Congressional negotiators on the long-delayed $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package are working through a handful of remaining holdups Thursday as they labor to seal a final agreement. (Dec. 17)
Congressional negotiators on the long-delayed $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package are working through a handful of remaining holdups Thursday as they labor to seal a final agreement. (Dec. 17)
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
From a global perspective, there was nothing unique about the recent raid on the U.S. Capitol. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed military coups around the world for decades.
Recent developments: Renfrew County has had its second COVID-19 death. Quebec's premier is expected to speak at 1 p.m. ET. What's the latest? Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting 180 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and six more fatalities, marking the deadliest day of the pandemic since late May. Renfrew County's health unit is reporting the second death in its area from COVID-19. It has just five known active COVID-19 cases. WATCH LIVE | A Quebec pandemic update starts at 1 p.m. ET: How many cases are there? As of Thursday, 12,674 Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 1,056 known active cases, 11,203 resolved cases and 415 deaths from COVID-19. Public health officials have reported more than 22,600 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including nearly 22,000 resolved cases. One hundred and eight people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario and 147 people have died in western Quebec. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If you'd like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch. What can I do? Ontario says people must only leave home when it's essential to avoid more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Places such as Kingston have started to take patients from other regions struggling with hospital capacity. People who leave home for non-essential reasons can now be fined, though police won't be stopping people just for being outside. Travel within Ontario is not recommended. Residents who leave the province should isolate for 14 days upon returning. Private indoor gatherings are not allowed, while outdoor gatherings are capped at five. It's strongly recommended people stick to their own households and socializing is not considered essential. People who live alone are still allowed to interact with one other household. Schools can reopen to general in-person learning Monday in the areas of eastern Ontario with lower COVID-19 levels — not in Ottawa nor communities under the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. There is no return date for them. WATCH | Ottawa parents react to the at-home learning extension: Child-care centres remain open. Outdoor recreation venues remain open. In-person shopping is limited to essential businesses. Others can offer pickup and delivery. The lockdown rules are in place until at least Feb. 11. Health officials say there are signs they have slowed COVID-19's spread and there's been some talk about what it will take to lift them. In western Quebec, residents are also being asked to stay home unless it's essential and not see anyone they don't live with to ease the "very critical" load on hospitals and avoid more delayed surgeries. An exception for people living alone allows them to exclusively visit one other home. Quebec's 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is now in effect, with fines of up to $6,000 for breaking the rules. The province has shut down non-essential businesses, but has brought students back to classrooms. Like in Ontario, travel from one region of Quebec to another is discouraged. Those rules are in place until Feb. 8. Distancing and isolating The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs, sneezes, or breathes onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms. This means it's important to take precautions like staying home while symptomatic, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean and maintaining distance from anyone you don't live with — even with a mask on. Masks, preferably with three layers, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec. OPH says residents should also wear masks outside their homes whenever possible. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their public health unit. The length varies in Ontario and Quebec. Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible and get friends and family to help with errands. Anyone returning to Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days. Air travellers have to show recent proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Symptoms and vaccines COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and loss of taste or smell. Children can develop a rash. If you have severe symptoms, call 911. Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic, and resources are available to help. COVID-19 vaccines have been given to health-care workers and long-term care residents in most of the region. Renfrew County expects its first doses in early February. Local health units have said they've given more than 29,800 doses, including about 22,000 in Ottawa and more than 7,300 in western Quebec. Ontario wants every long-term care resident and worker to have at least one shot by Feb. 15. That's already happened in Ottawa. That, and Pfizer temporarily slowing its vaccine production to expand its factory, means some areas can't guarantee people will get a second dose three weeks after the first. It may take four to six weeks. Ontario's campaign is still expected to expand to priority groups such as older adults and essential workers in March or April, with vaccines widely available to the public in August. Ottawa believes it can have nearly 700,000 residents vaccinated by August. Quebec is also giving a single dose to as many people as possible, starting with people in care homes and health-care workers, then remote communities, then older adults and essential workers and finally the general public. It said before Pfizer's announcement people will get their second dose within 90 days. Where to get tested In eastern Ontario: Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment. Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, if you've been told to by your health unit or the province, or if you fit certain other criteria. People without symptoms but part of the province's targeted testing strategy can make an appointment at select pharmacies. Travellers who need a test have very few local options to pay for one. Ottawa has 10 permanent test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Rockland and Winchester. Its Alexandria and Casselman sites will reopen Monday. People can arrange a test in Picton over the phone or Bancroft, Belleville and Trenton, where online booking is preferred. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile clinic. Kingston's main test site is at the Beechgrove Complex, another is in Napanee. Renfrew County test clinic locations are posted weekly. Residents can also call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 with health questions. In western Quebec: Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms and their contacts. Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 ave. Buckingham. They can check the wait time for the Saint-Raymond site. There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Maniwaki, Fort-Coulonge and Petite-Nation. Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby. First Nations, Inuit and Métis: Akwesasne has had more than 130 residents test positive on the Canadian side of the border and five deaths. More than 240 people have tested positive across the community. Its curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. is back and it has a COVID-19 test site by appointment only. Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Kitigan Zibi logged its first case in mid-December and has had a total of 18. The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte had its only confirmed case in November. People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603. Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays. For more information
