With Kim MacDonald.
With Kim MacDonald.
OTTAWA — Procurement Minister Anita Anand says that as soon as she knows when the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada, she will share that information with Canadians.But Anand told The Canadian Press in an interview this week that the original contracts to buy COVID-19 vaccines had to be vague about delivery dates because nobody knew at the time if the vaccines would be successful.It's only in the last few weeks, when the leading candidates from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca reported such positive results from their large clinical trials, that the way forward became clear enough for Anand's department to start asking the companies to be more specific about when they can make good on their contracts with Canada."We put these contracts in place in order to place Canadians in the best stead possible, of any country in the world, recognizing that we would need to negotiate additional terms such as precise delivery dates, once a vaccine was discovered, and regulatory approval was obtained," she said. "And that is what's happening now."As Canadians face a pandemic-plagued holiday season and dream that 2021 will not be the anxiety-laden and often tragic disaster that 2020 has proven to be, there is one gleaming hope dangling still just out of reach: a vaccine for COVID-19.Still, the federal government has yet to answer one big question: When will it get here?It is not that she doesn't want to tell Canadians when, said Anand. But the complexities of figuring out a specific date are linked to when Health Canada approves the vaccine, and when the vaccine makers can see that Canada is ready to receive and safely distribute the precious doses, some of which have to be stored at temperatures below -70 C.Those pieces are starting to converge now.Health Canada officials are days, maybe even hours, away from approving the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for use in Canada.Canadians got some more information on the logistics from a briefing of federal officials this week, including that Pfizer will ship its vaccine directly to 14 identified receiving sites in provinces. FedEx and Innomar Strategies were contracted Friday to oversee the delivery of other vaccines from a national receiving site to provinces.The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued refined guidance Friday for who should get the vaccine first, including long-term care residents and workers, and people over the age of 80. The materials like syringes, gauze pads and bandages needed to vaccinate millions of people are in place. Ultralow temperature freezers have been purchased and nine new ones have already arrived. Provincial governments are lining up their own task forces."We are going to have vaccines in this country, as expeditiously as possible," Anand said.Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has been decrying the lack of clarity from the Liberals about the vaccine plan. A week ago he accused the Liberals of only starting to buy vaccines in a panic this summer after a collaboration with China on a vaccine fell apart.The partnership between the National Research Council and China's CanSino Biologics was announced in May to great fanfare. But the doses to be used in a Canadian clinical trial failed to arrive, when the Chinese government — in the midst of political tensions with Canada — refused to issue an export permit for them.“I would not have put all our eggs in the basket of China,” O’Toole said Nov. 29, adding the timeline shows it wasn't until that deal fell apart that Canada "started getting serious with Pfizer, Moderna, the other options."Anand said that is not the case.She said the CanSino deal fell within Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains' portfolio, not her own, and nothing about the project prevented her from negotiating with other companies.Her marching orders to negotiate deals with other vaccine makers came weeks earlier. A team of procurement officials in her department was assigned to the file in March, at the same time as those negotiating contracts for medical supplies, personal protective equipment and rapid tests.In June, the COVID-19 vaccine task force provided a list of vaccines for Canada to pursue. Anand said talks with manufacturers began in early July. The first deal, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna, was struck July 24. Canada was first to sign with Moderna. It signed a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech a week later, on Aug. 1. It was the fourth country to do so, after the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. News of trouble on the CanSino deal first appeared in early July when the doses still hadn't been approved for export by China. Canada walked away from the deal at the end of August when it became clear it would not happen.By then, Canada had deals with four other vaccine companies, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and NovaVax. It added deals with Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in September and then with Canada's own Medicago the next month.Anand said Canada approached every contract with a similar goal — to get 20 million doses guaranteed, and options to potentially buy more later on. In all, Canada is paying more than $1 billion to the seven vaccine makers for 194 million doses, even if those vaccines never get beyond the experimental stage.Another 220 million doses are available if Canada asks for them, a decision that will be made for the vaccines that are proving to be the best. Anand announced Friday another 20 million doses will come to Canada in 2021 from Moderna, for a total of 40 million.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2020.Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
The City of Vancouver now owns the Regent and Balmoral hotels, Downtown Eastside buildings the city had been trying to expropriate after years of neglect and decay, The Tyee has learned. Land title records list the city as the current owner of 159 E. Hastings — the Balmoral — and 160 E. Hastings — the Regent. The city confirmed to The Tyee that a settlement with the owners, the Sahota family, had been reached. But the city says the terms of the agreement prevent it from revealing how much was paid to purchase the properties, which have been assessed at a value of $1 each because of their extreme disrepair. Sam Dharmapala worked in the buildings as an employee of the former owners, the Sahota family. For a decade, Dharmapala said, he worked alongside tenants and advocates to raise the alarm about the dangerous living conditions at the hotels. “This is a very good fight in the history of the Downtown Eastside,” Dharmapala said. “We want to see [the hotels] go back to the residents of the Downtown Eastside, who have lived in those buildings.” Dharmapala said the city needs to ensure all the units in the two hotels are rented at the welfare shelter rate — $375 for a single person — to provide homes for Vancouver’s poorest residents. The hotels had provided more than 300 units. The records show the transfer happened Nov. 13, one year after Vancouver city council voted unanimously to expropriate the hotels in a groundbreaking decision. Council voted to expropriate after decades of repeated building code and bylaw violations and after taking the owners, the Sahota family, to court numerous times. It was the first time the city had ever attempted to expropriate residential buildings because of extreme neglect. The city started the court action with the intention of renovating or redeveloping the properties for low-income housing. Before the expropriation vote, council heard from dozens of tenants and former tenants who described living with no heat or hot water, constant bedbug, rat and cockroach infestations and the fear of what would happen if there were a fire. Tenants had lived in squalor in the two buildings for decades. City building inspectors ordered the Balmoral to be emptied in the summer of 2017 because it was in such poor condition. One year later, the Regent was also condemned. Tenants of both buildings were moved into other buildings by the City of Vancouver and BC Housing. Karen Ward, a Downtown Eastside resident who now works for the city as a drug policy advisor, said city building inspectors initially closed just the bathrooms of the Balmoral in June 2017 because they feared bathtubs could plunge through the rotten floors. Ward worked at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users at the time. “People were coming to me daily to say they were terrified to go into their own home,” Ward said. Ward called for the buildings to be torn down and for modular housing to be quickly built in their place. “We can build a six- to eight-story building and house 100 people by April,” Ward said. “It’s a desperate situation out here and we don’t need to do things the old way — we can use modular housing to build housing that decreases the chance of death for drug users. We can do this.” Overdose deaths have soared throughout 2020 and homelessness has increased as COVID-19 restrictions have made the drug supply more toxic and reduced the number of places people can go to find shelter. Vancouver’s mayor, Kennedy Stewart, said the city plans to work with BC Housing to turn the buildings into low-income housing. “Bringing the Regent and Balmoral into public ownership marks a hopeful new beginning for residents of the Downtown Eastside and something all residents should be proud of,” Stewart was quoted as saying in a press release. “Downtown Eastside residents will be at the centre of creating a new vision for these two sites, and indeed the entire community.” B.C.’s attorney general and minister responsible for housing, David Eby, also weighed in, saying: “For too long, people had to live in sub-standard living conditions in these buildings. The acquisition of these properties is welcome news.” The next steps will be to start community consultation sessions with the Downtown Eastside community, and city staff will report back to council on next steps and a timeline for renovating or redeveloping the properties in early 2021, according to the City of Vancouver. On Nov. 3, city communications staff told The Tyee court expropriation proceedings were paused while the city worked with “representatives of the owners of the Regent and the Balmoral to resolve the expropriation of the hotels.” The Tyee has reached out to the city for comment. In a statement emailed to The Tyee by lawyer Evan Cooke, the Sahota family confirmed they had come to an agreement with the city. “We have determined that the public sector is better equipped to respond to the acute needs of the area’s residents at this time; including their urgent need for housing, mental health and substance abuse support, and other critical programs.” The statement said the details of the transfer are confidential.Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
