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.
The outbreak started at a funeral for a young girl who died from cancer. About 200 people from the community of Pimicikamak were in attendance, including someone unknowingly infected with COVID-19. Days later, Pimicikamak Cree Nation leaders were notified about that positive case along with a family of four who also attended the funeral and all contracted the virus. The leaders sounded the alarm immediately, says Chief David Monias. “Absolutely people are scared and people are upset,” Chief Monias said, recalling when he had to announce the first cases to the community of about 8,600 members on Oct. 24. “They said how could you let this person in or how did this person get through?” Pimicikamak is one of a number of First Nations in Manitoba hit with recent outbreaks as COVID-19 infections almost tripled across the province in November and deaths hit record numbers. While they represent about 10 per cent of Manitoba’s population, First Nations people make up 25 per cent of all new cases and 42 per cent of those in intensive care units, according to data from the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team. The outbreak can be devastating for those living in overcrowded homes and with underlying health conditions. Nation leaders have acted swiftly to impose lockdowns and secure testing and isolation spaces – offering lessons to other communities grappling with outbreaks. Chief Monias said Pimicikamak’s approach was to stop the spread of the coronavirus by restricting people to their homes, shutting down public places with the exception of essential services and sending people who tested positive, and those who were in contact with them, to Winnipeg to isolate. “That was the main message, to stop the spread. And the only way to stop the spread is actually by shutting down mobility of people in our community,” Chief Monias said. A rapid response team made up of primarily First Nations doctors, nurses and other health professionals was deployed to conduct testing and contact tracing. Chief Monias said the community’s own pandemic team is made up of about 23 people including emergency response workers, doctors, nurses, elected leadership, social workers and others who ensure supports are in place for people to safely isolate and lockdown. By Oct. 29, the province had issued a public-health order supporting the community’s measures to close schools, businesses and restrict gatherings outside of households as the remote community moved into critical red alert on the province’s pandemic response system. Chief Monias says anyone who tested positive along with their contacts were sent to isolate in Winnipeg hotels, “just in case.” More than 200 people identified as contacts were sent to isolate in a Winnipeg hotel covered by the Red Cross and 70 confirmed cases isolated in a separate hotel provided by the federal government. “We did not ascertain the difference between close contact and contact, to us if you’re a contact, you’re contact and should be isolated. That’s just to make sure that you don’t spread it,” he said. Checkpoints were set up in five different areas of the community to monitor traffic and a shopping schedule implemented for residents. The community’s personal care home was restricted to staff only, who themselves were instructed to limit contacts outside of the home. Signs were also put up outside elders’ homes. “An elder lives here, is vulnerable, please do not enter,” they read. Chief Monias says it took five weeks to resolve all 70 COVID-19 cases from the outbreak. There’s no more community transmission, but they are now trying to contain additional cases that have popped up since, including in dialysis patients who have been staying in Thompson while they get treatment. Pimicikamak isn’t the only First Nation to successfully beat back an outbreak. About a week after the funeral in Pimicikamak, people attending a funeral in Opaskwayak Cree Nation were exposed to the virus, leading to community transmission. The spread within the community reached all 28 residents and 13 staff from the Rod McGillivary Memorial Care Home, and one resident died as a result. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak says they had to move quickly to contain the spread of the virus, which has infected close to 200 people so far. Onekanew Sinclair said they requested military support from the federal government following the death of the care-home resident. A team of 12 people from CFB Edmonton and Shilo stayed on the ground at the residence for about 10 days, supporting frontline staff, some of whom slept there and worked around the clock, Onekanew Sinclair said. He said one resident was sent to an intensive-care unit in Winnipeg and the rest were isolated and treated within the care home. “We are proud and very happy, relieved to announce that they have all fully recovered and are now able to move about freely within the care home again instead of being isolated in their rooms,” Onekanew Sinclair said. The community has more than 3,000 living on-reserve and is a service hub for surrounding communities in the region, which means checkpoints have been established at main access points to monitor traffic going in and out. They remain on a lockdown with schools closed and students doing remote learning from home. Opaskwayak converted their 60-room hotel and another 45-bed facility for isolation units but Onekanew Sinclair says there are cases where entire families have become infected and opt to stay home. “We have to do what we can with our resources available,” Onekanew Sinclair said. “And when it’s time we’ll call on the federal government as our treaty partner for assistance where needed, as needed.”Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail
California certified its presidential election Friday and appointed 55 electors pledged to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, officially handing him the Electoral College majority needed to win the White House. Secretary of State Alex Padilla's formal approval of Biden's win in the state brought his tally of pledged electors so far to 279, according to a tally by The Associated Press. That’s just over the 270 threshold for victory. These steps in the election are often ignored formalities. But the hidden mechanics of electing a U.S. president have drawn new scrutiny this year as President Donald Trump continues to deny Biden's victory and pursues increasingly specious legal strategies aimed at overturning the results before they are finalized. Although it’s been apparent for weeks that Biden won the presidential election, his accrual of more than 270 electors is the first step toward the White House, said Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University. “It is a legal milestone and the first milestone that has that status,” Foley said. “Everything prior to that was premised on what we call projections.” The electors named Friday will meet Dec. 14, along with counterparts in each state, to formally vote for the next president. Most states have laws binding their electors to the winner of the popular vote in their state, measures that were upheld by a Supreme Court decision this year. There have been no suggestions that any of Biden's pledged electors would contemplate not voting for him. Results of the Electoral College vote are due to be received, and typically approved, by Congress on Jan. 6. Although lawmakers can object to accepting the electors' votes, it would be almost impossible for Biden to be blocked at that point. The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate would both vote separately to resolve any disputes. One already has arisen from Pennsylvania, where 75 Republican lawmakers signed a statement on Friday urging Congress to block the state’s electoral votes from being cast for Biden. But the state’s Republican U.S. senator, Pat Toomey, said soon afterward that he would not be objecting to Pennsylvania’s slate of electors, underscoring the difficulty in trying to change the election results through Congress. “As a practical matter, we know that Joe Biden is going to be inaugurated on Jan. 20," Foley said. That was clear in the days after the election, when the count of mail ballots gradually made clear that Biden had won victories in enough states to win the Electoral College. It became even more apparent in late November, when every swing state won by Biden certified him as the winner of its elections and appointed his electors to the Electoral College. Trump has fruitlessly tried to stop those states from certifying Biden as the winner and appointing electors for the former vice-president. He made no effort in deeply Democratic California, the most populous state in the nation and the trove of its largest number of electoral votes. Three more states won by Biden — Colorado, Hawaii and New Jersey — have not yet certified their results. When they do, Biden will have 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232. Trump and his allies have brought at least 50 legal cases trying to overturn the results in the swing states Biden won — mainly Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. More than 30 have been rejected or dropped, according to an AP tally. Trump and his allies have also raised the far-fetched notion that Republican state legislatures in those states could appoint a rival set of electors pledged to Trump. But state Republican leaders have rejected that approach, and it would likely be futile in any case. According to federal law, both chambers of Congress would need to vote to accept a competing slate of electors. If they don't, the electors appointed by the states' governors — all pledged to Biden in these cases — must be used. The last remaining move to block the election would be the quixotic effort to vote down the electors in Congress. This tactic has been tried — a handful of congressional Democrats in 2000, 2004 and 2016 objected to officially making both George W. Bush and Trump president. But the numbers were not enough to block the two men from taking office. Michael R. Blood And Nicholas Riccardi, The Associated Press
The City of Vancouver now owns the Regent and Balmoral hotels, Downtown Eastside buildings the city had been trying to expropriate after years of neglect and decay, The Tyee has learned. Land title records list the city as the current owner of 159 E. Hastings — the Balmoral — and 160 E. Hastings — the Regent. The city confirmed to The Tyee that a settlement with the owners, the Sahota family, had been reached. But the city says the terms of the agreement prevent it from revealing how much was paid to purchase the properties, which have been assessed at a value of $1 each because of their extreme disrepair. Sam Dharmapala worked in the buildings as an employee of the former owners, the Sahota family. For a decade, Dharmapala said, he worked alongside tenants and advocates to raise the alarm about the dangerous living conditions at the hotels. “This is a very good fight in the history of the Downtown Eastside,” Dharmapala said. “We want to see [the hotels] go back to the residents of the Downtown Eastside, who have lived in those buildings.” Dharmapala said the city needs to ensure all the units in the two hotels are rented at the welfare shelter rate — $375 for a single person — to provide homes for Vancouver’s poorest residents. The hotels had provided more than 300 units. The records show the transfer happened Nov. 13, one year after Vancouver city council voted unanimously to expropriate the hotels in a groundbreaking decision. Council voted to expropriate after decades of repeated building code and bylaw violations and after taking the owners, the Sahota family, to court numerous times. It was the first time the city had ever attempted to expropriate residential buildings because of extreme neglect. The city started the court action with the intention of renovating or redeveloping the properties for low-income housing. Before the expropriation vote, council heard from dozens of tenants and former tenants who described living with no heat or hot water, constant bedbug, rat and cockroach infestations and the fear of what would happen if there were a fire. Tenants had lived in squalor in the two buildings for decades. City building inspectors ordered the Balmoral to be emptied in the summer of 2017 because it was in such poor condition. One year later, the Regent was also condemned. Tenants of both buildings were moved into other buildings by the City of