Coal mining is already having an impact in Alberta's Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry's presence in one of the province's most beloved landscapes. "They've been very active up there," said Kevin Van Tighem, who lives near one of the areas now heavily leased for coal exploration. The United Conservative government's decision to revoke a policy that had protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976 has convulsed the province. Petitions opposing the move have gathered more than 100,000 signatures. Popular Alberta entertainment figures have come out against it and area ranchers and First Nations are trying to force a judicial review of the decision. Documents from the Alberta Energy Regulator show that permission has already been granted for hundreds of drill sites and kilometres of roads threading through critical wildlife habitat and land previously untouched by mining. "The day after the coal policy was rescinded we started seeing applications for exploration," said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "Before we've done any real assessments of the impacts, we're seeing these companies have some potential pretty big impacts on that land." Documents filed with the regulator give some sense of what's already been permitted. Cabin Ridge Coal, operating 50 kilometres north of Coleman, Alta., is putting in 197 drill sites on land once protected by the coal policy. It plans 15 new access roads and 19 "reactivated" roads — abandoned for decades and now being refurbished. The exploration plans require nine new stream crossings. Elan Coal, north of Blairmore, Alta., has been permitted for 456 drill sites that include 66 kilometres of new roads and 29 kilometres of reactivated roads. Montem Resources, active south of Coleman, has the OK for 71 drill sites with an unspecified length of "new and existing access." Almost all of the drill sites are on grizzly bear range. Mountain goat and sheep habitat will be affected. Company plans detail how environmental impacts are to be reduced by careful construction and timing work for when it will cause the least disruption. They suggest the amount of land directly disturbed will be small — less than 100 hectares for Cabin Ridge. That's not the whole story, said Van Tighem, a former chief superintendent of Banff National Park. Wildlife steer clear of active roads and drill sites by up to 500 metres, he said. Roads cut into hillsides — no matter how well built — are "erosion traps" and roads that run uphill are "sluiceways" for run-off that would normally feed streams, he said. Mitigation measures aren't all they're cracked up to be, he added. "They're not ever as good as (companies) promise and not as consistently applied as the government would lead us to believe." Morrison points out that at least twice since the coal policy was revoked, companies have asked for exemptions to rules that prevented them from operating during sensitive times for wildlife. "Both exemptions were applied for, granted and work started within a day or two," she said. "That doesn't scream rigour to me as far as decreasing impact." Peter Brodsky, spokesman for Energy Minister Sonya Savage, said the government takes public concern seriously. This week, it paused all lease sales on formerly protected land and cancelled a small number of them, refunding $80,000. "The department will be working with Alberta Environment to determine next steps to best address the concerns that have been raised," he said in an email. "We will not choose between protecting the land for future generations and providing economic opportunities. We need to — and will — do both, in a measured and environmentally responsible way." Area rancher Gordon Cartwright looks up into the hills on his neighbour's land and recalls what a geologist told him last summer about what his neck of the foothills looks like. "He said, with the intensity of the operations and the drilling, it looked more like mining preparation than exploration," Cartwright said. "That activity's pretty damaging. A lot of these soils are highly susceptible to erosion and are hard to revegetate. "You would have thought consultation would have happened before you start opening up the country and creating that kind of disturbance." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. — Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 41,760 new vaccinations administered for a total of 692,899 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,828.264 per 100,000. There were 18,975 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 907,515 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 76.35 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were 2,400 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 13,575 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,684 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,910 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 37.257 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.64 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 5,344 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 9,175 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.402 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 39.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 58.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 10,207 new vaccinations administered for a total of 174,260 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.365 per 1,000. There were 16,575 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 237,125 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 73.49 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 13,784 new vaccinations administered for a total of 237,918 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.197 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 85.88 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,514 new vaccinations administered for a total of 20,265 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 14.717 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 46,290 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 43.78 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,658 new vaccinations administered for a total of 27,233 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 23.095 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 29,300 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 92.95 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 2,928 new vaccinations administered for a total of 95,243 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.636 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 101,275 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 94.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 5,756 new vaccinations administered for a total of 98,125 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.122 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 133,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 73.52 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,347 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 32.278 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 18.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,893 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 41.956 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 26.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,545 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 65.718 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 42.42 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Vancouver School Board says changes are being made to secondary school schedules to increase in-person class time after parents questioned why high school students were getting fewer instructional hours than students in other districts. On Wednesday night, the Vancouver School Board's student learning and well-being committee heard from parents. Parent Nancy Small told the committee she feels her children are being short-changed and doesn't understand how the situation could be considered acceptable. "Our Vancouver secondary students are receiving one-third of the amount of in-class time that other districts have," pointed out Small. Those concerns are in addition to opinions from parents collected during a survey conducted by the school district from Nov. 25 to Dec. 6, 2020. Small said she doesn't understand why the situation has gone on so long in Vancouver when other districts are providing more education during the pandemic. "Kids across the board like mine are struggling academically with motivation, there is no social interaction, lack of direction, and too much screen time. My Grade 8 son who has just gone into high school is expected to self-direct and self-manage his own homework and his time." Changes to school instruction During the meeting, director of instruction Aaron Davis said the Vancouver School District has noticed a trend in student performance. "One of things that was noticed with Grade 8s is [they] are performing slightly below the three-year average particularly in literacy and science." Earlier this week, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said a review of Vancouver's instructional model, involving parents, students, Indigenous representatives and unions, was underway. On Wednesday, associate superintendent with the Vancouver School District, Rob Schindel, announced that beginning on Feb. 4, there will be more instruction and more opportunities for interactive learning. "We have been listening to students, families and staff, and we have been analyzing information about student attendance and achievement," said Schindel. The VSB says the changes will allow all Grade 8 students to attend their remote class in person twice a week. The board also announced that all high schools will go to a one-week rotation of remote and in-person classes and all students will have three interactive learning opportunities per week for remote classes. Schindel said, "These changes ensure that health and safety remain our top priority for students and staff. The changes also reflect our commitment to student well-being, transparency, and data-driven decision-making."
Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack in a crowded Baghdad market on Thursday, killing at least 32 people in Iraq's first big suicide bombing for three years, authorities said, describing it as a possible sign of the reactivation of Islamic State. Islamic State claimed early on Friday that two of its men blew themselves up in Tayaran Square in the centre of Baghdad, according to a statement posted on the group's Telegram communications channel. Reuters journalists arriving after the blasts saw pools of blood and discarded shoes at the site, a clothing market in Tayaran Square in the centre of the city.
