A calm weekend will end when a Colorado low arrives Sunday night. Snow will lead to some mixing potential for S ON by Monday as temps return to above freezing.
A calm weekend will end when a Colorado low arrives Sunday night. Snow will lead to some mixing potential for S ON by Monday as temps return to above freezing.
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
SAN FRANCISCO — Financial technology company Square, Inc. said Thursday that it has reached an agreement to acquire majority ownership of Tidal, the music streaming service partly owned by Jay-Z. Under the deal, Square will pay $297 million in cash and stock for Tidal, Jay-Z will be named to Square's board of directors, and he and other artists who currently own shares in Tidal will remain stakeholders. Tidal will operate as a distinct entity alongside the point-of-sale hardware and software offerings of San Francisco-based Square, the payments company founded by CEO Jack Dorsey, who is also co-founder and chief executive of Twitter. Tidal has presented itself as the artist-friendly alternative to other music streamers, and Square says it will take that phenomenon further for musicians just as it has for businesses with its financial systems. “It comes down to one simple idea: finding new ways for artists to support their work,” Dorsey said in the statement announcing the deal. . Jay-Z said in the statement that the “partnership will be a game-changer for many.” I look forward to all this new chapter has to offer!" The Associated Press
OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will review a decision to order a new trial for an Alberta man convicted of murder. Russell Steven Tessier was charged with first-degree murder in 2015, eight years after Allan Gerald Berdahl's body was found in a ditch near Carstairs. Berdahl died from gunshot wounds to the head, and there were tire tracks, footprints and two cigarette butts near the scene. Tessier was convicted in 2018 but Alberta's Court of Appeal later ordered a new trial. The appeal court said the trial judge made legal errors concerning the voluntariness of statements Tessier made to police. As usual, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for agreeing to hear the case. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
County council agreed to support a movement for improvements at long-term care (LTC) homes, though disagreed with local advocates’ desire to end for-profit homes. Council voted to write a letter of support for the Haliburton-CKL (City of Kawartha Lakes) Long-Term Care Coalition. The advocacy group is joining with others across the province to push for improvements, including amending the Canada Health Act to include LTC, guaranteeing four hours of direct care per day for residents, stronger enforcement and a culture change. Councillors spoke in favour of those ideas. But the coalition’s desire to end private LTC did not garner support and was specifically excluded in the resolution. “The first four points that you have, I think, are a bold initiative and a great start,” Coun. Brent Devolin said. “The supply going forward, will public initiatives alone be enough to look after all of us?” Coalition co-chair, Bonnie Roe, cited the Ontario Health Coalition, a province-wide organization also calling for the end to for-profit long-term care. Its May 2020 analysis found COVID-19 deaths in homes with outbreaks were higher in private (nine per cent) versus non-profit (5.25 per cent) or publicly-owned (3.62 per cent). The Canadian military also released a report about terrible conditions at homes it intervened in last May, which prompted the province to start an independent commission. Four of those homes were privately-owned. “There are some for-profits that are excellent, but generally speaking, they do not follow the standards,” Roe said. “People are asking, ‘why are there private profits attached to us as a society caring for our elders’?” co-chair, Mike Perry, said. “Why was that ever seen as a profit-making venture?” Warden Liz Danielsen said the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus has identified LTC as a priority. But she added the caucus is not yet in favour of ending private facilities. Coun. Carol Moffatt said she can attest to the challenges of eldercare and there is a drastic need for better support for health workers. “More people to do the job,” Moffatt said. “We also maybe need to be careful of what you wish for in terms of potential downloading. How do we all as a province push for the changes that are required, without it going off the cliff and then landing in the laps of municipalities for increased costs?” Perry thanked council for the support. “There’s so much common room and so much common ground for this moving forward,” he said. “That’s where we find hope in all this tragedy recently." Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Most of us are familiar with the three Rs associated with limiting our waste: reduce, reuse and recycle. As it turns out, there’s a fourth R: renew the recycling licence. During the Feb. 22 regular council meeting for the Town of Pincher Creek, Coun. Scott Korbett formally announced the town would not be renewing its recycling contract with KJ Cameron Service Industries. Come June 30, only empty beverage containers will be accepted at the bottle depot. “The Town of Pincher Creek intends to continue to offer a recycling program,” the town’s official statement reads. “We are currently working with our regional partners to have a smooth transition to a new program by the end of June.” While understanding the town is obligated to make economic decisions when it comes to contracts, Weston Whitfield, owner and manager of KJ Cameron, worries consolidating services on a regional basis might result in an inefficient service to taxpayers. The process of gathering, transporting, then re-sorting material, Mr. Whitfield adds, might decrease the price recycling facilities are willing to pay. “My concern is in the past, places that have done collaborations like that end up with a little bit of contamination and it can affect the resale of the product,” he says. Although no official details have been released, the plan for future recycling appears to involve the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill Association. Discussion recorded in the minutes of the Jan. 20, 2021, regular meeting of the landfill association includes “Recycling Update” as an agenda item. The minutes describe proposals being sent to each of the municipalities and note that, despite no reply being received, each of the municipal representatives — Coun. Dean Ward from Crowsnest Pass, Coun. Brian McGillivray from Pincher Creek and Reeve Brian Hammond from the MD of Pincher Creek — indicated their respective councils are still considering or interested in the landfill’s recycling proposal. Recycling was also a topic during last week’s council meetings for both the MD of Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass. During the MD of Pincher Creek’s Feb. 23 council meeting, chief administrative officer Troy MacCulloch updated council on plans to move collection bins from outside the MD office to a site off Bighorn Avenue and Highway 507, near the Co-op lumberyard. The site will cover recycling needs for residents from both the MD and town. “This will be a site that the MD will build,” said CAO MacCulloch. “We will cost-share it with the town, and then going forward it would be operated and manned by the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill.” Plans for the new recycling site are still tentative as the MD is working with the current landowner to develop a lease that would permit the property to be used as a transfer station for garbage and recyclables. The garbage bins by the MD office, he added, could also be removed. This will allow for further development and easier access of the standpipe, which will remain at the location. Meetings with Pincher Creek administration have discussed the possibility of the MD taking over the composting facility, which would be included on the site. Crowsnest Pass council also voted Feb. 23 to direct administration to find a location for their own recycling bin. Ease of access, along with being sheltered from the weather and from travellers’ field of vision, were identified as main priorities. Administration was asked to present a location at the March 16 council meeting with hopes that users could begin dropping off recycling by the end of the month. The goal is to eventually have three sites in the municipality to gather recycling. Beginning with one, said CAO Patrick Thomas, was a good place to “at least start and see what the challenges are,” especially to “see how [building] the fencing and screening goes.” The Town of Pincher Creek’s full official statement regarding the recycling licence can be found online at http://bit.ly/PC-Recycle. More information on Pincher Creek Bottle Depot and Recycling can be found at www.facebook.com/pcbottledepot. Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
TORONTO — About 13 years ago, screen acting coach Dean Armstrong got a phone call from a prominent talent agent asking him for a favour. The agent had come across "a very unique, very special, very exceptional" young actor from Toronto who needed monetary support to learn the craft, and Armstrong agreed to provide a rare scholarship for him at his Armstrong Acting Studios in the city. That actor was Jahmil French, who proved to be one of the "great ones," says Armstrong: a gifted performer with an insatiable appetite for deepening his skills; a bright light in any room he entered; a dance lover who busted a move virtually anywhere he went; and a supportive colleague who raised the bar for everyone around him. "He had such a raw, intuitive and natural ability for emotional access," Armstrong, director of the acting school, said in an interview. "There was a real