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.
Alberta’s top doctor is reminding Albertans that the COVID-19 virus is spreading across the whole province, not just in large urban centres. On Thursday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said COVID-19 cases are rising and spreading in rural communities. The warning came on the same day the province broke another daily case record with 1,854 new cases found in the past 24 hours. “COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or an Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem within a global problem,” Hinshaw said. Hinshaw said in the spring rural communities were less impacted than urban areas by the virus' spread, but right now, cases are growing in the north, central and south zones, with one third of all active cases outside of the province's two major cities. COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live or what your postal code is, Hinshaw said, and she reminded residents it just takes one case in a community to cause an outbreak. On top of spread, Hinshaw said it may be more difficult to access services for serious outcomes in rural areas, including being further away from health care and intensive care beds. On Thursday, the province saw 1,854 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day case climb yet. “Anyone who contracts the virus needs our support,” Hinshaw said, reminding residents to not stigmatize those who have come down with COVID-19. In the last 24 hours, the province has conducted 19,600 tests, with 9.5 per cent coming back positive. There are currently 17,743 active cases of the virus in Alberta, with 511 people in the hospital and 97 in intensive care. “These numbers are very concerning and I know that AHS is watching them closely,” Hinshaw said. In the past 24 hours, 14 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported. “Sharing the number of lives lost is a little more difficult each day because I know the pain and sadness their deaths cause for their families and friends left behind,” Hinshaw said. On Nov. 24, the province announced new restrictions to help curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the province, with most of the restrictions kicking in on Friday and Monday. Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
A 21-year-old man is facing charges after a teacher was assaulted at a high school in King City, Ont., York Regional Police say.On Nov 10., right before 11:30 a.m., a man entered King City Secondary School and walked around the first floor of the building before entering a classroom on the second floor, police said in a statement. He punched a 37-year-old teacher in the classroom and then fled the school, heading west on King Road. The teacher sustained minor injuries, said Sgt. Any Pattenden in a news release.Investigators released a surveillance camera image of a suspect on Thursday and asked for the public's help in identifying him.The accused, who is from Richmond Hill, turned himself in on Friday in Newmarket, Ont., said Pattenden. He is charged with assault, mischief, trespass to property and failure to comply with a continued section 7.02 order. That order is an amendment under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that was to protect public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Police are asking anyone with information to contact them at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7141, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.
Pincher Creek town council passed a mandatory mask bylaw during a special meeting Dec. 4. Temporary Mandatory Face Coverings Bylaw 1628-20 was proposed during the Dec. 2 committee of the whole meeting. In order to provide an immediate response to the spread of Covid-19 in the community, town council held a special meeting later that afternoon to vote on the bylaw. The bylaw passed first and second reading but required unanimous approval by all members of council to enter its third and final reading. Coun. Sussanne O’Rourke was the only council member to vote in opposition, so third reading was delayed to today. Coun. O’Rourke was again the only opposing vote for the third reading. The bylaw comes into effect immediately. Bylaw 1628-20 requires people to wear a face covering or mask that covers the mouth, nose and chin at all times while inside indoor public places and public vehicles in Pincher Creek. The bylaw specifies an indoor public place as “any property, whether publicly or privately owned, to which members of the public have access as of right or by express or implied invitation.” A public vehicle is defined as “a bus, taxi or other vehicle which is used to transport members of the public for a fee.” Business owners are required to post signage stating the face covering requirements. The bylaw does not apply to schools, daycares, or the hospital, all of which are governed by provincial policies outside the town’s jurisdiction. Violations of the bylaw will result in a $100 fine. Enforcement will be provided by members of the RCMP, community peace officers and bylaw enforcement officers. Importantly, there are a number of exemptions to the mask requirement. Masks are not mandatory for children two years and under, as well as anyone who is unable to place, use or remove the mask without assistance. People unable to wear a face covering as a result of a medical condition or disability are also exempt, in addition to people who are eating or drinking, exercising, or those working alone or separated by at least two metres or a barrier. The bylaw also stipulates individuals may temporarily remove their masks during an emergency, when they need to establish their identity, or receive a service that requires it. Coun. Lorne Jackson said the exemptions were an important component of the bylaw, since he was fully aware many cannot wear a face covering for multiple reasons, including