NEW YORK — Lani Muller doesn’t have to visit a doctor’s office to help test an experimental COVID-19 vaccine — she just climbs into a bloodmobile-like van that parks on a busy street near her New York City neighbourhood. The U.S. is rightly fixated on the chaotic rollout of the first two authorized vaccines to fight the pandemic. But with more vaccines in the pipeline — critical to boosting global supplies — scientists worry whether enough volunteers will join and stick with the testing needed to prove if they, too, really work. Those studies, like earlier ones, must include communities of colour that have been hard-hit by the pandemic, communities that also voice concern about the vaccination drive in part because of a long history of racial health care disparities and even research abuses. To help, researchers in more than a dozen spots around the country are rolling out mobile health clinics to better reach minority participants and people in rural areas who might not otherwise volunteer. Muller, who is Black, said her family was worried about the vaccine research so she didn’t mention she’d signed up to test AstraZeneca’s shot. “The legacy of African Americans in science in these sort of trials hasn’t been great and we haven’t forgotten,” said Muller, 49, a Columbia University employee whose participation in some prior research projects made her willing to get a test injection earlier this month. Muller knows more than 20 people who have gotten or died from COVID-19. “I’m much more afraid of the disease than the vaccine trial," she said. From the beginning, the National Institutes of Health was adamant that COVID-19 vaccines be tested in a population about as diverse as the nation's — key to building confidence in whichever shots proved to work. In studies of the Pfizer and Moderna shots so far cleared for widespread U.S. use, 10% of volunteers were Black, and more were Hispanic. Diversity is an even tougher challenge now. The high-risk volunteers needed for final testing of other vaccine candidates have to decide if they want to stick with an experimental injection — one that might be a dummy shot — or try to get in line for a rationed but proven dose. AstraZeneca, with about 30,000 volunteers so far, didn't release specific numbers but said the last weeks of enrolment are focusing on recruiting more minorities and people over age 65. Another maker, Novavax, just began recruiting for its final testing last month. Studying the vaccines in diverse populations is only one step in building trust, said Dr. Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University, a historically Black university in the nation's capital. Howard's hospital shared video of Frederick and other health workers getting vaccinated as a public service announcement encouraging African Americans to get their own shot as soon as it's their turn. Frederick, a surgeon who's also at high risk because of diabetes and sickle cell disease, said he's dismayed to get emails espousing conspiracy theories such as that vaccination is “an experiment on African Americans.” “There is misinformation that does require all of us to be in the forefront of getting involved and challenging it," he said. But efforts to build confidence in the vaccines could be undermined if, once there's more supply to go around, hard-hit minority communities get left behind. “The equity issue is absolutely important,” said Stephaun Wallace, a scientist at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center who also is part of the NIH-created COVID-19 Prevention Network that helps with vaccine research and education. “It's important that we ensure that the vaccine is getting to the people, and that is an access issue." Using vans to reach at-risk communities has long been a staple of fighting HIV, another illness that has disproportionately struck Black Americans. And as more doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrive, mobile clinics are expected to help expand COVID-19 vaccination access, especially in rural areas. But the NIH program has a different focus, offering RV-sized mobile clinics from Matrix Medical Network to help improve the diversity of ongoing vaccine studies. Officials say they've been used at a Lakota reservation, at chicken-processing plants with a largely Hispanic workforce, and in cities like Washington where Howard University is recruiting volunteers for the new Novavax study. “I don’t think we can sit in the ivory towers and hope that people come to us. I think that would be a mistake,” said Howard's Frederick. Researchers from the New York Blood Center regularly park their lab-on-wheels in parts of Queens and Brooklyn with large Black, Asian and Hispanic populations, so that even after study enrolment ends the participants can pop in for required check-ups. They also make a point of standing outside to answer questions from passersby confused about COVID-19 vaccination in general. It's "building trust and rapport,” said Dr. Jorge Soler, who helps study the AstraZeneca vaccine as part of the blood centre's Project Achieve. “I’m Latino and I’m a scientist. To be able to say that to people means something.” Soler sometimes has to dispel fears that getting vaccinated might mean being “injected with a chip," or having information collected for surveillance purposes. He stresses that the Pfizer and Moderna shots now being used cannot give someone the coronavirus — that's biologically impossible as neither is made with the actual virus. And over and over, people wonder how these vaccines appeared so quickly. Soler’s simple explanation for how to speed research without cutting corners? “This is what happens when the world is invested in something. You build a car faster with 20 people than you do with two.” ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Lauran Neergaard And Joseph B. Frederick, The Associated Press
Researchers have said around 52,000 deaths in Europe could be prevented each year if emissions are cut to WHO guidelines. View on euronews
A full-throated, supremely confident Lady Gaga belted out the national anthem at President Joe Biden's inauguration in a very Gaga way — with flamboyance, fashion and passion. The Grammy winner wore a huge dove-shaped brooch and an impressively billowing red sculpted skirt as she sang into a golden microphone, delivering an emotional and powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” She was followed at Wednesday's ceremony by Jennifer Lopez, dressed all in white, who threw a line of Spanish into her medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful" — a pointed nod to multiculturalism, just two weeks after white supremacists and other violent rioters stormed the Capitol in an effort to undermine the peaceful transfer of power. And country star Garth Brooks, doffing his black cowboy hat, sang a soulful a capella rendition of “Amazing Grace,” his eyes closed for much of the song. He asked the audience to sing a verse with him: “Not just the people here, but the people at home, to work as one united.” The three superstars were among a slew of glittery celebrities descending on Washington — virtually or in person — to welcome the new administration of Biden and Kamala Harris, a duo popular in Hollywood, where former President Donald Trump was decidedly not. While stars mostly eschewed Trump's inauguration four years ago, the A-list was back for Biden. Brooks was careful to call his decision to perform on Wednesday non-political, and in the spirit of unity. He had performed during the inaugural celebration for Obama in 2009, but turned down a chance to perform for Trump in 2017, citing a scheduling conflict. Gaga went on Twitter later to explain that the giant brooch accompanying her Schiaparelli haute couture outfit was “a dove carrying an olive branch. May we all make peace with each other.” Lopez was in all-white Chanel, and Brooks kept it real in jeans, an open-collared black shirt and blazer. While the podium was full of high-wattage star power, there