With Matt Grinter.
With Matt Grinter.
President Donald Trump's frantic effort in the courts to delegitimize an election he lost has come no closer in a month to reversing any results. Lawyers for Trump and his allies have asked judges in several states to take the drastic and unprecedented step of setting aside President-elect Joe Biden’s wins. They have filed new cases and vowed to press on with appeals. But the quantity of affidavits, lawsuits and claims made by Trump belies that they are spurious or often repetitive of arguments already rejected by judges and elections officials, some of them Republicans. Here is a look at where the legal action stands in several key states: ARIZONA A judge on Friday threw out a Republican bid to undo Biden’s victory in Arizona, concluding the state’s GOP chief failed to prove fraud or misconduct in her challenge of election results in metro Phoenix. The judge also noted the evidence presented at trial wouldn’t reverse Trump’s loss in the state. Judge Randall Warner dismissed Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s challenge of ballots in metro Phoenix that were duplicated because voters’ earlier ballots were damaged or could not be run through tabulators. Poll observers called to testify by Ward said they witnessed problems in the processing of duplicated ballots, but the judge said those problems were pointed out to election workers, who then fixed the mistakes. Warner wrote “there is no evidence that the inaccuracies were intentional or part of a fraudulent scheme. They were mistakes. And given both the small number of duplicate ballots and the low error rate, the evidence does not show any impact on the outcome.” Courts there had already dismissed four other cases. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, certified Arizona's results Monday. In a touch of symbolism, he declined a phone call from Trump while signing the certification papers. Lawyer Sidney Powell, who was recently kicked off Trump's legal team and has been pushing wild conspiracy theories about the election, has also filed a lawsuit there. PENNSYLVANIA Trump has lost repeatedly in Pennsylvania, collecting a series of stinging rebukes from Republican-appointed judges. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld a district judge's dismissal of a key lawsuit argued in an error-filled performance by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. “Voters, not lawyers, choose the president. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections,” wrote Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, nominated by Trump. The district judge, Matthew Brann, wrote of the complaint, “One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption." Brann, a member of the conservative Federalist Society, noted that the campaign did not provide that evidence. Trump's lawyers have vowed to ask for review from the U.S. Supreme Court anyway. MICHIGAN Six cases brought by Trump and Republican allies in Michigan have either been rejected or dropped. On Wednesday, Giuliani appeared at a public meeting with lawmakers and urged activists to pressure, even threaten, the GOP-controlled Legislature to “step up” and award the state’s 16 electoral votes to Trump despite Biden’s 154,000-vote victory. A Michigan appeals court turned down an appeal Friday from Trump’s campaign in a challenge to how absentee ballots were handled in Detroit and other issues. WISCONSIN The state’s Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear Trump's lawsuit seeking to overturn his loss in the battleground state. In a divided decision, the court didn’t rule on the merits of the claims but said the case must first wind its way through lower courts. Trump wants to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. In urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, Trump’s lawyers said they didn’t have enough time to start in a lower court. Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.” Trump's campaign filed a similar lawsuit in federal court Wednesday. The Wisconsin Supreme Court also declined Friday to hear a lawsuit brought by a conservative group over Trump’s loss. ____ Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix; and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report. Nomaan Merchant And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — The City of Vancouver says it has reached a settlement with the owners of the Balmoral and Regent hotels to expropriate the derelict properties on the Downtown Eastside.The hotels, which had been operated as single-room occupancy buildings, were home to more than 300 of the city's most vulnerable people before they were ordered shut over safety concerns in 2017 and 2019. The city says in a news release Friday that the settlement ensures it can move forward with BC Housing to turn the buildings into safe and secure low-income housing. It approved the expropriation of the buildings for $1 in late 2019 but faced a legal challenge from the owners.The news release says the city decided to settle to lessen the financial risk posed by the upcoming judicial review and potential claims for greater compensation and to enable planning to begin on the future of the properties. It says it cannot share the value of the settlement under its terms. "Bringing the Regent and Balmoral into public ownership marks a hopeful new beginning for residents of the Downtown Eastside and something all residents should be proud of," Mayor Kennedy Stewart says in the release. "Downtown Eastside residents will be at the centre of creating a new vision for these two sites, and indeed the entire community." The settlement marks the end of many years of enforcement and legal action against the owners, who oversaw decades of underinvestment and unaddressed safety issues, the city says.Parkash Kaur Sahota, 90, and Pal Singh Sahota, 81, are identified as the owners in the petition for judicial review. They could not be reached for comment. Staff plan to report back to council, which approved the settlement, on the next steps and timeline for the revitalization of the properties early next year. Given the significance of the two properties to the Downtown Eastside community, the city says community engagement regarding their future is a priority and will also begin next year.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
South Korean authorities urged vigilance on Saturday as small coronavirus clusters emerged in a third wave, centred in the Seoul area, with infections near nine-month highs. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 583 new coronavirus infections, down from the 629 reported on Friday, which was the highest since the first wave peaked in February and early March. This wave of infections is different from the first two, which were driven by large-scale transmission, said KDCA official Lim Sook-young.
Those most at risk will be getting the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine — including health-care workers, seniors over 70 and adults in Indigenous communities. The process is expected to use all of the initial allotment and be finished by the end of March 2021.
