WASHINGTON — The coronavirus vaccine inching toward approval in the U.S. is desperately anticipated by weary Americans longing for a path back to normal life. But criminals are waiting, too, ready to use that desperation to their advantage, federal investigators say. Homeland Security investigators are working with Pfizer, Moderna and dozens of other drug companies racing to complete and distribute the vaccine and treatments for the virus. The goal: to prepare for the scams that are coming, especially after the mess of criminal activity this year with phoney personal protective equipment, false cures and extortion schemes. “We're all very excited about the potential vaccine and treatments,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with Homeland Security Investigations. “But I also caution against these criminal organizations and individuals that will try to exploit the American public." No vaccine has yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has approved the first treatment for COVID-19, the antiviral drug remdesivir. With vaccines and treatments both, it has warned about the potential for fraud. “The FDA is particularly concerned that these deceptive and misleading products might cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm,” the agency said in a recent statement. The drug companies are to have safeguards and brand-protection features in place to help avoid fraud, but that may not be available until the second generation of vaccine because everything is operated on such an emergency basis, said Karen Gardner, chief marketing officer at SIPCA North America, a company that works as a bridge between the government, businesses and consumers. She said that makes it more important to educate health care providers on what the real thing looks like. “When you have anything in high demand and limited supply, there is going to be fraud,” she said. Desperation will drive people around normal channels. Meanwhile, investigators are learning about how the vaccine will be packaged and getting the message out to field agents, creating a mass database of information from more than 200 companies, so they can be prepared to spot fakes and crack down on dangerous fraud. They are monitoring tens of thousands of false websites and looking for evidence of fake cures sold online. Earlier this year as cases exploded, hospitals and governments grew short on masks, gloves and other protective gear. Scams grew, too. Tricksters preyed on unwitting citizens to hand over money for goods they'd never receive. Homeland Security Investigations started using its 7,000 agents in tandem with border, FDA and FBI officials to investigate scams, seize phoney products and arrest hundreds of people. The effort is headquartered at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, a government watchdog aimed at enforcement of its international trade laws and combating intellectual property theft. The agency has already analyzed more than 70,900 websites suspected as being involved in some type of COVID-19 fraud. Millions of fake or unapproved personal protective equipment products and antiviral pharmaceuticals were seized. Homeland Security Investigations made more than 1,600 seizures of products worth more than $27 million and made more than 185 arrests. Home test kits, for example, were only recently made available to the public in the past few weeks. But investigators seized tens of thousands of fake kits in the months before. On the dark web, scammers were selling domain names like “coronaprevention.org," attractive to counterfeiters. In the U.S. alone, more than 1,000 fake websites a day have been removed during the pandemic. A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases have topped 13 million in the U.S. and many cities have started restricting movement again as the country heads into winter. The pandemic has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide, more than 266,000 of them in the U.S., according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. But Francis and other investigators are worried that desperation will make Americans more susceptible. If the FDA allows emergency use of a vaccine, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year. Gen. Gus Perna, in charge of the government’s efforts to distribute the vaccine, said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” the government was prepared to distribute the vaccine within 24 hours of approval. There’s a stockpile of the prospective vaccine itself plus kits of needles, syringes and alcohol swabs needed to give the dose. The secret stash is watched by armed guards. “We have taken extraordinary precaution in this area,” he said. "It’s such a commodity to us, we’re taking the full steps to make sure that the vaccine’s secure.” Who is first in line has yet to be decided. But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the hope is that enough doses are available by the end of January to vaccinate adults over age 65, who are at the highest risk from the coronavirus, and health care workers. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-diseases expert, said it may take until spring or summer before anyone who is not high risk and wants a shot can get one. States already are gearing up for what is expected to be the biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. First the shots have to arrive where they’re needed, and Pfizer’s must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — around minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 70 degrees Celsius. Moderna’s vaccine also starts off frozen, but the company said it can be thawed and kept in a regular refrigerator for 30 days, easing that concern. Governments in other countries and the World Health Organization, which aims to buy doses for poor nations, will have to decide separately if and when vaccines should be rolled out broadly. Meanwhile, Homeland Security investigators and others are trying to send the message now to the public before the vaccines are approved and begin distribution. They say people should only get a vaccine from an approved medical provider. They shouldn't respond to calls seeking personal information. And they shouldn't click on social media posts purporting to sell cures. “If it sounds too good to be true, it is," Francis said. Colleen Long, The Associated Press
People travelling from Toronto and Peel regions to visit inmates at jails and prisons in other areas across the province are a real concern for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers. Rob Finucan, union president for Ontario, said the union would like in-person visits with inmates to be suspended, including at Warkworth Institution medium-security federal prison, southeast of Peterborough. Finucan said in-person visits were prohibited at the start of the pandemic, when case numbers were far less than they are now. “I know visits in person are important, but during this time, they do have the ability to do video visits,” he said. Government and health officials in Toronto and Peel regions have been asking residents to travel only if it’s absolutely essential, Finucan said. “And then we’re allowing them to come for visits to our areas … so that’s our main concern is that it’s going to come into our institutions through visits,” he said. While keeping workers and inmates in institutions COVID-free is important, keeping community members where intuitions are located safe is also crucial, Finucan said. “Obviously when people are coming from Toronto or Peel into our communities, especially the small communities like Warkworth, they’re probably going to stop for gas, maybe stop for something to eat, and so there’s that chance of community spread also,” he said. The union doesn’t expect in-person visits to be stopped indefinitely, but until the number of cases start to decrease, especially in the hot spot regions, Finucan said it’s ludicrous that those visitors are still allowed into institutions. Currently, the health and safety measures in place are allowing fewer visitors than usually permitted into the visiting area at once and visitors must socially distance from both workers and inmates. Some visits last longer. “The