In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Emily Musing from the University Health Network says the level of excitement and delight is palpable at its Toronto-area COVID-19 vaccination clinic.
In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Emily Musing from the University Health Network says the level of excitement and delight is palpable at its Toronto-area COVID-19 vaccination clinic.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship sailing out of the Middle East on Friday, an unexplained blast renewing concerns about ship security in the region amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the vessel to head to the nearest port. The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the same site saw a series of suspected attacks that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied. Meanwhile, as President Joe Biden tries to revive nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered overnight airstrikes on facilities in Syria belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group. Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship. Another private security official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as the Helios Ray. Satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com showed the Helios Ray had been nearly entering the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT Friday before it suddenly turned around and began heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. It was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and still listed Singapore as its destination on its tracker. Israel’s Channel 13, in an unsourced report, said the assessment in Israel is that Iran was behind the blast. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Iranian government did not comment on the blast Friday. The blast comes as Tehran increasingly breaches its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers to create leverage over Washington. Iran is seeking to pressure Biden to grant the sanctions relief it received under the deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago. Iran also has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago. Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told the AP that the Israeli-owned vessel had left the Persian Gulf Thursday bound for Singapore. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least nine hours east of a main Omani port before making a 360-degree turn and sailing toward Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said. The vessel came loaded with cargo from Europe. It discharged vehicles at several ports in the region, Raja added, including in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with its last port of call at Dammam. While details of the explosion remained unclear, two American defence officials told the AP that the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast. The officials said it remained unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased information on the incidents. A United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping rang unanswered Friday. Abraham Ungar, 74, who goes by “Rami,” is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction. According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides support and maritime training, he owns dozens of car-carrying ships and employs thousands of engineers. The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it was “aware and monitoring” the situation. The U.S. Maritime Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, issued a warning to commercial shippers early Saturday acknowledging the explosion and urging ships to “exercise caution when transiting” the Gulf of Oman. While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from “asymmetric activity by Iranian military." As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek “to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means,” Dryad reported. In the tense summer of 2019, the U.S. military blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategic shipping lanes. The U.S. also had attributed a series of other suspected attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines — designed to be attached magnetically to a ship’s hull — to cripple four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. Since the killing of Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist, last November, Israeli officials have raised alarms about potential Iranian retaliation, including through its regional proxies like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels. Over the years, Iran has been linked to attacks on Israeli and Jewish civilian targets in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Israel has not commented on its alleged role in the scientist's killing. Friday's incident also follows normalization deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. The agreements, met with scathing criticism from Iran, solidified an emerging regional alliance against the Islamic Republic. __ Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell And Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies gradually ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec The province's proposed order of priority for vaccination according to its website is those in residential and long-term care centres, workers in the health and social services network, followed by those in isolated and remote communities, people 80 years or older, and then the general population in 10-year increments. Health officials launched an online and telephone system for vaccine registrations on Feb. 25 and will begin vaccinating people aged 85 years and older in Montreal on March 1. Officials said that while residents across the province aged 85 and older can register for a vaccine, priority will be given to people in the greater Montreal area, which has the highest active COVID-19 case count in Quebec. On Feb. 26, officials opened registration for Montrealers as young as 80 years old. It has not yet been announced when the next age group can begin to register for vaccines. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province has mapped out a three-phase approach to its rollout. Phase 1, which is still ongoing, reserves shots for those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers, and people who live in congregate care settings. All Indigenous adults, people aged 80 and older and adults receiving chronic home care will be next in line. The province says it will begin vaccinations among the 80 and older age cohort starting the third week of March. Vaccinations will begin for people 75 and older starting April 15. The province will then move to offer shots to those 70 and older starting May 1; 65 and older starting June 1; and 60 and older the first week of July. Indigenous adults and patient-facing health-care workers will receive vaccinations as the province works through those age groups. The government is still finalizing the list of essential workers who will receive vaccinations in May if supply is available. The province has not detailed when people younger than 60 can expect to be vaccinated. Appointment bookings can be made online and by phone starting March 15 for those in eligible age cohorts. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. They say most people over 80, and First Nations individuals over 60, could be eligible in early March. The province plans to have all personal care home residents vaccinated with two doses by the end of February, and has started sending team to other congregate living settings such as group homes and shelters. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, say inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if new vaccines are approved and supplies are steady. The plan does not include a separate category for essential workers — something that Reimer says will be considered as vaccine supplies increase. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. When bookings opened to this age group Wednesday, the website was temporarily overwhelmed when more than 150,000 people tried to get access. Within a day, 100,000 appointments were booked. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. Some 28,000 seniors in long-term care have already been vaccinated. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia The first phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign launched in December and focused on health-care workers in hospitals, paramedics, residents and staff at long-term care homes, and remote Indigenous communities. The second phase set to wrap up in March includes people aged 80 and above, Indigenous elders 65 and up, Indigenous communities that didn't receive vaccine in the first phase, as well as more health-care workers and vulnerable populations living and working in certain congregate settings. The third phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign is set to start in April and last until June, reaching people between the ages of 60 and 79, along with those who are highly clinically vulnerable, such as cancer patients. B.C.'s plan for the general population is based on age, with the oldest residents first in line. --- Nunavut Nunavut's vaccination rollout is underway, with vaccine clinics for the general population scheduled or completed in all 25 communities. In Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital, a general vaccination clinic is underway for priority populations, including staff and residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. Starting March 1, the vaccine clinic will be extended to all adults in Iqaluit ages 45 and up. Nunavut still expects enough vaccines to immunize 75 per cent of its residents over the age of 18 by the end of March. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories says it has vaccinated 42 per cent of its adult population since its vaccine rollout began in early January. Vaccine clinics are either completed or underway in all 33 of the territory's communities. In Yellowknife, residents and staff in long-term care homes are being prioritized for the vaccine. Vaccination of Yellowknife's general population will begin in late March. The N.W.T. still expects to receive enough vaccines to inoculate 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — The Alberta government and its 11,000 physicians have taken a first step toward resolving an ugly, fractious yearlong dispute over fees and working conditions. Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Paul Boucher, head of the Alberta Medical Association, announced Friday they have reached a tentative deal on a new master agreement. Boucher declined to provide specifics on the new deal, saying he first wants to let members discuss and ratify them in the weeks to come. But he said the deal will work within the fiscal parameters set by the government. “This is a difficult economic time for the province and while this tentative agreement represents a commitment to staying within the budget imperatives of government, it is much more than that,” Boucher told a news conference. “This agreement brings doctors and government back together to work through the challenges of delivering the quality care that the patients of Alberta deserve.” Alberta’s physicians collectively receive $5 billion a year. The 2021-22 budget released this week projects that figure will stay relatively static, rising slightly to $5.3 billion by 2024. A year ago, Shandro, using legislation passed months earlier by the United Conservative government, unilaterally cancelled the master agreement with the AMA. He then began imposing new rules on fees and visits, arguing physician costs were rising too high year over year and were not sustainable. It became a messy, public fight in the following months, worsened by the fact that it was taking place as the COVID-19 pandemic escalated. Some doctors withdrew services from hospitals, including obstetrics, prompting concern from rural leaders. Others posted signs announcing they were only allowing shorter patient visits, blaming the province. The AMA also launched a lawsuit against the government, accusing it of breaching collective bargaining rights. The province said Alberta’s doctors were the best paid in Canada and that a new payment regime with built-in cost stability could still work for everyone. The AMA and Shandro staffers exchanged snarky attacks on Twitter, each accusing the other of cherry-picking statistics and gaslighting the issues. At a news conference last April, Shandro alleged AMA leadership was providing false information to its members on government contributions to medical liability insurance. Shandro and the UCP government were criticized for fighting with doctors during a pandemic. He eventually rolled back on a number of fee changes while reiterating he was willing to work with physicians on a new master agreement that worked for both sides. “Both parties came to the table with an understanding of what was important to each other, what was expected of each other,” Shandro said Friday. “We understood the importance of collaboration.” Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said it’s difficult to assess the deal until the details are known. But he said none of it matters unless Premier Jason Kenney’s government repeals a bill it passed in late 2019 allowing it to tear up the original master agreement with doctors in the first place. “Whatever this deal is, however good it might be, if they don’t repeal Bill 21, it exists at the whim of Tyler Shandro, who can just tear it up again just like he did the last one,” said Shepherd. When the original master agreement was cancelled, a rule within it granting third-party arbitration to resolve disputes was dissolved as well. Boucher declined to say if such a mechanism is part of the new proposed agreement. Asked about the future of the AMA lawsuit, he said, “The intention would be that if the agreement obviously addresses the issues within our lawsuit, then we would let that go.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
An Alberta court ordered an updated Gladue Report for an Onion Lake Cree Nation woman facing drug trafficking charges in that province. Tamarah Lee Dillon, 27, had court appearances in Alberta and Saskatchewan on charges stemming from separate incidents. She had an appearance on Feb. 24 in Lloydminster Provincial Court for breaching condition of her release. The matter was adjourned to Aug. 4. She had an appearance in St. Paul Provincial Court Feb. 18 on drug trafficking charges. The St. Paul court adjourned her matter until April 8 to allow time for an updated Gladue Report. A Gladue Report is a pre-sentence report typically prepared by Gladue caseworkers at the request of the judge, defense or Crown Prosecutor. By law, judges must consider Gladue factors when sentencing First Nations people. Section 718.2(e) of Canada’s Criminal Code stipulates that judges must clearly address an Aboriginal offender’s circumstances, as well as the systemic and background factors that contributed to those circumstances. Gladue was a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision handed down in1999. In 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Gladue Principle also applies to breaches of long-term supervision orders. The ruling says that failing to take Aboriginal circumstances into account violates the fundamental principle of sentencing. The Gladue Principles also state that restorative justice may be more appropriate for Aboriginal offenders. Restorative justice focuses on healing those affected by the criminal act, including the offender, which is more in line with traditional Aboriginal justice. This restorative justice approach is also meant to act as a solution to reducing the over-representation of Aboriginals in Canadian jails. Dillon was wanted on a Canada-wide arrest warrant in December 2018 for being unlawfully at large. She remains in custody. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
“The connection is me,” said Tsuut’ina Nation artist seth cardinal dodginghorse, linking his work for Contemporary Calgary and his protest at the opening of the southwest Calgary ring road last October. dodginghorse spoke virtually yesterday, the final speaker for Contemporary Calgary’s Water Event. His exhibit, entitled The Glenmore Rezerveoir, is a water jug with a label made from elk hide parfleche. Writing is painted on the inside of the label and can only be read if it’s “really bright out” and the jug is angled. The label reads: “You drink Tsuut’ina land.” dodginghorse said he was approached in August by the gallery to be one of six Indigenous artists to produce a water sculpture as part of political activist Yoko Ono’s exhibition, Growing Freedom. Two months later, he stood at the opening of Tsuut’ina Trail, unofficially called Calgary’s southwest ring road, and cut off his braids, offering them to the portion of the road that displaced his family six years earlier from their generations-held land. “The connection is story-wise and intent behind making the work. They weren’t directly related at all. But a lot of my intent … all my own personal experiences, traumas informed making this work and those were the same things that informed me speaking out at the opening … (and) resulted in me cutting my hair and everything. It’s more like the connection is that I made the artwork and the connection is that I ended up cutting my hair. The connection is me,” said dodginghorse. dodginghorse’s family was forced off their land in 2013 because of the ring road. That land had been in the family since his great-great grandmother. His mother and her siblings had grown up there. Many Tsuut’ina people beyond dodginghorse’s family members had connections to that land. When living there, dodginghorse said the water they drank was “some of the most beautiful, delicious water you could drink.” His family moved to another piece of land on the Tsuut’ina reserve. They were told not to drink the water from the tap because of numerous environmental concerns, including nearby fracking. His family had to drink water from jugs. “We didn’t grow up having to purchase water. We didn’t grow up having to be afraid of what was coming from our tap. We’ve been drinking from these water bottles for quite a bit now and I thought, ‘Why don’t I just use one of these and highlight the issue of drinking water and where does the water I’m purchasing come from?’” he said. In 1932, dodginghorse said Tsuut’ina Nation was “pressured” by Calgary and the government to sell 400 acres of reserve land to the city. That land became the Glenmore reservoir and provides safe drinking water for Calgary residents. “There’s just so much loaded history behind Glenmore reservoir and my family as well ... It’s very strange and very ironic that my family, once we moved, in order to drink water we had to drink water from land that was originally part of Tsuut’ina. That was like essentially purchasing water back from ancestral lands,” said dodginghorse. Having to be concerned about safe drinking water is not unique to Tsuut’ina, said Dodginghorse, noting that boil water advisories are common in many First Nations communities right across the country. While some artwork takes time to conceive and time to determine the medium, this piece was readily conceived, dodginghorse said. “It was very easy to make but then thinking about the history behind the objects, behind my family’s history, all of these connection, is one of those really nice pieces in a way where I made this and then afterwards I started thinking and analysing and really understanding what I had made,” he said. dodginghorse said he prefers his work to be “blunt and in your face.” He wants people to “get” what he is saying with his art and not have to ponder it for “three hours” before the message sinks in. dodginghorse has been showing his work in Calgary galleries for about six years. He said he understands that this venue only reaches “a certain crowd.” “A lot of the people that were involved in a lot of these decisions historically that are still here, aren’t really the type of people that go to galleries. With this type of work has like the focus on reaching out to the average white Calgarian that goes to galleries,” he said. Ryan Doherty, chief curator of Contemporary Calgary, who hosted the virtual talk, said dodginghorse’s piece was popular with gallery goers, many of whom came after dodginghorse cut his braids at the ring road opening. “That seemingly mundane container is in fact so loaded,” said Doherty. When Contemporary Calgary was tasked with asking a new group of artists to collaborate with Ono in this iteration of Water Event, Doherty said he knew it had to be a group with which water had an “enormous significance.” “When you consider the long history and impact of the Bow and Elbow rivers to the Indigenous population past and present it seemed the best thing would be to invite artists for whom that connection would resonate in the collaboration with Yoko,” said Doherty. The other Water Event collaborators are Adrian A. Stimson, Faye HeavyShield, Jessie Ray Short, Judy Anderson and Kablusiak. In 1971, Ono held her first museum exhibition, Water Event, in which she invited over 120 participants to produce a water sculpture. “As Yoko herself noted to us, (this) was one of the best iterations to date,” said Doherty. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska Native corporation said it was unable to meet a deadline for aerial surveys of polar bear dens in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because a federal agency did not issue the necessary authorization in a timely manner. The Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. also took issue with what it calls a “blatant mischaracterization” of what happened and says it is owed an apology. On Saturday, Melissa Schwartz, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Interior, said the corporation had confirmed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials that den detection surveys had not been conducted by a Feb. 13 deadline. The corporation was told “their request is no longer actionable, and the Service does not intend to issue or deny the authorization,” she said. Her comments echoed those of Regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Gregory Siekaniec in a letter to corporation President Matthew Rexford a day earlier. The corporation had sought authorization from the agency for activities that could disturb polar bears as part of a broader proposal to conduct what are known as seismic surveys to search for oil and gas deposits within the refuge’s coastal plain. In December, the Fish and Wildlife Service released for comment a proposed authorization that would allow for “incidental harassment” of polar bears in the coastal plain during a set period for seismic work. More than 6 million comments were received, according to Siekaniec. In his letter, Siekaniec said the agency was unable to review and consider all the comments and “make appropriate refinements” to the proposed authorization and supporting documents before a "key milestone” in the corporation's request, noting the Feb. 13 deadline. Rexford, in a response to the regional director, said the corporation had gotten conflicting messages on the status of that review. He said that the agency had failed his corporation and community. Kaktovik is on the northern edge of the refuge, on the Beaufort Sea coast. He told The Associated Press the corporation is evaluating its next steps. Schwartz on Friday declined comment beyond her previous statement. President Joe Biden’s administration last month announced plans for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the region considered sacred by the Indigenous Gwich’in. The Interior Department says none of the lands proposed for seismic survey activity are within the area that has been leased. Pending lawsuits have challenged the adequacy of the environmental review process undertaken by the Trump administration. Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation has continued on a downward trend in the number of daily coronavirus cases. Tribal health officials on Friday reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. The latest numbers bring the total to 29,710 cases since the pandemic began. The death toll is 1,165. A curfew remains in effect for residents on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to prevent the spread of the virus. Health facilities on the reservation and in border towns are conducting drive-thru vaccine events or administering doses by appointment. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: Vaccination passports may open society, but at cost of inequity. Canada regulators have approved AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine. Japan is partly ending pandemic emergency, keeps it for Tokyo. Third US vaccine option expected in Johnson & Johnson shot; raises the question: Which shots are best? ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported another new 405 cases of the coronavirus as it began vaccinating tens of thousands of workers at frontline hospitals in the second day of its mass immunization program. The daily increase reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the national caseload to 89,321, including 1,595 deaths. Most of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which was hit hardest by a devastating winter surge that erased months of hard-won epidemiological gain and sparked public criticism about the country’s vaccine rollout that has been slower than many nations in the West. The government had insisted it could maintain a wait-and-see approach as its outbreak still wasn’t as dire as in the United States or Europe. The KCDC said 18,489 residents and workers at long-term care facilities received their first injections of two dose vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University during the first day of public vaccinations on Friday. ___ RENO, Nev. — The average number of new daily cases reported in Nevada over the past two weeks has fallen to its lowest level since mid-September and dropped by nearly 90% since a peak of more than 2,700 a day in mid-December. The 314 new daily cases reported on average over the previous 14 days is the lowest since an average of 312 were reported on Sept. 16, state health officials said Friday. That’s down from a peak of 2,716 reported on Dec. 11. The daily average dropped below 2,000 in mid-January and has steadily declined ever since. The state’s positivity rate also has dropped to 8.3%, the lowest since 8.2% on Oct. 19. The rate is based on a 14-day rolling average with a seven-day lag. It peaked at 21.6% on Jan. 13. ___ DENVER -- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says anyone 60 and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus beginning March 5 followed by those 50 and older toward the end of the month. The governor said Friday the state has already administered nearly 883,000 first doses of the vaccine and more than 423,000 second doses. An increase in vaccine supply is expected in the coming weeks as pharmaceutical companies ramp up production. More than 424,000 people in the state have tested positive and nearly 6,000 have died from the virus since it started its rapid spread last spring, and Polis warned Friday to stay vigilant. ___ BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday that Connecticut still has “a long way to go” to improve COVID-19 vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic residents, as new data show whites are getting inoculated at higher rates. Lamont appeared with Black clergy members at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport to try to convince people the vaccines are safe and effective. Several church leaders received vaccinations Friday. “We have a long way to go,” the Democratic governor said. “We’re doing better than we did two weeks ago, but not good enough.” New data released by the state Thursday shows 39% of white state residents ages 65 and older have received the first of two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, compared with 21% of Black residents and 27% of Hispanic citizens 65 and older. ___ SACRAMENTO, Calif: Gov. Gavin Newsom expects California to start administering the new Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine next week. At a Fresno news conference Friday, Newsom said the Biden administration plans to send California more than 1.1 million of the single-dose shots in the next three weeks. The vaccine, still in the final federal approval process, has fewer handling restrictions than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now being used. Those vaccines require two doses to be fully effective and must be stored at extremely low temperatures. Addition of the J&J vaccine would come as California is seeing dramatic drops in virus cases and hospitalizations after record highs in early January. ___ ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- In an unusual example of the effectiveness of social distancing, residents of a Southeast Alaska fishing community have so far escaped the coronavirus pandemic without any infections. Alaska Public Media reports that the town of Pelican is one of the Alaska communities that has avoided the illness by remaining isolated. Pelican can only be reached by bush plane or boat. The community has no recorded cases of COVID-19 and has vaccinated more than half of its adults. Interviews and social media posts indicate there are at least 10 virus-free communities statewide. ___ UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a “sustained humanitarian pause” to enable the unhindered delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination of millions of people in conflict areas. The British-drafted resolution, cosponsored by 112 countries, reiterated the council’s demand last July 1 for “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities” in major conflicts on the Security Council agenda from Syria and Yemen to Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan and Somalia. It expressed concern that an appeal for cease-fires in all conflicts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which was first made by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 23, 2020, “was not fully heeded.” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, the current council president, announced the result of the email vote because the council has been meeting virtually, saying the resolution “will help bring vaccines to 160 million people in conflict areas or displaced by conflict.” ___ NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans’ mayor says coronavirus pandemic restrictions are being relaxed, starting Friday. Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office says the past 30 days have shown a sustained decrease in case counts, transmission rate, and positivity rate. The statement says groups of up to 75 may gather indoors and 150 outdoors. Restaurants, bars and other businesses can seat up to 15 people at a table. Indoor stadiums may admit up to 15% of the maximum number of fans usually allowed, with outdoor stadiums admitting up to 25%. New Orleans’ changes bring city guidelines closer to the state’s, the city says. New Orleans has averaged around 50 new cases a day with less than 2% of tests indicating infection. Case counts in January averaged more than 170 a day. There were 679 people hospitalized statewide on Thursday, compared to more than 2,000 in January. ___ PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown says all Oregonians who are 16 and older will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations no later than July 1. Health officials say people who are 45 to 64 with underlying health conditions will be eligible starting March 29. Brown says the next round of vaccine distribution will occur in multiple waves. Currently people who are eligible for vaccine are healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities, educators, seniors 70 and older and adults in custody. On Monday, people who are 65 or older will be eligible for the vaccine. The Vaccine Advisory Committee has stated one of their goals is to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to minority communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Last week health officials reported significant disparities. White people represent 75% of Oregonians. While they only comprise about 48% of coronavirus cases, they account for 74% of vaccinations. ___ MADRID — Spain’s health authorities say people under 55 who have had a coronavirus infection will only receive one of the two doses of a vaccine six months after their recovery. Spain has fully vaccinated nursing home residents, their caretakers and frontline health workers, a total of 1.2 million of its 47 million residents. Additionally, 2.4 million have received at least one shot. Vaccination efforts are currently focused on those over 80 and police. The new update to the country’s vaccination guidelines released Friday also state the next group to receive the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots will be people older than 60. AstraZeneca will be administered to those ages 45 to 55. With 8,341 new coronavirus infections and 329 deaths for the coronavirus confirmed Friday, Spain’s pandemic tally rose to nearly 3.2 million cases and more than 69,000 deaths. ___ GENEVA — The U.N. health agency chief is calling on member states of the World Trade Organization to authorize the lifting of intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines for wider use. World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says, “We can’t beat COVID without vaccine equity. The sharing problem can be addressed effectively if production is increased -- and to increase production, there are trade barriers or other barriers: That has to be addressed.” South Africa and India in October presented a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property protections on vaccines. Rich countries with big pharmaceutical industries including Britain, Switzerland and the United States have resisted or raised questions about the proposal, which would need consensus under WTO rules. ___ DETROIT — A Whole Foods Market store in Detroit is receiving rapid COVID-19 testing for all its 196 employees after 23 tested positive for the coronavirus. Chief Detroit public health officer Denise Fair says the outbreak hit the store in the city’s Midtown. She says has made a commitment that no workers or close contacts of any employee who has tested positive will be allowed back to work until they have produced a negative test result. Whole Foods Market says it is “diligently following all guidance from local health and food safety authorities.” Mayor Mike Duggan announced this month that food service workers, including grocery store workers who live or work in Detroit, are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. ___ COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s largest hospice provider is partnering with state health officials to pilot an effort to vaccinate eligible residents who rarely, if ever, leave their homes. Agape Care and the Department of Health and Environmental Control announced they’ll launch the pilot program in Hampton and Jasper counties, largely rural areas at the southern tip of the state. After scheduling and receiving a Moderna shot, the nurse will return 28 days later to administer the second shot. If a live-in caregiver is also eligible, he or she can get vaccinated, too. ___ WASHINGTON — The Biden administration and major U.S. business organizations are launching a joint educational campaign to reinforce basic COVID-19 do’s and don’ts with their customers and employees. White House coronavirus senior adviser Andy Slavitt says it’s part of an effort to get the whole country working together to contain the virus and encourage Americans to get vaccinated. The strategy has three parts. First, requiring masking and social distancing on business premises. That’s already the case in nearly all supermarkets, drug stores, offices and other types of commercial establishments. But masking is not always adhered to in some smaller workplaces. Second, removing roadblocks to get employees vaccinated. Businesses could use flexible scheduling and paid time off to encourage workers to get their shots. Finally, using business platforms like websites and some products to echo public health advice about getting vaccinated and wearing masks. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and leading associations of minority-owned businesses are participating in the effort. ___ LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas is lifting most of its coronavirus safety restrictions, except for the state’s mask mandate. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the decision as he extended the public health emergency he declared last year because of the pandemic. Hutchinson is extending the order until the end of March. The rules being lifted include capacity limits for restaurant, bars, gyms and large venues. Hutchinson has faced pushback from some fellow Republicans in the Legislature over the virus safety rules. Hutchinson says the mask mandate will be lifted at the end of March if the state’s positivity rate is below 10%, with at least 7,500 tests on an average daily basis. If the state has fewer tests, the mandate would end if hospitalizations are below 750 patients. On Thursday, Arkansas had a test positivity rate of about 10% and reported 522 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19. ___ WASHINGTON — The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sounding the alarm that recent gains against the coronavirus may be stalling. Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the CDC is looking at data that COVID-19 cases have been increasing the past three days, but more time is needed to see if that is a blip or the start of a trend. Walensky spoke at the White House coronavirus briefing Friday, noting virus mutations spreading in the U.S. are among the CDC’s biggest concerns. Along with a more transmissible strain first detected in Britain, scientists here are tracking variants in New York and California, which also appear to spread more easily. “We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” says Walensky, stressing now is not the time to relax protective measures like wearing masks and avoiding gatherings. Cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since the January peak that followed the winter holidays. Deaths have also declined. But Walensky says those gains could be in jeopardy because the background level of cases is still too high. ___ PARIS — French authorities have ordered a local weekend lockdown starting on Friday evening in the French Riviera city of Nice and the surrounding coastal area to try to curb the spread of the virus. Nice reported this week a rate of almost 800 COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people, nearly four times the national average. The measure comes in addition to a national 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. The northern port of Dunkirk is under similar restrictions. In both places, numbers of infections have spiked and hospitals are overwhelmed, with some patients being transferred to other French regions. Nice mayor Christian Estrosi announced the ban on the beaches and the famous Promenade des Anglais esplanade to ensure the restrictions will be fully respected. The weekend lockdown also includes nearby coastal towns of Cannes and Antibes. The Associated Press
Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine received authorization from Health Canada, bolstering the country’s vaccine arsenal. Shallima Maharaj explains why it’s a game-changer.
(Glenbow Archives - image credit) The Federal Building plaza, with views of the Alberta Legislature, has a new name: the Violet King Henry Plaza. The Calgary native became Canada's first Black female lawyer in 1954. Many who protested in Edmonton as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, in response to George Floyd's death last summer, would have walked past the plaza, or through it, on their way to the Legislature. Now, it serves as a reminder of a woman who stood up to adversity to follow her dreams against all odds, carving a path for others. Nicole Dodd is one of the founders of the AB Anti-Racism EDU Committee, a group campaigning for Black Canadian history and anti-racism coursework to be included in Alberta's K-12 curriculum. Violet King Henry's family were pillars in Calgary's Black community, said Dodd. Her brother, Ted King, was an activist and the president of the Alberta Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. These types of renamings matter, said Dodd. They deepen Alberta's understanding of its Black history and the people who helped build this province. "She's a local Calgarian … she was born and raised in Alberta, educated in Alberta and achieved this incredible success against all the odds," said Dodd. Violet King, right, stands beside her family as her brother, Ted, arrives back in Calgary in 1946. At the University of Alberta, King Henry was recognized alongside Peter Lougheed with an Executive "A" gold ring at Colour Night, the annual celebration of student contributions to the university. "That's just to show the calibre of person that Violet King was. She was highly engaged in her university life and she demonstrated significant leadership qualities," Dodd said. Dodd added she hopes this is the beginning of more landmarks and monuments to commemorate racialized Albertans. The minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Leela Aheer, unveiled the new plaza name on Friday, days before the end of Black History Month. She stood in front of the podium, addressing King Henry's living daughter directly. "I just want to remember this moment, this moment in time," Aheer said. "You know, she was tenacious and she was strong and she never backed down. This is a legacy that all of us need to understand to be able to move forward, to truly do the work that needs to be done to make sure Alberta is the most caring and loving and welcoming space in the world." Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu said Violet King Henry carved a path for Black lawyers, and spent her career fighting for the rights of her fellow citizens. "Violet King Henry's courage and perseverance stand as an example to us all," Madu said. "With every event, festival and gathering held at Violet King Henry Plaza, we will be keeping her extraordinary legacy alive." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
