Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates spoke to CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway about the timeliness of his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, along with what can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine distribution.
Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates spoke to CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway about the timeliness of his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, along with what can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine distribution.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech - image credit) When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Tuesday: ENGLAND Manchester City looks to make it 21 straight wins in all competitions by beating Wolverhampton to move 15 points clear in the Premier League. Wolves has caused City issues recently, beating Pep Guardiola's side home and away last season, but does not have star striker Raul Jimenez this time round as he recovers from a fractured skull. “The history against them shows us how tough it is and we know it perfectly," Guardiola said. “We know exactly the type of game we have to play — to be so intense but, at the same time, calm." City is in the middle of a hectic period featuring games every three or four days so will rotate again, with Raheem Sterling, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva among those likely to be recalled. Manchester United is City's nearest challenger, 12 points back, and plays Crystal Palace on Wednesday. GERMANY Borussia Mönchengladbach has lost all three games since the club announced that coach Marco Rose will be joining Borussia Dortmund next season. The teams meet in the German Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday, when Rose will hope to end the negative spiral against his future employers. Gladbach’s troubles started before Rose’s departure was made known. It hasn’t won its last five Bundesliga games. While Gladbach has been on a slump, Dortmund’s fortunes are looking up after three wins in a row including a 4-0 rout of Schalke in the derby and a 3-2 win at Sevilla in the Champions League. Coach Edin Terzic seems to be enjoying his role now the pressure has been taken off with Rose’s arrival at the end of the season. Both teams know the German Cup is a realistic chance of a trophy with reigning champion Bayern Munich already knocked out of the competition. ITALY Injury-hit Juventus needs a win against lowly Spezia to boost its faltering title defence. The nine-time defending champion drew at Hellas Verona 1-1 last weekend to leave it 10 points behind Serie A leader Inter Milan, albeit having played a match less. Juventus will still be without Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Juan Cuadrado, Arthur and Paulo Dybala, who are all injured. Forward Álvaro Morata could recover enough for a place on the bench. Also, Lazio could move level with fourth-place Atalanta if it wins at home to relegation-threatened Torino. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has eased slightly more restrictions tied to COVID-19. Libraries can now open at 15 per cent capacity and gyms can now host indoors low-impact group activities, like Pilates and tai chi. Kenney had been expected to ease rules in other areas, such as retail capacity and hotels, but he says the COVID numbers have hit a plateau and they need more time to assess just to be safe.
Mass vaccinations will be the key to controlling a potential third wave in Chatham-Kent, says the region’s top doctor. Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said the highly transmissible variants are keeping public health officials on their toes. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other health officials have warned a third wave could be the worst yet, but Dr. David Colby remains optimistic. “I really think that widespread vaccination will have a significant impact to blunt the effect of the third wave,” said Colby. “The worrying factor are these variants, and that’s really what is fueling the speculation about a third wave.” Colby said there are three variants of concern. “The common variant, the B.1.1.7 variant, remains susceptible to the immune response triggered by the vaccines that we have,” said Colby. “We need to push ahead with our vaccination program and get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can.” The interval between the first and second doses is 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine. However, Colby said it could be up to 45 days as there isn’t an exact answer for how long a person can go between receiving the first and second dose. “There isn’t an exact answer, we have an agreed-upon regimen for these COVID vaccines, which is up to 45 days, but the Ontario government does not want to go out that far with the elderly population,” said Colby. He added that most of the protection happens with the first dose, while the second dose is to consolidate protection and ensure that it lasts for a longer time. “All I can say is that there’s a great deal of protection that’s afforded for quite a while with even one dose of any of the vaccines,” said Colby. On Feb. 23, the John D. Bradley Convention Centre opened its vaccination clinic. There were 700 appointments for health-care workers and essential caregivers on the first two days. Colby said the clinic is running smoothly. “It’s such an important step for Chatham-Kent,” said Colby. “The Bradley Centre clinic is really doing very, very well, and they hit the ground running.” While he could not go into detail regarding more vaccine shipments, Colby said we’re heading in the right direction. “All indicators that we have right now point to the fact that vaccine supplies will be stable or increasing