Labour and employment lawyer Lior Samfiru of Toronto talks about vaccine mandates and their impact in the workplace.
Labour and employment lawyer Lior Samfiru of Toronto talks about vaccine mandates and their impact in the workplace.
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
COVID-19 conspiracy theories – even recycled ones from previous epidemics – fill an information void, empower and impart belonging, and build vaccine hesitancy. In the study, Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy, McGill University and University of Toronto researchers tracked Canadians’ views of the COVID-19 vaccine from April until the end of November. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said they intended to get a vaccine; 15 per cent were unwilling, and 20 per cent were unsure. Of those who said no to the vaccine, 77 per cent cited safety and efficacy concerns. Yet, when presented with scenarios where the vaccine would be 90 per cent effective with minimal side effects, their views remained unchanged. Whereas the unsure group were more willing to get vaccinated after learning about the effectiveness and safety attributes of the vaccine. After surveying 40,000 Canadians and reviewing 277 million social media posts on Twitter, Reddit and Facebook, the study concluded distrust of experts was the strongest determinant of vaccination hesitancy. Conspiratorial thinking came second. People who lack social power are especially susceptible to conspiracy theory, said Suffolk University folklore professor Dr. Jon Lee, who specializes in conspiracies and narratives during epidemics. “It provides a voice for them that gives them power.” Conspiracies can also convey identity and belonging, said Lee, who wrote the book An Epidemic of Rumors. Such as when Trump supporters banded together and stormed the U.S. capital buildings this month in an attempt to stop congress from ‘stealing’ the presidency from the candidate who lost the election. “Believing in the conspiracy theory gives someone a sense that other people are believing the same thing I do,” said Lee. Some of the most enduring conspiracies throughout history imply government deception, political intrigue and misconduct. For Interim B.C. Liberal Leader Shirley Bond, truth, data, and transparency are the solutions. “People need a real sense of certainty, they need to know that there’s a plan,” she said. “If you give people the information, it helps make the why clearer to them, and it helps inform their personal decision.” A conspiracy theory can flourish in an information void. “The distance between the time a pandemic arises and the time that science or medicine can give an answer is sometimes enormous, and the public wants information now, so conspiracy theories are an easy thing to turn to,” he said. “When people can’t easily access reliable information around vaccines and when mistrust in actors and institutions related to vaccines is high, misinformation narratives rush in to fill the vacuum,” according to a report by First Draft, an international non-partisan network that helps build resilience against harmful disinformation on social media. The challenge for information providers – reporters, fact checkers, governments, health bodies – is to find the data deficits, prioritize them, and act fast, the report stated. “It's really hard for somebody who doesn't trust the government and the experts, to listen to what I'm going to say,” said National Advisory Committee on Immunization Chair Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, a pediatric infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital. A popular anti-vaccine conspiracy posits that Big Pharma, in collusion with government, is pushing the vaccines to make money. “I have no ties with industry. The only reason I'm for the vaccine is that I look at the data,” said Quach-Thanh. “I think if we are able to stop this pandemic, it will be due to the vaccine.” Getting ahead of a conspiracy isn't easy; stopping it after it’s out the door, is pretty much impossible. "Fake news spreads more quickly and more easily than the virus, and can be just as dangerous," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last February. Conspiracies have been around as long as humans. In 1832, German writer Heinrich Heine was in Paris during the devastating cholera outbreak when rumours circulated that the death and sickness weren’t from a randomly transmitted disease but rather due to men who were deliberately poisoning the water and food sources. “Men who seemed suspicious were searched and woe to them when any doubtful objects were found on them. The mob threw themselves like wild beasts or lunatics onto their victims.” wrote Heine. Ultimately, six suspected poisoners were literally torn apart by crowds before a newspaper article later set the facts straight: there was no poisoning, no poisoners; the deaths were all from cholera. Lee called that the ‘deliberate infector’ narrative or, in modern lingo, the super spreader. “People who purposely spread the disease either because they have it themselves, or because they're trying to kill other people,” he said. Some narratives repeat from epidemic to epidemic, such as those with racist undertones, said Lee. Asian people were implicated in SARS; with H1N1, it was Mexicans, and in 2020, it was the Wuhan or China Virus. “We keep having these same things that we return to, over and over again,” Lee said. “It's almost like you take the narrative from a previous outbreak, take out the name of the disease, and just plug in the name of the (new) disease, and circulate.” Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
THULASENDRAPURAM, India — With chants of “Long live Kamala Harris,” fireworks and prayers, residents of a tiny Indian village celebrated her inauguration as U.S. vice-president. People flocked to the village and its Hindu temple in southern India, to watch Harris, who has ancestral roots in the village, take her oath of office on Wednesday in Washington. Groups of women in bright saris and men wearing white dhoti pants watched the inauguration live as reporters broadcast the villager's celebrations to millions of Indians. The villagers chanted “Long live Kamala Harris” while holding portraits of her and blasted off fireworks the moment she took the oath. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Harris becoming U.S. vice-president a “historic occasion. Looking forward to interacting with her to make India-USA relations more robust." Earlier, the villages adorned their temple with flowers, offering special prayers for Harris' success. Her maternal grandfather was born in the village of Thulasendrapuram, about 350 kilometres (215 miles) from the southern coastal city of Chennai “We are feeling very proud that an Indian is being elected as the vice-president of America,” said teacher Anukampa Madhavasimhan. At the prayer ceremony in Thulasendrapuram, the idol of Hindu deity Ayyanar, a form of Lord Shiva, was washed with milk and decked with flowers by a priest. Then the village reverberated with the sound firecrackers as people held up posters of Harris and clapped their hands. Harris made history Wednesday as the first Black, South Asian and female U.S. vice-president and what made her special for the village is is her Indian heritage. Harris' grandfather was born more than 100 years ago. Many decades later, he moved to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state. Harris’ late mother was also born in India, before moving to the U.S. to study at the University of California. She married a Jamaican man, and they named their daughter Kamala, a Sanskrit word for “lotus flower.” In several speeches, Harris has often spoken about her roots and how she was guided by the values of her Indian-born grandfather and mother. So when Joe Biden and Harris triumphed in the U.S. election last November, Thulasendrapuram became the centre of attention in entire India. Local politicians flocked to the village and young children carrying placards with photos of Harris ran along the dusty roads. Then and now, villagers set off firecrackers and distributed sweets and flowers as a religious offering. Posters and banners of Harris from November still adorn walls in the village and many hope she ascends to the presidency in 2024. Biden has skirted questions about whether he will seek reelection or retire. “For the next four years, if she supports India, she will be the president,” said G Manikandan, who has followed Harris politically and whose shop proudly displays a wall calendar with pictures of Biden and Harris. On Tuesday, an organization that promotes vegetarianism sent food packets for the village children as gifts to celebrate Harris’ success. In the capital New Delhi, there has been both excitement — and some concern — over Harris' ascent to the vice presidency. Modi had invested in President Donald Trump, who visited India in February last year. Modi’s many Hindu nationalist supporters also were upset with Harris when she expressed concern about Kashmir, the divided and disputed Muslim-majority region whose statehood India’s government revoked last year. Rishi Lekhi And Aijaz Rahi, The Associated Press
