The Group Chat dishes on which teams are going to stumble in the playoffs and of course, the Milwaukee Bucks came up.
The Group Chat dishes on which teams are going to stumble in the playoffs and of course, the Milwaukee Bucks came up.
LONDON — Buckingham Palace said Wednesday it was launching an investigation after a newspaper reported that a former aide had made a bullying allegation against the Duchess of Sussex. The Times of London reported allegations that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and left staff feeling “humiliated.” It said an official complaint was made by Jason Knauf, then the communications secretary to Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry. He now works for Harry’s elder brother, Prince William. The palace said it was “clearly very concerned” about the allegations. It said in a statement that the palace human resources team “will look into the circumstances outlined in the article” and would seek to speak to current and former staff. “The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace,” it said. American actress Meghan Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year. In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California, and are expecting a second child. The bullying allegations were reported four days before the scheduled broadcast of an Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan, which is anticipated to draw a huge audience. It also comes less than two weeks after the palace announced that the couple’s split from official duties would be final. A spokesman for the duchess said she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.” In a 30-second clip released by CBS Wednesday night, Winfrey asks Meghan how she feels about the palace “hearing you speak your truth today?” “I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there was an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” Markle says. “And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, there's been a lot that's been lost already.” The Associated Press
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now says the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months in order to boost the number of Canadians being vaccinated. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, that means going from a three week interval to a full four months. "NACI recommends that in the context of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, jurisdictions should maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine by extending the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine up to four months after the first," the committee said in a statement. Prior to this new recommendation, NACI had said that the maximum interval between the first and second shots of the Moderna vaccine should be four weeks, the interval for the Pfizer-BioNTech product should be three weeks and the interval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be 12 weeks. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. Since first doses of all three vaccines have been shown to dramatically increase immunity to the disease, or to significantly reduce the illness associated with contracting COVID-19, the committee said stretching the interval would help protect more Canadians sooner. NACI said that it reviewed evidence from two clinical trials that looked at how effective the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were after a single dose. Those studies, NACI said, showed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines started providing some level of protection 12 to 14 days after the first dose. By the time the second dose was administered — 19 to 42 days after the first — the first shot was shown to be 92 per cent effective. Population studies find lower protection Outside of clinical trials, NACI looked at the effectiveness of a single shot of these two vaccines in the populations of Quebec, British Columbia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. NACI said that analysis showed the effectiveness of a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine was between 70 per cent and 80 per cent among health care workers, long-term care residents, elderly populations and the general public. "While this is somewhat lower than the efficacy demonstrated after one dose in clinical trials, it is important to note that vaccine effectiveness in a general population setting is typically lower than efficacy from the controlled setting of a clinical trial, and this is expected to be the case after series completion as well," NACI said. The committee said that published data from an AstraZeneca clinical trial indicated that delaying the second dose 12 weeks or more provided better protections against symptomatic disease compared to shorter intervals between doses. Earlier this week, before NACI changed its interval advice, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and countries around the world showed a "miraculous" protection level of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The head of Moderna's Canadian operations, Patricia Gauthier, said Monday that the company's own trials, and the conditions under which the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, are tied to a four-week interval. "That being said, we're in times of pandemic and we can understand that there are difficult decisions to be made," Gauthier said. "This then becomes a government decision. We stand by the product monograph approved by Health Canada, but governments ... can make their own decisions." Gauthier said she was not aware of any studies done or led by Moderna on what happens when the interval between the first and second doses is changed from four weeks to four months. 'We have to do it safely and watch carefully' Dr. David Naylor, who has been named to a federal task force charged with planning a national campaign to see how far the virus has spread, said the data have been "very encouraging." "The evidence is there for the concept of further delay," Naylor told CBC News Network's Power & Politics today. "We [had] trial data from earlier showing that going out from 90 days, a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective. So things are triangulating." He said health officials need to pay close attention to the data coming out of other countries to determine if the protection provided by the first dose remains strong four months after it was administered. "We do it because we can cover more people with a single dose of the vaccine, spread the protection, prevent more severe disease and prevent fatalities, and the evidence is clear that that's what you can do if you spread those doses out widely. But we have to do it safely and watch carefully," Naylor told host Vassy Kapelos. Watch: The evidence is there for the 'concept of further delay' of second doses: Dr. Naylor: Storage and transport recommendations also changed Health Canada also announced today that after reviewing a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech, it would authorize changes to the way the vaccine is handled in Canada. The new rules allow the vaccine to be stored and transported in a standard freezer with a temperature of between -25 C and -15 C for up to two weeks, instead of the previous requirement that it be stored in ultra-cold conditions of -80 C to -60 C. Vials of the vaccine stored or transported at this higher temperature for no longer than two weeks remain stable and safe and can then be returned to ultra-cold freezers once, said the department.
Le Canada reçoit ses premières doses mercredi, mais le choix de ses destinataires fait l’objet de directives contradictoires de Santé Canada et du Comité consultatif national de l’immunisation. Une partie sera périmée après le 2 avril prochain. Selon la dernière mise à jour de ses recommandations, le comité ne recommande pas l’utilisation du vaccin d’Astra Zeneca contre la COVID-19 chez les personnes âgées de 65 ans et plus, « en raison des données insuffisantes ». Le CCNI a indiqué que « les réponses humorales étaient plus faibles chez les personnes de 65 ans et plus que chez les personnes de 18 à 64 ans, d’après des données non publiées » qui lui avaient été présentées. Le vaccin d’Astra Zeneca peut être administré « sans aucune hésitation » aux personnes âgées de 65 ans et plus selon la conseillère scientifique en chef Mona Nemer qui soutient qu’il « empêche les hospitalisations et les décès. » En conférence de presse mardi, l’administratrice en chef de la santé publique du Canada, Dre Teresa Tam, ne s’est pas étendue sur le sujet, se contentant de rappeler le caractère consultatif des recommandations qui ne sont pas nécessairement des directives officielles. Le comité a également précisé que l’intervalle entre la première et la deuxième dose du vaccin Astra Zeneca pourrait avoir une incidence sur l’efficacité du vaccin, l’efficacité étant moindre si l’intervalle est inférieur à 12 semaines. Ce volet n’a pas été débattu non plus. L’urgence de tirer la situation au clair Contrairement au Canada, certains pays comme la France où la confusion persiste ont autorisé l’administration du vaccin d’Astra Zeneca sans limite d’âge. Selon les autorités responsables de la distribution des vaccins, 300 000 des premières doses livrées au Canada seront périmées après le 2 avril. L’Alberta et l’Ontario s’abstiennent encore d’utiliser ce troisième vaccin approuvé sur le sol canadien. Le Québec sera fixé sur la conduite à tenir à l’issue des recommandations de ses experts. « Les avis contradictoires… doivent être clarifiés avant la livraison du vaccin aux provinces, et les Canadiens méritent de comprendre les impacts de cette décision », a déclaré la porte-parole du Parti conservateur en matière de santé, Michelle Rempel. Les conservateurs au comité de la santé ont demandé que la lumière soit faite sur les avis