was little question that a new star had also emerged: 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman, whose poise and urgency as she recited “The Hill We Climb” enthralled a global audience. None other than Bruce Springsteen launched the evening's entertainment: “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute, multi-network broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks that took the place of the usual official inaugural balls, with Biden and Harris watching along and giving brief remarks. Alone with his guitar, The Boss sang his “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “I will provide for you, and I’ll stand by your side," he sang. "You’ll need a good companion, for this part of the ride.” Hanks, also at the Lincoln Memorial, spoke of “deep divisions and a troubling rancour in our land” over the past few years. "But tonight we ponder the United States of America, the practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of our Constitution, the hope and dreams we all share for a more perfect union,” he said. Jon Bon Jovi contributed a rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” from Miami, and Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake performed “Better Days” from Memphis. John Legend sang “Feeling Good” in Washington; Foo Fighters sang “Times Like These” in honour of teachers, and Demi Lovato performed “Lovely Day” along with doctors and nurses in Los Angeles. A starry collection of Broadway's most prominent musical actors collaborated on a medley of “Seasons of Love” from the show “Rent” and “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” among them Christopher Jackson, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Laura Benanti, Betty Buckley, Leslie Uggams and Javier Muñoz. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda recited from “The Cure at Troy” by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Reciting excerpts of notable past inaugural addresses were basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, labour leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history. Peppering musical performances among stories of ordinary Americans and their contributions, the show included tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsay, the first in New York to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial. The proceedings ended with a lavish fireworks show in the Washington night sky, watched by Biden (at the White House) and Harris (at the Lincoln Memorial) and their families to — what else? — “Firework,” performed by Katy Perry. The history of celebrities performing at inaugurations dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third inauguration in 1941, when a gala celebration the evening before saw performances from Irving Berlin, Mickey Rooney and Charlie Chaplin, says Lina Mann of the White House Historical Association. “Chaplin performed his monologue from ‘The Great Dictator,’” Mann notes. The celebrity component only increased over time, and one of the starriest inaugurations was that of John F. Kennedy in 1961. That celebration, hosted by Frank Sinatra, drew Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Ethel Merman, Laurence Olivier, Sidney Poitier and other celebrities. Fast forward to the first Obama inauguration in 2009, where Aretha Franklin sang “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” at the swearing-in, and the new president and his wife, Michelle, were serenaded by Beyoncé singing “At Last” at an inaugural ball. ___ AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report from Los Angeles. ___ For complete coverage of the inauguration, please visit: https://apnews.com/hub/biden-inauguration Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
People working in Vancouver coffee shops are calling on the city to step up and provide public washrooms for the homeless, saying COVID-19 has forced the young people who often work in them to be front-line workers as the pandemic stretches on. Julian Bentley, 32, has worked at JJ Bean for 10 years and now manages the location at East 14th Avenue and Main Street in Vancouver. He said he's dealt with verbal abuse, assault, and just this week, a burning log thrown at his storefront. But the worst came when a person took their own life in the coffee shop's bathroom. "I think it's something that's just escalating ... and I have compassion that there are just less resources for those that are unfortunate enough," said Bentley. "For my staff I think it's unfair for someone who's 18 years old and paid $14 an hour, and then they have to come to work and handle dirty needles and face mental abuse. It's not good for their mental health." The issue isn't new for Vancouver — in a city with a growing homelessness crisis, fast-food restaurants and coffee shops have long served as makeshift drop-in centres for people trying to stay warm and dry. In 2018 there was public outcry after a 74-year-old man named Ted died in a Tim Hortons location on Broadway, and wasn't noticed for several hours. Since then, the pandemic and an increasingly toxic street drug supply have only worsened the issue. City 'grateful' for businesses providing bathroom access In a statement, the City of Vancouver acknowledged COVID-19 has complicated access to public bathrooms and said it was grateful to all businesses who have kept them open. "The closure of public facilities during COVID-19 has led to many people not having safe access to washrooms. This can lead to an increased risk of overdose and violence, as well as a loss of dignity as many people are forced to use alleys and other public and private spaces as washrooms, increasing sanitation concerns," the statement read in part. "We are committed to expanding washroom access and are currently finalizing details of new initiatives that will provide immediate action on this issue." The city says it's working on increasing access to essential resources like washrooms, but for now is focusing on hotspots like the Downtown Eastside and Strathcona Park. Mayor Kennedy Stewart, speaking to CBC's On The Coast, asked businesses for patience, saying more support is coming. But John Neate, the owner of JJ Bean, which has 21 locations, said he's concerned for his staff and feels caught between the police and the city. He said the city should at minimum create a hotline for staff to call when a situation escalates. "When we phone the police for such issues, those are considered non-emergency. I have asked a number of times for public washrooms, but I never know who to ask. There seems to be misdirection. It's a city thing, it's a provincial thing," he said. "But nobody wants to put in a public washroom that the city would need to maintain." Const. Steve Addison with the Vancouver Police Department said he understands the frustrations of business owners like Neate, and that police respond and open a file when behaviour is considered criminal. "They're justifiably frustrated by it. I should say that homelessness isn't a crime in the city and the vast majority of people who are homeless in the city, we don't hear from," he said. "Some of them are criminal issues — but we're also dealing with issues that are beyond the scope of the police department, we're dealing with issues of homelessness, mental health poverty and drug addiction." Bill MacEwan, lead psychiatrist with Vancouver's Downtown Community Court mental health team, said he understands the frustration as well, but said some of that is due to "very little support from the health, or civic, or police resources that are available" when people see someone in need. He said when officials respond to a situation where someone is struggling with myriad socio-economic and health issues, it is better to use the opportunity to talk about what supports they need, rather than entangle them in the justice system over petty crimes. "Everything seems to be falling through the cracks here," said MacEwan on CBC's The Early Edition on Thursday.
