Texas congressional candidate Wesley Hunt and Trump energy adviser Harold Hamm weigh in on the impact Biden policies would have on the U.S.
Texas congressional candidate Wesley Hunt and Trump energy adviser Harold Hamm weigh in on the impact Biden policies would have on the U.S.
WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Students in Niagara are facing two ways of completing their courses. District School Board of Niagara’s secondary school schedule, which lists Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 as exam days, will now be replaced with “culminating activities.” Helen McGregor, superintendent of secondart shool curriculum and student achievement, said, “Students are learning differently this year, with many learning in-person for part of the week, and others learning exclusively online. “To ensure all our students are supported to find success this year, whether they are learning in-person or online, in October we made the decision to cancel exams,” said McGregor. “Schools have already let students know that they will not have exams and, instead, they will have culminating activities.” In contrast, Niagara Catholic District School Board has already administered two sets of exams, Oct. 9 and Nov. 13, with a third one to be completed on Dec. 18. Niagara Catholic’s back-to-school plan split students into two cohorts. Those cohorts will be focused on one course for 22 days. Upon completion of the course, exams are administered. Board communications officer Jennifer Pellegrini said, “… we are octomestered, students do their exam right at the end of their course — so there aren’t set exam days as other boards have. It’s 22 days of class, then an exam/assessment, then off to the next course.” In October, the Ministry of Education told school boards they have the option to remove designated exam days from their school year calendar and use them for in-class instructional time. Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said the use of essays or report-based assessments in the place of final exams should be allowed “given the circumstance.” “I don’t want to increase the anxiety of our students. An essay, an extended report, these are all ways in which an educator can credibly assess the performance of a student.” The holiday break for students is to begin Dec. 21 and will last until students return to the classroom on Jan. 4. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
Norfolk County’s answer to Cruella de Vil is believed to have stolen two puppies from a Delhi home on Friday. Norfolk OPP say the alleged dognappers came to the Tisdale Road property — just south of Delhi — between 6:40 and 8 p.m. on Nov. 27 and made off with two tan-coloured female pups, along with a trail camera. The five-month-old dogs are described as a mix of ridgeback, mastiff, Newfoundlander and shepherd. Police welcome tips from the public to solve this case and get the pups back home. Information about the theft can be left with the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers via 1-800-222-8477 or helpsolvecrime.com.J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
MONTREAL — Zorhan Bassong wants to be part of building something new with the Montreal Impact. And it doesn't hurt that joining the club will bring the young Canadian defender back home. Bassong said he had several offers and discussed the options with his family before signing a two-year contract with the Impact on Tuesday. The deal includes two additional option years. “As soon as I spoke with (Impact sporting director) Olivier Renard, I felt convinced about this project. I felt like he was ready to build a new project where young players will play," said the 21-year-old Montreal-raised fullback."This is what convinced me to come here. I just wanted to be part of this new project. And at the same time, I will be close to my family, close to my friends, close to my homeland.”Bassong was 14 when he left home to train in Europe. He returns to Canada after playing for Cercle Brugge in Belgium's Jupiler Pro League, and previously played 31 games for Lille's reserve team in France.The five-foot-nine defender made his debut for the Canadian national team in January, and was later named to the U-23 national team roster for the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament. Work on bringing him to Montreal has been underway for some time, Renard said in a release."We preferred to wait to make the announcement to avoid destabilizing the players in his position, and achieve our 2020 goals," he said. Veteran Montreal defenders Rod Fanni, Jukka Raitala and Jorge Corrales all have contracts that expire at the end of 2020. While Renard described Bassong as a versatile player who can fit in anywhere along the backline, the young defender said his preferred position is left back.“I like to do the runs back and forth," he said. "When I play left back, I like to attack. I like to participate offensively, to help the team score goals, to get some assists.”Bassong won't be available to join the Impact for the team's upcoming CONCACAF Champions League fixture. Though he has returned to Montreal, he's currently in quarantine with his family.The Champions League tournament will see the Impact face Honduran club CD Olimpia on Dec. 15 in Orlando. The matchup is the second leg of the quarterfinal, coming after Olimpia beat the Impact 2-1 when the teams played the first leg at Montreal's Olympic Stadium in March. The tournament was then postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The winner of the series will face either New York City FC or Mexico's Tigres UANL in the semifinals on Dec. 19. The tournament's finale will be played on Dec. 22. The rest of the Champions League games will be played without fans.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.The Canadian Press
As coronavirus cases surge in California, county officials are issuing new COVID-19 restrictions, imposing curfews and closing museums and other businesses after the state broke a record with more than 7,400 coronavirus hospitalizations. (Dec. 1)
ROME — Pope Francis is supporting demands for racial justice in the wake of the U.S. police killing of George Floyd and is blasting COVID-19 skeptics and media organizations that spread their conspiracies in a new book penned during the Vatican’s coronavirus lockdown. In “Let Us Dream,” published Tuesday, Francis also criticizes populist politicians who whip up rallies in ways reminiscent of the 1930s, and the hypocrisy of “rigid” conservative Catholics who support them. But he also criticizes the forceful downing of historic statues during protests for racial equality this year as a misguided attempt to “purify the past.” The 150-page book was written in collaboration with Francis’ English-language biographer, Austen Ivereigh, who said Monday he hopes a more colloquial English-speaking pope will resonate with English-speaking readers and believers. At its core, “Let Us Dream” aims to outline Francis’ vision of a more economically and environmentally just post-coronavirus world where the poor, the elderly and weak aren’t left on the margins and the wealthy aren’t consumed only with profits. But it also offers new personal insights into the 83-year-old Argentine pope and his sense of humour. At one point, Francis reveals that after he offered in 2012 to retire as archbishop of Buenos Aires when he turned 75, he planned to finally finish the thesis he never completed on the 20th-century German intellectual, Romano Guardini. “But in March 2013, I was transferred to another diocese,” he deadpans. Francis was elected pope, and bishop of Rome, on March 13, 2013. The publisher said the book was the first written by a pope during a major world crisis and Ivereigh said it was done as a response to the coronavirus and the lockdown. For Francis, the pandemic offers an unprecedented opportunity to imagine and plan for a more socially just world. At times, it seems he is directing that message squarely at the United States, as Donald Trump's administration winds down four years of “America first” policies that excluded migrants from Muslim countries and diminished U.S. reliance