Vancouver and BC Housing. Karen Ward, a Downtown Eastside resident who now works for the city as a drug policy advisor, said city building inspectors initially closed just the bathrooms of the Balmoral in June 2017 because they feared bathtubs could plunge through the rotten floors. Ward worked at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users at the time. “People were coming to me daily to say they were terrified to go into their own home,” Ward said. Ward called for the buildings to be torn down and for modular housing to be quickly built in their place. “We can build a six- to eight-story building and house 100 people by April,” Ward said. “It’s a desperate situation out here and we don’t need to do things the old way — we can use modular housing to build housing that decreases the chance of death for drug users. We can do this.” Overdose deaths have soared throughout 2020 and homelessness has increased as COVID-19 restrictions have made the drug supply more toxic and reduced the number of places people can go to find shelter. Vancouver’s mayor, Kennedy Stewart, said the city plans to work with BC Housing to turn the buildings into low-income housing. “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,” Stewart was quoted as saying in a press release. “Downtown Eastside residents will be at the centre of creating a new vision for these two sites, and indeed the entire community.” B.C.’s attorney general and minister responsible for housing, David Eby, also weighed in, saying: “For too long, people had to live in sub-standard living conditions in these buildings. The acquisition of these properties is welcome news.” The next steps will be to start community consultation sessions with the Downtown Eastside community, and city staff will report back to council on next steps and a timeline for renovating or redeveloping the properties in early 2021, according to the City of Vancouver. On Nov. 3, city communications staff told The Tyee court expropriation proceedings were paused while the city worked with “representatives of the owners of the Regent and the Balmoral to resolve the expropriation of the hotels.” The Tyee has reached out to the city for comment. In a statement emailed to The Tyee by lawyer Evan Cooke, the Sahota family confirmed they had come to an agreement with the city. “We have determined that the public sector is better equipped to respond to the acute needs of the area’s residents at this time; including their urgent need for housing, mental health and substance abuse support, and other critical programs.” The statement said the details of the transfer are confidential.Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
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
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
Construction is set to begin in early 2021 on the proposed Strathmore Solar Farm after it received a major regulatory approval. A proposed 40.5-megawatt (MW) solar facility, Strathmore Solar Farm will be sited on approximately 320 acres of municipal property in the town’s southeast, located south of the Trans-Canada Highway and east of George Freeman Trail (RR 251). The project was started by Solar Krafte Utilities Inc., a Vancouver-based company with seven solar farms built or proposed across southern Alberta. Solar Krafte has partnered with Capital Power, an Edmonton-based power generation company, which is providing up to $55 million in capital investment, conditional on successful permitting and regulatory approval. On. Nov 27, the solar farm passed the last major regulatory hurdle in the public regulatory review process, when the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), the primary provincial utilities regulator, granted it a power plant approval and a connection order. While the project is being funded by Capital Power, Solar Krafte will continue to be involved for the life of the system, said company president Mark Burgert. “That’s what we do with everything we’ve built,” he said. “Where the capital comes from and how the ownership is allocated is really irrespective of how we build a reputation and how passionate we are about everything we build.” Construction on the project will start in 2021, with an expected date of completion in 2022, according to information on Capital Power’s website. But for several months already, the procurement of some of the key elements for construction has been underway, said Burgert. The project has most of its permitting complete, but still requires some electrical permits. “They come very late in the game,” he said. “But aside from those, everything is permitted here.” The companies will also be working to ensure all conditions set by the town’s development permit are met. All construction work for the project will be contracted. Some of the companies used will perform general construction tasks, such as driving piles, that are not specific to the solar industry, while others will perform more specialist tasks, explained Burgert. “It’s a hybrid approach.” The project will be like Solar Krafte’s two existing plants near Vauxhall, Alta., but there may be some subtle differences, he said. “The modules, inverters or substructure can change slightly, depending on everything from the geotech and solar conditions, to any site-specific conditions that come into play.” There could also be differences because of costs, as supply chain dynamics affect module pricing between several providers, noted Burgert. “But, fundamentally, it’s the same system,” he said. Burgert anticipates the lease with the Town of Strathmore for the project site will commence soon. The project is slated to have a significant economic impact to Strathmore, as it will provide economic diversification and revenue from the lease and property taxes, said Doug Lagore, Strathmore CAO. “We’re very pleased the AUC has given the approval and now we can proceed,” he said, adding the project will also create recognition for the community across Alberta.” The announcement comes at a fortuitous time, when communities across Alberta are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and a general downturn in the overall economy, including disruptions in the oil and gas industry, said Lagore. “This is perfect timing for our community,” he said. “It is going to provide us with some additional revenue right away and we’re really looking forward to them becoming a huge corporate partner in our community.”Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
