Democrat Joe Biden has won the electoral battleground of Michigan, the third state that President Donald Trump carried in 2016 that the former vice president has flipped. (Nov. 4)
Democrat Joe Biden has won the electoral battleground of Michigan, the third state that President Donald Trump carried in 2016 that the former vice president has flipped. (Nov. 4)
The City of Windsor has ordered a local man to take his driveway tent down — a temporary structure he uses to help get his daughter, who has a disability, in and out the house in the winter.Steven Levesque says he put up the tent because it's a safer and easier way of transporting his 14-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, without worrying about the ice and snow."We put the enclosure to keep the van out of the elements," he said. "It's a handicap vehicle that we can load the ramp out halfway and get my daughter into the van when we transport her."This is the first year Levesque and his fiance have used a driveway tent. Levesque says it's because as his daughter has grown older and bigger, it's also become more of a struggle to get her from the school bus to the house and vice-versa. He also finds staying with his daughter in the tent for a bit before bringing her in the house makes the process easier.He intends to keep the tent up only temporarily in the winter, and take it down when spring comes.He put up the tent on Thursday last week, but on Friday, he received notice that the structure is in violation of a city zoning bylaw. A bylaw officer will issue a citation if he doesn't have the tent down by Friday."I don't know what to do," Levesque said. "Come December 5 we'll see what happens, whether I take it down or face the consequences."Levesque spoke to the bylaw officer who gave him the notice, but beyond receiving a little sympathy, didn't get very far.He's contacted every member of city council to see if he can get an exception. He's also posted in the Windsor Car Spotters Facebook group, asking for advice.Levesque says he doesn't know who complained about the tent."Most people recognize our situation and are okay with it," he said. "But there's always that bad apple that they have to mind everyone's business but their own.""It might be an eyesore, but it's a needed eyesore for us."'It's certainly not a good situation'John Revell, the city's chief building official, says there isn't much he or the bylaw office can do to make an exception for Levesque's needs.He says they received a complaint through 311, and that there is an open and active investigation."In situations like that, those temporary covers people like to use to prevent snow from getting on their vehicles, those aren't allowed in front yards — they're prohibited in the front of a house," he said.He says that no orders have been issued yet. If Levesque does get an order, he'll have 30 days to comply, and if he still doesn't comply, he'll get a warning letter.After that, Revell says, the city would file with the courts and it would become a court matter."The inspector's following up with the homeowner, and we'll let the inspector deal with that," he said. "It's certainly not a good situation, and I certainly feel for the homeowner, but there is a prohibition under the zoning bylaw, so that's why there's an open investigation here."Levesque's only option, according to Revell, is to go through the planning department to see if he can get approval for rezoning or temporary use zoning — but that matter would have to go before council and get approved.In any case, Levesque is planning on keeping the tent up."I think that's what we're intending to do at this point," he said. "I think my daughter's health and safety is more important than any repercussions we'll suffer."
Halifax regional council has endorsed an updated business plan for the new convention centre, which includes a deficit of $11.1 million.The municipality and the province have an agreement to split any losses evenly.The municipality can take money from its convention centre reserve fund, which includes just over $2 million in property taxes from the facility for 2020-21. Officials with Events East, which operates the Halifax Convention Centre along with the Scotiabank Centre and Ticket Atlantic, presented council with its revised business case Tuesday.The presentation of the plan had been delayed since the end of March due to the pandemic.Focus on safetyThe plan is "focused on the safe resumption of event activity and supporting the community and economy through recovery from the pandemic and its impacts," according to a Halifax staff report.The report put forward five focus areas: * Returning to safe operations. * Business retention. * Industry and community alignment. * Safe return to work. * Responsible management.Events East president Carrie Cussons said the revised business plan for the convention centre takes the impact of the pandemic into consideration."While the events may be smaller, there will be events that will be hosted both on the national and international level," she said. "They will be looking for destinations that are perceived to be safe, and I believe Halifax has a unique position."300 staff laid offAll events planned between March and September of this year were cancelled or postponed. The Ticket Atlantic box office remains closed.The business plan assumes "the current gathering limits and border restrictions will remain in place until the end of the fiscal year."Cussons said of the 400 staff members employed at the convention centre and the Scotiabank Centre, 300 have been laid off. Those who remain are looking after the buildings and rebooking events for future dates. MORE TOP STORIES
OTTAWA — A new poll suggests most Canadians aren't currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first.Thirty-seven per cent of respondents to a survey conducted by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies say they are very concerned that Canada may not receive doses of a new COVID vaccine as early as the United States."That's not necessarily low, but I think most pundits would have expected this number to be much higher," said Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.Meanwhile, 48 per cent say they are not concerned about getting a vaccine first and 10 per cent say they don't care at all or are not planning to get vaccinated anyway.Getting a vaccine before other countries doesn't seem to be "a major (issue for the Liberal government), which is contrary to what we might have thought … when the prime minister actually said that we would not be the first ones to get doses," Bourque said.The amount of concern regarding getting a COVID-19 vaccine first varies along party lines, with 45 per cent of self-identified Conservative supporters saying they are very concerned that Canada may not receive doses of a new COVID vaccine at the same time as other countries. Only 38 per cent of Liberal supporters say they are concerned. "The Conservative voters have the highest rate of people who say they're very concerned about not getting (a vaccine) first," said Bourque. "It's probably just because they tend to have a negative view or perspective on the Trudeau government, period."Furthermore, with the likelihood of multiple vaccines arriving over a period of time, just 28 per cent of respondents said they will take the first vaccine they can get, while 45 per cent said they will wait for other vaccines to become available.Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians and 55 per cent say it should be given on a voluntary basis.But the poll suggests that the vast majority of Canadians want people entering Canada to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with 83 per cent of respondents saying vaccines should be required. Also, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said employers should be able to demand that workers be vaccinated.The poll suggests that 65 per cent of Canadians intend to take a COVID-19 vaccine when it's approved by Health Canada and available for free while 17 per cent say they don't intend to. "That proportion used to be a bit higher, closer to 70 per cent in the spring. Since then it's gone down," said Bourque. "Over the past three months, when we've actually asked the question again, it is fairly stable in the mid-60s.""It really seems that two thirds of us are kind of committed to this idea of getting the vaccine when it's available."The poll of 1,516 adult Canadians in an online panel was conducted from Nov. 26 to Nov. 29 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
Russia is trying to import foreign-made drugs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic due to a shortage of products at home, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Tuesday, as authorities reported a record 569 new daily deaths from the coronavirus. Russia has several vaccines against the virus in the works and produces some drugs domestically, including Coronavir and Avifavir, both of which are based on favipiravir, which was developed in Japan and is widely used there as the basis for treatment. During a meeting with senior government officials on Tuesday, Murashko said there was a problem with the supply of favipiravir in some regions.