physiological ownership of roles that he tackled." "It's very sad when someone like Jahmil, as young as he was, who truly hadn't reached his full potential, had it all disappear so quickly," he said. Armstrong is among many in the film and TV industry sharing fond memories of the actor who rose to fame on "Degrassi: The Next Generation," after news of his death at the age of 29. The circumstances surrounding French's death haven't been revealed by his representatives, but Armstrong says it happened last weekend. "He was very mature for his age but also very hungry to be challenged," said actor Salvatore Antonio, who started teaching French over a decade ago at Armstrong Acting Studios, which has had several "Degrassi" alumni as students. "After meeting with him, I saw almost instantly that he was above the rest in terms of his willingness to challenge himself." French grew up in Toronto with a single mom who was "very supportive" and "quite pivotal in helping to get him in acting classes," said Antonio. Those classes led to his role as high-school student Dave Turner from 2009 to 2013 on the Toronto-shot "Degrassi: The Next Generation," and a slew of other credits, including the Netflix series "Soundtrack," the Pop TV show "Let's Get Physical," and the Canadian film "Boost," for which he earned a 2018 Canadian Screen Award nomination. When he was performing, French had instincts far beyond his years, said Antonio, artistic director at the school, which plans to create a scholarship in French's name. French once performed scenes from the film "Requiem for a Dream" in class, which sent chills up Antonio's spine and had the other students wiping away tears and watching "with their mouths agape." "I may have been in the role as a teacher, but he taught me a lot about acting, especially in terms of being brave and courageous in the choices that he made," Antonio said. "Some of the most beautiful work that I've seen done on camera happened in some of those classes in terms of what Jahmil did." French's vulnerability and magnetic energy in his acting elevated the work of his scene partners and inspired others "to bring their A-game," said Antonio. Toronto actor Craig Arnold, who played Luke Baker on "Degrassi: The Next Generation," was inspired by French's skills. "Everyone talks about how he was just so good. It really made me feel like, 'OK, this is possible, I can do this,'" Arnold said from the set of "The Expanse" in Toronto. "He was so supportive of me and nice to me, so open and wanted everyone to do well," said Arnold. "It really inspired me early on and gave me a lot of confidence." French was also an "amazing dancer" who could hardly sit still in a chair and would often display moves between takes, said Antonio. Arnold recalled dining out with French and others after an acting class and seeing him spring into action when music started playing. "He stood up and went into this huge dance routine in the middle of the restaurant," Arnold said. "Everyone in the whole place was smiling and loving it." French was also driven, intensely tuned in, and hungry to learn, said Antonio. "He wanted to be great. He articulated that more than once. He's like, 'I just want to be really, really good at what I do,' and I respected that," Antonio said from Montreal, where he's shooting the upcoming CW series "The Republic of Sarah." "He had an effortless charm to him, which I know a lot of people have spoken about. And he could have rested on those laurels, you know — good looking kid, natural charm, very outgoing. He could have rested on those inherent qualities and stayed in the same lane for the majority of his career. But he really wanted something more." Antonio stopped working with French as his teacher three or four years ago but they kept in touch regularly, seeing movies together and texting back and forth about acting questions French had. "I was so proud of what Jahmil had accomplished in such a short period of time, and I was really looking forward to more — and that's the part that is the saddest for me," he said. Armstrong last spoke with French in December, when the rising star reached out asking for advice on a confusing passage in one of the popular acting books by Konstantin Stanislavski. "It's interesting to have a talent — in his pastime, on the heels of so much wonderful success — to continue his development, his journey as an artist, by reading books about his craft," said Armstrong. "He was always hungry for insight, always hungry for thoughts, ideas on how to be better, and to better understand himself. A real sign of a true artist — never satisfied, always wanting more." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