Due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, Kingsville will be closing its town hall to walk-in visitors starting Monday, a news release from the town said. Anyone looking to make an in-person visit must book an appointment and visitors will need to wear a mask and complete a screening check-list before entering the building. "It's important that we take these additional actions now to help stop the spread of the virus in our community," Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos said in a news release Friday. Staff at the town hall will continue to respond to the public via phone and email. Residents submitting physical documents will be able to do so at the night deposit box at the town hall or mail the package to 2021 Division Rd. N., Kingsville. In the news release, the town said it will continue to monitor the local pandemic status and follow the guidelines laid out by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU). As of Friday, the region has 424 active cases.
A West Coast MP wants the federal transport minister to ditch fines in the thousands of dollars and allow BC Ferries passengers to remain in their vehicles on enclosed car decks to protect themselves from COVID-19 despite regulations against the practice. Rachel Blaney, North Island-Powell River’s NDP MP, has written to Transport Minister Marc Garneau questioning the logic of potentially fining people up to $12,000 when they are heeding public health orders to keep their contact with other people to a minimum. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic and case numbers are growing in B.C.,” Blaney said. “And obviously it’s a concern to the point that people are willing to be written up and risk fines on the ferries to prevent exposure to COVID-19.” In the initial wave of the pandemic, Transport Canada temporarily waived regulations requiring people in cars on closed decks to head up to passenger lounges. But the federal agency rescinded the exception granted to ferry operators at the end of September. Blaney said she has made her second appeal to Garneau after learning 1,000 people have defied the order and have been reported to Transport Canada. The risks of exposure to the virus are higher now than during the initial exemption, Blaney said, adding B.C. Premier John Horgan has also called on Ottawa to extend the exemption. “The minister previously paused that rule so that people could stay safe,” she said. “Now, when case numbers are growing, why won't he do it again?” Ferry workers have not been policing passengers who choose to remain in their cars, said BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall. “We’re not an enforcement agency,” said Marshall. “We’re politely reminding customers of the Transport Canada regulations.” Staff has been handing out Transport Canada leaflets to passengers who don’t leave the decks that outline the regulations and potential penalties, she said. Those who elect to stay in their cars have their information forwarded to the transport ministry, she added. Marshall confirmed more than 1,000 incidents have been reported to Transport Canada, most often on the sailings between Horseshoe Bay on the mainland and Departure Bay on Vancouver Island. But the vast majority of passengers have been complying with the regulation, Marshall said. The rule is in effect again because Transport Canada believes that new distancing and cleaning protocols on the provincial ferry service mitigate the risk individuals face from COVID-19 exposure, she added. “We certainly understand people are concerned about COVID-19,” Marshall said, adding there a number of risks associated with staying on a car deck. Though it’s unlikely, a car fire could pose serious danger in an enclosed deck, she said. “A customer in their vehicle could be overcome by smoke inhalation or might not be able to find their way out of their vehicle or get through to a stairwell to get upstairs,” she said. Blaney feels the current risks from the virus are greater than those from remaining on closed decks. And she has asked for the risk assessment the transport ministry relied on to make its decision. Constituents in her riding, particularly those who are vulnerable to the virus but must travel to seek medical attention, are expressing grave concerns, Blaney said. “People are very scared,” she said. “They're already travelling to access the care that they need from bigger centres, asking them in their health conditions to risk exposure just adds to the tension.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
A Fort St. James man has been fined $1,000 for flying a drone while out on a hunting expedition. Paul James Hesse was issued the penalty on November 9 in Fort St. James Provincial Court. He was also prohibited from hunting for one year and assessed a $150 victim surcharge. The outcome stems from a complaint conservation officers received on Sept. 22, 2018. The next day, officers attended a cabin on Marie Lake, southwest of Fort St. James, where they seized the drone along with a harvested bull moose. After securing a search warrant, they gathered photos and videos from the machine and forwarded the matter to Crown prosecution. Conservation officer Richard Keenan-Toop, who was the lead investigating officer on the file, said it was the first conviction for the offence in British Columbia. The Wildlife Act was amended in July 2016 to make the use of drones while hunting illegal. "It was definitely a different one and definitely a learning experience for the Conservation Officer Service for sure," Keenan-Toop said. "But it's not something we see very often, thankfully, because hunting with a drone completely defeats fair chase for wildlife." However, Connie Morrisey, a native court worker in Fort St. James who helped Hesse put together a defence against the charges said he never actually used the drone for actual hunting. Instead, she said he was using it to get images of the cabin and a route planned for a trail from big Marie Lake to little Marie Lake, but because he was at the cabin as part of a hunting trip, he was charged. "The minute you leave your house to go hunting to the minute you get back to your house, that's considered a hunting expedition," Morrisey said. "He did not use it to hunt but he flew it when he was at the cabin." She said Hesse uses the drone for work purposes and had it with him in camp. When he came back to Fort St. James, his father picked him up and went to the cabin. "He said 'I know you can't use it for hunting but if I had known you can't even have it one you, I would've went home, dropped the drone off and went out," Morrisey said. As part of the prohibition against hunting for a year, Hesse is also prohibited from accompanying other hunters and the drone was forfeited to the Crown. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
