our greatest tools” in preventing the virus’ spread but emphasized that she will not extend the mask order further, saying it will become a matter of personal responsibility when the mandate ends. “Even when we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask while I’m around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same,” Ivey said. Medical officials welcomed Ivey’s decision after urging an extension, arguing that easing restrictions before more people were vaccinated could reverse recent improvements. Alabama’s rolling seven-day average of daily cases has dropped from 3,000 in early January to below 1,000 and hospitalizations are at their lowest point since summer. “This is very good news. This gives us a month to vaccinate more people and to get a better handle on the role of the UK variant,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association. So far only about 13% of Alabama’s 4.9 million people have received one dose of vaccine, according to state numbers. State Health Officer Scott Harris said vaccine supplies are increasing and if the state can get a cumulative total of 1.75 million shots delivered by early April, that would be a “terrific place to be.” Harris said about 500,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus and there are likely others who had it but didn’t know. “We are striving to reach this herd immunity point at some point,” Harris said. Dr. Ellen Eaton, who specializes in infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said schools and organizations serving people who’ve yet to receive a vaccine will need to “carefully consider how to proceed” once the order ends. “For many, continuing masking will be necessary, such as in schools and colleges. But leadership in these spaces needs time to think through the health and policy implications of recommending masks in the absence of a mandate,” she said. Ivey faced backlash on social media for her decision, with some users sharing the phone number to the governor’s office and asking callers to voice opposition to the rule. And the Alabama Senate approved a resolution Wednesday evening urging Ivey to end the mask mandate. Republican Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth also asked Ivey to end the mask requirement, which he has opposed all along, saying individuals can make decisions for themselves and follow safety rules until vaccinations and immunity levels are sufficient. “But we can do all of these things without a Big Brother-style government mandate looming over us,” Ainsworth said in a statement. The governor did lift some restrictions on how many people can sit as a restaurant table, but tables are still required to be 6 feet (2 metres) apart or have a partition. The order also allowed senior citizens to resume some activities and hospitals to increase the number of visitors patients can have from one to two ___ Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Kim Chandler, The Associated Press
A Montreal man who filed a complaint with Quebec's Human Rights Commission alleging racial profiling by Montreal police says the commission's investigation into the incident was flawed and incomplete. Brian Mann and his girlfriend Tayana Jacques each received $444 tickets for excessive noise and were charged with obstruction of justice after an incident on St-Laurent Boulevard in April 2018. The couple filed a complaint with the commission and, in a decision in January, the commission concluded there was no evidence of profiling. Mann told reporters at an online news conference Thursday the decision was "completely bogus." "It was a complete sham. If you look at what they wrote in the actual report, it doesn't mention anything that we submitted to them, any of the facts," Mann said. He said the commission never interviewed him or Jacques about the incident, or other any other eyewitnesses who came forward. He also said commission investigators never watched a cellphone video that captured part of the incident. The written decision from the commission only makes reference to a single police report as the basis for its conclusion. "It was swept under the rug, taking one police officer's report and blanketing over a whole, very complicated situation," Mann said. Jacques died in an accident in 2019 but Mann is continuing the fight. 'Talking too loudly' Mann and Jacques were walking on St-Laurent on a Saturday morning to get breakfast. They said they were chatting and laughing when two police officers pulled up beside them. The officers told them they were "talking too loudly" and disturbing the peace. Mann said that Jacques was then handcuffed and searched. He said when he questioned why officers were doing that, more officers arrived, threw him to the ground and pepper-sprayed him. The Human Rights Commission said Mann and Jacques refused to identify themselves to officers and that Mann was "aggressive" and resisted arrest. Tayana Jacques, Mann's girlfriend at the time of the incident, passed away after an accident in 2019. Mann said Jacques was determined to proceed with the Human Rights complaint because she believed she and Mann had done nothing wrong.