mental anxieties or physical health and disability issues. As a result of his own limited hand use and nerve damage, Coun. Jackson sympathised with people who would deal with unkind judgments for not complying with the bylaw. “This stems from the disapproving looks that are occasionally directed toward me from individuals that are unaware of my limitations and when my injuries are hidden by clothing,” he said. Coun. Jackson also acknowledged mandating masks through legislation had become a polarized issue as people argued between protecting public health versus infringing upon civil liberties. Having many people he considered good friends on both sides of the debate made him take his vote especially serious. “I’ve been thinking about this bylaw practically non stop since it was first introduced,” he said. Enforcing mask use, he concluded, was an important way for the town to remain in control of its destiny. “I want to stress that anything we can do locally in an effort to remain below the provincial trigger numbers will help to keep the ball in our court rather than other measures that none of us want to see.” Maintaining that level of autonomy, agreed Coun. Brian McGillivray, justified the bylaw’s measures. “I think we’re shortly about to see things change rapidly in our little corner of the world where we’ve been so lucky to sort of avoid the threat from the pandemic that other areas of Alberta have been threatened with,” said Coun. McGillivray. For Coun. Scott Korbett, limiting the spread of Covid-19 had become a personal issue. “I have tested positive for Covid-19, and I have been in isolation since Nov. 27,” he announced. Although making sure to keep within his cohort and limiting social interactions out of concern for a family member undergoing chemotherapy, Coun. Korbett’s contraction of the virus emphasized the seriousness of the disease. “Symptoms for me are not dire, but I am healthy and I’m able to fight this. I can appreciate how someone vulnerable could not,” he said. Overall, Coun. Korbett said the bylaw was an important way to support the Pincher Creek business community and healthcare workers despite not being “the silver bullet to stop the spread.” Mayor Don Anderberg seconded the sentiment. “The one thing we need to keep in mind is it doesn’t matter what legislation we put in place: we have to take personal responsibility for our health,” the mayor said. “If we start thinking in terms of making sure our personal activities first of all take care of us, but going beyond that if we start thinking more of others, then I think we’ll get out of this,” he continued. “Without that type of initiative and all of us taking the responsibility, it doesn’t really matter what the law says.” Public notice of the bylaw, along with answers to frequently asked questions, is available on the town’s website at http://bit.ly/PCmaskBylaw.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
A 35-year-old Dawson Creek man was killed Saturday, November 28 when he was caught in an avalanche while out snowmobiling north of Mackenzie. Police and rescue personnel were called to the scene in the Powder King-Bijoux Falls area beginning shortly before 2 p.m. They said two snowmobilers were in the area at the time and one was buried in the snow. The victim's name was not provided. "The BC Coroners Service has conduct of this incident and is currently investigating to determine the facts surrounding this death. No further details are available at this time," RCMP said in a statement. On the previous Friday, Avalanche Canada had issued its first forecast of the season and had put the danger rating for the North Rockies at high for treeline and above and considerable for below treeline. "There was a pretty big storm that pass through the area, almost a week long storm," Avalanche Canada warning service manager Karl Klassen said Monday. "And that storm just started breaking up on Saturday, there was a fair amount of wind and quite a bit of new snow. Temperatures were quite warm and then they cooled off and those are kind of classic conditions for pretty significant avalanche danger. "We rated the danger as high, we told people to expect large avalanches on all aspects and all elevations given the amount of wind and snow and the temperatures that were occurring at the time." The high rating is one level below extreme and is used when conditions are deemed to be very dangerous. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended when the rating is in place although Klassen said it can be done with proper training and experience. "Even when the avalanche danger is high or even extreme, there are places in the mountains where avalanches just don't occur so as long as you can recognize that terrain and stay on that terrain, you'd be fine," Klassen said. "But again, just to stress, it's not something you (should do) without getting some training, getting some experience and gaining some knowledge and making a good trip plan before they leave." Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he said avalanche courses remain available. Theory is being learned online or in smaller class sizes and with greater physical distancing and masks once outside for the practical part. To find a class, go to avalanche.ca and click on the learn tab. Thanks to an influx of federal funding, a three-person field team has been working in the region during the winter months since December 2019. Klassen said forecasts for the region will be issued four times a week this season, up from three times a week last winter.Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