on multilateral diplomacy. Without identifying the U.S. or Trump by name, Francis singles out Christian-majority countries where nationalist-populist leaders seek to defend Christianity from perceived enemies. “Today, listening to some of the populist leaders we now have, I am reminded of the 1930s, when some democracies collapsed into dictatorships seemingly overnight,” Francis wrote. “We see it happening again now in rallies where populist leaders excite and harangue crowds, channeling their resentments and hatreds against imagined enemies to distract from the real problems.” People fall prey to such rhetoric out of fear, not true religious conviction, he wrote. Such “superficially religious people vote for populists to protect their religious identity, unconcerned that fear and hatred of the other cannot be reconciled with the Gospel.” Francis addressed the killing of Floyd, a Black man whose death at the knee of a white policeman set off protests this year across the United States. Referring to Floyd by name, Francis said: “Abuse is a gross violation of human dignity that we cannot allow and which we must continue to struggle against.” But he warned that protests can be manipulated and decried the attempt to erase history by downing statues of U.S. Confederate leaders. A better way, he said, is to debate the past through dialogue. “Amputating history can make us lose our memory, which is one of the few remedies we have against repeating the mistakes of the past,” he wrote. Turning to the pandemic, Francis blasted people who protested anti-virus restrictions “as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom!” He accused some in the church and Catholic media of being part of the problem. “You’ll never find such people protesting the death of George Floyd, or joining a demonstration because there are shantytowns where children lack water or education,” he wrote. “They turned into a cultural battle what was in truth an effort to ensure the protection of life.” He praised journalists who reported on how the pandemic was affecting the poorest. But he took a broad swipe at unnamed media organizations that “used this crisis to persuade people that foreigners are to blame, that the coronavirus is little more than a little bout of flu, and that restrictions necessary for people's protection amount to an unjust demand of an interfering state." “There are politicians who peddle these narratives for their own gain," he writes. “But they could not succeed without some media creating and spreading them." In urging the world to use the pandemic as an opportunity for a reset, Francis offers “three COVID-19” moments, or personal crises of his own life, that gave him the chance to stop, think and change course. The first was the respiratory infection that nearly killed him when he was 21 and in his second year at the Buenos Aires diocesan seminary. After being saved, Francis decided to join the Jesuit religious order. “I have a sense of how people with the coronavirus feel as they struggle to breathe on ventilators,” Francis wrote. The second COVID-19 moment was when he moved to Germany in 1986 to work on his thesis and felt such loneliness and isolation he moved back to Argentina without finishing it. The third occurred during the nearly two years he spent in exile in Cordoba, northern Argentina, as penance for his authoritarian-laced reign as head of the Jesuit order in the country. “I’m sure I did a few good things, but I could be very harsh. In Cordoba, they made me pay and they were right to do so,” he wrote. But he also revealed that while in Cordoba he read a 37-volume “History of the Popes.” “Once you know that papal history, there’s not that much that goes on in the Vatican Curia and the church today that can shock you,” he wrote. Francis repeated his call for a universal basic income, for welcoming migrants and for what he calls the three L’s that everyone needs: land, lodging and labour. “We need to set goals for our business sector that — without denying its importance — look beyond shareholder value to other kinds of values that save us all: community, nature and meaningful work," he writes. ___ Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The Liberal government says it will take steps over the next year to tax foreign homeowners who live outside of Canada as part of a plan to lower housing prices.It's an idea that has been growing in popularity over the last few years in provinces such as British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, but some experts question how effective such a plan would be.In this week's fiscal update, the government says the plan will benefit first-time homebuyers and put more homes on the market by taxing homeowners who use Canada to passively store wealth in housing.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last year his government would introduce such a tax, praising a similar measure in British Columbia during his most recent election campaign.The B.C. government said last year its speculation and vacancy tax raised $115 million, paid mostly by owners based abroad, with Finance Minister Carole James crediting the tax as a factor behind the 5.6 per cent fall in home prices in the first part of 2019.Tsur Somerville, an associate professor at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, said that while prices did fall in the Vancouver area after the introduction of foreign buyers' taxes, the policy is not a silver bullet for affordability. "If you're looking to address affordability, that on its own is never going to get you to affordability. But it can certainly be part of the package of both demand- and supply-side policies," he said.In addition to the speculation and vacancy tax — on those who own local residences but do not pay provincial income taxes — B.C. has also tried a property transfer tax on home purchases made by foreign nationals in Vancouver, according to the Chartered Professional Accountants regulator of British Columbia. In 2017, Ontario passed a speculation and vacancy tax on homebuyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe who were neither citizens nor permanent residents. And in Prince Edward Island, non-residents must apply to a special commission to buy more than five acres of land.Renewed talk of taxing non-Canadian homebuyers comes as several housing markets across the country set sales records during the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing up prices amid low interest rates and a rush on telecommuter-friendly houses with yards.While the housing market has been hot, the government is looking for ways to finance $25 billion in new spending to support those hit hard by the pandemic.In practice, some markets with lots of demand from foreign buyers could see house prices decline but remain "crazy unaffordable," even with the proposed tax, said Somerville. Other locales, such as tourist spots, could actually benefit from travellers owning vacation homes there, Somerville said, while still other cities may already have landlords who are struggling to find tenants as it is.For example, the supply of housing may be flexible enough in cities like Calgary or Edmonton where foreign-based buyers don't have that much impact on overall home prices, he said. Also, when it comes to building a giant apartment building, foreign investment from a European pension fund is unlikely to be an affordability problem, he noted."I can't understand why you would introduce it at a national level," Sommerville said. "That doesn't make any sense to me as a policy because it is not as if we are in a national crisis of foreigners buying up housing in every market and creating challenges on affordability. That's a stretch."Somerville also noted that the policy has raised objections for targeting Chinese people in Vancouver, although different populations would be affected in different areas of the country.Andrey Pavlov, professor of finance at the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University, said it was a "terrible" idea to nationalize British Columbia's policies, saying the tax would discourage foreign investments without improving affordability.Pavlov said that the share of first-time homebuyers has actually gone down since the tax was put in place in B.C. Other than Toronto and Vancouver, most Canadian cities can be built out to accommodate and even benefit from second homes for people like business travellers, said Pavlov. The problem with further taxing homeownership, Pavlov said, is that it could actually reduce the supply of housing by discouraging builders and investors. Pavlov also questioned whether the policy would help the government pay for its fiscal stimulus plans."Our chance to repay the debts we are incurring now is to grow our economy as fast as we can," Pavlov said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press