(Verity Stevenson/CBC) The decision also said officers concluded that Mann and Jacques were intoxicated. The eyewitness cellphone video that Mann submitted to the commission doesn't show the lead-up to the arrest, but it does show six officers subduing Mann and throwing him to the ground. Commission accepts police version of events Mann and Jacques alleged that officers overreacted because Jacques was Black, and that Mann was a victim of discrimination by association. The commission disagreed. "The evidence shows the officers had a valid reason to intervene with the suspect (Mann)," the decision said. "The actions of the officers toward the suspect in the pursuit of their intervention, in particular the use of force, were linked, according to the evidence gathered, with his refusal to collaborate, his strong resistance and his aggressiveness," the report says. Although the commission accepted at face value the police contention that Mann was behaving aggressively, that allegation was never tested in court. All charges against Mann and Jacques were eventually dropped. Mann said Thursday that prosecutors tried to make a deal with Jacques before she died, offering to drop the obstruction of justice charge if she'd agree to pay the fine for excessive noise. He said she refused because she believed she and Mann had done nothing wrong. Rushed investigation? Fo Niemi, director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, which assisted Mann with his complaint, said he's worried the commission rushed its investigation. Niemi said the Human Rights Tribunal, which adjudicates cases when recommendations made by the commission aren't followed, has recently thrown out several complaints because of unreasonable delays. Niemi thinks those tossed complaints may have affected the investigation into Mann and Jacques's case. "We're concerned that because of the delays, the commission is fast-tracking its investigation to the point of intentionally omitting evidence that was brought to its attention," Niemi said. Judicial review only recourse Niemi wrote to the head of the Human Rights Commission asking that the commission take another look at Mann's case. The commission responded with a letter explaining that there's no appeal process for its decisions and that Mann's only recourse would be to seek a judicial review of the decision in Quebec Superior Court. Niemi noted that legal fees for such a review can be high but Mann insisted he wants to go ahead with it. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to have this case reopened or reheard," Mann said. Brian Mann speaks to reporters via Zoom Thursday. Mann said the Human Rights Commission's decision tarnishes his reputation because it leaves the impression that he did something wrong.(CBC News) "I'll find the money, it's not a problem. Who cares about money? This is about what's right and what's wrong," he said, noting that it's what Jacques wanted before she died. Mann said he's also concerned the commission's decision leaves the impression that he did something wrong, despite all charges against him being dropped. "It tarnishes my reputation, it makes me feel like I'm not protected by the Human Rights Commission, which is mandated to review things like this," Mann said. Commission insists investigation 'rigorous, impartial' A spokesperson for the commission told CBC in an email that it couldn't comment on the case because of confidentiality. "We can state however that the Commission's investigative work is done rigorously and impartially, in accordance with our guidelines," the email said. The guidelines include collecting all relevant information necessary to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring the dispute to court. The guidelines also state that the decision on whether the evidence is sufficient is a "discretionary administrative decision." 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.
IQALUIT, Nunavut — COVID-19 infections rose sharply in Arviat on Thursday, but Nunavut's top doctor said there is no sign of uncontrolled spread and numbers are declining overall. The community on the western shore of Hudson Bay tallied 10 new illnesses to bring the active case count to 14. Arviat's population of about 2,800 has been under a strict lockdown since November. Schools and non-essential businesses are closed and travel is restricted. A state of emergency was declared Feb. 24 and there's a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said there is no evidence of community transmission. "If things continue on this way, we can look at working with the hamlet to ease some of the measures next week," he said. Arviat is the only place in the territory where COVID-19 is active. It has had higher numbers than anywhere else in Nunavut since the pandemic began — 325 of 369 total cases. Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, who is from Arviat, said the overall weekly decline is "still encouraging." Last week, there were 25 cases. "We should expect that case numbers will vary day to day," he said. Two COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been held in Arviat. The second one was dedicated to administering second doses. Patterson said there is no evidence of "vaccine failure" in Arviat. "A failure ... would be getting new COVID (cases) two weeks or more after a vaccination." Health experts say it takes about 14 days for the COVID-19 vaccines to take effect. Patterson said his department is not releasing community-specific vaccination numbers and would not say how many people in Arviat have been vaccinated. To date, 8,628 of Nunavut's 39,000 residents have received one dose of the vaccine and 5,125 have had two shots. The territory has received 26,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine so far. Nunavut's original goal was to have its vaccine rollout completed by the end of March, but Patterson said that will be extended into April. The territory initially faced some delays in vaccine shipments, he said. "As the vaccine supply ramps up, we're now into the stage where that's no longer an issue. Staff will be able to go much faster and much more efficiently starting now." John Main, Arviat's member of the legislature, is urging the government to provide isolation spaces for infected residents who live in overcrowded housing This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 ___ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press
