Ottawa is tightening requirements for people crossing into the country via the land border. And soon, those arriving there will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result. Andrea MacPherson has the latest.
Ottawa is tightening requirements for people crossing into the country via the land border. And soon, those arriving there will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result. Andrea MacPherson has the latest.
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.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says poor weather and visibility were factors in a fatal plane crash in northeast Kingston, Ont., in November 2019. Pilot Otabek Oblokulov, his wife and their children ages five, 10 and 14 from Houston, Texas, were killed. Oblokulov's brother-in-law Bobomurod Nabiev and his wife Sabina Usmanova from Toronto also died in the crash. The Piper PA-32 plane, better known as a Cherokee Six, was travelling Nov. 27, 2019 from Buttonville Municipal Airport in Markham, Ont., to Quebec City, said the Transportation Safety Board (TSB). The plane made contact with Kingston's flight service station — a facility that provides information to pilots — before crashing some time after 5 p.m. ET in a heavily wooded, swampy area in the city's northwest. In its report released Thursday, the TSB said the pilot gave the wrong position to his contact in Kingston about two minutes before impact. He was turning away from the airport when they last spoke, before climbing, rolling and dropping. TSB said he had only flown in Texas and it doesn't know if he checked any other weather sources than an app showing a wider look at the United States and areas along the Canadian border, which showed mixed precipitation. If he had, the TSB said he would likely have seen forecasts that would have required the use of instruments to determine the plane's altitude. There was mist and moderate to severe turbulence in the area at the time of the crash, along with a relative lack of lights on the ground. "At that point, there would be little or no visual reference to the surface during the portions of this flight. And that can be a difficult thing for a pilot who does not have an instrument rating," said Ken Webster, lead TSB investigator on the crash. The flight plan map, starting in Markham, Ont.() Oblokulov had received his private pilot certificate in 2018 and had little experience flying with instruments, according to the report. This means he was flying under visual flight rules (VFR), which relies on eyesight. "Given the pilot's limited flying experience ... it's likely they did not recognize all of the hazards associated with flying a night VFR flight into deteriorating weather conditions," Webster said. "He likely became especially disoriented and lost control of the aircraft." The Transportation safety Board removed the wreckage from an area near Creekford Road and Bayridge Drive in Kingston, Ont. (Transportation Safety Board) The TSB said it has investigated five similar fatal crashes since 2013 and has recommended Transport Canada clarify its rules around flying under VFR at night. The board said Transport Canada is in the process of drafting changes to its rules and has sent reminders to pilots about the risks of those kinds of flights.
K-pop sensation BTS, whose catchy, upbeat songs have won legions of fans around the world, have scooped the 2020 Global Recording Artist of the Year Award from IFPI, the recorded music industry representative body said on Thursday. The seven-member group had a hugely successful 2020, becoming the first Korean pop act to reach no.1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, with English-language single "Dynamite", and securing its first major Grammy nomination. IFPI said the award takes account of an act's worldwide performance in digital and physical music formats during the year.