private family visits (PFVs), they come in for three days and then the inmate has to self-isolate for 14 days after the PFV before they go back into the institution,” Finucan said. Although there have been cases within institutions across the country, Grand Valley Institution for Women located in Kitchener has been the only Ontario facility to have a COVID-19 case, Finucan said. There have been 85 inmates at Warkworth Institution medium-security federal prison who have been tested for the virus, with 84 testing negative and one awaiting test results, Correctional Service Canada reported Friday. Health measures There are measures in place to protect the health of staff, inmates and visitors at Canadian correctional facilities. Masks provided for inmates, if required; Self-screening and temperature checks for staff; Increased cleaning measures; Testing of inmates provided by health units; New inmates isolated for 14 days and tested before joining general population; Expanding use of temporary absences; Visitor access must be confirmed in advance and are by appointment only; Health screening required for visitors. Visitors with symptoms will not be permitted to visit; Masks required and must be supplied by visitors; Professional visits, including legal counsel, will continue with additional screening.Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
BEIJING — China on Monday said it is sanctioning leaders of U.S. government-affiliated bodies that promote democracy around the world in response to what it calls practices that “blatantly meddle in Hong Kong affairs.”Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the measures would cover the senior director for Asia at the National Endowment Democracy, John Knaus, the regional director for the Asia-Pacific at the National Democratic Institute, Manpreet Singh Anand, and two of the institute’s officials responsible for Hong Kong.Hua gave no details and the institute said in a news release that it had no further information but that it “remains steadfastly committed to these core principles and to continuing our work in support of democracy worldwide.”China has long accused such groups of encouraging dissidents who built grassroots movements to push for greater direct democracy in Hong Kong. Those burst out into street protests in 2014 and again last year, prompting a harsh crackdown from authorities.The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials over the passage of a National Security Law that imposed strict penalties for critics of the Beijing-backed government that has ruled the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.The sanctions ban the officials, including the head of Hong Kong’s local government, Carrie Lam, from travelling to the U.S. and freezes all dealings with American financial institutions.Hua told reporters Monday that “the relevant U.S. practices blatantly meddle in Hong Kong affairs, grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs, seriously violate the international law and basic norms governing international relations."“The U.S. should immediately cease interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs and avoid going further down the wrong path," Hua said at a daily briefing.Hong Kong is just one area where tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen over recent years.The Trump administration has cut off Chinese tech giant Huawei’s access to most U.S. components and technology on security grounds, part of a feud over trade and technology that has led the White House to press the Chinese owner of video service TikTok to sell its U.S. operation, which American officials say is a security risk.U.S. accusations of Chinese human rights abuses, particularly against Muslim minority groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, have resulted in frequent angry exchanges between the sides. Frictions have also built over Washington's support for Taiwan, which China claims as a breakaway province to be recovered by force if necessary, along with China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.The Associated Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Russia came under renewed pressure Monday to explain the nerve agent attack on opposition figure Alexei Navalny as the annual meeting of the global chemical weapons watchdog got underway amid measures aimed at reining in the spread of coronavirus. Navalny fell ill on Aug. 20 during a domestic flight in Russia, and was flown to Germany for treatment two days later. His allies accused the Kremlin of poisoning its fiercest opponent. Tests carried out by labs in Germany, France and Sweden and by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons established that Navalny was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent. The organization's director-general, Fernando Arias, told Monday's meeting that according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, “the poisoning of an individual through the use of a nerve agent is a use of a chemical weapon.” A group of 56 nations issued a statement as the start of the annual meeting of the OPCW's member states urging Moscow to disclose “in a swift and transparent manner the circumstances of this chemical weapons attack.” Russia, which denies involvement in Navalny's poisoning, reacted bullishly in its written statement to the conference. “Instead of trying to look into what had happened, Germany and its allies resorted to megaphone diplomacy, unleashed a mass disinformation campaign against Russia and started to demand some ‘independent international investigation’ under the auspices of the OPCW,” Moscow's statement said. In October, Moscow asked for OPCW experts to visit Russia to provide “technical assistance” in its investigations. Arias said talks are underway to define “all the legal, technical, operational and logistical parameters in order for this visit to take place.” The European Union has imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute over the poisoning. Moscow responded earlier this month by announcing that it had adopted sanctions against a number of German and French officials. The OPCW's annual meeting has been broken into two parts amid the coronavirus pandemic. Two days of talks this week will focus on approving the proposed 71.74 million euro ($86 million) annual budget for 2021. The second half of the meeting will take place next year. Mike Corder, The Associated Press
At least two people were injured Sunday night during three separate shootings in Montreal's Rivière-des-Prairies neighbourhood.Montreal police say it's still unclear whether the three incidents, which happened in the course of an hour, are related.Around 9:30 p.m., a 58-year-old man was shot at a home near the corner of 63e Avenue and Perras Boulevard. Police say the man had just gotten out of his car, which was parked in his driveway, when another car pulled up and someone started shooting.The victim was conscious on his way to the hospital. The suspects fled the scene.About 10 minutes later, someone walking through a residential parking lot opened fire on a man sitting in a parked car on Jean-Rainaud Avenue.The victim fled the scene in the car. Police have no information about the victim's status.And then at 10:20 p.m., another man was shot while standing on a second-floor balcony at a home on Armand-Bombardier Boulevard, near Jean-Vincent Avenue. Police say they believe the shooter was standing in the building's courtyard at the time.The victim was taken to hospital and is expected to survive. Police spokesperson Const. Raphaël Bergeron said in all three cases, there is no information about the suspects. A fourth shooting occurred earlier in the evening in Montréal-Nord. Around 5:30 p.m., police received a call about shots fired near the corner of Lapierre Avenue and Pascal Street.When they arrived, they found bullet casings but no suspects or victims.An hour later, a man showed up at an unspecified hospital with what appeared to be gunshot wounds, but it is unclear whether he was involved in the incident in Montréal-Nord.Police issued a statement Monday evening, saying they would increase their presence and visibility in the area over the next 24 hours.
Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus rampage worsens. Multiple vaccine candidates must succeed for the world to stamp out the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in the U.S. and Europe. U.S. hospitals have been stretched to the limit as the nation has seen more than 160,000 new cases per day and more than 1,400 daily deaths. Since first emerging nearly a year ago in China, the virus has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide. Moderna is one of several companies to have already submitted partial data to a "rolling review" process offered by Health Canada. Rather than presenting regulators with a complete package of trial results, the would-be vaccine-makers file data and findings as they become available. Canada has been looking at Moderna's first results since mid-October. Canada has a different approval process than the United States and European countries, meaning that Moderna and Pfizer do not have to apply or reapply at each step. Instead, they have to submit their newest data and findings. Moderna created its shots with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and already had a hint they were working, but said it got the final needed results over the weekend that suggest the vaccine is more than 94% effective. Of 196 COVID-19 cases so far in its huge U.S. study, 185 were trial participants who received the placebo and 11 who got the real vaccine. The only people who got severely ill — 30 participants, including one who died — had received dummy shots, said Dr. Tal Zaks, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company's chief medical officer. When he learned the results, “I allowed myself to cry for the first time,” Zaks told The Associated Press. “We have already, just in the trial, have already saved lives. Just imagine the impact then multiplied to the people who can get this vaccine.” Moderna said the shots’ effectiveness and a good safety record so far — with only temporary, flu-like side effects — mean they meet requirements set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use before the final-stage testing is complete. The European Medicines Agency, Europe’s version of FDA, has signalled it also is open to faster, emergency clearance. WHAT COMES NEXT The FDA has pledged that before it decides to roll out any COVID-19 vaccines, its scientific advisers will publicly debate whether there’s enough evidence behind each candidate. First up on Dec. 10, Pfizer and BioNTech will present data suggesting their vaccine candidate is 95% effective. Moderna said its turn at this “science court” is expected exactly a week later, on Dec. 17. RATIONING INITIAL DOSES If the FDA allows emergency use, Moderna expects to have 20 million doses ready for the U.S. by year’s end. Recipients will need two doses, so that’s enough for 10 million people. Pfizer expects to have 50 million doses globally in December. Half of them — or enough for 12.5 million people — are earmarked for the U.S. This week, a different panel of U.S. experts, established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will meet to decide how initial supplies will be given out. They're expected to reserve scarce first doses for health care workers and, if the shots work well enough in the frail elderly, for residents of long-term care facilities. As more vaccine gradually becomes available in coming months, other essential workers and people at highest risk from the coronavirus would get in line. But enough for the general population isn't expected until at least spring. Outside the U.S., Zaks said significant supplies from Moderna would be available later, “in the first quarter” of next year. “Obviously we are doing everything in our power to increase the capacity and accelerate the timelines,” he said. Both Moderna's and Pfizer's vaccines are made with the same technology, using a piece of genetic code for the “spike” protein that studs the virus. That messenger RNA, or mRNA, instructs the body to make some harmless spike protein, training immune cells to recognize it if the real virus eventually comes along. ASTRAZENECA CONFUSION AstraZeneca last week announced confusing early results of its vaccine candidate from research in Britain and Brazil That vaccine appears 62% effective when tested as originally intended, with recipients given two full doses. But because of a manufacturing error, a small number of volunteers got a lower first dose — and AstraZeneca said in that group, the vaccine appeared to be 90% effective. Experts say it’s unclear why the lower-dose approach would work better and that it may just be a statistical quirk. A larger U.S. study of the AstraZeneca candidate still is underway that should eventually give the FDA a better picture of how well it works. The FDA has said any COVID-19 vaccine would have to be at least 50% effective. Meanwhile Britain’s government will have to decide whether its U.K. data is sufficient for an early rollout there. STILL IN THE PIPELINE Johnson & Johnson also is in final-stage testing in the U.S. and several other countries to see if its vaccine candidate could work with just one dose. Both the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines work by using harmless cold viruses to carry the spike protein gene into the body and prime the immune system. The different technologies have ramifications for how easily different vaccines could be distributed globally. The AstraZeneca shots won't require freezer storage like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Candidates made with still other technologies are in late-stage testing, too. Another U.S. company, Novavax Inc., announced Monday that it has finished enrolling 15,000 people in a late-stage study in Britain and plans to begin recruiting even more volunteers for final testing in the U.S. and Mexico “in the coming weeks.” Vaccines made by three Chinese companies and a Russian candidate also are being tested in thousands of people in countries around the world. ____ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press
Saint John is close to finalizing rates that three large industrial customers will pay for water in 2021 and although the city is satisfied the amounts are fair, six decades of controversy around the issue has it bracing for critics to attack anyway."This is a communications challenge," said Saint John Mayor Don Darling last week about what Irving Oil Ltd., JD Irving Ltd, and NB Power will pay for city water service next year at four large industrial plants. "People either don't understand or they do understand and are trying to kick the hornet's nest," Darling said of previous controversies that have erupted around the same issue.At a Saint John finance committee meeting last week, deputy commissioner of Saint John water Kendall Mason explained the city needs to recover nearly $6 million next year from Irving Oil's refinery, NB Power's Coleson Cove generating station and two J.D. Irving Ltd. paper mills to maintain, operate and finance the city infrastructure that supplies the group with raw, untreated water.The plan is to charge $2.8 million to the west side Irving pulp and paper mill at the edge of the Reversing Falls and $2.7 million to the Irving Oil refinery. Lesser amounts are to be billed to Irving Paper ($246,000) and NB Power ($195,000). Overall it's about a $400,000 increase over what the group was budgeted to be charged this year. The communications challenge arises because the group is expected to consume 52 billion litres of city water, and the $6 million in charges works out to an average of 11.6 cents per 1,000 litres. That is a small fraction of what other city water users pay."We've seen articles written whereby if by just the swipe of a pen we just charged some of the industrial folks 40, 50, 60 cents (per 1,000 litres) all of our problems would go away, and that's misleading to the public," Darling said about criticisms made following last year's rate setting despite rules limiting what can be charged "We can't do it."Industrial water rates have been the source of political controversy in Saint John since at least 1958 when it signed a 25-year agreement with industrialist K.C. Irving to supply Irving Pulp and Paper up to 159 million litres per day for less than $120,000 per year. The city regretted the arrangement almost immediately and in 1959 attempted to impose rates five times higher, but Irving refused to pay A lawsuit launched by Saint John to enforce the higher rates failed at trial, failed on appeal and finally in 1963 failed at the Supreme Court of Canada. The city was forced to live with the 1958 contract until the early 1980s, but even after its replacement other water controversies followed. In the early 2000s both Irving Oil and J.D. Irving paid amounts for water of their own choosing for several years after contracts with the city expired, and the sides could not agree on new rates.Those issues were largely resolved beginning in 2014, but the controversial history of industrial water rates in Saint John still poses political dangers, despite reforms. Saint John's industrial water system is now completely separate from the public drinking water system, and by legislation the city charges industrial users for the full cost of operating it. Although industry uses substantially more water than the public, the infrastructure required to deliver it to just four customers is much less, and there is no requirement for expensive water treatment. That makes the cost of the industrial system less than one-quarter of the cost of the public drinking water system, and according to the city, the rates reflect that."Raw water and potable [drinkable] water are quite different in quality and in complexity of infrastructure and servicing requirements needed to provide the different services," Mason said in his written report to council."This results in vast differences in costs." Coun. David Merrithew, who chairs the finance committee, has been openly critical that some of the same industries pay property taxes that are too low, but he told the meeting there is nothing to complain about in the water rates."We are passing on the true cost to the appropriate water users," Merrithew said. "This is a user pay system. This is exactly what the report is telling us we're doing."Still Darling asked that a document be prepared to clearly explain industrial water rates for 2021 to blunt criticism the city is charging too little or that it has any option under legislation to bill more for water than it does."I think anything we can do to explain," said Darling. "Not messing with people, not lying to them, not suggesting we can just swipe a pen and charge one ratepayer over another some exorbitant new amount of money when we can't."The proposed rates were approved by the finance committee and have been forwarded to city council for final consideration.