The Friends of Hudson’s Hope Society is already planning for the Christmas season, and have applied to the BC Hydro GO Fund asking for $7,500 toward its food bank and hamper programs. Both programs combined cost $24,000 to run each year, and half the funding has already been secured, says Society Administrator Patti Campbell. The Society's thrift store was closed for three months at the start of the pandemic, the main source of revenue for the non-profit. “Anything grants or assistance from the outside helps. Donations were a challenge for a while, but we’re ready for another year,” said Campbell. “We’re taking things day by day; our thrift store is a lot slower than it was, pre-pandemic.” The society remains a lifeline for many in Hudson's Hope, providing numerous social services including a mobile palliative care bed, financial support for medical travel, addiction and disability support, and disaster relief. “We’re close knit, and no one allows anyone else to go without. If it wasn’t for our community, we would have struggled last year,” said Campbell. “But the community really steps up, it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s our organization or others, we can always count on them.” The annual food drive wasn’t the same last year due to COVID. Campbell noted residents missed the face-to-face time with the local fire department, which was replaced with socially-distanced drop off points. “That’s part of the whole fundraiser, is people get to see the fire department, they get to talk with them, they get to interact with them,” Campbell. Anyone looking to donate or volunteer with the society can phone 250-783-9211, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop by in person. email@example.com Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
MIAMI — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state health officials came under deeper scrutiny amid revelations that seniors in a wealthy enclave in Key Largo received hundreds of life-saving vaccinations as early as mid -January, giving ammunition to critics who say the Republican governor is favouring wealthy constituents over ordinary Floridians. The revelations were the latest example of wealthy Floridians getting earlier access to coronavirus vaccines, even as the state has lagged in efforts to get poorer residents vaccinated. DeSantis pushed back Thursday, saying a local hospital — not the state — was behind the vaccinations of more than 1,200 residents of the exclusive Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida, and that the state “wasn't involved in it in any shape or form.” Despite the governor's denials of quid pro quos, the charges of favouritism were amplified by the wads of money pouring into the governor's campaign coffers from wealthy benefactors with ties to communities awarded vaccination sites — like the one in Key Largo. One resident of Ocean Reef, Republican former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, last week gave the Florida governor's campaign committee $250,000. Revelations about Ocean Reef residents getting vaccinated were first reported by the Miami Herald. The inequitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines is becoming a public relations challenge for the governor. Of the 3.2 million people who have received one or two doses of the vaccines, less than 6% have been Black — about a third of their share of the state's population. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried joined Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in calling for federal officials to probe the DeSantis administration’s vaccine distribution programs. “If this isn’t public corruption, I don’t know what is,” Fried said Thursday at a press conference in the Florida Capitol, calling on the FBI's public corruption to launch an investigation. “Give campaign contributions big dollars, get special access to vaccines -- ahead of seniors, ahead of our teachers, ahead of our farmworkers and so many of our residents here in our state of Florida who are scared and who are wanting these vaccines.” Citing reporting from the Herald, Fried noted that DeSantis in February had his biggest fundraising haul since 2018, when he was running for governor. Last week, Crist, a former Florida governor, asked the U.S. Department of Justice to look into possible favouritism in the state's distribution of the vaccines, asserting that DeSantis were benefiting "political allies and donors, over the needs of higher-risk communities and existing county waitlists.” Both Crist and Fried are considering campaigns to oppose DeSantis in next year's gubernatorial election. Other Florida Democrats, including the top Democrat in the state Senate, Gary Farmer, joined in the call for a federal investigation. "The exchange of hard-to-get vaccines for political contributions is nothing short of criminal," Farmer said in a letter dashed off to acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson. During a Thursday news conference, DeSantis expressed no misgivings about the early vaccinations at the exclusive Key Largo community. “If you are 65 and up, I am not worried about your income bracket," he said. “I am worried about your age bracket because