contradictoires des experts. Ce vaccin d’Astra Zeneca développé en partenariat avec l’université d’Oxford est « plus facile à transporter, à entreposer et à manipuler que les vaccins à ARNm (les vaccins de Pfizer et Moderna) et, par conséquent, pourrait être plus facile à utiliser pour une distribution plus large par l’intermédiaire des pharmacies et des prestataires de soins de santé primaires. » Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is again being accused of discrimination in how it treats migrant farm workers. Haldimand-Norfolk is already infamous in farming circles as the only jurisdiction to put a cap on how many offshore workers can quarantine together in a bunkhouse, a controversial policy upheld after a lengthy court battle last year. Now medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai has decreed that newly arrived farm workers self-isolating in hotels cannot leave their rooms. While federal rules allow “limited and monitored outdoor time” for returning Canadian travellers staying at isolation hotels, the latest directive from the health unit confines migrant workers to their rooms for their entire 14-day quarantine. “I think any time people are treated differently than a Canadian, that’s discrimination,” said Leanne Arnal, a farm worker advocate and member of the Norfolk Seasonal Agricultural Workers Community Committee. “If we were to lock a dog in a room for 14 days — I don’t care how nice the room is — you’re going to have the police there. You’re going to have a community of upset people. So why are we keeping the farm workers in there for 14 days? Even criminals can go outside and get a fresh air break.” Nesathurai defended the new restriction as necessary to contain the more contagious variants of COVID-19. “This past summer, an outbreak among Haldimand-Norfolk’s migrant worker community led to hundreds of infected individuals, multiple hospitalizations, and a death. The Haldimand-Norfolk experience shows that some workers arrive in Canada carrying COVID-19, and this can have deadly consequences,” he said. “The risk is not theoretical. We’re trying to keep as many people safe as possible, given the resources that we have.” Nesathurai said the policy also protects other hotel guests and staff, and farm workers can take smoke breaks or get fresh air on their balcony, “if available.” Not every room has a balcony, Arnal noted, adding that all workers are tested for COVID-19 before leaving their home countries. Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp said she was “perplexed” by the new rule. “As chair of the board of health, I have consistently supported Dr. Nesathurai, even when there were rules I didn’t agree with. He’s a medical professional and I am not,” Chopp said. “However, when I see rules that now are not treating the migrant workers the same as Canadians, I do start to question that, when Canadians themselves are entitled to be able to get some fresh air while they’re in quarantine.” Kevin Daniel from Trinidad and Tobago, who works at a farm in Simcoe, said he “strongly believes” the new rule discriminates against migrant workers, who cannot protest the conditions set out by the health unit due to their precarious employment status. “What they tell us to do, we have to comply with it,” he said. Daniel will be spared another quarantine because he remained in Simcoe over the winter after being unable to fly home thanks to border restrictions. But he said he is still feeling the debilitating mental effects of spending two weeks in a hotel room after a COVID-19 outbreak at his farm last November. “It was very terrible, the experience I had being locked up those 14 days,” said Daniel, who said he continues to suffer from insomnia. “I experienced it in the quarantine, and when I came out, I would be up until 3, 4 o’clock in the morning. It’s a consistent problem that I have,” he said. Daniel said allowing workers daily outdoor exercise would not alleviate the anxiety of quarantine, but it would help. Arnal helped Daniel’s employer manage that quarantine. She proposed having workers use a dedicated stairwell to safely spend time outdoors in a secluded yard. “(Nesathurai) said ‘absolutely not,’ with no reason for it,” Arnal said. “Using the variants as an excuse right now — what was his excuse in November, when there were no variants?” Nesathurai contends the health unit does not have enough staff to monitor workers’ outdoor breaks, but Chopp said the farmers themselves would pay for supervision. According to Nesathurai, the health unit has asked Ottawa “numerous times” to take over the migrant worker self-isolation program, most recently in a March 1 letter in which he warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that federal inaction would “likely contribute to more workers becoming infected.” Arnal sees this rule as the latest in a string of questionable health unit decisions — such as issuing ID cards she considered “racial profiling” — that demonize farm workers, who she said spend most of the year in Canada and make an incalculable contribution to the national food supply and local economy. “They are not a risk, they are at risk, just like the rest of us,” she said. J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Editor's note: This story is part of a series on the LGBTQ+ community in the Ottawa Valley. A Friday night art club in Pembroke not only teaches macrame, watercolour painting and embroidery for LGBTQ+ youth, it has also become a supportive place to “bare wounds,” according to one of the participants. Ky Crosby, 16, has been attending Rainbow Art Club at Studio Dreamshare since January this year. “We were baring wounds ... showing each other what we have been through. We were each other’s support systems,” Crosby said of the 26 participants. Crosby, from Petawawa, admitted being scared during the first meeting but found the group to be kind and accepting. “It changed me. I love it there,” Crosby said. Cameron Montgomery, a full-time artist and owner of the gallery, has been leading the art club online since the summer of 2020. The art club was made possible through a federal grant of $20,000 in partnership with Pflag Renfrew and United Way East Ontario. “(The youth) say ‘this is the highlight of my week.’ They really get value from it. It’s become a safe space for (LGBTQ+) youth,” Montgomery said. Participants receive boxes of craft supplies sent in the mail. There’s a different project every week. Crosby identifies as a lesbian and uses the pronouns they/them. “A few months ago, I told (my parents) I was gender fluid. Some days I’d feel more masculine, other days feminine, some days I’d feel in-between.” “I didn’t know if people would understand it,” Crosby said. When asked about the challenges LGBTQ+ individuals face, Crosby admitted it’s heartbreaking to see stigma. “I believe in 44 countries you could be killed (for being LGBTQ+). If anything, I just want to open people’s minds. Let them know that we are people, we feel things, we want the same things they do,” they said. Small-minded people, according to Crosby, are a “common threat": people who are not understanding and not willing to understand. “I also believe that within ourselves, we ourselves are big threats. We undermine, we doubt ourselves. We really need to let our guard down and allow other people to see in,” Crosby observed. “We all want to love, we’re scared. We all want to be happy at the end of the day,” they said. For more information, visit the following websites: http://www.pflagrenfrewcounty.ca and https://www.studiodreamshare.com Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Smiths Falls Record News
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Town Treasurer Andre Morin joined last Tuesday's St. Marys Town Council meeting for the culmination of the months-long process of crafting the 2021 municipal budget. Morin has spoken with Council on multiple occasions throughout the budget process and many of those details have been reported on previously in the Independent. The key takeaways start with the tax levy increase of $12,799,710, which equates to a property tax net increase of 0.85 percent. When other municipal costs are included, such as water, sewer, and solid waste, the average St. Marys household will see a total increase of 1.01 percent. Councillor Tony Winter commended Town staff on crafting a draft budget. The Town's cautious approach to dealing with the pandemic reflects well in the adopted budget with a property tax increase of under one percent. For comparison, the City of Stratford passed their budget earlier this year with a tax levy increase of just over two percent, while Perth County and the City of London both passed budgets with tax increases of over three percent. Before passing the budget by-law, Mayor Al Strathdee spoke on the budget process, saying that he felt this year's process went even more smoothly than last year, even with the hindrances imposed on Town staff and the Council. He credited Town staff for their hard work and diligence during the process. As requested by Councillor Winter, because of the importance of the legislation, a recorded vote was held and the 2021 budget was approved unanimously. Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