Peel Regional Police are forecasting a $16.7 million increase in spending for 2021, the bulk of which will service a spike in salaries and benefits, and the addition of 27 officers. The budget, presented at a police board meeting Friday, calls for $462.5 million in total spending in 2021, a 3.8 per cent increase or a $316 per capita bump in the annual tax levy. The spending increase comes at a time when police services across Canada and south of the border have seen outcry over police violence and systemic anti-Black racism lead to calls to defund police in favour of non-police alternatives and community programs. Peel police will spend $5.2 million on hiring the 27 new officers, while other salary and benefits costs will eat up another $11.4 million of the increase. After it was endorsed by the board Friday, the budget will now go to Peel Regional Council for final review and approval in early 2021. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who is on the seven-member Peel Police Services Board, lauded police Chief Nishan Duraiappah for seeking to reallocate millions of dollars toward areas of public concern. “Thank you for putting emphasis on areas that are a concern to the community, whether it’s street racing, mental health, whether it’s human trafficking,” Brown said. The service says it saw more than $2 million in unforeseen costs this year as a result of the pandemic. It will draw on reserve funds to cover any COVID-related shortfalls. Looking ahead, Peel police is also calling for $597 million in capital upgrades –– to be funded from capital reserve funds –– it says will be needed over the next decade. It includes an anticipated $307 million for land and new facilities, $153 million for information and technology advancements, and $76 million for vehicles. At the board meeting Friday, Duraiappah also discussed a summary of the year’s crime trends: Gun crime and homicides trending down Peel is seeing a decline in gang and gun activity so far this year, and is also tracking a decrease in homicides, Duraiappah told the police board Friday. Nevertheless, he dubbed the service’s Project Siphon, which ended with more than 800 charges against 88 people earlier this month, the “largest in the service’s history.” The arrests led to what police say is the dismantling of a prominent Peel-area gang, the seizure of dozens of guns and arrests over three homicides and one attempted murder. So far this year, Peel police have seized 363 firearms, Duraiappah said, noting that “91 per cent of the handguns seized that are traceable came from the United States,” up from the 74 per cent in 2019. “We do have a plan to bolster our gang response,” Duraiappah said. “We know a dedicated gang team is one we need for the new year.” But intimate partner violence is still common So far this year, police have responded to 90 shootings and 14 homicides, five of which were linked to intimate partner violence. That continues a trend that also saw more than a third of the region’s 34 homicides last year linked to intimate partner-related disputes. “It’s still the top three calls that we have each day,” the chief said. “We need to turn the dial on this,” he said, adding that it’s a priority to lower the number of repeat offenders. This year, the service is averaging about 50 calls a day for intimate partner disputes and in response, Duraiappah said the service has created a dedicated intimate partner and family unit with 48 officers who will soon start working out of a hub dedicated to those calls. Rethinking mental health crisis calls Peel’s three dedicated Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams responded to 1,700 calls between their introduction in January and October, with only 22 per cent of those calls ending in someone being apprehended, a report to the board said. But police field about 16 daily calls for mental health distress, and the bulk of those calls still land in police hands, Duraiappah said. “We know it’s understaffed,” he said, adding that the rapid response teams can’t respond to that volume of demand — “they do about a third of them, so two-thirds are still being done by uniformed officers.” “Our goal is to have eight on the rapid response team,” he added. Under existing provincial law, only police have the power to apprehend a person experiencing a mental health crisis and take them for treatment. A near-record year for traffic deaths So far this year, Peel has seen a significant increase in vehicle-related deaths, at 38, up from 23 all of last year. Since 2010, only two full years have recorded more motor vehicle-related fatalities: 41 in 2018 and 40 in 2016. “We’re sadly at one of the highest levels of fatal motor vehicle collisions this region has ever seen,” the chief said. The chief also mentioned a troubling bump in stunt driving charges. Police laid 719 charges for stunt driving, to date, up from 332 over the same time frame in 2019.Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
NEW YORK — On Dec. 31, China reported a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown origin to the World Health Organization. By Jan. 31, WHO declared an outbreak of a novel coronavirus a global health emergency. Come March 11, the world was facing down the COVID-19 pandemic.Parents sat children down to explain what a pandemic is. Related terms usually restricted to medicine and science stormed into everyday conversation. Over time, we were pandemic baking and pandemic dating and rescuing pandemic puppies from shelters.All of which led Dictionary.com on Monday to declare “pandemic” its 2020 word of the year.Searches on the site for the word spiked more than 13,500% on March 11, senior research editor John Kelly told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of the announcement.“That's massive, but even more telling is how high it has sustained significant search volumes throughout the entire year. Month over month, it was over 1,000% higher than usual. For about half the year, it was in the top 10% of all our lookups.”Another dictionary, Merriam-Webster, also selected pandemic as its word of the year earlier Monday.Kelly said pandemic beat out routine lookups usually intended to sort more mundane matters, such as the differences between “to, two and too.”“That's significant,” Kelly emphasized. “It seems maybe a little bit obvious, and that's fair to say, but think about life before the pandemic. Things like pandemic fashion would have made no sense. The pandemic as an event created a new language for a new normal.”Lexicographers often factor out routine lookups when evaluating word trends.The pandemic, Kelly said, made us all worthy of watercooler chatter with Dr. Anthony Fauci as our knowledge grew about aerosols, contact tracing, social distancing and herd immunity, along with the intricacies of therapeutic drugs, tests and vaccines that can help save lives.“These were all part of a new shared vocabulary we needed to stay safe and informed. It's incredible,” said Kelly, who works with a team of lexicographers to come up with words of the year based primarily on site traffic.Asymptomatic, furlough, non-essential, hydroxychloroquine and a host of other pandemic-related words saw massive increases in lookups as well.Jennifer Steeves-Kiss, chief executive officer of Dictionary.com, said one key ingredient in the hunt for the site's word of the year is sustained interest over time. Pandemic met that standard.“This has affected families, our work, the economy,” she said. “It really became the logical choice. It's become the context through which we've had dialogue all through 2020. It's the through line for discourse.”The word pandemic has roots in Latin and the Greek pandemos, meaning “common, public.” Breaking it down further, “pan” means “all” and “demos” means “people.” As evidenced in a medical text by a Dutch-born physician, Gideon Harvey, pandemic entered English in the 1660s in the medical sense, Kelly said. He noted that “demos” is also the basis for the word democracy.A pandemic is defined by Dictionary.com as a disease “prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area.” Its broader sense, as evidenced in its roots, can be used thusly: “A pandemic fear of atomic war.”Dictionary.com also noted other worthy search trends beyond the pandemic. After the May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, words around racial justice experienced spikes, including fascism, anti-fascism, defund and white fragility.“There was no way for us to leave that out of the conversation this year,” Kelly said.Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
Police have shut down a north-end Halifax intersection to investigate the discovery of a dead body in the bushes outside a wine and beer store.In a news release sent around 7:30 a.m. Monday, Halifax Regional Police advised of a "traffic disruption" at the intersection of Lady Hammond Drive and Robie Street, "due to an ongoing police matter."About 30 minutes later, the police force issued an update, saying they were still on the scene "for what was reported as a deceased person outside and near the intersection."Police said the investigation is in the early stages and offered no other details.As of the time of the last police update, traffic was being detoured around the scene.MORE TOP STORIES
An 80-year-old man who is visually impaired and received a $13,000 bill from Virgin Mobile is no longer on the hook for the large sum."I think right now they could be doing a little better, but I'm satisfied with that," said Willie Guerard, who lives in Amherstburg, Ont. "They're not going to get my best wishes, you know what I mean?"Guerard and his wife, Yvonne, who by their own admission are not tech-savvy, told the CBC earlier this month that they don't really even use the internet on their phone.They said it was their understanding that their service would be cut off if their account balance reached $200 in any given month, so they were surprised when they received two bills, for approximately $5,000 and $7,000, respectively.Virgin Mobile said it had removed spending caps such as those after the pandemic began up until the beginning of July but it continued to charge for any costs for overages people incurred.Guerard and his wife said they contacted Virgin Mobile after receiving the large bill and were told they had to pay it. It was only after CBC made inquiries published in a web story earlier this month that the company took a second look at the massive bill."At least they're paying attention now. Before that I couldn't get nobody [to look into it], I just got the runaround," Guerard said.Significant reductionInitially, Virgin Mobile said that Guerard, who was an active data user, had twice requested to increase the amount of data on his account and consented to it. The company was unaware of Guerard's visual impairment and that it would be significantly reducing the outstanding balance in his account.Last week, they said they'd reduced the amount he owed to what his usual monthly bill would have been."We took another look at Willie's account and couldn't verify that he received the notice about removing spending caps during COVID," a written response from the company read.Guerard said after he called them, he found out the amount he now owes is $281, which he plans to pay. But he said he'll only be doing so once he gets it in writing.