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
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
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
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
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
Les femmes enceintes peuvent donner naissance de façon plus confortable et avec plus de complicité avec leur partenaire à l’hôpital Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins, à Cowansville, grâce aux nouvelles chaises de naissance ergonomique Multitrac. Un important don et la Campagne de financement 2018-2022 ont permis à la Fondation BMP de faire l’acquisition de deux de ces chaises en plus de renouveler des fauteuils et des coussins d’allaitement. La Fondation a par ailleurs souhaité souligner la contribution importante du pharmacien-propriétaire du Jean Coutu de Farnham, Denis Émond, dont l’entreprise a donné 25 000 $ pour contribuer à ces nouvelles acquisitions. Le don, réalisé en 2020 après l'achat des chaises, n’a pas pu être souligné à l’époque pour des raisons que le directeur général de la Fondation, Francis Laramée, n’a pas pu dévoiler. L’annonce a été faite cette semaine alors que la date s’approche de celle de l’anniversaire de leur petit-fils, Marc-Édouard Benjamin, décédé à la naissance en mars 2017. Le don a été fait en la mémoire du bébé né au Pavillon des naissances. «Ils avaient tellement été bien servis à l’hôpital, ils ont tellement été bien entourés qu’on a voulu redonner à cet hôpital-là, confie M. Émond. Comme pharmacien, je trouvais que c’était une façon de redonner à la communauté.» Complicité Cette chaise permet non seulement des positions d’accouchement confortables en soulageant la douleur de façon naturelle, mais donne aussi la possibilité au partenaire d’avoir un rôle plus actif durant le travail. Elle est utilisée depuis la fin de 2019 à Cowansville. L’une des premières utilisatrices est la coordonnatrice des événements de la Fondation BMP, Alice Toussaint, pour la naissance de son premier enfant. «Je l’ai utilisée pendant le travail actif, raconte-t-elle. Ça m’a vraiment aidée à passer la douleur dans le sens où, de la manière que ça fonctionne, le conjoint peut être assis derrière la femme et appliquer des points de pression. C’est un moment très agréable à partager avec son conjoint parce qu’on est tous les deux impliqués.» Lors de son accouchement, l’appareil était neuf et ses différentes utilisations étaient peu connues. «C’est vraiment modulable, comme chaise», ajoute Mme Toussaint. Elle n’a pas pu expérimenter toutes les postures. Temps La maman de Marc-Édouard, la kinésiologue Geneviève Émond, souhaitait elle aussi s’impliquer en donnant de son temps. Elle a proposé à la cheffe du Pavillon des naissances d’aider le personnel à comprendre toutes les nuances des chaises Multitrac afin qu’elles soient utilisées à leur plein potentiel. Mme Émond participera aussi à bonifier la formation qui sera bientôt donnée au personnel du département, sur l’approche du deuil périnatal. Cynthia Laflamme, Initiative de journalisme local, La Voix de l'Est
The explosive interview will air Sunday, March 7.
WASHINGTON — House Democrats passed sweeping voting and ethics legislation over unanimous Republican opposition, advancing to the Senate what would be the largest overhaul of the U.S. election law in at least a generation. House Resolution 1, which touches on virtually every aspect of the electoral process, was approved Wednesday night on a near party-line 220-210 vote. It would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to anonymously bankroll political causes. The bill is a powerful counterweight to voting rights restrictions advancing in Republican-controlled statehouses across the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s repeated false claims of a stolen 2020 election. Yet it faces an uncertain fate in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it has little chance of passing without changes to procedural rules that currently allow Republicans to block it. The stakes in the outcome are monumental, cutting to the foundational idea that one person equals one vote, and carrying with it the potential to shape election outcomes for years to come. It also offers a test of how hard President Joe Biden and his party are willing to fight for their priorities, as well as those of their voters. This bill “will put a stop at the voter suppression that we’re seeing debated right now,” said Rep. Nikema Williams, a new congresswoman who represents the Georgia district that deceased voting rights champion John Lewis held for years. “This bill is the ‘Good Trouble’ he fought for his entire life.” In a statement, Biden said he looked forward to refining the measure and hoped to sign it into law, calling it “landmark legislation" that is much needed “to repair and strengthen our democracy.” To Republicans, however, it would give license to unwanted federal interference in states' authority to conduct their own elections — ultimately benefiting Democrats through higher turnout, most notably among minorities. “Democrats want to use their razor-thin majority not to pass bills to earn voters’ trust, but to ensure they don’t lose more seats in the next election,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said from the House floor Tuesday. The measure has been a priority for Democrats since they won their House majority in 2018. But it has taken on added urgency in the wake of Trump’s false claims, which incited the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol in January. Courts and even Trump's last attorney general, William Barr, found his claims about the election to be without merit. But, spurred on by those lies, state lawmakers across the U.S. have filed more than 200 bills in 43 states that would limit ballot access, according to a tally kept by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. In Iowa, the legislature voted to cut absentee and in-person early voting, while preventing local elections officials from setting up additional locations to make early voting easier. In Georgia, the House on Monday voted for legislation requiring identification to vote by mail that would also allow counties to cancel early in-person voting on Sundays, when many Black voters cast ballots after church. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court appeared ready to uphold voting restrictions in Arizona, which could make it harder to challenge state election laws in the future. When asked why proponents sought to uphold the Arizona laws, which limit who can turn in absentee ballots and enable ballots to be thrown out if they are cast in the wrong precinct, a lawyer for the state's Republican Party was stunningly clear. “Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats,” said attorney Michael Carvin. “Politics is a zero-sum game." Battle lines are quickly being drawn by outside groups who plan to spend millions of dollars on advertising and outreach campaigns. Republicans “are not even being coy about it. They are saying the ‘quiet parts’ out loud,” said Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United, a left-leaning group that aims to curtail the influence of corporate money in politics. Her organization has launched a $10 million effort supporting the bill. “For them, this isn’t about protecting our democracy or protecting our elections. This is about pure partisan political gain.” Conservatives, meanwhile, are mobilizing a $5 million pressure campaign, urging moderate Senate Democrats to oppose rule changes needed to pass the measure. “H.R. 1 is not about making elections better,” said Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump administration Homeland Security official who is leading the effort. "It’s about the opposite. It’s intended to dirty up elections.” So what's actually in the bill? H.R. 1 would require states to automatically register eligible voters, as well as offer same-day registration. It would limit states' ability to purge registered voters from their rolls and restore former felons' voting rights. Among dozens of other provisions, it would also require states to offer 15 days of early voting and allow no-excuse absentee balloting. On the cusp of a once-in-a-decade redrawing of congressional district boundaries, typically a fiercely partisan affair, the bill would mandate that nonpartisan commissions handle the process instead of state legislatures. Many Republican opponents in Congress have focused on narrower aspects, like the creation of a public financing system for congressional campaigns that would be funded through fines and settlement proceeds raised from corporate bad actors. They've also attacked an effort to revamp the federal government's toothless elections cop. That agency, the Federal Election Commission, has been gripped by partisan deadlock for years, allowing campaign finance law violators to go mostly unchecked. Another section that's been a focus of Republican ire would force the disclosure of donors to “dark money” political groups, which are a magnet for wealthy interests looking to influence the political process while remaining anonymous. Still, the biggest obstacles lie ahead in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. On some legislation, it takes only 51 votes to pass, with Vice-President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. On a deeply divisive bill like this one, they would need 60 votes under the Senate’s rules to overcome a Republican filibuster — a tally they are unlikely to reach. Some Democrats have discussed options like lowering the threshold to break a filibuster, or creating a workaround that would allow priority legislation, including a separate John Lewis Voting Rights bill, to be exempt. Biden has been cool to filibuster reforms and Democratic congressional aides say the conversations are fluid but underway. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not committed to a time frame but vowed “to figure out the best way to get big, bold action on a whole lot of fronts.” He said: “We’re not going to be the legislative graveyard. ... People are going to be forced to vote on them, yes or no, on a whole lot of very important and serious issues.” ___ AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report. Brian Slodysko, The Associated Press
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
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".
The dining room in Katie Rioux's Quebec City restaurant has been closed since the fall, and she expected her business would remain a takeout-only operation for weeks to come, if not longer. On Wednesday, though, the owner of Café Krieghoff received some unexpected good news. Premier François Legault announced he was scaling back health restrictions in several regions, allowing Rioux and countless other restaurant owners to serve customers sitting inside for the first time in five months. "Honestly, we could not have gotten better news than this," said Rioux, who also promised to do her part to ensure Quebec City does not go back to being a red zone. "As restaurant owners, we will do everything we can. I think the population is also on our side." Café Krieghoff owner Katie Rioux can't wait to serve sitting customers at her Quebec City restaurant for the first time in five months. (Radio-Canada) However, some public health experts say the Quebec government's decision to roll back restrictions to this extent is too hasty. Following March break, the Quebec City region will be joined by the Eastern Townships, Mauricie-et-Centre-du-Québec and Chaudières-Appalaches as the latest to be downgraded from red to orange zones. In these regions, gyms and show venues will be allowed to reopen, houses of worship will be able to take in as many as 100 people at a time. The government is also dropping the requirement that all primary school students must wear a medical grade mask. The nightly curfew remains, but will kick in at 9:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. "I would have preferred to wait until at least one week after the holiday week, because then we would be able to see the impact of the vacation on the increase of cases everywhere in Quebec," said Dr. Cécile Tremblay, a microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal. "We know that people from Montreal travel to other regions, and we won't know the result of that until two weeks from now." The race between variants and vaccines Legault's announcement came a day after Health Minister Christian Dubé and Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda held a news conference of their own, during which they warned Quebecers about the growing spread of coronavirus variants. "The ocean is calm at the moment ... but underneath there are sharks," Arruda said, "and I'll tell you what those sharks are: they're the variants." The decision to remove restrictions in places outside of the greater Montreal area seems to reflect data showing that variants are gaining more ground in Montreal than elsewhere in the province. On Wednesday, Legault said spikes in cases and hospitalizations were expected in and around Montreal, and those projections played a major role in the government's most recent announcement. But Prativa Baral, an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says the province is squandering a golden opportunity to deal a crushing blow to the virus. Seniors arrive for their COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press) With more and more Quebecers set to get vaccinated, Baral says the government should focus on its inoculation campaign while limiting contacts as much as possible, in an effort to keep the spread of variants under control. "For us to be loosening restrictions now, is too premature. We don't want to be reactive, we want to be proactive for once," Baral said. "At this point, it's more of a virus versus vaccine race, and we really want to make sure that we're pushing the vaccine segment to win, as opposed the variant segment." The province's latest projections for the spread COVID-19 appear to reinforce the importance of winning that race. According to the mathematical modelling published by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) on Thursday, lowering the province's collective guard could provoke a rapid spike in new infections that could reach between 3,000 and 4,000 cases per day. It also seems possible, perhaps even likely given the presence of infectious variants, that Quebec will experience a third wave. Sticking with the low-socialization and low-contact measures that were in place from January and February might not entirely prevent another peak this spring in terms of daily infections, but it could keep hospitalization numbers and fatalities low. Marc Brisson, the director of the Université Laval mathematical modelling group that conducts the INSPQ's COVID-19 forecasts, said the model doesn't account for the government's latest announcement, but does include increased inter-regional travel and social contacts from March break. "If we can accelerate vaccination ... and follow public health guidelines, then at that point our model is saying we could stay at a number of cases that would be relatively stable. However, if vaccination slows down and there's more contact, then a third wave is predicted," he said. There is some good news in the projections, however. The model supports the government's contention that there are two distinct epidemiological realities in Quebec: greater Montreal, and the rest of the province. The fact there is lower community spread outside the province's largest urban agglomeration means it's less likely the variant strains will spread. "The race is how many vulnerable people we can protect with vaccination and ... can that variant infect the most vulnerable among us?" he said. The key, Brisson concluded, is continued adherence to public health measures, which "would buy time for the vaccine to take its effect."
OTTAWA — The debate over the safety of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic is coming under researchers' microscopes. Three new projects are aiming determine how many teachers and school staff in Canada have had COVID-19, to help inform prevention strategies in neighbourhoods, schools and daycares. About $2.9 million will be spent on the research in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec as part of the work of the national COVID-19 immunity task force. All three projects will ask teachers for blood samples to determine how many have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, which would indicate a previous COVID-19 infection. In Ontario, researchers are hoping for 7,000 teachers and education workers to enrol, while in B.C. the study will focus on the Vancouver School District. In Quebec, the work will build on an existing study looking at the spread of the novel coronavirus in children in four Montreal neighbourhoods. The research will also delve into the question of teachers' mental health, a key area of concern for educators in recent months. While the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is released daily, the true number of how many people in Canada have been infected can't actually be known without widespread surveillance testing. "Although daycare and school staff may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in their work settings, we don’t have much data on how many school staff have had asymptomatic infections, meaning they had no symptoms but potentially could transmit the virus,” said Dr. Catherine Hankins, co-chair of the task force. The CITF was set up by the federal government to understand the factors in immunity to COVID-19. A piece of that will be the vaccines, now rolling out across the country and teachers participating in the research will also be tracked post-vaccination to see whether their antibody levels change over time. But so far, vaccines have not been approved for use in children, which will likely leave the debate about the safety of schools raging for months to come. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
Le secteur de l’électricité jouera un rôle clé dans la réduction des gaz à effet de serre. Améliorer le transport sur de longues distances permettrait de distribuer une énergie propre à moindre coût.
NEW YORK — Composer Gene Scheer, whose song “American Anthem” was quoted by President Joe Biden during his inaugural address, is returning the favour. The picture book “American Anthem” will be released June 29, Penguin Young Readers announced Thursday. It will feature Scheer's lyrics and illustrations by 13 artists, including Fahmida Azim, Matt Faulkner, Veronica Jamison and Christine Almeda. While speaking in January, Biden cited Scheer's lyrics “Let me know in my heart when my days are through, America, America, I gave my best to you.” “I was taken by surprise, and incredibly moved, when President Biden cited my song ‘American Anthem’ at the conclusion of his inaugural speech,” Scheer said in a statement. “When I sat down to write this song more than 20 years ago, I could hardly imagine where it would go. I can’t think of a better destination than in a book for children. When I think of this beautiful visual tapestry of the American story, created by a diverse team of talented artists, I am brought back to the original idea that inspired ‘American Anthem’ in the first place: We are all in this together.” Scheer wrote the ballad in 1998. It was later popularized by Norah Jones, whose version was heard in the Ken Burns documentary “War." The Associated Press
Fossil fuel companies have faced increased pressure in recent years to reduce emissions, spend more on low-carbon energy and disclose the impact their production has on climate change. Chevron said on Thursday the plant, located in the city of Mendota, will convert agricultural biomass to electricity, and almost all the carbon captured in the conversion of agricultural waste would be stored underground. The venture adds weight to plans outlined by California's Air Resources Control Board last month to start phasing out all agricultural waste burning in the valley by 2025.
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
NEW YORK — Instead of finishing your leftovers, you let them go bad and buy takeout. It’s a familiar routine for many — and indicative of habits that contribute to a global food waste problem that a new United Nations report says needs to be better measured so that it can be effectively addressed. The U.N. report estimates 17% of the food produced globally each year is wasted. That amounts to 931 million metric tons (1.03 billion tons) of food. The waste is far more than previous reports had indicated, though direct comparisons are difficult because of differing methodologies and the lack of strong data from many countries. “Improved measurement can lead to improved management,” said Brian Roe, a food waste researcher at Ohio State University who was not involved in the report. Most of the waste — or 61% — happens in households, while food service accounts for 26% and retailers account for 13%, the U.N. found. The U.N. is pushing to reduce food waste globally, and researchers are also working on an assessment of waste that includes the food lost before reaching consumers. The authors note the report seeks to offer a clearer snapshot of the scale of a problem that has been difficult to assess, in hopes of spurring governments to invest in better tracking. “Many countries haven’t yet quantified their food waste, so they don’t understand the scale of the problem,” said Clementine O’Connor, of the U.N. Environment Program and co-author of the report. Food waste has become a growing concern because of the environmental toll of production, including the land required to raise crops and animals and the greenhouse gas emissions produced along the way. Experts say improved waste tracking is key to finding ways to ease the problem, such as programs to divert inedible scraps to use as animal feed or fertilizer. The report found food waste in homes isn’t limited to higher income countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. Roe of Ohio State noted that food sometimes is wasted in poor countries without reliable home refrigeration. In richer countries, people might eat out more, meaning food waste is simply shifted from the home to restaurants. Roe said cultural norms and policies also could contribute to waste at home — such as massive packaging, “buy one, get one free” deals, or lack of composting programs. That's why broader system changes are key to helping reduce waste in households, said Chris Barrett, an agricultural economist at Cornell University. For example, Barrett said, people might throw away food because of a date on the product — even though such dates don’t always say when a food is unsafe to eat. “Food waste is a consequence of sensible decisions by people acting on the best information available,” he said. To clarify the meaning of labeling dates, U.S. regulators have urged food makers to be more consistent in using them. They note that labels like “Sell By”, “Best By” and “”Enjoy By" could cause people to throw out food prematurely, even though some labels are intended only to indicate when quality might decline. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a family of four wastes about $1,500 in food each year. But accurately measuring food waste is difficult for a variety of reasons including data availability, said USDA food researcher Jean Buzby, adding that improved measurements are part of a government plan to reduce waste. Richard Swannell, a co-author of the U.N. report, said food was generally more valued even in richer countries just a few generations ago, since people often couldn’t afford to waste it. Now, he said, awareness about the scale of food waste globally could help shift attitudes back to that era. “Food is too important to waste," he said. ___ 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. Candice Choi, The Associated Press