The human trafficking case brought against a former U.S. Olympics women’s gymnastics coach hours before he killed himself could signal a new approach to policing a sport already dogged by a far-reaching sexual abuse scandal involving a one-time team doctor. John Geddert, the head coach of the 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, killed himself Thursday hours after prosecutors charged him with 24 counts accusing him of turning his once-acclaimed Michigan gym into a hub of human trafficking by coercing girls to train there and then abusing them — one sexually. Although Geddert was charged with sexually assaulting one teenager and he worked closely with Larry Nassar, the imprisoned sports doctor who sexually abused hundreds of women and girls under the guise it was treatment, the bulk of the case against Geddert was for human trafficking — a charge that even the state's top law enforcement official acknowledged might not fit the common understanding of such a case. “We think of it predominantly as affecting people of colour or those without means to protect themselves ... but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday. “Young impressionable women may at times be vulnerable and open to trafficking crimes, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.” Lawyers for women who accused Geddert and Nassar of abuse say Nassar's imprisonment and Geddert's death won't resolve some of the serious issues that have plagued the sport. But they lauded the attorney general's office for bringing the trafficking case against the 63-year-old Geddert, who was charged with making money through the forced labour of young athletes. According to a transcript from a closed court hearing this week, Geddert reported that his income was $2.7 million between 2014 and 2018. “They took a stand that if you do this kind of thing as a coach, you are going to get charged,” John Manly, an attorney for accusers of the two men told The Associated Press, noting that the maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for each of the 20 trafficking counts is more than the penalty for the sex crime he was charged with. Sarah Klein, an attorney who works with Manly and was coached by Geddert, whom she said physically and emotionally abused her — and was sexually abused by Nassar — said she doesn't think Geddert's suicide will halt any reckoning for women's gymnastics. “I think this sends a big message that you can't emotionally and physically, and obviously sexually, abuse children for the sake of winning anymore,” she said. What that means for the immediate future is that the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, where Nassar once worked, will face increased scrutiny, Klein and Manly said. Both organizations turned a blind eye to such abusive treatment, they said. The USOPC didn't respond to a request for comment Friday. USA Gymnastics President Li Li Leung issued a statement expressing shock that Geddert killed himself, and expressed her sympathy for the victims. Manly and Klein said that although the latest case will bring more attention to abusive coaching in women's gymnastics, the success of coaches like Geddert, whose 2012 Olympic team won the team gold, will make reforming the sport more difficult. They said so much of Geddert's alleged abuse was able to continue because his private gyms and gymnastics clubs operated outside of the view of the public or even the athletes' parents. And that abuse, as described by Nessel, was emotional and physical, from ordering one distraught girl to apologize to him for trying to kill herself to throwing another girl into the uneven bars with such force that it ruptured the lymph nodes on one side of her neck. “In almost every elite gym ... parents were not allowed, so they had no idea that if a kid vomited and he saw there were French fries, he would stick the kid's face in the vomit,” Manly said. He said in recent years, some gyms have opened up a bit to let the parents see how their kids are being coached. But many still operate behind a wall of secrecy. Klein said this secrecy has been tolerated and even encouraged because coaches were producing champions that the whole country could be proud of, which she traces back to the wild success of Bela and Martha Karolyi, the husband-and-wife duo who coached America’s top female gymnasts for three decades. For most of those years, she said, nobody was asking questions of what gymnasts later said was the couple's harsh treatment of their young charges. The coaches are now the subject of at least one lawsuit from a gymnast who contends they knew or should have known about Nassar's behaviour. Finding out what is going on will also be made tougher by parents' unwillingness to ask questions or look too closely because of all the success Geddert and other coaches, Manly and others said. In a transcript released this week, this issue was raised by a young woman who was coached by Geddert. “He gets everyone to buy into his program, then parents start seeing positive results from their gymnast, then they are hooked," she said. “The parents then decide to tolerate Geddert’s style or they turn their heads.” Don Babwin, The Associated Press
VIDALIA, La. — The onetime lead singer for the now defunct rock and country band Bishop Gunn has been arrested in Louisiana on drug and traffic charges, authorities said. Travis McCready was arrested Thursday in Concordia Parish in the east-central part of the state. McCready, 33, of Natchez, Mississippi, was taken to the Concordia Parish Jail on charges of failure to dim the lights on his vehicle, expired vehicle tag and no proof of insurance as well as charges alleging possession of Schedule I, Schedule II and Schedule III drugs, authorities said. McCready, a resident of Natchez, Mississippi, where the band also had been based, was released on a $25,000 bond, The Natchez Democrat reported. It was unknown if McCready has an attorney who could speak on his behalf. The Bishop Gunn band broke up in February 2020, citing “internal issues." It suspended all future activity including tour dates and new music releases. With McCready as the group's lead singer, Bishop Gunn made it to the top of the Billboard Blues Album chart in 2018 with their debut album “Natchez.” At the height of its run, Bishop Gunn toured in Europe with Slash after playing two cruises with Kid Rock and received multiple accolades from Rolling Stone Magazine’s top country charts. Although the band has called it quits, McCready has performed solo in Natchez and elsewhere. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Friday that Iran should view his decision to authorize U.S. airstrikes in Syria as a warning that it can expect consequences for its support of militia groups that threaten U.S. interests or personnel. “You can't act with impunity. Be careful,” Biden said when a reporter asked what message he had intended to send with the airstrikes, which the Pentagon said destroyed several buildings in eastern Syria but were not intended to eradicate the militia groups that used them to facilitate attacks inside Iraq. Administration officials defended the Thursday night airstrikes as legal and appropriate, saying they took out facilities that housed valuable “capabilities” used by Iranian-backed militia groups to attack American and allied forces in Iraq. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, said members of Congress were notified before the strikes as two Air Force F-15E aircraft launched seven missiles, destroying nine facilities and heavily damaging two others, rendering both “functionally destroyed.” He said the facilities, at “entry control points” on the border, had been used by militia groups the U.S. deems responsible for recent attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq. In a political twist for the new Democratic administration, several leading Congress members in Biden's own party denounced the strikes, which were the first military actions he authorized. Democrats said the airstrikes were done without authorization from lawmakers, while Republicans were more supportive. “Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. And Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said lawmakers must hold the current administration to the same standards as any other. “Retaliatory strikes not necessary to prevent an imminent threat,” he said, must get congressional authorization. But Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, backed the decision as “the correct, proportionate response to protect American lives.