A Newfoundland and Labrador company is using a new online campaign to call for a provincial anti-bullying task force and updated bullying statistics across the country.Samantha Gerbeau founded Newfoundcare in 2004, and wanted to create an anti-bullying campaign as an educational tool for people in the province. When she began researching bullying statistics, she says she was surprised by what she saw."I found Bullying Canada … and unfortunately the last set of research that's there is from 2012," she said earlier this month."There's a fair amount for school-age children and bullying, but when it comes to adults and bullying there's not a lot. There's one line for workplace bullying … and there's one line for cyber bullying."In an effort to help push for updated bullying statistics, Gerbeau created the BullyBeKind campaign. The campaign took place over the course of November, offering people a platform to share stories, publicly or privately."A lot of people, what they have been doing is getting in touch with me privately, and I create the stories to share online for the public to view and see to hopefully gain some research out of those aspects," she said.Gerbeau believes one reason for a lack of updated bullying statistics could be because few incidents are reported, both in schools and the workplace.In a statement to CBC News, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said all bullying complaints are investigated by school staff, but are not documented unless found to be valid.The district also uses online tools to track bullying instances and note behavioural trends or issues with individual students.Better first contact points neededBeyond social media, the campaign will end with a workshop outlining what a provincial anti-bullying task force would look like. Gerbeau said a task force could help establish better first points of contact for those facing bullying and help grow support networks by getting local support groups on board."They are the first point of contact for a lot of people who are dealing with bullying, yet they're not under one umbrella," she said."I think with their expert advice as well as experience, they are the best people to be speaking with in regards to how do we prevent bullying, and how do we overcome the bullying aspect that happens to victims and provide them with the necessary support.… Those sort of things have to be explored."> The sooner that one can get the help that they need, the better the outcome for that person. \- John DinnSeveral community organizations, including the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Canadian Mental Health Association, will be taking part in the workshop on Monday.John Dinn, workplace mental health coordinator of the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, believes in the idea of a task force, as bullying can have an effect on people's mental health."Some cases, bullying over an extended period of time can lead to people experiencing PTSD, anxiety, depression, burnout," Dinn said."In some cases, unfortunately, it can cause people to have thoughts of suicide depending on the situation they're in."According to statistics from the Canadian Mental Health Association, 45 per cent of Canadians targeted by bullying suffer from mental health problems, while 40 per cent say they have experienced bullying in the workplace at least once."Targets can endure bullying for almost two years before they finally come to the point of filing the complaint," Dinn said."The sooner that one can get the help that they need, the better the outcome for that person," he added. "It's basically letting the victim know that they're not alone out there, that help is available in their situation."Ahead of the workshop, Gerbeau said she hopes to potentially present the idea to the provincial government."An umbrella is the main goal for the anti-bullying task force, in that it would house all the aspects of bullying for Newfoundland and Labrador." she said. "Then, for instance, to explore the idea of a 1-800 number perhaps for the public to call in order to receive support or intervention. Also, education. If they feel like they are a bully, if they feel like perhaps maybe I am bullying, they can privately correspond with this anti-bullying task force."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Edward Blake Rudkowski was a member of Nunatsiavut, and before that the Labrador Inuit Association, for 34 years. He ran successfully to represent Labrador Inuit living outside the land claim as an ordinary member in 2017, was re-elected in 2018 and was named the Speaker of the Nunatsiavut Assembly, the legislative branch of the Inuit government. That was, until Nov. 20, when Blake Rudkowski was told he was no longer a member of Nunatsiavut, his status as a beneficiary was revoked and he could no longer hold the political office he had been elected to. Blake Rudkowski told SaltWire Network he was told he didn’t meet the eligibility requirements and was just over 17 per cent Inuit. According to the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, there are a number of requirements that can lead to a person being a beneficiary, including that a person is one-quarter Inuit, is a descendant of someone who settled permanently in the land claim area prior to 1940 with no Inuit ancestry or is adopted by a beneficiary. “To be clear, they didn’t tell me I wasn’t Inuit,” he said. “They said I wasn’t Inuit enough.” He says he would like to know what formula they use to come up with that determination, and what factors were taken into account to determine it. He’d also like to know why that number matters more than what was determined when he was first accepted as a member of the Labrador Inuit Association 34 years ago. His status as a beneficiary of Nunatsiavut had been challenged two years ago and he’d been going through the process ever since. “Immediately after the election, literally the day after, there were two challenges to my membership eligibility,” he said. “I’d been dealing with this behind the scenes since then.” He said the two people who challenged his membership were political rivals — one a person he had beaten in an election and another a former politician — and the timing of it seemed curious to him. “It felt like membership was being used as a tool of political retribution,” he said. Having Nunatsiavut beneficiary status challenged is like coming in as a new applicant and is a daunting task that, successful or not, can take up a lot of time. In 2013 an amendment was made to the Nunatsiavut Beneficiaries Enrolment Act that allows any member to challenge the membership of another. Blake Rudkowski said this allows people to try to use membership as a tool to try to harm their enemies. “What this does is it allows someone who is a malcontent or has a beef with someone else a vehicle to exact some sort of retribution. At minimum, even if it's not successful, it can cause someone a significant amount of mental anguish.” What this has created, Blake Rudkowski said, is a climate where some people are afraid to speak up about issues they have with the government for fear they may have their rights as a beneficiary stripped away, or at the very least have it challenged. When he was in government, it appeared there were an increasing number of memberships being challenged, he said, to the point where people were asking whether a full review was underway. He said he also heard complaints that the process was inconsistent, which he believes to be the case. “You have a lot of cases where it’s one brother in, one sister out, one cousin in, one cousin out, so there’s an inconsistency across the board which speaks to the fact that maybe there’s a problem with the process. That’s been a long-standing critique of many beneficiaries, there’s an inconsistent application of the rules.” Blake Rudkowski said he doesn’t know what steps he’ll take next, and while it appears his career as a politician in Nunatsiavut has come to an end it won’t be the last time people see him the political arena. The Nunatsiavut Government put out a statement Monday about Blake Rudkowski’s removal, saying he was removed from the government once his eligibility as a beneficiary had been revoked. “First Minister Tyler Edmunds reminds beneficiaries of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement that the Nunatsiavut Government plays no role whatsoever in determining the membership of any individual,” the statement read. “The beneficiary enrolment process is independent from the Nunatsiavut Government.” SaltWire asked to speak to someone with the Nunatsiavut Government about the requirements and the process, but an interview was not available before deadline.Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Food bank usage across Ontario was already increasing in the year leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, says a new report. Then came a further surge in demand as people grappled with unemployment, closures, and loss of income throughout the pandemic. Feed Ontario's annual hunger report released on Monday analyzes food bank usage across the province, makes recommendations, and also looks at the impact of the pandemic on food banks and vulnerable populations. Following a year where people made 3.2 million visits to food banks, the number of first-time food bank visitors spiked by 26.5 per cent during the first four months of the pandemic, the report says. "That means that we're seeing brand new people who have never come to our services, and those who have already accessed our services experiencing further difficulties in life than they've already had to deal with," said executive director Carolyn Stewart. "It's extremely concerning for us."Before the pandemicBetween April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, the report said 537,575 people accessed food banks — an increase of 5.3 per cent over the previous year — and that one third of those visitors were children. Total visits amounted to 3,282,500, which is up 7.3 per cent from last year.Feed Ontario lists a lack of affordable housing, insufficient social assistance programs, and a growth in precarious employment (like part-time and casual work) as the top three drivers of food bank usage.Ontario also has the highest number of minimum wage workers in the country, Stewart added, noting precarious work has been greatly impacted by the pandemic. The report says 65.7 per cent of food bank visitors cite social assistance as their primary source of income. There has also been 44 per cent more employed people accessing food banks over the past four years. "As these numbers continue to grow, it really creates concerns for us that the income is not keeping up with what everyone needs to afford their most basic cost of living," Stewart said. "Things are becoming increasingly out of reach for everyone."Paying for housing means no financial cushionPrior to the pandemic, people were already living with the extreme stress that comes with living in poverty, stretching dollars and potentially being unable to make ends meet, Stewart said.Around 86 per cent of food bank visitors are rental or social housing tenants spend most of their monthly income on housing. Feed Ontario notes this makes it near impossible for low-income people to have savings or a "financial cushion" to offset losses during times of emergency.Coupled with a year that prompted further anxiety and called for additional expenses — like PPE, staying home for health reasons, and the loss of social services — "hundreds of thousands of people" were without the means to afford basic needs. The top three reasons people would skip meals was to help afford rent, utilities, and phone or Internet bills, the report says."I think it's extremely problematic. No one should have to make those choices. Those are impossible choices for anyone to have to make," said Stewart. Surge in demandDuring the first two months, access to food and meal support also became the number one reason people called Ontario 211 — the community and social services help line.Stewart said this might have been out of fear these essential services would be closed. But food banks have been working around the clock, she said, with limited resources and staff to meet pandemic guidelines. None have shut down. They've implemented new emergency food support programs, and upped the amount of food provided to reduce number of visits. Some also put in a home delivery service and opened a drive-thru service. Here's a look at how demand increased at different centres across the province once the pandemic hit: * The Daily Bread Food Bank in the GTA serviced nearly 20,000 people a week. * The Mississauga Food Bank saw a 120 per cent increase in first time users. * Ottawa Food Bank had 400 per cent more calls from people needing food support. * The Unemployed Help Centre in Windsor had double the amount of households access their services. * The Salvation Army in Owen Sound saw over 400 people in the first nine days of the pandemic, which is near the number of people it would service in a month. * Community Care West Niagara in Lincoln had a 20 per cent increase in those using their services. * A Sudbury Food Bank agency saw a 150 per cent jump in people accessing emergency food support.Eviction, financial challengesIn September alone, there was 10 per cent more visits to food banks compared to the same time last year. When Feed Ontario surveyed around 200 food bank visitors in September, it found one out of two food bank visitors said they were worried about facing eviction or defaulting on their mortgage in the next two to six months.One participant said, "Everything is hard. Paying rent is hard, going to the doctor is hard, accessing groceries and food are hard. Everything is so much harder now."Over 90 per cent were also navigating extreme financial challenges due to the pandemic and incurring a significant amount of debt. Ninety-three per cent of respondent were borrowing money from friends and family, accessing payday loans, or using a credit card to help pay bills. Though Feed Ontario doesn't collect data related to race, immigration or refugee status, it notes that Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by poverty and food insecurity, and are three times more likely to be food insecure than non-racialized households. Support from provincial and federal governments helped food banks meet an initial surge at the start of the pandemic, said Stewart. But as these supports wound down through summer and into fall, the numbers have increased again. The supports showed that "investing in income supports for individuals can provide that essential safety net that people need," she said. Stewart pointed to the 2008 recession where food bank usage went up by almost 30 per cent over two years. "It's never gone back down," she said, adding that the network is "quite fearful" that without those supports food bank use will grow "exponentially" over the coming months."While food banks do their very best with very little to meet the need in their communities, and they do incredible work, they do not replace good, public policy," she said. "We are not a solution to poverty." Feed Ontario says it's calling on the provincial government to: * Provide immediate support to low-income families, including developing a rent relief or payment program for tenants facing rent arrears or eviction. * Reinstate the emergency benefit for social assistance recipients. * Align Ontario's social assistance rates with the national standard set by CERB. * Develop stronger labour laws and policies, like reinstating paid sick days and quality jobs with a livable wage.