SYDNEY — People travelling to Australia from most other countries will need to test negative for the coronavirus before they depart, as of Friday. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said Thursday that he has signed orders that require international travellers to have a negative test within three days of leaving for Australia. All internationals passengers will also have to wear masks on their flights. New Zealand and a handful of Pacific Island countries are exempt from the new rules. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: Britain hits another record daily virus deaths. Ontario's leader asks Biden for 1 million vaccine shots due to Pfizer shortfall for Canada. India to start delivering Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to neighbouring countries. Expert panel says both China and the WHO should have acted faster to prevent the pandemic. Surging infections give Spain’s new emergency hospital in Madrid a chance for use. Italy ponders suing Pfizer for vaccine delays. __Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: TOKYO — Japanese electronics maker Panasonic Corp. says it is using its refrigerator technology to develop special boxes for storing the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, which must be kept at ultracold temperatures. The company said Thursday that samples will be ready in March, with a product to follow a month or two later. The box will use dry ice to maintain the temperature at the minus-70 degrees Celsius required for the Pfizer’s vaccine. It does not need to plug in. Japan’s government has deals with various drug companies, including one with Pfizer for enough vaccine to inoculate 72 million people this year. That is more than half the nation’s population. Japan is pushing a vaccine rollout after a surge in coronavirus cases, including a more than doubling of its pandemic death toll in the last three weeks to more than 4,600. ___ BEIJING — China is imposing some of its toughest travel restrictions yet as coronavirus cases surge in several northern provinces ahead of the Lunar New Year. Next month’s festival is the most important time of the year for family gatherings in China, and for many migrant workers it is often the only time they are able to return to their rural homes. This year, however, travellers must have a negative virus test within seven days of departure, and many local governments are ordering quarantines and other strict measures on travellers. A national health official had this message Wednesday for Chinese citizens: “Do not travel or have gatherings unless it’s necessary.” Officials are predicting Chinese will make 1.7 billion trips during the travel rush. That is down 40% from 2019. ___ MEXICO CITY — Mexico has had a second consecutive day of COVID-19 deaths surpassing 1,500. Officials reported 1,539 such deaths Wednesday, a day after 1,584 deaths were listed. There was also a near-record one-day rise in new virus cases of 20,548. Mexico has seen almost 1.69 million confirmed coronavirus infections and over 144,000 test-confirmed deaths related to COVID-19. With the country’s extremely low testing rate, official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000. Mexico City is the current epicenter of the pandemic in the country, and 89% of the capital’s hospital beds are in use. For the nation as a whole, 61% of hospital beds are filled. ___ TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s surgeon general is urging the federal government to increase allotments of coronavirus vaccine to states like his where large concentrations of seniors face the greatest risk of illness and death from COVID-19. But Dr. Scott Rivkees added Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press that Floridians will eventually get their turns at vaccination. In his words, “The message is this: We will get to you.” It will be many months before all Floridians can be vaccinated. With 21.5 million people, Florida is the country’s third most populous state, and the state has vaccinated at least 1.1 million people so far. Since the pandemic began, the state has recorded about 1.6 million coronavirus cases and had more than 24,500 deaths — 83% of them 65 or older. ___ O’FALLON, Mo. -- Missouri's governor says the state plans to have mass vaccination sites by the end of the month in an effort to get more protection against the coronavirus to more people. Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday that he will activate the National Guard to help with new vaccination sites in each of the nine Missouri State Highway Patrol regions. Specific dates and locations for the sites were not announced. Each will be capable of administering up to 2,500 doses per day. The state also plans to send “targeted vaccination teams” to St. Louis and Kansas City, where they will work with clergy to help get vaccinations to “vulnerable populations” in the two cities. State officials say at least 250,000 Missourians have been vaccinated so far. The state’s initial doses have been for people such as health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities and those at high-risk of serious illness. ___ FRANKFORT, Ky — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is warning his state that although it is ramping up its vaccination effort, demand continues to outpace supply. He says that “the supply that we’re going to get next week is already 30,000 doses underneath our ability of what we can put in someone’s arm in just a seven-day span.” As of Wednesday, Kentucky has administered around 60% of doses designated for its state immunization program and roughly a third of doses in the Long Term Care Facilities Program. While Kentuckians age 70 and up are now eligible for the vaccine, many are having to wait for more appointments to become available due to the limited supply. ___ LONDON — An arthritis drug tried in patients with severe COVID-19 showed no benefit in a study that was stopped early because of safety concerns. The study was published Wednesday in the British journal The BMJ. The drug tocilizumab hadn’t been recommended outside a clinical trial, but some less rigorous research had suggested it could help. The study found more deaths in patients who received the drug. The deaths were attributed to COVID-19 related breathing problems or organ failure. The drug is sold by Switzerland-based Roche as Actemra and RoActemra for treating rheumatoid arthritis and some other diseases. It lowers inflammation by tamping down a protein called interleukin-6 that’s often found in excess in COVID-19 patients. The study involving 129 patients at nine hospitals in Brazil found no benefit for those who got the arthritis drug along with standard care. Two weeks later, 11 patients who received the drug had died, against two in the other half who didn’t. ___ ATLANTA — Judges say Georgia’s court system could take years to dig out of a backlog of jury trials delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton told lawmakers during hearings Wednesday that it could take one to two years to catch up. Superior Court Judge Wade Padgett estimated it could be more like three years. Under state law, Melton has been renewing a declaration of judicial emergency every 30 days, limiting what court cases can happen in person. He says he’s eager to resume jury trials as soon as possible. For a period late last year, Melton allowed some jury trials to go ahead. But Melton says rising infection rates forced another shutdown. ___ SACRAMENTO — California reported its second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths Wednesday but also a dip in hospitalizations below 20,000 for the first time since Dec. 27. The California Department of Public Health has reported the total of 694 new deaths is second to the record 708 reported on Jan. 8. Hospitalizations stood at 19,979. California officials are pinning their hopes on President Joe Biden as they struggle to obtain coronavirus vaccines to curb a coronavirus surge that has packed hospitals and morgues. Doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been arriving haphazardly as they make their way from the source to counties, cities and hospitals. ___ COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Health has said a pharmacy responsible for distributing the coronavirus vaccine to Ohio nursing homes failed to document storage temperatures for leftover shots, resulting in 890 doses being wasted. The agency said on Wednesday that it suspended SpecialtyRx in Columbus from the distribution system and ordered it not to administer any of the wasted doses. Officials said SpecialtyRx received an initial 1,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine late last year for distribution to eight nursing homes and had 890 leftover. The state said the company failed to properly record the minimum and maximum refrigerator and freezer temperatures for the leftover doses each day during transportation. Department spokesperson Melanie Amato said the doses are considered wasted because the monitoring wasn’t done properly. An official with New Jersey-based SpecialtyRx said Wednesday she wasn’t aware of the problem but promised a company response. ___ NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that he expects the state to exhaust its supply of vaccine available to people receiving their first dose within two or three days. “What’s clear now is we’re going to be going from week to week and you will see a constant pattern of basically running out, waiting for the next week’s allocation, and then starting up again,” the Democrat said. He urged health care facilities to be careful not to schedule appointments to give away vaccine they haven’t been allocated yet, “because we don’t know what we’re going to get next week and we don’t know where we’re going to distribute it next week.” ___ OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department of Health said Wednesday that it is seeking volunteers to help at vaccination sites in the state. The department’s Medical Reserve Corps said Wednesday that both medical and non-medical volunteers are needed to give vaccinations, handle registration and other tasks. The volunteers work at points of dispensing sites at more than 50 locations in the state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Oklahoma has administered 242,093 vaccinations, including 30,919 to people who have now received the required two doses of vaccine. The CDC reported the state has received 455,275 doses thus far. According to Johns Hopkins University, Oklahoma had the fourth highest number of new cases per capita in the nation Wednesday with 1,270 per 100,000 residents during the past two weeks. The health department reported 1,986 new cases Wednesday and 48 more deaths due to the virus. ___ TOPEKA, Kan. — The top health official in Kansas has told lawmakers that the state will likely see a small uptick in immediate supply of the COVID-19 vaccine with the change in presidential administrations. In a joint hearing Tuesday before Senate and House health panels, Dr. Lee Norman, head of the state health department, said he has been told the state will probably get a 1% or 2% increase in its vaccine supply in the short run. The federal government allocates vaccines to states based on population. Kansas, with its population of 3 million, receives 1% of the nation’s allocated vaccines, he said, adding that the state has at times been shorted as much as half of its anticipated supply. The state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout prioritizes health care workers and nursing homes in its first phase, which is almost complete. About a third of the state’s population will be covered in the second phase, which covers people ages 65 and older, those in congregate settings such as prisons, and high-contact critical workers. ___ MADRID — Spain’s government is resisting calls by regional health authorities to let them impose earlier curfews amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. Spain’s hospitals are filling up again after a third rise in infections since the start of the pandemic. Another 464 people were reported dead on Wednesday, increasing the confirmed death toll to 54,637. Some regions want the government to allow a change of the curfew to 8 p.m., instead of the current 10 p.m. allowed under a state of emergency. Health Minister Salvador Illa says the ministry would “evaluate” the request, even though he insisted it wasn’t needed because of current measures. Spain registered another 41,000 cases on Wednesday in the midst of rolling out its vaccination program. Despite the recent hiccups in the shipments the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Spain broke 1 million vaccines administered on Wednesday. Spain has 2.4 million confirmed cases, eighth in the world. It has registered more than 54,000 deaths, 10th globally. ___ The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — Bo Horvat scored the shootout winner to give the Vancouver Canucks a 6-5 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday. The Canucks captain put a shot between the legs of Montreal goalie Carey Price to seal the win in Vancouver’s home opener. Horvat and Brock Boeser each had two goals and an assist for Vancouver (2-3-0) in regulation. Tyler Motte also scored for the Canucks, and J.T. Miller notched three assists. Canucks goalie Braden Holtby stopped 31-of-36 shots through regulation and overtime. Carey Price had 23 saves for the Canadiens (2-0-2), who have yet to be beaten in regulation this season. Former Canuck Tyler Toffoli scored a hat trick for Montreal in regulation, while Jesper Kotkaniemi had a goal and an assist and Brendan Gallagher scored his first goal of the year. Boeser forced overtime 16:51 into the third period, blasting a snap shot past Price for his second goal of the game. Toffoli had put the Canadiens up by one 32 seconds earlier, deflecting in a shot by Jeff Petry. Toffoli spent the end of last season in Vancouver after the Canucks acquired him from the L.A. Kings at the trade deadline. He had 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 10 regular-season appearances for Vancouver, then signed a four-year deal, at US$4.25-million per season with Montreal in free agency. Kotkaniemi had evened the score at 4-4- with a blast from the top of the slot 10:14 into the third period. It was the first goal of the season for the 20-year-old Habs forward. Horvat had previously broken a 3-3 deadlock with a power-play goal 3:24 into the final frame. Miller sent the Canucks captain a slick pass from below the goal line and Horvat snapped a shot past Price from the slot. After struggling through the first four games of the season and failing to convert on 15 opportunities with the man advantage, Vancouver's power play found its groove Wednesday The Canucks opened the scoring with a power-play marker 11:07 into the game after Montreal's Ben Chiarot was called for holding. Miller slid a short pass to Horvat who riffled it in past Price for the Canucks' first power-play goal of the season. The home team added another 12:13 into the second frame when Kotkaniemi was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after appearing to say something untoward to an official. Vancouver's power play looked strong from the start, with shots from Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes missing the target before Boeser hammered in a rebound. Motte also scored for the Canucks in the second period, patiently skating deep into Montreal territory and assessing his options before sending a wrist shot past Price. Vancouver suffered some breakdowns in the second frame, though, starting 1:37 in when the squad lost track of Toffoli during a Canadiens change. Kotkaniemi sent Toffoli the puck and he waltzed deep into the Vancouver zone alone, putting a shot over Holtby's blocker. It was the 28-year-old centre's first goal of the year. Toffoli struck again with a power-play goal 5:27 into the second period after Antoine Roussell was called for interference. Nick Suzuki sent the puck rocketing towards the Vancouver net and Toffoli tipped it in for his second goal of the game. Gallagher added to the Canadiens goals to close out the period, deflecting a pass from Tomas Tatar into the net and ensuring the score was tied at 3-3 heading into the second intermission. Wednesday's game marked the first the Canucks played in Vancouver in 316 days. Without fans in the stands, players from both sides could be heard vocally disputing the officials' calls and cheering teammates on. Simulated crowd noise pumped into the arena sounded similar to the background noise in videogames. Midway through the second period, a video on the big screen over centre ice read "make some noise," challenging the upper bowl to compete with the lower bowl as both sat empty. Montreal won't have to wait long to seek revenge for the loss -- the Canadiens and Canucks will face off again in Vancouver on Thursday. NOTES: Canucks defenceman Jalen Chatfield made his NHL debut. The 24-year-old from Ypsilanti, Mich., went undrafted before signing as a free agent with Vancouver in March 2017. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
Souvent embauchés pour exercer un emploi de nuit, des milliers de travailleurs au statut migratoire précaire sont dans l’impossibilité d’obtenir une attestation de leur employeur pour justifier leurs déplacements entre 20 h et 5 h. Craignant d’être interceptés par la police, ce qui pourrait leur valoir une contravention, voire l’expulsion, ils sont contraints de quitter l’emploi qui leur permet de subvenir à leurs besoins et à ceux de leurs familles. Le couvre-feu a des conséquences lourdes pour des milliers de travailleurs de nuit œuvrant dans des domaines essentiels, comme l’entretien ménager et l’alimentation. Deux travailleurs mexicains nous ont confié l’état de leur situation. Les noms des travailleurs cités dans ce reportage ont été modifiés afin de protéger leur identité. Arrivée du Mexique avec un permis de travail temporaire en septembre 2019, Angela a travaillé comme femme de ménage dans un hôtel de Québec jusqu’en décembre 2020. L’industrie de l’hôtellerie ayant été durement touchée par la pandémie, son employeur n’a pas été en mesure de fournir une nouvelle évaluation de l’impact sur le marché du travail (EIMT), ce qui a entraîné le refus du renouvellement de son permis de travail. « Mon permis expiré, je suis tombée sans statut à la fin décembre », raconte la mère de trois enfants, venue au Québec en quête d’une meilleure rémunération pour pouvoir subvenir à leurs besoins. « J’ai pu trouver un emploi en entretien ménager de nuit dans un centre commercial à Lévis, mais j’ai dû le quitter début janvier en raison du couvre-feu. » Travaillant au noir, Angela se débrouille pour l’instant pour payer son loyer en faisant l’entretien ménager de bureaux quelques heures par soir. « J’arrive à 17 h, une fois que les gens sont partis. Toutefois, je dois repartir vers 19 h 40, pour réussir à attraper le bus qui me permet de rentrer chez moi juste avant 20 h. » Gagnant très peu d’argent en faisant trois heures de travail quotidien, elle nous confie devoir à tout prix trouver un autre emploi de jour pour pouvoir couvrir son loyer, payer les honoraires de l’avocat qu’elle a embauché pour l’aider à retrouver son statut migratoire et recommencer à envoyer de l’argent à ses enfants. « Je veux pouvoir offrir à mes enfants un meilleur avenir. Mon fils aîné est à la veille de commencer l’université. Il veut être médecin », raconte Angela, qui devra quitter le Québec si elle ne réussit pas à trouver un emploi de jour à temps plein d’ici quelques semaines. Sans statut depuis 2013 en raison du refus de sa demande d’asile, Omar travaille en assainissement dans un abattoir situé à l’extérieur de Montréal depuis quelques mois. N’ayant droit à aucune aide du gouvernement en raison de son statut, tout comme Angela, il dépend à 100 % des emplois au noir qu’il peut trouver çà et là pour couvrir ses dépenses et pouvoir envoyer de l’argent à ses enfants au Mexique chaque mois. Jusqu’à l’entrée en vigueur du couvre-feu, le résident de Villeray devait se rendre chaque soir à 22 h tapant à une station de métro dans l’est de la ville pour monter en voiture avec un de ses collègues qui l’emmenait au travail pour son quart de travail qui commençait à 23 h. Depuis le 8 janvier, il doit se rendre chez son collègue avant 20 h et attendre l’heure du départ assis près de la porte. « Je ne suis pas censé entrer chez lui, mais je n’ai pas d’autre choix si je veux me rendre au travail. Je dois briser une loi pour éviter de contrevenir à une autre », avoue le père de trois enfants, qui craint de tomber sur la police chaque fois qu’il est en déplacement vers son travail depuis le 8 janvier. « Mon collègue n’est pas à l’aise de m’accueillir chez lui, car il habite avec sa famille, et mon boss craint que je lui attire des ennuis si je me fais arrêter, car il m’embauche sans papiers. Alors, c’est ma dernière semaine de travail. » Juan devra recommencer sa recherche de travail dès samedi prochain. « J’ai toujours fait le travail que les autres ne veulent pas faire. Actuellement, je lave les machines et le plancher souillés de sang et d’excréments de porc, mais cela ne me dérange pas, pourvu que je puisse travailler pour nourrir mes enfants et payer l’avocat qui soumet ma demande de résidence permanente pour des raisons humanitaires », dit-il. « Depuis la première vague de COVID-19, le rôle clé des travailleurs sans statut dans notre société a été mis en évidence. Ils occupent souvent les emplois que la société n’arrive pas à pourvoir malgré les incitatifs financiers du gouvernement », explique Mostafa Henaway, organisateur communautaire au Centre de travailleurs et travailleuses immigrants. Il ajoute qu’il est nécessaire de remettre en question le rôle de la police dans la crise sanitaire actuelle. « En raison du couvre-feu, ces travailleurs doivent rester cachés dans l’ombre et perdre leurs revenus, n’ayant aucune garantie que la police ne vérifiera pas leur identité ou n’alertera pas l’Agence des services frontaliers du Canada. Nous devrions plutôt consacrer toutes ces ressources aux agences de santé publique ou à la santé et à la sécurité au travail », conclut-il.Karla Meza, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Devoir
Washington– This is the verbatim executive order killing the Keystone XL pipeline, again, assigned by newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden within his first hour in the Oval Office: “Sec. 6. Revoking the March 2019 Permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. (a) On March 29, 2019, the President granted to TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. a Presidential permit (the “Permit”) to construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the international border of the United States and Canada (the “Keystone XL pipeline”), subject to express conditions and potential revocation in the President’s sole discretion. The Permit is hereby revoked in accordance with Article 1(1) of the Permit. “(b) In 2015, following an exhaustive review, the Department of State and the President determined that approving the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the U.S. national interest. That analysis, in addition to concluding that the significance of the proposed pipeline for our energy security and economy is limited, stressed that the United States must prioritize the development of a clean energy economy, which will in turn create good jobs. The analysis further concluded that approval of the proposed pipeline would undermine U.S. climate leadership by undercutting the credibility and influence of the United States in urging other countries to take ambitious climate action. “(c) Climate change has had a growing effect on the U.S. economy, with climate-related costs increasing over the last 4 years. Extreme weather events and other climate-related effects have harmed the health, safety, and security of the American people and have increased the urgency for combatting climate change and accelerating the transition toward a clean energy economy. The world must be put on a sustainable climate pathway to protect Americans and the domestic economy from harmful climate impacts, and to create well-paying union jobs as part of the climate solution. “(d) The Keystone XL pipeline disserves the U.S. national interest. The United States and the world face a climate crisis. That crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory. At home, we will combat the crisis with an ambitious plan to build back better, designed to both reduce harmful emissions and create good clean-energy jobs. Our domestic efforts must go hand in hand with U.S. diplomatic engagement. Because most greenhouse gas emissions originate beyond our borders, such engagement is more necessary and urgent than ever. The United States must be in a position to exercise vigorous climate leadership in order to achieve a significant increase in global climate action and put the world on a sustainable climate pathway. Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives.” Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
The historic inauguration ceremony for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was held in an eerie quiet in a city known for excessive celebrations when a new president is sworn in. But even with many streets empty due to COVID-19 restrictions and a massive security presence, some Americans crossed the country to be there for the big day.
Brooks RCMP say a fire at a grain elevator on Wednesday sent three workers to hospital. According to a release, RCMP responded at 1:34 p.m. to a fire at a grain elevator west of Brooks, near the JBS meat plant at Range Road 150 and Highway 1. The Brooks Fire Department, EMS and Fortis also responded to the incident. RCMP said three workers were transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and asked the public to avoid the area. The fire department has remained on scene for fire suppression efforts. Alberta Occupational Health and Safety will be investigating the fire with Brooks RCMP.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Two Florida men, including a self-described organizer for the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, were arrested Wednesday on charges of taking part in the siege of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, authorities said. Joseph Biggs, 37, was arrested in central Florida and faces charges of obstructing an official proceeding before Congress, entering a restricted on the groups of the U.S. Capitol and disorderly conduct. According to an arrest affidavit, Biggs was part of a crowd on Jan. 6 that overwhelmed Capitol Police officers who were manning a metal barrier on the steps of the Capitol. The mob entered the building as lawmakers were certifying President Joe Biden’s election win. Biggs appeared to be wearing a walkie-talkie during the storming of the Capitol, but he told FBI agents that he had no knowledge about the planning of the destructive riot and didn’t know who organized it, the affidavit said. Ahead of the riot, Biggs told followers of his on the social media app Parler to dress in black to resemble the far-left antifa movement, according to the affidavit. Biggs had organized a 2019 rally in Portland, Oregon, in which more than 1,000 far-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators faced off. The Proud Boys are a neofascist group known for engaging in violent clashes at political rallies. During a September presidential debate, Trump had urged them to “stand back and stand by” when asked to condemn them by a moderator. An online court docket did not indicate whether Biggs has an attorney who could comment. Jesus Rivera, 37, also was arrested Wednesday in Pensacola. He faces charges of knowingly entering a restricted building, intent to impede government business, disorderly conduct and demonstrating in the Capitol buildings. Rivera uploaded a video to Facebook showing himself in the U.S. Capitol crypt, authorities said. The five-minute video ends with Rivera starting to climb out a window at the Capitol, according to an arrest affidavit. An online court docket also did not list an attorney for Rivera. The cases are being handled by federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia. More than a half-dozen other Floridians have been charged in relation to the Capitol assault. Associated Press, The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. — Kendrick Nunn poured in 28 points and the short-handed Miami Heat beat Toronto 111-102 to end the Raptors' three-game winning streak on Wednesday. Fred VanVleet had 24 points and nine assists to top the Raptors (5-9), while Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby had 18 points apiece. Terence Davis scored 16 points off the bench. Canadian Kelly Olynyk had 15 points for the Heat (6-7), who were missing Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley do to health and safety protocols around COVID-19. The Raptors were coming off a 116-93 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, their best performance this season and a hopeful sign they'd turned a corner on their early troubles. But on Wednesday, they trailed the Heat by 11 in the first half of a back-and-forth game that saw 11 lead changes through the first three quarters. The Heat led 88-83 to start the fourth. Chris Boucher's cutting layup cut the difference to three points early in the quarter, but Miami replied with an 8-0 run capped by a fadeaway bucket from Bam Adebayo that had the Heat back up by 11 with 6:58 to play. Siakam's jumper with 5:17 to play ended an almost six-minute stretch without a basket for the Raptors. VanVleet's three less than a minute later slashed the difference to nine points. But the Raptors couldn't maintain any momentum, and back-to-back three-pointers by Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala had Miami back up by 15 points. Davis, who connected on all four of his three-point attempts, scored from distance with 1:27 to play to make it a 10-point game, but the Raptors never threatened over the dying seconds. Toronto's sluggish finish has been a worrisome trend this season for a team that was once one of the league's best teams down the stretch. Kyle Lowry scored Toronto's first seven points, but an Iguodala three-pointer and dunk punctuated an 18-6 Heat run late in the quarter, and Miami led 29-23 to start the second. The Raptors picked up the pace in the second, and Anunoby's pair of threes were part of a 9-0 Raptors run that sliced Miami's lead to two points. Toronto went into the halftime break up 58-56. The Raptors host Miami again on Friday, then play back-to-back games at Indiana. The NBA's two-game series model is a way to limit travel and exposure to COVID-19 this season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2020. The Canadian Press
REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is warning Regina city council there could be financial consequences if it restricts energy companies from sponsoring or advertising with the city. Council's executive committee voted Wednesday in favour of a motion that would ban fossil fuel producers and sellers from advertising or having sponsorship agreements for city operations. The motion must now go to the full city council for another vote. If approved, it would see non-renewable energy-based companies added to other types of firms or organizations that could compromise the city's reputation. Moe calls the motion passed by the executive committee "absurd" and thanked Mayor Sandra Masters and some other council members for voting against it. He says the motion is a hypocritical attack on the hardworking workers and employers that fuel Saskatchewan’s economy and fund important community initiatives through voluntary sponsorships. "Should this motion pass Regina City Council next week, our government will seriously consider the future of sponsorships to the City of Regina from provincial energy companies like SaskEnergy and SaskPower," Moe said Thursday in a release. "I would also note that the City of Regina receives about $29 million a year from the municipal surcharge on SaskPower bills and $4.3 million from the municipal surcharge on SaskEnergy bills. "If these Regina city councillors have such a strong aversion to accepting money from energy companies, I assume they will no longer want to receive these funds, which could instead be distributed to other Saskatchewan municipalities." The motion was brought forward by Coun. Daniel Leblanc, who said allowing such sponsorships implies acceptance, at the city level, of what the companies do. He said that contradicts council's moves to make Regina more environmentally sustainable. "We are concerned about the amount of carbon used in our city, I think it is similarly or more inconsistent for us to have buildings and parks named after fossil fuel corporations than it is to be named after a pack of smokes." LeBlanc said. (The Canadian Press, CTV) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021 The Canadian Press
BlackRock Inc, the world's largest asset manager, is adding bitcoin futures as an eligible investment to two funds, a company filing showed. The company said it could use bitcoin derivatives for its funds BlackRock Strategic Income Opportunities and BlackRock Global Allocation Fund Inc. The funds will invest only in cash-settled bitcoin futures traded on commodity exchanges registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the company said in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.
Two salmon farming operations have applied to the Federal Court of Canada in Vancouver for a judicial review of a decision made by Fisheries Minster Bernadette Jordan to phase out fish farms on B.C.'s Discovery Islands. The decision, released on Dec. 17, 2020, states all 19 farms have to be free of fish by June 30, 2022, when their renewed 18-month licences expire and that no new fish can be brought in. At the time, Jordan said her decision was a result of consultations she had with seven First Nations: the Homalco, Klahoose, K'ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla'amin, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum. "We heard overwhelmingly from First Nations in the area that they do not want these fish farms there," she said. "They feel that they should have a say in their territorial waters, and I absolutely agree with them." Mowi Canada West, and Cermaq Canada, both salmon farming operators in the area located near Campbell River, have applied for the judicial review. In its statement, Mowi Canada West said the decision was "made without consultation of the industry, one week before Christmas." It also outlined the consequences of the decision, including the loss of almost a third of its business, the culling of several million young fish currently in hatcheries and significant job losses in coastal communities. In a statement, Cermaq Canada said it too would have to make labour cuts and put a significant number of fish at risk. It added, however, that its request focuses only on the conduct of DFO and the minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and that it "respects the opinions and the rights of the First Nations in the Discovery Islands region."
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Health is asking anyone who travelled on the Blue Puttees ferry to or from Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques between Dec. 29 and Jan. 16 to call 811 to arrange for COVID-19 testing. The request comes on the heels of a crewmember testing positive for the disease. Marine Atlantic said Wednesday it’s the first such case it has had to deal with since the pandemic began. “We have been in contact with public health officials in Nova Scotia and with Marine Atlantic occupational health and safety, and are co-ordinating a response,” Newfoundland's chief medical officer of health told reporters. “We’d like to indicate that the risk is low for these people, but we are doing this out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said. Testing can also be arranged by completing the online assessment tool at covidassessment.nichi.nl.ca. Fitzgerald would give no further details about the case because of privacy concerns. However, a Marine Atlantic spokesperson said it’s clear the crewmember contracted the disease on board because he only developed symptoms after leaving his two-week shift. The incubation window for COVID-19 is 14 days. Fitzpatrick said the risk is low for passengers because there are less spaces for people to intermingle on board. “Marine Atlantic certainly has put a lot of protocols in place since the beginning of the pandemic to reduce the amount of interaction that their staff and the passengers will have,” she said. “They’ve certainly got masking protocols and all of that as well, and they’ve reduced common spaces.” When contacted, the Marine Atlantic spokesperson didn’t have specific details on the number of passengers who have travelled on the ferry during the timeframe in question, but said it would be in the hundreds. He said on one recent crossing, there were about 10 regular passengers and 50 commercial passengers, but those numbers vary day by day. The Public Health Authority in Nova Scotia has already started contact tracing of crewmembers, although Fitzgerald said any contact tracing that involves this province will be conducted by local public health officials. Crewmembers must self-isolate on the ferry after the testing. With the Blue Puttees moored indefinitely, Marine Atlantic cancelled its morning crossing from North Sydney, N.S., to Port aux Basques and Wednesday evening’s crossing from Newfoundland to Cape Breton. The company says the MV Highlanders will remain in service, and the MV Atlantic Vision is currently being prepared to enter service should it be required in the days ahead. The Atlantic Vision has been moored in North Sidney on standby, but it may take up to 48 hours to establish a crew and get it into service. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Wednesday's Games NHL Vancouver 6 Montreal 5 (SO) Edmonton 3 Toronto 1 San Jose 2 St. Louis 1 (SO) Minnesota 3 Anaheim 2 Vegas 5 Arizona 2 --- NBA Miami 111 Toronto 102 Dallas 124 Indiana 112 Philadelphia 117 Boston 109 Cleveland 147 Brooklyn 135 (2OT) Atlanta 123 Detroit 115 (OT) Orlando 97 Minnesota 96 Phoenix 109 Houston 103 L.A. Clippers 115 Sacramento 96 Golden State 121 San Antonio 99 Washington at Charlotte -- postponed Memphis at Portland -- postponed --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
President Joe Biden on Wednesday revoked a recent Trump administration report that aimed to promote “patriotic education” in schools but that historians mocked and rejected as political propaganda. In an executive order signed in his first day in office, Biden disband Donald Trump’s presidential 1776 Commission and withdrew a report it released Monday. Trump established the group in September to rally support from white voters and as a response to The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which highlights the lasting consequences of slavery in America. In its report, which Trump hoped would be used in classrooms across the nation, the commission glorifies the country’s founders, plays down America’s role in slavery, condemns the rise of progressive politics and argues that the civil rights movement ran afoul of the “lofty ideals” espoused by the Founding Fathers. The panel, which included no professional historians of the United States, complained of “false and fashionable ideologies” that depict the country’s story as one of “oppression and victimhood.” Instead, it called for renewed efforts to foster “a brave and honest love for our country.” Historians widely panned the report, saying it offers a false and outdated version of American history that ignores decades of research. “It's an insult to the whole enterprise of education. Education is supposed to help young people learn to think critically,” said David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale University. “That report is a piece of right-wing propaganda.” Trump officials heralded the report as “a definitive chronicle of the American founding,” but scholars say it disregards the most basic rules of scholarship. It offers no citations, for example, or a list of its source materials. It also includes several passages copied directly from other writings by members of the panel, as one professor found after running the report through software that's used to detect plagiarism. Matthew Spalding, the panel’s executive director and a vice-president at the conservative Hillsdale College, denied any wrongdoing, saying the panel's members “contributed our own work and writing, under our own names, to the 1776 Report, which was an advisory report to the president.” Spalding and other commission leaders did not immediately respond to other criticism levelled against the report. In his order dissolving the panel, Biden said it “sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice.” The American Historical Association condemned the document, saying it glorifies the founders while ignoring the histories and contributions of enslaved people, Indigenous communities and women. In a statement also signed by 13 other academic groups, the organization says the report seeks “government indoctrination of American students.” The sharpest criticism of the report was directed at its presentation of slavery and race. The report attempts to undermine allegations