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that Biden used his constitutional authority to defend U.S. personnel. "The targets were chosen to correspond to the recent attacks on facilities and to deter the risk of additional attacks over the coming weeks,” she said. Among the recent attacks cited was a Feb. 15 rocket attack in northern Iraq that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. At the Pentagon, Kirby said the operation was “a defensive strike” on a waystation used by militants to move weapons and materials for attacks into Iraq. But he noted that while it sent a message of deterrence and eroded their ability to strike from that compound, the militias have other sites and capabilities. He said the strikes resulted in “casualties” but declined to provide further details on how many were killed or injured and what was inside the buildings pending the completion of a broader assessment of damage inflicted. An Iraqi militia official said Friday that the strikes killed one fighter and wounded several others. Kirby said the facilities hit in the attack were near Boukamal, on the Syrian side of the Iraq border, along the Euphrates River. “This location is known to facilitate Iranian-aligned militia group activity,” he said. He described the site as a “compound” that previously had been used by the Islamic State group when it held sway in the area. The Iraqi militia official told The Associated Press that the strikes against the Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, hit an area along the border between the Syrian site of Boukamal facing Qaim on the Iraqi side. The official was not authorized to speak publicly of the attack and spoke on condition of anonymity. Speaking to reporters Thursday evening shortly after the airstrikes were carried out, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “I’m confident in the target that we went after. We know what we hit.” Biden’s decision to attack in Syria did not appear to signal an intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq and send a message to Iran. The Biden administration in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist. The U.S. has previously targeted facilities in Syria belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah, which it has blamed for numerous attacks targeting U.S. personnel and interests in Iraq. The Iraqi Kataeb is separate from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the war in Syria, said the strikes targeted a shipment of weapons that were being taken by trucks entering Syrian territories from Iraq. The group said 22 fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi umbrella group of mostly Shiite paramilitaries that includes Kataeb Hezbollah, were killed. The report could not be independently verified. In a statement, the group confirmed one of its fighters was killed and said it reserved the right to retaliate, without elaborating. Kataeb Hezbollah, like other Iranian-backed factions, maintains fighters in Syria to both fight against the Islamic State group and assist Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in that country's civil war. Austin said he was confident the U.S. had hit back at “the same Shia militants” that carried out the Feb.1 5 rocket attack in northern Iraq. Kirby credited Iraqis with providing valuable intelligence that allowed the U.S. to identify the groups responsible for attacks earlier this year. The U.S., he said, then determined the appropriate target for the retaliatory strike. He said the U.S. also notified Russia shortly before the strike as part of the ongoing deconfliction process of military activities in Syria. “The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel,” Kirby said. Syria condemned the U.S. strike, calling it “a cowardly and systematic American aggression,” warning that the attack will lead to consequences. U.S. forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group. Lolita C. Baldor, Robert Burns And Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press
Staff vaccination rates at the site of one of Hamilton’s worst outbreaks still have some ways to go to reach the provincial target, as the city resumed vaccinations for health-care workers on Friday. This week, the CEO of Shalom Village in Westdale released the number of the home’s staff who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccination. The numbers offer a glimpse into the rollout and uptake of vaccines in this high-priority group in long-term care. Shalom Village, a facility offering long-term care and assisted living, was home to the second-worst outbreak in the city, with 218 cases and 20 deaths from Dec. 9 to Feb. 5. In an email this week, CEO Ken Callaghan said 120 staff out of about 173 “active” staff have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those, he said “the vast majority” have received two doses, but didn’t provide numbers. Four additional staff received their first doses on Tuesday, when the city’s mobile clinic came to vaccinate more residents, Callaghan said. At 69 per cent, Shalom Village’s current vaccination numbers fall below a provincial goal of 75 per cent vaccination rate for the city, and a “per organization” target set by a Hamilton “vaccination strategy” group, of which Callaghan is a member. The province’s goal is a “planning target” which represents the proportion of Hamilton adults expected to volunteer to receive the vaccine. The number is based on previous annual vaccine uptake, but does not limit who can receive the vaccine. Shalom staff began receiving vaccines on Dec. 28, with 10 spots allocated per day to the home at the Hamilton Health Sciences clinic. However, the clinic shut down on Jan. 27 after the province ordered that vaccines should only be given to seniors’ home residents due to shortages. That clinic reopened on Friday. Shalom’s numbers are also less than vaccination rates at Grace Villa, the site of the city’s worst outbreak with 234 cases and 44 deaths from Nov. 25 to Jan. 19. In an email Friday, the CEO of APANS Health Services, which runs the east Mountain home, said 123 out of 139 staff have received both vaccine doses, about 88 per cent. Mary Raithby added that 105 out of 108 residents have received both vaccine doses. “We continue to have staff and residents vaccinated according to the public health guidelines and vaccine availability,” she said. Callaghan said by email on Thursday that he is “comfortable where Shalom is on staff vaccinations,” noting the current numbers are “not where we will end up with the vaccination site reopening.” He said there are additional staff on the list to receive their first doses as the city’s fixed-site clinic resumes. But Callaghan didn’t specify how many staff were on that list, only saying there are 34 staff and essential caregivers combined. Some have expressed concern over a reluctance among staff to receive the vaccine, or barriers preventing them from easily doing so. In mid-January, The Spectator reported concerns from SEIU Healthcare — a union representing health-care workers, including at Shalom Village — that workers faced barriers to accessing vaccines. The union advocated for paid sick leave for workers who experience side effects from the vaccine, as well as travelling costs and time for staff to consult with a doctor prior to receiving the vaccine. Language barriers and scheduling issues were also concerns. Staff vaccinations in long-term care are essential, as experts have pointed out that COVID-19 only enters a home from the outside. At the time, Hamilton’s medical officer of health was pleased that vaccine uptake in long-term-care and retirement home workers was more than 65 per cent. Callaghan declined an interview request about staff responses to vaccinations and whether Shalom Village took or is taking steps to address any concerns. As for residents, Callaghan said about 97 per cent have received both doses of the vaccine. It is not clear how many residents that represents. “The only residents not receiving both vaccinations were due to their refusals to be vaccinated,” he said, noting all residents who consented directly or through their attorneys have received both doses of the vaccine. Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
(Robert Short/CBC - image credit) One of Nova Scotia's largest nursing-home operators is urging the province to bring COVID-19 vaccination clinics into retirement living centres. Only seniors in licensed long-term care homes in the province can get vaccinated on site. The thousands of seniors living in independent or community settings like the Parkland complex in Halifax, owned by Shannex, must go to public clinics. "For the health and safety of our residents, it is our hope that as vaccine supply increases, we can assist in the vaccine rollout by holding on-site vaccination clinics in our retirement living communities," said Katherine Van Buskirk, Shannex's director of communications and community affairs. She said many residents can't travel independently to a public clinic. "Retirement living residents are at risk of COVID-19 because they live in close proximity to other seniors and receive care and services provided by a workforce that lives in the larger community," Van Buskirk told CBC News in a statement. Only Nova Scotia seniors in licensed long-term care homes are getting vaccinated on site. Shannex has 17 long-term care homes in Nova Scotia that are licensed by the Department of Health and Wellness. Its Parkland Retirement Living division has seven locations in Nova Scotia. The average age of seniors who lives at Parkland is 80. Many seniors living 'fairly independently,' says Strang Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said Public Health officials are aware of the issue and are looking at how best to accommodate those seniors. "Many of these people, they're still living fairly independently and they do have themselves or family that can get around on a frequent basis already. And so coming to a vaccine clinic is not necessarily that much of a challenge," he told CBC News on Friday. This week, Nova Scotia opened a vaccination clinic at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, where 500 seniors over the age of 80 were vaccinated. They were chosen by a random draw. The province will hold more clinics across the province for that age group next month. Strang said Nova Scotia has a limited supply of vaccines and lacks the resources to open more clinics. Parkland GM says on-site clinics safer, more convenient Earlier this month, Parkland general manager Jennifer Shannon wrote to residents and their families, encouraging anyone with concerns to contact their MLA. Shannon followed up this week, telling residents and families that Shannex continues to advocate for on-site clinics. "This is a more convenient and safer solution for residents," she wrote. Strang said Friday that the public clinics are safe. He said he visited the IWK clinic and people were physically distancing, wearing masks and taking other precautions. "We have infection-control practitioners at the hospital that have provided guidance about how to have the right level of infection control as people come into these clinics," he said. "So I'm very comfortable that these clinics are actually very safe." MORE TOP STORIES