The town of Oyen in southeastern Alberta has been enjoying a rare thing in the province these past few months: an economic boom. The community has been bustling with pipeline workers who arrived by the hundreds last summer to help build the Canadian leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. Doug Dingman, who owns a grocery and liquor store in the community, said his business has been up 20 per cent with the crews in town and he thought they'd be around until next fall. Those workers could soon start hitting the highway out of town as TC Energy announced a suspension in the project on Wednesday, after U.S. President Joe Biden pulled the permit for the proposed pipeline and rejoined the Paris climate accord as expected. "I'm still pretty upset that he [Biden] is going to shut it down," said Dingman, who worries about the ramifications for the oilpatch, the province and the economy. But the situation also has him wondering about other important projects for the province's oil and gas sector, including the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The TMX project is owned by the federal government and is under construction, but some Albertans continue to worry it will never be completed. "I really don't think that'll happen, either," he said. "I think that B.C. is going to block it all." All eyes on TMX No doubt, the pressure from the oilpatch on the prime minister to complete Trans Mountain will intensify after this week. Like many, Mark Salkeld was not surprised by the Biden decision, but is still left feeling "disappointment and frustration," said the executive with Katch Kan, an Edmonton-based oilfield service company. "We can't be strangled by the U.S. We've got lots [of oil] moving there, no doubt about it, but there's lots more yet to move," he said, suggesting there will be renewed oilpatch interest in any export proposal whether it's a pipeline, rail project, or some other alternative. The Trans Mountain expansion has faced a slew of its own setbacks, yet construction continues on the pipelines that will transport oil from Edmonton to the Vancouver area for export. Besides past legal and regulatory challenges, the construction was recently paused after a series of safety problems. "I don't think just because there's no other country to deal with on that project that there aren't going to be significant challenges," said Connie Van der Byl, director of Mount Royal University's institute for environmental sustainability in Calgary. In fact, the demise of Keystone XL could invigorate opponents of Trans Mountain to try to stop that pipeline project too, she said. "Overall, this is another signal to Alberta and those connected with oil and gas that it's tough times. You have to have empathy for those in the industry," said Van Der Byl, who worked for TC Energy as a business analyst in its natural gas division more than a decade ago. Climate policy, demand uncertain Alberta's oil industry has wanted more export pipeline capacity for years in order to reduce the risk of expensive bottlenecks, such as the ones that hit the sector in 2018. When export pipelines are full, there can be backlogs in the province, which drives down prices and forces more companies to move oil by rail. It's the reason the Alberta government had a curtailment policy recently in place to limit the amount of oil production and maintain higher prices. The existing Trans Mountain pipeline is operating at maximum capacity. For many years, Keystone XL was seen as a necessity by the oilpatch, but assessing the impact of losing it now largely depends on where climate policies, world oil demand and Canadian oil production is headed. For instance, the latest modelling by the Canada Energy Regulator shows a need for Keystone XL, the Trans Mountain expansion, and Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline under its reference scenario, which assumes "a lack of future domestic and global climate policy action." However, under what the regulator calls its evolving scenario, Canada brings in new greenhouse-gas reducing measures to meet its stated climate targets. Canadian oil and gas production declines, and there could be ample export capacity with Enbridge's Line 3 and the Trans Mountain expansion. But that's still assuming those projects can be built. Considering all the hurdles pipelines have faced in the last decade, that's no guarantee. The risk is why the federal government decided to purchase Trans Mountain and why the Alberta government committed billions of dollars to TC Energy last year. Stephanie Kainz is a senior associate with the intelligence team at Enverus, an energy data analytics firm in Calgary. She expressed doubts for months about the future of Keystone XL, but she feels confident about Trans Mountain getting built. "On the heavy crude front, I think that Trans Mountain is crucial — it does provide that additional capacity," she said. The project continues to face determined opposition, including protests and blockades, from groups concerned about increased tanker traffic, oil spills, and climate change. Kainz believes there's broad support for the project, but she said the government and Trans Mountain need to work with stakeholders to assure community members that live along the pipeline system that the line "will be safe, and that they'll be safe." Plan B for KXL For now, the Alberta government and TC Energy will consider their next moves, which could include pursuing legal action to recoup their investment, like the company briefly attempted in 2016, or beginning the liquidation process of pipe and other assets to help offset costs. For TC Energy, there will be dissatisfaction, but it's merely one of many projects the company is pursuing. Considering the firm operates throughout North America with a variety of businesses from oil and natural gas to electricity and nuclear, the company still has many growth opportunities. As for Trans Mountain, the public spotlight has always shone brightly on the multi-billion dollar expansion project. Still, with Keystone XL no longer in the picture, the focus on the federal government's pipeline project will only sharpen — for those for and against.