over the next while,” said Colby. Meanwhile, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance CEO Lori Marshall is warning the public about recent robocalls claiming to be for booking vaccinations. These calls can be dangerous as they are really aimed at collecting people’s personal information. She said these calls are not official and should be ignored. Marshall said a live person will make all vaccination booking calls. “People will be contacted by a live person, and no one should be giving out their personal information like social insurance numbers and those kinds of things on the phone,” said Marshall. CK Public Health said Chatham-Kent Police are aware of the issue, and there is no need to report these calls to them at this time. Colby said people who can’t travel to Chatham would have an opportunity to get vaccinated at pop-up clinics across the municipality when they are set up. Paramedics will be vaccinating individuals who are housebound when they’re identified through their doctors. The homeless population falls under Phase 2. Additionally, Colby said there are mechanisms in place to get to those who are missed. Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News
The United States is expected to impose sanctions to punish Russia for the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as early as Tuesday, two sources familiar with the matter said. President Joe Biden's decision to impose sanctions for Navalny's poisoning reflects a harder stance than taken by his predecessor, Donald Trump, who let the incident last August pass without punitive U.S. action. The sources said on Monday on condition of anonymity that the United States was expected to act under two executive orders: 13661, which was issued after Russia's invasion of Crimea but provides broad authority to target Russian officials, and 13382, issued in 2005 to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Hamilton schools reported 49 COVID-19 cases and one outbreak in the third week after the return to in-person learning. School boards reported 41 cases of the virus the previous week. The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, which has a student population of approximately 50,000, reported 29 cases — 26 students and three staff — between Feb. 22 and 28. In the same week, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, which serves approximately 29,000 students, reported 20 confirmed and probable cases of the virus — 14 students, three staff, two adult learners, and one “third-party employer.” There are currently 17 schools in the Catholic board with cases. An outbreak was declared at St. Eugene Catholic Elementary School reporting three confirmed cases of the virus — a staff member on Feb. 23, a “third-party employee” on Feb. 22 and a student on Feb. 15 — at the school. There is also an outbreak at St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in central Hamilton, where there are three positive staff cases. Outbreaks at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Elementary School, which reopened on Monday after being closed for more than a week, and A.M. Cunningham Elementary School were declared over. Hamilton public health lists the schools in outbreak as having “no variant” associated. Schools in Hamilton reopened for in-person learning on Feb. 8 with enhanced health and safety measures. Since students returned to in-person learning, there have been 100 cases and four outbreaks at school boards in Hamilton. Two cases of the virus were reported at Mohawk College over the weekend. A case of the virus was reported on Sunday in a student at the Mohawk Centre for Aviation Technology. The student was last in classes on Feb. 25. Public health has “carried out the investigation … and is in the process of contacting everyone who is considered to have been in close contact with the infected student,” reads a Feb. 28 update from the college. A case of the virus was reported on Saturday at Mohawk College’s Fennell campus. The infected student last attended class on Feb. 24. The college says “no other students have been asked to self-isolate related to this case.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
B.C. is moving into the second phase of its immunization plan, vaccinating seniors in the community aged 80 and up over the course of this month. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also said the second dose of the three approved vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca—will be delayed to four months or 16 weeks, to provide more protection to more people sooner. Henry said the initial dose provides “a very high level of real-world protection.” In Phase 2, more than 400,000 people in B.C. will receive their first vaccine dose from March to early April, including: • seniors and high-risk people residing in independent living and seniors' supportive housing (including staff); • home-care support clients and staff; • Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) peoples born in or before 1956 (65 years and older); and • seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years and older). Today, first-dose immunizations begin for those living and working in independent living centres and seniors' supportive housing, as well as home-care support clients and staff. Health authorities will directly contact those in this priority group to book appointments—there is no need to call. Beginning Monday (March 8), seniors aged 80+ and Indigenous peoples aged 65+ who are not living in independent living or seniors' supportive housing can make one call to book their appointment through their local health authority call centre according to a staggered schedule. This is to avoid long waits and system overload. Immunization clinic locations will be confirmed at time of