QUEBEC — The Quebec government says it will spend $18.6 million over the next five years to improve policing in Indigenous communities. Among the measures announced at a press conference Friday is funding to enable members of Indigenous police services to stay in their communities while taking specialized training courses around conjugal violence and sexual assault investigations. Currently those courses are only offered at the provincial police academy. Shawn Dulude, the chief of the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service and a vice-president of the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association, said that many of Quebec's 22 Indigenous police services are small. A service with four or five officers can't afford to send one of them away for up to a month, he explained at the press conference. The government will look at ways to deliver the training in communities, and in the languages that Indigenous police officers speak, Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault said. Dulude said the training will allow Indigenous police services to investigate crimes such as sexual assaults in their communities without having to call for support from the provincial police. "We want to be equal" with other police services, he said. Guilbault said the province will also fund basic police training for up to 24 members of Indigenous communities a year and take steps to encourage more people from those communities to consider a career in policing. Currently between 18 and 23 people from Indigenous communities graduate from Quebec's police academy every year — just over three per cent of graduates, Guilbault said. But Indigenous police services struggle with recruitment and retention. Many officers leave for police services in large cities or the provincial police, which offer better pay and benefits, Dulude said. The unique challenge of policing a small community where officers are often related to many residents can also contribute to burnout, he added. “You may be called for a conjugal violence at a home where it’s your cousin that’s the suspect, it could be your cousin that’s the victim," he said. "You can’t say I’m going to give the call to somebody else, because there’s nobody else. Often you’re alone with your partner working that shift." Dulude said he's optimistic about future negotiations with Quebec City and Ottawa around funding. Currently, Indigenous police services in Quebec receive 52 per cent of their funding from the federal government and 48 per cent from the province. In an additional measure, all members of the province's correctional service will receive training on the realities faced by Indigenous people, Guilbault said. The funding announced Friday comes after an inquiry overseen by retired judge Jacques Viens issued a damning report last year on the relationship between public servants in Quebec and Indigenous people. Guilbault said the announcement responds to several of the recommendations made in Viens' report. That inquiry was launched after a number of Indigenous women in Val-d'Or, Que., accused police of sexual assault and other forms of abuse. A report released in October on the provincial police watchdog's investigation into those allegations found that since the women came forward in 2015, more than 200 investigations have been opened into allegations of police misconduct toward Indigenous people. Le Devoir reported Friday that the complaints have led to charges against 17 police officers. On Friday, Ian Lafreniere, Quebec's minister responsible for Indigenous relations, said the fact that people are making formal complaints is a sign they have confidence in the system. Guilbault said that small number of charges that have resulted from investigations by the police watchdog is not necessarily a sign of how the agency is performing. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. — Written by Jacob Serebrin in Montreal ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. There are 402,569 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 402,569 confirmed cases (69,977 active, 320,096 resolved, 12,496 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 6,300 new cases Friday from 86,410 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 7.3 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43,505 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,215. There were 89 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 602 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 86. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,826,099 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 343 confirmed cases (27 active, 312 resolved, four deaths). There were three new cases Friday from 304 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.99 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 63,887 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 73 confirmed cases (five active, 68 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday from 425 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 62,046 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,358 confirmed cases (117 active, 1,176 resolved, 65 deaths). There were 15 new cases Friday from 1,014 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.5 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 92 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 13. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 151,573 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 528 confirmed cases (111 active, 410 resolved, seven deaths). There were eight new cases Friday from 727 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.1 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 51 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is seven. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people. There have been 104,518 tests completed. _ Quebec: 147,877 confirmed cases (13,145 active, 127,549 resolved, 7,183 deaths). There were 1,345 new cases Friday from 10,981 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 12 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,714 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,388. There were 28 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 199 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 28. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.34 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 84.66 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,226,791 tests completed. _ Ontario: 123,526 confirmed cases (14,997 active, 104,792 resolved, 3,737 deaths). There were 1,780 new cases Friday from 54,170 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.3 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,310 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,759. There were 25 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 142 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 20. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.65 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,251,327 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 18,069 confirmed cases (9,172 active, 8,535 resolved, 362 deaths). There were 318 new cases Friday from 3,075 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 10 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,437 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 348. There were nine new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 82 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.86 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.43 per 100,000 people. There have been 357,524 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 9,527 confirmed cases (4,116 active, 5,356 resolved, 55 deaths). There were 283 new cases Friday from 2,048 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 14 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,836 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 262. There was one new reported death Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 4.68 per 100,000 people. There have been 267,348 tests completed. _ Alberta: 64,851 confirmed cases (18,243 active, 46,018 resolved, 590 deaths). There were 1,828 new cases Friday from 6,850 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 27 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 11,746 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,678. There were 15 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 71 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 10. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 13.5 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,502,472 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 36,132 confirmed cases (9,982 active, 25,658 resolved, 492 deaths). There were 711 new cases Friday from 6,753 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 11 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,248 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 750. There were 11 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 97 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.27 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 9.7 per 100,000 people. There have been 822,120 tests completed. _ Yukon: 51 confirmed cases (11 active, 39 resolved, one deaths). There was one new case Friday from 34 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.9 per cent. Over the past seven days, there has been nine new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 5,522 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday from 29 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 6,511 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 206 confirmed cases (51 active, 155 resolved, zero deaths). There were eight new cases Friday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 47 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is seven. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 4,384 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
Here are the top stories for Friday, Dec. 4th: Biden pushes for quick COVID relief bill; Pence, Obama campaign for Senate candidates in Ga.; House passes marijuana decriminalization; Community refrigerators aid the needy.