OTTAWA — The COVID-19 pandemic is about to force another big break from tradition in the House of Commons: MPs using an app on their smartphones or laptops to cast votes remotely. Party whips are still discussing some unresolved details, the most important of which is ensuring Canadians will be able to see how their MPs vote, in real-time, as they click yea or nay. But government whip Mark Holland is optimistic that all parties will give unanimous consent to proceed with the voting app when the Commons resumes Monday after a six-week break. Traditionally, MPs who support a bill or motion are asked to rise in the Commons and then nod their assent as their names are called, one by one, by the clerk. The same procedure is then followed for those opposed. That changed last fall as the Commons adapted to the need for physical distancing and restricted travel to curb the spread COVID-19. Votes by videoconference were introduced, allowing MPs for the first time to vote virtually from remote locations. However, they still voted one-by-one in response to a rollcall so Canadians could witness how each of them voted. Inevitable technical glitches meant a single vote could take up to an hour to complete, during which all MPs were required to stay glued to their seats and on camera. That's about to change — again. In a bid to speed things up, the Commons administration has developed a voting app, using combined facial and fingerprint recognition technology, to facilitate secure, one-click voting. Rather than a rollcall vote, Holland said the plan is to allow a set "time window" — around 10 minutes — in which MPs can register their votes. As always, a list showing how each MP voted would be immediately available after the results are announced. But Holland said the administration has also been asked to come up with a way to let onlookers know what's happening in real-time as each MP registers his or her vote. "It's a little bit different than what people are used to," Holland acknowledged in an interview. He said the administration opted for the time-window approach because it's easier to manage technically and faster than conducting a rollcall. It allows an MP who's having trouble connecting or other technical problems to work it out with Commons staff, without holding up voting by everyone else. It also means MPs can resume doing other work as soon as they've voted. "It means we can get done in 10 minutes what would have taken an hour and if we have eight or 10 votes in a row, suddenly all of that time is freed up to do the work that I think people elect us to do," Holland said. NDP House leader Peter Julian said his party supports the use of the voting app to increase efficiency while minimizing the number of MPs in the Commons as the second wave of COVID-19 ravages the country. But he said it's critical that constituents be able to see in real-time how their MPs are voting. "That's a fundamental principle of democracy. Canadians need to know how their members of Parliament are voting," he said in an interview. "Knowing it after the fact is fine ... but it needs to be in place for when we are (in the process of) voting ... This is how democracy functions, with transparency." Bloc Quebecois House leader Alain Therrien said in a statement Wednesday that his party supports using the app. But he stressed the Bloc also believes the Liberal government must get unanimous consent before deploying it. Conservative House leader Gerard Deltell, whose party has been the most reluctant to depart from traditional procedures during the pandemic, declined to comment. Holland said it's "looking really positive" that the government will get unanimous consent for a motion to be introduced as the first order of business Monday. The motion would reinstate until the end of June the hybrid Commons format adopted last fall — a small number of MPs in the chamber while most participate virtually — with the voting app feature to be added as soon as possible. While the app has been tested with each MP individually and with each party caucus, Holland does not expect it to be used immediately by the Commons because it still needs to be tested with all 338 MPs using it simultaneously. That can't be done, he said, until use of the app is approved. Because there was no agreement among parties before Christmas on how the Commons should resume in the new year, all MPs are theoretically scheduled to be back in the chamber Monday. But Holland said party whips are discussing how to keep the number of MPs to the bare minimum needed for quorum: 20, including the Speaker. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
Some Ottawa parents and teachers are questioning the sustainability of virtual learning as in-person classrooms stay closed with no end in sight. On Wednesday, the Ontario government announced school boards within seven public health regions in southern and eastern Ontario would resume in-class learning on Monday, but boards in Ottawa weren't among them. The province did not say when schools in Ottawa might reopen, only that Ontario's chief medical officer of health will "continue to review the public health trends and advise the government on the resumption of in-person learning," according to a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Both the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board say they have not been told when in-class learning might resume. Eastern Ontario's French public school board says virtual learning will continue for its students until at least Feb. 10. 'I'm at a loss' While she doesn't want to put her children in an unsafe situation, parent Neelam Charania said she's "exasperated, frustrated, tired." "At this point, with the information that we have, I'm at a loss. I really don't understand," Charania said, who has two children attending Half Moon Bay Public School. "They miss school. They miss going to play with their friends and I think that they learn better in an in-person environment." "It would be really nice to know how to start planning for safe reintegration or what the measures will be like," said parent Malaka Hendela of the announcement. She said she worries how students, parents and teachers are coping when there's no indication of when schools will reopen. Plan is 'unsustainable': Teacher Meanwhile, teachers are having to pivot again, now having to prepare even more lessons that will have to be taught online. "The amount of time that I am putting into putting my stuff online is unsustainable. It really is," said Rachel Inch who teaches at Broadview Public School. "A lot of time and energy is spent converting things to make them doable online. So without knowing an end date, it's a daunting task. It sort of feels quite heavy." St. Leonard Catholic School teacher Krista Sarginson said she's not sure how much longer her students are able to keep up either. "I'm seeing that my kids are struggling a little bit. They were really looking forward to going back," she said. While Sarginson commends the government for being cautious when it comes to public health, she described the ongoing school closure as "death by a thousand cuts."