County of Haliburton council decided not to up its 15 per cent corporate emissions reduction target despite staff presenting options for higher goals. It targets a 15 per cent reduction in emissions from 2018 levels by 2030. But McKay presented other options such as increasing that figure to 30 per cent to align with federal and provincial targets, or 45 per cent to follow the best science and help further limit global warming. McKay provided examples of similar municipalities aiming for different goals, from Sault Ste. Marie at 10 per cent to the District of Muskoka targeting a 50 per cent reduction by 2030. “We are seeing unprecedented levels of action by all levels of government, shifting from incremental action toward transformative action,” McKay said. “Experts are warning us this is the critical decade to maintain a livable climate … A 45 per cent reduction is one that is based in science. "Cutting our emissions essentially in half would require bold leadership but we would not be alone in this endeavour.” Councillors expressed concerns about upping the target. Deputy warden Patrick Kennedy said the County faces pressure with more people moving to the area permanently. “Fifteen (per cent) is still an admirable goal to achieve with what’s coming,” Kennedy said. Coun. Carol Moffatt said the municipalities passed budgets and she would want more information on financial implications before approving a higher target. “I would like a multi-year rough projection of what it’s going to do to our budget so we can plan and prepare for it adequately, as opposed to taking a leap of faith for the good of the world,” Moffatt said. “We need to do both.” Environment Haliburton! vice-president Terry Moore said he was upset by how the conversation played out. “The financial budget, they’re not going to matter much when we don’t have a climate that’s conducive to civilization,” Moore said. He said there is not enough of a community movement on the issue versus a place like Muskoka. He lamented the County’s approach to finish a corporate plan before beginning consultations for a separate community plan. “There is nowhere near enough pressure. Council’s not going to lead on this,” Moore said. Warden Liz Danielsen said council will look for more information from McKay as she continues her work. “We’re all recognizing it is a moving landscape,” Danielsen said. “Just because we’re not making a change today, does not mean we won’t do that down the road, and even not too long from now.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
JUNEAU, Alaska — Juneau city leaders have approved changes to local COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers, including waiving a $250 testing fee for non-resident travellers who are tested at the airport and exempting “fully vaccinated” individuals from strict social distancing after testing. The changes approved by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly on Monday are meant to be encouraging for COVID-conscious travellers, KTOO Public Media reported. The rules define fully vaccinated as people who have gone more than two weeks since receiving a second dose of a two-dose vaccine or more than two weeks after receiving of one-dose vaccine. People considered fully vaccinated must still adhere to testing protocols, according to a statement from the city. But they do not have to practice strict social distancing for five days after arrival. The city describes strict social distancing, in part, as not socializing with anyone outside the person's household and not going indoors anywhere, except for one's home or the place they are staying. Non-vaccinated travellers must arrive with proof of a negative coronavirus test result, or they can get tested at the airport when they arrive and observe strict social distancing while awaiting results. The rules expire at 12:01 a.m. on May 1, unless other action is taken first. City Manager Rorie Watt said at the assembly meeting that officials “won’t be shy” about notifying the community if plans need to change. The Associated Press
A public hearing will be held later this month in Hay River for residents to have their say about the proposed Fraser Place development. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, March 17 at 7 p.m. at the town’s legion. It will provide information about the development's design and the rezoning plan, and will also take feedback, comments and suggestions on aspects of the project. The proposed development will see 29 units built in the community. More housing is said by the town to be necessary as officials believe a population boom is coming in the years ahead. The town started the rezoning process for the land in January but promised to consult residents before final decisions are made by council. Planned changes include zoning some land as residential so houses can be built, while changing another area to green space for the creation of a playground. If the project moves ahead, construction at Fraser Place could begin before the end of 2021, according to the town’s council. Those who believe they will be affected but cannot attend the meeting can submit comments in writing to town hall by noon on March 16. Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre seeks to help bridge the gaps between people with its first-ever online exhibition launched Feb. 27. Titled “Connection,” the show presents submissions from its members, featuring a wide array of mediums. Besides a physical gallery still viewable at the centre under additional public protocols, it is also available on the centre’s website, with a guided virtual tour. Curator Laurie Jones said she learned about the format from the Ontario Society of Artists and it was a way to improve access. “Not everybody’s comfortable yet with being around, especially in public spaces,” Jones said. The exhibition is an annual salon show, drawing from local talent, Jones said. The pandemic prompted the move to an online addition – and the theme for the show itself. “It came up out of my own cravings for connections and missing people,” Jones said. “In many ways, we’re looking for alternate ways to connect.” Artist Rosanna Dewey’s exhibition piece depicts one of those ways. It is an oil painting entitled “Zoom Room” depicting a call on the online meeting platform. She said the show’s theme was poignant. “It’s so hard to be connected,” Dewey said. “It really made me think about what was going on and what my connections were.” She said she had some skepticism about the online concept but found it turned out appealing. “You want to be able to get up close to the artwork and you get more of a sense of the piece,” Dewey said. “But I found that people were still interested. People still needed to go and experience art, even if it was through a Zoom format.” Arts and Crafts Festival on pause But the community will miss one big way to connect with art in the summer. The Haliburton Art and Craft Festival – the gallery’s flagship event and fundraiser – is cancelled for the second straight year due to the pandemic, Jones said. She said it would be too logistically challenging to ensure safety amidst the pandemic. “We don’t want to introduce any risk to our volunteers or staff or vendors or patrons,” Jones said. “Maintaining sanitary conditions would be impossible.” Jones said the centre needs to decide early to inform artists and give them time to plan. She said there might be alternate programming, but that is being worked out. For now, the Rails End is still putting on exhibitions and bringing arts to the community. “We’re not trying to sell anything. We’re trying to provide an experience,” Jones said. “Hopefully, they feel the connection with the creative arts.” “Connection” runs until April 17 and is available at the centre itself or railsendgallery.com. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
TRURO, N.S. — A Canadian undergarment company that quickly retooled its factory last spring to make personal protective equipment is laying off 150 workers after failing to win a new federal contract. Stanfield's Ltd. of Truro, N.S., famed for its long johns and boxer shorts, switched to making medical gowns for front-line health workers at the outset of the pandemic. The company's $27.9-million federal contract was a small piece of the $1.87 billion Ottawa has spent on hospital gowns as of Dec. 31. A new request for proposals for "disposable medical isolation gowns" closed Nov. 20. But in a Facebook post, Cumberland-Colchester MP Lenore Zann says the company was not successful in their bid on the new tender for medical gowns. She says she's "terribly concerned and disappointed" to hear about the layoffs at Stanfield's as a result. Local MLA Dave Ritcey calls the loss of 150 jobs in the largely rural area "devastating." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
POLITIQUE. Le député de Nicolet-Bécancour accueille favorablement le passage du Centre-du-Québec au palier d’alerte orange annoncé par le premier ministre François Legault. Bien qu’heureux de la décision, Donald Martel a certaines inquiétudes. «Je suis content pour les restaurateurs et les gyms. J’ai un mélange de joie, ça va nous faire du bien, mais j’ai aussi des inquiétudes. J’ai peur que les gens voient dans ce changement-là un relâchement des mesures de base de prévention. Il faut rester très très vigilant. Dans le comté, on a été exemplaire au niveau de nos comportements et je souhaite que ça reste comme ça», souligne Donald Martel. Pour ce qui est du sport, le député de Nicolet-Bécancour comprend les jeunes athlètes qui veulent renouer avec leur passion. «J’ai fait du sport toute ma vie. J’ai de la difficulté à m’imaginer jeune avoir été privé de jouer au hockey ou au baseball. On n’a pas fait ça de gaieté de cœur. Ça nous brise le cœur, mais c’est essentiel. Mais le premier ministre a promis qu’il ferait une intervention avant le 15 mars. On peut être optimiste face à l’avenir», indique-t-il. À ce sujet, certaines activités parascolaires au préscolaire, au primaire et au secondaire pourront reprendre, dès le 15 mars, en groupe-classe uniquement, et ce, partout au Québec, tant en zone orange qu’en zone rouge. Ajoutons qu’à partir du 8 mars, au Centre-du-Québec, le couvre-feu demeurera en vigueur. Il sera cependant repoussé de 20 h à 21 h 30. Cela signifie également, pour ces régions, la réouverture des salles d’entrainement, des salles de spectacle et des restaurants (maximum de deux adultes par table, accompagnés, s’il y a lieu, de leurs enfants d’âge mineur). Aussi, la pratique en solo, à deux ou par les occupants d’une même résidence privée d’activités sportives et de loisirs dans les lieux publics intérieurs ouverts sera permise. Également, en zone orange, les lieux de culte pourront accueillir un maximum de 100 personnes, à compter du 8 mars prochain, à la condition de l’application stricte des mesures sanitaires. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