it’s the age, not the income, that shows the risk.” The Republican Party of Florida came to the governor’s defence, calling the controversy “another bogus conspiracy theory.” “It doesn’t matter what party you belong to, whether you are rich or poor, if you qualify for the vaccine, you can get a vaccine. All you need is an arm,” said Helen Aguirre Ferre, the state party’s executive director. The Ocean Reef Club, a senior community in Key Largo, had more than 1,200 homeowners vaccinated through their second dose by late January, according to a message to community members by the management obtained by the Miami Herald. Those vaccinations came at a time when “the majority of the state has not received an allocation of first doses,” the management noted. Officials from Monroe County, home to Key Largo, said the affluent club’s medical centre received the vaccines through the Baptist Health hospital as part of the governor’s program to vaccinate communities with a populations of people 65 and older. County spokeswoman Kristen Livengood said the allocations were co-ordinated through Baptist and the state of Florida. In recent weeks, other reports have surfaced of wealthy retirement communities getting exclusive access to vaccine doses through pop-up vaccine sites. Democrats have criticized him for choosing those places, but the governor’s office has noted that more than half of them have been in Democratic stronghold counties of Broward and Palm Beach. Supporters of DeSantis say he has also co-ordinated clinics with faith-based groups in underserved areas. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat and the state's director of the Division of Emergency Management, said the administration is working “diligently” to increase vaccine access in underserved communities. “Any other narrative is intentionally misleading and wrong,” he said in a statement Thursday. After Publix was made the sole distributor of vaccines in Palm Beach County in late January, the mayors of predominately Black farming communities in the area urged the governor to reconsider, and the state set up a vaccine station shortly after. While critics point to disparities in vaccine distributions as a call for more outreach into underserved areas of the state, including in communities of colour and impoverished neighbourhoods, DeSantis noted that "demand was relatively tepid in FEMA sites in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. The governor said the four sites had the capacity to administer 12,000 doses but only vaccinated 6,500 people. —- A previous version of the story erroneously reported the donation amount given by former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to the Florida governor's campaign committee. —— Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. ____ Calvan reported from Tallahassee, Florida. Associated Press writer Anila Yoganathan contributed from Atlanta. Bobby Caina Calvan And Adriana Gomez Licon, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — The B.C. government has eased the eligibility requirements for small and medium-sized businesses applying for funds under its $345-million pandemic recovery grant program. The province has also extended the deadline for businesses to apply from the end of this month to Aug. 31, or until all the money has been spent. Businesses with up to 149 employees must now show a 30 per cent drop in revenue in any one month between March 2020 and the time of application compared with the same time period during the year before. The grant program previously required businesses to show a 70 per cent drop at some point during March or April last year, plus additional revenue losses of 30 to 50 per cent from May 2020 until their application. Ravi Rahlon, the minister of jobs and economic recovery, says the province has been "nimble" with the program and the changes directly follow feedback from the business community. He says about $55 million has been distributed through the program so far and influx of applications hasn't slowed down, though he couldn't say how many more businesses may now apply given the latest changes. "Certainly we have some businesses that have applied that weren't able to get the funding because they didn't meet (requirements), and now we'll be able to call them and tell them that in fact they do have funding available." This is the second time the government has eased the program's eligibility requirements. Businesses may apply for grants ranging from $10,000 to $30,000, with additional funds available to tourism-related businesses, which Kahlon says represent just over half of applicants to the program so far. The province says businesses don't need to resubmit existing applications and those received previously will be reviewed under the new criteria. In a statement, Liberal jobs critic Todd Stone urged the NDP government to eliminate the requirement that businesses must be at least 18 months old. Kahlon says the rule stands and businesses that apply by the new deadline must have been operating since last March, "so essentially anyone that had a business when the pandemic started can apply for this grant." B.C. is also offering up to $2,000 to be paid directly to professional service providers for businesses that need help creating a required recovery plan. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — As Lionel Desmond completed an 11-week program for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder in August 2016, those responsible for his care were worried about something they couldn't figure out. Though he displayed symptoms considered common among combat soldiers diagnosed with PTSD, he was making little progress under treatments that usually produced results. Kama Hamilton, a social worker at the Montreal hospital where Desmond was treated in 2016, told a provincial inquiry Thursday he suffered from angry outbursts, combat-related flashbacks, impulsivity, irritability and hyper-vigilance. Yet, she said, "he didn't stand out as particularly (different) from the others." Hamilton, who tried to help Desmond with anger management and social connections, said the Ste. Anne's Hospital team was concerned that something was interfering with his treatment, given the fact that he had lost trust in the staff and still faced a "long road" to recovery when he was discharged on Aug. 15, 2016. The inquiry is investigating why, less than five months later, Desmond bought a rifle and fatally shot his 31-year-old wife, Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before turning the gun on himself in their rural Nova Scotia home. During her testimony, Hamilton said she came to the conclusion that Desmond had a constant fear of being abandoned, a condition she said could be the result of a personality disorder or a head injury that impaired his cognitive abilities. On Tuesday, psychiatrist Robert Ouellette told the inquiry that Desmond appeared to have "mixed personality traits," including obsessive compulsiveness and paranoia. Ouellette said the paranoid traits caused Desmond to mistrust virtually everyone, including his wife. Desmond repeatedly told staff at the hospital that his main goal was to become a good husband and father, but he often expressed jealousy and anger towards his wife. During her testimony Thursday, Hamilton said she learned that aside from flashbacks to his combat duty in Afghanistan, her patient also complained about gruesome nightmares about his wife being unfaithful. Hamilton said that during an hour-long telephone conversation, Shanna Desmond told her that in the dream, her husband caught her sleeping with another man and responded by "chopping her to pieces." Despite the violent nature of the nightmare, Hamilton said she was confident Shanna Desmond was not in any danger, mainly because Lionel Desmond's recollection was intended as a cry for help rather than a threat. As well, she said Shanna Desmond had made it clear she and the couple's nine-year-old daughter had never been subjected to physical violence, and she didn't believe her husband would ever hurt them. Hamilton said Shanna Desmond was deeply concerned about her husband's welfare, noting that he had unpredictable, angry outbursts that resulted in him throwing furniture — but that was the extent of the violence she had witnessed during their marriage. Still, Hamilton said she also learned that the former infantryman would sometimes resort to passive threats of suicide as a means of controlling his wife. She said Shanna Desmond recalled one disturbing incident, when he texted her to say he would soon be watching his daughter "from above," and when she returned home, she found him obsessively cleaning a rifle he owned. "If someone is feeling vulnerable, they may try to find ways to gain control," Hamilton said. "Abandonment is a situation where you feel helpless." On another front, Hamilton said her patient complained about suffering a head injury while he was training at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, though he was deemed medically fit after he regained consciousness. That led to speculation at Ste. Anne's about a possible brain injury, which could explain why Desmond had some cognitive challenges, including troubles with concentration, memory, organization and language. The treatment team agreed that Desmond should undergo a full neurological assessment, which was a recommendation that was submitted to Veterans Affairs Canada as he was preparing to leave the program. The assessment was beyond the scope of the hospital. Desmond never received that assessment. In the four months before the Jan. 3, 2017 triple murder and suicide in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., Desmond received no therapeutic treatment. Earlier in the hearings, a psychiatrist at the hospital in nearby Antigonish, N.S., told the inquiry that Desmond desperately needed help when he returned home to Nova Scotia, but it was apparent he was "falling through the cracks." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. — By Michael MacDonald in Halifax The Canadian Press
CALGARY — Parkland Corp. is reporting lower fourth-quarter earnings and revenue as affects of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns continue to erode fuel sales. The Calgary-based convenience store operator and fuel retailer says it had net earnings of $53 million in the last three months of 2020 on revenue of $3.47 billion, down from $176 million on revenue of $4.78 billion in the same period of 2019. It says it sold 5.4 billion litres of fuel and petroleum products in the fourth quarter, a decrease of seven per cent compared with the year-earlier period. It says lower volumes were offset by strong per unit fuel profit margins in Canada and in its international operations, as well as robust company convenience store same-store sales growth in Canada of around eight per cent and a healthy 90 per cent utilization of its Burnaby, B.C., refinery. Parkland says it will hike its dividend by two per cent, its ninth consecutive annual increase. The company says it plans growth capital spending of between $175 million and $275 million in 2021, along with between $225 million and $275 million in maintenance capital spending, including about $40 million of work deferred from 2020. "In 2021, we will strengthen our customer offerings and continue our organic growth initiatives, advance our disciplined acquisition strategy and deepen our commitment to providing customers with low-carbon fuel choices as part of our broader sustainability efforts," said CEO Bob Espey. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:PKI) The Canadian Press