Bright Lights Windsor is back on — but like many events during the pandemic, it's going to look different this year.The "reimagined" event is now going to take place citywide. Signature displays, which Windsorites would normally view at Jackson Park, are now placed in different pockets of the city.The announcement comes about a month after the City of Windsor decided to pull the plug on this year's festival because of COVID-19.The city also announced on Monday that it gave $20,000 to each of the nine business improvement associations (BIAs) which "will be used to purchase holiday lights and displays to further light up our neighbourhoods and support local small business," — a boost that some local business owners, including Filip Rocca, the owner of Mezzo Ristorante & Lounge and president of the Erie Street BIA, say they need."It was a great move by the city to offer the buyers a little bit of funding to spruce up their areas. We've been wanting to do that on every street for a couple of years now. So this gave us the opportunity to pull the trigger this year and help with obviously paying for it. So we're really happy about it," Rocca said."Not only cosmetically it does look nicer, especially at night, but obviously, you know, a little safer for the area as well."He said he looks forward to seeing the trees along Erie Street lit up in the coming days and hopes it drives up more customers to local businesses.Mohammed Al Khaleel, the owner of Brothers Barber Shop on Ottawa Street, hopes this to be case for his business as well."It makes me feel good when people walk around the business and when people around the street," he said.Kathy Molenaar, the owner of Victoria's Flowers and Gifts on Erie Street, said her business won't be benefiting from the light displays as the bulk of her business operates the in morning and early afternoons, but she hopes the light displays across the city "brings a lot of cheer and a lot of businesses to prosper in good ways."Locations of light displays include: * Charles Clark Square * Chimczuk Museum * City Hall * Jackson Park * Mackenzie Hall * Ouellette Overpass * Transit Centre * WFCU Centre * Willistead Manor * Windsor International Aquatic and Training CentreTake a look at some of the holiday lights draped across the city:
The Canadian navy's new frigates will get a cutting-edge radar system that has never before been installed on a warship — a recent decision that quietly ended a heated debate within the $60 billion warship program.The Lockheed Martin-built AN/SPY-7 radar will be installed on the new warships despite a furious back-room lobbying campaign by elements in the defence industry to convince DND to take a pass on the new system.It was a critical decision — one on which the federal government has been silent, apart from a few scattered social media posts, despite repeatedly promising to be more open and transparent about the multi-billion-dollar decisions it makes on shipbuilding.The choice of a radar system for the frigates has important implications for the military, as well as for the taxpayers who will foot the bill for Ottawa's $60 billion plan to build 15 new surface combat ships for the navy.The BMD optionIt also has significant political ramifications because Lockheed Martin's AN/SPY-7 radar is easy to upgrade to a ballistic missile defence system — a defence program successive Canadian governments have resisted joining.The contract to install the radar system on the new frigates was awarded in September by the warship's prime contractor, Irving Shipbuilding Inc., and acknowledged publicly by Lockheed Martin Canada earlier this month.Japan purchased a land-based version of the radar to serve as an early warning system for North Korean ballistic missile launches. That plan was rolled back earlier this year in response to fears that the missile batteries — located near the radar installations — would pose a hazard to densely-populated surrounding areas.At the moment, Canada and Spain are the only two countries planning to put the SPY-7 on their warships, although Japan has now also signalled it might equip some of its new warships with the technology.For more than three decades, Canadian governments of both political stripes have turned down U.S. overtures to join its ballistic missile defence (BMD) network. The issue became a diplomatic lightning rod the last time it was discussed over 15 years ago.The new frigates, including their radar systems, are being designed with BMD in mind in case a future government decides to get Canada involved.The potential for a new political brawl over BMD worries leading defence expert Dave Perry less than the technical and budget issues related to the federal government's choice of radar system.New system unproven, says expertIn a statement, the Department of National Defence insisted that the cost of adapting the radar to the Canadian frigate design "will be covered as part of the ($140 million) long-lead contract" signed with Irving Shipbuilding in early 2019, after Lockheed Martin was selected to design the new ships.There is another concern, though.The fact that the AN/SPY-7 "has not been marinized and deployed on a ship at sea is significant," said Perry, a defence procurement expert and vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute."It means on the spectrum of developmental production, it is far closer to the purely developmental end of the spectrum than something that is deployed and has been proven on a couple of different navies around the world," he said.Lockheed Martin officials dispute that assessment, saying all of the components have been used on warships in one way or another, including the cabinets used to house the electronics."The SPY-7 radar is not in development. It was designed for use as a maritime radar and is based on mature technology that has been thoroughly tested and is being adapted and scaled for a variety of customers in both land-based and at-sea applications," said Gary Fudge, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Canada Rotary and Mission Systems.The company officials concede it will take design work to integrate the system into the new Canadian frigates, but insist that would be true of any other new radar system.There are still risks, Perry said.Canada's struggles with new technology"Canada has a lot of problems bringing development technology into service," he said, pointing to auditor general reports on the procurement fiasco involving the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter and the 16-year quest to replace the air force's fixed-wing search plane."Part of the problem is making sure you understand what it is you actually are buying," Perry added. "So if you are structuring a process to buy something off-the-shelf, you can buy something off-the-shelf. But we generally don't do that."DND said the AN/SPY-7 was pitched as part of Lockheed Martin's bid to design and manage the frigate program, and the navy needs the most up-to-date technology in warships that will be in service for decades.The system represents the "latest generation radar, with capability that surpasses other units fielded today," said DND spokesperson Jessica Lamirande in a media statement.DND was targeted by a furious behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign aimed at getting it to drop Lockheed Martin's radar system.An unsolicited defence industry slide deck presentation — obtained and published last year by CBC News — made the rounds within the government and landed on the desks of senior officials and military commanders. It described the AN/SPY-7 as "unproven technology" that will be "costly to support."Lockheed Martin officials pushed back against that assertion recently, saying that the new system will be easier to maintain, relies on existing components and — importantly — doesn't have to be switched off for maintenance work.Lockheed Martin officials were less clear on whether the overall system has yet to be fully certified for use on warships at sea."SPY-7 technology has been declared Technical Readiness Level 7 by the U.S. government, meaning it has been tested in an operationally relevant environment," said Fudge. "SPY-7 for CSC takes advantage of investments across multiple shore and sea based programs as well as internal funding for its development and testing. Canada has agreed to pay for the CSC-specific requirements and integration of SPY-7 into the CSC platform, which is required for any radar selected."
