Dr. Hanif Chatur, an emergency room doctor at a hospital in Waterville, N.B., will be among the group of people receiving the first batch of doses in the province.
Dr. Hanif Chatur, an emergency room doctor at a hospital in Waterville, N.B., will be among the group of people receiving the first batch of doses in the province.
From a global perspective, there was nothing unique about the recent raid on the U.S. Capitol. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed military coups around the world for decades.
As Sweta Daboo frames it, Tuesday was the last day that there had never been a woman of colour in the job of vice-president of the United States. "As of yesterday there is now precedent. This will be normalized and this is something incredible to look forward to," said Daboo. Daboo is a woman of colour living on P.E.I., and the the executive director of the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government. "It was absolutely incredible and very surreal," she said of watching the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris on Wednesday. UPEI biology Prof. Marva Sweeney-Nixon, also woman of colour, was watching as well. "It was emotional, it was gratifying, it was just a really powerful and exciting experience," said Sweeney-Nixon. "I just sat there and thought about how powerful it was for women and for girls and for people of colour to see this. I thought about just how inspiring she is." 'Not the last' Daboo said her favourite moments of the ceremony included the poem by Amanda Gorman and the fist bump between Harris and former president Barack Obama, but it was Harris's actual taking of the oath of office that struck her the most. "I thought about a quote that she had earlier which was, 'You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.'" she said. "Watching her take this oath, and thinking of all the little girls, all the children of colour, all the youth around the world that were watching this moment happen, it was easy to believe that she would not be the last." But both Sweeney-Nixon and Daboo said this is just the beginning of a difficult road for Harris. "People are going to be watching her and expecting more from her just like they did with Barack Obama," said Sweeney-Nixon. "If you make a mistake or you stumble, oftentimes that can be used to say this is why people of this or that group should not be in positions of power," added Daboo. And, they added, the experience of Obama's presidency and what followed also showed electing someone to high office is not enough to change society. "There's a lot of change that needs to follow," said Sweeney-Nixon. 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. More from CBC P.E.I.
Plans to transform Brampton from a sprawling suburb into a modern, transit city took a significant step forward in December. The release last month of a business case by provincial agency Metrolinx for a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor along Queen Street offers a glimpse of the city’s exciting future. The lengthy document provides broad ideas for design, cost and justification of the potentially game-changing route. The street is already one of Brampton’s busiest for transit ridership, something a BRT would only increase. Boarding figures for Brampton Transit from fall 2018 show more than 20,000 daily riders on its express route alone. The corridor carries essential workers to and from the job, also ferrying students who live in Brampton to York University. Shoppers use it to reach the Bramalea City Centre and development planned for the corridor holds the promise of completely reshaping what has been an eyesore for decades. City Hall has positioned Queen Street as the road where Brampton meets the future. In 2018, the City of Brampton undertook a major soul-searching project by hiring Vancouver-based urban planner Larry Beasley to supervise the creation of its 2040 Vision. The document, which included input from some 13,000 residents, laid out how Brampton would look in the future if it embraced density, transit and smart growth. It suggested Queen Street could be the heart of that transformation. Density could bring more than just housing, Beasley and his team of visionaries promised. An inspired plan would bring culture and vibrant public life to the sprawling streetscape. Its aging strip malls and cracked sidewalks, devoid of pedestrians, would give way to the new suburbia of the GTA. “The strong westerly and easterly urban anchors for central Queen Street, Downtown and Bramalea, set up the best potential in Brampton to create its own grand boulevard and to host a ‘boulevard lifestyle’ where everything is immediately at hand,” the Vision states. Higher order transit plays a key part in this plan, allowing for sidewalks to be expanded, pushing out cars and integrating people into their surroundings. Instead of vast tracts of potholed parking lots that act as urban barriers, literally forcing residents away from all the spaces in between (driving from one plaza to the next to shop or dine) rapid transit lines fill in all the gaps with rich commercial offerings, boutiques, cafes and intimate sidewalk culture. Dense housing along these corridors acts as the catalyst, as cars are replaced by transit and sprawl is filled in by human activity. The Queen Street Corridor plan aims to support future rapid transit expansion. The City of Brampton took its first step toward the future in 2010 when it introduced Zum services along the route. Zum buses are express vehicles with occasional lane skips, but not fully fledged rapid transit. The total length of the area Metrolinx has considered for its initial investigation of a BRT corridor is 18.5 kilometres through Brampton and a further 5.5 kilometres in Vaughan. Transforming parts of the Queen Street corridor from its current state of barren, industrial and suburban roadways into a dense downtown will have its challenges. In Brampton, 83 percent of