A national panel of vaccine experts recommended Wednesday that provinces extend the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot to up to four months when faced with a limited supply, in order to quickly immunize as many people as possible. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued updated guidance for the administration of all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada. Extending the dose interval to four months will create opportunities to protect the entire adult population against the virus within a short timeframe, the panel said in releasing the recommendation. As many as 80 per cent of Canadians over 16 could receive a single dose by the end of June simply with the expected supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the panel said. The addition of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to the country's supply could mean almost all Canadians would get their first shot in that timeframe, but the federal government has not yet said how many doses of that vaccine will be delivered in the spring and how many in the summer. "The vaccine effectiveness of the first dose will be monitored closely and the decision to delay the second dose will be continuously assessed based on surveillance and effectiveness data and post-implementation study designs," the panel wrote. "Effectiveness against variants of concern will also be monitored closely, and recommendations may need to be revised," it said, adding there is currently no evidence that a longer interval will affect the emergence of the variants. The committee's recommendation came hours after Newfoundland and Labrador said it will extend the interval between the first and second doses to four months, and days after health officials in British Columbia announced they were doing so. Manitoba also said Wednesday it will delay second doses in order to focus on giving the first shot to more people more quickly. Ontario previously said it was weighing a similar move but would seek advice from the federal government. -with files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa This report was first published on March 3, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — A well-known Quebec lawyer says she's mounting a legal challenge to provincial laws that don't grant common-law spouses the same rights as married couples in the event of a breakup. Anne-France Goldwater said today Quebec family law treats unmarried women as having less value than their married counterparts because they aren't entitled to the same alimony and property rights. Goldwater previously argued the issue all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in 2013 that Quebec's family law regime was constitutional and did not have to be changed, even though the court found there was discrimination against common-law couples. The case, known as "Eric and Lola," involved a woman and her former lover, a prominent Quebec businessman who contended he should not have to pay alimony because they were never legally married. Goldwater, who represented "Lola" in the case, has filed a new motion in Quebec Superior Court contesting the constitutionality of all the articles relating to family law in Quebec's Civil Code as well as the section of the provincial Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms that deals with rights and obligations of married and civil union spouses. The case she's arguing concerns a common-law couple called "Nathalie" and "Pierre," who were together 30 years and have four children. Goldwater told reporters today the years that have passed since the Supreme Court of Canada decision have reinforced the need for the law to change. She notes in her court submission that successive provincial governments have promised to reform the province's family law without ever doing so. "Quebec family law perceives non-married women and their children as having less value than married families and it's even worse for women who are common law without children," Goldwater said. "Why are Quebec women not equal under Quebec law?" she said. The 2013 Supreme Court decision noted that while there was discrimination toward common-law couples, it could be allowed under a section of the Canadian charter which allows for the limitation of rights in certain circumstances. Goldwater says she believes the current situation represents a form of "systemic sexism" that has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which she says has had a disproportionate impact on women. "Why do we have to have a pandemic to convince the leaders that women are economically disadvantaged?" she said. Under Quebec's current law, common-law spouses aren't entitled to alimony, division of the family patrimony or the right to occupy the home after the split. While any children stemming from the relationship have a right to support, the fact that the parent doesn't get alimony or a share of the wealth will result in a lower standard of living for the children, Goldwater says. She argues this creates "two sets of rules" for children: one for those whose parents married, and another for children whose parents were common-law spouses. Like others before it, Premier Francois Legault's government has promised to reform the province's family law, which has not been overhauled since 1980. Goldwater says the change could be made with the "stroke of the pen," namely by adding de facto spouses to the definition of couple and family, as was done for same-sex spouses when they were granted the same rights and benefits as heterosexual married couples in Quebec. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Press
Earlier this week the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU) moved into the green zone of the province’s reopening framework. At the same time, Collingwood’s restrictions were heightened to the grey-lockdown zone. The vast difference in restrictions between the two neighbouring communities has raised some questions about the logic behind the shift. “Changing the colour zones is not related to the locality of one town to another or the discrepancy between the red and the green and one area,” said Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health for GBHU. Arra explained that moving a region between the varying colour-coded zones is a provincial decision based on data points related to epidemiology, such as case count, per cent positivity, hospital and ICU capacity. “The Chief MOH will ask each MOH about the situation on the ground – where we see the region going. So, we have some input but the decision is absolutely provincial,” Arra said. Arra added the data set the province looks at to make its decision is essentially from three weeks prior to the shift. “So right now, if you go back two weeks, then the week before those two weeks, that's the set of data that is used,” he said. Arra added that he cannot comment on the specifics taking place in Simcoe County, as every health unit manages its own caseload and epidemiology data sets, but said in Grey-Bruce he has been confident with the decisions that are being made on a provincial level. “I don't know all the details that go there that led to the decision, but I know first-hand from dealing with provincial officials on a weekly basis or sometimes daily basis, I know that they're doing really a fine job. I can't comment on their decisions, but I can comment from my experience that they're doing a great job,” Arra said. However, Collingwood’s town council may beg to differ. At a meeting held last night the Collingwood council passed a motion that calls on the province to change the town's lock down designation. Collingwood Mayor Brian Saunderson said the stark difference between restrictions in the two neighbouring municipalities is “unconscionable.” “We’ve got two halves of a large economic engine that are now at opposite ends of the spectrum,” said the mayor. The Town of the Blue Mountains Mayor, Alar Soever said while he sympathizes with the situation Collingwood is in, he would prefer to keep politics out of the conversation when it comes to COVID-19 as he believes politicians should not make or influence decisions about public health. “I don't think what zone you're in should be a political decision. There are criteria that are based on case counts and where the transmission is happening. I would leave any and all of these decisions to the health professionals,” Soever said. Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
WASHINGTON — The Latest on congressional testimony about the Capitol insurrection (all times local): 5 p.m. The U.S. House is abruptly finishing its work for the week given the threat of violence at the Capitol by a militia group seeking to storm the building, as happened in a deadly siege Jan. 6. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer notified lawmakers late Wednesday of the sudden schedule change. The decision was made given the threats on the Capitol, according to a Democratic aide granted anonymity to discuss the matter. The House had been scheduled to be in session Thursday, but moved up consideration of its remaining legislative item, the George Floyd Justice in Police Act, to Wednesday night. Capitol Police said earlier Wednesday they have uncovered intelligence of a “possible plot” by a militia group to breach the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. The news comes nearly two months after a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the iconic building to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. — Lisa Mascaro ___ HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIALS' TESTIMONY ON THE CAPITOL INSURRECTION: National security officials testify in the second Senate hearing about what went wrong on the day of the Capitol insurrection, facing questions about missed intelligence and botched efforts to quickly gather National Guard troops. ___ HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON: 1 p.m. The Senate has named a veteran intelligence official as the new sergeant at arms, a crucial position after the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol and the ouster of the previous official. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that retired Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson will take charge of the chamber’s administration and security. She’ll head the first all-female leadership team at the Office of the Sergeant at Arms in its 223-year history. Gibson comes to the Senate from a 33-year military career, including as a senior intelligence officer in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, supporting troops in the Middle East, Schumer said. Schumer called her the “perfect person” for the job. She has been involved in the weeks-long review of the Jan. 6 siege and is prepared to take immediate action to improve Capitol security. Gibson will take over from Jennifer Hemingway, who temporarily filled the position after the resignation of Michael Stenger after the riot. A mob loyal to former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol trying to overturn the presidential election. Five people, including a police officer, died. Longtime Schumer aide Kelly Fado will become deputy sergeant at arms, and Hemingway will serve as the office’s chief of staff. __ 11:35 a.m. The head of the National Guard for Washington, D.C., says Pentagon concerns about “optics” delayed the sending of troops to protect the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack. Maj. Gen. William Walker also noted under Senate questioning Wednesday there were no such concerns expressed when the D.C. National Guard was called out in response to the civil justice demonstrations in the spring and summer of 2020. Walker testified there was an “unusual” Pentagon memo on Jan. 5 that required him to seek advance authorization from the secretary of the Army and the secretary of defence for specific measures during the gathering of thousands of Trump supporters seeking to force Congress to overturn the November presidential election. The memo required Walker to seek personal authorization from the secretary of defence for equipment including weapons and body armour. Walker says the secretary of the Army separately authorized the use of protective equipment for the troops. Walker says D.C. officials pleaded with the Army officials to quickly send the National Guard to help police guard the Capitol. But Walker says senior Army leaders opposed sending uniformed troops to the Capitol. He says, “The Army senior leaders did not think that it looked good.” ___ 11 a.m. The acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police says there has been a more than 93% increase in the number of threats received by members of Congress in the first two months of this year compared with the same period last year. Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman testified Wednesday before a House subcommittee. Pittman says there has also been more than a 118% increase in total threats from 2017 to 2020. Pittman says the majority of the suspects behind those threats lived outside Washington, D.C. Pittman’s testimony comes nearly two months after thousands of pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s presidential win. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died as a result of the violence. The Associated Press
MONTPELIER, Vt. -- An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Vermont state prison in Newport has grown to 100 inmates and eight staff members, making it the largest outbreak at a Vermont correctional facility since the start of the pandemic, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections said. “It’s all hands on deck for our response,” Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said in a statement Tuesday, adding that the prison is being treated as though it were a hospital. Officials are co-ordinating with the department’s medical contractor, regional hospitals, the State Emergency Operations Center and the Vermont Department of Health to ensure the well-being of the staff and inmates, he said. The Vermont outbreak began after one staff member and 21 inmates tested positive for the virus on Feb. 23. The most recent cases were detected in testing conducted March 1. The ACLU of Vermont is calling for the the state to reduce the number of people in prison and to prioritize vaccinations for incarcerated Vermonters. The prison has been on full lockdown since the first positive result Feb. 25. All other state prisons are on modified lockdown. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: — CDC chief: Wear masks, follow federal guidelines — Biden stands by timeline of vaccines for all US adults by May — Drug maker says India vaccine is 81% effective — European countries seek vaccine ‘overdrive’ to catch up — Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: OKLAHOMA CITY -- The number of Oklahoma deaths due to the illness caused by the coronavirus jumped by about 2,500 Wednesday as the state health department began using the count reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 7,035 deaths using the CDC’s number that is based on death certificates. The health department on Tuesday had reported 4,534 COVID deaths. There were 747 new virus cases for a total of 425,746 since the pandemic began, the department reported. On Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Council extended the city’s mask ordinance until April 30, after hearing that the city could achieve herd immunity by June, an estimated 80% rate of vaccination in the population. Council member David Greenwell said the mandate could be extended, if needed. “We’ve been very flexible to have these extensions occur roughly every six weeks, just to take into account developments in terms of new information” about the virus, Greenwell said. ___ HARTFORD, Conn. -- More than 200 inmates at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, have declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19, including numerous medically vulnerable prisoners who have been seeking release to home confinement due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to federal officials. Federal prosecutors disclosed in a new court document filed Tuesday that nearly 550 of the approximately 800 inmates at the prison complex have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine and 336 have received at least the first of two doses. Another 212 inmates declined. Some inmates may be worried or confused about the safety of the vaccines, or do not trust them, said Ariadne Ellsworth, a Yale Law School student and member of the legal team representing Danbury inmates who filed a class-action lawsuit accusing federal officials of not doing enough to protect them from the coronavirus. “Our understanding is that, as more information has become available and individuals have had more opportunities to educate themselves about the vaccine, a number of class members who initially declined the vaccine have since informed the facility that they are now willing to take it,” Ellsworth said. The Connecticut U.S. attorney’s office filed the new document as part of the class-action lawsuit, which was settled last July. The federal Bureau of Prisons agreed to promptly identify prisoners who are low security risks and are at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 complication and release them to home confinement. Prison officials say inmates who decline vaccinations without a documented medical reason will not be given further consideration for home confinement. Officials say they are continuing to consider home confinement for inmates who accept vaccinations, up until the time they are fully inoculated, usually two weeks after receiving the second dose. ___ WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will partner with health insurance companies to help vulnerable older people get vaccinated for COVID-19. White House coronavirus special adviser Andy Slavitt announced Wednesday the goal is to get 2 million of the most at-risk seniors vaccinated soon. Many older people live in relative isolation and some lack the internet access to make vaccination appointments. Insurance companies have ties to Medicare recipients through businesses that range from Medicare Advantage private plans, to prescription drug coverage, to Medigap plans that seniors purchase for expenses that traditional Medicare doesn’t cover. Slavitt says insurers will use their networks to contact seniors with information about COVID-19 vaccines, answer questions, find and schedule appointments for first and second doses and co-ordinate transportation. The focus will be on reaching people in medically underserved areas. The two major industry trade groups, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association, separately announced their member companies will take part in the pilot program, which is being called Vaccine Community Connectors. ___ WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is warning against virus fatigue and encouraging Americans to continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing despite many states easing restrictions. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the nation is “at a critical nexus in the pandemic,” and the next two months are “pivotal” in determining the remaining course of the pandemic. While vaccinations are set to rapidly ramp up, Walensky warned deaths and new infections have plateaued at a “troubling” level after falling off their January highs. She says: “Fatigue is winning and the exact measures we have taken to stop the pandemic are now too often being flagrantly ignored.” Walensky says the CDC has been clear in opposing states’ moves to lift restrictions and encouraged Americans to follow federal guidelines. ___ LA PAZ, Bolivia — Authorities say they have arrested eight people in connection with the death of seven students who fell to their deaths from a fourth-floor university balcony during a crowded meeting held in defiance of Bolivia’s pandemic restrictions. The dead, all first-year students at the Public University of El Alto, fell about 56 feet when a balcony railing gave way during a meeting for candidates for Sunday’s local elections in Bolivia. A seventh student died on Wednesday, according to doctors. Gov. Félix Patzi declared three days of mourning and prosecutor Marco Antonio Cossío said eight people had been arrested, some for violating the ban on public meetings during the pandemic. ___ NEW DELHI, India — The interim analysis of results from an Indian vaccine maker’s late stage trials shows its COVID-19 vaccine to be about 81% effective in preventing illness from the coronavirus. The Bharat Biotech vaccine was controversially approved by India in January without waiting for trials to confirm that the vaccine was effective. Since then 1.3 million of doses of the vaccine have been administered to people in India. The interim results are based on 43 trial participants who were infected by the virus. Of these, 36 hadn’t received the vaccine, the company says. A second analysis will be conducted for 87 cases, and a final analysis 130 cases. Health care workers have been reticent to take the shots and health experts are concerned the regulatory shortcut has amplified vaccine hesitancy. Bharat Biotech has already signed an agreement with Brazil to supply 20 million doses of the vaccine by September. ___ COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s mask mandate will continue until a “critical mass” has been reached of people who have received the coronavirus vaccine, a spokesperson for Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said. Despite announcements that mask orders in Texas and other states are being lifted, DeWine believes it’s important to continue mask wearing and social distancing until that critical mass of vaccinations is met, DeWine press secretary Dan Tierney said Wednesday. DeWine issued the state’s mask mandate in July. While people who have been vaccinated have “great immunity” against severe forms of the coronavirus, including protection from being hospitalized or dying, they could still get the virus in a weakened form, Tierney said. That means they could transmit the virus to people at risk of serious complications, he said. “We need to wear the mask to protect ourselves and others from the virus spreading until we get that critical mass where the vaccine is doing that for us,” Tierney said. ___ MIAMI — Florida began vaccinating residents under 65 at medical offices and pharmacies Wednesday if their doctor attests they have a high-risk medical condition. Previously, only hospitals could administer such shots. It is up to the doctor to decide what qualifies as “high risk.” For the general population, Florida limits vaccines to residents 65 and older; teachers, police officers and firefighters who are 50 and older; and frontline medical providers of any age. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he expects to lower the age from 65 soon. ___ DETROIT — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is expanding vaccinations to any resident factory worker, no matter their age or where they work. Non-Detroit residents can also get a shot if they work in manufacturing in the city. “We’ve had some illness in our plants and deaths. This is incredibly important. ... It’s going to give them some peace of mind,” said Cindy Estrada, a vice-president at the United Auto Workers, who bared her arm for a shot at the news conference. More than 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered so far in Michigan, mostly in the Detroit area, according to the state health department. ___ BERLIN — Germany is extending strict checks on its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol province by another two weeks until March 17. The checks were introduced on Feb. 14, initially for a 10-day period, in a bid to reduce the spread of possibly more contagious coronavirus variants that have taken hold in those areas. Germany is limiting entry to its own citizens and residents, truck drivers, health workers and cross-border commuters working in “systemically relevant sectors.” All must show a negative coronavirus test. Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter says an extension is necessary because of a “worsened infection situation” in the Czech Republic and the situation in Tyrol. He says Germany is “in intensive talks, in particular with Austria, to find solutions.” ___ PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is negotiating with Germany and other European countries to treat its COVID-19 patients as hospitals fill up. Interior Minister Jan Hamacek says 19 beds are ready for the Czech patients in neighbouring Germany, which has offered to treat dozens. He says Switzerland has offered another 20 beds in its hospitals, including taking care of the transportation. Talks are also under way with Poland that could provide some 200 beds. The Czech Republic is one of the hardest hit European Union countries. New confirmed cases reached 16,642 on Tuesday, the fourth highest since the start of the pandemic. There’s a record of more than 8,000 COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization. Some hospitals in western Czech Republic near the German border and in the central Pardubice region cannot take more patients. The nation of 10.7 million had almost 1.3 million confirmed cases with almost 21,000 deaths. ___ WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s biotechnology company Mabion S.A. says it signed a framework agreement with the U.S. vaccine development company Novavax. It would produce an active component, an antigen, of the U.S. firm’s anti-COVID-19 vaccine. The agreement provides for a transfer of technology to Mabion, which is to make a technical series of the antigen. If the tests prove successful and Novavax vaccine gets approval from European, the companies will discuss co-operation on large-scale production, also for Europe’s needs. Poland’s state Development Fund is to support the trial stage with up to 40 million zlotys ($10.6 million.) Amid a sharp rise in new infections, Poland is seeking to increase its purchases of COVID-19 vaccines. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda spoke this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the possibility of buying the Chinese vaccine. ___ PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegrin government says China has donated 30,000 Sinopharm vaccines to the small Balkan country. A statement says the shipment arrived on Wednesday “illustrating friendly relations and great solidarity between our two countries.” Montenegro has previously acquired 5,000 Russian Sputnik V vaccines and Serbia has donated 2,000 of the same shots. The small Balkan country of 620,000 people has reported more than 1,000 virus-related deaths and hundreds of new cases daily. Health authorities have appealed on the citizens to join the vaccination effort in large numbers. Balkan countries have been turning to Russia and China for vaccines while still waiting to receive some through the international COVAX program. It's designed to make sure less wealthy countries are not left behind in inoculation. ___ TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he is considering extending an ongoing state of emergency for the Tokyo region for about two weeks, amid concerns that infections have not slowed enough and are continuing to strain health systems in the region. Suga had declared a month-long state of emergency in Jan. 7 for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, then extended the measure through to March 7. The measure issued for up to 10 other urban prefectures later in January was lifted last week, underscoring the government’s eagerness to allow businesses to return to normal as soon as possible. “Our anti-infection measures are at a very important phase,” Suga told reporters Wednesday. “In order to protect the people’s lives and health, I think we need to extend (the state of emergency) for about two weeks.” His comment comes after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and heads of the neighbouring prefectures raised concerns that infections have not slowed enough and lifting restrictive measures this weekend could trigger a quick rebound of infections. Daily new cases in Tokyo have significantly decreased after they peaked at around 2,000 in early January, but the slide has slowed recently. Tokyo on Wednesday reported 316 new cases, up from 232 the day before, for a prefectural total of 112,345. Nationwide, Japan has more than 434,000 cases and about 8,000 deaths as of Tuesday, the health ministry said. Suga said medical systems in the region are still burdened with COVID-19 patients and that more hospital beds need to be freed up. ___ STOCKHOLM — A top health official in the Swedish capital says a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic has hit Stockholm after a drop in cases after the New Year. Cases in the capital have been rising sharply for the past three weeks. “We do not want to see a development where the need for health care increases sharply,” said Johan Bratt, the capital city’s health director. The last week of February saw 6,336 new cases, almost double the 3,225 new cases recorded three weeks earlier. Officials in neighbouring Norway said restaurants and gyms in some areas would be closed after pockets of virus outbreaks in the capital Oslo and elsewhere. The move comes after more cases of the virus mutations have been reported in Norway. The changes apply as of Wednesday. The Associated Press
Wall Street slumped on Thursday and global stock markets declined after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell repeated his pledge to keep credit flowing until Americans are back to work, pushing back at investors who have doubted if he can hold that promise after the pandemic. Benchmarket U.S. Treasury yields rose toward last week's highs as Powell spoke, and the dollar jumped. Oil prices spiked as OPEC and its allies agreed to extend most oil output cuts into April, after deciding that the demand recovery from the coronavirus pandemic was still fragile.