A Vancouver home builder isn’t waiting for government regulations to change to demonstrate his idea for quickly offering emergency housing to homeless people. Bryn Davidson is putting the finishing touches on a prototype of what he calls a “tiny townhome,” a basic shed-like structure that Davidson has suggested could be an alternative for people who are homeless and live in a tent or without any shelter at all. “We’ve listened to people just talk, talk, talk for ages, and it seems like very little ever happens,” said Davidson, the owner of Lanefab Design/Build. “The ability to just jump in and do something is appealing.” Once the 100-square-foot prototype is finished Davidson hopes to put it up at a yet-to-be-determined location to give people a sense of how the idea could work. The prototype will meet the City of Vancouver’s current zoning rules for a shed, but Davidson said a bathroom and kitchen module could be added to the tiny dwelling. The basic unit Davidson is building costs around $15,000. Davidson posted a video tour of the under-construction tiny townhome on Twitter. Davidson first suggested his idea earlier this fall as the city was grappling with what to do about rising homelessness and a growing tent city at Strathcona Park. Out of several options — including trying out a tiny home village — city councillors opted to prioritize buying or leasing more hotels rooms and apartment buildings to provide housing for people who are homeless. That option provides the highest quality housing but takes time to put into place. Meanwhile, COVID-19 capacity restrictions mean Vancouver has 379 fewer shelter spots open this winter. Another city council motion from Coun. Pete Fry asked city staff to look at what zoning and building code regulations would have to change to allow tiny homes. But Davidson doesn’t expect to see any actual changes to the building code or zoning until summer 2021 at the earliest. “I feel like something needs to be done,” he said. “The city was analyzing all these options from the city’s point of view. The advantage of [the tiny homes] strategy is it’s something the private sector and private individuals can just jump in and contribute to.” Tiny home villages have sprung up in many North American cities, and range from prefabricated structures with power to very basic dwellings with no heat or electricity. City staff have expressed concerns about designs for tiny homes that don’t include heat and electricity or a private bathroom. Current zoning would also require dwellings to include a fire suppression system. But Davidson and other tiny home proponents say the idea is to provide a temporary solution that provides better shelter and security than a tent. People who store their belongings in tents often have their stuff stolen, and when tents leak in cold, wet weather it’s difficult or impossible to dry out bedding and clothing. The prototype is insulated but would need to be hooked up to electricity to allow heat and ventilation. Davidson said he’s currently talking with the city, church groups and non-profits about a location for the prototype. Davidson envisions small “villages” of 10 to 20 tiny townhomes across Vancouver, placed in vacant lots that are awaiting development, for instance. When the prototype is finished, Davidson plans to try sleeping inside with his family to see what it’s like. “I think that there should be one of these little villages in every neighbourhood in the city,” Davidson said. “It’s not just something where somebody in Dunbar thinks, ‘Oh, that’s just a Downtown Eastside problem.’ I’d like to see every neighbourhood contributing.” Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
Le sud-est de l'Estrie, la Beauce, le Bas-Saint-Laurent et une partie de la Gaspésie peuvent s'attendre à recevoir de 20 à 30 centimètres de neige cette fin de semaine, selon Environnement Canada. Cette première bordée importante de la saison pour ces régions est attribuable à une dépression qui remonte le long de la côte-est américaine pour traverser le golfe du Maine lors de la journée de samedi et le Nouveau-Brunswick durant la journée de dimanche. Tous les secteurs qui sont en bordure, donc tout juste au nord de la trajectoire de cette dépression, en subiront les effets principalement sous forme de neige abondante et de vents, a expliqué le météorologue Alexandre Parent, d'Environnement Canada. «Ça pourrait même dépasser les 30 centimètres de neige dans les secteurs de Kamouraska, de Témiscouata, de Rimouski et de la vallée de la Matapédia», a estimé M. Parent lors d'une entrevue avec La Presse Canadienne. La neige devrait débuter en fin de journée samedi ou dans la nuit de samedi à dimanche. Les vents se mettront également de la partie, principalement dimanche matin. M. Parent prédit que ces conditions pourraient être difficiles en première moitié de journée dans l'est du Québec et que la visibilité sera probablement nulle par endroits. Il suggère «fortement» d'effectuer les déplacements samedi plutôt que dimanche. Le Grand Montréal ne devrait rien recevoir de cette dépression. La région de Québec pourrait quant à elle recevoir de 5 à 10 centimètres. La semaine prochaine devrait être «tranquille» avec pratiquement pas de précipitations et des températures près du point de congélation. \- Texte de l'Initiative de journalisme local.Michel Saba, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
A search continues in Haines, Alaska, for two people still unaccounted for after heavy rains this week caused landslides, washed-out roads, and widespread flooding in the small coastal community.Mayor Doug Olerud said that Alaska State Troopers were leading the search efforts for the two missing people."They've had teams out on the water, with search dogs combing the beaches, and on the beach they've got crews that are trying to remove some of the materials to get into some of the areas," Olerud said."So the efforts are ongoing."Olerud said Thursday that weather is still a concern. It was raining again on Thursday afternoon, and he said the forecast was calling for more rain or snow in the coming days."It's not stopping and giving us a break here," he said."We've got two missing individuals, but everybody else that has requested evacuation, we've gotten them out safely. We don't have any other missing individuals. And so to the best of our knowledge, everybody else in the community is safe."Olerud said local crews are doing their best to deal with the extensive damage around town, but it's been difficult to get a handle on things. "It's kind of one of those [where] we've got so many places that where do you put the crews first?" Olerud said.Alekka Fullerton, interim manager of the Haines Borough government, said there are about 50 homes that have been ordered to evacuate because of potential mudslides."Unfortunately last night we had to evacuate several other areas of town so we have a lot more people who have been displaced now and so our hotels are all full," Fullerton said.Fullerton said with all the rain, the ground is getting saturated and dangerous for residents in certain areas.A geological team from Alaska's Department of Natural Resources that was supposed to arrive Thursday to help determine the stability of the area, was weathered out and didn't arrive until Friday.They arrived by ferry as the weather made flying impossible, Olerud said."We really are discouraging people from coming to town, we do not need any more volunteers, we don't need people coming to town," Fullerton said.Olerud said the community has already received a lot of support, from within the state and beyond. He said it's been tough especially with two local residents still unaccounted for."It's hard. You know, everybody knows each other," Olerud said."I hope we get a break here. We've got a lot of talented people doing everything they can to keep everybody safe. And I have faith that they're going to do that."