Chez Doris, normally a day centre for homeless and vulnerable women, is expanding its services to offer beds and overnight warming stations to women starting Dec. 1.In all, 18 beds and 16 rest chairs will be available until March 31, 2021. Places must be reserved in advance, either by phone or in person, at 3 p.m.In order to keep their place, women will have to be on site by 8 p.m. or their spot will be given to someone on a waiting list. Women wishing to use the warming station must arrive before 10 p.m.Marina Boulos-Winton, executive director of Chez Doris, explained that the centre is not set up as a shelter and isn't equipped to accept walk-ins all night long.She said the increased demand for services is connected to the pandemic red zone restrictions."The extent of homelessness has been really hidden because you have a lot of couch surfers who can't couch surf anymore, because people are isolating and they don't want somebody who has been all over the city, or in contact with other people, bringing possibly the virus to their home," she said.Boulos-Winton said that in the early days of the pandemic, when many services for the homeless closed abruptly, homeless women had nowhere to turn."What women were doing to stay safe [was] riding the subways all day long," she told CBC's Let's Go.In July, Chez Doris started staying open later and offering three meals a day to women in the downtown area.She said with the winter approaching, many women have fewer options to get warm since many public places are closed."In the summer maybe you could get away with sitting at McDonalds all day long, or another 24-hour coffee shop," she said. "In the colder months, there's really nowhere to hide, especially during a red zone."In addition to the demand caused by the pandemic, staff at Chez Doris noted a clear increase in drug overdoses and violence toward homeless women, especially Indigenous women.Boulos-Winton said they also heard from partners at Indigenous organization Makivik that there was "a rash of Indigenous women dying who sleep outside." She said if they can secure the funding, the overnight measures may be extended beyond March 31. Following a private donation of $1 million, Chez Doris was able to buy a residential building not far from its existing location on Chomedey Street.However, it's taken two years to raise the money to turn it into a shelter. Now, Boulos-Winton said construction will begin on the second site by January.To reserve a bed at Chez Doris, women can call 514-937-2341 ext 252 or come in person at 3 p.m. Women must be on site by 8 p.m. or they will lose their spot and it will be given to someone on a waiting list.
Recent developments: * The Moodie Drive testing centre closed on Tuesday because of a power outage. * Quebec's holiday guidelines may change again.What's the latest?The Moodie Drive COVID-19 testing and care centre closed Tuesday because of a power outage. The Queensway Carleton Hospital said anyone with appointments at the Moodie Drive location will be accepted at any of Ottawa's other testing sites as a walk-in patient. Ottawa Hydro said power in the Moodie and Fallowfield area should be restored by about 4 p.m.Ottawa has 34 of Ontario's 1,707 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases. One more person has died of COVID-19 there and in western Quebec.Quebec Premier François Legault said there may need to be changes to that province's holiday guidelines because of the high rate of spread of the coronavirus and number of hospitalizations.Any changes would be made by Dec. 11, he said, or two weeks before Christmas.More antibody tests are now available, but health experts and the private labs that conduct the tests are reminding patients not to alter their behaviour if they receive a positive test.How many cases are there?As of Tuesday, 8,521 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa. There are 351 known active cases, 7,794 cases now considered resolved and 376 people who have died of COVID-19.Public health officials have reported more than 13,900 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 12,500 resolved cases.Ninety people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario, along with 81 in western Quebec. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If you'd like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch.What can I do?Both Ontario and Quebec are telling people to limit close contact only to those they live with, or one other home if people live alone, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.Ontario says this will apply through December's holidays, with people who live away from home such as post-secondary students asked to reduce close contacts for 10 to 14 days before going back.Quebec has shared what it will take to have at most two small holiday gatherings this month. Rules won't be loosened until mid-January at the earliest.Travel from one region to another is discouraged throughout the Outaouais.Ontario says people shouldn't travel to a lower-level region from a higher one and some lower-level health units want residents to stay put to curb the spread.Ottawa is currently in the orange zone of Ontario's five-colour pandemic scale, which allows organized gatherings and restaurants, gyms and theatres to bring people inside.Public skating returns to 11 Ottawa arenas today with reservations ahead of time and limits of 25 skaters on the ice.Three other eastern Ontario health units are under yellow zone restrictions: * The Eastern Ontario Health Unit. * Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health. * Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.That means restaurant hours, table limits and rules around capacity fall somewhere between those in place in Ottawa and the rest of eastern Ontario, which is currently green, the lowest level.In Gatineau and the surrounding area, which is one of Quebec's red zones, health officials are asking residents not to leave home unless it's essential.There is no indoor dining at restaurants and gyms, cinemas and performing arts venues are all closed.The rest of western Quebec is orange, which allows private gatherings of up to six people and organized ones up to 25 — more in seated venues.What about schools?There have been about 200 schools in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region with a confirmed case of COVID-19:Few have had outbreaks, which are declared by a health unit in Ontario when there's a reasonable chance someone who has tested positive caught COVID-19 during a school activity.Distancing and isolatingThe novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes or speaks onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air.People can be contagious without symptoms.This means people should take precautions such as staying home when sick, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean, socializing outdoors as much as possible and maintaining distance from anyone they don't live with — even with a mask on.WATCH | A recap of the new federal financial plan:Ontario has abandoned its concept of social circles.Masks are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec and should be worn outdoors when people can't distance from others. Three-layer non-medical masks with a filter are recommended.Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their local public health unit. The duration depends on the circumstances in both Ontario and Quebec.WATCH | COVID-19 and financial planning:Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible. Anyone who has travelled recently outside Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and the loss of taste or smell. Less common symptoms include chills, headaches and pink eye. Children can develop a rash.If you have severe symptoms, call 911.Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic and resources are available to help.Where to get testedIn eastern Ontario:Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment.Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, or if you've been told to by your health unit or the province.People without symptoms, but who are part of the province's targeted testing strategy, can make an appointment at select pharmacies.Ottawa has nine permanent test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high.Kingston's test site is at the Beechgrove Complex. The area's other site is in Napanee.People can arrange a test in Bancroft and Picton by calling the centre or Belleville and Trenton online.The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Alexandria, Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Limoges, Rockland and Winchester.The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile test site visiting smaller communities.Renfrew County residents should call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 for a test or with questions, COVID-19-related or not. Test clinic locations are posted weekly.In western Quebec:Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms or who have been in contact with someone with symptoms.Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau seven days a week at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 avenue Buckingham.They can now check the approximate wait time for the Saint-Raymond site.There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Gracefield, Val-des-Monts and Fort-Coulonge.Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby.First Nations, Inuit and Métis:Akwesasne had its most known COVID-19 cases of the pandemic in November. Its council is asking residents to avoid unnecessary travel and its curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. is back.Akwesasne schools and its Tsi Snaihne Child Care Centre are temporarily closed to in-person learning. It has a COVID-19 test site available by appointment only.Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte reported its first confirmed case last month.People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603.Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.For more information