Although Alek Minassian was found guilty of all counts in the Yonge Street van attack, the judge has set a Canadian precedent by considering autism a “mental disorder” under the Criminal Code. Kamil Karamali reports.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) officers will soon receive a powerful new tool to assist patrols in B.C. waters for illegal fishing and infringements on marine protected areas. Sometime in April the DFO base in Campbell River will take possession of a new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance aircraft for a suite of missions up and down the coast and into the western Arctic. “The aircraft has lots of sophisticated surveillance sensors and arrays on board that captures information we can present to courts in prosecution situations, but also present it to flag states as evidence of illegal activities. The other aspect is to direct our support vessels to suspected illegal activity so they can carry out inspections,” Brent Napier, DFO’s director of enforcement policy and programs, conservation and protection said. The plane will keep within 200 nautical miles of the coast with the ability to stay aloft for eight to 10 hours, twice the flight time of DFO’s current plane, a Beechcraft King Air. This new capacity is critical to reach remote protected areas. “We’d like to spend a lot more time outside of our traditional patrol sites, because what we’re seeing really is a changing pattern in the Pacific, as large fleets look for ever-new stocks to fish," Napier said. "We want to be there to make sure we’re protecting those stocks. This [aircraft] will give us a whole new capacity that we never had before.” The new plane will be a vital enforcement tool under an ever-growing mandate of the fisheries and oceans ministry to restore ocean health and fisheries, protect southern resident killer whales and expand ocean-based economies with sustainable industries. In 2019 DFO signed a five-year, $128-million contract with PAL Aerospace in St. John’s, N.L. for a fleet of four new aerial surveillance aircraft. The other three are headed to the Atlantic provinces. B.C.’s Dash-8 will also be used in partnership with the US government agencies to patrol the western arctic as new vulnerabilities arise due to the melting ice sheets. “This aircraft will let us know what’s going on up there. There are emerging fisheries and science that’s being conducted, and we want to make sure everyone’s following the rules, that we aren’t getting foreign vessels as the ice clears," Napier said. The Dash-8 will strengthen Canada’s ability to uphold obligations with other Pacific nations to police the “scourge” of illegal fishing in international waters, particularly with B.C.-bound Pacific salmon. The plane will also serve as a scientific platform to more accurately map and monitor the migratory routes of specific salmon populations to help guide fisheries management decisions. Quinn Bender, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View
IQALUIT, Nunavut — A Nunavut judge has granted a mining company an injunction against hunters who stopped its iron ore operation when they protested at the site last month. About a dozen Inuit hunters blocked the road and airstrip at Baffinland Iron Mine's Mary River project on northern Baffin Island for a week before leaving Feb. 10. The hunters were protesting Baffinland's proposal to double its output of iron ore and build a 110-kilometre railway from the mine to the ocean. They left after their regional Inuit organization and land-claim body offered to meet with the group face to face. Baffinland applied for an injunction against the hunters Feb. 10, and a temporary order was issued to have them clear the mine site. A second hearing was held in Iqaluit on Feb. 13, where lawyers for the hunters and the company argued whether the injunction should be granted. The injunction order legally prevents the hunters and "anyone else with knowledge of the order" from protesting at the site or blocking the mine's road and airstrip. The RCMP has the authority to enforce the order. In her decision, Justice Susan Cooper noted Baffinland lawyer Brad Armstrong's arguments about the mine's financial losses from the protest and the uncertainty about whether the hunters would return. "While the Defendants have left the project site, their counsel was not able to confirm that they have agreed to not return and continue the protest," Cooper wrote. "Although the protesters may no longer be at the project site, their reasons for being there in the first place remain." Cooper also said the hunters have not clearly stated their reasons for protesting. "The protest and its reasons have been the topic of discussion in the media. There may be more than one reason for the protest. It may be that the individual protesters are there for different reasons," she wrote. She said the injunction does not prevent the hunters from protesting elsewhere. "While it is true that such protests would be of little effect at the project site, without impeding the operations due to the remoteness of the location, there are other locations within the territory where a protest would be seen and heard." The injunction is interlocutory, which means it is not permanent. A permanent order would only be granted after a trial, Cooper said. In a news release, lawyers for the hunters said they are "disappointed that such a decision was made based on Baffinland’s arguments so early in the case, and look forward to their lawyers presenting new evidence now available through examination of the Baffinland witnesses." The hunters said they stand by their actions "and feel confident that they can carry forward their active opposition to mine expansion in many other ways." "In the interim, they will look for quieter places to sleep." Cooper said lawyers for the hunters can apply to vary or set aside the injunction with two days' notice. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021 ___ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story; a previous version said the hunters have two days to apply to vary or set aside the injunction.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Arlen Dumas would like to see changes in the Police Services Act (PSA) following the recent death of a First Nations man charged with assaulting a police officer. Brian Halcrow from Tataskweyak Cree Nation was arrested by Thompson RCMP for throwing a hat at Const. Jeremiah Dumont-Fontaine in June 2019. Following the incident, Halcrow committed suicide after he was charged with three counts of assaulting an officer and causing a disturbance. New video surveillance, obtained by the IIU, shows the hat flew past Dumont-Fontaine and hit the ground. This indicates that the assault may not have occurred. “This is yet another disturbing and tragic report of a First Nation citizen being brutally mistreated by officers, which may be a direct contributing factor in his decision to take his own life,” said Dumas in a press release. In November last year, an independent review of the PSA came up with 70 recommendations to improve policing and police oversight in Manitoba. Among the recommendations were changes to the sections of the legislation that govern the Independent Investigations Unit (IIU). In this case, Dumont-Fontaine is protected by the provisions of the PSA that do not compel the subject officer to hand over notes about an incident to the IIU investigating officers or to be interviewed about the matter. Due to this, IIU has decided to take law enforcement to court to gain access to Dumont-Fontaine's report. Arguments over the disclosure of the occurrence report on the Halcrow incident will be heard in Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench on March 5. “Unless this is changed in legislation, the IIU will continue to play a part in the disproportionate rates of First Nations arrests and incarcerations, and subject officers will continue to be found not responsible for acts of brutality and/or justified in the use of deadly force,” said Dumas. Dumas urge the Province of Manitoba to implement the recommendations of the final report on the PSA to prevent and reduce similar tragic events from occurring in the future. As well, changes to the PSA could bring closure and better administration of justice for many First Nation citizens such as Halcrow. “It is disturbing and emotionally exhausting for First Nations in Manitoba to be continually exposed to reports and alleged incidents of the use of excessive force perpetrated on First Nations by police officers, conservation officers, and correctional officers in this province,” said Dumas. “The PSA legislation is a contributing factor, and I continue to urge the Province and specifically Manitoba Justice to implement its recommendations, in partnership with First Nations in the spirit and intent of reconciliation and for a measure of justice for those First Nations lives lost as a result of police misconduct.” Justice Minister Cameron Friesen said that the province has committed to introducing legislation this year that will strengthen the Manitoba IIU. “We are sincerely interested in facilitating changes to the IIU that are designed to increase transparency and confidence and better reflect the communities it serves. These efforts are well underway and we are committed to that path,” he said on Wednesday. — Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Click here to sign up for our daily newsletter. Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun
TORONTO — Ontario will extend the interval between doses of COVID-19 vaccines to up to four months after a national panel recommended doing so, paving the way for an acceleration of the province's immunization effort. A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province welcomed the updated guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization released late Wednesday afternoon. The recommendation came two days after Ontario sought advice on dosing intervals in an effort to speed up its rollout, which has been criticized for being slow. "This will allow Ontario to rapidly accelerate its vaccine rollout and get as many vaccines into arms as quickly as possible and, in doing so, provide more protection to more people," Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement. The province said it will soon share details on an updated vaccine plan that accounts for the new dosing recommendation as well as expected supply of the recently approved Oxford-AstraZeneca shots. Earlier Wednesday, Ontario said it plans to administer the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to residents aged 60 to 64. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the targeted use of the vaccine will help cut illness and death across Ontario. "We know that from age 60 and up there are, unfortunately, more hospitalizations when someone gets COVID," she said. "By focusing in on those parts of our population that are more vulnerable, what we ended up actually doing is tamping down and curbing transmission." Jones said the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot will not be administered through mass immunization clinics but through a "different pathway," although she did not elaborate on what that would be. Ontario said earlier this week that it was following the advice of the national vaccine panel that recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and older due to limited data on its effectiveness in seniors. Jones also said the government has signed an agreement with the province's pharmacists' association to have COVID-19 shots administered in pharmacies in the coming months. Ontario has so far focused on vaccinating the highest-priority groups, including long-term care residents and certain health-care workers. The province has said it aims to start vaccinating residents aged 80 and older starting the third week of March, though the timeline is subject to change. Some public health units, however, have moved ahead with vaccinations for the general population, starting with people aged 80 and older. Those units are taking bookings for immunizations through their own web or phone systems as a provincial portal remains under development. Ontario has administered a total of 754,419 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine so far. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Wednesday that the government should follow the advice of its science table which said last week that thousands of cases could be prevented if the vaccine rollout was based on neighbourhood as well as age. "It just seems logical to me that there's an opportunity there when it comes to AstraZeneca," she said. Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the government must clearly communicate its updated plan soon. "I'm just pleading with the government, if you want public confidence, then give us a clear transparent plan," he said. "Let us know that there might be adjustments, I think the public is going to understand that." The province reported 958 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and 17 more deaths from the virus. There are 668 people currently hospitalized, including 274 people in intensive care and 188 on ventilators. Meanwhile, Ontario is expected to determine later this week if a number of COVID-19 hot spot regions will move back to its pandemic restrictions framework. Toronto, Peel, and North Bay remain under strict stay-at-home orders that are set to expire Monday. The top doctors in Toronto and Peel both said Wednesday that they want their regions to re-enter the framework next week in the strictest "grey lockdown" category. Toronto's medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen De Villa, said lifting the order is reasonable but precautions still must be taken. She says moving to the grey category, which allows retailers to open at 25 per cent capacity, is better than placing the city in the second-strictest red category, which allows indoor restaurant dining and personal care services. Peel's medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, said positive trends are reversing due to a growing number of virus variant cases and he’s recommending a return to the grey-lockdown zone to preserve the progress that has been made. “This does permit a gradual reopening of certain sectors in our community,” Loh said. “I know it may be hard to hear for some, but our indicators still remain somewhat precarious and it makes it difficult to recommend any other level.” -with files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter and Denise Paglinawan. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
Eleven days after Quebec reported its first case of the novel coronavirus, Pablo Gray, 54, was being raced in an ambulance to Notre-Dame Hospital, where staff decided to test him on the off-chance that's what he had. "Nobody wore masks at the time," Gray said. When the test came back positive, he was then whisked to the Jewish General Hospital, the first designated COVID-19 treatment centre in the province. Gray was case number seven in Quebec and among the first patients to land in the intensive care unit. He had started feeling sick after returning from a trip to the Dominican Republic with his two daughters. Doctors at the time were consulting with colleagues in China to try to figure out best practices. Gray was put on a ventilator and was in a coma for two weeks. "You think your dad is going in for a really bad cold and then you walk into a room and you get told that you need to get ready to say goodbye," says Gray's 19-year-old daughter Maïté, who is the only person in her family who did not catch COVID-19. Her mother and brother became sick shortly after Gray's positive test, and her older sister caught it in January 2021. Almost a year has passed since the Grays returned from that trip to the Dominican Republic and they can now reflect on their experience with the virus. Pablo Gray still has some residual symptoms, including feeling dizzy and winded when he gets up after sitting for a while, and a weird blocking and unblocking in his sinuses. But he says one of the hardest parts of his journey was coming back home. Pablo Gray recovering from COVID-19 at the Jewish General(Submitted by Pablo Gray) After nearly a month in the hospital — and vivid hallucinations caused by the heavy medications while he was in a coma — Gray says figuring out what normal life was again was overwhelming. "The biggest thing is how lost you feel when you go back to reality.… I couldn't remember the names of my kids," Gray says. "It's kind of like going to war." Gray is now part of a Université de Montréal study examining the lives of hospitalized COVID-19 patients once they return home. The study also connects recovered patients with more recent ones. Gray says he and his wife, Marie-Claude St-Gelais, should be making their first calls soon. He says he wants to help those patients understand that what they're going through is normal, and that it will pass. His daughter Maïté saw it all from the perspective of a loved one and caregiver. When her mother and brother were sick in their condo near the Lachine canal, she would don a mask to bring them soup and anything else they needed. "It was like a clinic at home. It was tough," she said, because in the meantime, the family was getting grim news about Pablo. Pablo Gray was admitted to the Jewish General Hospital's intensive care unit.(Submitted by Pablo Gray) "We'd get these text message about his oxygen dropping to 30 per cent," Maïté said. "I would just text him all the time, like, 'Please, wake up.' It was just a lot of crying and you can't even go and hug your mom because she has COVID." Doctors eventually tried a procedure called proning — flipping Gray onto his stomach to help his respiration — and reduced his sedation to help him come out of the coma in the hopes of him breathing on his own. He eventually did. "He was a stranger at first," Maïté said. "It was a long time until it felt like home again but he's back now." The family says they've become closer through it all, and Gray even says his outlook on life has changed. "It's hope. It's trying to help people more. It's trying to live the moment; it's actually taking the time to take the time," he said. At the end of his interview with CBC, Gray lifted his fist up in the air and said, "One year ago!" "We made it."