Opponents of a planned correctional facility in Kemptville are organizing a Zoom meeting on Tuesday. "The recent public engagement session hosted by the Ministry of the Solicitor General provided one view of the issue; we think it is important for people to hear from other voices on this matter," said Victor Lachance, a member of the Coalition Against the Proposed Prison (CAPP) and the evening's moderator. The province plans to locate a 235-bed correctional facility on agricultural land in the community. The online meeting, dubbed an information session, will be held on Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. According to a press release issued by CAPP, participants at the event will hear from experts in the field of incarceration, prison reform, and construction, as well as an Indigenous political leader. Eight speakers are on the schedule, including: Kim Beaudin, Vice-Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples; Bryonie Baxter, former executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa; Paul Cormier, chairman of RANA Development Inc.; Marie-Therese Voutsinos, who will talk about the importance of preserving agricultural land; Aaron Doyle, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University; Justin Piche, associate professor at the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa; and Kirk Albert, spokesperson for the local Jail Opposition Group. "Our goal is to emphasize a positive vision for the future of Kempville and North Grenville," said Lachance. CAPP is made up of a group of residents opposed to the planned construction of the Eastern Ontario Correctional Complex on 182 acres of farmland that was previously part of the Kemptville agricultural college. "It’s an important piece of the agriculture and farming heritage of the area," said Colleen Lynas, spokesperson for CAPP. According to the press release there will be a "robust" question-and-answer period following the presentations and anyone interested in participating is invited to register at firstname.lastname@example.org.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
A new chamber of commerce partnership program designed to help businesses connect with new talent, and gain access to financial incentives, has just launched. The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Magnet and the Talent Opportunity Program (TOP) to connect chamber of commerce members to the Magnet platform, a digital social enterprise out of Ryerson University. Through Magnet, businesses can get connected with new talent, and get access to business growth opportunities and tools to navigate the impacts of the changing labour market and the COVID-19 pandemic. Key to the partnership between Magnet and local chamber is access to wage subsidies through the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP). Funded by the Government of Canada, SWPP lets employers tap into wage subsidies of up to $7,500 when they hire a Canadian post-secondary student, in a co-op style environment . "The combination of a national recruitment platform and the SWPP wage subsidy will be an important lifeline for our members," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. This chamber partnership initiative brings together local chambers and boards of trade, small and medium-sized enterprises, job-seekers, and post-secondary institutions to support opportunities for student job seekers from coast to coast, across Canada, in an effort to boost economic recovery. "The initiative represents an innovative and necessary approach to helping small businesses grow, connecting early talent to new opportunities to emerge from this challenge stronger and better," said Kirkland. Creating an account with the Magnet Business Growth Portal is free for businesses of all sizes and industries. The Magnet Business Growth Portal helps small and medium enterprises strategize, adapt, and grow with notifications about funding, wage subsidies, training and hiring programs, market research, and COVID-19 support, according to the portal. "Ensuring a strong economic recovery depends on the success of our students and youth. Programs like the Student Work Placement Program exist to provide post-secondary students with the chance to grow professionally and develop new skills while working in sectors that are in line with their interests and field of study," Carla Qualtrough, the federal minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement. The SWPP can help business, working towards recovery, offset the cost of hiring, while giving youth an opportunity to gain work experience. "Our government's investment in Magnet will go a long way in helping young Canadians gain meaningful placement opportunities in a variety of disciplines including health care and other high demand sectors, all of which play an especially important role in responding to the current pandemic," said Qualtrough.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
Employees at the LNG Canada work site in Kitimat, B.C., complained multiple times about unsafe working conditions just months before the facility experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, according to WorkSafe BC inspection reports obtained by The Narwhal. The outbreak at LNG Canada started on Nov. 19 and there are now 54 cases. In the months leading up to the outbreak, workers raised concerns about COVID-19 cleaning procedures in common areas, rooms and work spaces, prompting inspections by WorkSafe BC on Aug. 28 and Oct. 19. The documents also reveal that a WorkSafe BC inspection of the Site C work camp’s sewage treatment facility in northeast B.C. on March 19 found the facility did not have a plan to sufficiently protect workers from pathogens, body fluids, human waste, mould and COVID-19. WorkSafe BC didn’t say if or how the issues flagged during the inspection were resolved. The first case of COVID-19 at Site C was in July and there have been 17 cases to date. On Dec. 4, BC Hydro reported five active cases and 18 people in self-isolation. The revelations come as calls grow for B.C. to shut down work camps or risk further community spread with northern hospitals already stretched thin. More than 180 frontline health workers have signed an open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that started circulating on Thursday, calling on her to immediately shut down industrial work camps on Indigenous territories. “To put the interests of economy and industry ahead of Indigenous lives is not public health,” the letter says. “To put Indigenous Elders and youth at further risk in the midst of a pandemic is to say quite clearly that Indigenous lives still do not matter in B.C.” On Thursday, the Unist’ot’en Camp said Coastal GasLink confirmed five new cases at its camp 9A on Unist’ot’en territory. Sley’do Molly Wickham, Gidimt’en Camp spokesperson, said at least one Wet’suwet’en worker in a Coastal GasLink work camp recently contracted the virus and is now hospitalized in an induced coma. David Bowering, former chief medical officer for Northern Health, said the time has come for the province to shift gears and take a harder look at what it deems essential. “Is it industry first, or the health and safety of the population in the north first? They need to rethink the essential designation and say it’s not that essential, certainly not at this price.” Coastal GasLink, BC Hydro and the Ministry of Health did not respond to interview requests prior to publication. LNG Canada declined an interview request. Bowering told The Narwhal he’s surprised it took this long for an outbreak in the work camps to occur. In the early days of the pandemic, he wrote an open letter to Henry urging her to shut down the work camps, calling them “land locked cruise ships” and warning that cases related to these industrial sites were inevitable. He knows what he’s talking about — his first job as a doctor was