A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something half of jurisdictions have yet to do. The Correctional Service of Canada has started vaccinations for federal prisoners who are older or considered "medically vulnerable." But, as of last week, provinces had yet to start giving shots to inmates awaiting trial or serving shorter sentences in provincial jails. "Prisoners are disproportionately impacted by health conditions that would make them very susceptible to serious illness and death as a result of COVID," said Abby Deshman with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Because of a limited vaccine supply, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends people in correctional centres get inoculated behind those in long-term care homes, seniors 70 and older, critical health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities. British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia said that, as of last week, prisoners and staff are scheduled for vaccination in the second round of inoculations, with estimated start dates between next month and June. Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec didn't provide a timeline for when inmates will receive their shots. Newfoundland and Labrador said its inmates will be part of the second phase of its vaccine distribution, but didn't specify dates. Saskatchewan said the ranking of vulnerable groups is still to be determined. The Northwest Territories and Yukon planned to start giving shots this week. Nunavut didn't respond to inquiries. Deshman was part of a research project that tracked COVID-19 cases in jails and prisons. It found that since Dec. 1, there have been at least 1,962 infections among staff and inmates — more than all of the cases reported from last March until November. “We should have targets for immunizing key vulnerable populations, regardless of who they are," she said. “If those targets need to be adjusted, if they cannot be met, that needs to be publicly communicated and explained.” She noted some politicians, including federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, have pushed back against early vaccinations for federal inmates. Justin Piche, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, said there are far fewer older prisoners in provincial jails than in federal prisons, where one out of five inmates is 50 and older. He said rhetoric from leaders that pits one group against another isn't helpful. “Prisons are among the congregate settings that are seeing significant transmission," he said. “You have prisoners who are getting COVID-19 at higher rates. You have prison staff that are going in and out of there on a day-to-day basis, going back to their families, going back to their communities." The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers believes it's wrong that Ottawa didn’t vaccinate correctional staff along with prisoners, and instead left it up to provinces to decide where staff fall in the vaccine line. "It’s completely foolish," said national president Jeff Wilkins. “We have (Saskatchewan Penitentiary), for example, which has seen quite an extensive outbreak. Our members are getting burnt out." As of last week, Manitoba listed provincial and federal correctional health-care workers as eligible to be vaccinated. Wilkins wants to see correctional officers inoculated along with long-term care staff. "In some areas, we’ve seen the rates of the institution be much higher than the community.” Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, questions why doses were sent to institutions in Atlantic Canada, which have no active COVID-19 cases, while inmates in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are at higher risk. Latimer is also concerned about what she says is solitary confinement-like measures being used to contain the novel coronavirus. “It’s a very, very harsh correctional environment right now," she said. "We’re probably going through the worst period in terms of general corrections, at least on the federal side, in the last 50 years." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020. Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
It is too early to say when the national coronavirus lockdown in England will end, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday, as daily deaths from COVID-19 reach new highs and hospitals become increasingly stretched. A prevalence survey, known as REACT-1, suggested infections had not fallen in the first days of lockdown, though the government has said that the impact of national restrictions introduced on Jan. 5 was not yet reflected in the numbers. England's third national lockdown has seen bars, restaurants and schools mostly closed, with Johnson attributing a steep rise in cases at the end of last year to a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus first detected in England.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a growing list of music industry professionals to monetise their older work by selling valuable tracks and albums as the global health crisis has all but shut down earnings from live concerts. London-listed investment firm Hipgnosis announced a discounted placement offering of its ordinary shares on Thursday along with the deal, which is at least the fifth for the company this month after agreements with Shakira and Neil Young.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. There are 725,495 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 725,495 confirmed cases (68,413 active, 638,620 resolved, 18,462 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 5,744 new cases Wednesday from 68,508 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.4 per cent. The rate of active cases is 182 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 44,165 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,309. There were 196 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 1,034 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 148. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.39 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 49.12 per 100,000 people. There have been 16,778,780 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 396 confirmed cases (eight active, 384 resolved, four deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday from 280 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 77,042 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 110 confirmed cases (seven active, 103 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday from 493 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.46 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of seven new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 87,570 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,564 confirmed cases (23 active, 1,476 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday from 846 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.35 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.37 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 22 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 198,764 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,025 confirmed cases (318 active, 694 resolved, 13 deaths). There were 21 new cases Wednesday from 1,003 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.1 per cent. The rate of active cases is 40.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 189 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 27. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.02 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 130,711 tests completed. _ Quebec: 247,236 confirmed cases (18,436 active, 219,592 resolved, 9,208 deaths). There were 1,502 new cases Wednesday from 7,554 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 20 per cent. The rate of active cases is 217.28 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,541 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,792. There were 66 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 394 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 56. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.66 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 108.52 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,678,168 tests completed. _ Ontario: 244,932 confirmed cases (26,467 active, 212,897 resolved, 5,568 deaths). There were 2,655 new cases Wednesday from 52,531 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.1 per cent. The rate of active cases is 181.7 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 19,948 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,850. There were 89 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 395 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 56. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.39 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 38.22 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,758,500 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 27,893 confirmed cases (3,137 active, 23,968 resolved, 788 deaths). There were 153 new cases Wednesday from 1,764 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.7 per cent. The rate of active cases is 229.07 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,200 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 171. There were five new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 35 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 444,550 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 21,112 confirmed cases (3,702 active, 17,184 resolved, 226 deaths). There were 241 new cases Wednesday from 991 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 24 per cent. The rate of active cases is 315.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,091 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 299. There was one new reported death Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 20 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.24 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 19.