(Greg Lovett /Northwest Florida Daily News/The Associated Press - image credit) First Nations leaders in B.C. say the province's updated COVID-19 immunization plan deviates from national guidelines that priority should be given to all Indigenous adults within the first two stages of vaccine rollout. The current guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization states adults in Indigenous communities should be prioritized in stage one and adults in or from Indigenous communities, including those living in urban centres, should be prioritized in stage two. Charlene Belleau, chair of the First Nations Health Council, the political leadership and advocacy arm of the health governance structure for First Nations in the province, said the provincial plan was published "with no explanation or engagement by our people at all." "I was in a call yesterday where chiefs are very upset about this new direction." Isolated and remote communities given priority Richard Jock, CEO of B.C.'s First Nations Health Authority, which is responsible for health services in B.C.'s First Nations, said the approach to vaccinations in First Nations communities has been one that takes a "whole of community" approach. Belleau said this approach was advocated for by First Nations leadership and agreed to with the province in the initial vaccine rollout. Documentation from the authority said this means vaccine is provided to all adults living and working in a community, including people who may not be First Nations such as family members, health care and community workers serving the community. "This includes individuals who live off reserve, but close to community, due to housing challenges," states the authority's toolkit for First Nations receiving COVID-19 vaccine. Then on Monday, the First Nations Health Authority learned the B.C. Ministry of Health was taking a different direction. The province committed that the whole community approach would continue for isolated, semi-isolated and remote communities identified for phase one rollout. But according to a document shared with CBC News, all other First Nations communities (that aren't isolated) will receive vaccines for those who are 65 years and older, elders, recipients of long term home support/home care and related staff in First Nations. The province said it will consider a whole community approach in situations where a community is experiencing ongoing clusters and outbreaks. To date just over half of the 204 First Nations in the province have received allocations of vaccine, according to the latest figures from the First Nations Health Authority. The authority reported to chiefs on Thursday they're aware of just under 5,000 cases of COVID-19 among First Nations people in B.C. as of Feb. 24. There have also been 83 deaths. Charlene Bealleau is chair of the First Nations Health Council. Concern for off-reserve members For the off-reserve population, First Nations people 65 or older will be eligible for vaccine in phase two of B.C.'s immunization plan. In a Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs meeting on Thursday, Coun. Sherry McIntyre (Nlaka'pamux from the Skuppah Indian Band) said it's problematic to limit vaccines to elders and people over 65. "Many elders live in multi-generational homes and need the entire household immunized at minimum in order to protect the health of that elder," she said. Chief Don Tom (Tsartlip) is vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. Tsartlip Chief Don Tom said it's also problematic to have inequitable access between community members who face the same kinds of risk factors regardless of where they live. "Crowded homes, chronic health conditions, kidney problems — these are not limited to on-reserve. These are very much factors that come into play off-reserve as well," he said. "Tsartlip will be having vaccines available on Monday for my community and it just breaks my heart to know that my aunts and uncles who live off-reserve, who are elders, that they just aren't afforded the same opportunity and somehow their lives are less important than mine," he said. 'No room for exceptions' Leadership at UBCIC passed a resolution calling for a revision to the B.C. immunization plan on Thursday. They're advocating for a plan that will see equitable and accessible delivery to all First Nations people in the province. They also called on Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller, who was at the meeting, to step in. Miller acknowledged that the national guidelines "clearly and squarely" state that all adults living in Indigenous communities should get a vaccine under stage one, and that all other Indigenous adults should be able to get their shot in stage two. "There's no room for exceptions here, with the exception of some of the logistical challenges, that I must acknowledge," said Miller. Some of the logistical challenges Miller acknowledged come down to jurisdictional differences for on and off-reserve populations. Belleau said the First Nations Health Council has requested a meeting with B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix to discuss their concerns. The province did not respond to questions by the time of publishing.
NEW YORK — A photographer who was shoved by a man who then came at him with a metal pole during a trip on the Staten Island ferry on Friday was able to get out of harm's way when New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang intervened. Spencer Platt, a photographer with Getty Images, said he was on the top deck of the boat heading toward Staten Island around 11 a.m., talking on the phone after taking some photos of Yang, who was headed to campaign events. Platt said when he turned around, the man was “just right in my face, like an inch away." The man pushed him, sending him down onto a bench, and Platt said he saw he was carrying some kind of metal rod. “He immediately lifts that up, comes at me and has it raised over me," he said. The photographer got the attention of Yang and his campaign, who were inside, and he said they came out, with Yang in the lead. “He came out ... and he just kind of yelled, the guy turned around, and that allowed me to just kind of bolt out of there," Platt said. “I think most people would have the same impulse I had - to try and do anything that you can to protect somebody who might be threatened or endangered," Yang said in a statement. "I got up and tried to intervene as quickly as I could. I’m glad that when he turned he saw me and recognized me, and the situation deescalated quickly.” Platt told some New York Police Department officers who were on the boat and who then went to keep an eye on the man. The NYPD said no arrest was made. The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Major League Soccer says Ron Burkle has backed out of plans for an expansion team in Sacramento, California, that was scheduled to start play in 2023. The league said in a statement Friday night that Burkle's decision was “based on issues with the project related to COVID-19.” MLS announced the Sacramento Republic as its 29th team on Oct. 21, 2019, and said then the team would start play in 2022. MLS said July 17 that Sacramento would not start play until the 2023 season because of the pandemic. At the time, the league delayed Charlotte, North Carolina, until 2022 and St. Louis until 2023. MLS expanded to 26 teams last year with the addition of Miami and Nashville, Tennessee. Austin, Texas joins this season, which is scheduled to start April 17. Sacramento's announced ownership group included Burkle, founder of The Yucaipa Cos. and an owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, as lead investor. He was joined by entertainment executive Matt Alvarez and Kevin Nagle, an investor in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings who had spearheaded the bid for MLS expansion since 2014. Burkle's group had planned a $300 million soccer-specific stadium on a 14-acre site downtown and signed a deal with UC Davis Health to be its MLS jersey sponsor. But the group had run into cost issues with the proposed stadium site and had yet to break ground on the proposed 21,000-seat stadium. There also was growing concern the team would not be able to start until 2024. The current Sacramento Republic, founded in December 2012, plays in the second-tier United Soccer League Championship. “After working for many years to bring an MLS team to Sacramento, the league continues to believe it can be a great MLS market,” MLS said in a statement. “In the coming days, the league will work with Mayor Darrell Steinberg to evaluate possible next steps for MLS in Sacramento.” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he remains optimistic about finalizing plans for the league's 30th team. MLS's 2020 season started Feb. 29 but was interrupted after March 8 by the pandemic. The season resumed July 8 and each team played 23 regular-season games, down from 34 originally scheduled. As a fallout from pandemic restrictions, attendance dropped from nearly 9 million to about 750,000. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Chief executives of the nation's largest passenger and cargo airlines met with key Biden administration officials Friday to talk about reducing emissions from airplanes and push incentives for lower-carbon aviation fuels. The White House said the meeting with climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also touched on economic policy and curbing the spread of COVID-19 — travel has been a vector for the virus. But industry officials said emissions dominated the discussion. United Airlines said CEO Scott Kirby asked administration officials to support incentives for sustainable aviation fuel and technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere. In December, United said it invested an undisclosed amount in a carbon-capture company partly owned by Occidental Petroleum. A United Nations aviation group has concluded that biofuels will remain a tiny source of aviation fuel for several years. Some environmentalists would prefer the Biden administration to impose tougher emissions standards on aircraft rather than create breaks for biofuels. “Biofuels are false solutions that don’t decarbonize air travel,” said Clare Lakewood, a climate-law official with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Real action on aircraft emissions requires phasing out dirty, aging aircraft, maximizing operational efficiencies and funding the rapid development of electrification.” Airplanes account for a small portion of emissions that cause climate change — about 2% to 3% — but their share has been growing rapidly and is expected to roughly triple by mid-century with the global growth in travel. The airline trade group says U.S. carriers have more than doubled the fuel efficiency of their fleets since 1978 and plan further reductions in carbon emissions. But the independent International Council on Clean Transportation says passenger traffic is growing nearly four times faster than fuel efficiency, leading to a 33% increase in emissions