If he didn't know it before, Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty knows it now - they can come at the most unexpected times. Shortly before he was about to ask a question during Question Period in the House of Commons last Monday, Doherty received a text from his wife Kelly, notifying him that their pregnant daughter's water just broke. "I'm going to be a grandfather for the first time," Doherty told fellow MPs who responded with a round of applause. Still a little flustered, Doherty then said he had completely forgotten what he was going to say, which drew a round of good-natured laughter. Doherty was then able to gather his thoughts and ask health minister Patty Hadju about the extent of her commitment to bringing a 988 national suicide hotline to Canada. Earlier in November, Doherty had tabled a motion to establish the service, saying the easy-to-remember three-digit number could make the difference between a life saved and a life lost. "Does the minister support a national 988 suicide hotline in Canada, and if you don't, if the minister doesn't, just have the courtesy to say so," he said. Hadju, in turn, acknowledged the big news first. "I can't help but say congratulations to the member opposite, because that's pretty exciting news to break to the House of Commons," she said. Hadju went on to say she wants to continue to work with Doherty to bring the hotline to Canada and to find ways to make realize his proposal more quickly. On Wednesday, back home in his riding and taking part in House business remotely, Doherty proudly showed his Parliamentary colleagues a picture of his granddaughter, Ren Kathleen. Videos of both moments can be seen on Doherty’s Facebook page. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
EDMONTON — Alberta is offering more of its Rocky Mountain landscapes to coal mining after rescinding a decades-old policy that protected them. In documents released earlier this week, Alberta Energy is giving miners until Dec. 15 to bid on nearly 2,000 hectares on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Surface mining on those lands would have been prohibited under the former coal policy rescinded in May, said Ian Urquhart of the Alberta Wilderness Association. "Unfortunately, it isn't surprising." The leases will add to the land already leased for coal, which stretches in an almost unbroken swath for nearly 60 kilometres north from the Crowsnest Pass in the province's southwest corner. "There isn't much left there," he said. Alberta Energy spokesman Kavi Bal said any mine proposal is subject to review. "A coal lease does not mean that a coal project has been approved or exploration has been permitted." If the proposal is large enough, it is subject to a federal review as well. The United Conservative government has said it seeks to encourage increased export coal production. The province and the federal government are currently considering a proposal for a mountaintop removal coal mine in the Crowsnest Pass area. More proposals are expected. Most Alberta coal is used for steelmaking, not power generation. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
BRAMPTON, Ont. — A 33-year-old man has been charged with one count of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder after an early-morning house fire in Brampton, Ont. Peel police say a woman -- believed to be 61 years old -- was found dead in the burnt-out home on Friday. They say five other people made it out of the residence. A 34-year-old woman was taken to hospital with injuries not thought to be life-threatening, while a 71-year-old man and three children -- aged 11, nine and four -- were unharmed. Police say the accused was arrested at another Brampton home. They say he knew all of the residents of the home, but did not offer details on the nature of their relationship. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern): 7:15 pm. Yukon is reporting three more cases of COVID-19. Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, says the new cases bring the territory’s total to 54. Twelve cases are active in Yukon. Hanley says the three new cases are in Whitehorse. --- 5:50 p.m. Alberta is reporting 1,828 new cases of COVID-19. And again, the province has surpassed the daily case numbers in Ontario. Alberta has 533 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 99 of them in intensive care. The province says 15 more people have died, bringing that total to 590. --- 4:18 p.m. Restaurants and bars in Yukon will soon be required to collect contact information from their patrons. The territory says in a news release that chief medical officer Dr. Brendan Hanley introduced the requirement to assist with COVID-19 contact tracing. It says beginning Monday, one patron from each party will be required to sign in, and the eating and drinking establishments must keep the daily lists for 30 days. The lists will only be shared with Yukon Communicable Disease Control if an exposure has been identified. --- 2:43 p.m. Saskatchewan is reporting 283 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death. Health officials say the person who died was in their 80s and the province's death toll from the pandemic sits at 55. There are more than 4,000 active cases of the virus in the province, many of the infections concentrated in and around Regina and Saskatoon. Hospitals are treating 126 COVID-19 patients, with 25 of them in intensive care. The province's seven-day average of daily cases is 262. Premier Scott Moe hopes to see a dip in transmission of the virus so more visitation can be allowed in long-term care homes over the holidays. --- 1:40 p.m. Manitoba is announcing nine more deaths from COVID-19 and 320 new infections Friday as health officials released new modelling showing the impact of the pandemic on the province. It shows that three people end up in hospital and one person dies for every 48 cases of COVID-19. Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer, says if no public health measures had been put in place, there would have been up to 1,055 new infections a day by this Sunday. Daily cases have been tracking between 300 and 500 recently. --- 1:29 p.m. Nunavut will look to get the Moderna vaccine once it is available in Canada. Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says Moderna is preferred because the cold storage and shipping of the Pfizer vaccine is too difficult in Nunavut. Patterson also announced today fewer than five Nunavut residents with COVID-19 were flown to a Winnipeg hospital this week and are in stable condition. Patterson would not comment on exactly how many people were in hospital or what communities they come from. --- 1:22 p.m. Ottawa is increasing its order of prospective COVID-19 vaccines. Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada is exercising its option to obtain another 20 million doses of Moderna's two-dose candidate, bringing its total order to 40 million in 2021. That's expected to be enough to vaccinate almost 20 million people. Moderna is one of several manufacturers Ottawa has struck deals with for prospective COVID-19 vaccines, which will be delivered in batches. In early 2021, Canada expects a combined total of six million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, if authorized for distribution. --- 1:07 p.m. The group instructing provinces and territories about who should be first in line for COVID-19 vaccines has updated its advice. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says the first doses of authorized vaccines should go to residents and staff of congregate living settings for seniors. They should also go to older adults starting with people aged 80 and older, then decreasing the age limit to 70 as supply becomes available. Health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences are also on the list. --- 12:45 Public Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting three new cases of COVID-19. There are now 27 active cases in the province, for a total of 343 cases since the pandemic began. Premier Andrew Fury says he will announce the province's position on the Atlantic travel bubble Monday. Newfoundland and Labrador withdrew from the arrangement on looser travel restrictions within the region last month. --- 12:30 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19. Health officials say 11 cases are in the Halifax area, including a case at Citadel High School in Halifax reported late Thursday. Three cases in the northern health zone are close contacts of other cases, and one case in the western zone is related to travel. A case has also been identified at Park West School, a primary to Grade 9 school in the health zone that includes Halifax. --- 11:38 a.m. Nunavut is reporting eight new cases of COVID-19. The territory says all the new infections are in Arviat. The community on the western edge of Hudson Bay now has 44 active cases. Nunavut mostly lifted a two-week lockdown earlier this week but restrictions remain in Arviat where numbers are highest. --- 11:18 a.m. Public Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting eight new cases of COVID-19. There is one new case in the Moncton region, two in the Saint John region, one in the Fredericton area and four in the Edmunston region. All the individuals are self-isolating and their cases are under investigation. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick is 528 with 111 currently active. --- 11:10 a.m. There are 1,780 new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario today and 25 more deaths linked to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 633 new cases in Toronto, 433 in Peel and 152 in York Region. She says that the spread of COVID-19 has "hit a critical point." The minister is asking Ontarians to wear masks and remain physically distant from each other. --- 11:08 a.m. The Quebec government is reporting 1,345 new COVID-19 cases and 28 additional deaths linked to the novel coronavirus. The Health Department says of the five of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours. The number of hospitalizations has increased by 24 for a total of 761 with 97 people in intensive care. The province has reported a total of 147,877 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,183 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
Dionne Warwick sent her social media fans into a frenzy when she hilariously denied a stranger's request to buy him a PlayStation 5. The legendary singer is gearing up for her 80th birthday next week and her livestream Christmas concert. (Dec. 4)
The City of Vancouver says work to bring eastbound vehicle traffic back to Beach Avenue between Denman and Jervis streets will begin next week.In April, when few cars were on the road because of stay-at-home orders by public health officials, Beach Avenue's eastbound lanes were closed to motorists all the way to Hornby Street. The changes were made to allow park users more room for physical distancing due to COVID-19 concerns. Cyclists in Stanley Park had a two-lane road to themselves and pedestrians got exclusive use of the seawall.Under the new plan, traffic will still be banned from Jervis to Hornby streets, as the city works to establish a more permanent plan for the area."These interim changes are based on feedback from more than 2,500 residents during the fall on the current street design," according to a statement from the city.The changes include: * Painting crosswalks to better prioritize pedestrians crossings. * Adding median islands to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians. * Incorporating accessible design features like level bus boarding islands and modified traffic signals. * Replacing traffic cones with sturdier and harder-to-move concrete barriers.In September, the City of Vancouver launched an online survey to gather public input on the future of the Beach Avenue bike lane and the path.A plan to gather feedback on the longer-term vision for the area, and whether the changes should be permanent will be rolled out in 2021.The budget for the changes was not mentioned in the statement from the city.