Moderna Inc. says it will ask U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection. (Nov. 30)
SURREY, B.C. — Surrey RCMP say a man is dead following a shooting in Fleetwood Sunday evening. They say officers responded to a shooting call around 7:40 p.m. in front of a shopping complex at the corner of 152 Street and Fraser Highway. They say paramedics also attended and provided aid to a wounded man, but he died at the scene. Investigators say the victim is known to police and that they believe he was targeted. No names or suspect information was immediately released. The Mounties say they're assisting the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team with the case and are asking anyone who witnessed the incident or has pertinent video surveillance or dash-cam video to contact them. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. The Canadian Press
When looking at the daily updates and numbers of COVID-19 cases in Alberta, there's a theme that's easy to spot — Calgary's northeast has a serious problem. Calgary-Upper NE is one of 132 "local geographic areas" (or LGAs) that the province uses in reporting COVID-19 cases. It covers the bulk of the northeast quadrant, including newer communities that sit north of McKnight Boulevard, as well as a portion that stretches down to where 16th Avenue N.E. meets Deerfoot Trail. Around 115,000 people call the upper northeast area of Calgary home. The number of active COVID-19 cases there surpassed 1,000 last week, a number not seen anywhere else in the province at any time during the pandemic. As of Sunday, there were 1,194 cases. That's double the numbers seen earlier in the month. For many weeks now, the northeast has secured the unenviable position of being the number one spot in Alberta for active cases. So what's driving such extreme numbers in one part of the city? On the front lines People who live and work in the northeast say there are many reasons that make their communities easy pickings for a virus that thrives on density and easy opportunities for transmission. Those opportunities vary from residents working public-facing, low-income jobs with no opportunity to work from home, to a culture of large, multi-generational households in densely populated neighbourhoods. "It is a concern. Many people in this part of the city are working multiple jobs on the front lines and they're in contact with a lot of people," said Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal. "There's a higher risk to exposure, but I think everybody's doing their best to ensure they're being safe, but more importantly keeping others safe. "Social distancing and wearing masks is important, but we've still got a lot of work to do." Many said they thought the types of jobs worked by those living in the northeast could represent the number one factor behind the high COVID-19 numbers. "The biggest reason is the majority of people are immigrants and newcomers and they are doing blue-collar jobs," said Dan Sidhu, a realtor with his own weekly Punjabi radio show who has called the northeast home for 25 years. "Lots of people work at places like Cargill and Lilydale or furniture factories. They're doing housekeeping and cleaning jobs around the city. There are also transport workers, truckers and taxi drivers." Sidhu said many people in the northeast don't have the luxury of working from home and are more exposed in their day-to-day lives. "We have to go out to work to make our living and pay our bills. We don't have much choice," Sidhu said. Multi-family households In addition to employment, there are also large multi-family households made up of South Asian immigrant families that settle around each other in northeast communities. "The majority of families here are joint families. Seniors live with them, mother-in-laws and father-in-laws, mothers and fathers and children. You can easily have six or seven family members," said Sidhu, adding that COVID-19 spreads to a greater number of people once it finds its way into a family setting. Others talk quietly about the possibility that some cultural factors unique to South Asian communities could give COVID-19 more opportunities to take hold. Some of those factors mentioned include: a stigma in the community around being sick and telling others. a deeply embedded culture of hospitality. meal sharing and inviting guests into the home. a tradition of large family gatherings and events like weddings and birthdays along with a busy calendar of religious events. in some cases, language barriers limiting information around best practices when it comes to health measures. Languages spoken commonly in the home in the northeast include Punjabi and Urdu. Filipino families speak Tagalog along with others who speak Spanish and Vietnamese at home. Some can't communicate in English at all. Worried about being blamed Some residents said they are worried about being stigmatized, criticized and blamed for the rising number of cases from people in other parts of the city and province. A few said they're embarrassed by the high case numbers and say they are victims of circumstance, and do not want to be blamed for personal negligence or for not taking the virus seriously enough. The northeast of the city is also where many newcomers and refugees settle in the days and weeks after arriving in Canada. It's where the cost of living is cheapest and where jobs and many vital supports exist, including the Centre for Newcomers. "We see a disproportionate number of newcomers working in industries where they'd have a much higher rate of being in contact with somebody that has COVID," said Anila Lee Yuen, CEO of the Centre for Newcomers. "They find jobs in retail, service industries, health-care and long-term care facilities and that [increases] the likelihood." Lee Yuen said newcomers tend to be around larger volumes of people, both at home and at work. "You've got people coming from cultures that are very collective in nature so the entire community is built around that," she said. "You have a more densely packed population, so even when people are adhering to the best possible safety protocols, there could still be issues." She said housing density and a reliance on transit and car sharing also need to be taken into account, along with larger family cohorts than other parts of the city. Language barriers can also make official information harder to access. "The ethno-cultural media and the settlement agencies and other agencies have done a wonderful job of getting that information out there, especially through social media," said Lee Yuen. "It does come translated from the government and it is widespread, but the bigger issue is people are confused about the rules and what they can and can't do. But that's in the general population too." Lee Yuen said the whole concept of cohorts and bubbles took time for many Albertans to understand, but for non-English speaking Albertans, it's even more challenging. Religion and worship Religion is a big part of the fabric of life in northeast Calgary's South Asian community, and with worship comes large gatherings. Throughout 2020, places of worship have been open with limited capacity, enhanced safety measures and at times closed altogether. Under the most recent measures announced by the provincial government on Saturday, churches, mosques, temples and other places of worship are allowed to operate at only one-third of their capacity with mandatory masking in place. Previously, the limit had been one-third of regular attendance. Major religious events and celebrations from Ramadan to Eid and Diwali have all looked a lot different this year. Some places of worship are now going above and beyond the requirements laid out by the province. "We're not even letting anyone sit. We're going even further in what we're doing in that they come, they pray and they go right away," said Amanpreet Singh Gill with the Dashmesh Culture Centre, a large gurdwara where thousands of northeast Sikhs go to pray. "We are trying our best and people are following it. We encourage everyone to be safe. Social interactions are dangerous and we encourage everyone to limit gatherings like weddings too." The centre is also taking prayers online for those staying away, streaming on social media. Mosques have been doing the same thing with live prayers, sermons and programs from local imams, who said Friday prayers are the only in-person worship being permitted. Prayers typically last less than 15 minutes. COVID-19 experiences More cases in the quadrant bring more stories and accounts from people who have had COVID-19. Jayanta Chowdhury contracted COVID-19 along with his family at a Christian prayer meeting in March that turned into a "superspreader" event, leading to at least 34 positive cases, all stemming from one overseas pastor from Singapore. Chowdhury spent nearly 50 days in hospital, 25 of them in a coma on a ventilator. Now he's hoping his story can help others do the right things. "Many people don't believe COVID is going to hurt them. They just think it's like a cough and a cold," said Chowdhury. "What is lacking in the northeast is people are not aware of the fact of how serious this is and how it will affect your life. They are not serious about it. They just think, 'I don't know anyone who is COVID-positive, so it won't happen to me.'" Chowdhury said he sees many people from the South Asian community not wearing masks in public or wearing them incorrectly. He's not alone, although some also point out that people make the same mistakes all over the city. Others regularly complain on social media about seeing the same thing in local stores and restaurants, along with a lack of proper physical distancing, evident in many photos posted online of gatherings and small events with people stood shoulder to shoulder, some wearing masks and others often not wearing one or wearing one incorrectly. The table may not display fully on mobile devices or small screens. In that case, you can also click here to open a standalone version in a new browser tab. "I went to a McDonald's in the northeast the other day. There were four men standing there chatting, no masks," Chowdhury said. "They wear their masks under their chin. But what about the people they are putting at risk? "Who's going to take care of them? In my case, my whole family was positive. Let's say the dad and mom dies, we don't have relatives to look after our kids. They don't understand the height and depth of the issue." Chowdhury said for more than a week he felt fine with no symptoms. He went to church, shopping malls and grocery stores, completely unaware he had contracted the virus. It wasn't until the ninth day that serious symptoms quickly started appearing and four of his group were hospitalized. One of the group died. "I walked into Peter Lougheed hospital and passed out. When I woke up I thought it was the same day. It had been 25 days and I had been on a ventilator," Chowdhury said. WATCH | COVID-19 survivor Jay Chowdhury, in an earlier interview in August, talks about how he's still recovering months after leaving hospital Chowdhury said he has good days and bad days as he continues to recover. He is back at work, but every day is an unknown. "It hurts when I see the community going to a grocery store, still picking up produce, sniffing it and putting it back. People could be carrying COVID home," he said. "Some people don't care about the community, they only think about themselves and what they believe." Seeking help and protection The community is increasingly looking to the provincial government for help and protection. Like everywhere else in the city, the majority of residents stick to the rules, but cases in the northeast continue to rise. Last week, Premier Jason Kenney appeared on the popular northeast South Asian-focused radio station RED FM, interviewed by host Rishi Nagar. Kenney acknowledged the problem with COVID-19 in the northeast, referencing big family gatherings as a particular concern. He spent time outlining news rules and guidelines, including enforcement. "Our research is clear that by far the single largest source of COVID-19 is private social functions and at-home gatherings," said Kenney, adding it wasn't about "pointing fingers." Kenney also commented on Alberta's continued snubbing of the federal contact tracing app. "Their app is not a contact tracing app," he told listeners. "All it does is to indicate if maybe you were in the vicinity of somebody with COVID at some point in the past two weeks with no additional information." Irfan Sabir, the NDP's lone MLA in the northeast representing the riding of Calgary-McCall, said the real problem in the northeast is the province's contact tracing system — which he said is completely overwhelmed and no longer functioning. "We have a government that doesn't know where 85 per cent of cases are coming from. We are left to rely on our observations and speculate," Sabir said. "Government is failing by not investing in contact tracing and not sharing recommendations from Dr. Hinshaw, not listening to Dr. Hinshaw." "They need to step up and take this seriously. Put in place evidence-based, data-based measures. It's long past due." Sabir said northeast residents were already feeling abandoned after a huge hailstorm devastated multiple communities in the summer, leaving thousands of homes with shredded siding, damaged roofs and broken windows — many of which are still unrepaired heading into winter with no meaningful financial help from the province, despite pleas from residents. "The government needs to step up and take this outbreak seriously and do everything they can to contain this spread," he said. Rajan Sawhney, Alberta's minister of community and social services and UCP MLA for Calgary-Northeast, said her government has provided some funding for community organizations to help combat the spread of COVID-19 by raising awareness of the risks among newcomer communities and seniors' groups. She addressed her constituents in Punjabi via a Facebook video over the weekend. "Clearly, we have to do more and it's going to be a multi-level government approach to this, to spread as much awareness as we can about the new measures introduced by the premier," Sawhney said. "It's important that we break those measures down step by step in different languages, and work with our community partners and faith-based institutions." Sawnhey said her main concern is northeast communities facing stigma and shaming as case numbers continue to climb. "There shouldn't be any finger pointing, blaming, stereotyping or shaming, or thinking that somehow residents in northeast Calgary are not as concerned about their health or about following these measures," said Sawnhey. "It's just a different dynamic, and a different way people live."
Nine out of 11 of the major S&P 500 sectors fell, with the energy index tumbling 5.4% and leading losses, tracking a drop in crude prices. The S&P 500 technology index rose 0.7%, thanks in part to a 2.1% rise in Apple Inc shares. A rotation into energy, industrials and financials, all expected by many investors to outperform as the economy recovers from its downturn, drove gains of almost 11% for the S&P 500 in November and helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average make its biggest monthly gain since 1987.
TOKYO — A brightly burning meteor was seen plunging from the sky in wide areas of Japan, capturing attention on television and social media. The meteor glowed strongly as it rapidly descended through the Earth's atmosphere on Sunday. Many people in western Japan reported on social media seeing the rare sight. NHK public television said its cameras in the central prefectures of Aichi, Mie and elsewhere captured the fireball in the southern sky. A camera at Nagoya port showed the meteor shining as brightly as a full moon as it neared the Earth, the Asahi newspaper reported. Some experts said small fragments of the meteorite might have reached the ground. The Associated Press
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is putting a call out for Islanders to find their old phones and consider donating them. The phones would go to clients of the My Place Housing First program, run by the CMHA. Some of the clients of the program had told staff that securing a reliable cellphone was a challenge for them, said Tessa Rogers, a housing support worker with the CMHA.The program works with those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, trying to get them into more secure and stable housing situations. "A big part of this is weekly meetings with our clients, getting them into stable housing, but then also connecting them with different resources in the community and, you know, potential employers, things like that," she said."In order to do this effectively, it's very beneficial typically if they have a cellphone, just so you can reach them easily." The organization sometimes has trouble contacting clients, having to call neighbours or friends to get in touch with them, said Rogers. "Some of our clients have reported to us, you know, it's very challenging to book my appointments with you folks, book my appointments with my doctor, various community resources, just because they don't have that reliable communication tool," she said. Keeping connectedAny phone can be donated, said Rogers. Anything from an old brick, all the way up to the latest and greatest — it just needs to hold a charge and not have a shattered screen, she said. "Some of them are looking for something that they can just, you know, quickly answer and have a phone conversation," Rogers said. > Our goal is to meet clients where they are and, you know, connect them to those community resources. — Tessa Rogers, CMHA"And then some of our other clients are looking for something that's more up to date that they can use their social media on and maybe play games to reduce some isolation." The ability to use the internet is important, not only for reducing isolation in the time of COVID-19, but also to be able to access resources if public health measures tighten in the province. "If something does come up with the second wave, and having to shut down, this would allow those clients to still, you know, utilize those resources, whether it be Zoom meetings, Skype, anything like that," she said. Always a needRogers said they've had a number of people already reach out and offer to donate phones. All of the phones will be cleaned, sanitized, and staff will ensure that no data is left on them before passing them on. When the client gets that phone, if the phone gets a plan and how it's paid for is decided on a case-by-case basis, said Rogers. "Our goal is to meet clients where they are and, you know, connect them to those community resources. So a few of our clients are already connected with those resources. Some have it within their budget already. If not, it might look like us advocating for them," she said. "Some of our clients might not even necessarily want a phone plan and just want a phone that they can use with Wi-Fi. So it's really just meeting that client where they are and kind of assessing their needs and working with them to meet that goal." Rogers said there's no set number of phones they're looking for, because they constantly have new clients and there's always a need. More from CBC P.E.I.