After several false starts, Marble Mountain is open for the season — an unusual one that is not only late starting but also sternly warns ski enthusiasts on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula to stay away. People took to the slopes Thursday, with many remarking the conditions were great. "I'm so excited I barely slept last night," said Marble Mountain operations manager Richard Wells. "We have world-class skiing right now.… It puts a smile on your face." Wells says there about 15 centimetres of fresh snow fell within the last 24 hours, on top of the 90 centimetres that fell in recent days. There are many changes, however. Visitors need to wear masks at the base of the mountain and while waiting in line for the lifts. The day lodge is open for bathroom facilities only and people have to wear masks inside. Rental and repair service is suspended, and so is food and beverage. People are urged to bring their own lunch and leave it in their car. Getting to the top of the hill follows this motto: "Live Together = Ride Together," according to the rules listed by Marble Mountain on its Twitter account. Joey Pearce and Dustin Parsons, both from Pasadena, said Day 1 has been a smashing success. "There's so much fresh snow it's unbelievable," said Pearce. "It feels safe. I'm happy that the hill is open and I'm happy that the situation is the way that it is." Joey Pearce and Dustin Parsons of Pasadena say Day 1 of the Marble Mountain ski season has been epic.(Colleen Connors/CBC) Parsons agrees. "I don't know if there will be another day like this all year," he said. Please, stay away if you're from the Avalon Another major difference is that Wells is imploring people who live on the Avalon Peninsula, which remains in Alert Level 5, to stay away for now. "Perhaps now is not the best time to travel to Marble Mountain. We welcome you when the time is right, but it has to be safe to do so, and I think most of us can agree that right now it is not safe to do so and we would, please, highly recommend, keep the rest of us safe and respect what the public health has put in place here," Wells told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning ahead of Thursday's opening. Several passes that were purchased ended up being refunded because they were bought by people on the Avalon. Richard Wells, Marble Mountain operations manager, is ecstatic the ski season is finally underway. (Colleen Connors/CBC) Marble Mountain is able to tell a customer's location once a pass is bought with a credit card. Wells is imploring people to not break the rules. "Don't be the reason we lose our season," he said. No walk-up ski passes are being sold, and there is an outdoor ticket window so people don't have to congregate inside to get their pass. As for White Hills in Clarenville, the board of directors will decide on March 12 if the resort will open. That's the day Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health is expected to announce whether the Avalon will move out of Alert Level 5. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
The Peace River Regional District will be going ahead with plans for a new public library in Chetwynd, after board directors voted in favour of issuing requests for proposals for design and construction at their Feb. 25 meeting. The new library is a joint effort between Area E and Chetwynd. A lean-to style building is being floated as one possible option. Costs are capped at $5 million. “This has been going on for awhile, we’re trying to get costs down to something we can afford,” said Director Dan Rose. “We’ve got floor plans and ideas of what it might look like, so they’re not starting from scratch.” He added the library has extensive experience working remotely as a satellite office. "We’re certainly willing to accommodate as many communities as we can, with our services. I’m sure we could make agreements with everybody on how to do that,” said Rose. Fort St John Mayor Ackerman agreed a regional approach could be a good move for libraries in the Peace. “I’m totally open to having that conversation, even though the library in Fort St John is not a municipal library,” said Ackerman. “If you’re suggesting a regional library, I’m on that bandwagon.” Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead says the city will lend a hand if Chetwynd needs. “I appreciate how busy it is in Chetwynd right now. If they have any trouble at all in locating a site or land for this Chetwynd Public Library, we’d be happy to help facilitate that partnership with them, and construct it in Dawson Creek,” said Bumstead, jokingly. email@example.com Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has delivered her first opinion. The 7-2 decision released Thursday is in a case about the federal Freedom of Information Act, which Barrett explains makes “records available to the public upon request, unless those records fall within one of nine exemptions.” Barrett wrote for the court that certain draft documents do not have to be disclosed under FOIA. The 11-page opinion comes in the first case Barrett heard after joining the court in late October following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Health Canada says it won't require new clinical trial data from vaccine makers on booster shots being developed to target new variants of COVID-19. Instead, the regulator will rely more heavily on lab tests on blood samples, which can show how many antibodies develop following vaccination. Those antibodies are a good indicator of how well the human body will fight off an infection. The decision should help the regulator authorize the boosters for use in Canada much quicker and is in line with the process used to approve new flu vaccines each year. At least three variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating in Canada and are believed to spread more easily and possibly cause more serious illness. Having vaccines adjusted to target those new strains is a critical part of managing the COVID-19 pandemic. But Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, said there won't be corners cut on safety in evaluating new boosters. "They still need to demonstrate that the vaccine that comes out is still safe, effective and high quality," she said in an interview with The Canadian Press earlier this week. Canada has authorized three vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca, and all are working on various boosters against variants. The documents supporting Thursday's decision note that demanding full clinical trials, as was the case for authorizing the original vaccines, would create a serious delay. "This may also be problematic from a public health perspective since delay in updating a vaccine, where needed, bears the risk that the virus is evolving even further, potentially making a new vaccine version outdated at the time of approval again," the document says. Coronaviruses don't mutate as quickly as flu viruses, but do change as they spread among people and the more they spread, the more they change. "So a virus is not going to mutate as much when it can't replicate," Sharma said. The existing vaccines have shown reduced effectiveness against the variants of concern, though Sharma cautions the vaccines are still useful even against the variants. The vaccines Canada has authorized are performing well in countries like the United Kingdom and Israel, where the B.1.1.7 variant is now dominant. That variant is thus far the most common of the three variants of concern in Canada, accounting for more than 90 per cent of about 1,430 variant cases confirmed so far. Many provinces are now screening all confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the variants of concern, and as many as 10 per cent of all confirmed cases are fully sequenced to look for any mutations to the original virus. The B.1.351 variant that first arose in South Africa is the most concerning to date in its potential to evade existing vaccines. As of Wednesday, there were 103 confirmed cases of it in Canada. South Africa stopped using AstraZeneca's vaccine altogether after lab tests suggested it wouldn't be very effective against mild illness for B.1.351, which is dominant in that country. That decision has contributed to growing concerns that AstraZeneca's vaccine is less desirable but Sharma said the details aren't that simple. "Now, if you look at severe disease, or more severe cases, it actually looked like it was still quite protective," she said. "But in a country where that is your dominant circulating stream, and in a country where they had potentially had access to another vaccine shortly, they made the decision that maybe they weren't going to go ahead with that," she said. If B.1.351 becomes a dominant strain here, and current vaccines don't show effectiveness against it, they'll be pulled, Sharma said. "We wouldn't leave a vaccine on the market if we think that it wouldn't be effective for the overall population." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has continued to send stunning images of the red planet back to Earth. In this moment, an incredible shot of the Sun from the Martian surface was captured. Credit to "NASA/JPL-Caltech".