booking, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15: • March 8: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years+) and Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; • March 15: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; and • March 22: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment. Health authority contact information, complete call-in schedules, hours of operations and step-by-step instructions on how to call to book an appointment for yourself, for a family member, for a friend or neighbour will be available on March 8, here: www.gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst "We can now see the light at the end of what has been a difficult and challenging time for us all. To get us through, we need to continue to work together and support each other," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. "We are working hard each and every day to make sure that everyone who wants a vaccine gets one, and my new provincial health officer order significantly expands the range of health professions and occupations who can support our immunization clinics, including dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians, paramedics, firefighters and retired nurses." For health professionals who want to sign up to support B.C.'s immunization efforts as immunizers, visit: https://forms.hlth.gov.bc.ca/registry-covid-19 Immunizing other priority groups identified in Phase 2, many of whom have already received their first dose, is also underway, including: • Indigenous communities, Indigenous Elders, hospital staff, community general practitioners and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1; • vulnerable populations living and working in select congregate settings; and • staff in community home support and nursing services for seniors. In mid-April, Phase 3 will begin mass vaccination of people aged 79 to 60 years, and people aged 16+ who are extremely clinically vulnerable, at community immunization clinics throughout B.C. Mobile clinics will be available in some rural communities and for people who are homebound due to mobility issues. In Phase 3, British Columbians will register and book their appointments to receive their first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine through an online registration tool. People born between 1942 and 1946 (ages 79-75), and Indigenous peoples born between the years of 1956 and 1960 (ages 64-60), will be able to register for an appointment online or by phone by March 31. As of last week, 252,373 people in B.C. have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 73,808 who have received their second dose. “Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are far from out of this,” said Premier John Horgan. “We have a long way to go.” Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
Israelis returning home from abroad have a new option that will exempt them from being sent to a quarantine hotel: They can wear a bracelet monitor that will notify authorities should they violate a mandatory isolation period. The pilot program began on Monday with 100 tracking systems available at Ben Gurion Airport, where traffic has dropped dramatically due to restrictions meant to reduce the risk of COVID-19 variants entering the country. Should someone choose the new system -- which includes an electronic bracelet, a smartphone and a wall-mounted tracker -- they can self-isolate at home.
The Village of Big Valley council heard a report from their new chief administrative officer (CAO) that repairs to the municipal water tower will likely be in the $270,000 range. The report was made at the Feb. 24 regular meeting of council, held one day earlier than normal. The meeting was streamed via Zoom and Coun. Art Tizzard was absent from the meeting. CAO Tracy Mindus noted a contractor has provided an estimate of $270,000 to repair the cracked water tower, but instead of installing a bladder they will use carbon fibre to seal it. This would have a life expectancy of 20 to 50 years. The CAO noted several provincial government grants may be available for this work, including one that may cover up to 75 per cent of the cost. Municipal Sustainability Initiative money may also be available. Mindus said the village continues to receive information from the contractor and it appears the work can be done no earlier than spring. Councillors accepted the report for information. Garbage concerns Mindus read a letter sent from the Big Valley Historical Society, requesting the society no longer be charged for garbage pick-up because it appears their garbage isn’t being picked up. The letter noted the McAlister site hasn't had garbage pick-up in 10 to 12 months and the tool museum hasn’t had garbage pick-up at all in the roughly four years it’s been there. The society requested the village no longer bill them for the service and the volunteers would handle garbage pick-up themselves. CAO Mindus noted garbage pick-up is based on the number of users in the village, and if one or more users opt out, the rates will likely increase for everyone else. Coun. Harry Nibourg stated the garbage pick-up fee is about $8 a month and waiving it would set a precedent. Nibourg also noted he would recuse himself from a vote on this issue as it affects his own property. Mayor German stated the item would be tabled until March, as Tizzard’s absence and Nibourg’s recusal meant a vote could not be held. Invoice concerns Councillors read a letter from the Village of Donalda regarding their concerns about the County of Stettler's recent invoice for the Regional Emergency Management Agency. It was stated in the letter Donalda is concerned about the dollar amount, $7,944.32, which included a substantial increase and the village was requesting more information about why