Most food banks in Ontario experienced a “rapid surge in demand” during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report published by Feed Ontario. One of the Sudbury Food Bank’s agencies reported a 150 per cent increase in the number of people accessing emergency food support each day, while Manitoulin Family Resources served 1,500 clients during their busiest month – a significant increase from their regular 300 to 330 clients. “COVID-19 has compounded the already extreme challenges that are being faced by low-income Ontarians, and it has really impacted all communities,” said Carolyn Stewart, executive director of Feed Ontario. “Particularly in terms of food bank use, we are concerned about what’s to come in the winter months.” The 2020 Hunger Report released on Monday looked at data from 130 direct member food banks and 1,100 affiliate services that was gathered between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020. It also included a special feature about the impact of COVID-19 on emergency food assistance services from the onset of the pandemic on March 17 to September 2020. About 1 in 8 Ontarians – or 13 per cent of Ontario households – were considered food insecure in 2018, and 537,575 individuals accessed food bank services in the province between 2019 and 2020. More than 3.2 million visits were made to food banks in Ontario during the same period, and 33 per cent of food bank visits were from children. In the last two years, the province has seen a 7.8 per cent increase in the number of people accessing support, and an 11.8 per cent increase in the number of visits being made. “Unfortunately, food bank use continues to rise and last year was no exception. We believe this continual increase in food bank use is driven by three things: an inadequate social safety net, precarious employment, and unaffordable housing,” said Stewart. “For example, over 85 per cent of those that we serve are either rental or social housing tenants who spend over 70 per cent of their monthly income on rent. The good place to be, they say, is around 30 per cent. That’s significantly more, and it leaves little room for anything else.” More than 65 per cent of individuals who visited food banks in the last year were on social assistance, many of them receiving far less than the “national standard” of $2,000 set by the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). There has also been a 44 per cent increase in the number of employed people accessing food bank services over the last four years. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these pre-existing issues. From March to June, food banks saw an overall 26.5 increase in the number of first-time users. Out of 200 food bank users surveyed in September, roughly 50 per cent are worried about defaulting on a mortgage or facing eviction in the next two to six months. An additional 90 per cent are incurring a significant amount of debt just to cover their expenses. Manitoulin Family Resources, an agency that provides programming related to violence against women prevention, children’s services, and emergency food assistance to Manitoulin Island, shared its story with Feed Ontario for the purpose of the report. “While the initial days of the pandemic were very quiet for food bank requests, it caused concern that we were not even receiving requests from some of our regular visitors,” said the organization. “(Eventually), referrals began to increase, sometimes high, sometimes low, but then came a day where a worker called with 700 names of those in need. It was a turning point.” The organization decided to send prepared pallets of food for pickup instead of their regular individual baskets. The pallets were then delivered and distributed to households in the area. “For three consecutive months, our food bank provided food to over 1,000 individuals, with the highest month being over 1,500. As restrictions have eased in the province, we have seen a drop from those high numbers,” said Manitoulin Family Resources in the report. “Some have speculated that individuals have had financial stability due in large part to CERB, but as CERB evolves and COVID numbers have again started to rise at a faster rate than the earlier wave, we are attempting to prepare for what will come.” The report confirmed that according to the data, government income supports like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the moratorium on evictions and the student loan interest freeze did help relieve some of the pressure on food bank use. Community initiatives like pop-up food banks and meal programs also worked alongside government intervention to address the emergency need for food. “Food banks would like to work ourselves out of business. No food bank thinks that we are the solution to food insecurity or poverty. Rather, we are serving an emergency need in the community,” said Stewart. “The only way to address that need is good public policy. In our report, we do recommend a few key things to help move that needle forward.” These things include reinstating the CERB benefit for those who have been impacted by COVID-19 as well as rent relief for low-income tenants that are facing large rent arrears or eviction, and the overhauling of Ontario’s social assistance programs so that recipients have the means to move out of poverty. “Ontarians need access to quality employment, support services that do not perpetuate or deepen poverty, and access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing,” concluded the report. “By investing in these key solutions, the Government of Ontario will not only reduce poverty and food insecurity, but also build a more equitable and healthier province for the people and families that call it home.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Kurt Russell says he kept both his father's influence and his grandchildren's bragging rights in mind when he reprised his role as Santa Claus in upcoming holiday movie "The Christmas Chronicles 2." (Dec. 1)
Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic? There are ways to reduce risk, but health experts advise avoiding it when possible. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says holiday shopping in crowded stores is a “higher risk” activity and that people should limit any in-person shopping, including at supermarkets. Instead, the agency recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders to your car. If you need to enter a store, go during off hours when there will likely be fewer people. Wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away from others. Try to spend as little time inside the store as possible, says Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a public health expert at Cornell University. “You just want to go in and out,” he says. “Get your shopping done and move on.” Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when you leave, and then wash your hands with soap and water when you get home. Retailers have been doing all kinds of things to make shoppers feel safe, but they don't eliminate the risk. Some check shoppers' temperatures at the entrance, for example, but an infected person may not have a fever and can still spread the virus. The plastic barriers between customers and cashiers also might not block all droplets from an infected person, Weisfuse says. If the air in a store feels stuffy, he says that’s a sign of poor ventilation, and you should leave. ___ The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org. Read previous Viral Questions: What does emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine mean? Is it safe to stay in hotels during the pandemic? Is it safe yet to fly during the pandemic? The Associated Press