at a mining camp. He called the safety plans prepared by LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink “deluxe” documents but says the best plans in the world don’t mean anything if people aren’t following the rules. “They have luxury-class health and safety plans and luxury-class consultants compared to what the public sector can afford,” he said. “The virus doesn’t respect paper protocols. There’s just too much human nature involved.” Wickham said she has frequently seen workers flouting the rules. “We know that they’re not following even the basic protocols like wearing masks when they’re in vehicles together or when they’re close working closely with one another,” she said. “And they’re certainly not wearing masks when they’re interacting with our people on the territory.” Bowering is concerned that capacity at Northern Health hospitals is already stretched thin. In a statement released yesterday, the health authority said it is “experiencing an increase in COVID-19 activity and hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients requiring critical care.” There 235 active cases in the region including 33 people in hospital. Patients have already been transferred to hospitals outside the region to deal with the increase. “I think we’re in for a rough ride,” Bowering said. “The worry about our local hospitals and our local staff being overwhelmed, burned out and having difficulty coping, that’s becoming a pretty clear reality. Our communities need help.” Bowering isn’t alone in his calls to shut down work camps. The open letter from frontline health workers calls for Henry to take “immediate action” and shut down work camps. “As health professionals, we have a responsibility to uphold the current and future health of these communities, which are now under threat from the continuing of Coastal GasLink (LNG) work and man camps,” the letter says. The frontline health workers’ letter is in support of concerns raised by more than 20 Wet’suwet’en matriarchs, or Ts’ako ze’, in an open letter to Henry dated Nov. 30. In that letter, the matriarchs asked the public health officer to reconsider the essential designation given to the oil and gas industry and close work camps, which have also been shown to increase violence against Indigenous women and children and bring a host of social ills. “Not only have we witnessed an increase in drugs, alcohol and gang-related violence in our communities, we are now faced with a disease that could kill any one of us,” the matriarchs wrote. “In addition to the risk man camps have on our Indigenous women and girls, we are now facing the loss of some of our most sacred elders and chiefs.” At the time of publication, the Ts’ako ze’ said they had not received a response from the public health officer. The calls to shut down work camps come in the wake of a damning independent review that found widespread racism and discrimination against Ingienous people in B.C. health care. The 224-page report released on Nov. 30 found that racism and discrimination negatively affect the treatment and health outcomes of Indigenous people, who are already at higher risk of health issues due to a number of factors realted to systemic racism, such a poverty and intergenerational trauma. “Many Indigenous people have underlying health conditions because of all of the impacts of colonization,” Wickham said. “We have higher rates of diabetes and higher rates of heart disease. Our people are at greater risk of dying.” Wickham said a particularly alarming aspect to the increase in cases in work camps is the potential impact on Indigenous communities. Most industrial operations have a mandate to hire local and Indigenous workers and those people mix with transient workers and, on their days off, with members of their own communities. Bowering said the continued presence of industrial activity is contradictory to the goals of the public health office. “I drive by First Nations [communities] and see the barriers and the closed signs — these people are trying remarkably hard to stay safe,” he said. “But at the same time, there are buses coming and going to many of them, up to the mines and back.” The BC Centre for Disease Control noted in its guidance document for industrial sites that Indigenous people are at higher risk of COVID-19 and recommended that employers limit its workers’ interactions in surrounding towns. But Bowering and Wickham said the presence of out of town workers in the region is both common and on the rise. “We have been concerned about not just the man camps, but the fact that a lot of the workers are living in our communities and hotels,” Wickham said. “They’re going back and forth every day.” Bowering said the B.C. public health office can easily put the brakes on what could quickly become a serious and escalating crisis in high-risk communities. “They have to decide whether having everybody else not travelling, but allowing these workers to travel is a reasonable public health decision? Is it even ethically reasonable?” Meanwhile, activity on Wet’suwet’en territory is increasing. “The whole territory is just crawling with workers,” Wickham said. She lives with her partner and three children in a cabin near the Coastal GasLink work zone. “They have helicopters flying overhead at least two or three times a day, both surveillance helicopters and industry helicopters slinging materials in and out of the territory. It’s a warzone out there.”Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
OTTAWA — Procurement Minister Anita Anand says that as soon as she knows when the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada, she will share that information with Canadians.But Anand told The Canadian Press in an interview this week that the original contracts to buy COVID-19 vaccines had to be vague about delivery dates because nobody knew at the time if the vaccines would be successful.It's only in the last few weeks, when the leading candidates from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca reported such positive results from their large clinical trials, that the way forward became clear enough for Anand's department to start asking the companies to be more specific about when they can make good on their contracts with Canada."We put these contracts in place in order to place Canadians in the best stead possible, of any country in the world, recognizing that we would need to negotiate additional terms such as precise delivery dates, once a vaccine was discovered, and regulatory approval was obtained," she said. "And that is what's happening now."As Canadians face a pandemic-plagued holiday season and dream that 2021 will not be the anxiety-laden and often tragic disaster that 2020 has proven to be, there is one gleaming hope dangling still just out of reach: a vaccine for COVID-19.Still, the federal government has yet to answer one big question: When will it get here?It is not that she doesn't want to tell Canadians when, said Anand. But the complexities of figuring out a specific date are linked to when Health Canada approves the vaccine, and when the vaccine makers can see that Canada is ready to receive and safely distribute the precious doses, some of which have to be stored at temperatures below -70 C.Those pieces are starting to converge now.Health Canada officials are days, maybe even hours, away from approving the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for use in Canada.Canadians got some more information on the logistics from a briefing of federal officials this week, including that Pfizer will ship its vaccine directly to 14 identified receiving sites in provinces. FedEx and Innomar Strategies were contracted Friday to oversee the delivery of other vaccines from a national receiving site to provinces.The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued refined guidance Friday for who should get the vaccine first, including long-term care residents and workers, and people over the age of 80. The materials like syringes, gauze pads and bandages needed to vaccinate millions of people are in place. Ultralow temperature freezers have been purchased and nine new ones have already arrived. Provincial governments are lining up their own task forces."We are going to have vaccines in this country, as expeditiously as possible," Anand said.Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has been decrying the lack of clarity from the Liberals about the vaccine plan. A week ago he accused the Liberals of only starting to buy vaccines in a panic this summer after a collaboration with China on a vaccine fell apart.The partnership between the National Research Council and China's CanSino Biologics was announced in May to great fanfare. But the doses to be used in a Canadian clinical trial failed to arrive, when the Chinese government — in the midst of political tensions with Canada — refused to issue an export permit for them.“I would not have put all our eggs in the basket of China,” O’Toole said Nov. 29, adding the timeline shows it wasn't until that deal fell apart that Canada "started getting serious with Pfizer, Moderna, the other options."Anand said that is not the case.She said the CanSino deal fell within Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains' portfolio, not her own, and nothing about the project prevented her from negotiating with other companies.Her marching orders to negotiate deals with other vaccine makers came weeks earlier. A team of procurement officials in her department was assigned to the file in March, at the same time as those negotiating contracts for medical supplies, personal protective equipment and rapid tests.In June, the COVID-19 vaccine task force provided a list of vaccines for Canada to pursue. Anand said talks with manufacturers began in early July. The first deal, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna, was struck July 24. Canada was first to sign with Moderna. It signed a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech a week later, on Aug. 1. It was the fourth country to do so, after the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. News of trouble on the CanSino deal first appeared in early July when the doses still hadn't been approved for export by China. Canada walked away from the deal at the end of August when it became clear it would not happen.By then, Canada had deals with four other vaccine companies, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and NovaVax. It added deals with Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in September and then with Canada's own Medicago the next month.Anand said Canada approached every contract with a similar goal — to get 20 million doses guaranteed, and options to potentially buy more later on. In all, Canada is paying more than $1 billion to the seven vaccine makers for 194 million doses, even if those vaccines never get beyond the experimental stage.Another 220 million doses are available if Canada asks for them, a decision that will be made for the vaccines that are proving to be the best. Anand announced Friday another 20 million doses will come to Canada in 2021 from Moderna, for a total of 40 million.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2020.Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Latest on President-elect Joe Biden (all times local): 8:05 p.m. More than a half dozen Democratic congresswomen have sent an open letter to President-elect Joe Biden urging him to make Michèle Flournoy the country's first female defence secretary. They say in the letter dated Thursday that the selection of Flournoy would be “a symbolic moment for the United States, and for all women who over the years have aspired to careers in national security.” They call Flournoy “eminently qualified to serve." Biden has been facing escalating pressure from competing factions within his own party over his defence pick. Black leaders have encouraged the incoming president to select an African American to diversify what has so far been a largely white prospective Cabinet, while others are pushing him to appoint a woman to lead the Pentagon for the first time. Meanwhile, some progressive groups are opposing Flournoy, citing concerns about her record and private-sector associations. Among the seven women who signed the letter pushing Flournoy are Reps. Jackie Speier of California, Lois Frankel of Florida and Veronica Escobar from Texas. ___ HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN'S TRANSITION TO THE WHITE HOUSE: President-elect Joe Biden is adjusting the scope of his agenda to meet the challenges of governing with a narrowly divided Congress and the complications of legislating during a raging pandemic. Read more: — EXPLAINER: Trump’s failing, monthlong fight against election — Trump loves to win but keeps losing election lawsuits — Dangerously viral: How Trump, supporters spread false claims — Optimism growing for coronavirus relief bill as pressure builds ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON: 4:05 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says keeping people safe is his first consideration for his Jan. 20 inauguration, making it “highly unlikely” that a million people will pack the National Mall for his swearing-in during the coronavirus pandemic. Biden was asked about inauguration planning during a news conference Friday in Wilmington, Delaware. He suggested that the festivities could end up looking like the largely virtual convention Democrats held in August, with online activity in the states. Biden says his team is talking with congressional leaders about their plans for the inauguration. The swearing-in ceremony and a lunch for the new president and vice-president are held at the Capitol. Biden says he wants people to be able to celebrate safely. He says, “There will probably not be a gigantic inaugural parade.” He says details are still being worked out. ___ 4 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says the Trump administration has diminished confidence in science so much that it will take some time and effort to rebuild it across the board, including convincing people that the coronavirus vaccines are safe. He said Friday that he’s bothered by what he said were “wild assertions” President Donald Trump has made about the virus going away on its own. He noted how Trump once suggested that perhaps scientists could come up with a way that injecting bleach would kill the coronavirus. Biden says that a president’s words matter and that he hopes to especially convince hard-hit Black and Latino communities that the vaccines are safe. Biden took questions about the pandemic in Wilmington, Delaware, after making comments on the virus’s impact on the U.S. economy. ___ 3:50 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says the Trump administration’s plan for distributing an approved coronavirus vaccine to the public lacks important detail. Biden said Friday that “there’s no detailed plan that we’ve seen” for how to get vaccines out of a container, into syringes and into people’s arms. He says more equitable distribution is also needed to get the vaccine into underserved communities, not just to drugstores and large retailers. Biden noted that Black people and Latinos are more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people are. Biden says the “equity side” is an important part of the process, too. He says he’s working on an “overall plan” and adds that’s why he asked government infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to be part of Biden’s COVID-19 team and to serve as his chief medical adviser. ___ 3:35 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says that the most recent jobs report is “dire” and that there is no time to lose as millions of people have lost their jobs or have seen their incomes slashed. With the pandemic accelerating across the country, America’s employers sharply scaled back their hiring last month, adding 245,000 jobs, the fewest since April and the fifth straight monthly slowdown. Biden called on Congress to urgently pass an economic stimulus to help turn the corner on the impact that the coronavirus has had on the U.S. economy. Friday’s report provided the latest evidence that the job market and economy are faltering in the face of a virus that has been shattering daily records for confirmed infections. Economic activity is likely to slow further as the pandemic worsens during the winter months. “It was grim,” Biden said. “It shows an economy that’s stalling,” In the past three months, 2.3 million more people are long-term unemployed and deaths are rising. Biden says, “Americans need help and they need it now.” ___ 8:15 a.m. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, says there was never a question that he would accept President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to serve as his chief medical officer and adviser on the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot” after Biden asked him to serve during a conversation on Thursday. As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has served several presidents, Republican and Democratic. But during President Donald Trump’s administration, he has been largely sidelined as Trump gave rosy assessments of the virus and insisted it would fade away. Fauci has urged rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing, practices that have not often been followed at the White House. On Thursday, Biden said he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president. “I told him I thought that was a good idea,” Fauci told NBC. ___ 8 a.m. National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe says foreign adversaries are using social media and other platforms to amplify allegations of voter fraud. But he won’t say which countries are using the issue to try to undermine public confidence in the U.S. democratic process. President Donald Trump and his allies continue to mount new legal cases alleging voter fraud in battleground states since he lost the November presidential election to Joe Biden. But they have been losing in court. And Trump’s own attorney general has declared the Justice Department uncovered no widespread fraud. Ratcliffe is a Trump loyalist. He says on CBS that U.S. intelligence agencies have no indication that any foreign adversary or criminal group had the ability to change vote results but that they are still analyzing all the information collected. Ratcliffe told “CBS This Morning” on Friday that he plans to issue a report on foreign election interference in January. The Associated Press
The union for blue-collar workers in Montreal says it wants to put pressure on the city to speed up negotiations and says it has issued a strike notice that will come into force in the next couple weeks. The city's 6,500 blue-collar workers have been without an employee contract since Dec. 31, 2017. In a news release sent by the union representing the workers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), said, "discussions are ongoing but we want to put some pressure to get things done.""Blue-collar workers want a new employment contract that is fair and respects the work they provide on a daily basis," the release said. It said in mid-November 2,846 members voted 97.2 per cent in favour of a mandate giving them the right to exercise pressure that could go as far as a general strike.The assembly was held in a temporary drive-in installed on the site of the Royalmount project, where members arrived by car. The City of Montreal says it is aware of the union's decision but that it has not been informed of the pressure tactics workers plan on taking, or which essential services they will continue to offer.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. There are 402,569 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 402,569 confirmed cases (69,977 active, 320,096 resolved, 12,496 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 6,300 new cases Friday from 86,410 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 7.3 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43,505 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,215. There were 89 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 602 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 86. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,826,099 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 343 confirmed cases (27 active, 312 resolved, four deaths). There were three new cases Friday from 304 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.99 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 63,887 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 73 confirmed cases (five active, 68 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday from 425 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 62,046 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,358 confirmed cases (117 active, 1,176 resolved, 65 deaths). There were 15 new cases Friday from 1,014 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.5 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 92 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 13. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 151,573 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 528 confirmed cases (111 active, 410 resolved, seven deaths). There were eight new cases Friday from 727 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.1 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 51 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is seven. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people. There have been 104,518 tests completed. _ Quebec: 147,877 confirmed cases (13,145 active, 127,549 resolved, 7,183 deaths). There were 1,345 new cases Friday from 10,981 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 12 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,714 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,388. There were 28 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 199 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 28. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.34 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 84.66 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,226,791 tests completed. _ Ontario: 123,526 confirmed cases (14,997 active, 104,792 resolved, 3,737 deaths). There were 1,780 new cases Friday from 54,170 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.3 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,310 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,759. There were 25 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 142 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 20. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.65 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,251,327 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 18,069 confirmed cases (9,172 active, 8,535 resolved, 362 deaths). There were 318 new cases Friday from 3,075 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 10 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,437 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 348. There were nine new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 82 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.86 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.43 per 100,000 people. There have been 357,524 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 9,527 confirmed cases (4,116 active, 5,356 resolved, 55 deaths). There were 283 new cases Friday from 2,048 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 14 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,836 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 262. There was one new reported death Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 4.68 per 100,000 people. There have been 267,348 tests completed. _ Alberta: 64,851 confirmed cases (18,243 active, 46,018 resolved, 590 deaths). There were 1,828 new cases Friday from 6,850 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 27 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 11,746 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,678. There were 15 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 71 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 10. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 13.5 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,502,472 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 36,132 confirmed cases (9,982 active, 25,658 resolved, 492 deaths). There were 711 new cases Friday from 6,753 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 11 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,248 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 750. There were 11 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 97 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.27 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 9.7 per 100,000 people. There have been 822,120 tests completed. _ Yukon: 51 confirmed cases (11 active, 39 resolved, one deaths). There was one new case Friday from 34 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.9 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been nine new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 5,522 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday from 29 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 6,511 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 206 confirmed cases (51 active, 155 resolved, zero deaths). There were eight new cases Friday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 47 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is seven. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 4,384 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
Another North Island resident has confirmed they have COVID-19, and are isolating at home, this time in Port McNeill. Kelly Chadwick, mother of two, started feeling cold-like symptoms on Nov. 30. She stayed home from work the next day day and sent her kids to stay with their dad and began to isolate herself. On Dec. 3, Island Health called with the positive test confirmation. Chadwick was surprised; she thought it was just a regular sinus infection like she gets every winter. She works at the pharmacy but since Mondays are her regular day off, she hadn’t been at work during the contagious part of the disease, which Island Health says is 48-hours before the onset of symptoms. Still, the pharmacy took the situation seriously, double and triple checking it was safe to remain open. A couple of close friends who Chadwick saw over the weekend, as well as Chadwick’s two children, are now isolating for 14 days. The quarantine means Chadwick will miss her son’s 10th birthday on Dec. 10, but she’s glad she’ll still get to spend Christmas with them. She has no idea where she picked up the virus, saying it had been at least three weeks since she was last down Island. “At first I felt a little bombarded, like it was my fault,” she told the Gazette, but since sharing publicly on Facebook she feels supported by the community. READ MORE: First publicly confirmed COVID-19 case in Port Hardy has been isolated since before symptoms occurred Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom wrote a post on her official Facebook page, saying that while rumours of COVID have been going around, it’s a reminder to diligently follow the public health guidelines, and reminded people to stay kind. “We have always been a community that cares. Don’t let COVID steal that from us. Let’s be sure to remain caring by extending grace and kindness to all. Do not let fear consume you. We will get through this!” Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: email@example.comZoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
It appears the Vancouver Canucks have fired their longtime national anthem singer in response to reports he will be singing at a rally organized by COVID-19 deniers and anti-mask advocates.On Friday afternoon, the Vancouver Sun reported that Mark Donnelly had agreed to perform at a Saturday event in Vancouver protesting COVID-19 restrictions.Not long after, hockey team owner Francesco Aquilini tweeted at the newspaper to request a change in the headline from "Canucks anthem singer" to "former Canucks anthem singer."A Canucks spokesperson confirmed the news in an email to CBC, writing, "You are safe to say his days are over."Donnelly is a fixture at home games for the Canucks, but his political views have also attracted controversy in the past.In 2012, he sang the national anthem for an anti-abortion caravan as it passed through Vancouver.
The Trump administration on Friday suspended all federal student loan payments through the end of January and kept interest rates at 0%, extending a moratorium that started early in the pandemic but was set to expire at the end of this month.By extending payments by one month, the administration is effectively leaving it to the Biden administration or Congress to decide whether to provide longer-term relief to millions of student borrowers. The measure was included in a March relief package and the White House extended it in August, but its fate was in doubt amid stalemate over a new relief bill.In announcing the extension, DeVos rebuked Congress for failing to act. “The added time also allows Congress to do its job and determine what measures it believes are necessary and appropriate," DeVos said in a statement. "The Congress, not the Executive Branch, is in charge of student loan policy.”Under the measure, students will not be required to make payments, their loans will not accrue interest and all collection activity will halt until the end of January.DeVos won praise for using her authority to pause federal student loan payments in March. Congress later cemented the measure in legislation and Trump extended it through December, but the looming deadline stoked fears that millions of borrowers would be forced to resume payments even as unemployment rates soared.Last month, the American Council on Education and dozens of other higher education associations urged DeVos to extend the relief, saying the recent surge in COVID-19 cases would likely lead to even more economic turmoil.“Bringing millions of Americans back into repayment in the thick of this crisis will cause additional financial hardship and force borrowers to make difficult decisions about their limited resources,” the groups wrote in a letter to DeVos.Even DeVos' own agency warned of looming trouble if the moratorium lapsed. In its annual report last month, Federal Student Aid, the office that oversees student loans, said that without an extension it would face a “heavy burden" in moving millions of borrowers to active repayment at the same time.President-elect Joe Biden has not directly addressed the moratorium but on Tuesday called for immediate relief including "relief from rent and student loans.” He has also supported proposals to erase up to $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers as part of a future virus relief package.In Friday's announcement, DeVos said her agency is working to notify the loan servicing companies that the Education Department contracts with to manage collections. A federal lawsuit filed against DeVos in April alleged that thousands of overdue borrowers were still getting pay withheld despite the mortarium. The department blamed the error on its servicers.DeVos' Friday release says that any defaulted borrowers who continue to have wages withheld will receive refunds.Collin Binkley, The Associated Press