Several community groups are calling for more resources for women dealing with domestic violence, as some shelters face an unprecedented demand because of the pandemic. The calls come after at least five Quebec women were killed in recent weeks — deaths that could have been prevented, according to advocates, if the province had better support systems in place. Two women were killed in a town in the Laurentians Monday. Myriam Dallaire, 28, and her mother Sylvie Bisson, 60, were found with serious injuries in a home in Sainte-Sophie, Que. They both died from their injuries that night. Dallaire's ex-partner was arrested after being involved in a traffic collision in nearby Saint-Jérôme Monday night and is considered a person of interest in the homicides. Quebec Premier François Legault addressed the double-homicide in Sainte-Sophie at a news conference Wednesday, calling the killings the act of a "barbarian." "There is nothing masculine, there is nothing virile, about being violent with women. On the contrary, it is the opposite. I find it to be very cowardly," he said. "Let's hope that the measures we are setting up for housing centres shelters for women will improve the situation." Since January, SOS violence conjugale has received close to 35,000 online and phone requests — the highest number the organization has ever seen. Melpa Kamateros, executive director of Shield of Athena Family Services, says the pandemic has created a perfect storm for victims of domestic violence. "With the lockdown and quarantine, women found themselves in close proximity with their abusive partners, which led not only to increased situations of violence but also to less time to make an escape plan," she said. "In general, COVID has added yet one more layer of difficulty for women trying to access information and services." Shield of Athena's executive director, Melpa Kamateros, says changes need to be made to Quebec's legal infrastructure to better protect victims of domestic violence. (CBC) In a survey of Quebec women's shelter clients — conducted by the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale from July to November 2020 — 42 per cent of women said they faced more intense incidents of domestic violence during the first lockdown and 43 per cent said they did not seek help because their partner was always around. Then there's issue of finding a place to stay, once their time in an emergency shelter is up. Many women in the province rely on the help of second-stage homes — shelters where women stay after they head to an emergency shelter but before they find permanent housing. But those facilities are far beyond their capacity and many regions, including the Laurentians, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Mauricie and Lanaudière, don't even have them. Gaëlle Fedida of l'Alliance MH2 speaks during a news conference in Montreal, highlighting the lack of second-stage housing and its effect on women and children who are victims of domestic violence. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press) Gaëlle Fedida of the Alliance des maisons d'hébergement de 2e étape pour femmes et enfants victimes de violence conjugale has been calling for more second-stage housing units to be developed in the province. She says the homes are a critical step in preventing the murders of women who are trying to leave their abusive partners. "Just include it in the next budget," Fedida called on Legault. "All those ladies who were murdered lately, it was in a situation of post-separation domestic violence." More help coming, province says Last year, the province doubled the funding for combating domestic violence to $180 million, including $2.5 million in emergency funding for shelters during the pandemic. Isabelle Charest, Quebec's minister responsible for the status of women, says the government's action plan using this funding will help women get out of dangerous situations. But part of that, she said, is ensuring women know the warning signs before the situation can turn fatal. "We know it's the crime that's the least reported," Charest said on Radio-Canada's Tout un matin Thursday. "Our role is to put in place a mechanism to prevent and help in these situations." While most of the funding is going toward "rapid intervention measures" and supporting women's shelters, she echoed Legault's sentiment that men must also be included in their plan. "We must implicate men," she said. "It's something to help women who are victims, but we must also help men who behave like this." But Kamateros says lack of shelter and housing for survivors of domestic violence in the province is only the tip of the iceberg. She is calling on the province to put more of a focus on preventing incidents of domestic violence by adopting a law similar to "Clare's law" — a piece of legislation that allows police to warn someone they could be in danger from their partner under certain conditions. Saskatchewan became the first Canadian province to adopt it last summer. "I would also see that the legal system be better prepared to receive testimonies from women victims, that perhaps separate courts could be established," said Kamateros.