Climate change is often relegated to simply being an environmental issue, instead of a problem that impacts every aspect of our lives, from economies to energy systems, to what food we eat — even national security. This week, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was tapped by President-elect Joe Biden to serve in his administration in a newly-minted position: climate envoy, which will be a part of the administration’s national security team. “America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,” Kerry said in a Twitter statement Monday. There are countless moral reasons to care about the effects of climate change and the especially devastating consequences coming first for vulnerable populations and developing nations. But if that isn’t enough of a motivator to prioritize action on climate change, there is also the argument that climate change will destabilize the world as we know it and become a national security threat to the people of North America. This isn’t a doomsday scenario from the fringes; it is the information being put forward by the U.S. and Canadian Armed Forces — and has been for two decades. In 2018, Col. Denis Boucher, then the director of capability integration for the Canadian Armed Forces, spoke at a symposium hosted by the Centre for National Security Studies. In his presentation, Boucher outlined how climate change will completely alter the security landscape going forward; everything from a more accessible Arctic as sea ice continues to melt, to projections that 40 per cent of the world will be facing water shortages by 2045. “Some oil-producing nations may become economically impoverished and could become instability hotspots,” the presentation reads. The Canadian Armed Forces declined this week to provide anyone to be interviewed on this topic. Boucher’s presentation emphasized the term most used by security officials when discussing climate change: threat multiplier. The phrase is used to demonstrate that many of the factors used to determine security threats are themselves affected by climate change — food security, poverty, not to mention extreme weather events. The idea being that magnifying these factors can have destabilizing effects. The Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, was principally sparked by political and economic factors, but it is also one of the most cited recent instances where environmental factors exacerbated an already precarious situation. A drought that had begun in 2006 left the people of the country more vulnerable and more desperate as political tensions rose. In an article published by the NATO Association of Canada, the drought is identified as an often-overlooked factor in the conflict. “The drought exacerbated the already-present water crisis and food insecurity happening in the country, leaving Syria even more vulnerable. Due to the lack of proper governance and infrastructure, Syria’s government was not prepared — or perhaps not willing — to deal with the climate-related crisis and people were forced to flee,” the article states. The Syrian civil war was consequently one of the biggest factors leading to Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015 that sparked intense political standoffs across the continent and a reckoning for European leaders in how to deal with the influx of people. The World Bank has projected that within the South Asian, Latin American and sub-Saharan African regions alone, there will be 143 million people displaced by the impacts of climate change by 2050. “In terms of the ‘threat multiplier’ language, what’s implicit in that is that the thing being threatened is the United States or Canada. And what drops out of that kind of a frame — especially when the threat is something like migration — is you don’t have as much room then to humanize and empathize and understand the insecurities that those migrants are experiencing. What’s driving them to be moving in the first place,” said Will Greaves, assistant professor of international relations at the University of Victoria. Greaves researches the intersection of security studies and climate change and he isn’t terribly optimistic about a stable future as the world warms further. “So if this was just a smaller taste, and we responded by building walls and barricading people outside of our countries, and criminalizing them, and so on. I don’t see a lot of reason why we would expect a national security response to worsening climate change, and worse climate impacts, to not resemble, in general terms, what we’ve already seen,” Greaves said. North America, of course, has a different set of circumstance from Europe, with more isolation from the problems of other countries. However, Canada (and the U.S. to a lesser extent) do face another climate-sparked security concern: the threat of open waters in the Arctic. Northern parts of Canada have long been protected by an ice wall, so to speak. Sea ice is melting at unprecedented rates and completely ice-free summers could be a possibility as soon as 2035. Conventionally, if ever talked about, the possible threat on Canada’s northern border is that another country, often Russia, could encroach on sovereign waters and land. But a much more probable issue is one of being unable to address worst-case scenario situations that arise simply by nature of there being more shipping traffic in the Northwest Passage, Greaves said. “I would suggest that because of the very limited abilities that the Canadian state has to respond to a major marine disaster, or a nautical accident or something like that, that even good ships doing normal business things should be viewed as very problematic as we would not be able to effectively respond,” he said. This summer, the Royal Canadian Navy received the first of six expected ships that will be used explicitly to patrol the Canadian Arctic. The HMCS Harry DeWolf is the first step towards expanding surveillance and defence activities across the country’s northern coastline. At a conference in Ottawa in March, Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance focused more on the conventional security threats that exist as the Arctic opens. “What I am increasingly concerned about is the Arctic as an avenue of approach. The Canadian Armed Forces are mandated to deter and defeat threats to North America that would travel through the Arctic waters and airspace in the years to come,” Vance said. “This requires strengthening interagency and multinational partnerships, increasing surveillance and military capabilities, and improving our ability to base, project, and sustain forces in the North. It requires new approaches to sovereignty assurance that accounts for the very real pan-domain nature of conflict.” However, Canada’s troops are often tied up, having experienced a 1,000 per cent increase in the number of deployments to help in the case of natural disasters in just four years, according to CAF’s data. “Our force structure right now, I would say, is probably too small to be able to deal with all of the tasks,” Vance told CBC in 2019. Greaves said it is fine if Canada wants to use its military for purposes like disaster response, but that is a decision to be made, and it will mean that other priorities are left by the wayside as Canada’s military is not big enough to do all things. “I find that to be a really interesting tension,” Greaves said. “It raises these really fundamental questions about what is the purpose of the Canadian Armed Forces? What are the tasks that they’ll be assigned? And will they be able to do all of those tasks?” One thing is for certain, climate change will help shape national security discussions around the world for decades to come.Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
When Carleton University researcher Cheryl Harasymchuk first heard about social-distancing protocols early on in the pandemic, she immediately thought of all the single people living alone, and the toll the public health measures might take on them.At the heart of relationship science is the concept that humans are social animals, the psychology professor said, with an innate need to belong. "The social-distancing restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic potentially threatened this need," Harasymchuk told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. "Particularly for single people living alone."During the spring and summer months, her small research team studied how these bachelors and bachelorettes coped with the constraints, in hopes of identifying the psychological factors that make people resilient to social isolation. OverindulgingNot all single people are dealing with the stress of isolation the same way, Harasymchuk said. Some use negative coping strategies such as excessive drinking, eating or video gaming, while others use more positive strategies. Approximately two-thirds of participants said they overindulged at some point over the six-week study period, and also indicated these behaviours negatively affected other parts of their lives. Moreover, once they started, those who overindulged had a hard time stopping. But they also reported feeling greater satisfaction the more they sought contact and support from friends online. The satisfaction was greater still when those virtual encounters involved engaging with friends in a playful or fun way, such as holding a dress-up night over Zoom or an online bake-off.Most singles 'quite resilient'"It wasn't just about the emotional support that was important in times of needs," Harasymchuk said. "It was also about meeting the other needs related to fun and positivity."The extroverts of the sample group were more likely to reach out to friends, while others were more likely to turn to those negative coping strategies.Although not everyone is doing OK during the pandemic, Harasymchuk said the average single person surveyed has proven quite resilient over the past year."The main message that I'd like to put [out there] is that people can manage for this period of time," she said.