residents arrive at work by car, while 14 percent travel by transit. The city’s public transit use is roughly in line with provincial averages, but a rapid transit corridor could see it begin to fulfill its aspirations of shedding its car-dominated suburban past, when developers literally designed areas such as Bramalea, Canada’s first fully planned, post-war satellite community, built by Bramalea Consolidated Developments when the car was king. To transform Queen Street from its role as a commuter thoroughfare for vehicles into a boulevard lined with teeming patios and urban cyclists, its current use by commercial transportation and logistics companies will need to be rethought. Between 8 and 12 percent of the corridor’s traffic is currently medium or heavy trucks. “The relationship between density and higher order transit service is symbiotic,” Brampton Ward 1 and 5 Councillor Rowena Santos told The Pointer through a City spokesperson. “Having sufficient ridership is key to the viability of a rapid transit service, and an efficient and effective mobility solution – such as rapid transit – supports the 2040 Vision for the Queen Street corridor as a higher density mixed use urban boulevard. This type of project goes a long way to cut down on the need for personal automobiles and it accelerates the establishment of healthy and vibrant 20-minute walkable neighbourhoods.” Santos has been Brampton Council’s loudest advocate for smart, active transportation and put words into action when she brought forward a successful motion in 2019 to stop a planned road widening of Williams Parkway, arguing that it did not fit with the 2040 Vision and the goal of getting people out of their cars. Along the Queen Street corridor, roughly half of all trips are made by students. The transit ridership is younger than average and offers potential to grow further in the future, according to Metrolinx. “There is a large market that can be considered ‘untapped’; i.e. who would be likely to take advantage of transit but have not yet adopted regular transit usage,” the report states. The Metrolinx business case proposes several scenarios for how to bring a bus rapid transit route to Queen Street. One suggests a single trunk route BRT corridor for the full length, while two other options involve splitting the route into two sections. The document concludes that combining different options to have several priority buses run along Queen Street on an uninterrupted trunk route would be the best outcome. Metrolinx has made high-level cost calculations, with a proposed construction year of 2023. If the project were to go ahead on schedule, the transit agency expects it to be operational by 2026. Depending on how the project is constructed, the costs would vary. One suggested scenario would see existing traffic lanes converted into separate, painted bus lanes for between $3 million and $5.1 million per kilometre. That option, Metrolinx estimates, would cost roughly $93 million in total. An alternative possibility would be to widen Queen Street for most of its length — estimated at between $15.7 and $26.4 million per kilometre and totalling just over $481 million. With construction potentially just three years away, few answers are available as to who will pay for the infrastructure. Following a theme for the City, Brampton doesn’t seem to have a funding plan. Mayor Patrick Brown has effectively frozen all funding options by the City for major infrastructure projects and other features highlighted in the 2040 Vision, which he has claimed to support. The three straight years of tax freezes he pushed through make it difficult to realize the aspirations of the forward thinking planning document. To the south, Mississauga is more prepared for its rapid transit vision. The City has submitted a federal funding application for its Dundas Street BRT route and added a share of the costs to its 10-year capital plan. The project itself was studied by the City in a 2018 master plan and is now in the midst of an environmental study, the cost of which is being shared by Metrolinx. By comparison, Brampton is kilometres behind. “High level capital and operating costs are provided in the Initial Business Case (IBC), and governance structures are discussed; however, final decisions on funding models have not been made at this time,” Santos said, when asked about the Queen Street BRT. A Metrolinx spokesperson said the preliminary design phase had funding and that “a governance structure is being established between Metrolinx, the City of Brampton and other stakeholders to oversee the preliminary design, preliminary design business case (PDBC), and Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) phase.” Like so many projects floated in Brampton, the Queen Street corridor oozes potential. In many ways, it shines through as a possible turning point which could begin to steer Brampton toward a denser, greener and more urban future. But, despite its standout potential, the usual problems raise their heads. Questions about funding have been met with unknowns from City Hall while the mayor has failed to take any leadership on key projects to move Brampton into the future. If construction is to begin on the project by 2023, to deliver rapid transit by 2026, funding will need to be secured — or at least earmarked — in the next two years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Turkey and the European Union have started the year positively and steps to restart talks with Greece over hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean are welcome, but the EU remains concerned about human rights, the bloc's top envoy said on Thursday. "We have seen an improvement in the overall atmosphere ... we strongly wish to see a sustainable de-escalation in the eastern Mediterranean," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu before their meeting. "We remain concerned about the (human rights) situation in Turkey," Borrell said.
WASHINGTON — U.S. home construction jumped 5.8% in December to 1.67 million units, ending a strong year for home building. The better-than-expected gain followed an increase of 9.8% in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Housing has been one of the star performers this year even as the overall economy has been wracked by the coronavirus. Record-low mortgage rates and the desire of many people to move to larger homes during the extended stay-at-home period has fueled demand. For December, construction of single-family homes increased 12%. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
MADRID — A regional election in Catalonia, initially set for next month, remains up in the air after a court took a preliminary decision Thursday against a 3-month delay ordered by the northeastern Spanish region’s government due to the surge of COVID-19. The Catalonia High Court said that, pending a final decision on the matter before Feb. 8, the election should preventively be kept for Feb. 14 instead of pushing it back to May 30. The court said arguments for its initial decision would be published Friday. The timing leaves little choice to half a dozen political parties divided along the lines of left and right, but also between support or opposition for the region's independence, other than to begin preparations for the vote. The regional Catalan government, in the hands of a separatist coalition, had argued that a delay was needed as the peak of hospital admissions in the current surge in infections would be reached just days before the planned election date. All political parties in the regional vote had agreed to the postponement except for the regional Socialists, whose candidate has the best chances of winning the vote in mid-February according to a Thursday poll by CIS, Spain’s official polling institute. The leading candidate is Salvador Illa, currently serving as the country’s health minister and in charge of the pandemic response. His candidacy was announced in late December. Catalonia's Socialist Party, which is the regional chapter of the main partner in the national ruling centre-left coalition, has not been in power in Catalonia since 2006. The CIS poll predicted the Socialists could win up to 35 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament, above the possible 33 lawmakers projected for the Republican Left pro-independence party. Illa was the preferred choice as regional chief for 22% of those quizzed, twice the popularity of his nearest competitor, Laura Borràs, of the pro-independence Together for Catalonia party, which is currently in power with the Republican Left. The centre quizzed 4,106 people by telephone between Jan. 2 and Jan-15. The poll has a margin of error of 1.6 percentage points. As elsewhere in Spain, virus contagion has surged sharply in recent weeks in the powerful northeastern region, whose capital is Barcelona. With 2,844 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Thursday — 621 of them in intensive care — regional authorities expect ICUs to reach a maximum expanded capacity of 900 beds occupied by coronavirus patients in the coming weeks. The region’s political situation is still heavily dominated by the jailing in 2019 of nine political figures for their role in a secession push two years earlier. The separatist movement, which is supported by roughly half the region’s 7.5 million residents, wants to create a republic in the wealthy northeast corner of Spain. Aritz Parra And CiaráN Giles, The Associated Press
LONDON — Britain’s Glastonbury music festival has fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic for the second year in a row. Organizers Michael Eavis and Emily Eavis said Thursday that “In spite of our efforts to move heaven & earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the Festival happen this year.” “We are so sorry to let you all down,” they said in a statement. They said everyone who had put down a deposit on tickets for the 2020 festival, which also was cancelled, would be able to attend in 2022. The festival has been held almost annually since 1970, drawing up to 150,000 people to the Eavis’ Worthy Farm in southwest England. Last year’s 50th anniversary event, which had been due to feature Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, the Pet Shop Boys and Paul McCartney, was cancelled in March as the virus began to sweep the U.K. Father and daughter Michael and Emily Eavis thanked fans “for your incredible continued support and let’s look forward to better times ahead.” The Associated Press
The Town of Gander wants to hear from you. More precisely, the central Newfoundland town wants to hear from people around the region about their connection to the Gander International Airport and its importance to how they live or conduct business. Last week, Air Canada announced it will drop its remaining flights out of the Gander International Airport, along with flights out of Labrador and some out of St. John’s. The announcement followed the announcement of two previously cancelled routes last summer. The most recent cancelled flights are scheduled to end on Jan. 23. “This is a critical issue,” said Gander Mayor Percy Farwell. “The inability to get in and out of the area … has a great impact on your success.” With that in mind, the town is asking people in the region to submit their stories about how important the airport is to their lives and their families. The town hopes that putting human faces on the issue will put further pressure on the federal and provincial governments to quickly come up with a solution to the problem. “These impacts are personal,” said Farwell, noting the closure will affect several sectors. “People should be telling their stories, and governments need to be aware of it.” In a news release Tuesday, the town said Canada is the only G7 country that has failed to recognize the importance of air links and connectivity. The federal government has yet to offer federal aid to the airline sector. Businesses and health care will also be affected by the decision. ‘’As you can see, all sectors of business are affected by this suspension of services, causing major concerns for our chamber and the business communities we represent,” Sheldon Handcock, chair of the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a prepared statement. “We urge the federal government to provide support and a fair deal to the struggling national airlines.” While it may be a while before the effects are felt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the areas that will get squeezed by the lack of air travel to central Newfoundland is the tourism industry. The Gander airport represents a critical link between those businesses and their customers. People can’t make plans to visit the province if there is no access to a great deal of it. “We need flights in and out of this province,” said Deborah Bourden, the co-owner of the Anchor Inn Hotel & Suites in Twillingate. “What is the good to have people who want to come here if they can’t get here. “That is absolutely critical to our industry.” Farwell said the effort to collect testimonials is just the first step of a larger communication effort being undertaken in the central region of the province. That will involve a small number of stakeholders in the region and allow them to co-ordinate a collective message. Farwell also said it will be an issue raised when political hopefuls make their way to Gander on the campaign trail in the coming days and weeks. “There are a lot of factors to be considered,” he said. “It's all about co-ordinated advocacy.” Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
PARIS — Just like the leaves of its gilded fans, France’s storied fan-making museum could fold and vanish. The splendid Musee de l’Eventail in Paris, classed as a historical monument, is the cultural world’s latest coronavirus victim. It has until Jan. 23 to pay up over 117,000 euros ($142,000) in rent arrears — stemming mainly from losses during lockdowns, otherwise it will close. And with it will go the savoir-faire of its workshop. The studio that teaches design and restoration to a new generation of fan-makers was placed on France’s intangible heritage list last year. “It is a tragedy. I can’t believe Parisians will let a part of their heritage die. I have a problem, because I always believed there would be a miracle,” the museum's 74-year-old director, Anne Hoguet, told the AP. There may be some surprise that France, a country that famously prizes its culture, has not done more to save the museum, especially given that the French public was so eager to help other cultural sites in danger, such as its burned-out Notre Dame cathedral. It might be a question of size. Hoguet said she was “exhausted” by the fight for survival that has hit smaller institutions but spared larger ones, such as Florence’s Uffizi which re-opens this week. “Like all small museums, we had troubles before, but the health crisis has been a catastrophe," she said. Bailiffs are even threatening to seize the museum's artefacts from next Monday, numbering 2,500 original pieces — including historic fans made from turtle shell, lace and silk and adorned with diamonds and rubies. Like many of Paris' 130 museums, Hoguet said her institution — which charges just 7 euros entry and is located in the French capital’s popular 10th district — was forced to close for most of 2020 because of government virus restrictions. On top of that, money coming from the workshop’s fan restorations also evaporated because of the tightening of spending during the pandemic. “The aristocratic families who send me their fans to restore all fled to their country homes in lockdown, so I had no more commissions. They wanted to save their money.” She said she would previously have charged between 500 and 600 euros per fan to restore them to their original state using traditional materials, and she used the income from that to pay the rent. Even when the museum briefly re-opened last September, Hoguet had trouble getting the same levels of footfall as before. “Because people were preoccupied with the virus, culture and heritage got forgotten — and dangerously,” she said. Hoguet is the fourth generation in charge of what is Paris’ last original fan-making workshop. She has trained directly or indirectly five young fan-makers, whom she hopes will carry the torch of the storied craft. The making of fans, traditionally with wooden sticks and painted paper leaves, has been considered sacred in many ancient cultures. But in France, its golden age was in the French court of 18th-century Versailles, where women used fan as forms of communication to flirt expertly or to hide modestly behind. The images painted on them would often chronicle the current affairs of the world around them. To this day, they remain part of France's fashion heritage DNA, featuring elaborately in couture collections by Chanel, Dior and Jean Paul Gaultier. Hoguet's father bought the museum’s impressive collection of fans in 1960. It spans the period from the Renaissance to the 20th century, including “advertising” or “illustrated” pieces, as well as vellum, kidskin and feathered fans. She is very much an eccentric of the old school. A staff of one, she has no cohesive fundraising tool set up other than email, but her efforts to rally support since 2019 have been valiant. She says that she has been so failed by French authorities that she now has trouble sleeping. She had rallied the French Culture Ministry and been in talks with Paris City Hall, but it has, she said, made no difference. “What is the point of marking us out as intangible heritage if they will not protect us?” she asked. Paris City Hall did not immediately respond when contacted by AP. “The problem with savoir-faire, is that it can very quickly die," Hoguet said. ___ Adamson reported from Leeds, England Thomas Adamson And Michel Euler, The Associated Press
People wanting to catch a CTrain at one underground station on the Green Line downtown may have to head to the middle of the street to get to the platform. The picture on the city's website shows the public entranceway to the future Seventh Avenue underground station as being in the middle of Second Street S.W. The city says it's merely a conceptual rendering. But according to one city councillor, it's an idea that the city could use if it can't negotiate access to the underground station through nearby buildings. Coun. Druh Farrell said the future station will be an incredibly important one. It's where the Green Line will intersect with the existing Red and Blue lines which run on the surface of Seventh Avenue downtown. "I'm not all that fussed with the quality of the design of the entryway exactly. That can change," said Farrell. "This is purely conceptual but they're looking at ways to connect these important lines together." Talks continue She said there are plenty of negotiations ongoing between the city and downtown building owners about underground connection with Green Line stations. In the space where the picture shows the station entrance, today there are four northbound vehicle lanes. According to the city, the rendering shows that a single lane would remain for vehicle traffic on Second Street. Farrell said that shouldn't be a huge concern, as it's the east-west avenues downtown which see high traffic volumes in the core. "Not all of our streets are well used. A lot of the streets in the downtown actually have fairly low traffic volumes. It's more the avenues." Highly visible The head of the LRT on the Green Foundation, Jeff Binks, expressed surprise at the picture. "Part of the benefit of the underground alignment was to try and minimize the impact on vehicle traffic," said Binks. But he said one advantage this kind of station entrance has over those in neighbouring buildings is it would be highly visible. "The one plus to seeing this rendering is they seemed to listen to that part of the feedback they got from Calgarians. It's a nice looking rendering," Binks said. "It is a station that looks like it will be very easy for them to find and deliver them directly to that train platform below, which is what Calgarians have said they wanted." The city said station integration with neighbouring properties is a primary objective for the underground portion of the Green Line and it is actively pursuing station entrances in existing or future developments. But the Green Line team said if that can't be achieved, then entryway options in the road right-of-way will be considered. Procurement paused Construction on the $5.5 billion Green Line is tentatively slated to start later this year. However, procurement work on the southeast portion of the line was paused in December while the city and the United Conservative government discuss provincial concerns about the city's plan for the project. Design and technical assessment work is continuing on the second portion of the line, which includes a 2.3-kilometre tunnel downtown. So far, more than $600 million in federal, provincial and city money has been spent in the past several years on preparations for construction. That spending covered things such as enabling works, planning and land acquisition for the city's next LRT line.
The Liberal bus rolled into Grand Falls-Windsor on Wednesday as the leadup to the 2021 provincial election kept moving. In the shadow of that bus and flanked by Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans candidate Debbie Ball and Exploits candidate Rodney Mercer, Liberal Leader Andrew Furey unveiled another part of the Liberal party’s campaign platform. In particular, the Liberals pledged to provide feminine hygiene products in schools at no cost. “There is good evidence that young women will miss school because they don’t have access to feminine care products,” said Furey. “One in seven Canadian young women, or non-binary individuals, will miss school because they do not have access to feminine care products. “That is simply not good enough and this Liberal government intends to make sure that is not a barrier to young women and non-binary individuals from reaching their full potential. That is the commitment we’ve made today.” Before making the announcement, the Liberals consulted with local women’s organizations, and hope this will alleviate the access problems that exist around these products. The move to provide free feminine hygiene products was a part of a larger commitment to work with various community groups, educators and students to improve the health curriculum in the province. Furey said the cost of having these products available in schools would be found within the health-care budget. “The cost will be found within the health-care budget, but the cost of not having them is young women and non-binary individuals missing school is far greater than the cost accrued to the system for this,” he said. Terri Lynn Burry said Wednesday's announcement is an important one for young women in the province. “I think it is amazing and I think it should be done,” said Burry, program director for the Youth 2000 Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor. “We would definitely look at it for the centre.” In her work, Burry is often asked for hygiene products by the girls and families who use the centre. There are times when families can’t afford them and instead go without them, and that’s why the centre has products on hand, she said. Burry said it can be embarrassing for girls to ask for products if they don’t have any on hand, and they often find it difficult. “It is something that should be readily available. It is something that is a necessity and if it was readily available there wouldn’t be such a stigma attached to it sometimes, especially for young children,” she said. “It is new to them and it is embarrassing for some of them.” During the stop, the premier was asked about some health-care issues that pertain to residents in central Newfoundland. Namely, he was questioned about where his government stands with issues such as returning 24-hour emergency services to the hospital in Botwood, as well as supporting the Lionel Kelland Hospice in Grand Falls-Windsor. In both instances, he maintained the government is working toward solutions for both. “We’re aware of the issues and we’re committed to building on the commitments of the past,” said Furey. Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
THE LATEST: Health officials have called off their regular Thursday briefing to hold a Friday-morning news conference instead. 564 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 more deaths were reported Thursday afternoon. There are currently 4,450 active cases of the coronavirus in B.C. 309 people are in hospital, with 68 in the ICU. 104,901 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., including 1,680 second doses. There is new community cluster in and around Williams Lake. There are no new outbreaks in the health-care system, but six have been declared over. On Thursday, B.C. health officials announced 564 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 more deaths. In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 309 people, 68 of whom are in intensive care. Hospitalizations are now at their lowest level since Nov. 28 A total of 1,119 people in B.C. have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Henry and Dix said a new community cluster has been detected in and around Williams Lake. There are no new outbreaks in the health-care system, and six outbreaks have been declared over. So far, 104,901 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., including 1,680 second doses. Health officials cancelled their regular COVID-19 briefing Thursday as they prepared to update the province's strategy for immunization against the virus, and the daily update was provided in a written statement instead. Henry and Dix will join a news conference Friday with Premier John Horgan and Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading B.C.'s COVID-19 immunization rollout. The four are expected to comment on the next steps in the immunization program that has been complicated by a hiccup in vaccine supply from Pfizer-BioNTech. Nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine the province expected by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production issues. READ MORE: What's happening elsewhere in Canada As of 7 p.m. PT on Wednesday, Canada had reported 724,670 cases of COVID-19, and 18,462 total deaths. A total of 68,413 cases are considered active. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Common symptoms include: Fever. Cough. Tiredness. Shortness of breath. Loss of taste or smell. Headache. But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia. What should I do if I feel sick? Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911. What can I do to protect myself? Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep your distance from people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
Researchers have said around 52,000 deaths in Europe could be prevented each year if emissions are cut to WHO guidelines. View on euronews
With more than a third of Oujé-Bougoumou's entire population of 980 people currently in mandatory self-isolation, Chief Curtis Bosum has had a very busy start to 2021. Since Jan. 7, there have been 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in this tight-knit Cree community, located more than 730 kilometres north of Montreal. Many of the people self-isolating are close enough contacts of the 27 positive cases to be put in precautionary self-isolation by Cree public health. "That's why the contact tracing is so huge. We're such a small community ... we're very close to one another, not only in the family, but [also as] friends," said Bosum. Bosum said the vast majority of residents are doing a great job of controlling the outbreak, respecting the self-isolation and following the protocols. He stressed how important it is to continue to do so. I think this really scared the community. - Curtis Bosum, Chief Oujé-Bougoumou "I'm very grateful that they are responding in a positive way. Theyunderstand the importance. I think this really scared the community," said Bosum. The outbreak in Oujé-Bougoumou is linked to gatherings and parties over the new year that has also led to 33 cases so far in the nearby Cree community of Mistissini. It has also led to a vast and ongoing contract tracing exercise by Cree public health, which at last count, included 727 contacts and more than 597 COVID-19 tests. All of the Cree communities, including Oujé-Bougoumou, are currently in the most restrictive phase of the Cree Nation's deconfinement plan, in wihch indoor and outdoor gatherings are forbidden, and community access and businesses are restricted to essential services only. Oujé-Bougoumou, along with some other communities, have also put in place a curfew. "When we increase restrictions and measures, this helps the contact tracing team to do its work to track further transmission," said Bertie Wapachee, Chairperson of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay, in one of his regular addresses to the Cree communities. For Bosum, the outbreak has also been a confirmation of the warnings Cree leadership have been giving since March, that if the virus got into the communities, it would spread like wildfire. "It's kind of sad that the outbreak was so devastating ... so big right now," said Bosum. No grocery store a challenge It's also complicated by the fact that Oujé-Bougoumou is one of the only Cree communities without a grocery store. That means at the beginning of the outbreak, many residents were regularly traveling to nearby non-Cree towns to buy food. Early on in the pandemic, community leadership fast-tracked renovations to an old fire hall to give the residents access to basics like bread, butter, flour and frozen goods such as vegetables without needing to leave Oujé-Bougoumou, according to Bosum. They are also working with a grocery store of a major chain about an hour away for food deliveries. Building a local grocery store was already in the works before the pandemic, but is now even more of a priority according to Bosum. "Oujé has faced so many challenges during this pandemic," he said. Signs of hope Now two weeks into the outbreak, Bosum said he's starting to see some signs of hope. On Wednesday, there were no new names added to the list of positive cases in Oujé-Bougoumou, and six of the 27 positive cases who are now considered recovered, according to Bosum. "So 14 days of people being isolated ... if we continue with the trend right now, this will slow down," he said, adding there are no signs of community transmission in Oujé-Bougoumou. "So, some hope," said Bosum, adding the community knows and appreciates that other Cree communities are keeping Oujé-Bougoumou in their prayers.
A 42-year-old woman has been fined under the Saskatchewan Public Health Act for breaching COVID-19 public health orders last week. Just after 6 a.m. on Jan. 14, Regina police said they received a complaint of a woman, who had tested positive for the virus, not obeying her isolation order and inviting guests into her home. When officers arrived at the woman's house in the 800 block of Elphinstone Street, police said they found another person there, who was asked to leave. After confirming the 42-year-old was COVID-positive and her isolation order was valid, police, in consultation with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, fined her on Wednesday. Regina police said this is the 11th such ticket they have issued in the city.
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, our understanding of how and why the coronavirus spreads continues to change, especially as new variants emerge around the world. While you may have spent much of last March wiping down your groceries, research has since shown that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, not surface transmission. Like many respiratory viruses, the coronavirus spreads more effectively in the winter, with studies showing that prolonged, indoor contact in settings with poor ventilation are more likely to cause transmission. But what do we know about how the virus spreads outdoors in winter? Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health, said it's a difficult, dynamic question to answer — one that would need to take into account temperature, humidity, wind direction and more. "The physics is pretty complicated," he said. "When transmission does happen outdoors, it's very likely that it's people not wearing masks and standing close together." What are droplets? Brauer explained when you exhale you're humidifying the air around you, releasing breath at body temperature, 37 C. Your breath is saturated with water and if you're carrying the coronavirus — whether you're symptomatic or not — you're exhaling microscopic virus particles coated in a layer of water. What makes masks an effective tool against transmission is that they block these droplets from entering the air in the first place — though they're less effective at protecting you from someone else's droplets. Why does humidity make a difference? Once droplets exit your body, their size changes depending on the conditions of the air around you, Brauer says. Humidity combined with temperature affects the way droplets react, with droplets becoming smaller the less humid the conditions. A smaller droplet is likelier to hang in the air for a longer amount of time, while a larger one will sink to the ground, making it less likely to reach another person. "There are no hard and fast rules. Everything is very dynamic. There's wind direction [for example]. But in general, the smaller those droplets are — so they tend to evaporate or dry out — they'll remain in the air longer," he said. That's why it's possible that varying winter conditions in some parts of Canada may affect how the virus spreads outdoors, he added. "In the east when it's cold and very dry, then you do get in a situation where those droplets could become smaller and could remain airborne for longer. I'm not convinced that would be the case here in Vancouver. Those droplets could basically remain the same size, which means they're not going to last in the air for that long," he said. Brauer said there's also some evidence to suggest that if a droplet is on a surface, it won't be as infectious in warm temperatures or high humidity. Still, he said a recent study shows that out of 7,000 cases of coronavirus transmission, just five occurred outdoors. The vast majority of transmission happens indoors, which is why respiratory viruses spread more rapidly in the winter, when people are less likely to be gathering outside. What about ventilation and movement? The role that ventilation and wind play is much better understood. "A two-metre distance is generally protective. If you're two metres away and it's very, very calm air, that's less protective than if you're two metres away if there's a lot of wind," said Brauer. "If you're within two metres and you have a gust of wind, you may be perfectly safe." Exercise also creates its own ventilation, making it safer to have a conversation while moving than when standing still. "When people are moving, that's going to be safer in general, just because you're getting more air flow — and so that's just like having ventilation, you're creating your own micro-wind," said Brauer. Are outdoor activities safe? Brauer said another factor to take into account is that the combination of exercise and cold temperatures make people more likely to cough, which expels more droplets. Heavy breathing caused by exercise also makes you more likely to exhale and inhale droplets. But he said no one should be discouraged from exercising outdoors — most outdoor activities are safe, and it's usually the events leading up to exercise that are more likely to allow for transmission. "Certainly, activities where you're close to people — that's where you need to be concerned. Skiing itself wouldn't be a particular concern, but waiting in line might be," he said. "Even when you're outdoors and together with people, keeping that two-metre distance is good advice. But I don't think it's absolutely necessary to wear a mask every moment you're outside if you're not in close contact with people."
WASHINGTON — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, lowering claims to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to further job cuts in a raging pandemic. The Labor Department's report Thursday underscored that President Joe Biden has inherited an economy that faltered this winter as virus cases spiked, cold weather restricted dining and federal rescue aid expired. The government said that 5.1 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, down from 5.2 million in the previous week. That signals that fewer people who are out of work are finding jobs. New viral infections have begun to slow after months of relentless increases, though they remain high and are averaging about 200,000 a day. The number of deaths in the United States from the pandemic that erupted 10 months ago has surpassed 400,000. Economists say one factor that likely increased jobless claims in the past two weeks is a government financial aid package that was signed into law in late December. Among other things, it provided a $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit on top of regular state jobless aid. The new benefit, which runs through mid-March, may be encouraging more Americans to apply for jobless benefits. Once vaccines become more widely distributed, economists expect growth to accelerate in the second half of the year as Americans unleash pent-up demand for travel, dining out and visiting movie theatres and concert halls. Such spending should, in theory, boost hiring and start to regain the nearly 10 million jobs lost to the pandemic. But for now, the economy is losing ground. Retail sales have fallen for three straight months. Restrictions on restaurants, bars and some stores, along with a reluctance of most Americans to shop, travel and eat out, have led to sharp spending cutbacks. Revenue at restaurants and bars plunged 21% in 2020. Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press
Central Ontario can expect heavy snow and winter weather that could make driving hazardous on Thursday. Environment Canada has issued snow squall watches for the Dufferin, Barrie, Muskoka, and Bruce County areas. The weather agency says lake effect squalls are expected to develop in the afternoon, with up to 15 centimetres expected before the evening. Squalls can quickly reduce visibility and drivers are warned to be cautious or postpone trips. Winter weather advisories are also in effect for areas around Haliburton, Peterborough and Algonquin Provincial Park due to expected heavy snow or squalls. In the north, Environment Canada is advising of heavy snow and strong winds around Sault Ste. Marie, with 15 to 25 centimetres expected today. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
More than 14,000 students stayed home from school on Wednesday, as three more zones moved to the red level of COVID-19 recovery, attendance records show. Two schools in the Saint John region saw more than half of their student body not show up. This data does not include any high school students in two of the anglophone districts because their attendance is recorded on a period-by-period basis. Nor does it include any students at schools in one of the francophone districts, which did not respond to a request for information. The attendance records indicate only that the students were absent from school, not the reasons why. But Anglophone South School District superintendent Zoë Watson suspects the "spike" in absences that saw nearly a quarter of students across her district not attend classes "is most likely correlated to the Red Phase announcement" Tuesday. Premier Blaine Higgs announced the Moncton region, Zone 1, Saint John region, Zone 2, and Fredericton region, Zone 3, would be bumped back to the more restrictive red level from orange, as of midnight Tuesday. The Edmundston region, Zone 4, has been at the red level since midnight Sunday. Earlier that day, Education Minister Dominic Cardy announced K-12 schools will now remain open at the red level, under new guidelines. If a positive case of COVID-19 is confirmed at a school, the school will be closed for a minimum of three days to allow for contact tracing. A petition launched Monday by a mother in Oromocto, calling on the government to revert to the plan to close schools in red zones and move to online learning, has garnered more than 21,000 signatures so far. Public Health reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 In New Brunswick on Wednesday, pushing the total number of active cases in the province to 317. Two people are in hospital, including one in intensive care, and 1,953 people were self-isolating, as of Tuesday afternoon, either because they've tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with a confirmed case. On Wednesday, 5,072 of the 22,282 students enrolled at the 69 schools in the Anglophone South School District, or 23 per cent, were recorded as absent, said Watson. "It is important to remember that this is 'absent,' it could be illness, it could be an appointment (medical/dental)," she said in an emailed statement. But the absenteeism rate did jump from 14 per cent the previous day. "This would be expected," said Watson, "as we have consistently seen a spike in absences, followed by a quick and steady return to normal attendance in the days following each orange phase announcement or, at the school level, notification of a confirmed case at the school." The overall district absenteeism rate Wednesday was actually lower than the 28 per cent the district saw the day following the Saint John region's first move to the orange level, she noted. The highest absenteeism is at schools in the Hampton and Saint John areas, said Watson. "Interesting to note these are the areas where there have been outbreaks." Princess Elizabeth School, which announced a positive case on Tuesday, had the district's highest absenteeism rate Wednesday at 57 per cent. That was actually down from 67 per cent the day before. Belleisle Elementary School, which had an outbreak last weekend, with one confirmed case, had the second highest absenteeism rate at 53 per cent, up from 38 per cent Tuesday. Millidgeville North School, which also had an outbreak last weekend, with one confirmed case, had 40 per cent of students absent on Wednesday, compared to 34 per cent on Tuesday. And Quispamsis Middle School, which had an outbreak on Sunday, climbed slightly to 27 per cent absent Wednesday, from 26 per cent on Tuesday Attendance has been stronger in the St. Stephen-St. George area, where there have been no outbreaks, said Watson. The absence rate at St. Stephen Elementary School on Wednesday, for example, was 14 per cent, St. Stephen Middle School, 15 per cent, and St. George Elementary School, 15 per cent. Anglophone East sees nearly 23% absent In the Anglophone East School District, nearly 23 per cent of its K-8 students — 2,521 of 11,030 — were absent Wednesday. This excludes students from Edith Cavell School and the Grade 6-8 students at Caledonia Regional High School who were home learning, the records show. The attendance of high school students is not included. "We could not pull the high school data because that is done on a period by period case," said spokesperson Stephanie Patterson. The district continues to work closely with Public Health and the Department of Education "to do our best in ensuring your safety, health, and well-being," superintendent Gregg Ingersoll said in an email to families Tuesday night after the move to red was announced. He encouraged all families to be "more diligent than ever" with wearing masks, hand-washing, and social distancing. "These actions can make a major impact on keeping our schools, children, and communities safe," he said. 18% absent in Anglophone West The absenteeism rate in the Anglophone West School District Wednesday was 18 per cent — 3,939 of 21,822. That's up about six per cent from Tuesday, "despite the enhanced safety measures," said spokesperson Jennifer Read. "We have seen a trend in decreased attendance on the first day of a new COVID-19 related announcement, for example a confirmed case in a school or an alert level change, which is then followed by a gradual increase in attendance in the following days," she said in an emailed statement. "We are hopeful that parents will continue to send their children to school and have confidence knowing that their children are in a supervised environment with strict health and safety protocols in place. "Our students and staff have done an exceptional job following directives and staying safe." Absenteeism in Anglophone North at 13% In the Anglophone North School District, 13 per cent of its K-8 students — 553 of 4,099 — didn't make it to classes Wednesday. Grades 9-12 are not included because they have attendance taken by period and not the entire day, said spokesperson Meredith Caissie. At least two of the four schools the district has in the red alert level of Zone 1, in the Rexton area, "witnessed a significant increase in absenteeism," said superintendent Mark Donovan. These include Eleanor W. Graham Middle School (40 per cent) and Rexton Elementary School (37 per cent). "This is consistent with what we have seen provincially, over the past five months, when schools and/or regions have seen spikes in COVID-19 case counts or have gone back a phase in the recovery plan," said Donovan. "It is important to remind all stakeholders that when schools are open, they are safe places for both students and staff," he said. The district will continue to work with the Department of Education and Public Health to ensure that safety remains its "highest priority," he added. 8% of Francophone South students no-shows The Francophone South School District saw an absenteeism rate of eight per cent Wednesday — 1,280 of 15325 students. That's up from six per cent on both Tuesday and Monday, before the move to red, the records show. "In these circumstances, the figures are positive and show a good level of commitment from our students and families," said superintendent Monique Boudreau. The district supports the government's decision to keep schools open at the red level, she said, noting there have been "very few" reported transmissions of COVID-19 in the province's schools and none in the district. Attending school has many benefits for students, not only in terms of learning, but also in terms of their well-being. - Monique Boudreau, Francophone South "This proves the effectiveness of health measures put in place and well respected by students and staff," Boudreau said in an emailed statement. "We understand that this transition to the Red level may be a concern for some people, but it is important to remind parents and students that schools are safe. In addition, attending school has many benefits for students, not only in terms of learning, but also in terms of their well-being." If school closures become necessary, the district will follow Public Health recommendations and do everything it can to promote successful learning at home, she added. Francophone Northeast absenteeism around 12% The absenteeism rate at schools across the Francophone Northeast School District on Wednesday was around 12 per cent, said spokesperson Ian-Guillaume DesRoches. That's about 1,050 of the 8,755 students enrolled. "It is similar to a normal absenteeism rate in the winter season," he said in an email. The rate among schools in the red-level Restigouche area ranged between 10 and 15 per cent, said DesRoches. "We aren't observing a dramatic surge like in October," he said. District general director Marc Pelletier acknowledged the government's decision to keep schools open at the red level did take the district "a bit by surprise." "We are aware that the decision was a bit last minute, but when you take into account the volatile context of the pandemic, decisions must be made to ensure the safety of all," he said in an emailed statement. The district is confident the schools are safe and that they can ensure the safety of their students and staff members due to the strict health and safety protocols in their operational plans, said Pelletier. The COVID-19 situation currently appears stable across the district, including the three schools affected over the past two weeks, he said. "We anticipate that our students who had to continue their learning from home will be coming back to the classroom next Monday." Francophone Northwest School District spokesperson Denise Laplante did not respond to a request for information.
BERLIN — Germany is seeing a promising decline in new coronavirus infections, but must take "very seriously” the risk posed by a more contagious variant and will have to be cautious whenever it starts easing its lockdown, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday. Merkel and Germany’s 16 state governors on Tuesday decided to extend the country’s lockdown by two weeks until Feb. 14 and tighten some measures, for example requiring surgical masks — rather than just fabric face coverings — in shops and on public transportation. On Thursday, Germany’s disease control centre said that 20,398 new cases were reported over the past 24 hours, nearly 5,000 fewer than a week ago. The number of new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days stood at 119, the lowest since the beginning of November — though still well above the level of 50 the government is targeting. There were 1,013 more deaths, bringing Germany’s total so far to 49,783. The new variant, which has been detected in Germany and many other European countries, isn't yet dominant there, but “we must take the danger from this mutation very seriously,” Merkel told reporters. “We must slow the spread of this mutation as far as possible, and that means ... we must not wait until the danger is more tangible here,” she said. “Then it would be too late to prevent a third wave of the pandemic, and possibly an even heavier one than before. We can still prevent this.” Merkel said that Germany won't be able to open up everything at once whenever the lockdown ends, declaring that schools must open first. “We must be very careful that we do not see what happens in many countries: they do a hard lockdown, they open, they open too much, and then they have the result that they are back in exponential growth very quickly,” she said. She pointed to Britain's experience in December, when the new variant took hold. The Associated Press