TORONTO — Midfielder Jonathan Osorio has been handed a one-game suspension and undisclosed fine for violent conduct in Toronto FC's 1-0 playoff loss to Nashville SC.Hacked to the ground in the 32nd minute by Nashville midfielder Alex Muyl, Osorio kicked up with his left leg while on the ground, catching Muyl in the groin area during the Nov. 24 match at East Hartford.While Osorio escaped punishment from referee Robert Sibiga, the play was subsequently reviewed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee.The committee is allowed to step in in cases where the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) acknowledges an on-field referee or video review error — and the committee is unanimous that the play warrants at least a one-match suspension as a "clear and unequivocal red card, is egregious and/or repeat behaviour in nature, and/or the committee must act to protect player safety or the integrity of the game."Osorio will serve his suspension in Toronto’s first match of the 2021 regular season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020The Canadian Press
There was a death reported in the South Zone from COVID-19 reported on Friday. This marked the second consecutive day with a death reported in that zone and the third consecutive day in which at least one death was reported. The individual was in the 80-years-old and over age group. The number of deaths in the province is now 55. The province also reported another 283 cases on Friday. The current seven-day average is 262, or 21. 7 cases per 100,000 population. The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported 47 new cases. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 189 active cases. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 214 active cases and North Central 3 has 40 active cases. The North Central zone is third in the Active Case Breakdown with 403 active cases. Of the 9,527 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 4,116 are considered active. Of the 126 people in hospital in the province, 101 are receiving in patient care including 12 in the North Central. Of the 25 in intensive care four are in the North Central. The recovered number now sits at 5,356 after 183 more recoveries were reported. The total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic is 9,527of those 1,927 cases are from the north area (692 north west, 916 north central and 319 north east) Yesterday 3,504 COVID-19 tests were processed in Saskatchewan. As of today there have been 357,142 COVID-19 tests performed in Saskatchewan. In other zones there were 83 cases reported Friday in Regina, 50 in Saskatoon, 12 each in the North West and South West, 11 in the Far North East, nine each in the South East, South Central and Far North West and seven in the North East. There are 18 cases with pending residence information. Two cases, one from Nov. 15 and one from Nov. 22, with pending residence information have been assigned to the North West Of the 126 people in hospital elsewhere in the province; 36 are in Saskatoon, 21 in the South East, 20 are in Regina, seven in the North West, three in the South West and one in the North East are receiving in patient care. Elsewhere in the province in intensive care there are 11 in Saskatoon, nine in Regina and one person in the North West. The Saskatoon zone leads the Active Case breakdown with 1,324 cases. In second place is Regina with 974 active cases. Over 90 active cases of COVID-19 in youth in North Central On Thursday the province released the updated numbers on cases in youth. The total active cases in youth provincially in all locations are 834, six have no known location and 828 have a location reported. Provincially there is an 8.5 per cent test positivity rate in youth. Data on positive tests in youth is updated every Thursday. Currently in the North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, there are 96 active cases in youth. Last week there were 316 tests performed across the North Central zone. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 47 active cases in youth. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 45 active cases and North Central 3 has four active cases. Cumulative tests performed since Sept. 7 in the North Central zone is 2,933. There were 4,119 tests performed in total in the province in the last week. The cumulative number of tests performed since Sept. 7 is 44,261. Case of COVID-19 connected to Wesmor Public High School On Thursday evening the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division notified the public that a case of COVID-19 had been identified in an individual at Wesmor Public High School in Prince Albert. “The division is hoping the recovery is quick and thorough and we extend our get-well wishes to this member of our school community and offer our support to the surrounding family. We also extend our support to the staff and students in our schools affected by the isolation,” the release stated. As has been the case in the past, this case was not school-acquired. The learning program will continue remotely for those students affected. Wesmor will remain open for in-person classes for students who are not required to self-isolate. Due to privacy concerns, further details of the case will not be shared.Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