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
VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor and the health minister are urging the public to slow the spread of COVID-19 this weekend by limiting any festive gatherings to immediate households.Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix say 711 new infections have been recorded in the province and 11 more people have died, for a total of 492 fatalities.They say in a joint statement that B.C. is continuing to see a significant surge in community transmission so all public health orders must be followed as more than 36,000 people have tested positive for the virus.Henry has said it's important to remain vigilant in containing the virus for the next few months and that everyone in the province who wants to be vaccinated could be immunized by September.Nearly 11,000 people who have been identified as being exposed to the virus are being monitored and 25,658 people who tested positive have recovered.The latest public health orders have meant the cancellation of adult indoor and outdoor team sports, though children can continue participating in local games without spectators.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
A 15-year-old Colorado high school student and young scientist who has used artificial intelligence and created apps to tackle contaminated drinking water and cyberbullying has been named Time Magazine's first-ever "Kid of the Year." (Dec. 4)
WINNIPEG — Manitoba's premier is facing backlash from Indigenous leaders for comments criticizing Ottawa's planning for COVID-19 vaccine distribution among First Nations.“Instead of uniting Manitobans during a health crisis, Brian Pallister is purposefully sowing seeds of division and hate,” Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said Friday.Pallister criticized the federal government's national vaccine rollout strategy during a news conference Thursday.The Progressive Conservative premier said Ottawa has plans to distribute the vaccine on a per-capita basis."They are also telling us that they are going to hold back the portion of our vaccine for Manitoba that they would then allocate to Indigenous and First Nations communities," Pallister said."What that would mean than is Manitobans who do not live in northern Indigenous communities would be the least likely to get a vaccine in the country." Manitoba has the highest percentage of Indigenous people in its population of all the provinces. The premier said the results would be unfair. "This puts Manitobans at the back of the line. This hurts Manitobans, to put it mildly," he said. The premier has since reached out to Indigenous leaders to arrange a meeting to discuss the rollout, Daniels said.The grand chief added that he has "no interest in meeting with a premier who race baits and plays loosely with the inter-governmental relationships."Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew called Pallister's comments unfortunate. "The premier is trying to divide team Manitoba and have it turn in on itself at a time when we are actually asking everyone to do the exact opposite," Kinew said. When asked about vaccine distribution plans Friday, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said there have been conversations with provincial and territorial leaders "to assess what their perspective is.""There is a federal role to play in protecting a certain amount of product — whether we're talking about vaccines or personal protective equipment — for federal populations that we're responsible for, as well as for urgent situations," she said.Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas also criticized Pallister for giving people the false idea that all vaccine doses would be going to people in the north.A significant surge of COVID-19 infections has disproportionately affected First Nations people in Manitoba during the second wave of the pandemic.There were 625 new cases in on- and off- reserve populations in the last seven days, according to data from the First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team in Manitoba. First Nations people make up 30 per cent of all people in hospital and 42 per cent of those in intensive care. The five-day test positivity rate among First Nations people in Manitoba is 20 per cent.Chief Eric Redhead of the Shamattawa First Nation posted online Friday that there were 117 active infections in the northern Manitoba community of about 1,100. Its five-day test positivity rate was more than 50 per cent. "We are literally at a breaking point," Redhead said.Redhead said health professionals with the rapid response team in Shamattawa have also tested positive or are isolating due to exposure. He has called on the federal government to provide military help. Manitoba released new modelling Friday that shows that three people end up in hospital and one person dies for every 48 cases of COVID-19. "We need to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities or we will continue to see these harsh effects," said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer.The province recorded nine more deaths from COVID-19 and 320 new infections Friday. There were also 361 people in hospital with 55 in intensive care. The province brought in tighter public health measures last month, with restrictions on public gatherings and business openings.Roussin said that if no measures had been put in place, there would have been up to 1,055 new daily infections by Sunday. Daily cases have recently been tracking between 300 and 500.But Roussin said the test positivity rate remains too high. The five-day test positivity rate was 13.4 per cent provincially and 14.6 per cent in Winnipeg."It’s too early to say we are changing trajectory."The restrictions expire next Friday, and Roussin said he expects the majority will stay in place.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
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
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
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