the invoice was so large. Mayor German noted he saw nothing wrong with the request and felt taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going. Coun. Nibourg stated the fee may seem high, but if the village decides to, for example, handle emergency services itself, costs may be much higher. Councillors passed a motion for CAO Mindus to contact the County of Stettler and get a breakdown of where the emergency management funds are going. Village election Councillors decided they will hold an advance poll for the village election next fall, and also advertise the position of returning officer after reading a report from the CAO. Mindus noted the municipal election will be held Mon. Oct. 18 and nominations close on Mon. Sept. 20. She noted Big Valley is small enough that it’s not mandatory to hold an advance poll but pointed out it would be convenient for people who work and aren’t able to vote on election day. S he suggested two Saturdays, Oct. 9 or 16, for the advance poll. She also noted advance polls can’t be held within 24 hours of the regular election day. Councillors passed a motion naming Oct. 9 the advance poll in Big Valley, appointing Mindus as returning officer and also authorizing the CAO to advertise for a deputy returning officer. Get the MOST The CAO reported Big Valley will receive $40,339 in Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) funding from the provincial government, intended to help with COVID-19 expenses and lost revenue. She estimated the village’s expenses at about $10,000, and asked councillors what they would like to do with the rest. She noted other communities have granted the funds to non-profits who have losses related to the pandemic. Mindus also noted the province has given a March 31 deadline to disperse the funds. Councillors instructed Mindus to reach out to non-profits and similar groups and offer the money while asking for an accounting of their losses due to the pandemic. The CAO will report back at the March regular council meeting. Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review
MONTREAL — Quebec’s mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 began in earnest in the Montreal area Monday with long lines and grumbling from some seniors upset at the wait times to get a first injection. Hundreds of people, many holding walkers or in wheelchairs, waited in lines inside Montreal's Olympic Stadium; some were discouraged, others were angry. "It's a catastrophe," Jean-Yves Plourde, 75, said moments after being vaccinated against the virus that has killed more than 10,000 people in the province, mostly seniors. Plourde said his appointment was for 11:45 a.m. but he wasn't vaccinated until 1:20 p.m. "For the elderly, it seems to me that this is not a nice way to act," he said. Another man in line nearby commented: "This is badly organized." Others were visibly relieved after they had received a shot. "I will be able to get out of the house and see my grandchildren," said a delighted Pasqualina Mancini, 72. The province announced last week it was booking appointments for seniors aged 85 and up across the province, or 80 and above in Montreal. But by Monday morning, public health officials announced they were widening eligibility to those 70 and older in Montreal, Laval and the Cote-Nord region, while the age limit was lowered to 80 in three other regions, including Quebec City. At the Olympic Stadium, some of those awaiting shots were in line close together, not respecting physical distancing rules. Folding chairs had been set up along the queue, and motorized shuttles transported some seniors around. The operation has the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 people a day, Julie Provencher, a spokeswoman with the regional health authority, said in an interview. She asked people not to be too harsh because it was the first day. She also asked people not to arrive too early for their appointment to avoid creating long lines. Provencher said given the size of the operation, things were going relatively smoothly. "For the first day of the biggest mass vaccination in the history of humanity, I think it's going OK," she said. "People are happy when they get out; it's clear there is a delay." The campaign began as health officials on Monday reported the lowest number of new, daily infections since September: 613 COVID-19 cases. Officials reported six more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including one that occurred within the previous 24 hours. Hospitalizations rose by 11, to 612, and 122 people were in intensive care, a rise of five. As of Monday morning, 200,000 appointments had been booked, Health Minister Christian Dube said on Twitter. Quebec began accepting appointments last Thursday. Quebec expects to receive 100,620 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, with no deliveries of the Moderna vaccine scheduled. The Health Department said 6,308 doses of vaccine were administered Sunday, bringing the total so far to 438,815. Some regions started vaccinating members of the general population late last week, but the campaign is expected to speed up considerably with the opening of mass vaccine clinics in the Montreal area. Outlying regions are expected to ramp up vaccinations after the March break holiday, which takes place this week. Quebec has so far concentrated its vaccination effort on health-care workers, people living in remote regions and seniors in facilities such as long-term care and private care residences. The province has chosen to delay giving second doses in favour of administering a first jab to as many people as possible, but Dube said last week it will provide second doses beginning March 15. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Stephanie Marin and Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba has released a report showing COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Indigenous, Black and other people of colour in the province. “This is systemic and it is seen in every jurisdiction,” Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said Monday. Roussin said the province’s race and ethnicity data show a similar pattern to information in other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world. He said it’s not about people in communities making bad choices. COVID-19 infections are largely linked to pre-existing inequities, including in housing and employment. “We know people in (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) communities are more likely to live in lower income neighbourhoods, live in overcrowded and multi-generational households,” Roussin said. “They are also more likely to have low-wage occupations.” The report compiled Manitoba infections data from May 1 to Dec. 31, 2020. Fifty-one per cent of people who tested positive for COVID-19 self-identified as Black, Indigenous or of colour, but 35 per cent of people in Manitoba belong to that group. The report said North American Indigenous people made up 17 per cent of infections, despite representing about 13 per cent of the overall population. Black and African people, accounting for four per cent of the population, made up eight per cent of positive tests. Filipino people also had significant infection rates — 12 per cent of cases, while representing seven per cent of the population. South Asian people, three per cent of the population, made up eight per cent of positive cases. The report noted that white people experienced less COVID-19 than would be expected based on population size. On Monday, Manitoba reported one more death and 35 new cases of the novel coronavirus. The province brought in significant restrictions last fall that shut down restaurants and limited group sizes after a surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The number of new cases has significantly dropped in recent weeks. The five-day test positivity rate was at 3.9 per cent provincially and three per cent for Winnipeg. The provincial government has indicated that details on what public-health restrictions are to be further loosened are to be provided Tuesday. Roussin said it’s important to take a cautious approach. “We are going to gradually reopen and stay open.” Vaccines also became available for the general population in Manitoba last week based on age. Roussin said the rollout has expanded to include people born in 1930 and earlier and First Nations people born in 1950 and earlier. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021 Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
MILAN — AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out again with injury and could miss his side’s Europa League match against Manchester United. Ibrahimovic had to come off on Sunday in the second half of a 2-1 win at Roma after injuring a muscle in his left thigh. The Swedish forward will be re-evaluated in 10 days. That is the date of the trip to Old Trafford for the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 against his former club. The 39-year-old Ibrahimovic will definitely be out for the Serie A matches against Udinese and Hellas Verona. The Associated Press
(CBC - image credit) With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continuing to decline, Alberta eased some public health restrictions on Monday to allow fitness centres and libraries to partially reopen. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement at a news conference on Monday. "Today, I am here to announce that Alberta is ready to safely and cautiously enter Step 2 of our path forward," Kenney said. "I want to thank every Albertan who has responsibly observed [public health] measures through Step 1 over the past several weeks to protect lives and our health-care system in the process. "I know this has not been easy, especially with cold weather in February limiting our ability to gather outdoors. But the sacrifices Albertans have made are the reason that we're able to take another step forward today. COVID-19 is still here and it is still very much a threat to our health and our health-care system. Still, over the past few months, Alberta has made tremendous progress." Libraries will be allowed to reopen as of Monday with 15 per cent of fire-code capacity and fitness centres will be allowed to resume low-intensity individual and group workouts for adults, Kenney said. Numbers down The premier highlighted the progress made in reducing case numbers and hospitalizations, which peaked at about 950 patients and have now dropped to 257, which is about 200 below the threshold the province set for entering Step 2. "Our long-term care and designated-supportive living facilities, typically called nursing homes, have seen cases plummet," Kenney said. "Thankfully, active cases in our long-term care facilities have now declined by more than 95 per cent from December's peak, and the active cases in designated-supportive living facilities for seniors have dropped by over 92 per cent. Kenney was joined at Monday's news conference by Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health. On Feb. 8, the province moved into Step 1 of its reopening, when restaurants and bars were permitted to reopen for indoor service. At the time, Kenney said, there were 432 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, with 76 in intensive care. On Monday, Alberta reported two more deaths and 291 new cases of the illness, with 247 patients being treated in hospitals, including 48 in intensive-care beds. Another 35 cases of a more-contagious variant of the coronavirus were confirmed over the past 24 hours. "All of which means that we're not out of the woods," Kenney said, "but we can continue taking small steps forward as we go into Step 2." 