A Strathmore resident has been recognized for her extensive efforts volunteering for the community. Marlys Lein was nominated for the 2020 Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards, a yearly award given to volunteers who have made a large impact on their community. While Lein was not ultimately selected as an award finalist, her impressive contributions were recognized by a certificate and letter from Leela Sharon Aheer, Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women. A resident of Strathmore for over 40 years, Lein has contributed to numerous organizations in town. One of her current efforts is volunteering with the Strathmore Pickleball Club, which was founded in 2015 after the hosting of the Alberta 55+ Summer Games. Lein’s work with the club, including organizing playing venues, purchasing equipment, booking instructors and helping players has helped it to grow, said Louise Bleier, a volunteer with the organization. “We started literally from nothing and we’re over 100 members now.” Lein was also instrumental in helping to plan for the possible construction of permanent, dedicated pickleball courts and to repair the town’s existing courts, added Bleier, who wrote the nomination. “She’s volunteered hundreds and hundreds of hours over the past 40 years, and it’s improved the quality of life in our community,” said Bleier. “Her initiative and leadership are incredible.” By working with the club, Lein said she was “just promoting a game I really love … trying to get all different people exposed to it,” she said, adding she hopes the club’s membership continues to grow, especially from among the town’s seniors. While matches are sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic for now, membership is $35 and available through the organization’s website, strathmorepickleball.ca. Lein also serves as president of Strathmore Regional Victim Services Society, which provides 24-hour crisis response to victims of crime and tragedy, and is in her sixth year volunteering with the organization. Lein helps the organization continually move forward, said Linda Stead, treasurer. “She always steps forward and does what she can for us,” said Stead. “She’s a hard worker and when she takes something on, she gets it done.”Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
BURLINGTON, Vt. — By late morning on Oct. 28, staff at the University of Vermont Medical Center noticed the hospital’s phone system wasn’t working.Then the internet went down, and the Burlington-based centre's technical infrastructure with it. Employees lost access to databases, digital health records, scheduling systems and other online tools they rely on for patient care.Administrators scrambled to keep the hospital operational — cancelling non-urgent appointments, reverting to pen-and-paper record keeping and rerouting some critical care patients to nearby hospitals.In its main laboratory, which runs about 8,000 tests a day, employees printed or hand-wrote results and carried them across facilities to specialists. Outdated, internet-free technologies experienced a revival.“We went around and got every fax machine that we could,” said UVM Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Al Gobeille.The Vermont hospital had fallen prey to a cyberattack, becoming one of the most recent and visible examples of a wave of digital assaults taking U.S. health care providers hostage as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide.The same day as UVM's attack, the FBI and two federal agencies warned cybercriminals were ramping up efforts to steal data and disrupt services across the health care sector.By targeting providers with attacks that scramble and lock up data until victims pay a ransom, hackers can demand thousands or millions of dollars and wreak havoc until they’re paid.In September, for example, a ransomware attack paralyzed a chain of more than 250 U.S. hospitals and clinics. The resulting outages delayed emergency room care and forced staff to restore critical heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level monitors with ethernet cabling.A few weeks earlier, in Germany, a woman’s death became the first fatality believed to result from a ransomware attack. Earlier in October, facilities in Oregon, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin and California also fell prey to suspected ransomware attacks.Ransomware is also partly to blame for some of the nearly 700 private health information breaches, affecting about 46.6 million people and currently being investigated by the federal government. In the hands of a criminal, a single patient record — rich with details about a person’s finances, insurance and medical history — can sell for upward of $1,000 on the black market, experts say.Over the course of 2020, many hospitals postponed technology upgrades or cybersecurity training that would help protect them from the newest wave of attacks, said health care security expert Nick Culbertson.