EDMONTON — Alberta is following guidance from a national vaccine advisory panel and increasing the time between COVID-19 doses. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, says the greater lag time will allow more Albertans to be effectively vaccinated sooner. She said the plan is for Alberta to match British Columbia, which announced Monday it will follow the four-month window and get a first dose to everyone who wants one by July. “This change will significantly increase how quickly we can offer Albertans the protection of their first dose,” Hinshaw said Wednesday. “We can all take heart that by getting more first doses to Albertans more quickly, the change I am announcing today brings the light at the end of the tunnel nearer.” Earlier Wednesday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended first and second doses can be to up to four months apart if supplies are limited. The decision was made based on emerging studies in places including Quebec, the United Kingdom and Israel that show even one dose of vaccine can be about 70 to 80 per cent effective. When vaccines were first available late last year, manufacturers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna recommended two shots spaced three to six weeks apart. Alberta is now into its second round of priority vaccinations. The 29,000 highest-risk Albertans, those in long-term care and designated supportive living facilities, have been vaccinated twice. Seniors over 75 and First Nations people 65 and older are among those now allowed to book their shots. Hinshaw said second dose appointments will go ahead for those who have already booked them, and those who want to book a second shot within the previous six-week window will be able to up to March 10. Starting then, those who book a first vaccine dose will have the second one delayed by as much as four months. Newfoundland and Labrador also announced an extension to four months. Manitoba has said it will bring in a delay. Ontario said it was weighing a similar move and seeking advice from the federal government. The change comes as more vaccine doses are on the way. Along with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the federal government has approved a third vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca. Hinshaw said Alberta expects to soon receive shipments of that vaccine as early as next week. Alberta has so far administered 255,000 vaccinations, with 89,000 people getting the full two doses. Hinshaw reported 402 new cases Wednesday. There were 251 people in hospital, 48 of whom were in intensive care. Twelve more people died, bringing that total in the province to 1,902. Case numbers and hospitalizations are a small fraction of what they were at the height of the second wave of COVID-19 in December. The economy remains under public-health restrictions, which include no indoor gatherings and limited capacities for retailers and restaurants. Premier Jason Kenney announced earlier this week a delay in loosening some rules, given unknowns, such as variant strains of the virus. The strains can spread much faster than the original one, with the potential to quickly overwhelm the health system. Alberta has detected 500 variant cases, and Hinshaw announced Wednesday the first variant case at a continuing-care home. Churchill Manor, in Edmonton, has 27 staff and residents who have tested positive, with 19 of them positive for the variant. “Local public-health teams and the operator are taking this outbreak extremely seriously and (are) working closely together to limit spread and protect everyone involved,” said Hinshaw. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021 Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
A full zoning bylaw change to accommodate and encourage more affordable housing in town may not be the quickest road to the goal. Midland's affordable housing task force arrived at this conclusion at its recent meeting. The group was looking at the overall official plan and zoning bylaw review process in hopes it would provide opportunities to attract more developers by easing regulations and creating a more inviting environment. "The reality is a lot of our housing development is going to come from other sources than ourselves," said Gord McKay, chair of the committee. "We have to prepare the landscape, the regulation and planning mechanisms, so they can reasonably go forward with affordable housing." The document prepared by the town's former planner identifies some areas where changes could be made, including the current planning and zoning of the Town of Midland. But it's not easy to go through a zoning bylaw review, acknowledged McKay, who asked Mayor Stewart Strathearn where the town was in the process. "We're currently seriously constrained in the planning area, and apparently, it's going to be exacerbated shortly," said Strathearn. "Friday, when we have the HR committee review as to what the immediate future looks like in terms of resources we can access to move things that need immediate attention." The retention of the consultant to do the review is going to be contingent upon putting a planning resource in plan to manage it," he added. In addition, Strathearn said, the county is moving into its municipal comprehensive review. "There's a lot happening right now," he said, adding he agreed with committee member Ted Phelps, who had suggested the committee would be better off with a site-specific zoning, rather than relying on a comprehensive zoning review. "We've identified two properties which will require some sort of zoning change," said Strathearn. "We should focus on those and we can move that ball down the court and in the workshops and other conversations put some emphasis on particular things. We can expand the conversation once we've gotten council's buy-in on some of the other stuff." McKay said a couple ideas that could be included in the new zoning bylaw, whenever that comes forward, may help promote more affordable housing in the area. "The one that's always intrigued me the most is shared accommodation housing," he said. "While we're permitted, we don't encourage it in any fashion. If any group in the public is going to pick up and do something in the affordable housing area, that's probably the mechanism they will employ. "Secondary units is another one that's reasonably well-established," added McKay. Strathearn had a word of caution around it all. "We're realizing that there are inconsistencies at the provincial level with respect to employment lands, rural designation and natural heritage," he said. "There are fundamental conflicts between the three that are really going to contain primary settlement areas to grow and retain their character. We're examining that through the municipal comprehensive review at county." The committee will also be launching a communications campaign to reach out to the community to invite feedback around housing and what the town can do to improve affordable housing in the area. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com