Antibody tests are now available in Ontario but health experts and private labs are reminding patients that a positive test doesn't mean someone is immune — we still don't know if SARS-CoV-2 antibodies protect all people from getting COVID-19 again or from spreading it to others.LifeLabs became the latest commercial lab in Ontario to start testing patients for antibodies on Nov. 23. Dynacare has been offering SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing in Ontario since Sept. 8, a spokesperson said Monday. Since August, the company has performed about 10,000 tests in Quebec and Ontario, half within the last month alone.Both the serology tests offered by the companies do not detect an active COVID-19 infection but instead use blood samples to look for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.The tests promise to give some people an answer as to whether that persistent cough or scratchy throat a few months back was potentially COVID-19, but may not offer much insight beyond that. COVID-19 immunity remains murkyMarc-André Langlois, a University of Ottawa professor and Canada research chair in molecular virology and intrinsic immunity, said while a previous COVID-19 infection likely does provide some immunity, it's not clear how robust a protection that offers or how long it lasts."The scientific evidence is now showing that if you've been exposed and you've made antibodies, there's a good probability that you will be protected at least in the short term," he said."What no one knows, at this stage, is how long this protection from the antibodies will last."The protection could span a few months or possibly up to a year, he said. What's more, it's not clear what protection actually looks like."We know reinfections can happen, they've been documented," said Langlois, adding that even if a patient had mild symptoms the first time around, they may not have the same outcome again. It's also possible the antibodies will not provide what's called sterilizing immunity, where recovered patients cannot pass on a virus to others, he said. In other words, someone with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may still be able to spread COVID-19. 'We're dealing with nuances' Ottawa Public Health recommends that anyone who tests positive for antibodies continue to exercise normal COVID-19 precautions, like physical distancing and mask wearing, and not to take a relaxed approach.Public Health Ontario advises against the use of antibody testing for determining the immune status of patients.Langlois doesn't envy public health officials who must both acknowledge that antibodies do seem to offer some degree of protection but not enough for people to let their guards down."We're dealing with nuances," he said. "That is the concern here, [an antibody test] provides people with a false sense of protection."Costs of the testsA SARS-CoV-2 antibody test at LifeLabs costs $75 while a test at Dynacare costs $70 and both are available in Ontario with a doctor's referral. The companies acknowledge on their websites that a positive antibody test does not mean a patient has immunity to COVID-19.In some circumstances, Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) will pay for the antibody test, such as in children with multisystem inflammatory syndrome and patients with severe illness who have tested negative for COVID-19 repeatedly, and where an antibody test would be a "helpful adjunctive tool," Public Health Ontario says. For the most accurate results, LifeLabs recommends patients get tested between three and four weeks after symptoms or possible COVID-19 exposure but said antibodies have been found months after infection.Dynacare says patients can get tested 14 days or more after an initial infection.
Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are in a tight race to launch their COVID-19 vaccines in Europe after both applied for emergency EU approval on Tuesday, though there was uncertainty over whether a rollout could begin this year. The applications to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) came a day after Moderna sought emergency use for its shot in the United States and more than a week after Pfizer and BioNTech did the same. U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German development partner BioNTech said their vaccine could be launched in the European Union as early as this month.
MONTREAL — Canadians planning to buy a live Christmas tree this season should start shopping now and expect to pay more, the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association says.Farmers anticipate 2020 will be a record sales year. Association head Larry Downey says it's simple supply and demand: a shortage of trees coupled with a greater appetite from people hoping to liven up their living spaces amid widespread stay-at-home orders. “Personally, we don’t see COVID affecting us,” says Downey, whose family farm in Hatley, Que. sells up to 30,000 Christmas trees each year.Most wholesale farmers Downey has spoken this year with have already reached sales records, he added, with much of the demand coming from vendors in the United States. Retailers typically place their orders for trees as early as June, Downey says.The Christmas tree market is still feeling the effects of the Great Recession, which put many U.S. growers out of business and led others to reduce planting. Since saplings take eight to 10 years to reach the size of a typical Christmas tree, the effects of the lower supply have only recently emerged. In turn, the shortage has pushed prices upward. Downey says Christmas trees are retailing for about $5 more this year, continuing a trend that has been ongoing for several years. The average price of a tree rose 123 per cent to US$78 in 2018 from US$35 in 2013, according to the U.S. National Christmas Tree Association.Prices are on the rise in Canada as well. Stephane Bernier, who runs Plantation Bernier in Lac-Brome, Que., and Bronwyn Harper, who co-owns the Hillcrest Tree Farm near Ottawa, both say they have raised prices for Christmas trees this year.On top of the shortage, tree sellers say they are expecting strong demand from consumers looking for an outdoor, physically distanced activity and who want to add some holiday cheer to their homes, where people are spending more time amid a second wave of Covid-19 cases. The pandemic has already led to some greater-than-expected spending in the home improvement market, a trend that could bode well for Christmas tree sales. Some tree varieties such as Fraser firs, prized for their pleasant fragrance and excellent needle retention, are even more sought after. Harper says she is selling Fraser firs for around $85 — or $20 more than last year — after her supplier raised prices. (Fraser firs can’t grow on her property because of the terrain, Harper says.)The anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some retailers to purchase more trees wholesale.Phil Quinn, the co-owner of Quinn Farm near Montreal, says he had to buy additional trees from wholesalers to sell at his farm since he didn’t grow enough on his own property to meet the demand he expects this year. And Harper says she's received many calls from people looking for wholesale trees, although she only sells to retail customers.“Everyone wants a tree and they want it now,” says Quinn, who expects to be sold out of trees by the second week of December. But while demand for trees is expected to be strong, the pandemic has created its own set of challenges for tree vendors. Most sellers will not be able to offering the same set of attractions this year, with physical distancing requirements forcing farms to scrap additional draws such as wagon rides and fire pits.Harper says her biggest challenge this year will be developing clear distancing guidelines for people picking up trees. The farm’s owners won’t allow people to bring their dogs, for example, nor will they offer horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides. Rather than serving hot apple cider, Hillcrest Tree Farm will be giving people treats to take away when they leave.“What might have been a one-hour visit will be a shorter visit this year,” Harper says.Similarly, Serge Lapointe, the owner of Plantation JLS in Sainte-Angele-de-Monnoir, Que., says his farm won’t have anywhere for Christmas tree buyers to congregate this year, unlike in previous years when it offered visitors rides and the chance to take a photo with Santa Claus.One aspect of the Christmas tree market to watch this year will be how lockdown orders affect how people buy trees, including whether they go in person to pick them up or order them online, says Paul Quinn (no relation to Phil Quinn), an analyst at RBC Dominion Securities who studies Christmas tree sales from year to year. Retail tree vendors could face some competition from large online players: On their websites, Home Depot and Walmart both list natural Fraser Fir trees for sale, available for delivery before Christmas. A search on Amazon’s website revealed no results for natural Christmas trees, although the company offers a variety of artificial trees for sale.But Phil Quinn says people are looking to take advantage of the chance to pick out their own tree in person, noting his farm is seeing greater interest in its choose-and-cut option, even with Quebec at its highest COVID-19 alert level.“People are just asking for some kind of normalcy,” Quinn says.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Jon Victor, The Canadian Press
The central metaphor of Chrystia Freeland's speech to the House of Commons on Monday was seasonal."We know the winter ahead will be hard," the finance minister said. "But we also know that spring will follow winter."As a reference to the pandemic, this can be taken quite literally. The second wave of COVID-19 is still building, Canadians are suffering and significant hardship is still on the way as the weather turns cold. Eventually, things will get better. Brighter days are ahead.In terms of fiscal policy, Freeland's fall economic statement was an attempt both to account for the long winter of our pandemic discontent and to hold out some hope. With that eye to the spring, Monday's fiscal update sets up a pivotal budget next year — one that, whether it passes or fails, could be among the most consequential in this country's recent history.To counter the pandemic, Freeland now predicts that the federal government will have to spend $267.3 billion in the current fiscal year to support individuals, businesses and provinces. Another $45.9 billion in aid could be required in the next fiscal year. Before any stimulus to restart the economy is spent, Freeland said, the debt-to-GDP ratio would peak at 52.6 per cent.A deficit debate deferredEven with the vast sums involved, there have been relatively few concrete complaints to date about the scope of the government's pandemic spending. The debate going forward is more likely to be about how the government's accumulated debt should influence its future actions — though even Conservative leader Erin O'Toole has said he would take another ten years to balance the budget.Looking forward, Freeland said the federal government will be prepared to spend between $70 billion and $100 billion over the next three fiscal years to pull the country out of the pandemic-induced recession. But the vast majority of that stimulus — as well as any new permanent spending — will be detailed at a later date.WATCH: Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on pandemic spendingMonday's fall economic statement lays out some broad priorities, all of which were at least hinted at in September's throne speech: creating new opportunities for women, expanding access to early learning and child care, fighting systemic racism, making it easier to find affordable housing, increasing immigration, continuing the pursuit of reconciliation and building a cleaner, greener economy. And this fiscal update does offer a number of "down payments" on new plans to deal with those concerns.In all, the fall economic statement projects about $15 billion in new spending over the next five years under the heading of "building back better," alongside a smattering of tax changes expected eventually to provide about $2 billion in new annual revenue.'Guardrails' over 'anchors'To the consternation of fans of "fiscal anchors" — a concept that has exploded in popularity over the last nine months — Freeland's update stops short of explaining how federal spending will theoretically be tied down in the long-term.Instead, there are comparisons to debt and stimulus spending by other G7 countries and a promise of "fiscal guardrails" to judge how much stimulus spending is needed and for how long. There is also a preemptive argument against moving too quickly to return the budget to balance."The experience of many countries following the 2008-09 global financial crisis … suggests that economies that withdrew fiscal support too quickly experienced slower growth afterwards," the update reads at page 99 — a sentence that could be read as a reference to the post-recession policies of the previous Conservative government.COVID-19's second wave in Canada, and the prospect of a difficult winter ahead, necessarily complicate any plans to launch that stimulus or begin building for the long-term.Details coming in the springBut there are big things that remain to be explained, such as how much new funding the Liberals might be willing to provide to the provinces for health care — an issue that could involve specific commitments for pharmacare and long-term care. On child care, Freeland vowed that next year's budget will "lay out the plan to provide affordable, accessible, inclusive and high-quality child care from coast to coast to coast."Liberals can argue that they have identified the things that the federal government should be focused on now — that such an agenda reflects both the lessons of the pandemic and the needs of the future. But it has yet to explain how those pieces might fit together on the federal balance sheet.In his response to the fiscal update, Conservative leader Erin O'Toole mostly sidestepped the specifics. He repeated his party's claim that Canada can expect to get access to a COVID-19 vaccine later than many other nations — a prediction that soon will be either borne out or dismissed. Of the larger debate, he mostly spoke of values.WATCH: Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole on government borrowingHe enthused about "hard work" and "perseverance" and mentioned that his first job in high school had been as a dishwasher and short-order cook. He accused the prime minister of being "paternalistic" toward the provinces. He borrowed Stephen Harper's preferred framing to argue that there is now a fundamental conflict of visions between the "somewheres" and the "anywheres."Those might be powerful emotional arguments for some audiences, particularly when deployed against a famous and cosmopolitan prime minister whose support is based in major cities. But while it's not at all clear how the Trudeau government will make "building back better" work in practice, it's even less clear what O'Toole's alternative agenda would look like — what he would offer the "somewheres" and whether he'll have counter-proposals to what the Liberals eventually offer.By spring, we could have clearer pictures of both the state of the pandemic and the Liberal government's post-pandemic agenda. A new Liberal climate plan, for instance, could come before the end of this year.As a result, a lot will be riding on next spring's budget — from a stimulus agenda defined by Liberal priorities to another promise of a national child care system. This being a minority government, the fate of this promised plan for a post-pandemic spring will depend on whether it can win the necessary votes in Parliament — or, failing that, a general election.
It's been a bit of a roller-coaster weekend for Toronto father Yaser Nadaf, after Ontario's new asymptomatic testing for schools in COVID-19 hot spots turned up 19 new positive cases at his children's school.While his daughter and her Grade 3 class were cleared to return to school on Monday, his son's Grade 2 class must self-isolate for 14 days, even though the youngster himself was among those who tested negative.The weekend's testing blitz at Thorncliffe Park Public School — the first Toronto District School Board (TDSB) location selected for the voluntary testing pilot announced last week — saw 14 classes affected and sent home for two weeks. However, the rest of the school will remain open, according to direction from Toronto Public Health.Nadaf is rolling with it, saying he believes teachers and staff have been trying their best to maintain health and safety precautions and protocols."What can we do? This is going on everywhere in the world," he said. "They try their best, but at the same time they cannot prevent it completely."Testing asymptomatic students and staff is currently being offered at designated schools in Toronto, Peel and York regions and Ottawa — four Ontario regions with a high number of active COVID-19 cases.The goal is to improve tracking of the coronavirus and prevent transmission within schools, as well as to inform future public health decisions. While parents and health experts seem to be applauding the pilot, some are also highlighting shortcomings in how it's being rolled out.Over the weekend, testing also began in Ottawa at Manordale Public School, part of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. Amber Mammoletti, an occasional teacher working at two schools this fall, dropped by on Sunday to be tested with her son, Fynn."I think there's people walking around not realizing they have it — no symptoms — so it's just better to keep everyone safe: Get tested if you can and see what happens," she said.WATCH | How testing helped Cornell University become a model of COVID-19 prevention:School boards are working with local public health authorities to determine which schools to target over the next four weeks, but the expectation is that new positives will undoubtedly emerge, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said."The 19 cases we've learned about over the weekend [at Thorncliffe Park PS] as a result of the testing is a concern, but it's not unexpected," he said Monday."While this information is concerning, it really is the information that our public health officials need to know, because it gives them a better snapshot of how many of those asymptomatic people are positive cases of COVID."Despite the batch of positive cases arising from this first weekend, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce reiterated his assertion that "99.9 per cent of Ontario students are COVID-free" during a press briefing on Monday afternoon.Acknowledging that "we still have work to do" in tracking COVID-19 cases in communities, he characterized the new testing initiative as an extension of the existing safety measures his ministry had announced."The fact that hundreds of children, students and staff have gotten tested [at Thorncliffe Park PS] in conjunction with the local public health unit I think underscores that the plan in place is ... working hard to mitigate any further spread: identifying COVID cases, isolating them or moving them from the school, so we don't have spreaders within the school." 'Canaries in the coal mine'A targeted campaign of testing in schools — which in most neighbourhoods are considered trusted, known places — is a welcome tool that adds to the barometer of what's happening in the communities they're located in, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician and assistant professor at McMaster University in Hamilton."Parents who may not be encouraged to go get tested in their local communities will readily take their kids to the school, which is a place they know," he said."Things like this are going to be canaries in the coal mine. You kind of get a better sense of what's happening in the community by doing these local testing strategies."He added the caveat, however, that the type of test being used will likely cause more chaos for families and schools.For the pilot, Ontario is using PCR testing, which detects the genetic material of a virus. Although considered the gold standard, it's also so sensitive it would "pick up kids who are infectious, as well as kids who were infectious two, four, six weeks ago," Chagla said.He suggested that they could have chosen rapid antigen tests, which flag active infections by identifying proteins on the surface of infectious virus particles.The rapid antigen tests may offer a more precise picture "of who is really a threat to the community versus who had COVID six weeks ago, where they're not really a threat," Chagla said.WATCH | Nova Scotia offers rapid COVID-19 tests in Halifax for asymptomatic cases:Though Toronto parent Jessica Lyons welcomes the introduction of asymptomatic testing, she said it comes months late and should be offered more widely."This is desperately needed," said the mother of two school-aged children and an organizer with the Ontario Parent Action Network."Much more testing in schools — to make it accessible, to make it easy for parents and families and students to do — is really essential. So we support this pilot, obviously, but we think that it should have come ... weeks and weeks ago, and it needs to be expanded."Back in Thorncliffe Park, among the Toronto communities hardest hit by COVID-19 this year, parents in the neighbourhood expressed concern about the new positive cases found through the testing initiative. But they're also adamant about one thing: their schools staying open.Remote learning last spring was "really hard for kids. We've seen the mental stress on our child and other kids," said Osamah Aldhaby, father of a second grader who he said really missed being at school."When we were kids, you know, we used to run away from school," Aldhad noted."Now they're actually really wanting to go to school, which is really important for them."
The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Nova Scotia and that means more and more possible exposures are being released by the province each day.These notifications are important tools used by the province because they are only released to the public if all possible contacts can't be traced."As much as possible, we follow up directly with individuals," Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said at a news briefing last week."If we can't, that's when we use a public notification."As of Monday, there have been more than 150 exposure sites in Nova Scotia, most in the Halifax region. A full list of exposures can be found here.However, an exposure notification will not be used if all possible contacts can be identified."We can alert specific people who may have been exposed because we have the means to contact them directly; for example, this could include attendees of an event or staff at a business," Brendan Elliott, a spokesperson with Nova Scotia Public Health, said in an emailed statement Monday. "They may be provided information about a potential exposure and then given direction on what to do next."Contact tracing ahead of notificationThat is why contact tracing is so important, Elliott said.When a new case is identified, Public Health will contact the individual to determine with whom they've been in contact, starting 48 hours before symptoms appeared, or 48 hours before their test if they have no symptoms.Public health will also ask where that person has been, like grocery stores or restaurants.This list of people and businesses will then be notified and sorted into three categories: low risk, moderate risk and high risk. High risk is considered a close contact — an individual who had been within two metres of the infected person for 15 minutes or longer."The people conducting contact tracing are working to connect the dots," Elliott said."When a person visits an establishment (or takes a flight, etc.) where there were a number of people, it can be difficult to connect every dot (find everyone who was present at that point in time). That might be a situation where a public advisory is issued."This has been the case in many Halifax restaurants and bars this past month, which led Premier Stephen McNeil to impose more restrictions in the region.Any identified close contacts will be advised to get tested and will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.But if all contacts can be identified, an exposure notification does not need to be released.Exposure notices coming from businessesThis has led to confusion in recent weeks as some businesses have released their own possible exposure notices."If a business is sending out their own notification and it's not accompanied by a public exposure advisory from us, then it means the business or organization has decided to do it on their own," Elliott said.One example is the Sackville Arena. A notice was sent out by the Sackville Minor Hockey Association about a possible exposure on Nov. 21, but Public Health didn't release a notification."I know it can be difficult when people hear about potential exposures, but don't see an official notification from Public Health," he said. "This environment is already stressful enough for Nova Scotians, but rest assured if Public Health feels a public notification is warranted, one will be issued."MORE TOP STORIES
Dana Connolly is one of hundreds of Indigenous artists who are selling their beadwork, crafts, clothing and gifts this year online as part of virtual holiday markets."It's a way that we can actively support each other and care for each other in a time when we all know we're struggling and we can't actually be together," said Connolly.Connolly is from Peguis/Swan Lake First Nation in Manitoba and started selling Indigenous wellness products through her brand, Medicine Garden Society.As the associate director of Winnipeg non-profit organization Ka Ni Kanichihk, Connolly said she didn't intend to start a small business. She started making bath bombs, body butter, lip balm and candles infused with traditional Indigenous medicines a few years ago.After learning about the properties of traditional medicines, she started making gifts for her family and friends with whom she attended ceremonies. Last year, a friend asked her to sell some of her creations at the annual Indigenous holiday market in Winnipeg."I had six baskets left over and I made a post and then people bought them within minutes, so there was tons of interest," she said.She recently posted a list of her products on the Shop Indigenous Women's Holiday Market Facebook group, a virtual market with over 24,000 members.The Shop Indigenous Women's Holiday Market was started by Michele Young-Crook on Nov. 3. Young-Crook is Algonquin-Ojibway from Pickering, Ont., and is the president and CEO of the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association.She started the group after realizing that Indigenous women wouldn't have their usual markets to sell their products during the holiday season."For a lot of these women, this is their only revenue — making products and going to trade shows. So I was trying to create a virtual vendor-type thing and just came up with the idea to create this marketplace so that women would be able to have their little stores," said Young-Crook. "A big part of this that inspired me to do it was also economic reconciliation. A lot of people need to start putting their money where their mouth is. Instead of saying, 'I wish I could do more,' well, making a purchase from one of these women makes a huge impact compared to just constantly feeding Walmart and Amazon money."Reaching wider market Gerri Sharpe, who is Inuk from Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, spends her spare time making custom earrings, mitts, and other crafts. This holiday season she has supported Indigenous artists by purchasing art pieces from Inuvik, N.W.T., from Facebook groups like Inuit Auction Bids.She said online groups help craftspeople and artists in the North who used to be limited to selling their items locally find wider markets and get a better price for their work."The [groups] have definitely helped elders because they're able to reach customers that they would not normally be able to reach," she said."With the kamiks, for instance, the average price that they'll get is about $1,200, where before Facebook they were only getting $400, maybe $500."Another person using the Shop Indigenous Women's Holiday Market to connect with holiday shoppers is Andrea Sparvier.Sparvier is from Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and has posted a collection of sewn items including ribbon skirts, star blankets and car seat covers.She started her own social media page Summer Solstice Designs after getting requests to sew items for her friends and family."The majority of the money I make from that goes right back into materials," said Sparvier."I don't make a living off it like some people do, but it's definitely helped it out a little bit."