“The amount of chaos that’s just coming to a head here is a real threat,” he said.With COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations climbing nationwide, experts say health care providers are dangerously vulnerable to attacks on their ability to function efficiently and manage limited resources.Even a small technical disruption can quickly ripple out into patient care when a centre's capacity is stretched thin, said Vanderbilt University's Eric Johnson, who studies the health impacts of cyberattacks.“November has been a month of escalating demands on hospitals," he said. "There’s no room for error. From a hacker’s perspective, it’s perfect.”A 'CALL TO ARMS’ FOR HOSPITALSThe day after the Oct. 28 cyberattack, 53-year-old Joel Bedard, of Jericho, arrived for a scheduled appointment at the Burlington hospital.He was able to get in, he said, because his fluid-draining treatment is not high-tech, and is something he's gotten regularly as he waits for a liver transplant.“I got through, they took care of me, but man, everything is down,” Bedard said. He said he saw no other patients that day. Much of the medical staff idled, doing crossword puzzles and explaining they were forced to document everything by hand."All the students and interns are, like, ‘How did this work back in the day?’” he said.Since the attack, the Burlington-based hospital network has referred all questions about its technical details to the FBI, which has refused to release any additional information, citing an ongoing criminal investigation. Officials don’t believe any patient suffered immediate harm, or that any personal patient information was compromised.But more than a month later, the hospital is still recovering.Some employees were furloughed for weeks before returning to their regular duties.Oncologists could not access older patient scans which could help them, for example, compare tumour size over time.And, until recently, emergency department clinicians could take X-rays of broken bones but couldn't electronically send the images to radiologists at other sites in the health network.“We didn't even have internet,” said Dr. Kristen DeStigter, chair of UVM Medical Center's radiology department.Soldiers with the state's National Guard cyber unit have helped hospital IT workers scour the programming code in hundreds of computers and other devices, line-by-line, to wipe any remaining malicious code that could re-infect the system. Many have been brought back online, but others were replaced entirely.Col. Christopher Evans said it’s the first time the unit, which was founded about 20 years ago, has been called upon to perform what the guard calls “a real-world" mission. “We have been training for this day for a very long time," he said.It could be several more weeks before all the related damage is repaired and the systems are operating normally again, Gobeille said.“I don’t want to get peoples’ hopes up and be wrong,” he said. “Our folks have been working 24/7. They are getting closer and closer every day.”It will be a scramble for other health care providers to protect themselves against the growing threat of cyberattacks if they haven't already, said data security expert Larry Ponemon.“It’s not like hospital systems need to do something new," he said. “They just need to do what they should be doing anyway.”Current industry reports indicate health systems spend only 4% to 7% of their IT budget on cybersecurity, whereas other industries like banking or insurance spend three times as much.Research by Ponemon's consulting firm shows only about 15% of health care organizations have adopted the technology, training and procedures necessary to manage and thwart the stream of cyberattacks they face on a regular basis.“The rest are out there flying with their head down. That number is unacceptable,” Ponemon said. “It’s a pitiful rate.”And it's part of why cybercriminals have focused their attention on health care organizations — especially now, as hospitals across the country are coping with a surge of COVID-19 patients, he said.“We’re seeing true clinical impact,” said health care cybersecurity consultant Dan L. Dodson. “This is a call to arms.”___Renault reported from New York.___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Marion Renault And Wilson Ring, The Associated Press
A trilingual 16-year-old budding baker has launched her own business in St. Albert. Valeria Fonseca is turning her passion for baking into a home business by offering her cakes for sale online. “I feel really happy. I am very happy because I have a new business and because the kitchen is my passion,” Fonseca said. Fonseca’s passion for baking and cooking ignited just one year ago after her parents separated. Fonseca lives with her mom, Catherine Varvas, who after the separation started to take over the family cooking and asked her daughter for help. Fonseca quickly took to cooking and discovered her passion for creating food with her own hands. Varvas said she loves baking and cooking with her daughter because it makes her happy and calm. "She dances, she sings – she's so happy," the mom said. Fonseca started watching baking and cooking shows, like Master