'Careful approach' As a precautionary measure, possible changes to current restrictions for retail, hotels, banquets, community halls and conference centres have been delayed, the premier said, given that the province has seen a slightly increase recently in the testing positivity rate and the number of active cases. No decision has been made about easing the remainder of those Step 2 restrictions , Shandro said, but they will not necessarily be delayed until Step 3 begins. Those changes "could come before Step 3," he said. WATCH | Kenney discusses province's 'careful approach' to easing restrictions Kenney said if the numbers continue to decline and the province is satisfied the variants are under control, the measures could "absolutely" be taken as part of Step 2. The province is taking a "careful approach" to reopening, Kenney said, and despite the fact that hospitalizations are well below Step 2 thresholds, there has been a small increase in the daily number of new variant cases. "I know that many Albertans want us to relax many more health measures today, but we cannot and we must not allow exponential growth to start to take hold, driven by these new, more contagious variants," he said. "To every Albertan that is worried that we're moving too slowly, and who longs for life to get back to the way things used to be, I hear your concerns, I share them. We all want to get back to that place as soon as possible. But for that to happen, the game-changer is the vaccine. Kenney called it "incredibly frustrating and totally unacceptable" that Canada ranks 40th in the world for per-capita inoculation against this virus and again called on the federal government to catch up with the rest of the world. "To every Albertan that is worried that we're moving too fast, I hear you as well. Please know that we're watching the spread of this virus very closely. By moving to Step 2 we are protecting both lives and livelihoods, and taking a safe step forward for Alberta." Variants cause for vigilance It's critical that Albertans continue to avoid indoor social gatherings, Kenney said. Any easing of restrictions increases the chance that the virus will spread, Shandro said. The variants are estimated to be 30 to 50 per cent more infectious than the common strain of the virus, the health minister said. "Now that the variants are in Alberta, we have to be even more vigilant, even as we ease measures." The province will wait "at least three weeks" before the cabinet COVID-19 committee makes a decision about moving forward with Step 3, Shandro said. "So please stay the course and abide by the public health measures, and remember that the lower that we bend the curve the more we can safely open up in the weeks ahead."
TORONTO — Ontario's long-term care minister said she didn't go public early last year with concerns about COVID-19 spreading in nursing homes because she didn't consider herself an authority on the emerging threat. Merrilee Fullerton faced criticism from all three opposition parties Monday after newly released transcripts showed she told Ontario's long-term care commission she was aware of the dangers the novel coronavirus posed to the sector long before it was declared a global pandemic but kept those concerns within government. The minister, who is a physician, said while she was worried about a number of issues and discussed them with cabinet colleagues and the province's top doctor, she was no expert. "As a long-term care minister, I understand my role," she said. "I'm not the chief medical officer. I'm not a public health expert. I'm not a scientist ... I'm a retired family doctor who cares very deeply about long-term care and the residents and the staff." Fullerton testified before the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission last week, with the transcript posted online Sunday night. The commission heard that Fullerton and her deputy advocated for stronger measures than what the government was willing to put in place. "You were ahead of the chief medical officer of health in many respects, from your notes anyway," John Callaghan, the commission lawyer questioning Fullerton, told her. For instance, Fullerton's notes from the time suggest she was concerned about asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes as early as Feb. 5, 2020. That possibility wasn't publicly acknowledged by the government until much later. Fuller told the commission her personal history gave her insights into the situation that other politicians may lack. "I had suspicions early on only — well, because I'm a family doctor and spent many years dealing with the elderly," she said. "They may not present with typical symptoms, and so you always have to be watching." NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Fullerton should have spoken out earlier, suggesting that could have saved lives. "The amount of tragedy that Ontarians have had to deal with as a result of this is unforgivable and it is unforgettable," she said. "So there's a lot of responsibility to go around here." Horwath said Fullerton's testimony also pokes holes in Premier Doug Ford's pledge from the early days of the pandemic to create an "iron ring" around nursing homes. "This iron ring never materialized, it never existed," she said. Liberal Party health critic John Fraser said Fullerton should have spoken out publicly. "It's definitely clear right now that she should have fought harder," he said. "There was a lot at stake." Fullerton said Monday that she did not consider resigning from her role in protest because she felt she could make urgently needed changes to the sector. "Why would I resigned from a position where I felt I could be a strong voice and move something that had been neglected for so many years?" she said. "Why would I resign from that duty, from that responsibility, from that obligation?" COVID-19 has devastated Ontario's long-term care system, causing the deaths of 3,865 residents and 11 staff members so far. The commission also heard that Fullerton refused to suggest the risk of COVID-19 was low in a video filmed in early March. Her notes from the pandemic's first wave, read out during the interview, also show that she advocated for locking down long-term care homes before the province did so, and was concerned about staff not wearing personal protective equipment at all times the week before the province made it mandatory. Fullerton told the commission she was also advocating for essential caregivers to be allowed back into long-term care homes as early as May. Such caregivers — usually family members — weren't allowed back into the facilities until July, and even then, the Ministry of Long-Term Care has said, the rules were being applied inconsistently until adjustments were made in September. But she said others — particularly Dr. David Williams, the chief medical officer of health — said the risk of essential caregivers bringing COVID-19 into the facilities was too great. "I was very eager to get caregivers back into the homes, because I believe it was well-being and emotional well-being," Fullerton said. "However, others understood differently and had their reasons for understanding the risks that they did, and so it was left." The commission is set to present its final report on April 30. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. Shawn Jeffords and Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
(Shutterstock - image credit) The B.C. government says it is in the process of sending out apology letters, and is prepared to compensate the thousands of Grade 12 students who were issued incorrect transcripts in 2019. In a statement Monday, the province says it is accepting online applications for compensation from affected students who can "demonstrate losses or expenses that arose from the June 2019 provincial Grade 12 exam tabulation errors." It also says apology letters are being sent to all students whose exam marks were impacted. In 2019, the Ministry of Education admitted two tabulation errors resulted in incorrect exam results for 18,741 students who wrote provincial exams in June 2019. An August 2020 Office of the B.C. Ombudsperson report made recommendations, two of which were to apologize and compensate students who faced financial implications as a result of the errors. The ministry says it has now acted on all six of the report's recommendations and had previously implemented four of those relating to "processes and protocols for quality assurance, escalation of issues and communication protocols." It also says it made immediate changes to "ensure a more rigorous process for provincial assessments." According to the statement, an independent third party will provide adjudication services for the compensation fund which launched Monday. It says applicants will be notified of claim decisions by that third party and promises a detailed process for appealing denials. Claim submissions will be accepted until May 24, and compensation will be issued for validated claims by August 2021.
VANCOUVER — A lawyer for the Huawei executive facing extradition to the United States says there's evidence showing the case against her is "manifestly unreliable" and he wants that evidence admitted to the record. Meng Wanzhou's lawyer Frank Addario says emails between staff at the telecom giant and international bank HSBC show the bank was well aware that Huawei controlled another company called Skycom, therefore Meng wasn't responsible for any violation of U.S. sanctions again Iran by the bank. He told the B.C. Supreme Court hearing that staff at HSBC knew that Skycom was sold to Canicula, that Canicula was Skycom's parent company and that Huawei controlled the Canicula account. Addario is asking the judge to admit affidavits including emails and bank account information into evidence to support the defence team's case at Meng's committal hearing, to be heard in May. Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport in 2018 on a request by U.S. officials who allege she misrepresented the relationship between Huawei and Skycom, causing HSBC to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran. Both she and Huawei deny the allegations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
CALGARY — It's been bananas at the Leftovers Foundation as the Calgary not-for-profit tries to find a use for thousands of bunches of the long, yellow fruit, which were donated all at once last week. Interim CEO Audra Stevenson said a call came in last Friday from produce distributor Fresh Direct and it had more than seven pallets of bananas with nowhere to go. That amounted to 346 cases, each with about 10 bunches in them. "Our bread and butter is rescuing food that doesn't have a home and getting it into the hands of people who need it," Stevenson said Monday. She said the priority is to get as many of the fresh bananas as possible to organizations that serve people in need, such as homeless shelters. As of Monday morning, there were about 150 cases left and a lineup of service agencies waiting to pick some up. But by Tuesday, Stevenson said, it's likely there will be a pallet left of bananas that are past their prime, like ones that start to turn brown on your kitchen counter. "You wouldn't give one to your kid, but you would make it into banana bread." The Leftovers Foundation also has a program that brings large quantities of rescued produce to local food artisans that can upcycle it into tasty treats. The groups' website says that in the past, Made by Marcus has made ice cream from bananas it procured through the program. This time, Stevenson said Hoopla Donuts and restaurant Donna Mac are on standby to grab whatever is left once the service agencies get their fill. She said the only other time she can recall having to off-load so much fresh food at once was when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's culinary school last year. The foundation helped redirect some 4,500 kilograms of food within a day. Stevenson said food ordering while avoiding waste is difficult at the best of times, and the pandemic has made it harder. "It's really just a pretty unpredictable time all the way up through the food supply chain," she said. "And so it's not only just fluctuating orders from restaurants as they adapt to restrictions. It goes up to distributors being able to predict who will be open, who will be accepting their food orders." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
A new group of Muskoka citizens hoping to bring more attention to the issue of poverty in the region has joined the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce to help spread the message with local businesses. RAMP Muskoka (Residents Against Muskoka Poverty) became members of the chamber this month, registering as a non-profit member and not a business. Barb Bridgeman, chair of RAMP Muskoka, said the group formed in the summer of 2019 to share information about the often-unrecognized issue. As part of the chamber, they hope to build relationships with local businesses in Muskoka Lakes. "We're committed to shining a light on poverty in Muskoka," she said. "The way to do that is to build stronger connections in the community." For example, Bridgeman said, they want to create and distribute physical materials to local businesses to boost awareness on a grassroots level. "It can be as simple as them talking to somebody else and saying, 'If you have an interest in this area, let me connect you with RAMP,'" Bridgeman said. "It's one-by-one connections." Norah Fountain, executive director at the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber will do "everything we can to help" RAMP as a new member. "The overall goal of everything we do is prosperity for all," she said. "In our community, we always help each other." Many of RAMP's efforts have just begun. Bridgeman said the COVID-19 pandemic had "a massive impact" on RAMP Muskoka's efforts, while also highlighting economic inequalities in Muskoka. They planned to make much of their work happen through in-person relationship-building with their official citizen partners, referred to as "champions" — average citizens and cottagers of Muskoka invested in the cause of poverty awareness, many involved in various volunteer and fundraising efforts. The group spent 2020 building their "champions" base, which now consists of 13 people and honorary members including the District of Muskoka chair and five mayors in regional towns. They've also published a handful of articles around COVID-19's impacts on poverty, including a lack of broadband service access in rural Muskoka as one of many barriers to accessing social assistance, seeking employment or pursuing learning online, all factors in improving a person's socio-economic status. Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Greece’s government Monday said it won't intervene to grant a prison-transfer demand by a convicted killer in a far-left extremist group who has been on hunger strike for more than seven weeks, triggering public protests as well as arson attacks. Doctors treating Dimitris Koufodinas in intensive care at a hospital in central Greece said the 63-year-old suffered a “serious deterioration” at the weekend, several days after also refusing water. Koufodinas was the chief hit man in the now-defunct November 17 group and is serving 11 life sentences for the murders of prominent Greek businessmen, diplomats and military officials from the embassies of Turkey, Britain, and the United States, and others. His victims include conservative lawmaker Pavlos Bakoyannis, brother-in-law of the current Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Koufodinas’ lawyers argue that his transfer last year from a low-security prison in Athens to a high-security facility in central Greece occurred in violation of incarceration rules. They are seeking his transfer back to the prison where he had served most of his sentence so far. The centre-right government denies it violated transfer regulations. “Mr. Koufodinas is demanding privileged treatment outside legal norms,” government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni told reporters in an online briefing. “The state does not negotiate with convicts and will not relinquish its sovereign right to how to detain them. (He) has the ability to end the hunger strike and exercise the legal options at his disposal.” About 2,500 people held a peaceful protest in support of Koufodinas through central Athens late Monday. About as many demonstrators held a similar peaceful march through the northern port city of Thessaloniki. The leftwing Initiative for Prisoners' Rights group accused the government of engaging in “a ritual execution of a prisoner ... simply for reasons of family revenge and to impose the dogma or law and order.” The rights group warned that Koufodinas' life is “hanging from a thread” because of his hunger strike and refusal to take liquids. Koufodinas has staged another three hunger strikes in recent years, which he concluded after getting what he was seeking — including, in 2015, a demand not to be sent to the prison he is now asking to be transferred to. November 17, which mixed Marxism with nationalism, killed 23 people between 1975 and 2000. It was eradicated following a string of arrests in 2002 and subsequent convictions. The Associated Press