A Milan court on Thursday lifted restrictions on the management of an Italian unit of Uber Technologies, imposed last year as part of an investigation into possible exploitation of food delivery riders, a court document showed. The court said Uber Eats Italy srl, a division of Uber Italy, had complied with judges' orders to improve working conditions for riders including on health and safety, providing necessary equipment as well as sickness and accident coverage. The president of the panel of judges told Reuters that Uber Italy had also adjusted riders' pay and now pays its riders more than the collective labour agreement signed in Italy last year.
WASHINGTON — U.S. productivity fell at an annual rate of 4.2% in the fourth quarter, the largest quarterly decline in nearly four decades. The revised figure released by the Labor Department Thursday was slightly smaller than the 4.7% decline estimated a month ago. But it was still the biggest drop since the second quarter of 1981, when productivity fell at a rate of 5.1%. Labour costs rose at a 6% rate in the fourth quarter, slightly lower than the 6.8% first estimated. Productivity is the amount of output per hour of work. The revisions reflected the fact that the government made changes to its estimate gross domestic product, the country's total output of goods and services, to show an increase of 4.1% at an annual rate in the fourth quarter, slightly higher than its initial estimate of 4% growth. For all of 2020, productivity rose 2.5%, up from an annual gain of 1.8% in 2019. In recent years, productivity growth has been exceptionally weak and economists are uncertain about the cause. Analysts say that finding ways to boost productivity in coming years will be critical to raising living standards. In the short term, productivity is likely to continue swinging wildly due to disruptions from the pandemic. “The data have been distorted by the impact of COVID-19 on output, hours and compensation, a trend that is likely to continue in the near term,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. Some economists believe that once the country emerges from the pandemic, there may be a sustained and elevated levels of productivity, in part from workplace efficiencies gained from businesses finding ways to deal with the a year of related restrictions. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
Alberta will be delaying second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for up to four months, instead of the current 42 days, which is expected to allow all Albertans over the age of 18 to get their first dose by early summer. On Wednesday, Alberta decided to follow recommendation issued earlier in the day by the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI), which calls for a four-month window between the first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. New research from Quebec, British Columbia, Israel and the U.K. shows the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were providing 70 to 80 per cent effectiveness against the virus two months after the first dose. Once a second dose is given, long-term protection against the virus will be provided. In delaying the second dose, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said it will allow for more Albertans to receive that first dose and be protected against the virus more quickly. Nationally, it is estimated all Canadians over the age of 18 will be able to get the first shot by early summer under this new distribution plan. “We’ve seen research from other jurisdictions that indicates one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine offers a huge boost in immunity, with Canadian data indicating about 80 per cent protection after the first dose," Hinsahw said. "This change will significantly increase how quickly we can offer Albertans the protection of their first dose. The more people that we can offer this protection to in the coming weeks and months, the more effective we will be at stopping spread," Hinshaw said. Hinshaw said the evidence on COVID-19 is constantly evolving and it is critical that the province uses the most up-to-date information to refine the provincial plan for combating the virus. The top doctor said the second dose is still important to help provide long-term protection. Starting March 10, anyone who books their first dose will have their second dose timeline extended from the original 42-day window up to the 16-week window. Second dose appointments will no longer be booked during the first dose, and Albertans will now be sent a reminder to book their second dose. Right now, three vaccines have been approved for distribution in Canada, with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine now joining the Pfizer and Moderna products. The province is slated to get some of the AstraZeneca vaccine next week, though it is not known exactly how much. "We are still working to confirm exactly how many doses we will receive, and when they will arrive. We hope to update you soon on how these vaccines will be distributed here in Alberta," Hinshaw said. The province will not be distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 because it is not as effective on that age cohort. "What's clear is that all three of these vaccines reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 and prevent serious outcomes, including hospitalization and death," Hinshaw said. About 255,000 doses of vaccine have been administered in the province, and more than 89,000 people have now been fully immunized with two doses, she said. "This is great news for our most vulnerable Albertans and those who care for them." Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette