There were seven deaths reported Tuesday, along with 270 new cases of the COVID-19 virus in Manitoba according to provincial health officials. Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman urged residents to "stay home."
There were seven deaths reported Tuesday, along with 270 new cases of the COVID-19 virus in Manitoba according to provincial health officials. Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman urged residents to "stay home."
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Flu shot vaccine supply on the Island is now limited, according to the Chief Public Health Office (CPHO), but so far there has been no overall shortage. High dose and regular dose shots are still available. Public health nurses continue to offer vaccines and pharmacies are permitted to order 50 doses per day from provincial stock. The CPHO has also ordered 2,000 more vaccines to distribute on the Island and these are expected to arrive at the end of November. Erin MacKenzie, Executive Director of the PEI Pharmacists Association, said PEI seems to be well positioned with the number of regular-dose flu vaccines obtained so far this season even with increased demand. More than 79,000 shots have been distributed to public health nurses and Island pharmacies, which is more than ever. An increased demand was projected by CPHO this year as a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms MacKenzie said demand at pharmacies has been higher this year. Island pharmacies have administered 41,500 flu shots so far compared to a total of 37,100 last year. Jonathan Broderick, manager of Montague Pharmasave, said his pharmacy usually administers 700-800 flu shots per year. This year 1,000 have already been given and a daily demand continues. High-dose flu vaccines, recommended for those 65 years of age or older, are in shorter supply but they are still available at some pharmacies, through primary care providers and through public health. Ms MacKenzie recommends calling ahead to obtain the high-dose shot from a pharmacy. Some local pharmacies have run out of regular flu shots for a day or two here and there. “This is not unusual,” Ms MacKenzie said. At the beginning of the season, pharmacies order wholesale batches. Sometimes an individual pharmacy will run out between these orders because of fluctuations in demand early on. Near the end of the season, wholesale batches available to pharmacies typically run out and pharmacies then rely on ordering remaining shots from the Provincial Pharmacy or redistribution among pharmacies. “The transition from sending your order in to your regular wholesaler and finding out they don’t have any more in stock can cause delays. It can take a few days to smooth that wrinkle out,” Ms MacKenzie said. “If you order a batch of 50 on a Friday and a few families come in looking for shots over the weekend you might run low or run out before the next order arrives,” she added. Desi Peters, a pharmacist with RemedyRx in Souris, said they ran out of shots for a couple days but then they have been able to get supply as needed. He added that it seems the provincial supply is starting to stretch thin with maximum orders of 50 per day. “We’re down to one or two,” Mr Broderick said on Wednesday, November 18, about stock remaining from his wholesale orders. He had submitted an application to receive additional doses from the Provincial Pharmacy, but he was unsure when those would arrive. By Friday, November 20, there were no doses available at RemedyRx. While there are still no overall issues with the Island’s supply of regular-dose flu shots, according to Ms MacKenzie, this could of course change depending on unprecedented demand moving forward. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends everyone six months of age and older, who do not have contraindications to the vaccine, get a flu shot this year.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
Sports competition is suspended and gatherings at restaurants are being further limited under new COVID-19 restrictions announced by Saskatchewan on Wednesday. Limits on private gatherings like weddings and funerals, along with places of worship, will also be introduced. Premier Scott Moe said he does not believe a full lockdown is "imminent" because he thinks the restrictions will make a difference. "Our goal is to not shut down businesses, services and activities that ultimately put people out of work and at times threaten their mental health," Moe said at a news conference on Wednesday. "Our goal is to find ways for those things to operate and to do so safely so that people can continue to participate in athletics and continue working."Starting 12:01 a.m. on Friday, no more than four people will be allowed to sit together at a table at a restaurant, and tables will need to be separated by three metres unless there are "impermeable barriers" between them, in which case they can be placed two metres apart. Restaurants will also need to keep information about guests or patrons.All team sports and group activities are suspended, but athletes and dancers 18 years old and under may keep practising in groups of eight or fewer if they use masks and practise physical distancing. Fitness activities in groups of eight or less are still allowed, with conditions.All places of worship must reduce capacity to 30 people, and no food or drink can be served. Mandatory non-medical masking is being extended to apply to all students, employees and visitors at schools. All employees and visitors in common areas in businesses and workplaces, even where the public does not have access, also have to wear a mask.All residents, employees and visitors in all common areas in provincial and municipal correctional facilities will also have to wear a mask.Capacity will be restricted to 30 people at casinos, bingo halls, arenas, live theatres, movie theatres, performing arts venues and other facilities that currently have a capacity of 150 people.Indoor gatherings such as banquets, weddings, funerals, conferences will also have a limit of 30 people, and food and beverage service will be prohibited. The limit for private indoor gatherings will remain at five but the province said "gatherings of any size beyond your immediate household are strongly discouraged at this time."The government announcement was initially scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but was postponed for a day.Saskatchewan COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb, with nearly 3,000 known active cases across the province as of Tuesday. More than 100 people are in hospital, including 20 in intensive care units.A food bank, a safe consumpion site and other services for Saskatoon's vulnerable population have been shuttered after positive cases. Many schools are operating on reduced schedules or have closed. The virus is spreading rapidly through urban and rural care homes, northern villages, First Nations and elsewhere.Premier Scott Moe is self-isolating after a potential recent exposure in a Prince Albert restaurant. Fred Sasakamoose, a member of the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation and one of the first Indigenous hockey players to make it to the NHL, died this week after contracting COVID.Last weekend, Moe said he was against a full lockdown of the province, stating it would be disastrous for the economy.Last week, the province made masks mandatory in indoor public spaces across the province and restricted indoor private gatherings in people's homes to five people.Visits to long-term and personal care homes were also suspended in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus to vulnerable people.On Tuesday, Alberta announced its latest plans to limit the spread of the virus. Premier Jason Kenney said all indoor gatherings would no longer be allowed and Grade 7 to 12 students would switch to online learning from Nov. 30 to the end of their winter break.Only 10 people will be allowed to be present at weddings and funerals in Alberta. Banquet halls, auditoriums and children's play spaces will be closed.Moe said Saskatchewan residents need to "slow down a little bit" but a return to the tighter restrictions on businesses like those introduced earlier in the pandemic is not needed. "The overwhelming majority of Saskatchewan businesses and their employees in this province are operating safely day to day so it would be terribly unfair and it would have a huge negative impact close down all of those businesses and put thousands of Saskatchewan people out of work," said Moe. The premier said the province is considering compensation for industries affected by the pandemic, calling it an "active conversation." He would not say which sectors the province is currently in discussions with. "I don't have a date on when we will be moving forward or if we will be moving forward with a compensation package, but we are working with those sectors to understand how today's recommendations … are going to impact them," said Moe. "And how to ensure that our local small business, our restaurant sector for example, and others, are there when we come out the backside of this pandemic."Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab and Moe said more restrictions could be needed if case numbers do not fall. What's yours? CBC Saskatchewan wants to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you. Share your story with our online questionnaire.
Sept entreprises de la Rive-Sud dont deux de Boucherville profiteront du récent programme d’aide d’Investissement Québec, dotée d’une enveloppe de 9,7 millions $, pour améliorer leur positionnement stratégique. Développant des logiciels pour l’industrie du béton, Marcotte Systems, de Boucherville, se voit accorder un prêt pour soutenir le transfert du contrôle de l’entreprise à Joël Bardier et à Frédéric Gamache. Grâce à la motivation et la compétence de ces deux dirigeants, la poursuite des opérations de l’entreprise ayant déjà plus de 45 ans d’histoire est assurée. De plus, une contribution financière a été offerte à l’entreprise pour supporter leur projet de développement des marchés hors-Québec. Également à Boucherville, l’entreprise de gestion Investissement 585 Inc. obtient une aide financière de plus d’un demi-million de dollars pour soutenir sa relève et la transition à la direction qui s’opérera dans pour les prochaines années. Par ailleurs, en opération depuis près de 75 ans à Sainte-Julie, Groupe BFL Inc. se voit octroyer 2 880 000 $. Cette aide permettra au fabricant de centrales de chauffage, de climatisation et de ventilation de poursuivre son intégration et de créer 31 emplois. À Saint-Hubert, le fabricant de produits de réfrigération RefPlus obtient 1 625 000 $, dont 975 000 $ proviennent des fonds propres d’Investissement Québec et 650 000 $ du programme ESSOR du Fonds du développement économique. Métaux Solutions Inc., une entreprise spécialisée dans la distribution de métaux industriels basée à Longueuil, reçoit une aide financière de 300 000 $ pour l’acquisition d’une nouvelle scie à métaux qui lui permettra d’augmenter sa productivité. Le spécialiste en conception graphique et en impression Graphiscan Montréal Inc., dont le siège social est situé sur le Boulevard Jacques-Cartier à Longueuil, aux limites de Boucherville, obtient un soutien financier de 1 644 556 $ pour faire l’acquisition de Quadriscan. Enfin, le Groupe Lanerco, de Saint-Hubert, reçoit un soutien financier de 1 300 000$ pour se porter acquéreur de Charette Service d’Auto, de Remorquage Charette et de Charette Logistique. François Laramée, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève
Ahuntsic-Cartierville - La Ville de Montréal lance une campagne de sensibilisation pour inciter les gens à s’intéresser à la richesse arboricole parfois négligée de nos quartiers. À l’échelle de Montréal, c’est près de 2000 arbres qui ont été ciblés à l’occasion de cette campagne, en cours de déploiement depuis l’été dernier. Des affichettes bleues ont ainsi été apposées sur quelque 300 arbres matures et 1600 jeunes arbres. Partir à la rencontre des arbres du quartier La Ville espère que sa campagne va inciter les gens à explorer leurs quartiers pour découvrir comment les arbres, qui se rappellent à nous quelques fois par année, notamment à l’occasion de la corvée annuelle du ramassage des feuilles mortes, contribuent à améliorer notre vie de tous les jours. En plus d’identifier l’essence d’arbre et de fournir de l’information sur son diamètre, son âge et sa taille, chaque fiche propose également des informations sur les bénéfices écologiques et économique de l’arbre : captation de CO2 et absorption d’autres polluants atmosphériques, captation des eaux de ruissellement, réduction de la vitesse des grands vents, etc. Une campagne de séduction? L’objectif affiché de cette campagne est de « valoriser l’arbre en ville », indique le porte-parole administratif de la Ville. Mais la démarche s’inscrit également dans la foulée du plan canopée qui prévoit accroitre de 5% le couvert végétal à Montréal d’ici 2025, ce qui implique de planter plus de 20 000 arbres par année. C’est particulièrement vrai dans Ahuntsic-Cartierville qui est l’un des arrondissements avec l’indice de canopée le plus élevé à Montréal. Selon l’inventaire des arbres publics de la Ville de Montréal, sur les quelque 70 000 arbres que compte l’arrondissement Ahuntsic-Cartierville (excluant les parcs-nature), environ 11 000 sont situés dans des parcs. C’est donc dire que près de 80 % des arbres de l’arrondissement sont des arbres de rue. À l’échelle de Montréal, c’est l’inverse : environ 20% des quelque 1,2 millions d’arbres que compte la Ville de Montréal sur son territoire sont des arbres de rue qui sont situés soit dans des fosses sur le trottoir, soit sur une petite bande de terrain appartenant à la Ville en bordure des terrains privés. La plantation d’un arbre public devant un bâtiment privé est généralement « très bien accueillie », assure Philippe Sabourin qui note toutefois que, dans certains cas, « les gens ont des réticences », liées par exemple à l’impact sur l’ensoleillement ou à la responsabilité de collecter les feuilles mortes. Collecte des feuilles : une entreprise titanesque Mais si le fardeau de ramasser les feuilles peut sembler lourd à porter pour les particuliers, il faut savoir que c’est la Ville qui fait le plus gros du travail. Au total, c’est 27 000 tonnes métriques – soit la moitié de la masse du Titanic! – qui seront récupérées par la Ville, soit respectivement 17 000 tonnes provenant de collecte des résidus verts et 10 000 tonnes du balayage de rue. La majeure partie de ces dizaines de milliers de tonnes de résidus seront traitées au complexe-environnemental Saint-Michel pour produire du compost. Pas dans la rue! Les collectes de résidus verts se poursuivent jusqu’au 26 novembre dans Ahuntsic-Cartierville. Les citoyens sont priés d’utiliser des sacs en papier plutôt que des sacs en plastique pour faciliter le compostage des feuilles. Les branches de plus d’un mètre de long ou de plus de cinq centimètres de diamètre ne peuvent pas être envoyées à la collecte des résidus verts et doivent plutôt être envoyées à l’Écocentre. Les résidants qui disposent d’une tondeuse à gazon sont par ailleurs encouragés à pratiquer le « feuilicyclage», c’est-à-dire à déchiqueter les feuilles à la tondeuse directement et à les disposer sur leur pelouse pour enrichir le sol. Le dépôt de feuilles en bordure de rue n’est pas souhaitable. Simon Van Vliet, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal des voisins
Police have released a video in hopes of tracking down suspects in a recent daylight shooting incident in King. Investigators with York Regional Police 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau released the video and are on the lookout for two suspects. Police report the incident occurred back on Oct. 29, at 3:30 p.m. Police were called to the intersection of Larkin Avenue and Ballard Drive and when officers arrived they located multiple shell casings. Later that evening the victim’s vehicle, a grey Mercedes, was found unoccupied in a parking lot in the area of Keele Street and King Road. The victim was eventually identified and found and he was not injured in the shooting. Investigators are seeking any information that may assist with identifying the suspects and the suspect vehicle to please come forward. Video of the shooting is available for viewing at the following link: https://youtu.be/3UzixtQL9Ao Anyone with information is asked to contact the York Regional Police 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7141 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-tips or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in Alaska within a few weeks, state health officials said.Early batches of vaccine will be prioritized for essential workers in health care, assisted living and emergency medical settings, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.Vaccines initially will be issued in limited quantities and likely will not be available to the general public until March or April.The state continues to work on plans to distribute supplies after the vaccines become broadly available.The mid-December timeline for arrival in Alaska was based on announcements by drug companies working to produce coronavirus vaccines.Pfizer Inc. said earlier this month that test results showed its vaccine is 95% effective and protects older people most at risk of dying. Moderna Inc. said this month that preliminary data from an ongoing study showed its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective.AstraZeneca PLC on Monday reported results from ongoing studies of a vaccine under development with Oxford University, saying the drug was up to 90% effective.The high efficacy rates of the vaccines is “such a triumph,” said Joe McLaughlin, an Alaska state epidemiologist. For comparison, influenza vaccine effectiveness is typically between 40% and 60%, he said.Alaska has not definitively settled a timetable, but the distribution will be done in phases with front line health care workers prioritized, said Tessa Walker Linderman, co-lead of the Alaska COVID Vaccine Task Force.The soonest the Pfizer vaccine could be shipped is Dec. 10, with Moderna's vaccine likely being shipped about a week later, said Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer.After the first round of people get the vaccine, the next phase could include high-risk or critical-infrastructure workers.Pregnant women and children were not included in any of the drug trials and will need to wait longer for access.The state does not know how much vaccine will be delivered and officials are planning for three different scenarios, including batches of less than 5,000 doses and groups of around 10,000 and 20,000 doses, Zink said.For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.The Associated Press
Town of Aylmer is asking for public feedback on their proposed official plan amendments, with the details explained through a virtual open house. The official plan is a statement of goals and policies, intended to guide future land use within the town to build sustainable communities and protect natural and agricultural resources. The Ontario Planning Act requires a review/update of the plan every five years. “It’s not a brand-new official plan, it’s just amending our existing one to fit with the current legislation,” explained Corporate Services Director Kale Brown during a virtual council meeting on Monday, Nov. 16. The draft official plan lists proposed changes to housing access and attainability; active transportation; parks, open space and sustainability; cultural heritage; servicing, stormwater, and waste management; transportation, energy and utilities; and general “housekeeping” updates. For example, one amendment is the provision of traditional and non-traditional housing options “to support residents of all ages.” Another is a new policy to partner with infrastructure providers to increase access to electrical vehicle charging stations. A 13-minute video explaining the amendments is available on the town website. During the meeting, Councillor Tom Charlton asked, “Are you in pretty good shape as far as growth concerns – our lagoons can handle the development in Cottonwood [Hills] without any issues?” Mr. Brown said that these projects would be addressed separately through the budget process and through the strategic priorities of the operations and planning department. “Staff will always recommend that council plan accordingly for our growth,” said Mr. Brown. “It’s difficult to say exactly what capacity that we would have because you don’t know exactly what’s going to be built. “We think it’s going to be around 300 units, and that was set aside back when the plan of subdivision was approved.” Aylmer staff started the review process of the town’s official plan in 2019, with the help of WSP, a consulting firm. Citizens are encouraged to review and provide feedback on the proposed changes before the plan is brought back to council on Monday, Dec. 7.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Amid heartfelt condolences to another 12 families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and another 471 new cases announced, the province’s chief public health officer spoke of the rollout of an outbound automated calling system in the coming days. "Today, we’re announcing Manitoba is introducing additional steps to improve case and contact investigations," Dr. Brent Roussin said. "This will expand on current methods for case and contact monitoring." In the first phase of the automated system, the calls will be used to determine if active cases can be shifted to the recovered category. The automated system will ask as questions, and the person receiving the call can press a key and request a callback from public health. If the case or contact is at the end of the monitoring period, and has no further questions, the case or contact can be marked as recovered. The second phase of system will be used to contact cases and related contacts. "This allows us to be more responsive and reach people sooner," Roussin said. "Individuals will continue to receive calls from public health officials. The combined automated calls and the current monitoring process will be more efficient and effective in redirecting resources." Roussin said other provinces are safely using this method of communication. The system will help Manitobans quickly and efficiently receive information they need to make the informed decisions. Other provinces were able to make progress through the use of automated calls that offer information about testing, treatment and next steps. "We believe that this similar system will be a valuable tool for our fight against COVID-19," he said. "People will be asked important information about testing, self-isolation and other public health guidelines. Then a question-and-answer format with answers provided via a keypad on the phone." Roussin advised Manitobans they will never be asked for personal health information or other personal information, such as banking information, social insurance numbers, credit card numbers, passport numbers or other non-health related identification data. "If this is occurring, share this information with your local police department as it is suspicious," he said. Looking ahead to the next official holiday, the province has not made any specific decisions regarding a possible two-week extension to the usual school Christmas break. "We’re at the biggest restrictions we’ve had to date. Although we’re not seeing the test positivity or case numbers climb over the last bit, we’re not seeing the numbers diminish as we would like," Roussin said. "We are looking at taking advantage of that natural break over the holidays and possibly extending that." He stressed again, as he does during most daily COVID-19 updates, that officials are not seeing high amounts of transmission within the schools. "It’s more that we don’t want to go into the holiday season with a very high test positivity rate, where we know it’s going to be very challenging to limit gatherings. It’s something we’re definitely looking at right now. We haven’t landed anywhere. Hopefully, we’ll have some more definitive news on that shortly." But even before the holiday, another important date is likely marked on many a calendar: Dec. 11, the expiry of the current critical level red public health orders. Looking ahead, what is the plan? "When, and it is a when, we will be able to lessen these restrictions … We don’t know exactly when that will be, but, we will be loosening these restrictions at some point. We’re going to have to do it in a very cautious manner. Much like we did in the spring and early summer, in a phased approach, and follow our numbers quite closely," Roussin said. He said the prerequisites are: diminished test positivity, diminished case numbers and a clear relief of the strain on the health-care system. "Don’t have any specifics to look at. It’s something we’re always considering — where we would go first. At this point, we have to focus on getting these numbers down," he said. Regardless of what mid-December brings, Manitobans will need to adjust to the idea Christmas will not be the same in 2020. "We’re a bit of a ways away from the holiday season. It’s quite possible that we could see a good trend by then, where we might be able to provide different advice," Roussin said. "If it’s advice that people are going to rely on, and they need it right now, that advice is to not gather outside of your household, to keep those gatherings as minimal as possible. Do look for alternative ways to celebrate, such as virtually. But we’re really going to try to get these numbers down to see if we can have some remnants of the holiday season outside of our household."Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
If you love food, and most of us do, you will love our Fun and Easy Cinnamon Roll Apple Crisp Recipe! Not only can you make it for anytime, it also makes a great dessert for the holidays or that special occasion! Feel free to tweek the recipe and then let us know what you did and how it came out so we can all give it a try! If you make the recipe as is let us know how you liked it!
After six years operating in one of Aylmer’s landmark buildings, the Family Central Restaurant will be closing its doors on Saturday, Dec. 19. Central building board member, Albert Loewen, described challenges from COVID-19 as “the final nail” that led to the restaurant’s closure. The building’s Family Central Apartment program, which provides affordable housing to participants while they work towards education and employment goals, will remain open. “It’s tough because you need numbers, you need crowds, that’s literally what you rely on to make your ends meet,” Mr. Loewen said. “We’re headed into the winter where there’s no patio option, and now there’s talk of further lockdowns.” Family Central Restaurant has been serving the community since 2014 with a goal of providing a wholesome and welcoming dining environment to families and the business community of downtown Aylmer. To encourage families and groups to have meaningful conversations with each other, the restaurant rewards patrons who refrain from using cell phones during meals with a 10% reduction on the bill. “At the end of the day, it’s a tough market for restaurants right now. We’re sad about it, but it’s a reality that a lot of restaurants are facing,” said Mr. Loewen. “I would highly encourage people to support the other local restaurants.” The organization’s main focus will now be providing affordable housing to the community through the Family Central Apartments, which provides eight units on the second and third floors. Currently, the basement is being renovated to operate as a space to serve those in the program. The space will provide semi-private meeting rooms, access to computers for job searches and other online needs, shower and laundry facilities, and an in-house barber. “The whole idea is to be a transitional space for people to get to a place of independence - whether they’re lacking education, or whatever is holding them back from a place they can get on their own,” explained Mr. Loewen. The apartment program currently employs two people who actively work and partner with other agencies to support those living in the program. The future for the first floor of the building, where the restaurant is, has yet to be determined.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Those who want to pass on their gently used hockey gear to kids who need it can do so at an equipment drive the first week of December. Brain Atkins of Total Construction Management in Peterborough wants to help First Nations communities get hockey equipment so he has organized an event for Dec. 5 at the company's location at 169 Lansdowne St. E, from 9 a.m. to noon. “Most of the gear is for smaller kids, but we have already gotten a few items for older players,” said Atkins. Although he does have a few items on hand, Atkins says he cannot accept equipment prior to the drive due to space. “I have some equipment that’s in my vehicle, but I would rather wait until the day of the drive,’’ he says. Atkins says items like skates, good condition hockey sticks and goalie equipment are needed. “We will take whatever people have in equipment, new or used,” he adds. The hockey equipment drive is also being held in other cities in the province such as Whitby and Kitchener. Atkins says those equipment drives are quite successful and he says he has seen the positive effects of the drive and wanted to do something in Peterborough. “This is a first for the City of Peterborough,” he says. To follow all COVID-19 safety measures, Atkins says for those who are going to donate can stay in their cars the day of the event, between the hours listed and the team will remove the equipment. TCM helps First Nations communities rebuild homes, construct community centres, renovate existing homes and complete construction as well as train homeowners how to maintain their homes and buildings after the work is complete. He says the team is dedicated in providing sustainable and self-sufficient structures for the communities they work in. “What a better way to give back than through hockey, and I’m just happy kids will have equipment to use to play hockey.”Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Peterborough This Week
There has been positive news about several potential COVID-19 vaccines over the last week, but Saskatchewan health experts say there is still little known about them and that a solid distribution plan still needs to be created.Vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca/Oxford University appear to be front-runners to be the first on the market after posting positive clinical trial results recently. The Canadian government has inked deals with those companies and several others to secure between 20 million and 76 million doses.But the data from clinical trials must be peer-reviewed before doses are handed out, several Saskatchewan health experts say."We still don't know a whole lot about the vaccine," said Nazeem Muhajarine, epidemiologist and professor at the University of Saskatchewan.Dr. Cory Neudorf, public health physician and U of S professor, said federal regulators are reviewing the clinical trial data now to assess how safe and effective each vaccine is. Once those reviews are complete, that information will be forward to health-care providers who can inform the public about the drug."Part of what we're seeing with the initial vaccine hesitancy out there with people is that you don't have that information," Neudorf said. Some are also wondering if the vaccine is being put through the system too fast, making it unsafe, Neudorf said. He assures that is not the case."It's being developed with all the right steps," he said. "They are just speeding up those steps, not skipping steps."Planning for distributionOnce vaccines are approved by Health Canada, federal and provincial governments have to figure out the logistics of rolling them out.Saskatchewan has secured 180,000 doses of a vaccine that should be distributed within the first three months of 2021, with seniors and health-care workers likely to be the first to be vaccinated, Health Minister Paul Merriman said during a news conference last week.Those are the only distribution details available so far."The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health is working with federal counterparts on priority groups for vaccination, however, it is too early to discuss preliminary plans for vaccine distribution beyond what [was] said in the news conference," a ministry spokesperson said via email Tuesday.Considerations must include safety, efficiency, who needs each vaccine most and the logistics of distributing the doses, said Amy Zarzeczny, an associate professor at the U of S school of public policy."It seems unlikely that there will be enough vaccine for all interested individuals, at least at first instance," said Zarzeczny, who specializes in health law and health policy issues. "They will need a phased approach."The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has already detailed some preliminary guidelines for vaccine rollout, including who to target first.Seniors and people living in care homes, immunocompromised people, and essential front-line workers — health-care workers, primarily — should be first in line, said health experts who spoke to CBC News for this piece.First Nations and newcomers should be prioritized too, said Muharajine, but the government will have to earn their trust by educating them about the vaccine and assuring them it's safe.Neudorf added that prioritization of First Nations communities could be based on their COVID-19 situations whenever a vaccine is received. If there are high rates of transmission on reserves, then they would likely be prioritized higher, he said.As of Tuesday, more than half of Saskatchewan's total COVID-19 cases have been younger than 40. Despite this, U of S pharmacy professor Ekaterina Dadachova said people in that demographic should not be prioritized, assuming they are otherwise healthy."If they test positive, that positivity very often is just that," said Dadachova, whose expertise is treating infectious diseases. "In those immunocompromised individuals, or elderly in care homes, there is no second chance for them. Positivity very often means death."How to transport and store vaccines must also be considered. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, for example, must be stored in -70 C. Health experts say this could be an issue outside urban centres and university labs. Several of the vaccines, including Pfizer/BioNTech, also require two doses to be taken a certain time apart."There has to be a very carefully drawn plan to get the vaccine to people not just in the cities," said Muharajine."You need to have the transportation plan in place."The province could look at promoting immunization, similar to flu shots or the H1N1 vaccine in 2009, and bringing the vaccine to places like personal care homes or areas with high rates of transmission, said Neudorf.Once higher-risk populations are taken care of, then the general population should be able to book vaccinations, he said. Until then, the trick is to avoid "hundreds or thousands of people gathering and waiting in line to get a vaccine, acting as a superspreader event."Zarzeczny said that the government may be receiving new evidence as a vaccine is being administered and that could impact further distribution.Typically, for a vaccine to be effective and for herd immunity to develop, roughly 80 per cent of a population has to get the immunization, according to the health experts. But it's "highly unlikely" that the government will make getting the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for residents, Zarzeczny said."There has been some public concern expressed about individuals who might refuse to be vaccinated," she said, noting that there is precedent for mandatory vaccination policies, for example in schools."Even these policies generally include exemption options. Sharing up-to-date, accurate information about the evidence regarding vaccine safety and effectiveness will likely be important in encouraging vaccine uptake."There will likely be strong messaging urging people to get vaccinated, Neudorf said.Muharajine cited recent survey data that suggest the public may be slightly more willing now to get a vaccine, but Saskatchewan flu shot data may tell a different story.A third of Saskatchewan's population got their flu shot in 2019, according to a Saskatchewan government spokesperson.The province purchased more doses of the flu shot this year to try to avoid straining the health-care system with COVID-19 and the flu. But from Oct. 19 to Nov. 14, only about 23 per cent of Saskatchewan residents have gotten their flu shot, the province estimates.A provincial spokesperson noted that the total number of people who have gotten the immunization may be underestimated due to a delay in data entry.
A Malahide resident was surprised to find a boat, car topper, and construction debris, all discarded at a remote spot along Sawmill Road. Vern Shaver said that while garbage has occasionally been tossed in this area, the items he finds along the road have been more bizarre than usual lately. “You name it, it’s been dumped there over the years,” he said. “There’s been foliage, tires, medical masks, dead animals, and hazardous materials, like shingles or siding with asbestos.” Not only are there environmental and economic consequences to illegal dumping, but the garbage can be potentially dangerous for drivers. Some items, such as the car topper found on Saturday, Oct. 17, are dumped directly on the gravel roadway. Mr. Shaver said his seven-year-old son, Sean, hit some fencing materials in the weeds while operating an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) along Sawmill Road last autumn. Sean was not hurt; the machine came to a stop after it became entangled in wire. “It’s inconsiderate and dangerous, and it’s not saving anybody any money,” he said. Mr. Shaver has notified Malahide township on multiple occasions. The roads department drives out shortly afterwards to clean up the mess, which costs the township hundreds of dollars. “I’m disappointed that people take this route. There is an expense to clean this up,” said Malahide Mayor Dave Mennill. “It’s far more expensive for us to clean this than it is for people to dispose of it properly.” Elgin Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have investigated, and concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to press charges. If there is sufficient evidence, Elgin OPP normally asks the suspected person to clean it up or charge them with illegal dumping, said Mayor Mennill. No other residents have complained about the issue in that specific area recently. Mr. Shaver travels on Sawmill Road relatively often, as his property is nearby on Vienna Line. A long stretch of the road is relatively isolated, surrounded by forests and farm fields. There are about two properties on opposite ends of the road. The Malahide roads department winter patrol inspects every kilometre on a daily basis, including all township roads as well as county roads, as part of the minimum maintenance standard. There are also “no dumping” signs posted on some roads. There have been several other similar instances of public trash dumping in East Elgin. The Aylmer Express reported about an Aylmer man in the April 22 edition, who consistently found trash piles near his residence across from Centennial Estates Park. In late March, several residents complained about trash piles on Port Bruce beach.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Catfish Creek Conservation Authority (CCCA) staff and board members were pleased with the financial summary for October. CCCA Finance Coordinator Susan Simmons reviewed the finance report during a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12. She noted the conservation area revenue was currently at $565,275.15, about $2,200 short of the budgeted amount. “I think we all deserve a sigh of relief for making it through,” said Ms. Simmons. “When we started the year, we didn’t know what we were going to be looking at for revenue for the conservation area.” CCCA recently launched a fundraiser to assist in the $80,000 replacement of the aging Springwater Conservation Area gatehouse and visitor centre. Ms. Simmons said, including recent donations, the current total for donations was about $14,000. “I’m really happy with that. $20,000 is our goal, and we’re getting kind of close to it,” she said. Recent donors, such as A1 Unique Installations and Ferguson RV World, are very passionate about Springwater, she added. “I think that the situation that’s happening now with COVID-19, we’re doing an excellent job at Catfish Creek,” said CCCA chair Rick Cerna. Total expenditures for CCCA were at $1,079,812.64, about $250,000 less than the annual overall budgeted amount. Board members had no questions regarding expenditures.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
The legislative session at Nova Scotia's Province House is poised to be prorogued next month, but it appears committee business will not be paused.MLAs have not met since the spring sitting wrapped in March, before Nova Scotia had its first case of COVID-19. Not long after that, Liberal MLAs used their majority to suspend all the committees they could, with Premier Stephen McNeil keeping them shelved until last September.McNeil announced earlier this month that the House would be prorogued on Dec. 18, wiping clean the legislative agenda, as Liberals prepare to elect a new leader to replace him on Feb. 6.The government has been roundly criticized for Nova Scotia being the only legislature in the country not to sit during the pandemic and for committee business having been halted for months while many people were working from home through the use of Zoom and other online conference platforms.Addressing public concernsIn a nod to those concerns, Ben Jessome, the Liberal MLA for Hammonds Plains-Lucasville, put forward a motion at Tuesday's natural resources and economic development committee meeting to keep that group meeting even after the House is prorogued, "whether it be in person or virtually."The motion passed unanimously.In a telephone interview Wednesday, Jessome said the decision was at least partly to make it clear to the public that he and his fellow MLAs take their jobs, including the legislative aspect, seriously."There appears to be some scrutiny about us, kind of, not wanting to go back to work at times," he said. "As a committee, we felt it was important to keep that activity in place."Jessome said there were some challenges during the first COVID-19 wave in Nova Scotia when it came to getting virtual meetings set up for committees. He believes those issues have been resolved, so even if committees cannot meet in person there will be no technological impediments.A need for oversightDespite technological concerns voiced by the government in the spring, the human resources committee continued to meet using a teleconference line. That committee is the only one the Liberals could not use their majority to shut down, because any changes for it require unanimous consent from all parties.NDP House leader Claudia Chender said she's less concerned about the motivation behind Jessome's motion than she is that the committee will continue to meet."Whether or not people pay close attention, we all expect that the decisions made by government and that the functions of government happen in a way that has oversight and accountability," she said."And the way that oversight and accountability works is that we have a functioning legislative assembly."Even when the House isn't sitting, committees give opposition members access to government decision makers and the ability to question and debate policy decisions, said Chender.'Better late than never'Progressive Conservative MLA Tim Halman said Jessome's motion was "better late than never." While he welcomed the government's decision, he said the shift to being able to operate virtually if necessary should have happened months ago."The fact is, there are questions that have gone unanswered and that's a big problem for Nova Scotia," said Halman. "There has to be a counterbalance. There has to be another voice."The legislative component is "a very small fraction of the work that MLAs on all sides of the House do," said Jessome, but it's important for the public to see them doing it.The scrutiny hasn't bothered him and he believes the decision to place all committees that could be put on hold, on hold, back in the spring was the right one. Jessome said much has been learned since then about what's possible and they are adapting as such.After the House is prorogued, it will also erase the meeting agendas that have been established for committees. Jessome said it's his intention that a vote will happen at the first possible meeting to restore the agenda for the natural resources and economic development committee, and for a similar process to play out for the other committees.MORE TOP STORIES
In order to welcome the jolly old elf to Aylmer, while keeping everyone safe, spectators and floats will swap roles for a “reverse” Santa Claus Parade this year. Aylmer Kinsmen Club’s 76th annual Santa Claus Parade will take place at night and have spectators drive past light displays, characters, floats, and Santa himself, while remaining in their own vehicles. “We’re going to do our best to make it enjoyable – it’s important that Santa comes to town,” said Andy Beck, the club’s parade marshal for the last eight years. The Santa Claus parade normally attracts thousands of people each year, he added. East Elgin Community Complex will host the “drive-through parade” on Saturday, Nov. 28 starting at 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Instead of moving through town, floats would be fixed in place and include plenty of lights along with some Christmas music. Spectators would be driving past them along a planned route circling the complex parking lot. (See ad on Page 3 for parade details and route.) No pedestrians are permitted. Visitors must stay in their cars, except for emergencies. No open vehicles, such as motorcycles or convertibles, are allowed. There will be no candy or other handouts this year, and the Kinsmen are asking anyone who is feeling ill to stay home. Kinsmen and EECC volunteers be outside directing traffic flow. Vehicles will enter from the east, and exit from the west. Drivers can use Rogers Road to return to town. All volunteers will wear face coverings at the event and practice physical distancing. Some Kinsmen will wear red jackets, while others may be dressed as clowns or Santa’s elves. The Aylmer Fire Department will also make an appearance at the event. The Kinsmen are inviting spectators to donate canned food and monetary donations for the Aylmer Corner Cupboard. Monetary donations will be placed in a collection bucket, while food donations should be delivered using a bag with a handle. The Kinsmen will have extra bags if needed. The Kinsmen will use a hockey stick with a bucket to collect from a distance. Letters to Santa are also encouraged. Donations will be quarantined for 72 hours before being distributed to the Aylmer Corner Cupboard or Canada Post. There is no washroom availability or access to the EECC. “The Santa Claus parade is the main event for the Kinsmen all year. We’re always talking about it, it’s always in process,” said Mr. Beck. “We’re hoping people come to visit and see Santa Claus.”Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Ontario's response to the COVID-19 pandemic was hampered by poor emergency preparedness, inadequate lab capacity and a disorganized public health system, according to a report issued Wednesday by the province's auditor general. In a special report on COVID-19, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk raises concerns that flaws in Ontario's communication, decision-making and management of positive cases contributed to a wider spread of the virus during the eight months since the pandemic was declared.The audit found "delays and conflicts and confusion in decision-making," said the 231-page report, tabled in the legislature on Wednesday morning. The report also lays bare for the first time the structure and membership of the so-called "tables" advising Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet on their response to COVID-19.Among the auditor's key findings: * The Ford government paid a consultant $1.6 million to develop an organizational command structure for its COVID-19 crisis response, a structure that the auditor criticizes as "overly cumbersome," with no top leadership roles given to public health officials. * Laboratory testing, case management and contact tracing were not being performed quickly enough to contain the virus. * Weaknesses in the public health lab and information systems that were repeatedly flagged following the 2003 SARS crisis were never fixed before the arrival of COVID-19. * The province hadn't updated its pandemic-related emergency plans for years, nor run them through testing scenarios. "Ontario's response to COVID-19 in the winter and spring of 2020 was slower and more reactive relative to most other provinces and many other international jurisdictions," Lysyk said in the report. "As we continue into this second wave, it is still not too late to make positive changes to help further control and reduce the spread of COVID-19."At a news conference Wednesday morning, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the report is "a disappointment, and in many respects a mischaracterization of the province's pandemic response."The reality is that over the course of the pandemic, there have been differing views. Differing views among public health officials, amongst the medical community, amongst policy makers, and of course the public," Elliott said."We have different views on various aspects of her report."WATCH | Ford attacks auditor general's report on pandemic response:One chapter of the report focuses on the public health systems for COVID-19 testing, for managing the cases of people who test positive and tracing their contacts who may have been exposed to the virus. Across the province, fewer than half of lab tests have been completed within 24 hours of the patient's specimen being collected, the auditor found.As recently as September and October, public health units contacted only 75 per cent of people who tested positive within 24 hours of receiving the result, short of the province's target of 90 per cent. The auditor said the largest urban public health units were particularly slow at case management — the process of contacting people who test positive, advising them to self-isolate and investigating how they likely contracted the virus. In September and October, the auditor found the average time it took to begin managing a positive case after the person got tested was: * Ottawa - 4.5 days. * Toronto - Four days. * Peel - 3.25 days. * York - 2.25 days.The delays "may have led to further exposure and spreading of the virus," Lysyk said in the report. The report delves into the command structure set up by the government to advise on the COVID-19 response.At the top is the Central Co-ordination Table, co-chaired by the province's top bureaucrat, cabinet secretary Steven Davidson; and the premier's top political adviser, chief of staff James Wallace.Its membership includes nine deputy ministers, as well as five political advisers from the offices of the premier and the health minister. However, the auditor notes, neither Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams nor anyone from Public Health Ontario sits on this table. Below the Central Co-ordination Table are four others, including the Health Command Table, which the auditor found had as many as 90 participants. Its meetings were held by teleconference instead of videoconference until July, a format the auditor said was not effective for clear discussions. The auditor said Williams did not chair any of the Health Command Table's meetings. She calls Ontario's decision not to give its chief medical officer of health the lead role in its COVID-19 response "unusual." At the same time, the auditor criticizes Williams for failing to use his full powers to issue directives quickly, notably for a provincewide masking order or for protecting temporary foreign workers on farms. Williams told the auditor he only issued directives after consulting with the Health Command Table.The auditor's report said Williams and the Ministry of Health were slow to react in the early weeks of the pandemic. The report questions why provincial officials: * Waited until March 13, the Friday before the scheduled start of Ontario's March Break, to warn against non-essential travel. * Refused to acknowledge community transmission of the virus until March 26. * Did not order all long-term care workers to wear masks throughout their shifts until April 8. The auditor finds instances where the government's decisions did not follow the advice of public health experts, including allowing anyone who wanted to get tested to do so from late May until early October.The auditor also details how the government ignored the advice of Public Health Ontario on setting infection thresholds for the restrictions in its colour-coded COVID-19 response framework. She said Public Health Ontario has played a "diminished" role in responding to the pandemic and posed that this "may have been impacted by its funding." The Health Ministry did not fully use the key lesson from SARS — the precautionary principle of acting as soon as there is reasonable evidence of a threat to public health — to guide its initial response to COVID-19, the auditor said.The ministry categorized the risk to Ontarians as low even as the virus spread to more than 20 countries and the auditor said this meant Ontario developed its strategy for responding more slowly than other provinces. She points to repeated reports by her office since 2003 — a time period in which the Liberals were in power for nearly 15 years — warning of the need to strengthen the public health system and improve Ontario's emergency preparedness. The auditor is working on a second special report on COVID-19, which will focus on health-related pandemic expenditures, personal protective equipment and long-term care, and said it will be issued soon. WATCH | How Ontario got to this point in the coronavirus pandemic:
MOSCOW — Thousands of people in Russia's Far East region of Primorye remained without heating or electricity on Wednesday, as local authorities and emergency services wrestled with the consequences of an unprecedented ice storm that hit the region last week.According to Russia's Energy Ministry, 5,800 Primorye residents as of Wednesday were still cut off from power, and 3,300 people in the city of Vladivostok, the region's capital, still had no heating, the ministry said.The region was hit by freezing rain on Nov. 18, and thousands of its residents woke up in dark, cold apartments the next day. Thick layers of ice covered trees, cars, roads and power lines, many of which broke under the weight.The region hasn't seen weather like this in 30 years, Primorye Gov. Oleg Kozhemyako said on his Instagram page. The ice storm continued for several days. On Saturday, nearly 180,000 people in the region had no electricity, heating or water, according to the regional government's website.The authorities have been working on restoring power supplies in the region for a week. Shelters and hot meals for those affected were organized. The government allocated 700 million rubles ($9 million) of assistance to the region, where a state of emergency was declared Friday.Commenting on the situation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the ice storm was rather severe and “inflicted colossal damage onto the urban infrastructure" and pointed out that, while the authorities were taking all necessary measures to deal with the situation, the consequences from the force of nature couldn't be eliminated quickly.The Associated Press