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is planning to extend its ban on smoking in indoor public places to First Nations communities.A bill before the legislature proposes to remove an exemption for reserves and other areas of federal jurisdiction, including military bases, from the provincial smoking ban.Ceremonial tobacco use would still be allowed.Audrey Gordon, minister for mental health, wellness and recovery, says the aim is to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke.She says band councils will be consulted.The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says the province does not have the right to enforce its smoking ban unilaterally.Grand Chief Arlen Dumas says all options are on the table to fight the government's move, including a possible court challenge.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 The Canadian Press
REGINA — The Saskatchewan government has shot a boost of optimism into its fight against COVID-19, announcing it will join other provinces by delaying the second dose of vaccines to speed up immunizations. Speaking Thursday at a news conference with other premiers, Premier Scott Moe said people will get their second shot up to four months after the first, which falls in line with a recent recommendation from Canada's national immunization committee. Alberta, Manitoba and other provinces made similar announcements after British Columbia first said Monday it was moving to a four-month delay. The shift comes as health experts point to people being well protected against the novel coronavirus with a first dose, noting the country faces a limited supply of vaccines. "The benefits are tremendous," Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said during a briefing. "We can emerge out of the pandemic three months earlier than we had anticipated. With a two-dose program, it would have taken us till September. Now we can vaccinate everyone 18 and older as early as June." Provincial health officials said that starting Friday, staff will only be giving first shots. The change will not apply to people who have appointments booked to receive a second dose, long-term care residents and staff, as well as those in personal care homes. Shahab said since vaccinations started in long-term care homes, there have been fewer outbreaks and infections in the facilities. To date, about 84,000 vaccinations have been done in Saskatchewan out of the roughly 400,000 shots needed to inoculate residents 70 and older and health-care workers at risk of COVID-19 exposure. Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said he expects most of these vaccinations under the first stage of the province's immunization program will be finished in early April. He also asked for patience, as the authority has to adjust how it delivers vaccines with the new four-month window between doses. Saskatchewan reported 169 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Thursday. The province of 1.1 million people also continues to lead the country with the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada. Moe said earlier in the week that delaying the second dose of vaccine would be a game-changer for how long public-health restrictions need to stay in place. The current order is in effect until March 19. Shahab said decisions about what rules might be relaxed could come next week. "I know it's been very hard for people not to be able meet each other in their houses," he said. "In the past, we did have, you know, two to three households as a bubble of up to ten. So that's something that we're looking at." The Ministry of Health also said it would use 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on people aged 60 to 64 and certain health-care workers. A national panel has recommended it not be used on seniors. The province said these vaccinations will start later this month and eligible residents will be able to book an appointment by phone through a system that is expected to launch next week. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Premiers say federal COVID-19 vaccine procurement delays have left them no choice but to stretch out the time between doses, as pharmacies in some parts of Ontario were preparing to start giving shots next week. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that he had asked chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw some time ago to take a serious look into allowing a four-month gap between shots after seeing "tremendous" results in the United Kingdom and Israel. He said an outbreak driven by a new, more transmissible COVID-19 variant started at a seniors' home in Edmonton on Monday just as residents were supposed to be receiving their vaccines. "They should have been vaccinated weeks ago, like they were in similar settings in the United States, Israel, the U.K. and many, many other countries," he said following a virtual premiers' meeting. "This is extremely frustrating and I think we have no choice but to expand the interval to get more people covered." British Columbia announced Monday that it would be allowing up to four months between doses. Several other provinces followed suit after a national panel of vaccine experts recommended Wednesday that such an extension would be appropriate if supplies are limited. Labels of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines call for a three or four-week gap between doses. Research has shown one dose is 70 to 80 per cent effective for up to two months, but it's unclear how long protection lasts beyond that. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Thursday his province is moving to the four-month interval because the federal government has done a "disappointing job at best" in quickly getting vaccines to provinces. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister added: "Let's face it: this strategy has become necessary as a consequence of an absence of vaccines." A Health Canada official said Thursday that a decision on Johnson and Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine could come "within days." It would be the fourth to be approved, following ones from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Ottawa's vaccine rollout, told a media briefing that nearly three million doses have been distributed to the provinces and territories so far. "In April, we're anticipating a steep increase in vaccine availability," he said. That includes 23 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines between April and June and at least 1.5 million of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by mid-May. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said many of the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses the province receives will go to pharmacies for a pilot program beginning next week. The Ontario Pharmacists Association said about 380 pharmacies in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex will be doling out shots initially. A similar program in Alberta began with pharmacies in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary this week. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia is easing public-health restrictions in and around Halifax. Health officials in the Atlantic province said rules that came into effect last week limiting restaurant hours, prohibiting sports events and discouraging non-essential travel will end Friday morning in the capital region. Nova Scotia reported three new cases Thursday and 29 active ones. Ontario, meanwhile, recorded 994 new infections, almost four per cent higher than the previous report, but the third straight day below 1,000. It also linked 10 more deaths to the virus. Quebec said it had 707 new cases, along with 20 additional deaths. It is easing restrictions in Quebec City and four other regions starting Monday, but keeping them in place in the Montreal area due to concern over variants. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
We might take a starry night sky for granted in our corner of the province, but Quetico Provincial Park has proven itself dedicated to providing a celestial haven for night owls that is guaranteed to be free of intrusive light pollution. The park has recently earned itself a certification from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) recognizing it as a Dark Sky park, a location that has met stringent regulations that help to curb the impacts of light pollution in the night sky, as well as the negative effects it can have on plants and animals - including humans. Quetico has now joined its "sister parks" Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in their Dark Sky Park designation, and is only the third Provincial Park in Ontario to achieve the feat. Trevor Gibb is the park superintendent for Quetico Provincial Park and he noted the recognition from the international association really highlights the efforts that park staff have made in order to keep the park as pristine as possible. "The Dark Sky Park designation is awarded to a park that has an exceptional quality of starry night skies and an exceptional nocturnal environment," he explained. "It has to be a park that's protected for scientific, natural, educational or cultural reasons and have opportunities for the public to visit the park and enjoy it. You have to meet a bunch of criteria to be considered for Dark Sky Park status, but the key criteria is just the quality of the night sky." Light and fixtures that aren't designed with dark skies in mind contribute to light pollution that both hampers the natural vistas of the Milky Way galaxy. Think of the glow you can see when driving at night as you approach the nearest town or city, or how few stars can be seen from inside of town versus out in the country. Light pollution can also have negative impacts on the natural processes and behaviours of plants and animals in the environment, similar to how it can throw off our circadian rhythms and make going to bed at healthy times much more difficult. In order to achieve that Dark Sky Park recognition, Gibb explained there were several steps, two years in the making, that had to be taken in order to reduce the amount of light that would beam up into the sky at night. "It was a lot of work," he said. "It's a voluntary process, but it's quite the rigorous application process with the IDA. One of the first things we had to do was an inventory of all of our light fixtures around the park, park offices and campgrounds, and then we had to create a lighting management plan to change all the lighting we needed to change to dark sky friendly outdoor lighting." The changes to fixtures doesn't mean taking them away, as that can create safety hazards. Instead, Gibb noted that new fixtures were installed that directed light downwards instead of allowing it to beam up into the night sky. Another step in the process was proving to the IDA that the night sky is "exceptionally dark, beautiful and free of light" as Gibb put it, which is obvious to anyone who has camped out under the stars at Quetico, but hard to convince with word of mouth alone. The answer, then, was plenty of legwork and some very late nights. "Starting in 2019, we sent our park rangers all over the park, but into the backcountry as well to do sky quality measurements in the middle of the night to measure the darkness of the night sky," Gibb said. "Over time, since this is an annual thing we'll be reporting on, it will show improvements or degradation of the quality of the night sky due to light pollution. We owe a huge kudos to our backcountry rangers for paddling all day long, clearing portages, and then waking up in the middle of the night. They have to take these readings during astronomical darkness. In August, that's the middle-middle of the night, like 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning." Gibb said there isn't a lot that will change for visitors to the park now that Quetico is Dark Sky certified. The park will have some new educational signage and publications to teach campers and other park visitors of the importance of keeping skies dark, and those who camp overnight will be encouraged to keep their own lights to a minimum in order to let everyone experience the majesty of the stars. "At Quetico and Ontario Parks, what we do is preserve the natural environment and we are concerned with maintaining the ecological integrity of our parks," he said. "This is just one way that we can do that by reducing our light pollution in our campgrounds and developed areas and promote the importance of natural night skies." For more information of the International Dark-Sky Association, their initiatives and the importance of combating light pollution, visit their website at www.darksky.org. Ken Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times