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 324,668 tests completed. _ Alberta: 118,436 confirmed cases (10,565 active, 106,387 resolved, 1,484 deaths). There were 669 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 241.69 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,818 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 688. There were 21 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 116 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 17. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.95 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,020,119 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 62,412 confirmed cases (5,744 active, 55,564 resolved, 1,104 deaths). There were 500 new cases Wednesday from 2,817 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 18 per cent. The rate of active cases is 113.26 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,340 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 477. There were 14 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 73 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 10. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 21.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,036,509 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (zero active, 69 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday from 18 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,203 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 30 confirmed cases (six active, 24 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday from 211 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 13.39 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 8,882 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 266 confirmed cases (zero active, 265 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 7,018 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
WALTHAM, Mass. — The man who designed some of the world’s most advanced dynamic robots was on a daunting mission: programming his creations to dance to the beat with a mix of fluid, explosive and expressive motions that are almost human. The results? Almost a year and half of choreography, simulation, programming and upgrades that were capped by two days of filming to produce a video running at less than 3 minutes. The clip, showing robots dancing to the 1962 hit “Do You Love Me?” by The Contours, was an instant hit on social media, attracting more than 23 million views during the first week. It shows two of Boston Dynamics' humanoid Atlas research robots doing the twist, the mashed potato and other classic moves, joined by Spot, a doglike robot, and Handle, a wheeled robot designed for lifting and moving boxes in a warehouse or truck. Boston Dynamics founder and chairperson Marc Raibert says what the robot maker learned was far more valuable. “It turned out that we needed to upgrade the robot in the middle of development in order for it to be strong enough and to have enough energy to do the whole performance without stopping. So that was a real benefit to the design,” Raibert says. The difficult challenge of teaching robots to dance also pushed Boston Dynamics engineers to develop better motion-programming tools that let robots reconcile balance, bouncing and doing a performance simultaneously. “So we went from having very crude tools for doing that to having very effective rapid-generation tools so that by the time we were done, we could generate new dance steps very quickly and integrate them into the performance,” Raibert says. The quality of the robots’ dancing was so good that some viewers online said they couldn't believe their eyes. Some applauded the robots’ moves and the technology powering them. Others appeared to be freaked out by some of their expressive routines. Others added that what they were seeing was probably computer-generated imagery, or CGI. Not so, Raibert says. What was on display was a results of long, hard work fueled by a determination to program the robot to dance to the beat, he says. “We didn’t want a robot doing robotlike dancing. We wanted it to do human dancing and, you know, when a human dances, the music has a beat and their whole body moves to it — their hands, their body, their head,” he says. “And we tried to get all of those things involved and co-ordinated so that it, you know, it was ... it looked like the robot was having fun and really moved with the music. And I think that had a lot to do with the result of the production.” Teaching robots to dance with fluid and expressive motions was a new challenge for a company that spent years building robots that have functional abilities like walking, navigating in rough terrain, pick things up with their hands and use attached advanced sensors to monitor and sense many things, Raibert says. “You know, our job is to try and stretch the boundaries of what robots can do, both in terms of the outer research boundary, but also in terms of practical applications. And I think when people see the new things that robots can do, it excites them,” he says. The advanced Atlas robot relies on a wide array of sensors to execute the dance moves, including 28 actuators — devices that serve as muscles by converting electronic or physical signal into movement — as well as a gyroscope that helps it to balance, and three quad-core onboard computers, including one that processes perception signals and two that control movement. Still, the fact that video of the dancing robots has fired up the public imagination and inspired a sense of awe was gratifying, Raibert says. “We hoped ... that people would enjoy it and they seem to. We’ve gotten calls from all around the world,” Raibert says. “We got a call from one of the sound engineers who had recorded the original Contours performance back in the '60s. And he said that his whole crew of Motown friends had been passing it around and been excited by it.” Rodrique Ngowi, The Associated Press
Canada's national statistical agency is hiring tens of thousands of employees as it prepares for the challenge of conducting a physically-distanced census during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a press release published this week, Statistics Canada said it's overhauling its canvassing practices and looking to bring on 32,000 field staff to survey the Canadian population this spring. StatsCan said it is striving for a "contact-free" census, with agency staff collecting the necessary information without coming into face-to-face contact with the public. The census collects demographic information on every person living in Canada. The data is then used by governments, businesses, associations, community organizations and others to make evidence-based decisions at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. This year will mark the first time the agency has ever conducted a census in the middle of a public health emergency. "More than ever, these data are necessary," said Geoff Bowlby, director general of the 2021 census. "If you look at the current pandemic, the census data have been instrumental in determining how we should respond to the pandemic." As examples, Bowlby cited public health authorities using census data to learn which neighbourhoods are most vulnerable to COVID-19, and the federal government using population data to calculate the equitable distribution of vaccine doses. Online if possible, in-person only if necessary Bowlby said StatsCan said will do everything it can to keep respondents and census employees safe while conducting this year's census. Residents will be encouraged to complete the short-form and long-form surveys on paper, online or by phone. In-person interviews and door-to-door canvassing will be conducted only in rare circumstances where those methods are unsuccessful or unavailable. Over 68 per cent of respondents completed their census survey online during the last census in 2016. The agency said at the time it was the most successful in its history, with a total of 98.4 per cent of Canadian households responding. This year, the agency has set a target of 80 per cent online responses. In the event that an in-person visit is deemed necessary, no interview will be done inside a private home. Interviewers will be required to wear masks, carry hand sanitizer and maintain physical distancing from those they are surveying. Bowlby said the agency is looking to hire a record number of local enumerators to survey people in remote, northern and First Nations communities. In previous years, those communities were surveyed using a traditional canvassing method which saw census employees administer questionnaires inside people's homes. Over 600 staff who already have been hired received learning materials by mail or did their training via video conference, the agency said. Balancing risk with need for quality data Wayne Smith, Canada's chief statistician from 2010 to 2016, said a certain level of in-person contact will be necessary to engage hard-to-reach people, including those who live in areas without reliable, high-speed internet. Otherwise, the quality of the data could be compromised by a low response rate. "To say that it's going to be a revolution in comparison to what's been done before — I would be very surprised," said Smith. "Boots on the ground in the North and on reserves and in remote areas is still part of the package." Smith said the agency will have to convince Canadians of the importance of conducting the census during a pandemic before they send out the surveys — or run the risk of creating a public relations problem that could discourage people from completing it. Michel Frojmovic, community data program lead at the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, said information gathered from the census is absolutely necessary for municipal and community organizations. He said the risk of conducting the census during the pandemic is justified. "To find data in Canada that's consistent and credible and comparable and available over time is rare and divine," said Frojmovic. "One of the only sources of that data would be the census." Frojmovic said he is convinced StatsCan can pull it off. "If they do COVID safety as good as they do data security, then we're in good shape," he said.