A group of B.C. parents is pulling their kids from school for the day on Tuesday to protest the province's back-to-school plan, despite the provincial health officer pointing to low rates of COVID-19 transmission in schools.Parents behind the "BC Student Sick Out" campaign, which has more than 2,500 members on Facebook, say they want classes capped at 15 students, more online learning options and masks mandated in schools. Co-organizer Tara Kurtz, whose two kids are students in the Langley School District, said the event is in support of teachers who don't have the same protection as in other workplaces."Dr. Bonnie Henry likes to push the Swiss cheese model," Kurtz said.That model entails physical distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, minimizing interaction and making spaces safe. "But the only layer of protection being given to schools is to wash your hands. And then we're hearing about districts that are short on funds now for paper towels, for soap."In a statement, the B.C. Ministry of Education said it has earmarked $290 million to buy cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment and hire more staff where needed. Schools have also segmented students and teachers into learning groups to reduce interaction (60 students for elementary and middle schools and 120 students for secondary schools).Middle and secondary school students must wear masks in busy areas, such as hallways and school buses but aren't required to wear them in class.Many exposures, little transmissionProvincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reiterated Monday there has been very little transmission in schools."We've had many exposure events, but they have very rarely resulted in transmission, particularly from children to anyone," she said.A school exposure is when a single person is confirmed positive for COVID-19 and has been in the school during their infectious period. An outbreak in a school setting is when there is ongoing transmission, and public health officials are not clear on the source of the transmission.There have been many exposure events but only a few outbreaks in schools so far.When asked about the protest, Henry said, "I think the parent voices are very important to ensure that's what happening in their school community meets the needs of parents and children."Parents, however, have denounced the province's lack of transparency around cases and school exposures. Some have launched a Facebook page to track exposures in B.C. schools, with more than 1,000 exposures recorded to date.Stephen Hoption Cann, an epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia, said it's normal for parents to be concerned, but cautioned against misinformation on social media. "Government sources are a source of information that's accurate and kept up to date," he said. "If you're depending on social media for your information, there is the possibility of giving inaccurate or slated information, which may not be helpful."It's not clear how many students were pulled from class Tuesday. Several dozen parents on the Facebook page reported keeping their kids at home. Jennifer Beaton, a mother of four school-aged kids in the Langley School District, said she chose not to take part. She disagrees with a mask mandate in schools and says wearing them is difficult for two of her kids, who have autism. "They have to wear it outside their cohort, and to me, that makes more sense than having to wear it all the time," she said. However, Kurtz, the protest co-organizer, said parents simply want safety measures bolstered in schools for teachers."They went to school to become educators," she said. "They did not sign up to put their lives on the line in a pandemic."
EDMONTON — Alberta Health projections released by the Opposition NDP predict COVID-19 hospitalization rates could soar to 775 by mid-December and the number of intensive care patients could reach 161.NDP Leader Rachel Notley says the numbers suggest the United Conservative government waited too long to act then introduced ineffective half measures to combat the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.“Our province is reporting the highest rate of COVID in the country,” Notley told Premier Jason Kenney during question period Tuesday. “The models showed you a second wave was coming. Why did you not prepare?”Kenney’s government has in recent weeks declined to provide internal projections on potential COVID-19 effects on hospital and intensive care wards, although Kenney said this week those numbers may be provided in the coming days.The latest numbers were leaked to the NDP.Alberta has seen new daily case counts above 1,000 for almost two weeks, putting a significant strain on the health system.There are a total of 173 intensive care beds in Alberta. On Tuesday, there were 97 COVID-19 ICU patients, part of a total 479 in hospitals.Alberta Health Services, the front-line operational arm of Alberta Health, is now rearranging and reassigning space, staff and patients to create another 250 ICU beds. AHS spokesman Kerry Williamson, in an email, said Calgary exceeded maximum ICU capacity Monday but had space because 10 new beds were added. Edmonton was at 95 per cent ICU capacity but had 18 spaces available because 20 new beds were added.On top of that, 20 acute-care hospitals, including the major ones in Calgary and Edmonton, are dealing with COVID outbreaks of their own.To stem the surge, Kenney announced new health restrictions last week aimed at reducing community spread while keeping businesses and the economy as open as possible.No gatherings are allowed in people’s home beyond those who already live there. Restaurants and bars can stay open under tight restrictions: only six people at a table and they all must be from the same home.The province will review the new rules around mid-December and may intensify or add to them if the skyrocketing spread continues.The NDP and some physicians say the new rules, while aimed at balancing health and the economy, will ultimately fail both and that a short, sharp lockdown of the economy is the way to go.Alberta is also facing the challenge of tracking spread while not knowing where most of the recent cases came from. As of Monday, there were 16,454 active cases. Of those, it’s not known where more than 80 per cent of them contracted the virus. The contact tracing program has been triaged twice in recent weeks to focus on recent and high-priority cases, such as children and health-care workers.Kenney reiterated that Alberta has 800 contact tracers but is working to hire 400 more while moving more part-time tracers to full-time status.“Alberta Health Services is pulling out the stops and has been for weeks to add capacity,” Kenney told the house.“We made it clear to them from Day One that budget is not an issue, that we are giving them maximum resources to surge in hiring and training, and bringing people on board."Notley criticized Kenney for not moving faster during the summer to hire more contact tracers. She noted Alberta lags behind other comparable provinces.“B.C. has 26 contact tracers per 100,000 (people). Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 30. Ontario, 27. Alberta, 18,” said Notley.“Contact tracing is strained across the country, that is true, but only in this province is it broken.”The NDP said that for Alberta’s population of about four million, 1,300 contact tracers are required.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
November was the worst month of the pandemic for the Grey-Bruce health region, an area that until then had largely avoided the spikes in COVID-19 cases that had plagued much of the province. Grey-Bruce Public Health logged 159 new infections last month – nearly doubling its case count – bringing the total to 337 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Nov. 30. The region continues to defy the odds and has had zero deaths nine months into the pandemic. “It has been the worst month, but nothing that is not manageable so far,” said Ian Arra, medical officer of health for Grey-Bruce. “The underlining principle to all these cases is COVID fatigue.” In early November, about half the cases in Grey-Bruce were linked to travel within health regions, he said. Most of these cases were either from locals visiting family and friends in other regions or “hot spots” and contracting COVID-19. A smaller portion was from out-of-towners visiting those who live in Grey and Bruce counties. The other half of cases were then attributed to spread within households to friends and family. “People lower their guards and the pandemic is there,” Arra said. “As soon as people relax, the virus will transmit.” As the month continued, Arra said the second category – locally transmitted cases between friends and families – rose in the region. Along with that, so did the number of close contacts of cases. Grey-Bruce Public Health publicly posts the number of high-risk close contacts it is currently working with. As of Nov. 30, that number sat at 216, with 50 active cases. “In March and April, we used to see with each case two or three close contacts,” Arra said. “In November, we saw an average of about 10, maybe more.” Another factor in November’s spike is cases among Mennonite and Amish communities. Arra said the large size of Amish and Mennonite families often leads to more transmission within one household but stressed it would be wrong to “point the finger” at these communities, adding they have been working well with the health unit. Meanwhile, schools and workplaces in his region have remained mostly free of COVID-19 transmission. Although there have been cases in schools, there have been zero outbreaks. “Schools are safe, so kids, who are less reliable than adults, by following the recommendations, are being safe,” he said. “So, there is no excuse for any of us.” In long-term care settings, Grey-Bruce has seen few outbreaks; although some cases have been detected, Arra said there has been only one instance of secondary transmission occurring, which was back in March. One long-term care home is currently considered in outbreak, with one positive staff case. As of Dec. 1, the area doesn't have any people being treated in hospital for COVID-19. Arra said he is beginning to see the region buck the second-wave trend of skyrocketing case counts. “We see the numbers right now in Grey Bruce levelling, they have not kept going up,” he said. Mid-month, Bruce Power launched Be A Light: Beating COVID-19 Together, a $1 million campaign to boost public health communication and provide more resources to the community. Arra said that campaign – with increased messaging on billboards, radio ads, TV stations and local papers – helped shift public attitudes about following public health guidelines to fight against COVID-19. “Within one week, not surprisingly, there was a change in the level of concern from the public and that really is what we need." Grey-Bruce is in the yellow-protect zone of the province’s COVID-19 restriction framework, but Arra said if residents continue to follow public health protocols like hand washing, proper mask-wearing, and avoiding unnecessary gatherings, that could change before the holidays. “Everyone asks for a white Christmas, but we will be asking for a green one,” Arra said, referencing the lowest coloured tier on the restriction framework. Even with a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, Arra said residents must stay vigilant in safeguarding against the novel coronavirus. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel … it is around the corner,” he said. “We need to double down.” MaxMartin@postmedia.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPressMax Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
MILLBROOK — Cavan Monaghan Township residents from Cavan Ward were able to voice their opinions about off-road vehicles during a virtual public meeting on Monday. A total of 16 individuals signed up to speak for a maximum of three minutes, some who were for and some who were against the concept of ORVs on township roads in the Cavan Ward. Robert Winslow, the founder of 4th Line Theatre, was among the speakers. “I live at 779 Zion Line in Cavan Ward; fifth generation of my family on this property. I was born and raised on our farm which I retrofitted into a live outdoor theatre in 1992, almost 30 years ago,” he said. Winslow said that added noise from ORVs during performances will reduce the appeal of their theatre. “In a movie theatre you can ask the person who is talking in the row ahead of you or behind you to shush so you can enjoy the film properly. Our theatre patrons won’t have that option as ATVs, side-by-sides, or dirt bikes pass by the farm during our plays,” he said. In addition to the hazards of the winding, narrow, steep and shoulder components of the road, along with high speeds of cars, trucks, motorcycles and commercial industrial vehicles along the road, Winslow said, ORV traffic on his road could also be an added danger for both patrons arriving and leaving the theatre and as well as ORV operators. However, Garry Otten, a realtor at Century 21, said many people he deals with move to the region because of the recreational opportunity. “More so today with the pandemic, our ORV interest has gained popularity beyond belief,” he said. The value of many properties in the area will increase if council chooses to allow ORVs on municipal roads, Otten said. “Our location allows us the good fortune of being able to access a trail that could take us all the way to Bancroft. We could certainly use that extra business in this township and our businesses could use that extra business. I would hope our councillors recognize the benefits instead of all the fear mongering that’s taking place,” he said. Comments will be received by the township until Dec. 4. Staff will then summarize the comments and bring forward a report in early 2021 for council to make a final decision. Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: email@example.comMarissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
The owner of a former used car dealership in Fredericton has been charged in court following a police investigation.William Cornford appeared in provincial court Monday, facing three counts of theft, 10 counts of fraud, six counts of uttering a forged document, and two counts of false pretenses. Fredericton police would not comment, saying the matter is before the courts. W&P Auto Sales on the city's north side ceased operations in August 2019. Several customers came forward to police saying the dealership never paid off liens for which it was responsible under the trade-in agreements when purchasing used cars. Also last year, NextGear Capital, a financing company serving auto dealers, filed a statement of claim with the Court of Queen's Bench against W&P Auto.According to court documents, NextGear Capital extended a loan of $250,000 to W&P Auto and the dealership defaulted on payments.In the statement of claim, NextGear says that W&P Auto owes a principal balance of $136,894.78.Court was adjourned until Dec. 21.
Next year, if all goes as planned, Canadians will get a free COVID-19 vaccine, billions of dollars in economic stimulus, and perhaps, insiders and analysts say, an early election. Five sources familiar with the thinking in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party say a snap election is likely at some point in 2021 rather than at the scheduled end of the legislature in 2023. Last year, the ruling Liberals won only a minority of seats in the House of Commons, leaving them reliant on opposition parties to survive.
Holiday shoppers are receiving their own gift from the City of Charlottetown this December: free parking downtown. The city approved the free parking at downtown meters at a special council meeting Monday. Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said letting shoppers park for free fits in with the Love Local P.E.I. campaign currently on. "It sends out a signal that, you know, we're in this bubble, but let's stick to our local merchants," said Brown. "They're going to need the help, just like we're going to need the help as we get through this pandemic."> We're in this bubble, but let's stick to our local merchants. They're going to need the help. \- Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown The idea for the free parking came from the P.E.I. government, which offered $15,000 to replace some of the lost revenue. Brown said the City of Charlottetown will cover the rest of that loss, another $45,000. City officials have had to cancel some holiday activities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so Brown said some of the money that would have been used for those activities will help cover the revenue lost from parking meters. "This is a small effort, but I think it'll go a long way," he said. Brown added that he's not worried about people who work downtown taking advantage of the free spots.More from CBC P.E.I.
TORONTO — North American stock markets got a boost to start December from additional signs that vaccines could spur a return to economic normalcy in 2021. The predominant driver of market activity Tuesday was Pfizer seeking regulatory approval for its COVID-19 vaccine in the European Union, after doing so in the United States, said Candice Bangsund, portfolio manager for Fiera Capital. "This has extended the optimism on the vaccine front that will inevitably allow for that rapid recovery in 2021," she said in an interview.As a result, investors are largely looking past uncertainties, growing infections and some negative economic implications from new lockdowns as they anticipate a very strong revival in global growth by the end of next year.In addition, a bipartisan U.S. Senate proposal for US$900 billion in fiscal stimulus and president-elect Joe Biden's call for a package supported the market rally. However, Bangsund warned that past efforts show that these expectations can prove fleeting and short-lived.The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 106.68 points to 17,296.93 after posting an intraday high of 17,471.20 that's less than three per cent off February's record high.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 185.28 points at 29,823.92. The S&P 500 index was up 40.82 points at 3,662.45, while the Nasdaq composite was up 156.37 points at 12,355.11 after both markets set new record highs in earlier trading. Markets started the day in positive territory, with Chinese factory results coming in strong.They moved up after posting a phenomenal month in which the S&P 500, for example, experienced its strongest November in decades.Bangsund expects December could also be strong, albeit not as good as November given the impact of pandemic-related restrictions."Any setback in the near-term would almost inevitably prove short-lived given that brighter outlook for 2021," she said.Bangsund added that investors are underestimating the magnitude of the eventual recovery because there's a lot of pent-up savings ready to be put to work once there's a return to some sense of normalcy."And when you combine that with a very supportive policy backdrop, it's really going to be a nice year for growth and for equity prices."The Canadian dollar traded for 77.21 cents US, its highest level of the year and compared with 77.13 cents US on Monday. The increase came as a result of weakness in the U.S. dollar. Bangsund said it wasn't helped by Canada’s economy growing by a record 40.5 per cent on an annualized basis in the third quarter, that was below expectations.The TSX was pushed higher by the strength of the materials and heavyweight financials sectors.Higher gold and copper prices pushed materials up 2.6 per cent, with shares of Torex Gold Resources Inc. and Eldorado Gold leading with gains of 12.1 and 10.5 per cent, respectively.The February gold contract was up US$38.00 at US$1,818.90 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 4.7 cents at more than US$3.48 a pound. Financials rose 1.3 per cent with Bank of Montreal shares rising 3.4 per cent and Scotiabank shares up 2.8 per cent after each posted strong quarterly results. The sector was also helped by higher treasury bond yields.Technology moved slightly higher as shares in BlackBerry Ltd. gained as much as 63.9 per cent in intraday trading following news of a deal with Amazon Web Services to develop and market BlackBerry's intelligent vehicle data platform, called IVY. The stock traded as high as $12.54, up from Monday's close of $7.65, before drifting lower and closing at a new 52-week high of $9.08, up 18.7 per cent. Energy inched higher even though the January crude contract was down 79 cents at US$44.55 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was down 0.2 of a cent at US$2.88 per mmBTU.Health care plunged 5.6 per cent with Aurora Cannabis Inc. losing 17.2 per cent.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. Companies in this story: (TSX:BB, TSX:BMO, TSX:BNS, TSX:TXG, TSX:ELD, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press
An incident outside a store in Woodstock on Monday has sparked concern and confusion over enforcement of orange phase rules.On Facebook, a woman posted a photo that appeared to show a person being restrained on the ground by two Woodstock police officers.The woman wrote that she was the person on the ground. She said she was arrested for not providing proof she has a medical exemption from wearing a mask.Masks are required in public spaces indoors and outdoors under the orange phase of COVID-19 recovery, where Woodstock now sits as part of the Fredericton health zone.The woman said she tried to enter the Hart store in Woodstock's Carleton Mall and was refused entry because she was not wearing a mask and would not provide proof of medical exemption."I responded, 'I am not legally obligated to provide proof,'" the woman said in her Facebook post, adding she then asked to speak to the owner of the store.Police were called to the scene, and the woman said she was told she would be fined if she did not leave the store. As she was leaving, she said, the officers asked her for identification.When she refused, she said, she was "tackled," handcuffed, arrested and charged with obstruction of justice, and given a court date in May 2021.Reached through Facebook on Tuesday, the woman declined to comment further.Woodstock police issue statementCBC News has asked to speak with someone at the Woodstock Police Force and is awaiting a response.But the force issued a public statement on its Facebook page on Tuesday, addressing the police response Monday to "a local business in regards to a customer who refused to leave the store following repeated request to wear a mask." > Our priority continues to be the public safety of our community and we respectfully thank all of you for your patience, understanding, and partnership. \- Woodstock Police Force statement on FacebookThe message noted that while it is not customary for police to comment on a matter under investigation or before the courts, "it is necessary that the Woodstock police respond to community inquiry related specifically to why we responded."The statement did not dispute the Facebook poster's account of what happened. Instead, it reminded readers of the pandemic, the state of emergency New Brunswick has declared, and the mandatory order setting out what is allowed and what isn't under different phases of recovery.The Woodstock force "respects that not all citizens agree with the enforcement aspect," said the statement attributed to police Chief Gary Forward. People who question the validity of the enforcement were urged to resort to the "court process.""Our priority has and continues to be the public safety of our community the and we respectfully thank all of you for your patience, understanding, and partnership in responding effectively to this pandemic."The police statement, and the photo of the arrest, have generated widespread public response both in support of the enforcement and objecting to it.Russell, Cardy respond to mask confusion, social media backlashAsked at a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday whether residents must provide proof of medical exemption to mask-wearing when asked, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell referred CBC to the province's website.The website does not appear to directly address the proof of exemption issue but does note that medical exemptions are allowed."However, it is within a business's right to refuse service to a patron who is not wearing a mask, but my understanding is they are supposed to provide some sort of alternative, such as pickup outside the door," she said.At the same news conference, Education Minister Dominic Cardy referred to backlash over enforcement in the early days of the orange phase and noted "four tickets were given over the five-day period" after the Fredericton region returned to orange."Four. So all of the stuff you see on social media around people being arrested in parking lots, a large amount of this is simply not accurate."Cardy cautioned against what he called the "virus of misinformation" and relying on "random people on social media," saying that people should instead rely on reliable sources such as government officials, "people who are legally accountable for the things we say and do."Mixed messages causing backlash, business owner saysWoodstock business owner and former police officer Graham Gill posted a video message on Facebook on Monday night, urging residents to "calm down" and contact their MLAs to voice their concerns.Reached by phone Monday night, Gill said he has had "hundreds, maybe thousands" of people contact him to say they are upset by what they see as "heavy-handed" enforcement of "confusing" Public Health rules."I'm getting messages from very upset people," he said. "I'm afraid this is going to end in violence if they don't get a handle on this quickly."Gill said he did not witness the incident on Monday but he has spoken with the woman who was involved in it. CBC News has also requested comment from Carleton MLA Bill Hogan and Carleton-Victoria MLA Margaret Johnson about the incident Monday and about messaging and enforcement of mask rules."I'm not at all against wearing masks," he said. "But if there are mixed messages, if there's no consistency in the enforcement, you're going to have problems. And we are seeing that."
TORONTO — The Oscar-nominated Canadian star of the film "Juno" has come out as transgender.The Halifax-raised Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page, made the announcement in a powerful post on social media.The star of the Toronto-shot Netflix series "The Umbrella Academy" says his preferred pronouns are he/they.Page's letter thanks those who have supported him along the journey, and addresses the trauma trans people face from discrimination, hateful acts, and a lack of rights.He says it feels remarkable "to finally love" who he is enough to pursue his "authentic self."And he's been "endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community.""Thank you for your courage, your generosity and ceaselessly working to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place. I will offer whatever support I can and continue to strive for a more loving and equal society," Page said in Tuesday's post."I also ask for patience. My joy is real, but it is also fragile. The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared. I'm scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the 'jokes' and of violence." Page said he's not trying to "dampen a moment that is joyous" but wants to address the full picture. "The statistics are staggering. The discrimination towards trans people is rife, insidious and cruel, resulting in horrific consequences," Page wrote."In 2020 alone it has been reported that at least 40 transgender people have been murdered, the majority of which were Black and Latinx trans women. To the political leaders who work to criminalize trans health care and deny our right to exist and to all of those with a massive platform who continue to spew hostility towards the trans community: you have blood on your hands."Page concluded the post by saying he loves that he is trans and queer."And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I dream, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive."Page got an Oscar nomination for playing a pregnant teen in 2007's "Juno," and two Emmy nominations for his reality series "Gaycation," which explores LGBTQ experiences around the world.Page often uses his platform to speak out against injustices and amplify underrepresented voices.In his documentary "There's Something in the Water," which hit Netflix in March, he shines a light on marginalized groups in Nova Scotia affected by what's known as environmental racism.Netflix said Tuesday it was in the process of updating all of the titles the performer and producer is involved with on its service to credit Elliot Page.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The civilian official overseeing the Pentagon's campaign to defeat the Islamic State group in the Middle East was forced to resign in the latest jolt to Pentagon leadership in the waning weeks of the Trump administration. The Pentagon said in a written statement that the acting defence secretary, Christopher Miller, on Monday accepted the resignation of Christopher Maier, who had provided policy oversight of the military's counter-IS effort since March 2017. A defence official familiar with the matter said Maier was told Monday that since President Donald Trump had long ago declared the IS militant group defeated, his office was being disbanded and he was abruptly “terminated.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an internal personnel matter. Maier, a career counterterrorism official, was director of the Defeat-ISIS Task Force, whose responsibilities are to be absorbed by counterterrorism staffs headed by appointees who President Donald Trump placed in senior Pentagon positions in a shakeup that included his firing of Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Nov. 9. Maier's departure was first reported by CNN. The New York Times was first to report that Maier had been forced out. In its statement, the Pentagon gave no reason for Maier's departure but said the decision to disband the task force he led was a recognition of the “success of the military fight to destroy” the Islamic State's grip on territory in Iraq and Syria. Critics say that while the militant group has lost its physical empire, it remains a threat and has been biding its time in search of ways to regroup and re-emerge. “The Department of Defence will continue to engage with our partners and allies to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS and encourage the repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters for prosecution,” the Pentagon said. Nearly 900 U.S. troops are still in Syria to work with local groups aiming to prevent an IS resurgence. The U.S. also has about 3,000 troops in neighbouring Iraq working with local security forces toward the same goal. The counter-IS campaign began during the Obama administration and in some respects was accelerated by Trump. Robert Burns, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies like Netflix will go up under a taxation plan the government wants to put in place next year, experts said Tuesday.Ottawa said in its fiscal update released Monday it will require multinationals to collect GST or HST on digital products and services, which it said would add up to $1.2 billion over five years.Sometimes labelled a "Netflix tax," the measure would also apply to other services such as Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video or the Spotify audio streaming service, as well as digital products such as software applications. The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales, so it's only fair that foreign multinationals should do the same. KPMG tax partner Joe Micallef said it's likely Canadians will end up paying the taxes collected for the government by foreign multinationals."Right now, the way in which they're delivering their services, they're not responsible for the collection," Micallef said."And so, effectively, it would mean that these charges would be appearing on (their) invoices."A regular monthly subscription for a streaming service that delivers video or music would be a simple calculation, with the tax rate applied to the purchase price.But Micallef said it is be more difficult to estimate how much additional tax individual consumers, or businesses, will pay for other types of digital purchases, he said.Something like gaming software might cost little or nothing itself, but offer the option for subsequent charges to add features that make the experience better."How many times? How many transactions? It adds up," Micallef said.Dwayne Winseck, a media industry researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa, also expects companies will add the price of the tax to the total sale price. "I mean, this is really not a very substantial amount, when we're talking about corporate finances," said Winseck, who is a professor of journalism and communication.He said that the term "Netflix tax" has become highly politicized and is often used as "code" for levelling the playing field between U.S.-based digital media companies and traditional Canadian broadcasters."And if the idea is to create a level playing field between those two services, then that by all means that makes great sense," Winseck said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.David Paddon, The Canadian Press
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest drugmakers developing a vaccine against COVID-19, on Tuesday began the process of applying for emergency approval of its vaccine from the European Medicines Agency and Health Canada.In what’s called a rolling submission, J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceutical business sent regulators in the EU and Canada early testing data from its experimental one-dose vaccine for preventing COVID-19. Rolling submissions are used to speed up evaluation of crucial drugs by giving regulators data as it becomes available, and while human testing is still ongoing, rather than submitting reams of data at once after testing ends.Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that the European Medicines Agency allowed the rolling submission mainly due to positive results from laboratory testing, which showed the vaccine triggered a robust immune response, creating antibodies that could fight the virus.The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company also talking with regulators in other countries around the world about starting rolling reviews with them.J&J is now in the final phase of testing its one-dose vaccine on human volunteers. Meanwhile, it recently began a second study looking at whether two vaccine doses work better than just one.The company has said it will provide its vaccine on a not-for-profit basis throughout the pandemic emergency.___THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:— U.S. panel to decide who should get the first COVID-19 shots— BioNTech and Pfizer ask European regulator for expedited approval of coronavirus vaccine— Americans face new COVID-19 restrictions after Thanksgiving— At tiny rural hospitals, exhausted medical workers t reat friends and family— Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton tests positive for coronavirus— A pop-up school has blossomed to teach reading, writing, math and art to Central American children living in a camp of asylum seekers stuck at America’s doorstep___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak___HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:MIAMI — Florida joined Texas and California in surpassing 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases Tuesday as the governor has vowed not to adopt any further restrictions or impose closures like those enacted in the spring and summer.Hospitalizations have also climbed in the state with 4,261 COVID-19 patients, up from 4,139 tallied on Monday.The figure is still less than half what hospitals saw in late July, but it has steadily climbed since October after plateauing at about 2,000 hospitalizations daily for weeks following the summer surge of the virus.The state’s health department on Tuesday reported 82 new virus deaths, raising the toll in the third-most populous state to at least 18,942 since the beginning of the pandemic.While vaccines could arrive as early as this month, officials say it will be spring at the earliest before most people can receive the treatment.Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday on Twitter that the priority for the allocation of the new vaccines should be to residents of long-term care facilities who are “by far the most likely demographic to die with COVID.”___SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco officials said Tuesday that they are considering more stringent restrictions on businesses and private gatherings as cases continue to spike.Mayor London Breed said the speed with which the city’s rate climbed showed “how fast (COVID-19) can move.”She acknowledged the sacrifices people have already made to tamp down two spikes in the spring and summer.“If I’m honest, as someone who basically lives alone, it’s been a tough year for me personally. ... I was so happy to tell everyone just a month ago that San Francisco has done such a good job with COVID that we were in the yellow” tier the state uses to measure case rates.The city’s health director, Dr. Grant Colfax, said new orders could come as soon as Wednesday that may further limit outdoor dining, reduce capacity at local businesses and gyms and potentially impose a quarantine order like the one Santa Clara County adopted.___DENVER -- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis joined the nation’s top infectious disease expert and urged people to wear masks and socially distance to prevent stay-at-home orders and overwhelmed hospitals as cases of the coronavirus surge during the holidays.Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Tuesday that Colorado isn’t alone in seeing a spike in cases. He pleaded with people not to travel or gather in large groups.He said the country will likely see “a surge upon a surge” of cases, based on the number of people who travelled for Thanksgiving. About one in 41 Colorado residents is believed to be contagious with the virus.___RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said on Tuesday that North Carolina will soon receive nearly 85,000 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine from the federal government.Frontline healthcare workers at hospitals will be the first to get vaccinated, followed by other health workers and vulnerable populations, such as people with at least two comorbidities.Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, says North Carolina will receive a weekly allocation of vaccine doses from the federal government. Its first allotment of 84,800 doses could come as soon as Dec. 15.Cooper said every resident in the state will be able to receive a free vaccine, regardless of whether they have health insurance.___BATON ROUGE, La. — The number of COVID-19 patients in Louisiana’s hospitals continues to grow, intensifying worries that coronavirus cases from Thanksgiving holiday gatherings will balloon the number further and could overwhelm hospitals.Louisiana’s health department said 1,280 people in Louisiana were hospitalized Tuesday because of COVID-19. That’s an increase of more than 200 over the last week and more than double the 596 COVID-19 patients hospitalized a month ago.Though hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients remain below Louisiana’s peak of nearly 2,000 in April during the first of the state’s three coronavirus surges, they have been steadily and sharply increasing since mid-October.This prompted Gov. John Bel Edwards to toughen Louisiana’s coronavirus restrictions on businesses and gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving.His chief public health adviser Dr. Joe Kanter warned that the strong uptick in Louisiana’s COVID-19 hospitalizations was happening at a rate “that our hospitals simply cannot stand” without running out of the staff needed to treat patients.___DENVER — Colorado’s Democrat-led Legislature is plowing ahead on special session legislation to provide limited state relief to businesses, students and others affected by the coronavirus pandemic.Democrats have overcome Republican objections to the scope of the aid and GOP attempts to limit the Democratic governor’s ability to decree public health orders.The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed bills to direct $5 million to help residents to pay utility bills; $50 million to assist landlords and tenants; and $100 million to the governor’s office for use in the public health emergency. The bills were immediately taken up by the House.___BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota lawmakers decided to require masks at the state capitol. for the three-day organizational session.The vote Tuesday is supported by legislative leaders but opposed by far-right members of the Republican-controlled Legislature.House Majority Leader Chet Pollert and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner told reporters Tuesday they support a mask mandate at Capitol legislative spaces to help protect lawmakers and the public.Lawmakers are expected to finalize the rules Thursday for the upcoming session it convenes Jan. 5.___BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A health official says Alabama hospitals treating a record number of COVID-19 patients are bracing for a “tidal wave” of additional cases linked to holiday gatherings.Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo of the University of Alabama at Birmingham says health care systems could be overwhelmed within two or three weeks. The Alabama Hospital Association says only 11% of the state’s intensive care beds were available Monday. The remaining spaces could be filled as more patients are admitted than leave hospitals.A statewide order requiring face masks in public expires Dec. 11, but it could be extended by Gov. Kay Ivey for additional weeks as in the past.Nearly 253,000 people have contracted the coronavirus and more than 3,600 have died in Alabama.___JOHNSTON, Iowa — Public health data in Iowa shows the coronavirus infection rate is slowing, but the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 remains high.Iowa’s positivity rate declined in the past two weeks but remains third in the nation at 41%, according to Johns Hopkins University.Some of the ease in case positivity could be from reduced testing around the Thanksgiving holiday. Hospital officials were bracing for another surge in positive tests and illness because of Thanksgiving family gatherings.Iowa posted 24 deaths and 1,906 new confirmed cases on Tuesday. Hospitals reported 1,172 patients with COVID-19, up 10 from the previous day.___HELENA, Mont. — A new counselling hotline is available to help Montana residents struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus crisis.Gov. Steve Bullock announced the new hotline will be available for at least the next nine months. It’s funded by a $1.6 million federal grant.The governor’s office says the new service is meant to aid health care workers, first responders, school officials, veterans, the elderly, Native Americans, and farmers and ranchers but is available to all residents.More than 1,000 new coronavirus cases were reported Tuesday in Montana, bringing the confirmed total to more than 63,000.___CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has returned to his office after he was diagnosed with the coronavirus in mid-November.He announced his return on Twitter. Sisolak, a Democrat, was isolating at the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City.He announced on Nov. 13 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Three days later, he said he was only experiencing mild head congestion.___NEW YORK — An influential scientific panel is set to tackle one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic: Who should get the first vaccines when they become available?The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet in an open-to-the-public, virtual meeting to vote on a proposal that would give priority to health care workers and patients in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The two groups together represent around 23 million Americans out of a population of about 330 million.About 2 million people live in nursing homes and other U.S. long-term care facilities. Those patients and the staff members who care for them have accounted for 6% of the nation’s coronavirus cases and a staggering 39% of the deaths, CDC officials say.Later this month, the Food and Drug Administration will consider approval of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.Experts say the vaccines will probably not become widely available in the U.S. until the spring. There’s been more than 13.6 million confirmed cases and nearly 270,000 deaths in the U.S., the highest tallies in the world.___PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron says France’s coronavirus vaccination program will likely start in early January on a focused population.A French public health watchdog recommended the first vaccines go to nursing home residents. No vaccines have been approved yet.Macron says the larger population is expected to get a potential vaccine between April and June.France has 2.2 million cases, fifth highest in the world, and more than 52,000 deaths.___PHOENIX — Arizona reported a record 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, which included delayed reporting because of the holiday weekend.The state’s coronavirus dashboard reported 10,322 coronavirus cases and 48 deaths. Arizona’s previous single-day high was 4,878 on July 1.Arizona’s latest seven-day rolling average of daily new cases was 3,499 on Monday.Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 continued to increase, reaching 2,594 on Monday, with 597 patients in intensive care unit beds.___TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada won’t lift restrictions at the U.S.--Canada border until the coronavirus is significantly under control throughout the world.Canada has limited border crossings to essential travel since March. Trudeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that Canada is fortunate that trade in essential goods like agriculture products and pharmaceuticals is still flowing back and forth.Trudeau says it’s critical that people not travel. He says while President-elect Joe Biden has an “obvious” different approach on the pandemic than President Donald Trump, the situation in the U.S. remains serious. The United States leads the world with 13.6 million coronavirus cases and nearly 270,000 deaths.About 400,000 people crossed the world’s longest international border each day before the pandemic closed it to nonessential travel nine months ago.___BERLIN — Germany’s health minister toured a new vaccination centre in Duesseldorf on Tuesday, preparing for possible mass vaccinations against the coronavirus in the coming weeks.Vaccinations in Germany will be free, voluntary and people will receive letters about when it’s their turn for the shot, Health Minister Jens Spahn says.The first shots will be given either in vaccination centres around the country or by mobile medical teams who will go to nursing homes to vaccinate the most vulnerable people. Later next year, doctors will vaccinate people at their local practices, the health minister says.Spahn expects Germany to receive five to eight million doses of vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as well as by Moderna.There will be 53 centres opened in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with 18 million people, where Duesseldorf is based. In Berlin, home to 3.6 million people, six centres are being prepared.In Germany, there were 13,604 confirmed cases and 388 deaths in the last 24 hours.___PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island has opened two field hospitals with a combined 900 beds to deal with an expected increase of COVID-19 patients.Care New England opened a field hospital with more than 300 beds in Cranston on Monday, the same day the state sent an emergency alert saying conventional hospitals had reached their coronavirus capacity.A facility with nearly 600 beds opened Tuesday at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence. It is run by Lifespan, the state’s largest hospital group.There were 365 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals on Saturday, according to the state Department of Health. That’s down from a high of 381 on Nov. 23.___ISLAMABAD — A top Pakistani health official says Islamabad plans to procure a COVID-19 vaccine in the first quarter of next year.The announcement Tuesday by Faisal Sultan came hours after Pakistan registered 67 more deaths and 2,458 new coronavirus cases.Pakistan has allocated $150 million to acquire vaccine, which first will be administered to frontline health workers and elderly people.The government has imposed a partial lockdown in many areas across Pakistan. Authorities have asked people to adhere to social distancing rules to avoid stricter measures.Pakistan’s death toll stands at 8,091 and more than 400,000 confirmed cases.deaths.The Associated Press