Employees at the LNG Canada work site in Kitimat, B.C., complained multiple times about unsafe working conditions just months before the facility experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, according to WorkSafe BC inspection reports obtained by The Narwhal. The outbreak at LNG Canada started on Nov. 19 and there are now 54 cases. In the months leading up to the outbreak, workers raised concerns about COVID-19 cleaning procedures in common areas, rooms and work spaces, prompting inspections by WorkSafe BC on Aug. 28 and Oct. 19. The documents also reveal that a WorkSafe BC inspection of the Site C work camp’s sewage treatment facility in northeast B.C. on March 19 found the facility did not have a plan to sufficiently protect workers from pathogens, body fluids, human waste, mould and COVID-19. WorkSafe BC didn’t say if or how the issues flagged during the inspection were resolved. The first case of COVID-19 at Site C was in July and there have been 17 cases to date. On Dec. 4, BC Hydro reported five active cases and 18 people in self-isolation. The revelations come as calls grow for B.C. to shut down work camps or risk further community spread with northern hospitals already stretched thin. More than 180 frontline health workers have signed an open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that started circulating on Thursday, calling on her to immediately shut down industrial work camps on Indigenous territories. “To put the interests of economy and industry ahead of Indigenous lives is not public health,” the letter says. “To put Indigenous Elders and youth at further risk in the midst of a pandemic is to say quite clearly that Indigenous lives still do not matter in B.C.” On Thursday, the Unist’ot’en Camp said Coastal GasLink confirmed five new cases at its camp 9A on Unist’ot’en territory. Sley’do Molly Wickham, Gidimt’en Camp spokesperson, said at least one Wet’suwet’en worker in a Coastal GasLink work camp recently contracted the virus and is now hospitalized in an induced coma. David Bowering, former chief medical officer for Northern Health, said the time has come for the province to shift gears and take a harder look at what it deems essential. “Is it industry first, or the health and safety of the population in the north first? They need to rethink the essential designation and say it’s not that essential, certainly not at this price.” Coastal GasLink, BC Hydro and the Ministry of Health did not respond to interview requests prior to publication. LNG Canada declined an interview request. Bowering told The Narwhal he’s surprised it took this long for an outbreak in the work camps to occur. In the early days of the pandemic, he wrote an open letter to Henry urging her to shut down the work camps, calling them “land locked cruise ships” and warning that cases related to these industrial sites were inevitable. He knows what he’s talking about — his first job as a doctor was at a mining camp. He called the safety plans prepared by LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink “deluxe” documents but says the best plans in the world don’t mean anything if people aren’t following the rules. “They have luxury-class health and safety plans and luxury-class consultants compared to what the public sector can afford,” he said. “The virus doesn’t respect paper protocols. There’s just too much human nature involved.” Wickham said she has frequently seen workers flouting the rules. “We know that they’re not following even the basic protocols like wearing masks when they’re in vehicles together or when they’re close working closely with one another,” she said. “And they’re certainly not wearing masks when they’re interacting with our people on the territory.” Bowering is concerned that capacity at Northern Health hospitals is already stretched thin. In a statement released yesterday, the health authority said it is “experiencing an increase in COVID-19 activity and hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients requiring critical care.” There 235 active cases in the region including 33 people in hospital. Patients have already been transferred to hospitals outside the region to deal with the increase. “I think we’re in for a rough ride,” Bowering said. “The worry about our local hospitals and our local staff being overwhelmed, burned out and having difficulty coping, that’s becoming a pretty clear reality. Our communities need help.” Bowering isn’t alone in his calls to shut down work camps. The open letter from frontline health workers calls for Henry to take “immediate action” and shut down work camps. “As health professionals, we have a responsibility to uphold the current and future health of these communities, which are now under threat from the continuing of Coastal GasLink (LNG) work and man camps,” the letter says. The frontline health workers’ letter is in support of concerns raised by more than 20 Wet’suwet’en matriarchs, or Ts’ako ze’, in an open letter to Henry dated Nov. 30. In that letter, the matriarchs asked the public health officer to reconsider the essential designation given to the oil and gas industry and close work camps, which have also been shown to increase violence against Indigenous women and children and bring a host of social ills. “Not only have we witnessed an increase in drugs, alcohol and gang-related violence in our communities, we are now faced with a disease that could kill any one of us,” the matriarchs wrote. “In addition to the risk man camps have on our Indigenous women and girls, we are now facing the loss of some of our most sacred elders and chiefs.” At the time of publication, the Ts’ako ze’ said they had not received a response from the public health officer. The calls to shut down work camps come in the wake of a damning independent review that found widespread racism and discrimination against Ingienous people in B.C. health care. The 224-page report released on Nov. 30 found that racism and discrimination negatively affect the treatment and health outcomes of Indigenous people, who are already at higher risk of health issues due to a number of factors realted to systemic racism, such a poverty and intergenerational trauma. “Many Indigenous people have underlying health conditions because of all of the impacts of colonization,” Wickham said. “We have higher rates of diabetes and higher rates of heart disease. Our people are at greater risk of dying.” Wickham said a particularly alarming aspect to the increase in cases in work camps is the potential impact on Indigenous communities. Most industrial operations have a mandate to hire local and Indigenous workers and those people mix with transient workers and, on their days off, with members of their own communities. Bowering said the continued presence of industrial activity is contradictory to the goals of the public health office. “I drive by First Nations [communities] and see the barriers and the closed signs — these people are trying remarkably hard to stay safe,” he said. “But at the same time, there are buses coming and going to many of them, up to the mines and back.” The BC Centre for Disease Control noted in its guidance document for industrial sites that Indigenous people are at higher risk of COVID-19 and recommended that employers limit its workers’ interactions in surrounding towns. But Bowering and Wickham said the presence of out of town workers in the region is both common and on the rise. “We have been concerned about not just the man camps, but the fact that a lot of the workers are living in our communities and hotels,” Wickham said. “They’re going back and forth every day.” Bowering said the B.C. public health office can easily put the brakes on what could quickly become a serious and escalating crisis in high-risk communities. “They have to decide whether having everybody else not travelling, but allowing these workers to travel is a reasonable public health decision? Is it even ethically reasonable?” Meanwhile, activity on Wet’suwet’en territory is increasing. “The whole territory is just crawling with workers,” Wickham said. She lives with her partner and three children in a cabin near the Coastal GasLink work zone. “They have helicopters flying overhead at least two or three times a day, both surveillance helicopters and industry helicopters slinging materials in and out of the territory. It’s a warzone out there.”Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
TORONTO — Midfielder Jonathan Osorio has been handed a one-game suspension and undisclosed fine for violent conduct in Toronto FC's 1-0 playoff loss to Nashville SC.Hacked to the ground in the 32nd minute by Nashville midfielder Alex Muyl, Osorio kicked up with his left leg while on the ground, catching Muyl in the groin area during the Nov. 24 match at East Hartford.While Osorio escaped punishment from referee Robert Sibiga, the play was subsequently reviewed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee.The committee is allowed to step in in cases where the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) acknowledges an on-field referee or video review error — and the committee is unanimous that the play warrants at least a one-match suspension as a "clear and unequivocal red card, is egregious and/or repeat behaviour in nature, and/or the committee must act to protect player safety or the integrity of the game."Osorio will serve his suspension in Toronto’s first match of the 2021 regular season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020The Canadian Press