of hypocrisy against Founding Fathers who owned slaves even as they espoused equality. It also attempts to soften America's role in slavery and explain it as a product of the times. “Many Americans labour under the illusion that slavery was somehow a uniquely American evil,” the panel wrote in the 20-page report. “The unfortunate fact is that the institution of slavery has been more the rule than the exception throughout human history.” Blight, at Yale, compared it to “a sixth or seventh grade kind of approach to history — to make the children feel good.” He added: “But it's worse than that, because it comes out of an agenda of political propaganda.” The authors argue that the civil rights movement was distorted to advance programs promoting inequality and “group privilege.” It complains, for example, about affirmative action and other forms of “preferential treatment." Ibram X. Kendi, a scholar and historian of racism at Boston University, called the report “the last great lie from a Trump administration of great lies.” “If we have commonly been given preferential treatment, then why do Black people remain on the lower and dying end of nearly every racial disparity?” Kendi said on Twitter. “Whenever they answer this question, they express racist ideas of Black inferiority while claiming they are ‘not racist.’” Other scholars underscored what was left out. The report includes nothing of Native American history, and its only reference to Indigenous people is a racial slur quoted from the Declaration of Independence. In one passage jeered by historians, the authors draw a comparison between the progressive movement in America and fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said the report is intended to discredit contemporary public policies rooted in America’s progressive reform movement. He worries that, even after Biden dissolved the commission, its report could end up in some classrooms. “Historians need to be paying attention to curriculum conversations in localities and at the state level,” Grossman said. “The nonsense that’s in this report will be used to legitimate similar nonsense.” In a public meeting of the commission this month, some members held out hope that Biden would keep the commission alive. But others said they needed to push the report to state and local education officials. “It’s really going to be up to governors and state legislators and school board members and parents and higher education commissioners even students to take this charge and carry this work forward,” said Doug Hoelscher, a White House assistant under Trump. The report ultimately demands a shift in teaching at schools and at U.S. universities, which the panel describes as “hotbeds of anti-Americanism.” It denounces any teaching that breeds contempt for American ideals, blaming that kind of “destructive scholarship” for the nation’s divisions and for “so much of the violence in our cities.” “To restore our society,” the report says, “academics must return to their vocation of relentlessly pursuing the truth and engaging in honest scholarship that seeks to understand the world and America’s place in it.” Collin Binkley, The Associated Press
MENDON, N.Y. — Three National Guard members on a training flight were killed Wednesday when their helicopter crashed in a farmer's field in western New York. The craft, a UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter, crashed around 6:30 p.m. in Mendon, New York, a rural town south of Rochester, officials said. The circumstances were under investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration said it would take part. Photos of the crash scene posted by local news media showed the aircraft wreckage burning on a snow-covered field. The helicopter flew out of the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport, and was assigned to C Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion, according to Eric Durr, public affairs director of the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said flags on state buildings would be lowered to half-staff on Thursday to pay tribute to the troops. “National Guard members are our citizen soldiers who voluntarily serve and protect both here and abroad, and I extend prayers and condolences from all New Yorkers to the family, loved ones and fellow soldiers of these honourable heroes," he said in a statement. Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said at a news conference that witnesses who called 911 reported hearing the sounds of an engine sputtering and said the aircraft was flying very low. There were no survivors of the crash, he said. Baxter called the three guard members who perished “great Americans.” “Keep them in your minds and your prayers,” he said. The Associated Press
As the COVID-19 vaccine program rolls out across the province and country, polls indicate most Canadians intend to get immunized. For the minority who remain uncertain – safety and effectiveness are cited as primary concerns – we gathered the most common questions and turned to scientists, experts, and reputable sources for answers. Do vaccines work? Yes. Every year, vaccines prevent people around the world from contracting dozens of infectious diseases and their variants, including, polio, hepatitis, measles, tetanus, tuberculosis and others. According to the World Health Organization, over the past century, billions of vaccinations have been administered globally, preventing 2 to 3 million deaths annually. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are both about 95 per cent effective at preventing symptoms, serious illness, and the development of COVID-19. Seasonal influenza vaccines typically have between a 40 to 60 per cent effectiveness. “When someone receives a vaccine, it stimulates our own body's immune system to produce antibodies to that antigen, that protein,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. The vaccine was developed so fast, is it safe? “The global community of scientists have collaborated in ways we never experienced before, with a single purpose in mind to develop a safe and effective vaccine for the world,” Henry said. “The greatest brains around the world were put to this process and to this task.” Each vaccine manufacturer had to demonstrate clear and substantial scientific and clinical evidence that the vaccines are safe, effective, and manufactured to the highest quality, she said. COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial results published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Dec. 10 indicated similar safety levels to other commonly administered virus vaccines. “Health Canada, and other regulators around the world, set the bar high to ensure that any vaccines that came out of this process met those standards, that they were safe, that they worked, and that they were quality vaccine,” Henry said. How long will I be immune after I get vaccinated? Immunity varies for different vaccines. Some provide immunity for years, some for a lifetime, and others, like influenza, for months. So far, the immunity levels have held steady for people who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines beginning with clinical trials last fall. “It's at least three to four months, which is good news,” said Henry. We won’t know the full length of immunity until more time passes. Can I still spread the virus after getting vaccinated? It’s not yet known whether people can shed virus after being immunized. Vaccines are effective tools against the spread of communicable disease. The COVID-19 vaccine will slow the spread of the virus by reducing the number of people who contract the disease and suffer severe illness, but it won’t eliminate the virus. “This disease appeared a year ago, and we've made so much progress in terms of knowledge about this disease in a year it is incredible,” said Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, a pediatric infectious disease physician who holds the Canadian Research Chair in Infection Prevention at the University of Montreal and is also Chair of the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI). “So yes, there are things we don't know, and I think it is important to acknowledge we don't know. But I don't think that that should stop people from getting vaccinated.” Will I still have to wear a mask after I’ve been immunized? Yes. While the vaccine is about 95 per cent effective at preventing the development of COVID-19, it’s not yet known if a vaccinated person can, subsequently, be an asymptomatic spreader of the virus, just as it’s unknown whether a person can be reinfected after contracting COVID-19 naturally. “That's why, it's still really important that everybody continues to wear masks, to clean their hands regularly, to take those measures that we know prevent transmission to droplets between people,” said Henry. COVID-19 isn’t as serious as public health is saying – why don’t we just let the disease die out naturally? “The risk of complication and death is just too high to let it run its course,” said Quach-Thanh. In Canada, as of Jan. 20, more than 725,000 people had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 18,462 Canadians had died from the disease (including 1,004 people in B.C.) over the duration of the pandemic. Worldwide, more than 2 million people had died and more than 97 million had been diagnosed with COVID-19. By that date in the U.S., 24.4 million Americans had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 405,000 people had died of it. Virginia Commonwealth University researchers called the COVID-19 mortality rate in the U.S. ‘calamitous,’ comparing it to having 15 Airbus jetliners carrying 150 people crash every day. Will the government make vaccinations mandatory? Neither Federal, nor British Columbian government officials have suggested mandating vaccinations. According to a recent Ipsos poll for Global News, however, 64 per cent of Canadians support mandatory vaccination, while 72 per cent said they would get vaccinated as soon as they could, including 88 per cent of British Columbians polled. Are the vaccine side effects worse than the disease? In Canada, side effects so far have been similar to mild flu symptoms, sometimes intensifying after the second dose, Quach-Thanh said. Common side effects include pain at the site of injection, body chills, fatigue or feeling feverish. These indicate a healthy immune system response and tend to occur within one to three days of inoculation, resolving within hours or a few weeks, according to Health Canada. As of Jan. 20, almost 700,000 COVID-19 shots had been administered in Canada, including almost 98,125 in B.C. By the same date, more than 55 million COVID-19 vaccine shots had been administered worldwide, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. “If something happens, we will hear about it, because the company has to report it to Canada,” said Quach-Thanh. Pregnant women, people with severe autoimmune conditions such as cancer patients, and people who have previously had severe allergic reactions to vaccines should consult a health practitioner before getting vaccinated. Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine? “There is absolutely no way you can get COVID-19 from the vaccine. It is not possible,” said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at University of California Davis Children’s Hospital in the school’s health bulletin. “None of the vaccines being developed use the live virus. There is nothing in the vaccine that could cause COVID-19.” Should I get vaccinated? “I think that if we are able to stop this pandemic, it will be due to the vaccine, otherwise, it will strain our lives like this for many, many, many years to come,” said Quach-Thanh. “The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are very effective at preventing symptoms, especially severe symptoms, and preventing people from hospitalization and dying from COVID,” said Henry. For more information, visit: BCCDC.ca or Canada.ca Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
Some days, hours go by without a single customer coming into Renaissance Coffee at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. "We have never seen or experienced anything like this, it has been very devastating for us and the staff who have been with us for 20 or 15 years. Now they're all sitting at home waiting for things to improve," said owner Parminder Parhar. He has laid off nine staff and is running the coffee shop with his wife, just like the old days. They started the business 25 years ago and have three locations at the Burnaby Mountain campus, but only one is open right now. Most post-secondary institutions are offering online classes and have shut down lecture halls, leaving campuses empty. "Right now, it seems like a ghost town," said Parhar. The lack of foot traffic has put a serious dent in revenue. "We probably only do, best case scenario, five per cent of what we did before ... or even less," he said. But he believes the university has taken the right approach by limiting the number of people on campus. He keeps the one location open to serve the few people that do come by. "Whoever is here in the community, we are here to serve and we have been part of this community for many years, around 25 years, so we still like to be part of that. Another thing is nothing to do sitting at home, so better to do something meaningful," he said. Even businesses not located directly on campus are feeling the hit. Rice Burger is less than three kilometres from the University of British Columbia and heavily marketed to university students. "Our strategy was about 60 to 70 per cent university kids. We took a hit for sure," said co-owner Jackson Uppal about the arrival of pandemic restrictions last spring. Uppal and his best friend from high school, Austin Chen, started the concept four years ago. There's a giant graffiti wall, blasting R&B hits and a unique menu offering kimchi fries. Plus the 99 B-Line is just steps away. "It was a little bit of a kick to the groin at first, because we have invested so much in student life and when not that many students are on campus, we had to MacGyver. How do we get back?" They've pivoted and started focusing more on drawing in families through various promotions and marketing strategies. Food delivery apps have also been a saviour — the apps are now 70 per cent of their business. University budgets impacted, too Universities and colleges have also seen serious impacts to their budgets due to the pandemic. The University of British Columbia is projecting a $100-million deficit this fiscal year, which is $125 million lower than initially expected, due to "strong student demand," it says. The number could still change in February. Simon Fraser University says it also has lost revenue due to pandemic restrictions, but says it is no longer forecasting the $9-million shortfall projected in its 2020 budget. "Losses have been offset by stronger than anticipated undergraduate enrolments this past year. Our non-endowment investment income is also projected to be much stronger than anticipated," the university said in a statement. Universities have lost revenue for a variety of reasons. From reduced occupancy at student residences so that proper safety measures can be carried out, to lost parking revenue, cancelled conferences and the closing of food establishments, museums, galleries. There have also been additional costs. "We increased expenditures to support online instruction, additional cleaning, and student financial assistance," read a statement from Peter Smailes, UBC's vice-president of finance. Smailes said the university has undertaken "a range of mitigating strategies including travel restrictions, a hiring chill, and the reduction in discretionary spending." Recovering from the deficit will be a multi-year project for the university. While, SFU is also looking to identify administrative saving opportunities and minimize hiring where possible.