between 2013 and 2019. The U.S. accounts for about 23% of aircraft carbon-dioxide emissions, followed by Europe at 19% and China at 13%, the transportation group's researchers estimated. The White House said McCarthy, Buttigieg and economic adviser Brian Deese were “grateful and optimistic” to hear the airline CEOs talk about current and future efforts to combat climate change. Nicholas Calio, president of the trade group Airlines for America, said the exchange was positive. “Airlines are ready, willing and able partners, and we want to be part of the solution" to climate change, Calio said in a statement. “We stand ready to work in partnership with the Biden administration.” David Koenig, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — U.S. health advisers endorsed a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, putting the nation on the cusp of adding an easier-to-use option to fight the pandemic. The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement that the agency will move quickly to follow the recommendation, which would make J&J’s shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. Vaccinations are picking up speed, but new supplies are urgently needed to stay ahead of a mutating virus that has killed more than 500,000 Americans. After daylong discussions, the FDA panelists voted unanimously that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks for adults. Once FDA issues a final decision, shipments of a few million doses could begin as early as Monday. “There’s an urgency to get this done,” said Dr. Jay Portnoy of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. “We’re in a race between the virus mutating — and new variants coming out that can cause further disease — and stopping it.” More than 47 million people in the U.S., or 14% of the population, have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which FDA authorized in December. But the pace of vaccinations has been strained by limited supplies and delays due to winter storms. While early J&J supplies will be small, the company has said it can deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and a total of 100 million by the end of June. J&J’s vaccine protects against the worst effects of COVID-19 after one shot, and it can be stored up to three months at refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to handle than the previous vaccines, which must be frozen. One challenge in rolling out the new vaccine will be explaining how protective the J&J shot is after the astounding success of the first U.S. vaccines. “It’s important that people do not think that one vaccine is better than another,” said panelist Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts University. The two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were found to be about 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. The numbers from J&J’s study are not that high, but it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. One dose of the J&J vaccine was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19. After adding in moderate cases, the total effectiveness dropped to about 66%. Some experts fear that lower number could feed public perceptions that J&J’s shot is a “second-tier vaccine.” But the difference in protection reflects when and where J&J conducted its studies. J&J’s vaccine was tested in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa at a time when more contagious mutated versions of the virus were spreading. That wasn’t the case last fall, when Pfizer and Moderna were wrapping up testing, and it’s not clear if their numbers would hold against the most worrisome of those variants. Importantly, the FDA reported this week that, just like its predecessors, the J&J shot offers strong protection against the worst outcomes, hospitalization and death. While J&J is seeking FDA authorization for its single-dose version, the company is also studying whether a second dose boosts protection. Panel member Dr. Paul Offit warned that launching a two-dose version of the vaccine down the road might cause problems. “You can see where that would be confusing to people thinking, ’Maybe I didn’t get what I needed,’” said Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It’s a messaging challenge.” J&J representatives said they chose to begin with the single shot because the World Health Organization and other experts agreed it would be a faster, more effective tool in an emergency. Cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since their January peak that followed the winter holidays. But public health officials warned that those gains may be stalling as more variants take root in the U.S. “We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said during a White House briefing Friday. She noted that new COVID-19 cases have increased over the past few days. While it’s too early to tell if the trend will last, Walensky said adding a third vaccine “will help protect more people faster.” More vaccines are in the pipeline. On Sunday, a CDC panel is expected to meet to recommend how to best prioritize use of the J&J vaccine. Other parts of the world already are facing which-is-best challenges. Italy’s main teachers’ union recently protested when the government decided to reserve Pfizer and Moderna shots for the elderly and designate AstraZeneca’s vaccine for younger, at-risk workers. AstraZeneca’s vaccine was deemed to be about 70% effective in testing. Canada became the latest country Friday to allow use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. ___ AP reporters Carla K. Johnson and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Lauran Neergaard And Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press
Richard Gray is warning Indigenous communities against signing confidentiality agreements with the government as they reclaim authority over their child welfare systems under Bill C-92 — also known as the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. Gray is the social services manager with the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC), which monitors and provides oversight to ensure Indigenous groups and communities have access to “culturally-appropriate and preventive health and social services programs,” according to their website. “This is a huge problem and we can’t allow the feds to utilize these confidentiality agreements in negotiations or discussions,” he said at a virtual gathering focused on the implementation of the Act, hosted on Feb. 9 by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). The Act establishes a framework for First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities to exercise their authority and create their own child welfare laws. Through the Act, Indigenous governing bodies can either notify the federal government of their intent to establish their own laws, or they can request to “enter into a tripartite coordination agreement with [Indigenous Services Canada] and relevant provincial or territorial governments” — as previously reported by IndigiNews. Gray says he knows of at least one instance where a confidentiality agreement was signed as part of a coordination agreement — between Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, Canada and the province of Ontario. He says he’s worried that confidentiality agreements could “really put a damper on our ability to share information and to give strategies and to advise and counsel First Nations communities that are interested in following this road.” “Canada will have all the information, and once again, First Nations are left stuck on their own.” ‘Stuck on their own’ Since the Bill came into force on Jan. 1, 2020, nine Nations have sent notice and 17 Nations have requested to enter into coordination agreements discussions, according to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). In an interview with IndigiNews, Gray says the practice of signing confidentiality agreements is “almost a bit of a contradictory approach” because the government is “supposed to be working with the First Nations at a national level and regional level to support the implementation of coordination agreements.” “If you sign one of these things, you can’t share any information with the AFN [and] you can’t share any information with a First Nations community about things that are happening in terms of your coordination agreement discussion,” he says. As part of the Act’s development, the AFN and ISC signed a protocol agreement in June of 2020. The agreement established a structure to support the implementation of Bill C-92, according to a news release by the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and FNQLHSSC. “This agreement is a crucial step that should allow First Nations to develop effective long-term plans. This protocol ensures that Canada will work with our governments, but that the implementation of Bill C-92 will be led by First Nations,” says Ghislain Picard, regional chief of the AFNQL. But for Gray, not being able to share how nations are doing at coordination tables puts them at a disadvantage. He says that the federal government knows everything that nations are sharing while the nations themselves, if they sign a confidentiality agreement, cannot speak with each other on how they are working to exercise jurisdiction. “Collectively, this is something that affects First Nations all across Canada. Why would we get into these processes where we’re hiding our discussions? Or not showing any transparency about how we’re going to work with our communities?” asks Gray. “First Nations are going to try to get the best deals possible,” he says. “I think that one of the ways to achieve that is by sharing as much information as possible amongst First Nations.” Gray says he wants the federal and provincial governments to respect this, “rather than trying to impose their processes on us.” “We’ve got to break these cycles or these patterns that [Indigenous Services Canada] uses and open up new processes and new ways of doing things to help one another.” IndigiNews followed up with both Indigenous Services Canada and Wabaseemoong Child Welfare Authority for comment, but did not receive a response by the time this article was published. The virtual gathering is part of a series on sharing best practices for implementing the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, also known as Bill C-92. Anyone can register to attend and there is no cost. The next session is March 2, 2021. Anna McKenzie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse