International organisations are calling any breaks between the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses not to be extended beyond 21 days. Both Pfizer and Moderna also do not support the delay strategy touted by UK authorities.
International organisations are calling any breaks between the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses not to be extended beyond 21 days. Both Pfizer and Moderna also do not support the delay strategy touted by UK authorities.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies 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 in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. 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 Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- 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 Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- 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. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- 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. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- 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. 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. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. 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 British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- 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 March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
HOLTVILLE, Calif. — Authorities are investigating whether human smuggling was involved after a crash Tuesday involving an SUV packed with 25 people and a tractor-trailer that left 13 people dead and bodies strewn across a roadway near the U.S. Mexico border. Most of the dead were Mexicans, a Mexican official said. When police arrived, some of the passengers were trying to crawl out of the crumpled 1997 Ford Expedition while others were wandering around the fields. The rig's front end was pushed into the SUV's left side and two empty trailers were jackknifed behind it. Twelve people were found dead when first responders reached the two-lane highway, which winds through fields in the agricultural southeastern corner of California about 125 miles (201 kilometres) east of San Diego. Another person died at a hospital, California Highway Patrol Chief Omar Watson said. “It was a pretty chaotic scene,” said Watson, who also described it as “a very sad situation.” Roberto Velasco, director of North American affairs for Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department, confirmed Tuesday on his Twitter account that at least 10 of those killed have been identified as Mexicans. No identities have been released. The cause of the collision was unclear, authorities said, and it also was not immediately known why so many people were crammed into a vehicle built to hold eight people safely. Watson said the SUV only had front seats — the middle and back seats had been removed. That would allow more people to fit into the vehicle but makes it even more unsafe. It wasn't immediately clear whether the SUV was carrying migrants who had crossed the border, ferrying farmworkers to fields, or was being used for some other purpose. “Special agents from Homeland Security Investigations San Diego responded ... and have initiated a human smuggling investigation," the agency said in a statement, adding that other details weren't being released. Macario Mora, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said agents were not pursing the SUV at the time of the crash, which was initially rumoured. The immigration status of the passengers was unknown. “It was an unusual number of people in an SUV, but we don’t know who they were,” Mora said. The people in the vehicle ranged in age from 15 to 53 and were a mix of males and females, officials said. The 28-year-old driver was from Mexicali, Mexico, just across the border, and was among those killed. The 68-year-old driver of the big rig, who is from nearby El Centro, was hospitalized with moderate injuries. The passengers' injuries ranged from minor to severe and included fractures and head trauma. They were being cared for at several hospitals. One person was treated at a hospital and released. The crash occurred around 6:15 a.m. at an intersection just outside Holtville, which dubs itself the world’s carrot capital and is about 11 miles (18 kilometres) north of the U.S.-Mexico border. It was a sunny, clear morning and authorities said the tractor-trailer and its two empty containers were northbound on State Highway 115 when the SUV pulled in front of it from Norrish Road. A California Highway Patrol report said the SUV entered an intersection directly in front of the big-rig, which hit the left side of the SUV. Both vehicles came to a halt on a dirt shoulder. It's not clear if the SUV ran a stop sign or had stopped before entering the highway. It's also not yet known how fast the tractor-trailer was travelling. The speed limit for tractor-trailers on the highway is 55 mph (88.5 kph), according to CHP Officer Jake Sanchez. The other road is also 55 mph for vehicles. A 1997 Ford Expedition can carry a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds. If it had 25 people inside, that would easily exceed the payload limit, which taxes the brakes and makes it tougher to steer, said Frank Borris, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation. “You’re going to have extended stopping distances, delayed reactions to steering inputs and potential over-reaction to any type of high-speed lane change,” said Borris, who now runs a safety consulting business. SUVs of that age tended to be top-heavy even without carrying a lot of weight, Borris said. “With all of that payload above the vehicle’s centre of gravity, it’s going to make it even more unstable,” he said. The crash occurred amid verdant farms that grow a wide variety of vegetables and alfalfa used for cattle feed. Thousands of people cross into the U.S. each day to work in the fields. The harvest of lettuce and other winter vegetable crops runs from November until March, and buses and SUVs carrying farmworkers are often rumbling down the rural roads s in the early morning hours. The area has also seen smugglers carrying migrants in trucks and vehicles. Hundreds of migrants who died after crossing the border are buried in unmarked graves in Holtville’s cemetery on the edge of town. ___ Associated Press reporters Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, Julie Watson in San Diego, Anita Snow in Phoenix, Tom Krisher in Detroit and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed. ___ This story has been corrected based on updated information from officials to show the tractor-trailer driver is 68, not 69. Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press
HALIFAX — The Canadian military says aircraft and ships have responded to an emergency aboard a Canadian fishing vessel that has been damaged by fire off of the coast of Nova Scotia. The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax says the FV Atlantic Destiny is a scallop freezer factory ship with 32 people on board and there are no reports of injuries. The ship has lost power and is adrift about 120 nautical miles south of Yarmouth, N.S., in heavy seas. Lt.-Cmdr. Brian Owens said a CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue helicopter has started removing some of the crew members from the ship. "It has started extracting non-essential crew from the Atlantic Destiny and will be transporting them to Yarmouth, N.S.," Owens said in an interview Tuesday night. "The U.S. Coast Guard has a helicopter on scene and once our helicopter clears the area will extract the remaining personnel." Owens said a small number of the crew will remain on board to manage the vessel. He said the fire is out but the ship was taking on water and the crew have put on their immersion survival suits. Owens said the rescue centre received a call from the master of the ship at around 8 p.m. reporting a fire on board, a loss of power and that it was adrift. The ship reported eight-metre waves and 55-knot winds. Owens said a CC-130 Hercules aircraft was tracking the vessel and a Canadian Coast Guard ship was en route to the location. Another fishing vessel, the FV Lahave, was nearby. Owens said the families of the crew members have been contacted by the company that owns the vessel and was giving them updates. The FV Atlantic Destiny's home port is Riverport, N.S. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Health experts in China say their country is lagging in its coronavirus vaccination rollout because it has the disease largely under control, but plans to inoculate 40% of its population by June. Zhong Nanshan, the leader of a group of experts attached to the National Health Commission, said the country has delivered 52.52 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Feb. 28. He was speaking Monday at an online forum between U.S and Chinese medical experts hosted by the Brookings Institution and Tsinghua University. The target is the first China has offered publicly since it began its mass immunization campaign for key groups in mid-December. China has been slow to vaccinate its people relative to other countries, administering 3.56 doses per 100 people so far, according to Zhong, in a population of 1.4 billion. The fastest to vaccinate is Israel, which has given 94 doses per 100 people. The U.S. has administered 22 doses per 100 people. Chinese health experts say the country has enough vaccine supply for its population, although the country has pledged to provide close to half a billion doses abroad, roughly 10 times the number it has delivered at home. “The current vaccination pace is very low due to outbreak control (being) so good in China, but I think the capacity is enough,” said Zhang Wenhong, an infectious diseases expert based in Shanghai who also spoke on the panel. Developers of China’s four currently approved vaccines have said they could manufacture up to 2.6 billion doses by the end of this year. Still, vaccinating China’s massive population will be a daunting task. Even at the rate of vaccinating 10 million people a day, it would take roughly seven months to vaccinate 70% of its population, Zhang noted. The experts all acknowledged the complex task of vaccinating the world's population, pointing to the slowness in the global rollout of vaccines. “Demand will outstrip supply for many months, and unless there is more manufacturing, … for years,” said Tom Frieden, the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also cautioned against expecting a quick return to normal. The head of China’s Center for Disease Control, Gao Fu, predicted that life could return to an “approximate normal” in summer next year. Gao, along with Zhong and other Chinese health experts, urged more U.S.-China co-operation. Gao specifically called on the U.S. and China to co-operate on COVAX, an initiative to distribute vaccines more fairly across the developing world. “Let’s work together,” he said. ____ This version has been updated to CORRECT that the figures of doses administered per 100 people in China, Israel and the United States is not a percentage of their populations since many people vaccinated have received both of the two doses required. Huizhong Wu, The Associated Press
One in five Chinese Australians say they have been physically threatened or attacked in the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and tensions in Australia's relationship with China, a survey by the Lowy Institute think tank reported. The findings prompted a call from the Chinese Australian Forum, a community group, for national leadership to tackle racism as Australia deals with a more assertive China, and also recognition that the Chinese community in Australia is diverse in its political views and origins.
The security forces resorted to live fire with little warning in several towns and cities, witnesses said, as the junta appeared more determined than ever to stamp out protests against the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The heaviest toll was in the central town of Monywa, where five people - four men and one woman - were killed, said Ko Thit Sar, editor of the Monywa Gazette.
VICTORIA — British Columbia's chief coroner says deadlier street drugs are behind another grim milestone in the province's overdose crisis as a record was set for the number of deaths in January. The BC Coroners Service says 165 people died from suspected overdoses in January, the largest number of lives lost due to illicit drugs in the first month of a calendar year. It says the deaths come amid a rise in drug toxicity, with almost one in five of the deaths involving extreme levels of fentanyl concentration — the largest number recorded to date. There were 14 deaths in which carfentanil was detected, the largest monthly figure involving the more lethal analogue of fentanyl since May 2019. More people died from illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia last year than in any year before. Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says more than twice the number of people died in January 2021 compared with January 2020 and the drug toxicity shows a need for swift action. "The findings suggest that the already unstable drug supply in B.C. is becoming even deadlier, underscoring the urgent need for supervised consumption options, prescribing for safe supply, and accessible treatment and recovery services," she says in the statement. The report also notes recent increases in the presence of unprescribed benzodiazepines and its analogues, including etizolam. Since July 2020, etizolam has been identified in nearly one-third of illicit drug toxicity deaths where expedited testing was performed. In January, benzodiazepines and its analogues were detected in nearly half of all samples tested. The addition of etizolam to fentanyl increases the likelihood of overdose due to the combined respiratory depressant effects, the coroners service says. It says increased drug toxicity was responsible for an average of 5.3 lives lost each day in January.Premier John Horgan and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart have written letters to the federal government asking for an exemption that would allow for the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use.The City of Vancouver says it submitted a preliminary application to Health Canada on Monday outlining a health-focused "Vancouver model" for managing substance use and saving lives.It says in a statement its first application is based on consultation with Vancouver Coastal Health and police, and it details how the city plans to work with community organizations and people with lived experience to build on the submission.Alvin Singh, spokesman for the mayor's office, said they wouldn't share the document because they didn't want to "jeopardize the integrity of the application."However, he said the proposal would require police to determine if a person is in possession of drugs for personal use at the scene and no penalties or sanctions are envisioned at this stage. Instead, voluntary referrals would be made to Vancouver Coastal Health's overdose outreach team."However, this is preliminary thinking and much more work needs to be undertaken before a model is finalized," Singh said. Sheila Malcolmson, the minister of mental health and addictions, says in a statement that the pandemic has pushed people further into isolation, compounding the effects of stigma that drives people to use drugs alone.She says B.C. is working to add more treatment and recovery options, more services and supports, and to work with the federal government on decriminalization. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
This week, Hamilton seniors over 85 joined health-care workers and shelter clients in line for the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine, two weeks ahead of Ontario’s schedule. Despite initial hurdles with registration, more than 2,000 residents’ names were on the list by the end of Monday. Here’s what comes next: Which seniors should register now? If you are a senior turning 85 or older this year and have not received care at a Hamilton Health Sciences or St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton hospital or hospital clinic in the last six months, call 905-974-9848, and pick option 7. If you have received hospital care, your name is already in the list and St. Joe’s will contact you directly to book an appointment. Starting March 15, residents are expected to be able to book themselves through an online system created by the province. How many people are on the registration list? As of the end of Monday, there were about 2,170 seniors 85 and older registered for COVID-19 vaccines, according to the city. What happens after I register? Patients are added to a randomized “pool” which is used to create call lists, St. Joe’s spokesperson Maria Hayes said in an email. A St. Joe’s agent then phones to book an appointment. Hayes did not provide a time for when registered residents can expect a call. How many appointments are available? Currently, 250 appointments are available per day, seven days a week at St Joe’s West 5th clinic, with “limited” appointments at pop-up sites in the city, said Hayes. She added St. Joe’s is booking to capacity each day, based on “available supply.” The city said mobile clinics — expected by Wednesday — would add 200 more appointments per day. How much notice will I get before my appointment? Residents can book an appointment up to five to seven days in advance, said Hayes. What happens if I miss the call to book an appointment? Your information will stay in the pool to be put into a call list again, said Hayes. What if I have mobility problems? Appointment locations will be based on mobility, with “limited” slots at pop-up clinics, Hayes said Tuesday. Residents needing transportation can call DARTS or other accessible transportation providers. Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
On Wednesday, the verdict in Toronto’s van attack trial will be revealed. Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Erica Vella reports.
Health Minister Christian Dubé occasionally offers cues at his media appearances that he is about to say something profound, or at least important. At a news conference Tuesday, it was the phrase "I'm weighing my words here." This he followed with the admission, "We're scared of this situation." Dubé was talking about variant coronavirus strains, which are gaining ground despite the province's best efforts to keep a lid on them. The plateauing daily COVID-19 infection toll obscures an incipient wave, he said. But there is also good news. Vaccines, Dubé said, are Quebec's "weapons of mass reduction" when it comes to the coronavirus, variant or not. And as the province works to vaccinate another 700,000 people before the end of the month, he remains hopeful the race against the variants can be won. Strict measures likely to continue The fact that the variant curve shows signs of pointing upward, however, means Quebecers probably shouldn't expect the restrictive public health measures, like the curfew, to be lifted in the near future. "[Variants] must be taken into consideration as we make big decisions," Dubé said. Most of the wariness centres on Montreal, which has the largest number of confirmed cases of variants, and where the B117 strain (first identified in the United Kingdom) could soon become the dominant form of the virus. But the problem is bigger than the province's largest city. Specialized screening reveals about 12 to 15 per cent of the daily positive tests in the province are due to a variant, a proportion that keeps increasing. Dozens of suspected variant cases are currently being investigated in multiple regions. The Abitibi-Témiscamingue region has reported 40 cases of the B1351 variant discovered in South Africa, which is demonstrated to reduce the effectiveness of some vaccines. Nearly three-quarters of those cases can be traced back to an outbreak in January, but 12 appear to be linked to a school in the town of Landrienne, where an outbreak occurred in mid-February. "We received the news on Saturday night, the South African variant is, in fact, present in our region ... it wasn't a surprise given the outbreaks in the school in Landrienne, a CPE and now in a [seniors' residence]," said Dr. Lise Landry, the region's public health director. Deploying an aggressive approach According to Dr. Omobola Sobanjo, the region's medical advisor, the infectiousness of the strain, which has also been reported just over the provincial border in North Bay, Ont., may require reconsidering risks of infection. Sobjano noted that many of those who were infected with the South African variant appeared to be contagious even in the latter stages of their 14-day isolation period. Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said Tuesday he is scared' by the coronavirus variants that are proliferating in the province and urged people to continue observing public health measures until vaccination catches up.(The Canadian Press) Quebec has taken a stouter approach generally toward outbreaks in recent weeks, notably at four schools in the Quebec City area that were shut down entirely rather than on a classroom-by-classroom basis. It's very much by design. "We are taking a very aggressive approach in terms of our interventions.... We are working under the assumption all over Quebec that these are all variants," Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's public health director, said at Tuesday's news conference. Arruda said the epidemiology suggests that while infection rates have plateaued for the time being, there are still worrying signs. "The ocean is calm at the moment ... but underneath there are sharks," he said, "and I'll tell you what those sharks are: they're the variants." Vaccination campaign moves to regions On Tuesday, Dubé said that while the initial focus of the mass vaccination ramp-up is Montreal, it will soon be arriving in other regions as logistical hurdles are cleared. The Montérégie, for example, has large numbers of seniors' residences, which makes for slow going because each must be served by a mobile vaccination unit. The deal concluded with pharmacies last week means that when the roll-out arrives in outlying areas at mid-month, it will accommodate larger numbers. The effort will be aided by the impending arrival of about 120,000 doses of the recently approved AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which is easier to store and preserve. But about half of Canada's initial shipment of the vaccine arrives with a best-before date of April 2, and the provincial immunization committee hasn't yet issued guidance on how best to use it. Daniel Paré, the coordinator of the provincial vaccine effort, said the guidelines are expected any day now. He also made a promise: no dose will reach its expiry date unused.
ATLANTA — Vernon Jordan, who rose from humble beginnings in the segregated South to become a champion of civil rights before reinventing himself as a Washington insider and corporate influencer, has died at the age of 85. His niece, Ann Walker Marchant, confirmed Tuesday that he died peacefully Monday night. Former President Bill Clinton remembered Jordan as someone who “never gave up on his friends or his country.” Jordan “brought his big brain and strong heart to everything and everybody he touched. And he made them better,” Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said in the statement. His friendship with Clinton took them both to the White House. Jordan was an unofficial aide to Clinton, drawing him into controversy during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. After serving as field secretary for the Georgia NAACP and executive director of the United Negro College Fund, Jordan headed the National Urban League, becoming the face of Black America’s modern struggle for jobs and justice for more than a decade. He was nearly killed by a racist’s bullet in 1980 before transitioning to business and politics. President Joe Biden remembered Jordan as a foot soldier for civil rights. “Vernon Jordan knew the soul of America, in all of its goodness and all of its unfulfilled promise. And he knew the work was far from over,” Biden said in a statement. Former President Barack Obama said that “like so many others, Michelle and I benefited from Vernon Jordan’s wise counsel and warm friendship — and deeply admired his tireless fight for civil rights." Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday on Twitter that “Jordan’s leadership took our nation closer to its Founding promise: all are created equal.” Jordan's death comes months after the deaths of two other civil rights icons: U.S. Rep. John Lewis and C.T. Vivian. After growing up in the Jim Crow South and living much of his life in a segregated America, Jordan took a strategic view of race issues. “My view on all this business about race is never to get angry, no, but to get even,” Jordan said in a New York Times interview in 2000. “You don’t take it out in anger; you take it out in achievement.” Jordan was the first lawyer to head the Urban League, which had traditionally been led by social workers. Under his leadership, the Urban League added 17 more chapters and its budget swelled to more than $100 million. The organization also broadened its focus to include voter registration drives and conflict resolution between Blacks and law enforcement. He resigned from the Urban League in 1982 to become a partner at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld. Jordan was a key campaign adviser to Clinton during his first presidential campaign and co-chaired Clinton’s transition team. His friendship with Clinton, which began in the 1970s, evolved into a partnership and political alliance. He met Clinton as a young politician in Arkansas, and the two connected over their Southern roots and poor upbringings. Although Jordan held held no official role in the Clinton White House, he was highly influential and had such labels as the “first friend.” He approached Colin Powell about becoming Secretary of State and encouraged Clinton to approve the NAFTA agreement in 1993. Jordan also secured a job at Revlon for Lewinsky, a White House intern whose sexual encounters with the president spawned a scandal. Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr., was born in Atlanta on Aug. 15, 1935, the second of Vernon and Mary Belle Jordan’s three sons. Until Jordan was 13, the family lived in public housing. But he was exposed to Atlanta’s elite through his mother, who worked as a caterer for many of the city’s affluent citizens. Jordan went to DePauw University in Indiana, where he was the only Black student in his class and one of five at the college. Distinguishing himself through academics, oratory and athletics, he graduated in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and went on to attend Howard University School of Law in Washington. While there, he married his first wife, Shirley Yarbrough. The young couple moved to Atlanta after Jordan earned his law degree in 1960, and Jordan became a clerk for civil rights attorney Donald Hollowell, who successfully represented two Black students — Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter — attempting to integrate the University of Georgia. In an iconic photograph, Jordan — an imposing 6 feet, 4 inches — is seen holding at bay the white mob that tried to block Hunter from starting her first day of classes. In 1961, Jordan became Georgia field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. During his two years in the role, Jordan built new chapters, co-ordinated demonstrations and boycotted businesses that would not employ Blacks. Jordan moved to Arkansas in 1964 and went into private practice. He also became director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council. During his tenure, millions of new Blacks joined the voter rolls and hundreds of Blacks were elected in the South. Jordan considered running for Georgia’s fifth congressional district seat in 1970, but was tapped that year to head the United Negro College Fund. Holding the position for just 12 months, Jordan used his fundraising skills to fill the organization’s coffers with $10 million to help students at historically Black colleges and universities. In 1971, after the death of Whitney Young Jr., Jordan was named the fifth president of the National Urban League. The high-profile position landed him in the crosshairs of a racist in May 1980 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Jordan was shot with a hunter’s rifle outside his hotel after returning from dinner. Jordan had five surgeries and was visited by President Jimmy Carter during his 3-month recovery in the hospital. “I’m not afraid and I won’t quit,” Jordan told Ebony magazine after the shooting. Joseph Paul Franklin, an avowed white supremacist who targeted Blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980, later admitted to shooting Jordan. He was never prosecuted in Jordan’s case, but was put to death in 2013 for another slaying in Missouri. Jordan left the organization in 1981, but said his departure was unrelated to the shooting. Jordan’s first wife died in 1985. He married Ann Dibble Cook in 1986. In 2000, Jordan joined the New York investment firm of Lazard Freres & Co. as a senior managing partner. The following year, he released an autobiography, “Vernon Can Read!: A Memoir.” He has received more than 55 honorary degrees, including ones from both of his alma maters and sat on several boards of directors. “He became the model for boards of directors; sitting on countless boards," The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said Tuesday on Twitter. “He became a renowned international lawyer. I miss him so much already." ___ Errin Haines, a former staffer of The Associated Press, was the principal writer of this obituary. Jeff Martin And Errin Haines, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Domestic extremist groups pose a serious threat to the military by seeking to recruit service members into their ranks and, in some cases, joining the military to acquire combat experience, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday. The report, prepared last year at the request of Congress, did not assess whether the problem of extremism in the military is growing, but it cited a number of examples of service members with extremist affiliations. It said the number of current and former military members who ascribe to white supremacist ideology is unknown. “Military members are highly prized by these groups as they bring legitimacy to their causes and enhance their ability to carry out attacks,” the report said. “In addition to potential violence, white supremacy and white nationalism pose a threat to the good order and discipline within the military.” For example, the report noted that a Marine was discharged in 2018 for having ties to a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division, and it said the group’s co-founder served in the Army National Guard in Florida. Another Marine was determined to be the founder of a different white supremacist group, called AIM, which stands for American Identity Movement. The group spread propaganda through an operation it called “Project Siege” and as of March 2019 had about 500 members. The group’s founder was a former Marine sergeant and a former leader was an Army veteran. Several other members of the military and the Reserves were identified as being associated with the group, and the report noted that some were either demoted or discharged. The report described a social media post, reported by a service member, who claimed to “see plenty of our kind” in combat arms. The message recommended ways to identify fellow group members, saying “simply wear a shirt with some obscure fascist logo.” The military has long been aware of small numbers of white supremacists and other extremists in its ranks, but the problem burst into public awareness after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where an outsized number of military veterans and some current military members were present. It quickly fell to a new Pentagon chief, Lloyd Austin, to determine the scale of the problem and try to fix it. On Feb. 5, Austin directed all commanders and supervisors at every level of the military to conduct a one-day “stand down” — a pause in normal business — by early April to discuss extremism in the ranks. At his first Pentagon news conference two weeks later, Austin said extremism is a threat to the bonds of trust between service members, who count on cohesion to make them effective on the battlefield. “I really and truly believe that 99.9 per cent of our service men and women believe in” the oath they swear when entering the military, Austin said, adding that the actual number of extremists in the military is unknown. “I expect for the numbers to be small, but quite frankly, they’ll probably be a little bit larger than most of us would guess,” he said. “But I would just say that, you know, small numbers in this case can have an outsized impact.” Austin often mentions that he has personally witnessed the damage that racism and extremism can inflict. In 1995, when then-Lt. Col. Austin was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, three white soldiers described as self-styled skinheads were arrested in the murder of a Black couple who were walking down the street. Investigators concluded the two were targeted because of their race. The killing triggered an internal investigation, and all told, 22 soldiers were linked to skinhead and other similar groups or found to hold extremist views. Robert Burns And Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — British Columbia health officials say their plan to delay the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to four months is based on scientific evidence and real-world experience, as Ontario and Alberta consider following the province's lead. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, responded Tuesday to criticism from Canada's chief science adviser. Henry said the decision was made in the context of limited supply and based on strong local and international data. "This makes sense for us, knowing that it is a critical time right now with the limited amount of vaccines that we have in the coming weeks, to be able to provide that protection ... to everybody here," Henry said at a COVID-19 briefing. "That is why we made the decision that we did." Chief science adviser Mona Nemer told the CBC on Monday that B.C.'s plan amounts to a "population-level experiment" and that the data provided so far by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech is based on an interval of three to four weeks between doses. Henry said the manufacturers structured their clinical trials that way to get the vaccines to market as quickly as possible, but research in B.C., Quebec, Israel and the United Kingdom has shown that first doses are highly effective. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control examined the effects of a single dose on long-term care residents and health-care workers and found that it reduced the risk of the virus by up to 90 per cent within two to three weeks, Henry said. "It is a little bit unfortunate that the national science adviser ... obviously was not involved in some of these discussions and decision-making and perhaps did not understand the context that this decision was made in," Henry said. Dr. Danuta Skowronski, a B.C. Centre for Disease Control epidemiology lead whose work underpinned the province's plan, said Pfizer-BioNTech underestimated the efficacy of its first dose in its submissions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Skowronski said the company included data from the first two weeks after trial participants received the shot, a time when vaccines typically aren't effective. When she and her colleagues adjusted the data, they found it was 92 per cent effective, similar to the Moderna vaccine. She said B.C.'s plan was based on the basic principles of vaccine science. The protection from a first dose of vaccine does not suddenly disappear, it gradually wanes over time, and scientists are typically more concerned about providing a second dose too soon rather than too late, she said. "I think if the public had a chance to hear and to understand that, they would say, 'OK, this is not messing around. This is really managing risk in a way that maximizes protection to as many Canadians as possible.'" B.C. has administered 283,182 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to date, including more than 86,000 second doses. The province reported 438 new cases of the virus on Tuesday and two more deaths, pushing the death toll in B.C. to 1,365. Henry said she expects a statement soon from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization aligning with the province's decision, while Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday she wanted to wait for such a recommendation. Elliott said extending the interval between doses would allow the province to get some level of protection to more people. "This would be a considerable change," she said. "With the variants of concern out there, this could make a significant difference for Ontario in reducing hospitalizations and deaths. So, we are anxiously awaiting NACI's review of this to determine what they have to say in their recommendations." Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the national committee, said in an email the group is expected to issue a statement on extending the dose interval on Wednesday, but she did not confirm it would align with B.C.'s plan. Alberta's health minister said a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision on whether to follow B.C.’s lead is coming. "There's fantastic evidence that's coming out," Tyler Shandro said Tuesday. "What the exact period of time (between doses) is going to be is still to be decided. We'll be announcing it soon, but we will be looking at having that length of time between first and second extended." Alberto Martin, a University of Toronto immunology professor, said there is "obviously some concern" about B.C.'s plan because he is not aware of any clinical trial that examined a four-month gap between Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna doses. However, he said difficult times — when the vaccine supply is so limited — require drastic measures. "It's a difficult decision to make. I don't know whether I'd like to be in that position, but I think it's understandable why they're doing this." Daniel Coombs, a University of British Columbia mathematician who has done COVID-19 modelling, said Nemer was right that B.C. was conducting an "experiment," but it seemed to be a necessary one. He added that the province may also be anticipating the approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot. Michael Houghton, director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute at the University of Alberta, said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine data shows that one shot conveys 76 per cent protection for the next 12 weeks. Houghton said he is more concerned about extending the dose interval to 16 weeks for the other two approved vaccines. "These make vaccinologists nervous since, usually, we use in the real world what was tested in the clinic, but given the vaccine shortage, perhaps desperate times warrant such calculated gambles." — With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto and Sylvia Strojek in Edmonton. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission appears likely to work on its first guidelines for cryptocurrencies after President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the agency promised to provide "guidance and clarity" to the rapidly evolving market. Speaking during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, Gary Gensler offered the first thoughts on handling cryptocurrencies if he is confirmed to lead the top U.S. markets regulator. "Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies brought new thinking to payments but raised new issues of investor protection we still need to attend to," Gensler told lawmakers, describing them as "catalysts for change."
A proposal to revamp Bayfield's downtown is dividing residents and business owners over the future of the Lake Huron village. The debate over the Bayfield Main Street revitalization project is set to come to a head Wednesday at a virtual public meeting, with some locals saying the plan could strip the quaint village of its heritage charm. “There’s a lot at stake for a lot of people here,” Bluewater Coun. Bill Whetstone said. “Our downtown is a reason why a lot of people come here or live here.” A revitalization project has been on the Municipality of Bluewater’s books since the early 2000s, initially developed to address water pooling on Main Street sidewalks. The existing gravel sidewalks present accessibility issues and create hazards including water ponding, mud and ice, a staff report says. The proposed $2.3 million Main Street revitalization would see the gravel sidewalks switched to exposed aggregate concrete. The plan also proposes drive-over curbs to access parking, a narrower roadway and wider boulevards, planting of more trees, unique “welcome mat” surface treatments in front of businesses, additional seating and lighting, along with greenspace “infiltration basins” to help collect storm runoff. Whetstone said the municipality has received an outpouring of community feedback ahead of Wednesday’s meeting and will have to find a “compromise” and tweak the plan. “We have to play with it to make sure we’re not getting too far away from what Bayfield is known for,” he said. “We don’t want it to look the same as any other downtown revitalization plan.” Whetstone added common requests from locals have been to bury utility lines underground, something for which the current plan doesn’t budget, and to increase trees. One major concern is that a construction project could be devastating for small businesses looking to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. But Whetstone promised construction wouldn't take place during peak summer months, adding “minimal work” could only begin this fall. “We have to reach this balance in which we solve the problem of drainage and dirt, but yet not disrupt the charm,” said Stephen Baker, principal of the Virtual High School on Main Street and a Bayfield resident. But defining charm is “nebulous,” he said, adding some locals want to keep the village’s “quiet, subdued nature,” while others see foot traffic and tourists as a necessity for businesses. He said Bayfield doesn’t want to become a “cookie-cutter rendition” of other beach towns for the sake of added curbs and gutters. “A lot of people are saying we’re going a little bit too far to solve our problems and we’re doing more than what’s required,” to fix the drainage issues, Baker said. Lifelong Bayfield resident Tara Hessel said locals are “cut right down the middle” for and against the plan, with the sidewalk appearance a hot button issue. “The hardest problem is some people aren’t accepting of change, and change is going to happen,” she said. “What some people are trying to do is stop it and keep Bayfield a secret … (but) the businesses need tourists to succeed.” She said though some want to keep the gravel sidewalks for heritage, others feel it’s too messy, particularly when it rains and water pools. Hessel said a plan that provides safe, accessible walkways but still preserves some heritage — she’s suggesting cobblestone, like in the village park — is needed. “This a great opportunity for us to choose our change, make it a positive experience and make it better for the community.” email@example.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
A Hong Kong court on Wednesday adjourned for a third day the bail hearing of 47 pro-democracy activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion, a case that has exacerbated international concern over freedoms in the financial hub. The marathon bail proceedings have gone on late into the night for three consecutive days, causing five of the defendants to fall ill and seek medical assistance. Local media footage showed the defendants dressed in the same clothes for four days since they were formally charged on Sunday, some looking exhausted.
Musk, who leads several futuristic companies, including Tesla Inc, Neuralink and Boring Co, moved to the Lone Star State from California in December to focus on the electric-car maker's new plant in the state and his SpaceX venture. Earlier on Tuesday, Musk tweeted, "Creating the city of Starbase, Texas," without elaborating further.
REGINA — Saskatchewan's premier isn't saying yet how much longer his province could run deficits. Scott Moe says details of a plan to return the province to balance will be outlined next month when his Saskatchewan Party government presents its next budget. His finance minister has said eliminating the province's $2-billion deficit by the premier's election goal of 2024 will be difficult because of a slower economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Donna Harpauer said Monday financial projections are still being finalized, but it appears to be likely the government will have to choose a new target date. Moe wouldn't say what that might be, only that the next few years will dictate what happens. The premier says he isn't willing to jeopardize services to residents or efforts to bring back thousands of jobs lost during the pandemic, "Would I want to balance the budget by 2024? Absolutely. Will we be able to balance the budget by 2024? We're going to see in the next number of years," Moe said during a briefing Tuesday. "We're going to support the services that the people of this province expect and we're support the full return of jobs in the economic recovery of Saskatchewan communities." Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili tweeted that Moe has broken a campaign promise and has never balanced a budget. The government says it was on track to dig itself out of the red, but the COVID-19 health crisis thwarted that plan. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — The British Columbia government says the provincial health officer has to strike a balance between curbing the spread of COVID-19 and religious practice, which may at times affect certain rights under the Canadian charter. Lawyer Gareth Morley told the B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday that Dr. Bonnie Henry is using "non-pharmaceutical interventions" to ensure the population remains healthy until vaccines are prevalent. Morley, who works for the legal services branch of the Attorney General Ministry, said it is agreed that the province is in the middle of a pandemic. "And measures taken to protect public health, to protect lives, to protect people from serious illness, and to protect the ability of the health-care system itself to respond, that those are the sorts of measures that can limit charter rights, including freedom of religion." Henry has a duty under the Constitution to "proportionally and reasonably" limit freedoms by preventing the gathering of people to ensure their health and safety, Morley said. Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson asked who decides whether the limits are proportional or reasonable, adding that he wants to understand how the provincial health officer is making her decisions. "Aren't the churches entitled to know why if you go to the bar and watch a hockey game for an hour or two, you can't sit in a church for an hour or two? It is a point I struggle with." Hinkson said he understands Henry has a difficult job, but she hasn't explained why or how she is making the decisions. "If she chooses not to share her thought process with the court, there's no oversight," he said. Morley said the decisions are made after careful review by health officials and experts. So balancing religious rights and protecting people from an "out-of-control epidemic" is a matter of judgment, he said, adding that Henry met with religious leaders and health officials while making her decisions. Earlier Tuesday, a lawyer for several British Columbia churches told the court the province's COVID-19 restrictions substantially interfere with their right to freedom of religion. Paul Jaffe argued religion is far more than belief, thoughts and opinions — rather, it's the "actual practice" of those things in ways that are an important part of the faith. "There couldn't be, I say, a more substantial interference with religious freedom than to prohibit them from gathering to worship — absolutely integral to their faith," he said. Hinkson said there are no COVID-19 restrictions on people's religious freedoms and it's the safety of those who are gathering that is at issue. Jaffe said church is as much a part of people's lives as school, gyms and shopping. He repeated an earlier argument to the court, saying the orders do not prohibit outdoor assemblies over matters of public interest or controversy. Religion is a matter of public interest, but there is a restriction on gatherings, he said. "In my submission, it's entirely arbitrary," he said. "And for some reason stereotyping of churches in a way which presents them with some kind of risk." Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that's also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for alleged violations of the orders. His clients — which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack — have been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remain open. A separate petition was filed Tuesday by representatives of 10 other churches that are part of the Canadian Reformed Churches, which has about 3,000 members. The group wants the court to quash the provincial health officer's restrictions that forbid in-person services. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Vancouver is challenging the restrictions in court as well, filing a petition on Friday arguing the orders are unconstitutional. The petition seeks an exemption to allow religious gatherings including mass, weddings and baptisms. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — The founder and CEO of Good Earth Cafes Ltd. says the Calgary-based chain could potentially double its 45 locations across Canada through a program to take over coffee shops being closed down by international chains such as Starbucks.In January, Seattle-based Starbucks said it would complete its plan to close up to 300 coffee shops across Canada by the end of March as part of a "transformation strategy'' to respond to changes in consumer habits during the COVID-19 pandemic.Michael Going of Good Earth says his company is already looking at potential sites to be redeveloped and is recruiting partners for multi-unit franchises as well as single unit owner operators.Good Earth says it has hired Stan Boniferro of Stabon Enterprises to work with landlords and developers in identifying sites with proven performance, infrastructure and good growth prospects. The first Good Earth shop opened in Calgary in 1991. The chain says it aims to offer ethically sourced coffee and fresh food while promoting community interaction and environmental responsibility.Going says franchisees would cover the cost of renovating the former Starbucks to match Good Earth's theme and design. He declined to give a specific target number for Good Earth's program."We're not going to take 300. First of all, there's not 300 good locations they're leaving behind," said Going."We could double the number of locations we have now in a couple of years time."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2021. The Canadian Press