Another North Island resident has confirmed they have COVID-19, and are isolating at home, this time in Port McNeill. Kelly Chadwick, mother of two, started feeling cold-like symptoms on Nov. 30. She stayed home from work the next day day and sent her kids to stay with their dad and began to isolate herself. On Dec. 3, Island Health called with the positive test confirmation. Chadwick was surprised; she thought it was just a regular sinus infection like she gets every winter. She works at the pharmacy but since Mondays are her regular day off, she hadn’t been at work during the contagious part of the disease, which Island Health says is 48-hours before the onset of symptoms. Still, the pharmacy took the situation seriously, double and triple checking it was safe to remain open. A couple of close friends who Chadwick saw over the weekend, as well as Chadwick’s two children, are now isolating for 14 days. The quarantine means Chadwick will miss her son’s 10th birthday on Dec. 10, but she’s glad she’ll still get to spend Christmas with them. She has no idea where she picked up the virus, saying it had been at least three weeks since she was last down Island. “At first I felt a little bombarded, like it was my fault,” she told the Gazette, but since sharing publicly on Facebook she feels supported by the community. READ MORE: First publicly confirmed COVID-19 case in Port Hardy has been isolated since before symptoms occurred Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom wrote a post on her official Facebook page, saying that while rumours of COVID have been going around, it’s a reminder to diligently follow the public health guidelines, and reminded people to stay kind. “We have always been a community that cares. Don’t let COVID steal that from us. Let’s be sure to remain caring by extending grace and kindness to all. Do not let fear consume you. We will get through this!” Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: email@example.comZoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
A Strathmore resident has been recognized for her extensive efforts volunteering for the community. Marlys Lein was nominated for the 2020 Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards, a yearly award given to volunteers who have made a large impact on their community. While Lein was not ultimately selected as an award finalist, her impressive contributions were recognized by a certificate and letter from Leela Sharon Aheer, Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women. A resident of Strathmore for over 40 years, Lein has contributed to numerous organizations in town. One of her current efforts is volunteering with the Strathmore Pickleball Club, which was founded in 2015 after the hosting of the Alberta 55+ Summer Games. Lein’s work with the club, including organizing playing venues, purchasing equipment, booking instructors and helping players has helped it to grow, said Louise Bleier, a volunteer with the organization. “We started literally from nothing and we’re over 100 members now.” Lein was also instrumental in helping to plan for the possible construction of permanent, dedicated pickleball courts and to repair the town’s existing courts, added Bleier, who wrote the nomination. “She’s volunteered hundreds and hundreds of hours over the past 40 years, and it’s improved the quality of life in our community,” said Bleier. “Her initiative and leadership are incredible.” By working with the club, Lein said she was “just promoting a game I really love … trying to get all different people exposed to it,” she said, adding she hopes the club’s membership continues to grow, especially from among the town’s seniors. While matches are sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic for now, membership is $35 and available through the organization’s website, strathmorepickleball.ca. Lein also serves as president of Strathmore Regional Victim Services Society, which provides 24-hour crisis response to victims of crime and tragedy, and is in her sixth year volunteering with the organization. Lein helps the organization continually move forward, said Linda Stead, treasurer. “She always steps forward and does what she can for us,” said Stead. “She’s a hard worker and when she takes something on, she gets it done.”Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Le sud-est de l'Estrie, la Beauce, le Bas-Saint-Laurent et une partie de la Gaspésie peuvent s'attendre à recevoir de 20 à 30 centimètres de neige cette fin de semaine, selon Environnement Canada. Cette première bordée importante de la saison pour ces régions est attribuable à une dépression qui remonte le long de la côte-est américaine pour traverser le golfe du Maine lors de la journée de samedi et le Nouveau-Brunswick durant la journée de dimanche. Tous les secteurs qui sont en bordure, donc tout juste au nord de la trajectoire de cette dépression, en subiront les effets principalement sous forme de neige abondante et de vents, a expliqué le météorologue Alexandre Parent, d'Environnement Canada. «Ça pourrait même dépasser les 30 centimètres de neige dans les secteurs de Kamouraska, de Témiscouata, de Rimouski et de la vallée de la Matapédia», a estimé M. Parent lors d'une entrevue avec La Presse Canadienne. La neige devrait débuter en fin de journée samedi ou dans la nuit de samedi à dimanche. Les vents se mettront également de la partie, principalement dimanche matin. M. Parent prédit que ces conditions pourraient être difficiles en première moitié de journée dans l'est du Québec et que la visibilité sera probablement nulle par endroits. Il suggère «fortement» d'effectuer les déplacements samedi plutôt que dimanche. Le Grand Montréal ne devrait rien recevoir de cette dépression. La région de Québec pourrait quant à elle recevoir de 5 à 10 centimètres. La semaine prochaine devrait être «tranquille» avec pratiquement pas de précipitations et des températures près du point de congélation. \- Texte de l'Initiative de journalisme local.Michel Saba, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect First Nations people in Manitoba, with 625 new cases and 11 deaths related to the illness in the past week, officials said Friday.The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs made the announcement during a weekly live-streamed news conference, where they provide updated numbers on the coronavirus in First Nations people and communities.The latest data suggests First Nations people are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and Marcia Anderson, a doctor with the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team, pointed to a range of trends that bear that out.The secondary attack rate — a measure of how many people are likely to contract COVID-19 after being a close contact with a positive case — is about 16 per cent for all of Manitoba, she said. That means in the general population, roughly 16 in 100 close contacts tend to end up with the illness.But in First Nations, that number is around 40 per cent, she said."That is a very staggering percentage and it's important to have an appreciation of that," said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.Range of barriersThere are a number of explanations for that, including delays or barriers to accessing testing, or having more close contacts due to crowded housing situations in some remote communities, Dr. Anderson said.There are 1,815 active COVID-19 cases among First Nations people in Manitoba — including 602 on reserve, and 1,213 involving First Nations people living off reserve — and 1,548 recoveries as of Friday.Anderson also revealed the five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the tests that come back positive — is 20 per cent among First Nations people. It is 13.4 per cent Manitoba-wide.She echoed Manitoba Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin in saying the health-care system is strained by the crush of new daily cases, and First Nations people are turning up in hospital beds at a higher rate than other groups.As of Friday morning, 107 First Nations people were in hospital — almost a third of all Manitoba COVID-19 hospitalizations — and 23 were in intensive care, out of a total of 55 people in Manitoba in ICU with the illness.Forty-seven First Nations people in the province have died so far from COVID-19.The average age of First Nation people hospitalized due to the illness is around 50 right now, and the average age of First Nations deaths is around 66, said Anderson. Provincewide, the average age of those dying of COVID-19 is 83, she said.Official Opposition Leader Wab Kinew said systemic racism, and not race, is at the root of why First Nations are hit harder by the virus. "It's the fact that Indigenous people are more likely to have poor housing, less likely to have access to a family doctor and less likely to have access to clean drinking water," the Manitoba NDP leader said."The same way that the pandemic revealed how we've ignored personal care homes over the past many years, the pandemic is now revealing how the lack of access to health care for First Nations people is a major issue that needs to be addressed."Pandemic exacerbates addictionsThe pandemic has also further revealed the critical need for harm reduction supports for Indigenous folks living with addiction, said Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches at the virtual AMC news conference.He wants governments to work together and start opening supervised consumption sites, including in his western Manitoba community. Long Plain declared a state of emergency due to addictions issues three years ago, he said, but the pandemic has only exacerbated those issues."Support at the time was really lacking from governments, so it's almost like we're on our own trying to deal with the addiction crisis. And it's still ongoing and still it's a crisis."WATCH | Shamattawa chief calls for military help:Meanwhile, Shamattawa First Nation is battling COVID-19 problems of its own.About 1,300 people live in the fly-in community, about 745 kilometres north of Winnipeg.On Friday, Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead said 133 people are positive for the illness, and the community had a 68 per cent test positivity rate.Redhead spoke with Mark Miller, federal minister of Indigenous Services, Friday regarding military medical aide. Miller is hoping to find out soon whether the assistance is available or not, said Redhead."We're stretched thin. No community wants the military in their town, no one wants the assistance of the military, but we need it," he said."I can't sleep. I'm worried about our members."Nine members of the Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg were supposed to arrive in the First Nation Friday to help. Five more members of the Red Cross are slated to arrive Sunday, Redhead told CBC News Thursday night.Anderson noted the significant amount of virus circulating in the community and said the First Nations co-ordination team is "really trying to pull together as much as we can to support the efforts there.""The Canadian Red Cross is well-positioned to assist with pandemic efforts and continues to work with all levels of government, as well as Indigenous leadership to address emerging needs across the country," a spokesperson with the organization said in a statement.
There was a death reported in the South Zone from COVID-19 reported on Friday. This marked the second consecutive day with a death reported in that zone and the third consecutive day in which at least one death was reported. The individual was in the 80-years-old and over age group. The number of deaths in the province is now 55. The province also reported another 283 cases on Friday. The current seven-day average is 262, or 21. 7 cases per 100,000 population. The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported 47 new cases. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 189 active cases. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 214 active cases and North Central 3 has 40 active cases. The North Central zone is third in the Active Case Breakdown with 403 active cases. Of the 9,527 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 4,116 are considered active. Of the 126 people in hospital in the province, 101 are receiving in patient care including 12 in the North Central. Of the 25 in intensive care four are in the North Central. The recovered number now sits at 5,356 after 183 more recoveries were reported. The total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic is 9,527of those 1,927 cases are from the north area (692 north west, 916 north central and 319 north east) Yesterday 3,504 COVID-19 tests were processed in Saskatchewan. As of today there have been 357,142 COVID-19 tests performed in Saskatchewan. In other zones there were 83 cases reported Friday in Regina, 50 in Saskatoon, 12 each in the North West and South West, 11 in the Far North East, nine each in the South East, South Central and Far North West and seven in the North East. There are 18 cases with pending residence information. Two cases, one from Nov. 15 and one from Nov. 22, with pending residence information have been assigned to the North West Of the 126 people in hospital elsewhere in the province; 36 are in Saskatoon, 21 in the South East, 20 are in Regina, seven in the North West, three in the South West and one in the North East are receiving in patient care. Elsewhere in the province in intensive care there are 11 in Saskatoon, nine in Regina and one person in the North West. The Saskatoon zone leads the Active Case breakdown with 1,324 cases. In second place is Regina with 974 active cases. Over 90 active cases of COVID-19 in youth in North Central On Thursday the province released the updated numbers on cases in youth. The total active cases in youth provincially in all locations are 834, six have no known location and 828 have a location reported. Provincially there is an 8.5 per cent test positivity rate in youth. Data on positive tests in youth is updated every Thursday. Currently in the North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, there are 96 active cases in youth. Last week there were 316 tests performed across the North Central zone. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 47 active cases in youth. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 45 active cases and North Central 3 has four active cases. Cumulative tests performed since Sept. 7 in the North Central zone is 2,933. There were 4,119 tests performed in total in the province in the last week. The cumulative number of tests performed since Sept. 7 is 44,261. Case of COVID-19 connected to Wesmor Public High School On Thursday evening the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division notified the public that a case of COVID-19 had been identified in an individual at Wesmor Public High School in Prince Albert. “The division is hoping the recovery is quick and thorough and we extend our get-well wishes to this member of our school community and offer our support to the surrounding family. We also extend our support to the staff and students in our schools affected by the isolation,” the release stated. As has been the case in the past, this case was not school-acquired. The learning program will continue remotely for those students affected. Wesmor will remain open for in-person classes for students who are not required to self-isolate. Due to privacy concerns, further details of the case will not be shared.Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says tougher health restrictions likely to be aimed at Calgary and Edmonton are coming if current public-health orders don’t bend the curve down on COVID-19.Kenney, taking questions on a Facebook town-hall meeting, says it makes sense to target the novel coronavirus where it’s having the most impact.“If you’re in a remote community with a negligible number of COVID cases, where there are no cases in the local hospitals, that is not the issue right now,” Kenney said Thursday night.“The issue is the hot zones in Calgary and Edmonton — and that’s what we’ll be addressing with increasing focus in the days to come.”His comments came just hours after Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical health officer, reported a concerning rise in rates in rural areas. She stressed that even one case can move like wildfire and COVID-19 doesn’t respect geographical boundaries. “COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem,” Hinshaw said.“Our overall active case rates prove that COVID-19 doesn't care where you live or what your postal code is."The province reported 1,828 new cases on Friday. Active cases stood at 18,243. There were 533 people in hospital, 99 of them in intensive care, and a total of 590 Albertans had died.Alberta Health says more than 15 per cent of active infections are in areas outside the Edmonton and Calgary medical zones. About 30 per cent are outside the four largest cities of Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Lethbridge. Areas with high active case counts per 100,000 population include Banff, the Municipal District of Acadia and Smoky Lake County.Kenney has been lauded and criticized for taking a regional, nuanced approach to try to stem the spread of the pandemic while trying to keep open as many businesses and community centres as possible.It's not going well.Alberta has registered well over 1,000 new cases a day for two weeks and, on some days, has had more new cases than larger provinces such as Ontario. Health officials are reassigning staff, space, and patients to free up more intensive care beds, while dealing with outbreaks at 22 hospitals and health facilities. The government is also exploring bringing in medical field tents from the Red Cross if needed.Last week, Kenney introduced tighter provincewide health restrictions that included a ban on indoor gatherings. But there are looser measures for areas with low infection rates. They don’t have to follow a 25 per cent capacity limit in businesses or a maximum of six people — all from the same household — at one table in restaurants. Nor do they have to abide by a one-third capacity rule for worship services.Most municipalities have made it mandatory to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Kenney has, unlike all other premiers, refused to implement that provincewide. He has said it’s unnecessary in remote areas and some rural folk would refuse to wear masks if it were an order. Cold Lake, a city of almost 15,000 in the province's northeast, has twice voted down a mandatory mask bylaw. Mayor Craig Copeland said Friday masks don't need to be required, because people are following guidelines from Hinshaw."Ninety per cent of the people in Cold Lake now are wearing masks," Copeland said. "Do they really need to be told by a mayor and council to wear a mask?"Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said Kenney’s public-health directives cater to his rural political base and the anti-mask fringe he wants to keep happily ensconced in his United Conservative Party.“(Kenney) is more interested in protecting his political fortunes with a small minority of folks who are going to resist."In Smoky Lake County, northeast of Edmonton, restaurant owner Hong Hu said her Maple Gardens Restaurant is one of the few in the area that is doing takeout only."If it gets worse, of course I (will) worry about it," said Hu, who added she's more worried about the mounting cases in Alberta than the cases in her region.She said the county has a mask bylaw and has put notes up at businesses reminding people to wear face coverings and to sanitize regularly.Back in Cold Lake, resident Cathy Olliffe-Webster, 60, said she is disappointed in the premier and her mayor for not making masks mandatory.Cold Lake is still holding indoor events such as Christmas craft sales, despite the area's first COVID-related death this week and active cases rising to more than 70, she said."I understand that Alberta's economy has been hit harder than most, but I'm really sick of people putting money before people's lives," Olliffe-Webster said.She said she was moved by an emotional speech Thursday by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, who begged people to follow COVID-19 rules."I just wish Jason Kenney was a little like him."— With files from Fakiha Baig and Daniela Germano in EdmontonThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Feist and a "Barenaked Ladies" member are also criticizing how homeless communities are being treated.
In a reversal of an earlier vote, today Strathmore town council passed a mandatory face covering bylaw requiring residents to wear masks when visiting indoor public spaces. The bylaw takes effect immediately. According to Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule, council worked with administration to make the bylaw the best solution for the town. “They made adjustments and amendments to make this is a more palatable bylaw that will still protect a lot of people in Strathmore,” he said. “We’re regular people caught in a really irregular health crisis, and I just hope the public will support all the councillors who have tried to make the best decision they can for the community’s health and safety.” The bylaw requires masks to be worn in all indoor public places and public vehicles, unless the person is separated from other persons by an installed screen, shield or other barrier. Businesses must also display signage at their entrances requiring people to wear masks. Anyone breaking either of these rules is liable to a fine of not less than $50. The bylaw also notes that if circumstances represent a “marked endangerment” or “increased risk of endangering public health,” a larger fine is possible. Under the bylaw, a proprietor may refuse entry to his/her business or ask a person to leave an indoor public place or vehicle and may request assistance of a peace officer. The officer can also issue a violation ticket requiring a court appearance of the person breaking the rules. The bylaw will be enacted when the number of COVID-19 cases in Strathmore exceeds 20, as reported by Alberta Health Services. However, town council may activate the bylaw at any time by resolution. Once enacted, the bylaw will be reverted once the number of cases in Strathmore is less than 20 for 14 consecutive days. The bylaw has several exemptions. Children under five years of age are not required to wear masks. Additionally, people with medical conditions or disabilities preventing them from wearing a mask are exempt. Also exempt are people who cannot use or wear a mask safely without assistance. Under the bylaw, people are not required to provide proof to an employer, business operator or proprietor of any exemption. People are exempt during certain activities, such as eating or drinking while seated at a business offering food or beverage services, during athletic or fitness activities, or while receiving services impeded by masks. The bylaw does not apply to schools and businesses already undertaking face covering measures through provincial guidelines, corporate requirements and recognized provincial professional bodies.Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
WINNIPEG — Manitoba's premier is facing backlash from Indigenous leaders for comments criticizing Ottawa's planning for COVID-19 vaccine distribution among First Nations.“Instead of uniting Manitobans during a health crisis, Brian Pallister is purposefully sowing seeds of division and hate,” Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said Friday.Pallister criticized the federal government's national vaccine rollout strategy during a news conference Thursday.The Progressive Conservative premier said Ottawa has plans to distribute the vaccine on a per-capita basis."They are also telling us that they are going to hold back the portion of our vaccine for Manitoba that they would then allocate to Indigenous and First Nations communities," Pallister said."What that would mean than is Manitobans who do not live in northern Indigenous communities would be the least likely to get a vaccine in the country." Manitoba has the highest percentage of Indigenous people in its population of all the provinces. The premier said the results would be unfair. "This puts Manitobans at the back of the line. This hurts Manitobans, to put it mildly," he said. The premier has since reached out to Indigenous leaders to arrange a meeting to discuss the rollout, Daniels said.The grand chief added that he has "no interest in meeting with a premier who race baits and plays loosely with the inter-governmental relationships."Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew called Pallister's comments unfortunate. "The premier is trying to divide team Manitoba and have it turn in on itself at a time when we are actually asking everyone to do the exact opposite," Kinew said. When asked about vaccine distribution plans Friday, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said there have been conversations with provincial and territorial leaders "to assess what their perspective is.""There is a federal role to play in protecting a certain amount of product — whether we're talking about vaccines or personal protective equipment — for federal populations that we're responsible for, as well as for urgent situations," she said.Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas also criticized Pallister for giving people the false idea that all vaccine doses would be going to people in the north.A significant surge of COVID-19 infections has disproportionately affected First Nations people in Manitoba during the second wave of the pandemic.There were 625 new cases in on- and off- reserve populations in the last seven days, according to data from the First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team in Manitoba. First Nations people make up 30 per cent of all people in hospital and 42 per cent of those in intensive care. The five-day test positivity rate among First Nations people in Manitoba is 20 per cent.Chief Eric Redhead of the Shamattawa First Nation posted online Friday that there were 117 active infections in the northern Manitoba community of about 1,100. Its five-day test positivity rate was more than 50 per cent. "We are literally at a breaking point," Redhead said.Redhead said health professionals with the rapid response team in Shamattawa have also tested positive or are isolating due to exposure. He has called on the federal government to provide military help. Manitoba released new modelling Friday that shows that three people end up in hospital and one person dies for every 48 cases of COVID-19. "We need to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities or we will continue to see these harsh effects," said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer.The province recorded nine more deaths from COVID-19 and 320 new infections Friday. There were also 361 people in hospital with 55 in intensive care. The province brought in tighter public health measures last month, with restrictions on public gatherings and business openings.Roussin said that if no measures had been put in place, there would have been up to 1,055 new daily infections by Sunday. Daily cases have recently been tracking between 300 and 500.But Roussin said the test positivity rate remains too high. The five-day test positivity rate was 13.4 per cent provincially and 14.6 per cent in Winnipeg."It’s too early to say we are changing trajectory."The restrictions expire next Friday, and Roussin said he expects the majority will stay in place.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
WHITEHORSE — Yukon recorded three new COVID-19 cases in Whitehorse as the territory prepared to introduce new rules for restaurants and bars. The territory says in a statement Friday that the new infections bring the total active case count to 12. There have been 54 people infected in Yukon over the course of the pandemic. Beginning Monday, the government says restaurants and bars will be required to collect information from their patrons to assist contact tracers.One patron from each party will be required to sign in, and the eating and drinking establishments must keep the daily lists for 30 days.The lists will only be shared with Yukon Communicable Disease Control if an exposure has been identified.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
VENTNOR, N.J. — The FBI is telling anyone who underwent a coronavirus test at a New Jersey laboratory to get retested and to contact the agency.In a statement Friday on Twitter, the FBI’s Newark office urges people who were recently tested for the virus at Infinity Diagnostic Laboratory in Ventnor “to be retested as soon as possible.” It also asks that anyone who was administered a finger-prick blood test at the laboratory to contact a victim assistance unit at the FBI.The announcement gave no further details, and a message left with the FBI seeking further information was not immediately returned.Voicemail for the company’s operations director Friday evening said it was closed and did not offer the opportunity to leave a message.___THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:— Vice-President Pence: Confidence in vaccine important for US— Fauci apologizes for suggesting UK rushed vaccine decision— As hospitals cope with a COVID-19 surge, cyber threats loom— A World War II veteran from Alabama has recovered from COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak___HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has authorized medically trained National Guard soldiers to fill nursing roles, drive ambulances and perform coronavirus testing for hospitals that are overstretched on staffing while they care for a climbing number of coronavirus patients.The order Friday allows the adjutant general to send hospitals reinforcements from the Tennessee National Guard. The state is focusing on troops who are actively assigned, including those serving in coronavirus testing roles statewide, but not those currently serving in civilian jobs in health care.State health officials decline to identify which hospitals have expressed interest, but say there is need statewide.The state reports 2,485 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with only 14% of floor beds and 8% of ICU beds available.___SAN FRANCISCO — The health officers in six San Francisco Bay Area regions issued a new stay-at-home order Friday as the number of virus cases surge and hospitals fill.The changes will take effect for most of the area at 10 p.m. Sunday and last through Jan. 4. The counties have not yet reached Gov. Gavin Newsom’s threshold announced a day earlier requiring such an order when 85% of ICU beds at regional hospitals are full, but officials said the hospital system will be overwhelmed before the end of December when Newsom’s order would apply.It comes the same day the state recorded another daily record number of cases, with 22,018, and hospitalizations topped 9,000 for first time.It means restaurants will have to close to both indoor and outdoor dining, bars and wineries must close along with hair and nail salons and playgrounds. Retail stores and shopping centres can operate with just 20% customer capacity. Gatherings of any size with people outside of your household are banned.___RALEIGH, N.C. — A judge agreed on Friday to name a third-party expert to scrutinize the COVID-19 response within North Carolina’s prison system, which like the rest of the state is experiencing a surge in cases and hospitalizations.Ruling again in ongoing litigation about health and safety within prisons, Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier said he’s worried about the pressure the coronavirus is now placing upon correctional institutions.The prison system closed temporarily three units over the last two weeks to handle staffing challenges, brought on in part by the upward swing in positive cases and the medical care prisoners need.The Department of Public Safety said that 370 correctional staff testing positive for COVID-19 were out of work Friday, up 50 workers from last week. There were 667 active cases among the roughly 30,000 prisoners statewide. Twenty-five prisoners have died from COVID-19 related illnesses since the pandemic.___ATLANTA — Georgia’s coronavirus infections are soaring above their worst peaks of the summer, pushing more people into hospitals and resulting in more deaths.Hitting a new single-day record of more than 6,000 suspected and confirmed infections on Friday pushed Georgia’s rolling 7-day average of infections to nearly 4,300. That rolling average was above its previous July record for the second day in a row.Hospitalizations have not yet reached their summer heights in Georgia, but beds are filling rapidly with COVID-19 cases. Nearly 2,400 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital Friday.Deaths, which usually come after infections and hospitalization, are also rising. Georgia has now recorded 9,725 confirmed and suspected deaths.___BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama health officials have urged the state Friday to extend its statewide mask mandate, set to expire next week.Dr. Sarah Nafziger, who teaches emergency medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said it was “critically important” for Republican Gov. Kay Ivey to maintain the requirement, which is opposed by some who consider it an infringement on personal rights or discount the threat of the new coronavirus.The president of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Donald Williamson, said the organization “absolutely” supports continuing the order as cases of COVID-19 rise statewide.The order, which expires Dec. 11, requires anyone older than 6 to wear a mask when in public spaces indoors and outside if they can’t stay away from others. First imposed in July, health officials credit the rule with a sharp decline in cases until a recent spike began nationwide.___HARRISBURG, Pa. — States faced a deadline on Friday to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths.The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high in the U.S. on Thursday at 100,667, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That figure has more than doubled over the past month.New daily cases are averaging 210,000 and deaths are averaging 1,800 per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.Arizona on Friday reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases for the second straight day as the number of available intensive care unit beds fell below 10% statewide. Pennsylvania’s top health official says intensive care beds could be full this month.___SALEM, Ore. — As Oregon reached a new record number for reported daily COVID-19 cases and deaths, lawmakers, advocates and others continue to call on Democratic Gov. Kate Brown to declare a special legislative session.The Oregon Health Authority on Friday reported 2,100 new COVID-19 cases and 30 deaths. The previous daily records have been 1,699 cases and 24 deaths. Oregon also surpassed 80,000 cases since the start of the pandemic in March.Housing advocates in the state are asking the Legislature to act on a proposal to extend a statewide eviction moratorium until July 1. The current eviction moratorium, which was ordered at the beginning of the pandemic, is scheduled to lapse on Dec. 31.___TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly says Kansas considers meatpacking plant workers and grocery store employees essential workers, putting them in the second phase for possible vaccinations.Kelly says the Kansas vaccine plan calls for the first shots to go to front-line health care workers with a high risk of coronavirus exposure.She says the second phase will focus on vaccinating essential workers, including first responders but also grocery store and meatpacking plant workers.The Democratic governor says members of the Legislature will get vaccinated at different times, based on their risk of being exposed or developing serious complications.Next week, the Food and Drug Administration will consider whether to grant emergency authorization for vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.Kansas has reported 168,295 confirmed cases, an increase of 6,234 since Wednesday, and 1,786 total confirmed deaths.___KYIV, Ukraine — About 1,000 representatives of small business rallied outside the Ukrainian parliament against possible new coronavirus restrictions.Demonstrators in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv attempted to block access to the parliament building but were pushed back by police.Ukraine, which is facing a rapid rise in coronavirus cases, tightened weekend restrictions last month but lifted them this week. The government is considering a lockdown in early January. Protesters are concerned the new restrictions could deal a harsh blow to small and medium business.Ukrainian reported 15,131 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 787,891 confirmed cases. There’s been 13,195 confirmed deaths.___ATLANTA — Vice-President Mike Pence is trying to boost Americans’ confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines that are awaiting regulatory approval and distribution.At the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention main campus in Atlanta, Pence said Friday the Food and Drug Administration could approve the first vaccines “the week of Dec. 14” with the first wave of Americans being vaccinated “in all 50 states” within 48 hours of that approval.Pence said “the confidence piece is so important” so that enough Americans will take the vaccine and ensure its maximum effectiveness. Pence called on “all of us in public life” to vouch for the process that got vaccines to the cusp of mass distribution.“We’ve gone at record pace, but we’ve cut no corners in this,” Pence said, sitting beside CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “What we want to do is assure the American people that there’s been no compromise of safety or effectiveness in the development of this vaccine.”Pence’s comments come the day after former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush said they’d be willing to take a vaccine on television to boost confidence.___UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. health chief says positive results from coronavirus vaccine trials are encouraging but warns against poorer nations being left behind in “the stampede for vaccines.”World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Friday. He says vaccines must be shared “as global public goods.”Referring to the upsurge in cases and deaths: “Where science is drowned out by conspiracy theories, where solidarity is undermined by division, where sacrifice is substituted with self-interest, the virus thrives, the virus spreads.”Tedros urged all nations to unite and build the post-pandemic world by investing in vaccines, preparedness against the next pandemic and basic public health.Tedros says Covax, an ambitious but troubled global project to buy and deliver virus vaccines for the world’s poorest people, faces a $4.3 billion gap and needs $23.9 billion for 2021.He says the total is less than one-half of one per cent of the $11 trillion in stimulus packages announced by the Group of 20, the world’s richest countries.___MILAN — Italy recorded another 814 coronavirus deaths on Friday. There were 24,099 new coronavirus cases reported among more than 212,000 tests.While the rate of transmission in Italy has dropped below 1, signalling that the virus curve is under control, the government has imposed tight restrictions for the Christmas holiday.They include a ban on travelling between regions from Dec. 21-Jan. 6, and a strong recommendation against hosting guests for holiday lunches and dinners.New cases remain highest in Lombardy, the epicenter of both the spring peak and the fall surge, with 4,533 new cases. Neighboring Veneto followed with more than 3,700. There were 201 fewer new admissions to Italy’s intensive care units than a day earlier, dropping the total to 3,657 in ICU. Hospitalizations dropped by 600 to 31,200.Italy has 1.6 million cases and 58,842 confirmed deaths, the second-highest death toll in Europe, behind Britain.___WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, says there was never a question that he would accept President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to serve as his chief medical officer and adviser on the coronavirus pandemic.Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot” after Biden asked him to serve during a conversation on Thursday.As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has served several presidents, Republican and Democratic. During President Donald Trump’s administration, he has been largely sidelined as Trump gave rosy assessments of the virus and insisted it would fade away.Fauci has urged rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing, practices that have not often been followed at the White House.On Thursday, Biden said he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president.___The Associated Press
Two people were found dead in a home in Milton, Ont. Friday afternoon, Halton Regional Police say. Police said in a statement they were called to a residence just after 3 p.m. near Bronte Street South and Louis St. Laurent Avenue in Milton, Ont.Officers found the bodies of a male and a female inside the home, they said. There are no suspects and no threat to public safety, said police.An investigation is ongoing and police say they will be providing no further details at this time.
The Trump administration on Friday suspended all federal student loan payments through the end of January and kept interest rates at 0%, extending a moratorium that started early in the pandemic but was set to expire at the end of this month.By extending payments by one month, the administration is effectively leaving it to the Biden administration or Congress to decide whether to provide longer-term relief to millions of student borrowers. The measure was included in a March relief package and the White House extended it in August, but its fate was in doubt amid stalemate over a new relief bill.In announcing the extension, DeVos rebuked Congress for failing to act. “The added time also allows Congress to do its job and determine what measures it believes are necessary and appropriate," DeVos said in a statement. "The Congress, not the Executive Branch, is in charge of student loan policy.”Under the measure, students will not be required to make payments, their loans will not accrue interest and all collection activity will halt until the end of January.DeVos won praise for using her authority to pause federal student loan payments in March. Congress later cemented the measure in legislation and Trump extended it through December, but the looming deadline stoked fears that millions of borrowers would be forced to resume payments even as unemployment rates soared.Last month, the American Council on Education and dozens of other higher education associations urged DeVos to extend the relief, saying the recent surge in COVID-19 cases would likely lead to even more economic turmoil.“Bringing millions of Americans back into repayment in the thick of this crisis will cause additional financial hardship and force borrowers to make difficult decisions about their limited resources,” the groups wrote in a letter to DeVos.Even DeVos' own agency warned of looming trouble if the moratorium lapsed. In its annual report last month, Federal Student Aid, the office that oversees student loans, said that without an extension it would face a “heavy burden" in moving millions of borrowers to active repayment at the same time.President-elect Joe Biden has not directly addressed the moratorium but on Tuesday called for immediate relief including "relief from rent and student loans.” He has also supported proposals to erase up to $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers as part of a future virus relief package.In Friday's announcement, DeVos said her agency is working to notify the loan servicing companies that the Education Department contracts with to manage collections. A federal lawsuit filed against DeVos in April alleged that thousands of overdue borrowers were still getting pay withheld despite the mortarium. The department blamed the error on its servicers.DeVos' Friday release says that any defaulted borrowers who continue to have wages withheld will receive refunds.Collin Binkley, The Associated Press