Chef, and wants to be a chef when she grows up. The business really took off this year during COVID-19, when the teen had more time at home. Fonseca is doing online learning this year and makes time to bake on Tuesdays and Sundays. Making the cakes has been good for the teen's self-esteem. “People say, ‘A beautiful girl with delicious cakes,’ and I am so proud,” Fonseca said. Fonseca began her cake-making venture by baking one for a friend, who remarked that the cakes were delicious. The friend suggested the family make a video of Fonseca making the cakes to promote her baking skills, and after the video was posted to Facebook, the family got very positive feedback. "People had a very good reaction and liked the cakes," Varvas said. Fonseca said her favourite cake to make is a red fruit cake, with strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. The teen is also passionate about cooking, loves to make Mexican food and hopes to specialize in cooking that cuisine when she is older. Fonseca, who speaks English as a third language, moved to St. Albert two years ago. The family is originally from Columbia but emigrated to Montreal five years ago. Varvas said the family left Montreal to find more inclusive education for her daughter, who has Down Syndrome. Back home in Colombia, Fonseca was learning alongside all of the other children in a classroom and getting an inclusive education, but in Montreal they didn’t have that same experience. So Varvas moved the family to Alberta so Fonseca could have the very best education possible. "We came to Alberta and we've found the door open, and we are so happy here," Varvas said. To order Fonseca's cakes, you can visit Valecakes on Facebook.Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
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
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
THUNDER BAY — A 62-year-old man who falsely claimed to be COVID-19 positive while under arrest for violating court orders was sentenced on Friday for one count of conveying false information, failing to provide a breath sample and failure to comply with conditions of an undertaking. Arnett Langfried appeared in a Thunder Bay Zoom courtroom on Friday, Dec. 4 where he was sentenced by Judge Peter Bishop to 50 days of pre-sentence custody, which was enhanced to 75 days for all three charges. During his sentencing hearing, Langfried told the court he had not been tested for the virus despite telling police during his arrest on Oct. 15 he had received a positive test result for COVID-19 days before. Langfried came to police attention after the vehicle he was driving was reported to police for erratic and aggressive driving, Crown Attorney Stella Vallelunga said Friday, Dec. 4. Police conducted a traffic stop on Highway 11/17 near Shabaqua where they informed the driver of the reason for the stop and requested his driver's licence. The driver provided an expired out-of-province licence which alerted police the motorist was under court orders to not be driving. Police also observed the vehicle had two different licence plates on it. Officers advised Langfried he was under arrest for breaching his recognizance and placed him in the back of a police cruiser. Officers then spoke with a woman who was seated in the front passenger side of the vehicle who was reluctant to give police her name. Court heard police were making efforts to arrange for an alternate ride for the woman but she insisted on staying with Langfried. Once she provided her name and date of birth, police were notified her name came back as a missing person from the Peel Region area. Officers notified police in Peel. The woman became extremely uncooperative with the police and began screaming at officers she wanted to stay with her husband, court heard. While Langfried was in the back of the vehicle, he told police he had tested positive for COVID-19 in Newmarket days prior. At one point, Langfried and the woman began to verbally abuse the police by using profanities, court heard. Langfriend also pulled his mask down while speaking with police and officers observed an odour of alcohol from his breath. While police were searching his vehicle they found a full can of beer. Police asked Langfried for a breath sample to which he refused. He was also on court-orders to have zero milligrams of alcohol inside his body outside of his residence. Langfried’s lawyer, Sharon Scharfe, informed the court her client's poor behaviour that day was partly be attributed to his concern for his girlfriend. The couple also had a cat inside the vehicle who had gotten out on the highway and both individuals were distracted and upset about what had happened, the lawyer said. Court also heard a background of Langfried's criminal history including a conviction of an attempt to commit murder using a firearm in 2011 for which he received four years and eight months at a Saskatchewan penitentiary. He was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and received a one-year driving prohibition for failing to provide a breath sample. Langfried apologized for his actions in court.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source